December 31, 2006

did you renew your dog license?

If you lived in Alta, Utah, there's nothing you'd pay for more eagerly.
A Ski Town With 42 Dogs and Many Lonely Dog Lovers

ALTA, Utah, Dec. 30 (AP) — Every January when dog licenses come up for renewal in this ski town, dog lovers go wild with anticipation. They start counting the dogs that have died or moved away with their owners, hoping a few licenses will be available.

To protect the alpine watershed, an ordinance here limits the number of dogs to 12 percent of the human population, with few exceptions. No canine visitors are allowed, even inside cars, and violators can go to jail.

Alta occupies four square miles inside a national forest where an act of Congress left Salt Lake City in charge of the water supply. City and county officers police the canyons, keeping out nonresident and unlicensed dogs to curb bacterial contamination of streams and protect Salt Lake’s drinking water.

For now, the town council keeps the lid at 42 licenses, even though it could add two more dogs under the formula tied to Alta’s population of 370.

“It’s the worst issue I deal with,” said Mayor Tom Pollard, who can issue additional temporary licenses for good cause. “The day after I was elected I got my first call — I hadn’t even gotten to the job. They disguised it as a question about garbage service, then finished with, ‘Can I have a dog?’ ” ... Kali, a dog owned by Alta’s former mayor, Bill Levitt, and his wife, Mimi, died of old age Dec. 4, raising the possibility of an available license. But the Levitts say they are not giving up the license. Under the ordinance, they have six months to find a new dog. Property owners who live in Alta for at least six months of the year get first dibs on the licenses. Any left over are distributed at drawings conducted by a town marshal.

A deputy town marshal, Tom Bolen, said he had heard practically every excuse from visitors caught smuggling dogs. They claimed not to have seen the warning signs or thought they referred to a leash law or believed the ban was only for vicious dogs. Three months into his job, Deputy Bolen said he had issued dozens of warnings to illegal dog walkers, along with two citations. Violations are typically settled in justice court for $65, but repeat offenders risk 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine
Sounds as if Alta, unlike the city I live in, will not make it onto the list of "Best Places to Live" any time soon.

December 30, 2006

shopping dogs of chicago

on a recent trip to chicago, i couldn't take my dog.
but there were many other dogs to look at:

rugged at the orvis store.

relaxed and friendly at the apple store.

guarding the entrance at nordstrom
(i hope blogger will let me rotate the picture at some point)

dressed up on the street.

in snowy plaid at the burberry store.

wrong animal. tiffany doesn't do dogs.

begging for attention (i'd do the same if my coat didn't fit) at the coach store.

and, my favorite, stylish at saks fifth avenue:

happy shopping!

December 24, 2006

merry christmas!

In Germany, presents are opened on Christmas Eve.
What a lovely tradition!

A Christmas present comes from The New York Times: an article on the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary. There may not be many panels that count experts as different as Justice Antonin Scalia and author Joan Didion among their members. (Note that the NYT now offers permalinks to articles. Permalink itself, alas, hasn't made it into the American Heritage Dictionary yet. Perhaps the usage panel needs more bloggers.)

December 21, 2006

deathly hallows

The title of the final installment in the Harry Potter series has been revealed.

(AP) If you go to, click on the eraser and you will be taken to a room -- you'll see a window, a door and a mirror.

In the mirror, you'll see a hallway. Click on the farthest doorknob and look for the Christmas tree. They click on the center of the door next to the mirror and a wreath appears. Then click on the top of the mirror and you'll see a garland.

Look for a cobweb next to the door. Click on it, and it will disappear. Now, look at the chimes in the window. Click on the second chime to the right, and hold it down. The chime will turn into the key, which opens the door. Click on the wrapped gift behind the door, then click on it again and figure out the title yourself by playing a game of hangman.

Or you can just take Scholastic's word for it:
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."
So, what can we expect from just the title? The OED lists the following meanings of hallow:

  • 1. A holy personage, a SAINT. Little used after 1500, and now preserved only in ALL-HALLOWS and its combinations.
  • 2. In pl. applied to the shrines or relics of saints; the gods of the heathen or their shrines.
  • 3. A loud shout or cry, to incite dogs in the chase, to help combined effort, or to attract attention.
  • 4. (obs.) The parts of the hare given to hounds as a reward or encouragement after a successful chase.

I doubt very much that the book will be about hares and hounds. So, what kind of saints occur in the Harry Potter universe? Let the speculation begin.

ETA: The following is a message from a posting on Table Talk, dated Dec. 22, 2006, 11:18 a.m.

Yesterday right after I solved the hangman puzzle to guess the name, I fed the phrase "Deathly Hallows" into Google just for the hell of it.

Zero hits. Not one.

Today? 228,000.

December 17, 2006


a splash of red makes good things even better.

or so they say.

happy 3rd advent.

December 12, 2006

holiday readings, viewings, and listenings: 3 of each


1. Bleak House

If you missed it on PBS, buy the DVD set and unplug the telephone for five nights straight. 15 episodes, watch three in a row (it takes some time to figure out who is who and where the plot is going). The screenplay is by Andrew Davies, of Pride and Prejudice fame.

2. Six Feet Under

A grassy cube containing all five seasons on 24 discs. Don't give this as a present, get this for yourself. Unplugging the telephone for 63 straight nights not recommended, it might look antisocial.

3. Gosford Park

Pay tribute to a great director of ensemble movies. Stephen Holden of The New York Times called the acting in the movie "sublime".


1. Never Let Me Go (by Kazuo Ishiguro)

Unabridged audio version (almost 10 hours) of Ishiguro's 2005 prize-winning book. Narrated by Rosalyn Landor. This is a book that works better as an audio book - it needs to be taken in at slow pace, almost passively. Its sadness will creep in on you.

2. Black Swan Green (by David Mitchell)

I talked about this book here. Do you remember what it was like to be 13? Let a reader do part of the work for you and follow Jason through a year of magical thinking and not-so-magical humiliation as a 13-year old boy with an interest in poetry and a speech impairment. Listening to the audiobook makes you painfully aware of Jason's stammering and how it affects him. Of the three audiobooks I list, this is probably the most upbeat one (which doesn't mean that our hero doesn't get humiliated and beaten up again and again. But he is only 13, and he's a reader, and he has a smart sister, and there is hope.

3. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion

The New Yorker wrote that Joan Didion knows about "the dark side of cool". In a world that crumbles she holds on to the precise description of details. I liked the audiobook version (unabridged, 5 hours) very much, probably because the narrator (Barbara Caruso) has exactly the voice that I imagined Didion to have. But this would also be a great read.


Let me recommend three books, one fiction, one non-fiction, and one a linguistics book. First the non-fiction book:

1. Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, by David Foster Wallace

And you thought he could only do 1000-page novels?

2. Please don't come back from the Moon, by Dean Bakopoulos

Another coming-of-age story, this one set in the Midwest. "When I was sixteen, my father went to the moon." That's the first sentence in the book. How could one not continue to read?

3. Weeds in the Garden of Words, by Kate Burridge

In this book, Kate Burridge, a linguistics professor, writes entertainingly about "weeds" in the garden of English vocabulary - words and phrases "whose virtues have yet to be realized". This is for your smart friend who likes to read about language but who'd rather get it from a pro than from a grumpy pseudo-maven.

Happy holidays.

December 11, 2006

life with a dog: somewhat loud and incredibly close

The author Jonathan Safran Foer in a recent od-ed in The New York Times (the title of this post is an allusion to his most recent book):
I adopted George (a Great Dane/Lab/pit/greyhound/ridgeback/whatever mix -- a k a Brooklyn shorthair) because I thought it would be fun. As it turns out, she is a major pain an awful lot of the time.

She mounts guests, eats my son's toys (and occasionally tries to eat my son), is obsessed with squirrels, lunges at skateboarders and Hasids, has the savant-like ability to find her way between the camera lens and subject of every photo taken in her vicinity, backs her tush into the least interested person in the room, digs up the freshly planted, scratches the newly bought, licks the about-to-be served and occasionally relieves herself on the wrong side of the front door. Her head is resting on my foot as I type this. I love her.

Our various struggles -- to communicate, to recognize and accommodate each other's desires, simply to coexist -- force me to interact with something, or rather someone, entirely ''other.'' George can respond to a handful of words, but our relationship takes place almost entirely outside of language. She seems to have thoughts and emotions, desires and fears. Sometimes I think I understand them; often I don't. She is a mystery to me. And I must be one to her.

Of course our relationship is not always a struggle. My morning walk with George is very often the highlight of my day -- when I have my best thoughts, when I most appreciate both nature and the city, and in a deeper sense, life itself. Our hour together is a bit of compensation for the burdens of civilization: business attire, e-mail, money, etiquette, walls and artificial lighting. It is even a kind of compensation for language. Why does watching a dog be a dog fill one with happiness? And why does it make one feel, in the best sense of the word, human?

It always delights me when brilliant people turn out to be dog persons.

December 05, 2006

choosing the perfect dog collar

Stylish dog collars make great Christmas presents. For dog owners, that is, not for the dog. The dog couldn't care less. If your taste is for well-made, colorful collars that you won't find at your local pet store, Barker & Mewosky in Chicago is the place to turn to.

There's the earthy Barkgello collar, for example, for the outdoorsy, artisan-jewelry wearing friend from Boulder, CO:
Or the upbeat mod dots collar, for the metro-dog of a sophisticated co-chocoholic:

Or the preppy Ties collar, for celebrating Christmas with the in-laws in Maine:

They also have a holiday collar that's not too cutesy-wootsy. Have the dog wear the Kringle when you watch Fargo for the tenth time.

And if your dog-owning friend is a winter hater, you might get them the Tiergarten collar, named after Berlin's zoo:

My favorite collars are still the hemp collars made by Earth Dog. Planet Dog offers a nice winter version of the hemp collar, all lined in fleece. My collar of choice for the winter season.