December 30, 2005

barney, you're doing a heckuva job

dog lady correctly points out that "one of President Bush’s more endearing qualities is his unabashed joy in a cantankerous terrier named Barney".

barney's got his own website, but this year he had to learn to share his stardom with miss beazley. that's also the topic of the annual white house christmas video ("a very beazley christmas"), which, as always, is much better with the sound turned off. if you find that hard to believe, i recommend that you check out the text version first.

[the title of this posting refers to what has been named the quote of the year in the washington post - except that, unlike the original quote, it does not pack "maximal inaccuracy into minimal expression", as ted widmer put it in his comment on the original]

December 26, 2005

fetch, fedex!

i never looked very closely at the fedex logo and have never been aware of one of its cleverest design features, a "subliminal arrow" between the "E" and the "x". but lately, i have been paying more attention to FedEx trucks, due to a not-so-subliminal addition to their logo:

now, if only i could find something cleaver or endearing in the ups logo....

December 24, 2005

glitter dog

if you want your dog to look all glittery, you could sacrifice some of your sephora goodies, or get a bottle of happy tails sparke & shine shimmering mist. alternatively, you could hide some treats under the christmas tree. the dog will be looking for them excitedly, conveniently wagging glitter off the ornaments and onto herself. that's how we do it, anyway.

christkind vs. weihnachtsmann

Denkt euch, ich habe das Christkind gesehen

Denkt euch, ich habe das Christkind gesehen!
Es kam aus dem Walde, das Mützchen voll Schnee,
mit rotgefrorenem Näschen.

Die kleinen Hände taten ihm weh,
denn es trug einen Sack, der war gar schwer,
schleppte und polterte hinter ihm her.

Was drin war, möchtet ihr wissen?
Ihre Naseweise, ihr Schelmenpack -
denkt ihr, er wäre offen der Sack?

Zugebunden bis oben hin!
Doch war gewiss etwas Schönes drin!
Es roch so nach Äpfeln und Nüssen!

(Anna Ritter)

in germany, christmas really happens on christmas eve. families go to church in the afternoon, children perform in nativity plays, dinner is comfort food, such as würstchen und kartoffelsalat, and later one assembles around the christmas tree (which ideally has been cut the very same day and is decorated with real candles) and presents are unwrapped - on christmas eve, not on christmas day (christmas day is for visiting relatives and eating goose).

depending on where you live, the presents are brought by the weihnachtsmann (who looks like santa claus) or by the christkind, the latter an invention of martin luther. no child ever gets to see the christkind, as parents will only open the door to the room with the decorated christmas tree after the christkind has left. nevertheless, as a child, i knew exactly how the christkind looked: very much like a fairy- dressed in red velvet (i imagined the christkind as a girl, of course) and with golden wings (not quite in tune with the description in the poem above). although the name evokes the name of jesus christ, i never thought of the christkind in religious terms.

in any case, here is a pair of golden wings (courtesy of IHP) that is 100% secular.

frohe weihnachten!
merry christmas!
happy holidays!

December 23, 2005

on the minimal pair [+food] vs. [-food]

a toy, a toy, a food-filled toy! yeah!

toys. toys. not filled with food. what a bore.

i said WHAT A BORE.

we're for kongs indeed. but only if there's food inside.

December 20, 2005


to pope

as in "He Knew how to Pope" (david van biema about john paul II in time's annual "a fond farewell" section)

to civil-union

as in "
Elton John gets civil-unioned: Today's the first day of Britain's new law allowing same-sex civil unions (though not "marriages"), and Elton John and his longtime partner, David Furnish, got hitched this morning in a quiet civil ceremony, with only a small group of friends and the couple's parents there to witness" (, "the fix")

to kong

as in "did you kong the dog when you left the house?" (meaning: did you give the dog a kong toy) - i'm afraid this isn't used a lot outside of this household yet.

December 19, 2005

winter colors

who says that a christmas tree has to be green and decorated with glass ornaments?

some say she looks like she is a canine construction worker, but they're just jealous. not everybody can carry off wearing bright orange so well.

December 18, 2005

dial F-O-U-N-D

if you're looking for a high tech collar for you dog: here's "the first patented GPS location device for pets 35lbs. or more". it lets you find out where your dog is and if the weather is better on his side of the fence. the global petfinder, a steal for $ 350 (free shipping!).

what do you call a bird dog in christmas gear?

in his latest column "on language" william safire [new york times, 12/18/05] recommends some books on language, notably "the big book of beastly mispronunciations" by charles harrington elster.
Direct your attention to that hardy, inexpensive, red-leafed plant we see all over the place this time of year. I confess to having called it a point setter, confusing it with a crossbred hunting dog. The plant's name is poinsettia and is eponymous: J.R. Poinsett, a U.S. diplomat, brought it home from Mexico in 1828. "There is no point in poinsettia," advises Elster, playing on his other book's title, "There Is No Cow in Moscow." The plant's name is pronounced in four syllables: poyn-SET-ee-uh. Just because most of us think of an operetta about a vendetta against the stony Rosetta, there is no reason to drop the final i in poinsettia; as one pronunciamentor noted: "Setta is common, but wrong. Who says gar-dee-na or mag-no-la?"
the word "point setter", by the way, exists, but it is mostly used as a term for a medical instrument functioning as "a surgeon's third hand" or for a device used in fencing.

[if you'd like to know more about the history of poinsettias, check out the poinsettia pages hosted by the university of illionois extension]

December 17, 2005

dear santa

top three of brandy's wishlist, as compiled by her:

1. solid gold tiny tots
soft and smelly. the treats you want to have around for obedience classes.

2. liver biscotti

crunchy and not smelly. (i'd buy them more often if they didn't have such a ridiculous name)

3. greenies

neither crunchy nor smelly. but good. and a fancy-free name.

top three of brandy's wishlist, as compiled by me:

1. planet dog hemp harness
looks comfortable and doubles as a safety belt in the car.

2. victoria peak dog bed, new stuffing

the best dog beds ever, with a sturdy denim cover that comes off easily and doesn't shrink in the washing machine.

3. bent wood dog diner
mmh, come to think about it, this would probably take up too much space and would be a hassle to clean. let's opt for something simpler:

hemp collar and leash set from earth dog

great collars, durable and in beautiful designs.


the german language society has announced its word of the year 2005: bundeskanzlerin. (their choice is based on impact, as judged by members of the society, not on frequency.)

i think it's an excellent choice. first, unlike the runner-up "we are pope" (a brilliant headline on the front page of the german tabloid bild, published when joseph ratzinger, a german, was elected pope) it is really a word; second, unlike "tsunami" (no. 3 on the list and probably on every word-of-the-year list across the world), it's a word that is distincly german; and third, it is a word that we are going to hear a lot over the next couple of years. bundeskanzlerin is the feminine form of bundeskanzler ("federal chancellor"), and it marks a historic event: on november 22, 2005, angela merkel became the first female chancellor of the federal republic of germany.

the german language society points out that the fact that germany now has a bundeskanzlerin creates some questions for other noun compounds. for example, the building that hosts the chancellor's office is known as the bundeskanzleramt (see left). should it now be known as the bundeskanzlerinamt? i think this is merely a theoretical question. the name for the office of germany's political leader is still bundeskanzler, and male forms are considered to be inclusive. it's only in the case of a female individual that the gender-marked form will be used. i suppose we will have to wait very long until we find out what the female form of pope would be.

December 13, 2005

advent, advent

the advent calender is a german tradition. in the standard version, one opens one door every day from december 1 to 24, and behind the door, there is a small piece of chocolate. in more elaborate versions for grown-ups, there may be a truffle or a diamond ring behind the door.

yesterday, a package arrived from germany, with a very decadent version of the advent calender: one for dogs (with a dog biscuit behind each door).

you can see that brandy got all excited. she clearly appreciates german holiday traditions.

but being the polite dog she is, she won't rip the wrapping paper open. she simply stares at it (until i open it for her). happy advent!

the dog you see on the advent calender is modeled after "holly", germany's answer to barney. holly is a border terrier and he belongs to the former chancellor of germany, gerhard schroeder, and his wife, doris schroeder-koepf, who designed a whole line of pet products. the holly advent calender is a bestseller in germany, and part of the proceedings goes to animal-related charities.

December 12, 2005


each year, merriam-webster puts together a list of the "words of the year". these are the words that are looked up most often in their free online dictionary. among the top ten in 2005, not surprisingly, are tsunami, filibuster, and conclave. the indian ocean tsunami in december 2004 killed hundreds of thousands of people - and within days the word tsunami became part of everybody's vocabulary. william safire wrote in his column "on language" on jan. 16, 2005:
Toward the end of 2004, many lexicographers agreed that the word of the year was blog, from ''Web log,'' with its extension of bloggers, commentators with Internet addresses who had joined the panjandrums of political media.

Then disaster struck. The word to describe the event that will fix the year in the history of geologic catastrophe and the resulting human tragedy is tsunami, from the Japanese tsu, ''harbor,'' and nami, ''waves.''

a real surprise, though, is the word that made it to the top of the list: the most looked-up word, if that's a word, in 2005 so far has been integrity.

December 11, 2005

infrared secretion production

in today's new york times magazine the best ideas and inventions of the year are showcased. among them: the infrared pet dry room, "the most redical new dog product since the chew toy" (it makes you think about the ideas that didn't make the list).

Infrared Pet Dry Room, The

In September, at the FCI Seoul International Dog Show, the Korean engineering company Daun ENG introduced what may be the most radical new dog product since the chew toy. The Infrared Pet Dry Room is, as its name suggests, a chamber into which you place a wet dog in order to dry him or her via infrared radiation. Because infrared rays penetrate the dermis, they warm and dry an animal more quickly than a blow-dryer does, and they do so without resulting in the kinds of skin rashes that blow-dryers often cause.

The downside of infrared rays, or at least of the Infrared Pet Dry Room, is that no matter how many times you are assured of its safety, it's hard not think that a dog stepping inside the machine will be roasted faster than a Ball Park frank. The other worry is that the experience of being locked inside a glowing red box might cause a dog some anxiety. But in a recent interview with Aving, an online product reviewer in Korea, Kim Sun Man, C.E.O. of Daun ENG, tried to put skeptics at ease. "We actually had about 100 dogs tested and found some of them produced a secretion while being in the machine," he said. "But most of them stayed calm."

so, if you don't mind a little anxiety-related secretion production and a big glowing box that blocks your entrance, by all means, go for it.

December 07, 2005

cookie time!

it looks like the dog couldn't care less about the cookies. that's not true, of course, but she was distracted with a treat.

the cookies you see here are called finger kolatschen. the name has been borrowed from slavic languages - kolác in czech (from kolo "wheel"), kołacz in polish, kalač in russian. they are round cookies made of some sort of shortcrust and usually filled with jam. their cousins in vienna are called topfen golatschen, and they are bigger and filled with cream cheese.

grimm's dictionary, the most comprehensive historical dictionary of german, also lists the spellings goltschen, gultschn, golasche, kollatsch (the latter in prussia), kalatschen (in bavaria), and a pastry chef could be called a golaczer.

in english they are called kolacky or kolache
(according to the american heritage dictionary of the english language, both words can be used in the singular and the plural).

quirky trumps golden

everything sells better with a dog. but what kind of dog? when it comes to making people spend money on christmas presents, quirky litte dogs seem to have pushed golden retriever puppies from the throne they occupied for so long.

exhibit a and b: recent catalogs from ebags and lands' end.

the trendsetter was "badger" (his real name was toby), the boston terrier in a prize-winning series of mastercard commercials, in which a dog lost by his family found his way back home, relying on the kindness of strangers on the way (paid for with mastercard, of course). "what is priceless? coming home after a long trip."

[come to think of it, the target dog, an english bull terrier, of course also belongs into this category of non-traditionally cute dogs and may actually have started the trend.]

however, if the wares you sell are not meant to evoke adjectives like "quirky" and "feisty", you'll lean towards a more dignified dog (especially if your male models look all gruffy). the borzoi, after all, "should always possess unmistakable elegance, with flowing lines, graceful in motion or repose".

still, i can't help but imagine how these people and the dog would look with antlers.

December 05, 2005

new kid on the blog has a new blog:

video dog is "devoted to TV outrages, bloopers, satires and much more".
as far as i can see, this is its best feature:

Every day we'll run a picture of a cute, fluffy animal. Why? Because everyone's day goes better once they've seen a cute, fluffy animal. [...] Aw.

Send us your photos of cute, fluffy animals getting along together, and we'll run them in our Peaceable Kingdom series, a seemingly frivolous feature that's actually a deeply nuanced political statement. E-mail to:

November 30, 2005

clinging monkeys going academic

how do you spell your e-mail address? specifically, how do you refer to the @-sign? in germany, it used to be known as the clinging monkey (Klammeraffe), but that was in the days when only geeks had e-mail addresses, nowadays it's just "at" (we love english words).

the washington post recently had an article on this:

Where It's At -- and Where It's Not [Washington Post, Oct. 2, 2005]
By Nancy Szokan

I'm talking on the phone to an Israeli writer who goes by the nickname Winkie, and I want to send him some information. "What's your e-mail?" I ask.

"Winkie M, Strudel, Yahoo dot com," he says.

"Strudel?" I said. "As in the pastry?" (I'm thinking: Maybe he has a little bakery on the side?) "You mean WinkieM, then s-t-r-u-d- . . . "

"No, no -- it's strudel , that little A sign," he says. "I think you call it 'at'?"

Of course. With a little imagination, I could see that a slice of strudel resembles the @ sign that separates user name from host in e-mail addresses. "Strudel!" I hoot. Winkie, agreeing that it's funny, later sends me a list of words that people in other countries have used for the @ symbol -- most of them a lot more entertaining (if less efficient) than our simple "at."

The list, it turns out, came from an online site,, and was based largely on research done in the early days of e-mail by linguist Karen Steffen Chung of National Taiwan University. Her lengthy collection of @-words, as well as some additions from Post foreign correspondents, shows that while many countries have simply adopted the word "at," or call the symbol something like "circle A" or "curled A," more imaginative descriptions still hold sway in many places.

In Russia, for instance, it seems that the most common word for the @ is sobaka ( dog) or sobachka ( doggie) -- apparently because a computer game popular when e-mail was first introduced involved chasing an @-shaped dog on the screen. (Don't laugh; Pac-Man was shaped like a pie with a missing slice.) So when Natasha gives her e-mail address to someone, it comes out sounding like she calls herself "Natasha, the dog." "Everybody's used to it," says Peter Finn, The Post's Moscow correspondent, "but there are still jokes -- people say 'Natasha, don't be so hard on yourself.' " Ah, those crazy Russians.

Try this: Look at the @. What does it remind you of? Apparently it reminds a lot of people around the world of a monkey with a long and curling tail; thus, their e-mail addresses might include variations of the word for monkey. That's majmunsko in Bulgarian, m alpa in Polish , majmun in Serbian and shenja e majmunit ("the monkey sign") in Albanian. Or they might call it an "ape's tail": aapstert in Afrikaans, apsvans in Swedish , apestaart in Dutch, Affenschwanz among German-speaking Swiss. (Many Germans apparently used to say Klammeraffe , meaning "clinging monkey," or Schweinekringel [ never heard that one ), a pig's tail -- though these days it's usually just "at.") In Croatian, they call the sign "monkey," but they say the word in English. Go figure.

Does the sign make you think of a snail? That's what you might get in Korean ( dalphaengi) or Italian ( chiocciola) or sometimes Hebrew ( shablul, when they're not saying strudel). The French apparently flirted briefly with escargot. "Yes, it looks like a snail," noted one amused Korean. "But isn't it funny and ironic, since 'snail mail' is opposed to e-mail in English?"

Do you see the @ as a curled up cat? That's why it's sometimes kotek or "kitten" in Poland and miuku mauku in Finland, where cats say "miau. "

In Slovakia and the Czech Republic, it can be zavinac , or rolled-up pickled herring. In Sweden, when it's not a monkey's tail, it's a kanelbulle, or cinnamon bun. In Hungary, it's kukac, for worm or maggot.

Danes call it snabel, or elephant's trunk. In the tiny parts of France, Spain and Italy where a disappearing language called Occitan is still spoken, users call it alabast , which means "little hook." In Mandarin Chinese, it's xiao lao shu -- "little mouse" -- which must get confusing given the gizmo of the same name.

Now for the news, also known as the depressing part: As noted by Scott Herron, the compiler of the list at, some of these more colorful images appear to be fading, or are already gone. Many of Chung's correspondents note that their local e-mailers increasingly just say "at."

This might just be a result of the cultural hegemony of English. Or maybe, as e-mail has gone from exciting new technology to spam-filled work tool, it has ceased to inspire as much creativity. Instead you get the mundane Japanese atto maaku -- literally, the "at mark" -- and the Mongolian buurunhii dotorh aa -- "A in round circle."

More strudel, please.

what strikes me is that the @-symbol (of all things) has become an accepted way to indicate gender neutrality. the university of wisconsin, for example, offers a chican@ and latin@ studies program, and that's the official spelling.

it reminds me of the german binnenmajuskel or "inner I", the capitalized i that is used to indicate that a female form is chosen to represent both the masculine and the feminine form (this is different from internal capitalization known as CamelCase). in german, agent nouns derived from verbs end on -er when they are masculine and on -erin when they are feminine. a lehrer is a male teacher, and a lehrerin is a female teacher. the masculine form is usually chosen to represent both genders, but feminists have challenged this automatism - why should the masculine form be used to represent both genders?

so, how to deal with it? some people will still only use the masculine form (after all, it has worked for centuries), some will use the masculine and the feminine form, coordinated ("Lehrer und Lehrerin") or separated by a slash ("Lehrer/-in"), for example in job postings (because they have to), some will use only the feminine form (to make a point), and some will use - count me among them - the feminine form but with a capitalized I to indicate that it is a conscious choice they are making ("LehrerIn").

german doesn't have capital letters in the middle of a word, normally. if one writes LehrerIn, what it means is something like "male teacher or female teacher and i really want you to notice that the teacher could be female". the german "inner I" may look odd, but at least it is a letter and everybody knows how to pronounce it. the clinging monkey, however, is not a letter. it represents a word, very much like numbers represent words as chunks ( there's nothing in the symbol 4 that indicates how it is to be pronounced). the @-sign is associated with the pronunciation of the word at, and it is not clear to me at all why one would pronounce something that is spelled chican@ as "chicano slash chicana", which, apparently, is the correct way to read this aloud.

November 29, 2005

puggles and other mixed ideas

puggles - would that be pets that can't do magic? dogs that poke ("puggle - to clear out or stir up by poking", webster's unabridged dictionary) or cousins of schnoodles, labradoodles and cockapoos (the latter has actually made into webster's - still, i wonder why they are not called coodles)? in a letter to the new york times someone recounts his first puggle experience:

November 28, 2005,Metropolitan Diary [The New York Times]

Dear Diary

I'm at the Carl Schurz dog run with my pug. A young, very well-to-do looking woman walks by me with her dog, a breed that is unfamiliar to me. As she pulls out treats and special water, I ask her what type of dog it is. She gives me what seems like a patronizing look and says, "A puggle."

"A what?"

"A puggle. It's a cross between a pug and a beagle."

She then looks at my dog with what seems like disdain and says: "I used to have a pug, but they're just such awful dogs to maintain. That's why I switched."

Feeling a bit like we're discussing trade-ins on automobiles, I resume watching the dogs frolic.

Just then, an elderly woman walks by the dog run and stops. She looks at the puggle, pauses, and asks the first woman what kind of dog it is. The woman sighs, exasperated by this point, and says sharply: "A puggle. A cross between a pug and a beagle." The elderly woman thinks for a bit, then says, "Or, as we called them in my day, mutts."

She leaves, and only one of us isn't smiling.

David Toussaint
so, while some people like their dog to be a poodle and something, other people want their poodles to be something else. here's another story of a dog whose owner wishes that the dog be taken for something else, in this case, hold your breath, a great panda:
A dog in Japan with a new dye job pushes the 'mixed-breed' trend in the canine world to the limit. The poodle-Maltese cross was named "Columbo" by its owner features a black-and-white dye job fashioned after a panda bear. Columbo, who is naturally white, was dyed using a special hair dye for dogs that lasts about a month.The Panda Dog could join a long list of suddenly trendy "designer dogs," pooches bred from different breeds that can fetch $1,000 a piece.

if you're not that much into poodles, why get one in the first place? and if you prefer a mutt with a dignified breed name, forget all the -doodles, get a bassador, like brandy.

November 25, 2005

did anyone say snow?

after being attacked by dozens of lands' end catalogs showing pictures of cute dogs wearing coats, i gave in an bought a "pet squall jacket" for brandy. they are coordinated with jackets for humans, but we don't go there...yet.

November 22, 2005

pugs and puns

is this a t-shirt for people who like pugs or who hate pugs? (well, i suppose you'd have to dislike pugs quite passionately to shell out $20 for a t-shirt that documents your feelings).

``A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!'' cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

``Bah!'' said Scrooge, ``Humbug!''

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge's, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.

``Christmas a humbug, uncle!'' said Scrooge's nephew. ``You don't mean that, I am sure.''

``I do,'' said Scrooge. ``Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? what reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough.''

``Come, then,'' returned the nephew gaily. ``What right have you to be dismal? what reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough.''

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, ``Bah!'' again; and followed it up with ``Humbug.''

although most people probably associate humbug with ebenezer scrooge from dickens's a christmas carol [1843] , the word has actually been around in the english language for a little longer. the OED lists its first use in writing (meaning "A hoax; a jesting or befooling trick; an imposition", now obsolete) for 1751. interestingly, it's capitalized in many early examples, as if it were a name, but according to the OED, its origin is unclear:
Many guesses at the possible derivation of humbug have been made; but as with other and more recent words of similar introduction, the facts as to its origin appear to have been lost, even before the word became common enough to excite attention. Cf. the following:
1751 (Jan.) Student II. 41 There is a word very much in vogue with the people of taste and fashion, which though it has not even the ‘penumbra’ of a meaning, yet makes up the sum total of the wit, sense and judgement of the aforesaid people of taste and fashion!..I will venture to affirm that this Humbug is neither an English word, nor a derivative from any other language. It is indeed a blackguard sound, made use of by most people of distinction! It is a fine, make-weight in conversation, and some great men deceive themselves so egregiously as to think they mean something by it!
scrooge is of course also the name of donald duck's uncle. in german, sadly, he's simply known as "onkel dagobert".

November 20, 2005

the dogs on main street howl

... cause they understand that there is finally a positive connection between bruce springsteen and dogs: sirius satellite radio has launched a channel called "e street radio", which is "America's only 24/7 radio station devoted to the music and archives of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street BAnd." forget those silly dog channels, this is the real thing.

sirius's logo makes sense to anybody who knows a little about astronomy or who has read this post (note the dog's star-shaped eye).

for those of us who don't subscribe to satellite radio, well, we can do what we always have done, make sure that there's a copy of the "world's best driving album" in the car and then celebrate "the thrill of singing with the Boss", as captured beautifully by helene cooper in a recent "appreciation" on the new york times editorial page (nov. 18):

Born to Run

On a steaming August afternoon in Washington, D.C., a few years ago, two friends and I busted out of class - oops, work - early, and headed for Maryland's Eastern Shore for blue crabs and cold beer. We were baking as we sat in traffic on the black leather seats of my convertible. Finally, we got to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and paid the toll, and Neil slipped a disc into my CD player. The first familiar piano chords sounded: "The screen door slams./Mary's dress waves."

If you stick to 61 miles per hour, it takes exactly 4 minutes 49 seconds to drive over the Bay Bridge, the same time it takes Bruce Springsteen to get through "Thunder Road," the opening song on the world's best driving album, "Born To Run." Bruce re-released "Born to Run" this week, 30 years after it first came out. Over the years, I've driven thousands of miles to Bruce, but none so sweet as on that day we went over the Bay Bridge to "Thunder Road."

Halfway across the bridge, the temperature dropped 10 degrees, to 88, and that's when Bruce got his guitar and learned how to make it talk. It was the perfect pause in the middle of an anthem, a chance to look out at the sailboats dotting the bay, at all the other Washington escapees cruising in search of tomorrow. "My car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk/from your front porch to my front seat./The door's open but the ride it ain't free."

Shailagh and I had our arms up in the air - maybe celebrating just the thrill of singing with the Boss as we barreled across the last part of the bridge. Bruce said, "I'm pulling out of here to win," and we played imaginary pianos with him on that last trill that leads into Clarence Clemons's saxophone. We were on the Eastern Shore proper and in a completely different place, psychologically, than when we drove past that tollbooth.

I got the 30th-anniversary box set on Tuesday, the day it came out, and spent the next three hours watching the two included DVD's on a laptop at work (research, of course). But my favorite part - listening to my beloved "Born to Run" CD all over again - I couldn't do in the office. "Everybody on 'Born to Run' is out, or trying to get out," Bruce says on the DVD. "That's the underpinning." No kidding. So I slid my new CD into my portable player and headed out, walking through downtown Manhattan. But I was also in my car once more, cruising over the Bay Bridge.

dogs on film

the new york times has a short squib about a dog film festival:

"It's 'Sex and the City' meets 'Best in Show' meets 'Lassie,' " Gayle Kirschenbaum said, explaining the star vehicle she had created for Chelsea, her Shih Tzu. Shot in part with a specially rigged "doggie cam," the film is called "A Dog's Life: A Dogamentary," and it is one of 14 films featured in the International Dog Film Festival.

That's not films by dogs. It's films starring dogs.
well, thanks for clarifying that.

November 18, 2005

everything sells better with a dog

a selection of ties at j. crew's in chicago. nice. but what do you look at? right, the dog!

a pet store, also in chicago. i wouldn't have looked twice, had there not been that doggie in the window:

picture frames at crate and barrel also seem to sell better with a canine touch:

November 15, 2005

hearts heart dogs

the associated press reports a study that showed that dogs have a benefical effect on heart failure patients (at least for those patients who said that they like dogs). too bad that brandy's anxiety would go up quite dramatically if she had to go and visit patients in a hospital.
Dogs Lower Anxiety Among Heart Patients

By JAMIE STENGLE Associated Press Writer

November 15,2005 | DALLAS -- It turns out dogs are more than man's best friend. They're pretty good at making the sick feel better, too, in ways that can be measured.

A small study showed that visits from therapeutic dogs lowered anxiety, stress and heart and lung pressure among heart failure patients.

"I'm not surprised at all that something that makes people feel good also makes them feel less anxious, has measurable physiological effects," said Dr. Marc Gillinov, a cardiac surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic who was not involved in the study.

"You can see it on their face, first you see a smile and then you see the worries of the world roll off their shoulders," said Kathie Cole, a nurse at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center who led the study presented Tuesday at an American Heart Association meeting.

Take Charles Denson, for example. His face brightened as a speckled Australian Shepherd named Bart cuddled next to him as he rested in his hospital bed in a cardiac care unit.

"You've got a pretty coat," the 51-year-old said, while petting Bart's soft fur.

Cole and her colleagues studied 76 heart failure patients -- average age 57 -- who got either a visit from a volunteer, a volunteer plus a dog, or no visit.

The scientists meticulously measured patients' physiological responses before, during and after the visits.

Anxiety as measured by a standard rating scale dropped 24 percent for those visited by the dog and volunteer team, but only by 10 percent for those visited by just a volunteer. The scores for the group with no visit remained the same.

Levels of epinephrine, a hormone the body makes when under stress, dropped about 17 percent in patients visited by a person and a dog, and 2 percent in those visited just by a person. But levels rose about 7 percent in the unvisited group.

Heart pressure dropped 10 percent after the visit by the volunteer and dog. It increased 3 percent for those visited by a volunteer and 5 percent for those who got no visit. Lung pressure declined 5 percent for those visited by a dog and a volunteer. It rose in the other two groups.

Gillinov said the study was especially impressive because of the hard data it provided as opposed to observations.

Cole said that she hopes the study, funded by the Pet Care Trust Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes the value of animals in society, helps show that pet therapy is a credible addition to patient care, not just a nicety.

"It makes the hospital seem less like a hospital and it lowers people's blood pressure," said Linda Marler, education coordinator for Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation and animal assisted therapy coordinator for Baylor Healthcare System. Her program has grown from its beginnings in 1985 with one dog to 84. [...]

too bad that brandy's anxiety rate would go up quite dramatically, if i tried to take her to visit strange people in a hospital.

November 10, 2005

the brightest dog of all

i had to observe an esl (english as a second language) class today. students were speculating about the meaning of the expression dog days. one student guessed that it might mean something like "happy days", which would make perfect sense...

when the true meaning was explained ("the hottest days of the year"), the students wondered where it came from. since my role was only to observe the class, i couldn't tell them. the expression has to do with the star sirius, and, according to the OED, it has been in use in english since the 14th century.
The days about the time of the heliacal rising of the Dog-star; noted from ancient times as the hottest and most unwholesome period of the year [OED]
sirius is a very bright star, the chief of the constellation canis major ("great dog").

[in the harry potter series, sirius black is the name of harry's godfather, an animagus who can transform himself into a big black dog.]

November 05, 2005

checking mails

o.k., i admit, i also use the expression "checking mails" in a canine context, but at least i don't refer to them as pee mails.

[brandy in front of a mail hub - courtesy of ihp]

November 03, 2005

the cold season - are we there yet?

the temperature was up in the sixties today. and on the capitol lawn, the sprinklers were in use. at the same time, city workers put up christmas lights downtown, and the big fountain on campus has been sealed with its winter cover. so, are we there yet?

if i compare this picture with that, taken a month ago, it seems that we're almost there, despite the sprinkler and the sun.

November 02, 2005

care package

yeah! a care package from germany! 10 kilograms of chocolate, gummi bears, and christmas presents.
and there may also have been some german dog treats.

["care" in care package is an acronym, derived from CARE (Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe) . the original care package was a charity food parcel sent to needy europeans after world war II. according to this source, the first 20,000 CARE packages reached europe on may 11, 1946. the standard care package contained one pound of beef in broth, one pound of steak and kidneys, 8 ounces of liver loaf, 8 ounces of corned beef, 12 ounces of luncheon loaf, 8 ounces of bacon, one pound of lard, one pound of fruit preserves, one pound of honey, one pound of raisins, one pound of chocolate, 2 pounds of sugar, 8 ounces of egg powder, 2 pounds of whole-milk powder, 2 pounds of coffee.]

pet podcast

what's your dog's favorite song? he doesn't listen to music all that much? well, that may change, according to a dj on, portrayed in today's new york times:
Jumpy Enough to Chew a Chair? Try DogCatRadio

"Remember, be kind to your mailman," said Jane Harris, a disc jockey. Then she softened her voice until it was a little insinuating: "He only wants to deliver the mail."

It is a message that many of her listeners need to hear. Ms. Harris is a D.J. on, a new Internet radio station for pets. Now dogs, cats, hamsters and parrots can keep the anxiety, the loneliness, the restlessness at bay while their owners are out. It is radio just for them, live 17 hours a day, 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific time, and podcast for the rest of the 24 hours.

Those who listen to DogCatRadio will find that there is generally an animal motif to the playlist, like "Hound Dog": "You ain't nothin' but a hound dogcryin' all the time."

This Elvis song is a frequent request from listeners (presumably the owners), as are the Baha Men, singing: "Who let the dogs out (woof, woof, woof, woof)."

And Dionne Warwick is also popular, especially her soothing song "That's What Friends Are For": "Keep smiling, keep shining,/Knowing you can always count on me."

Since many pets are apparently bilingual, DogCatRadio also has a "Spanish Hour," 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time daily, with Hispanic commentary and music, like Luis Miguel's "No Sé Tú": was started last June by Adrian Martinez, who is also president of Marusa records, an independent record label in Los Angeles. He runs the station out of a customized RV parked in his office lot in the Eagle Rock section of Los Angeles. [...]

The first week that DogCatRadio was broadcast, the local CBS television station showed a feature about it. As a result, so many people tuned in, 130,000 in one day, that the server crashed, Mr. Martinez said. "We had to get a bigger server to accommodate more listeners." Now, he said, "We average close to 8,000 hits a week. We have a meter that tracks it."

"People are just e-mailing us," calling from all over the world, Mr. Martinez said. "I love what you are doing, but please don't forget our equine friends," an e-mail message from Australia said. [...]

Meanwhile, the broadcast has received some notice. Dr. Larry Family, who has a talk show program, the Pet Vet, on WROW-AM in Albany, recommends DogCatRadio to his patients' owners. "It's of interest to those people whose pets have certain phobias or anxiety issues," he said in a telephone interview from the outskirts of Schenectady, where he has his practice.

"I have recommended it to those whose dogs are having certain problems behaviorwise in the home environment," he said.

"It might be helpful with dogs with separation anxiety issues," Dr. Family went on. "Dogs, especially, are interested in watching TV with their owners and listening to music."

Mr. Martinez said that at the moment, the station has no advertising and is making no money. But, he said, "I'm not in it for the money." He added, "Eventually, I'm sure, people will advertise."

That is not such a leap, since it is estimated that American pet owners will spend $35.9 billion this year on everything from electric toothbrushes for dogs to bird pedicures to self-flushing litter boxes for cats, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. [...]

personally, "to keep the anxiety, the loneliness, the restlessness at bay" i recommend playing this - and brandy prefers kongs.

November 01, 2005

halloween, personalized

where are all the kids? well, i'm glad i only bought candy that i like to eat myself.

creative design: the middle pumpkin has my neighbor's puppy's name carved into it (pictures courtesy of ihp)

October 30, 2005

crowd stopper

when you see perfect strangers turn into a happy group huddled over something...

...chances are a puppy is involved:

October 29, 2005

to the market, again

another beautiful day for the farmers' market. the square surrounding the capitol was busy with children in halloween costumes, and market stalls glowed with pumpkins in all sizes, colors, and shapes.

dogs are not allowed on the market. if your dog is too big to be smuggled in, you better stay off the market area. the dog you can barely make out in the pink square didn't have to hide, though. he was a working dog. i wasn't quite sure what kind of working dog, as his owner didn't seem to rely on him for anything. still, it was nice to see a friendly dog trotting around the market without anybody getting annoyed.

looks like the question was asked at some point....

if you have a huge bernese mountain dog, chances are you and your dog will be noticed - in particular in the vicinity of a sign that says "dogs not allowed". but for the five minutes that i watched this family, nobody seemed to mind too much, and quite a few people smiled at the striking, well-behaved dog (perhaps they thought how lucky the baby was to grow up with such a great companion). he seemed to be quite used to having his picture taken.

October 27, 2005

there's a dog in my shower!

listen to this:

Penny-pinching New Zealanders have come up with some weird and wonderful ways to save money, during a promotion by The Warehouse, to find the country's bargain champion. Tips include showering with your dog, cutting your own hair and living in a tent.
somehow i fail to see how dragging your dog into the shower will save you any money. and just think of all the extra chocolate one has to buy and eat to make up for spending an hour cleaning the bathroom and unclogging the drain.

October 26, 2005


another seasonal midwestern dog-related beer: moondog ale from the great lakes brewing company (ohio). it's named after the 1952 moondog coronation ball held at the cleveland arena, "what many consider the first 'rock and roll' concert". the ball itself was named after cleveland radio dj alan freed, who played rhythm and blues records under the name moondog. his fans were referred to as moondoggers. freed is credited for having
"laid the foundations for rock ‘n’ roll’s emergence as a genre with an immense appeal to an interracial fan base that was willing to ignore, then later knock down, the barriers of segregation. Since he built those foundations in Cleveland, it was only natural that the city would become the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."
i also saw a seasonal beer by dogfish head today: punkin ale, a "spiced brown ale brewed with real pumpkins, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar". is it just me, or is there something weird about the combination of dogfish, beer, and pumpkin?

October 24, 2005

stay fit! loan a dog!

so if you're overweight and have a dog, you'll spend more time walking than if you're overweight and don't have a dog. d'oh!*
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Dogs may be more than man's best friend; they may also be a tool for losing weight, according to a new study that shows making a commitment to walk a dog -- your own or someone else's -- leads to increased exercise and weight loss.

The goal of the study, according to Rebecca Johnson, was to encourage sedentary overweight people to exercise and specifically to walk.

"We know that walking is good for people but we don't know how to get people to continue to do it. We wanted to see whether bonding with a dog might be a motivator to continue walking," said Johnson, who is an associate professor of nursing and director of the College of Veterinary Medicine's Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

The dog-walkers in the study started by walking 10 minutes per day three times per week and eventually walked up to 20 minutes per day 5 days per week. One group walked for 50 weeks while another walked for only 26 weeks.

For the study, the participants walked with loaner dogs -- trained and certified "visitor" animals that were provided by the Pet Assisted Love and Support (PALS) Program. According to Johnson, the 50-week walkers lost an average of 14 pounds during the one-year program. "That's a better result than most of the nationally known weight-loss plans," she told Reuters Health.

if that's what a loaner dog can do, just imagine how motivated people will be by their own dogs (who will probably not be satisfied with one 20min walk a day).

* d'oh has of course been popularized by homer simpson, but it was by no means an invention by simpson creator matt groening. the original script just asked for an "annoyed grunt". the following quote (from the oed) is from an interview with dan castanellaneta, who provides the voice for homer simpson:

1998 Daily Variety (Nexis) 28 Apr., The D'oh came from character actor James Finlayson's “Do-o-o-o” in Laurel & Hardy pictures. You can tell it was intended as a euphemism for “Damn”. I just speeded it up.
it's clearly related to the imitative interjection duh, which has been around the block for a while (at least since 1943, according to the oed). here's a nice quote:

1963 N.Y. Times Mag. 24 Nov. 54/2 A favorite expression is ‘duh’... This is the standard retort used when someone makes a conversational contribution bordering on the banal. For example, the first child says,‘The Russians were first in space.’ Unimpressed, the second child replies (or rather grunts), ‘Duh’.
i still don't know what the odd spelling is supposed to signify. french ennui?

October 22, 2005

Canine Festive Events

so many horribly named CFEs, so little time. there's dogtoberfest (at the local brewery) and barktoberfest (at the local shelter), not to mention the spayghetti dinner (pawlicious!) at the humane society, and now there's howl-o-ween.

o.k., here's brandy dressed up as a xmas present.

[halloween, or hallow-e'en, as it is listed in the oed, is a shortened form of "all-hallow-even", i.e. the evening before "all hallows" or "all saints", also known as hallow-day. the oed adds:
In the Old Celtic calendar the year began on 1st November, so that the last evening of October was ‘old-year's night’, the night of all the witches, which the Church transformed into the Eve of All Saints.
spay comes from old french espeer "to cut with a sword". spaghetti is of course from italian and it is already marked for plural (the singular is spaghetto, "thin string, twine"). according to the oed, it was first used in an english cooking book in 1849.]