September 30, 2006

life on the treadmill

Photo by Michael Forster Rothbart

"Canine physical therapist Courtney Arnoldy works with Stella, a year-old border collie, on an underwater treadmill. Stella is a stray belonging to the Wisconsin Border Collie Rescue. She suffers a malunion of her femur—a previous broken bone rotated in the socket and healed incorrectly. The treadmill, acquired by the School of Veterinary Medicine in May, uses water to support a dog's weight as it walks and is used to help dogs regain leg use after orthopedic or neurologic problems, or surgery. In this case, the goal of physical therapy, says Arnoldy, is "to give the dog enough range of motion for the leg to be functional, and then she'll start using it on her own and build up muscle mass."

it's nice to see that rescue dogs get advanced medical treatment. while stella was on the vet school treadmill, a luxury canine fitness spa opened. an "aqua paws treadmill session" (up to 30 min.) is about $25. one can also book the pool for a "buddy swim"(up to 3 dogs) or a "pool party" (up to 6 dogs). i don't know if silly hats or shades are included in the price.

September 28, 2006

come, lifelong endurance cage!

finally we got to see some fun on project runway. laura pretended to be able to chat in german ("kommen sie hier!"), jeffrey felt pretty as a peacock floating through the room in one of uli's creations, uli herself put away the flowy hippy-dippy persona for a minute and gave an unexpected klumpersonation ("coming up next on project runway: uli doesn't finish her dress!"), and michael, well, let's just say alliterations are not his forte.

[edit: thanks to mensa member i got rid of an unfortunate accent on "forte". you can read about it in the comments]

the challenge: the four remaining designers had to come up with a garment that woul
d represent their signature style, vow the judges, and could be shot for elle magazine. you'd think that after making dresses out of coffee filters and recycling bags and after designing for pageant contestants, mothers, style icons, and dogs this would have been a piece of cake, but not so. the results were uniformly ...underwhelming. the only design the judges liked was uli's mini dress, the one that had made even jeff feel pretty and romantic. there must have been some unicorn hairs woven into the fabric. that's probably why uli decided to use it again for her final collection.

in addition to making a dress, the designers had to describe their style in a provocative, irreverent, glamourous, adventurous, or sultry headline, and here's what they came up with:*

the judges found it hard to decide who should be out -- not because everyone did great, but because three out of four did not so great. in the first cozy-wozy twist in PR history, they decided not to eliminate anybody and to send them all to olympus fashion week. dear, if uneventful.

*the designers had to come up with three-word slogans (not with headlines), which i fed to an anagram generator. (a) is laura's slogan (her tree words were elegance, glamour, confidence), (b) is jeff's (irreverent, provocative, romantic), (c) is uli's (life, adventure, fun), (d) is michael's (sexiness, sultry, sensuality).

September 17, 2006

happy birthday

one year ago i started this blog. the first entry was about the local annual dog jog. team schnauf participated for the very first time. well, today it was dog jog time again -- brandy wore her bandana like a pro and made new friends easily. she has come such a long way!

one party showed up with four white standard poodles. very regal! they told us that three more had been left at home. apparently, a litter of seven had been spread over four families.

this blue-eyed fluffball, an australian shepherd puppy, got a lot of attention.
and justly so!

it was a warm day and water stations were provided. this great dane was too big to drink out of one of the bowls on the ground.

this terrier, on the other hand, didn't need any extra help.
sometimes it pays to be small.

some dogs were dressed up.
this little chap seemed to hope that nobody would recognize him.

the winner of the costume contest: team hooter

a fabulous time was had by all!

but can we go home now?

September 15, 2006

in fashion, one day you're out, and the next day you're in

this week's episode of project runway was no fun, so let's get done with it quickly. the producers thought it would be a nice "twist" to bring vincent and angela back into the competition (to justify it, heidi said that since they had both won a challenge at some point, they deserved another shot). i cringed at watching how distressed the remaining designers were by this turn of events. kayne even evoked the picture of unkillable cockroaches. low point # 1 in this episode.

the challenge was to design a cocktail* dress in black and white, using up all the fabric that was purchased at moods. the results were quite predictable. no, let me restate this: nobody could have predicted that angela's cocktail party would take place at the annual vampire** convention in transylvania. at least that's what the ruffled collar of the black vinyl shrug that she designed seemed to indicate. easily low point #2.

laura won deservedly with an off-white babydoll dress trimmed with black lace. michael came in second. his design was a white matte jersey dress with an intricate black cummerbund***-type belt. both dresses were praised as chic by the judges (can we see more of guest judge zac posen in future episodes, please?). vincent declared in the plural that "we worked with cottons", to which nina garcia replied in the singular "i don't like it", and that's all that needs to be said about the horrendous out-of-proportion creation. jeff's polka-dot design with leggings was declared cheap, not chic, but he managed to survive. kayne, however, who had been "banking on jesus", was out. his dress was very promising (black and minimal) in the front and very disappointing (low-cut and laced-up) in the back, somehow reminiscent of a picture taken through a basketball hoop. zac posen called it a "jekyll and hyde"**** design, and nobody stepped forward to save kayne.

low point #3 came when michael kors criticized uli's design, unnecessarily making fun of her german accent, using fricatives instead of interdentals (a fancy way of saying that he pronounced "weather" as "vezzer"). this, mr. kors, was cheap, not chic. by the way, may i ask how many languages you speak?

so, all in all an unsatisfactory, cranky episode. but hey, it's fashion week, so let's look forward to friday and to two weeks of delirious speculation.

* in case you are wondering (as i was): the origin of "cocktail" meaning "drink, consisting of spirit mixed with a small quantity of bitters" is unclear. it has been around since the early 19th century. another, more literal use, of the word also dates from this period: a "cock-tailed horse" was a horse whose tail had been shortened . this was usually done to stage-coach horses and horses used for hunting, both of them not necessarily thorough-breds (OED). that meaning was extended to "Any horse of racing stamp and qualities, but decidedly not thorough-bred, from a known stain in his parentage" and from there to "a person assuming the position of a gentleman, but deficient in thorough gentlemanly breeding". the verb "to cocktail" ("To drink cocktails; to attend a cocktail party") is documented as early as 1856.

** the word "vampire" is of slavonic origin, occuring in the same form in russian and polish (OED). transylvania is a region in east europe, presumably the home of dracula, king of the vampires, as invented by bram stroker in his novel of the same name (1897).

***"cummerbund" goes back to the persian word kamar-band, which means loin-band (OED). it was first used in the 17th century.

****he referred to the name of the hero of a story by r. l. stevenson (1886). in this story, the hero appears benevolent under the name of dr. jekyll and evil under the name of mr. hyde.

September 13, 2006

“Stuttering is one of the last diseases it’s still O.K. to make fun of"

from an article in the new york times:

To Fight Stuttering, Doctors Look at the Brain

As a child who stuttered badly, Gerald Maguire learned the tricks of coping.

When called upon in class, he would sometimes answer in the voice of Elmer Fudd or Donald Duck because he didn’t stutter when imitating someone. He found easier-to-say synonyms for words that stymied him. And he almost never made phone calls because he stumbled over a phrase for which there was no substitute: his own name.

Now Dr. Maguire, a psychiatrist at the University of California Irvine, wants to cure the ailment that afflicts him and an estimated three million Americans. He is searching for a drug to treat stuttering, organizing clinical trials and even testing treatments on himself.

He could be getting closer. In May, Indevus Pharmaceuticals announced what it called encouraging results from the largest clinical trial ever of a drug for stuttering. Even larger trials are still needed, which could take two or three years. But if they succeed, the drug, pagoclone, could become the first medical treatment approved for stuttering. [...]

Those who stutter say the condition — marked by repetitions of syllables, long silences and the contortion of the face as a person seems to try to force the words out — can exact a terrible emotional toll. Many talk of jobs or promotions not received, of relationships broken or not pursued. Some structure their entire lives to avoid having to speak unnecessarily or to avoid being teased.

“Stuttering is one of the last diseases it’s still O.K. to make fun of,” said Ernie Canadeo, an advertising executive from Oyster Bay, N.Y., who stutters. Alan Rabinowitz, a noted wildlife conservationist, has told of how when called upon by a teacher in elementary school, he once avoided answering by stabbing his hand with a pencil so he would be taken to the hospital. [...]

One of the more popular theories from a few decades ago was that parents caused stuttering by reacting negatively to the repetitions that normally occur when children first learn to talk. But a consensus is growing that stuttering is a neurological condition, though its exact nature is not clear. Emotional stress can make stuttering worse, however. Brain imaging studies have shown that the brains of people who stammer behave differently from those of people who don’t when it comes to processing speech. [...]

[S]tuttering has been primarily treated by speech therapists, who can’t prescribe drugs and might object to the condition being treated as a medical one. [...] Pagoclone, the newest candidate [for a drug against stuttering], was initially tested as a treatment for panic disorder and anxiety. Results were mixed, and Pfizer, which had the rights to the drug, returned them to Indevus. But in those trials a few people who stuttered said their speech improved during the trial. So Indevus got a patent covering the use of the drug for stuttering and began the clinical trial, in which 88 patients got the drug and 44 a placebo.

The participants were videotaped in conversation and reading, both before starting on the drug or a placebo and four and eight weeks afterward. Evaluators, blinded to whether the patient was on the drug or the placebo when the video was made, counted the proportion of syllables stuttered and the duration of the three longest stutters. In a separate measure, clinicians evaluated the speech of their patients. In most cases, those who got the drug did better than those who got the placebo by a statistically significant amount.

the left picture shows the brain activity of a non-stutterer. you can see that several brain areas are active. the two pcitures in the middle show brain activity of a stutterer. you can see that many areas are active. this may indicate that speech production is not as automatic as it should be. finally, the right picture shows brain activity of a stutterer after behavioral (not drug) treatment. the brain seems to have "calmed down".

if you find it difficult to imagine what it is like to live with a speech impediment, here's a book recommendation for you: black swan green, by david mitchell. the book, set in england in the 1980s, follows one year in the life of 13-year-old jason taylor. jason is a stammerer, and he lives in fear of being discovered.

the guardian wrote:
"The most original aspect of Jason's voice is his powerful evocation of what it is like to have a stammer. A phantom called Hangman lives inside his head and physically blocks certain words that he is about to say. Jason has to try to find a synonym that does not begin with the forbidden letters N or S; otherwise he is taken to be stupid, as in a tragicomic moment when he cannot give the right answer to an elementary arithmetic question, because the answer is 99. He relates conversations in which his mind is always racing ahead of his tongue, desperately redrafting his thoughts, which generates a novel kind of suspense. The novel cleverly implies, without having to insist, that Jason's growing skills in inventive circumlocution, cheered on by the reader, are tied up with his hopes as a writer."

September 08, 2006

getting on and off

the project runway community is happy: vincent libretti is "out", or, to put it in pr jargon, he was "auf'ed".* in a challenge that asked for a striking couture** dress, he produced a lame, ill-fitting, poorly executed (how many bottles of glue did he use?) two-piece with a skirt that looked "like a sofa" (uli) and a top with "oddball sleeves" (m. kors) that looked as if it had been put on the wrong way around (nina garcia). oddly enough, he had even paid tribute to angela's "fleurchons"*** by putting a monstrous one on the back of the skirt, adding a not-so-subtle playboy bunny touch to his design. eminent designer and guest judge richard tyler absolutely hated "that thing on the back", and eminent and very chic designer and guest judge catherine malandrino simply wrote "no! no! no! no!" on her scoring card, which summed it up nicely.

so, despite laura's monstrous inverted pierrot**** costume, michael's sweat-inducing attempt at ruching***** and kayne's explosion of vegasness (which at least fit and showed some lovely details), there could not be any doubt that vincent would be out. jeffrey won the challenge with a refreshing westwood-inspired plaid design in yellow and red (sounds like a scream, but worked like a dream).

since there is not much of a signature libretti design element, let's take a moment to reflect on vincent's signature phrase, which was "it gets me off". many people found offensive because of its sexual connotations, while others thought it was justkind of slang-y. who's right? both camps are. the phrasal verb "get off" can mean different things, it was first used as an intransitive verb and later became transitive. here are just some of its uses (as listed in the oxford english dictionary):

intransitive ("to get off")
  • To dismount from (a horse). Also (U.S.) to alight from (a train).
  • To be disinclined for, to give up.
  • To obtain release from.
  • To escape, get away; to start on a journey, or in a race.
  • To succeed in falling asleep; to fall asleep.
  • To escape from punishment, defeat, etc.
  • To become acquainted or friendly with (one of the opposite sex), esp. with amorous intentions.
  • Of a jazz musician: to improvise skilfully. U.S. slang.
  • To deliver (a person) from punishment, or procure a modified penalty for
transitive ("to get something/somebody off")
  • To learn, commit to memory.
  • Orig. U.S., to become intoxicated with drugs; to get ‘high’; (first documented in 1969)
  • To achieve sexual satisfaction; to experience an orgasm; ... (first documented in 1973)
  • To experience an emotional ‘high’; to enjoy or be ‘turned on’ by something (first documented in 1973)
well, at least someone experienced an emotional high looking at vincent's dress. but not many, and that's what got him off the show. let's bid him good riddance (first documented in 1596).
A good riddance of bad rubbish!.. Get along with you, or I'll have you carried out! (Charles Dickens, Dombey and Sons, 1847)
* "auf" is based on heidi klum's use of the german phrase "auf wiedersehen" (goodbye, literally the same as the french au revoir).

**literally, "couture" means simply "sewing".

*** i'm not sure about the word "fleurchon". it's used a lot on project runway, but i didn't find it in an english dictionary. the oed lists "fleur" (the french word for "flower"), "fleurette" (for a small flower-shaped ornament), and "fleuron" ("flower-shaped ornament, used esp. in architecture or printing, on coins").

****pierrot (a version of the french form of "peter", "pierre") is a stock character in pantomime, "usually played as a sentimental lovesick youth with a whitened face, characteristically dressed in a loose white costume with a neck ruff" (oed)

***** "ruche" (used as a verb here, but only listed as a noun in the oed) goes back to the french word for "beehive". think of the way plaits of straw are arranged in a beehive.

September 04, 2006

dogs of hawai'i

hawaiian attractions

dog #1: kellee, the b&b's resident dog.

she was watching over the papaya trees.

dog #2: leaving traces at kama'ole beach

so, where's the dog that goes with this imprint? ah, there he is:

dog #3: not every dog was taken out for a swim

this little guy was not allowed at the ahalanui hot pond.
so he watched his owner from the car.

dog #4: some dogs were taken to the beach but refused to go into the water

this dog didn't want to follow his owner into the ocean at the pu'uhonua o honaunau city of refuge. perhaps he prefered to watch the statues.

dog #5: who would bring a dog on the road to hana?

i ran into this dog at almost every scenic lookout.

dog #6: this puppy was oddly named "can too".

there was nothing odd, however, about the view his owner had of waipi'o valley.

dog #7 didn't have that kind of view.
he also seemed to be plagued by fleas, so i didn't get much closer.

dog #8: this dog was missed very much!

my drawing certainly added to the beauty of the sunset at ka'anapali beach.