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: