February 24, 2006

"they went like bagels"

...said heidi klum, host of project runway, the addictive reality show on bravo tv, at the reunion episode on wednesday, referring to the "my scene barbie" designed by nick verreos, one of the contestants on the show. cute germanism! the german equivalent to "something sells like hotcakes" is "something sells like warm rolls", so it's really only a matter of getting your source of carbs right. oh, and by the way:
however, that was not the linguistic highlight of the show. here's an excerpt from an exchange between tim gunn, chair of the department of fashion design at parsons school of design and everybody's favorite mentor ("make it work!"), and guadalupe (lupe) vidal, a contestant who was eliminated for her incoherent designs and her inability to explain them:
Tim: "Did you feel your elimination was fair given that Marla plagiarized the Nikki Hilton dress?"

Lupe: "Honestly, I can only give him a personal critique. Nobody would ever know unless they personally respond to me would know what my personal response is. And that is of me. And personally I believe if you can't like push the boundaries and like Johnny Cash walk the line and..."

Heidi: "This went so confusing - what was the question?"

Tim: "I haven't a clue any longer!"

Heidi: "What was the question - I thought we lost track."

Tim to Lupe: "Did you feel your elimination was fair given that Marla plagiarized the Nikki Hilton dress? Yes or No."

Lupe: "Understand that Marla has an aesthetic I cannot duplicate. But Marla has an aesthetic that she cannot duplicate. And Arion, on national television, if you can get this, you fuckin rock - cause you believe in what is true. Period."

there are myriads of recaps of the show, here's a link to one of the most entertaining ones. and look, someone designed a t-shirt at cafepress right away:

compared to this, chomsky's famous colorless green ideas look rather lame. and that is of me.

February 23, 2006

"just a couple of drops"

the new york times has an article about the growing demand for dog traininers and behaviorists.
Dog experts have noticed other signs of a growing concern over bad behavior by dogs, despite all the gourmet biscuits, educational toys and $70 dog sweaters lavished on them. (Perhaps because of that treatment, others argue.) Enrollment in obedience classes is escalating, veterinarians are seeing an increasing demand for help with behavior problems, and ratings for "Dog Whisperer," the National Geographic Channel's dog-behavior program, are rising. Figuring out how to make the dog mind, it seems, has become a national obsession.

The problem, some dog experts suspect, is not that there are more bad dogs, only more demanding owners. People expect their dogs to cooperate with their busier lives — to behave at cocktail parties, at real estate open houses and in cafes and shops — and to respect their better-appointed homes. And in a culture that values achievement and excellence, they readily assume that dogs value the same things, especially when there are obstacle courses to master and social graces to display.

Some dog experts wonder whether the focus on behavior is the best thing for the dog or just the latest form of self-help for people: with their furniture, their clothes and their cooking skills already up to snuff, the only way to make their lives better now is by improving the dog.

"This is the generation that invented the gifted and talented kid," said Jon Katz, the author of books on the human-dog relationship, "so now you have the gifted and talented dog."

the article goes on about big dogs not getting enough exercise and starting to chew down the apartment or becoming aggressive. smaller dogs may cause problems of a different kind:

Ms. Arden said small dogs present a different kind of trouble, which she calls small dog syndrome. Many owners (especially those who think of themselves as parents) treat their Yorkies and Chihuahuas like babies, she explained, and this leads to spoiling. Owners often fail to discipline small dogs when they relieve themselves on the carpet, for example. "Because it was just a couple of drops, owners wipe it up and say, 'Oh he just didn't want to go outside and get his little feet all wet,' " Ms. Arden said. If it was a Lab, she added, the owners wouldn't say the same.

bad press for greenies

Greenies to Change Dog Treat Packaging

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The maker of Greenies, the country's best-selling dog treat, said Wednesday it plans to change its packaging in response to complaints from some pet owners and veterinarians that the treat may pose a health hazard to some dogs.

S&M NuTec, based in North Kansas City, also said it may remove a claim that Greenies are fully edible, saying its own study shows a dog can only digest up to 85 percent of the bone-shaped treat. [...] Roetheli said the company plans to enlarge and expand wording on the packaging that tells dog owners to carefully monitor their pets when feeding them Greenies and make sure they feed their dog the right size of treat. The company has long warned that dogs who gulp their food or otherwise do not adequately chew Greenies could have trouble digesting the treat, as could animals eating Greenies that are too big or too small for them.

NuTec has taken a beating in the media in recent weeks, as CNN and several newspapers and local TV stations across the country reported claims from veterinarians and angry pet owners that Greenies -- 315 million of which were sold last year -- were responsible for throat and intestinal blockages in their dogs. According to CNN, at least 13 dogs have died in incidents involving Greenies. [...]

Roetheli said he didn't know whether the media controversy would significantly hurt sales, which totaled $340 million last year. he stressed that Greenies are fundamentally safe, considering the number of incidents involving millions of Greenies sold each year, a figure he put at up to one in 8 million, under the worst-case scenario. He added that too little focus has been given to the ability of Greenies to help keep dogs' teeth clean, saying complications from gum and tooth decay cut three to five years off a dog's life. The treat bears the seal of approval from the Veterinary Oral Health Council.

brandy is much more well-behaved with greenies than with rawhide pieces, chewing on them frantically, but not wolfing them down. as to the tooth-cleaning effect... if that's what you buy greenies for, you may as well feed the dog rose petals against bad breath.

February 21, 2006

when it's not fuzzy-wuzzy at all

tonight "Dealing Dogs," a documentary about an arkansas dog dealer who mistreats animals, will air on hbo.
Four years in the making, DEALING DOGS follows the undercover investigation of Martin Creek Kennel by the animal rights group Last Chance for Animals. A young man who goes by the name of "Pete" in the film wore a hidden camera while he worked a low- level job hosing kennels at the dog dealer. Over the course of six months, Pete secretly filmed activities at Martin Creek Kennel, including the beating and shooting of dogs, and recorded footage of animals that were left to languish in their kennels and suffered from malnourishment, life-threatening disease and injury, among other abuses. Dog corpses are shown piled up on the property and in trenches after being butchered for their organs.
viewer's discretion is advised. here are excerpts from an interview salon.com did with "pete", an undercover investigator for an animal rights group, about how far he would go in doing wrong -- abusing animals in order not to blow his cover -- to do right on a larger scale.

How's the work that you do different than that of an undercover cop or humane agent?

I don't plant evidence, I don't change evidence, but I do whatever it takes to obtain evidence -- regardless of what the law says. There are a lot of good police officers out there, but most police are good old boys that don't care, most humane agents are good old boys who don't care, and the USDA is always against us. They never cooperate with animal rights activists or investigators in the slightest bit.

How do you prepare yourself psychologically to take part in animal abuse?

Basically what you do is, you put yourself in a mindset: If this is the person that I am, what is my motivation? My motivation is to get a paycheck. That's the only thing I care about. The abuse -- it's easier to do than you think if you're able to step outside yourself. Still, I would do things to those dogs where I would finish the job and I would go home at night and I'd review my footage and I was embarrassed to write down in my field notes the things that I'd done.

Were there instances when you were more than just neglectful, when you were actually hurting animals?

At one point at Martin Creek Kennel there were two dogs fighting so I grabbed them by their scruff and I pulled them apart and got in their faces and I yelled at them to stop. So the dogs stopped. I have a lot of experience working with dogs and I knew it would work. But afterward, a guy named Bill said, "Yeah, just nail him in the face." So I smacked this dog in the face and the dog bounces off the wire wall and hits the concrete floor and just lays there motionless on the ground looking at me.

There's a scene in the documentary when you secretly film someone shooting a perfectly healthy dog. What would you do if you were undercover and someone handed you a gun and told you to shoot a dog?

I would shoot the dog. I know I would. If they tell me to hit it, or kick it, or throw it, I know I'll do that because I've done that before. I've worked at a place where we would throw animals around like you wouldn't believe. And it was unnecessary, but it's what they did, so it's what I did.

Can you imagine a scenario where you'd be on assignment and someone will say, "Go do this," and you won't be able to?

If someone has gone too far and they're going to like light a live dog on fire, then I'm going to start beating the shit out of people. Or if I see someone has involved a person and is going to try to do something cruel to another person, then at that point I'm going to forfeit the investigation. But it would take a lot. It would take something really extreme to forfeit the case.

February 17, 2006

snowy encounter

this thing is supposed to look like ME?
you must be JOKING!

February 16, 2006

ten inches of snow

the winter has officially returned, it came accompanied by a snow blizzard, thunder, and lightning. public shools were closed today (first time in 5 years), the university cancelled its afternoon classes (first time since 1990), shops and banks closed at noon.

dogs seemed to be happy enough not to follow the official snow policy.

February 15, 2006

best in show, aftermath

since i can't do rufus justice, here's an excerpt from an article in the new york times:
The crowd, perhaps viewing familiarity in the breed as the most important trait, had pulled mostly for the golden retriever and was increasingly smitten with the Dalmatian and the sheepdog. When the crowd hushed and Reynolds made his pronouncement, it seemed almost like an upset, although it might have been the furthest thing from it.

Selecting a terrier — even a variation that had never won — from the more than 2,500 dogs in 165 breeds that had entered the competition restored some semblance of tradition.

"The crowd never sways it," said Barbara Bishop, one of Rufus's co-owners. "A judge does what a judge wants to do. You could stand on your head and scream, and it wouldn't matter."

Kirk [Rufus's handler] said she was most worried about the Dalmatian, Boomer (Ch. Merry Go Round Mach Ten), owned by Dick and Linda Stark. They also own Carlee, the German shorthaired pointer who won last year's best in show. The Starks became the first owners to win back-to-back best in shows with different dogs.

Rufus, shorthaired with a strong, bullish build and a stoic presence, is the type of dog that the country will come to know, if not recognize and adore. But why a victory for the dog-next-door type is so rare at Westminster is a matter of debate in dog circles. There is a sense that in a show designed to find an extraordinary and memorable dog as best in show, most of the top breeds are just too, well, ordinary.

while i agree that the crowd had cheered most for the golden retriever, i can't really say that rufus didn't get a very warm welcome. the crowd loved him, egg-shaped head and all. also, compared to, say, a scottish deerhound, bull terriers are practically everyday dogs -- all you need to do to see one is visit target.

February 14, 2006

best in show, live-blogging

ah, there they are, the sporting dogs! pointers! labradors! setters! spaniels! all with floppy ears!

"this is brittany, number 19".
"this is pointer, number 6"
now here's the german shorthaired pointer, makes you think of carlee last year, but not quite the same concentration. the german wiredhair pointer is very energetic and attentive, but will they give the best in show title to a pointer twice in a row?

now the retrievers, here's the chesapeake bay retriever, accompanied by a handler in a pink suit and coat. i'll never get it. the curly-coated retriever looks a little like a lamb, and we learn that the dog works out on a treadmill. on a treadmill??? the flat-coated retriever is wagging its tail happily. the handler wears a shiny long skirt with allover embroidery. first treadmills, now that. and here's the golden retriever, getting a big cheer from the crowd. what a teddy bear. what a friendly face. next up is the labrador retriever, the most popular dog in the u.s. (we are informed). he doesnt' get quite the same response from the crowd, though. the nova scotia duck-tolling retriever has a cute pink nose and white paws.

setters. the english setter has funky black spots and is groomed to perfection. the gordon setter is a true beauty. he's jogging along happily, showing off his black mane. the coloring is like that of a rottweiler, but the dog looks so much more elegant, of course. talking about elegance, here's the irish setter. the next dog is the american water spaniel - wisconsin's state dog, not quite as elegant, but very cute and easy to recognize with its fluffy ears and its curly coat.

commercial break. of the we're for dogs kind.

now they are all running around in a big circle. spaniels next. first to go is the clumber spaniel, a massive white spaniel with a red face, related to the basset hound. i don't think i've ever seen this dog outside of a dog show. here's a black cocker spaniel, being brushed until the last second. another cocker spaniel (a.s.c.o.b., whatever that means), very fluffy. and another one, this one in silky black and white, shown by a woman in a black cocktail dress. and another one, "english cocker, number six", this one is a little bigger and not as fluffy, it looks more like a sporting dog than its cousins. here's the english springer spaniel, a very beautiful dog. the handler wears a glittery blue coat, reminiscent of dynasty. next up is the field spaniel, described as a dog with "a healthy dose of impishness", love it. and here's an irish water spaniel, energetic, with rockstar-like bangs. the sussex spaniel is a low-rider with a very happy tail. i like him. and finally, there's the welsh springer spaniel, prancing around happily.

next up: a "spinone italiano" (?), looking a little gruffy (but very lovable) next to all of those supershiny cocker spaniels. here's a viszla, very elegant -- and what a beautiful color, they're just stunning dogs. "not for everyone". the same holds for the weimaraner, a study in restrained elegance.

not quite as elegant: the wirehaired poiting griffon, jumping up for treats and looking full of mischief. that was the last dog in this group!

commercial break. who's gonna win? i hope it's one of the more unusual dogs. i liked the sussex spaniel.
the judge has made a cut and asks some of the dogs to run around the ring once again. he's made up his mind: he calls up the golden retriever (is this the winner?), the irish setter, one of the cocker spaniels, and the curly-coated retriever, i believe, is fourth. the crowd is very happy. they loved the golden retriever. congratulations, andy!

i'll be back for the best in show finale.


let's see -- who's competing for the title?

  1. working dogs: rottweiler (shaka)
  2. terriers: bull terrier (rufus)
  3. toy dogs: pug (dermot)
  4. non-sporting dogs: dalmatian (boomer)
  5. sporting dogs: golden retriever (andy)
  6. hound: scottish deerhound
  7. herding dogs: it's happening right now! and the winner is: the old english sheepdog (smokin')
and now -- the finale! but first a check is presented to the american humane association. commercial break. pedigree is for shelter dogs. dogs rule.

another commercial break. shot of the empire state building.

and now: "we highly encourage you to cheer for your favorite!" and the crowd does. the rottweiler comes in, everyone is roaring, and here's the golden retriever, and everyone goes crazy, then there's the scottish deerhound, followed by the old english sheepdog (who didn't get much of a break), the dalmation is very graceful, and for a bull-terrier, rufus walks quite elegantly, and finally, there's the pug, enjoying the limelight.

the judge is introduced. he looks at every dog. now they are all running around in a circle, the rottweiler is almost too fast for his owner, the deerhound displays a relaxed trot, now the rottie's teeth are examined and he gets treats from his handler (who wears a bracelet, odd). i'm glad that these super dogs still need treats!

now the judge looks at the golden retriever. like shaka, he's handled by his owner. they jog about, the dog looks calm and happy, and what a lovely coat. the crowd loves him.

the only female in the line-up is the deerhound. she trots around in an easy gait. looks perfect, but what do i know about scottish deerhounds?

the judge approaches the old english sheepdog. he feels his way through all the hair. now the dog walks, or rather shuffles around. his gait is very different from the deerhound's, more bear-like.

ah! the dalmatian! beautiful stance and a very nice pattern. the judge feels the tail (which has no spots). now boomer walks around, happily wagging his tail. and now the free stack position, not quite like carlee (his kennel mate), but still, a great performance.

now rufus, the bullterrier. i suppose he looks good, but i'm just not into bullterriers. i don't like their face. sorry, rufus.

the pug is on a table. he doesn't want to be touched. i actually like him for that -- he's showing some spirit! he's walking next to his owner happily enough now. and a very fine standing position.

the judge is taking one more look at them all. is this the lineup already? he stops at the dalmatian. the crowd cheers. he kneels down for a final look at the pug.


he's bringing them out one more time for a free stack and a run. the rottweiler wants some treats. the golden retriever is admired by the crowd, it's clearly the favorite. the deerhound moves gracefully, but what's this, has he slipped? the sheepdog looks about himself as if to say, are we there yet? the dalmatian looks stunning in a free stack. and that tail! adorable. here's rufus again, the crowd also loves him, a fine free stack again. and the pug is rewarded with a treat for his stand position.

the judge writes something on a piece of paper. we can't see what it is. he's recording his decision. he picks up the ribbon.


"best in show....is the colored bull terrier"

congratulations, rufus! you didn't need my vote to win, and i'll say -- you did a wonderful job.

February 13, 2006

best in show

....it's westminster kennel club dog show time again. more than 2600 dogs compete for the title "best in show". the washington post has a long article on the subject:

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, now in its 130th year, is arguably the Super Bowl of dog shows in this country and perhaps in other nations as well.
the group results aren't in yet. i like to watch the working dogs, the sporting dogs, the hounds, and the herding dogs. i'm not crazy about terriers or toy dogs. and the non-sporting group.

last year, a beautiful pointer won the best in show title with a perfect stance known as a "free stack". it seemed to go on for a minute, and the crowd went crazy. what a dog! (sorry, but you just can't get that kind of vibe from a pekingese.)

update: so, for the first time ever, a rottweiler won the working dog competition. hm. i'm more into dogs with floppy ears and with tails -- like great pyrenees and bernese mountain dogs. but it was great fun watching the mastiff prancing around like a ginormous* puppy. and i just love how the female judges always wear shiny long skirts and glittery blouses that make them look completely out of place. what kind of tradition is this? and the handlers never wear sportswear either. i also like the announcer's blurbs about each breed. rottweilers are great companion dogs "with appropriate training". and

second update: the terrier group is just being judged. i admit they are my least favorite, along with the toy dogs. long noses, rectangular faces, and clipped tails. who's gonna win? here's coco again, the norfolk terrier, an experienced champion. ah, she's in second place. the winner is rufus, a bull terrier. sorry, rufus, i don't think i will root for you tomorrow.

third update: the toy group is led by a pug, followed by a pekingese. ah well.

last update for today: the non-sporting dog group competition was won by a beautiful dalmatian. see you again tomorrow, boomer! (he's owned by the owners of charlee, the pointer that won last year's best in show title.)

* ginormous: according to a merriam-webster online survey, ginormous was a word that many users miss in the dictionary. however, the prognosis is good: "Although there has not yet been sufficient evidence to back entering ginormous, a search in the LexisNexis database shows that the word’s use is spreading."

the google guys are dog people

google is known as a "quirky work environment". according to a cover story in time, one of the perks for employees is that they can bring dogs to the workplace -- but not cats. and that's on top of "three free gourmet meals a day" (for humans).

February 09, 2006

a new mascot?

too bad that the pictures on website of the university of wisconsin-madison rotate. i suppose the dog looks too friendly to qualify as a new mascot.

February 07, 2006

airfare watchdog

have you ever bought an airplane ticket only to find out that if you had booked it 3 hours later, or if you had changed the departure from monday @ 10 to tuesday @11, it would have cost a lot less? how does one figure out these things? it seems that one way to stay on top of airline pricing is to read the right blog. in his new york times column "on the road" joe sharkey writes today
"a growing number of blogs and Web sites devoted to travel issues [...] are managed by well-infomred people who do solid, original work and carve out niches that simply do not exist in print or broadcast travel journalism. A prime example, Mr. Greenberg [the travel editor of the Today show] said, is www.airfarewatchdog.com, published by George Hobica, a man with an uncanny ability to rummage through the rat's nest of airline fare structures and promotions and find the most obscure unadvertised cheap fares, which can then be booked through the links on his site. "This man seems to spend 24 hours a day looking at every possible airefare and airline Wb site, " Mr. Greenberg said. "Plus, the guy is always right."
so, let browser dig up some good prices for you. and if you don't know what to do with all the miles you are going to accumulate on your frequent flyer account, you can discuss it on www.flyertalk.com

February 01, 2006

all hail the king

did you watch president bush's state of the union address last night? if you weren't enthralled by the rhetoric, perhaps your interest was caught by an unsual audience member, who had an aisle to himself:

Up in the bleachers, a few rows behind first lady Laura Bush, a single member of the audience decided to lie down throughout the speech. Rex, the bomb-sniffing dog, earned an invitation [by Laura Bush, no less] because his handler, Sgt. Jamie Dana, had survived an improvised explosive device in Iraq. Rex, who lay next to Dana, was meant to represent the enduring bonds that survive the horrors of war. But by all appearances, the dog wasn't particularly taken by the symbolism or the speech. It was a pose that seemed somehow wise in retrospect [from salon.com]

the associated press reports on the background of the story:

How Rex landed such a coveted seat -- actually a spot in the aisle labeled ''Rex'' on the official seating chart -- is quite a tale. His owner, Air Force Tech Sgt. Jamie Dana, awoke in a military hospital last summer badly injured by a bomb in Iraq and crying for her bomb-sniffing dog. Someone told her Rex was dead. Later, Dana found out that wasn't true. But it would take an act of Congress before she could take him home to Pennsylvania.

The Air Force said it had spent $18,000 training Rex and that, by statute, he needed to finish the remaining five years of his useful life before he could be adopted. Dana's congressman, Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., helped abolish that policy in an end-of-year defense bill, the White House said. [associated press]

jamie dana has now adopted rex.