Thursday, January 31, 2008

Coffee and Provocation

The Dog-li-ness blog reports that "The American Kennel Club, desperate to boost their revenues, is considering starting a new club for mutts (possibly named the All American Dog Club), so they can collect registration fees from even more dog owners." Check it out! More on the same topic at the Pet Connection blog, here and here.

The Scottish Terrier and Dog News blog gives us the money shot of haggis for Robert Burns Day. Bobbie was a great man, yes he was. Read his poem about The Twa Dogs. Luath, by the way, was the name of Robert Burns' own dog.

The Camera Trap Codger continues to post jaw-dropping pictures. Check out the recent picture of a cougar. Amazing. What a country we live in. Take a minute also to check out The Game Camera Logbook for more great camera trap tips and shots. God bless America, land that I love.

The Lassie Get Help blog has a nice post on what happened to the Michael Vick's dogs. Good news here; check it out.

A ten-year-old doing surgery on your dog? Right. But check it out -- video from CNN.

Finally, what kind of bird is this? I have flipped through Sibley's and cannot find it, but it is familiar. I feel stupid (again). This is a public cry for help! That's the first step to recovery, right?

Welcome to the Matrix

This is a complete lift (that means outright bold and brazen thievery) from Kevin Kelly over at Cool Tools . . . who stole it from Peter Warshall who is a very interesting and smart fellow who was a section editor at The Whole Earth Review . . . which itself was the brain child of Stewart Brand . . . who drove the bus for Ken Kesey and who also changed a lot of us with The Whole Earth Catalogue . . . which was, no lie, the internet before there was the internet.

Now if you got lost in that last sentence, no worries.

Just get back on the bus. The trip will start any minute now. In the interim try your hand at Life's Little Pop Quiz.

This is the one you're supposed to have been studying for your entire life.

"You live in the big here. Wherever you live, your tiny spot is deeply intertwined within a larger place, imbedded fractal-like into a whole system called a watershed, which is itself integrated with other watersheds into a tightly interdependent biome. (See the world eco-region map ). At the ultimate level, your home is a cell in an organism called a planet. All these levels interconnect. What do you know about the dynamics of this larger system around you? Most of us are ignorant of this matrix. But it is the biggest interactive game there is. Hacking it is both fun and vital.

"The following exercise in watershed awareness was hatched 30 years ago by Peter Warshall, naturalist extraordinaire." >> More here, but the essential (and humbling) questions are below.

1) Point north. [Recommendations for answer methods]
2) What time is sunset today? [Recommendations]
3) Trace the water you drink from rainfall to your tap. [Recommendations]
4) When you flush, where do the solids go? What happens to the waste water? [Recommendations]
5) How many feet above sea level are you? [Recommendations]
6) What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom here? [Recommendations]
7) How far do you have to travel before you reach a different watershed? Can you draw the boundaries of yours? [Recommendations]
8) Is the soil under your feet, more clay, sand, rock or silt? [Recommendations]
9) Before your tribe lived here, what did the previous inhabitants eat and how did they sustain themselves? [Recommendations]
10) Name five native edible plants in your neighborhood and the season(s) they are available. [Recommendations]
11) From what direction do storms generally come? [Recommendations]
12) Where does your garbage go? [Recommendations]
13) How many people live in your watershed? [Recommendations]
14) Who uses the paper/plastic you recycle from your neighborhood? [Recommendations]
15) Point to where the sun sets on the equinox. How about sunrise on the summer solstice? [Recommendations]
16) Where is the nearest earthquake fault? When did it last move? [Recommendations]
17) Right here, how deep do you have to drill before you reach water? [Recommendations]
18) Which (if any) geological features in your watershed are, or were, especially respected by your community, or considered sacred, now or in the past? [Recommendations]
19) How many days is the growing season here (from frost to frost)? [Recommendations]
20) Name five birds that live here. Which are migratory and which stay put? [Recommendations]21) What was the total rainfall here last year? [Recommendations]
22) Where does the pollution in your air come from? [Recommendations]
23) If you live near the ocean, when is high tide today? [Recommendations]
24) What primary geological processes or events shaped the land here? [Recommendations]
25) Name three wild species that were not found here 500 years ago. Name one exotic species that has appeared in the last 5 years. [Recommendations]
26) What minerals are found in the ground here that are (or were) economically valuable? [Recommendations]
27) Where does your electric power come from and how is it generated? [Recommendations]
28) After the rain runs off your roof, where does it go? [Recommendations]
29) Where is the nearest wilderness? When was the last time a fire burned through it? [Recommendations]
30) How many days till the moon is full? [Recommendations]
The Bigger Here Bonus Questions:
31) What species once found here are known to have gone extinct? [Recommendations]
32) What other cities or landscape features on the planet share your latitude? [Recommendations]
33) What was the dominant land cover plant here 10,000 years ago? [Recommendations]
34) Name two places on different continents that have similar sunshine/rainfall/wind and temperature patterns to here.


California Independents Are Clinton Nightmare

Gallup shows that in the last 10 days, Obama has moved from 20 points behind in the national polls, to within a few points of catching up to Hillary, with momentum clearly on his side.

In California, the trajectory may be even steeper, as the latest Rasmussen poll shows Obama is nearly tied with Hillary and his stock is rapidly rising with Edwards now dropping out.

The key number from the California poll is that Obama is beating Clinton among white voters.

But, of course, it's not just California that is up for a vote on February 5th.

What's fascinating here is that in other states Obama is suddenly picking up speed too.

In Massachusettes, Clinton was winning by 37 percent last week, but that gap has narrowed to just six points now, according to Rasmussen. In Connecticut, things are neck and neck. And if Hillary is spending time in Arkansas, as she was yesterday, that's because her "home" state is now no longer rock solid -- a very bad sign.

And while polls show Hillary still winning in New York and New Jersey, direction and velocity are good for Obama. Turnout in both those states may determine quite a lot. Even if Hillary wins, proportional seating may not give her much of a delegate edge.

There are at least five wild cards in this next round of poker, of course. The first is the California debate tonight, and the second is the chance that one side or another will trip on its tongue, or have a surrogate commit some unpardonable gaff in the days ahead.

The other wild card, of course are all those John Edwards voters. Which way will they go? In truth no one knows, and they may break regionally. My bet, however, is that Obama will pick up some momentum here -- maybe 10 of Edwards' 15 points. My thinking is simplistic: most Edwards voters have already said "No" to the Hillary they know. Now that these voters have had more time to look over Obama, I suspect he is starting to look pretty good.

And, of course, there is the fourth wild card in California that almost no one is talking about -- independent voters. As The Guardian notes:

"The Democrats are allowing California's three million independent voters to take part in the state's primary, one of at least 22 elections across the US on next week's Super Tuesday. In contrast, California Republicans decided to restrict their primary to voters registered as supporters, thus depriving the party of the possibility of attracting swing voters to its tent, and leaving the Democrats as the sole suitor of such voters.

"And this year, unlike 2004, the Democrats have a candidate in Obama who attracts independent voters - and even Republicans.

"According to conventional wisdom, independents are expected to make up between 8% and 12% of Democratic primary voters in California. But 2008's Democratic primaries have not followed convention so far. Turnout among first-timers, independents and young voters has been unprecedented - from South Carolina to Nevada. And the chief beneficiary of this surge in interest has been Obama."

The fifth wild card is the "McCain Effect." With McCain promising a massive amnesty program for illegal aliens, there is a very real chance that a significant number of Republicans may cross the aisle in the general election, provided they do not have to vote for Hillary.

On the opposite side of the same coin, there is a very real chance that a larger-than-normal group of Hispanic voters may say "McCain Si" in the general election if he beats the Illegal Alien Amnesty drum too long or too loud.

An analysis of Cuban voters in Miami suggests McCain did very well down there with that demographic. It remains to be seen if those numbers will translate with other Hispanic groups, however.

That said, simply pointing out how how the McCain illegal alien amnesty plan might impact the general election is a Very Bad Conversation for both Clinton and McCain, and a very good conversation for Obama. One thing is certain: you can count on that conversation being had quite a lot in the days and weeks ahead.

Finally, as veteran political columnist David Broder notes in
this morning's column, a longer race is likely to benefit Obama:

"On the Democratic side, the battle is more even, but the advantage has shifted back to Barack Obama -- thanks to a growing but largely unremarked tendency among Democratic leaders to reject Hillary Clinton and her husband, the former president.

"The New York senator could still emerge from the 'Tsunami Tuesday' voting with the overall lead in delegates, but she is unlikely to be able to come close to clinching the nomination. And the longer the race goes on, the better the chances that Obama will ultimately prevail, as more elected Democratic officials and candidates come to view him as the better bet to defeat McCain in November."

Bottom Line: Look to the Virginia and Maryland primaries on February 12th to decide quite a lot if the February 5th primaries do not give us a clear winner by then (which I think they will not). My guess is that both Maryland and Virginia will swing Obama. If so, snap open a jelly packet, because Hillary is toast.

Man versus Machine in Campaign 2008

Man versus machine? Will we kill Sir Galahad again?

Chris Mathews asks the question, while charitably crushing the Hillary apologists. Check it out.


The Terrier of the Tiger Tower


The Tower of London once housed a menagerie or "bestiary" with a fantastic assortment of creatures, ranging from wolves, lions and leopards to giraffes, monkeys and tigers.

The "Tiger Tower" stood for over 600 years (beginning in the 1230s), and was located where the gift shop at the Tower of London is now situated. This precursor to the London Zoo provided London residents with a glimpse of the fauna to be found in the larger world.

Among the famous who visited were Samuel Pepys, William Blake (who illustrated his poem The Tyger" after sketching the animal from life at the Tower), and one Geoffrey Chaucer who worked at the Tower for two years (1389-1390).

A terrier features prominently in the closing of the Tiger Tower. By the early 1830s, the close quarters and poor condition of the animals kept at the Tower had become a minor issue. Exotic animals expired with some regularity. They were difficult to replace, and their death made for poor public relations.

Things came to a head on April 29, 1834, when a "large and furious" wolf managed to slip out of his cage inside the Tiger Tower. The wolf immediatly headed for the interior of the Tower across a short moat, but he was thwarted by a keeper - one Sergeant Cropper - who quickly shut a door to pevent the wolf from gaining further access.

Cropper's small terrier, always at his side, rushed in to do battle with the wolf. The terrier quickly realized it was over-matched, however, and it raced up the stairs into Cropper's little residence where his wife and daughter were located. The wolf, of course, followed close on his heels, and the battle continued inside the apartment. Once can only be imagine the carnage and sound that ensued, but the battle interlude gave the woman and girl time to flee, though it surely cost the terrier its life.

The wolf was eventually recaptured, but the Tiger Tower was closed the next year and the animals transferred to the newly opened London Zoo in Regent's Park.

In 1852, the Tiger Tower itself was destroyed, although the "Lion Gate" remains. This tale can be found in The Tower Menagerie by Daniel Hahn.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Great Moments in Bad Victorian Taxidermy

The collection at this terrific taxidermy
site is really quite amazing. Check it out.

The photo, above, is from a display of the work of A.S. Hutchinson of Derby, and is labeled "Badger and Jack Russell Terrier."

I confess to being confused by this particular display. Is that a baby badger? Or is it (perhaps) a full-sized badger and a very poorly taxidermied hound?

Hard to tell, but something is not right. Either the badger is a baby (i.e. a very young 10-pound badger), or else the dog is too large for real work..

Jobs are Gone For Good, But Illegals Are Forever

Here's John McCain's platform: "The jobs aren't coming back, the illegal aliens are forever, and we'll be in Iraq for 100 years."

Damn. There's a political platform that clarifies your choices, isn't it?

Any questions?
. .

Once We Had a President . . .

Caroline Kennedy is on the road in Arizona campaigning for Obama.

She has never compared her father to anyone else before. Ever.

Pay attention she is saying;

This time in America matters, this campaign matters, this candidate matters, your vote matters.

There comes a time in every person's life when their choice can make a difference.

This is that time. You are that person. Vote accordingly.

4 Donate to the Obama campaign


Russia's Terriers of Oppression

The Black Russian Terrier may be the only breed of dog ever created by a state purely to subjugate its people.

The Black Russian Terrier was created by the Russian military, beginning in the 1930s with the intent of creating a heavy aggressive but tractable dog capable of patrolling prisons, military bases, and border areas during brutal Russian winters. In addition to patrol work, dogs were occassionally expected to pull carts, locate land mines, and aid wounded men.

The Black Russian Terrier is essentially a cross between three breeds: Giant Schnauzers, Airedales, and Rottweilers, with a little Newfoundland,Caucasian Ovcharka, Great Dane and Eastern European Shepherd blood thrown in for confusion.

Breed uniformity was achieved over a 20-year period by the state-owned Red Star Kennel whose sole function was to provide dogs to the Soviet armed services for border control and prison patrol.

The first breed standard was approved in 1958, with dogs standing 27-30 inches tall and weighing from 80-145 pounds. The personalities of Black Russian Terriers are quite variable, and the dog is prone to hip dysplasia as the Russians did no x-raying of hips during their breeding program.

The coat of the Black Russian Terrier takes some keeping up, as it is a long-haired breed requiring regular combing and brushing, as well as scissoring every two months or so.

The Black Russian terrier entered the AKC in July of 2004.

The Wildlife is Organizing Against Me!

A large Raccoon and a cross-coated Red Fox in the front yard.

As I noted a few days ago, I set up an edible dog-chew on an elastic cord hanging from the bird feeder pole, with the idea that it would give me an amusing animated shot or two of a red fox or raccoon pulling back on the elastic cord.

The short story is that I came out yesterday morning, and the dog chew, elastic cord, and "safety" parachute cord were all gone. Nowhere to be found. Everything else fine.

What happened? Hard to say, but I think the fox must have pulled the cord back so hard that when he released it, it shot off the hanger. Or else the raccoon crawled up and got it off all by itself.

Or maybe . . . the paranoia begins to rise up in my brain . . . . the wildlife is organizing against me.

In fact, there is no doubt they are banding together -- see the photographic evidence from the evening in question.

Obama Plays Basketball

You have to read this one.

A Sports Illustrated reporter plays one on one with Barack Obama.

Check it out.

Hillary Brings the Wrong Kind of Unity

This is Hillary's new TV ad that she will be rolling out for the February 5th "Super Tuesday" primaries.

This ad left me totally confused.

Is she running for President, or neighborhood block captain? I mean, if she really wants to help someone out every day, all she has to do is stuff $5 into some homeless guy's coffee cup; there is no reason for her to run for President at all.

One thing is for sure: The job of President is not the one she is describing.

The job of President is to lead and inspire the nation to greatness.

It is to make tough (and correct) foreign policy decisions, and to send clear and trustworthy signals of strength to friends and enemies alike.

Does this sound like what Hillary is offering? Listen to it.

Hillary seems to be promising us less.

Less energy. Less inspiration. Less results. More staff meetings. Less strength.

She is promising that she will think smaller.

On the up side, she's really going to practice snapping her fingers.

Wow! Am I the only one who wonders how her campaign managed to screw up this three-line script? Modifiers are supposed to modify the last thing said.

And remember, Hillary says she is a great manager. Right. Consider the quality of this great ad made with an unlimited budget at the most critical time in her campaign.

What makes all of this so sad, strange and frustrating is that the world is hardly uncomfortable with strong women leaders.

Pakistan has had a strong woman leader, and so too has England. The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is a woman, and so too are several important Governors and Senators.

Yet, search your memory. Can you every recall Dennis Thatcher having to fight Margaret Thatcher's battles? How about Benazir Bhutto? How about Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano? How about Senator Diane Feinstein? How about Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius?

No? Can you recall them shedding tears? No? Me either.

But here we are just three weeks into Hillary Clinton's campaign, and she's already got tears under her belt, and her adulterous husband is already being called in to fight her battles for her.

Which begs the question: What is Hillary going to do when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls her a whore? Is she going to resort to bleating and tears? Is she going to ask Bill to fly over and punch him in the nose to defend her honor?

Or, more likely, is she going to pull out her clipboard and schedule one more meeting with the United Nations while she tries to get everyone to "be nice and work it all out together?"

And if that doesn't work out, she'll try to think of some small way she can do some nice thing for an individual. Like the homeless guy across the street in Lafayette Park. "Here's four bucks, go get yourself a latte."

What's infuriating here is that most Americans would be thrilled to stand up, rally around, and vote for a woman candidate for President.

We are ready for a woman candidate -- hungry for one, in fact.

But for God's sake, give us someone tough and smart.

Give us someone who does not pull out the "victim" card every chance she can get.

Give us Janet Napolitano, or former Governor Anne Richards, or even Maggie Thatcher.

Give us someone who swings iron, and fights her own battles, and has a track record of honesty, integrity, and legislative success.

Hillary Clinton is none of that.

Yes, she is a smart woman, but she is not much more than that.

Smart women are a dime a dozen. We need more than a smart person to lead this country. We need a leader. We need a uniter.

And truth be told, the only thing Hillary Clinton is ever going to unite is the Republican Party.

In opposition to her.

And pardon me if I am not thrilled by that kind of unity.

We really can do better. Much, much better. See for yourself.

4 Donate to the Obama campaign

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Darwin Approved, and As Natural As It Gets

Hunting with hounds 'mimics nature'

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor,
Telegraph (U.K.) 1/17/2008

Hunting with hounds is more "natural" than shooting or snaring as it mimics the way wolves work in the wild, according to a study by vets.

It is the healthiest form of predator control for populations of prey species, such as foxes and deer, because hounds, like wolves, use scent to select the weakest and easiest to catch, the study says.

Snaring, shooting and trapping, on the other hand, interfere with evolution and make prey species, such as the fox, more vulnerable to the spread of disease, according to the study which is based on scientific literature mostly published since the Burns Inquiry into hunting in June 2000.

The study by the Middle Way Group of MPs and peers and the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management was intended to provide new arguments for a repeal of the Hunting Act on the grounds of animal welfare and wildlife management.

"The Natural Chase," a report by Katie Colvile, a vet, which is based on peer reviewed scientific literature, argues that rather than being cruel, hunting mimics natural processes that animals have evolved to cope with, whereas "artificial" forms of control undermine wildlife populations.

James Barrington, a consultant to the Middle Way Group, said: "The perception is that hunting is something that is a barbaric activity, that is cruel to the individual animal.

"This study shows that hunting, on the contrary, is selective, something that the quarry can cope with and that humans are almost insignificant in it.

"Hunting is nature's way of taking out the old, the sick and those with high parasite burdens - which mankind's forms of control do not. In framing the Hunting Act, the Government has produced a law that is in many ways unnatural."

The Middle Way Group, which is in favour of hunting under a statutory code to protect the welfare of the hunted animal, believes that a future Tory government would need positive arguments for the abolition of the Hunting Act if it came to power and the report was commissioned to fill that gap.
. .

Why Don't Humans Drink from the Toilet?

Gina Spadafori over at Pet Connection has a book entitled Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet?

Now the good folks at Slate have dared to ask how come human's don't?

Considering how fast the population is growing in the American West, and how little water there actually is out there, it's a pretty good question.

In fact, truth be told, we are drinking toilet water already. As I have noted in the past, every gallon of water on earth has passed through an animal at least once. Remember bears do shit in the woods. So too do deer, mice, birds, raccoons, possums ... and humans too. That pristine mountain stream has fish and newt feces all through it as well.

Get over it. A little of it is probably good for you.


Non-Extinct Terriers & Other Mysteries

Many of the terrier breeds that people now lament the "extinction" of, never actually existed except in the minds of Victorian picture book makers.

In "The Welsh Terrier Leads the Way," Bardi McLennan recounts the relatively recent origins of the Welsh Terrier.

"In 1800 there were only 15 designated breeds of dogs, and 50 years later there were only 50."

That is of ALL dogs, not just terriers. As late as 1850, a lot of breeds were still not very distinct and several breeds were known by different names. For example, in 1851, the Yorkshire Terrier was also known as "the broken-haired scotch terrier." Only in 1870 was a Yorkshire Terrier firmly designated as a breed and breed name. Before then litter mates were often shown in different breed categories -- a situation that occurred with the first prize-winning Jack Russell, which had previously won shows as a "white Lakeland."

The Welsh Terrier and Old English Black and Tan" terriers were the same dog -- a type of rough-stock Lakeland dog used in Wales and in the North. These dogs had a fair amount of variation in terms of size and shape, but generally had more color than the "white foxing terriers" preferred in the South.

These rough-coated terriers existed without too much conformity in name or shape (as they still do in the working terrier community in the U.K.), but conformity and a brand name were essential characteristics of Kennel Club registration, and an intrepid history (however fanciful) certainly did not hurt sales.

With the rise of dog shows in the 1860s, the race was on to give every odd-looking dog a name and "improve" them, and terriers were at the top of the list.

One group of Kennel Club breeders decided to embrace a rather ponderous name and an incredible assertion for the brown and black dogs of the North: they were, they asserted, "the root stock" of all terriers in the British Isles, and that they were to be called the "Old English Broken-Haired Black and Tan."

The assertion that these dogs were the root stock of all terriers in the UK is rather laughable -- no one know what the "root stock" was, and in any case there probably was no single "tap root," but instead a fine net of "rootlets" that spread far and wide and included a lot of dogs that were not terriers at all -- dachshunds, whippets, beagles, and lap dogs, for example.

In any case, the Welsh were somewhat outraged to have the English bring down a few of "their" dogs and claim they were an "Old English" anything. These were Welsh dogs, and the welshmen moved quickly to establish that fact. The Welsh got organized quickly, and in 1884 they held the first dog show with classes just for Welsh Terriers in Pwllheli, North Wales with 90 dogs in attendance -- a rather impressive opening shot in this little "terrier war."

For their part, proponents of the "Old English Black and Tan" moniker could not seem to coalesce into a real club; in fact they could not even agree on a name for their supposedly "Old English" breed. Some called it the Old English Broken-Haired Black and Tan Terrier, some the Old English Wire Haired Black and Tan, some the Broken-Haired Black and Tan, and some just "Black and Tan" -- a color-descriptive name that had been used about as often as "white dog" or "yellow hound".

Whatever they might have called the dogs, this new Kennel Club "breed" was in fact a put-up job comprised of a mix of terrier types and they had difficulty breeding true.

In 1885 a survey of the winning dogs in the ring found that all of them were, in fact, first generation dogs, i.e. not Black and Tans out of Black and Tan sires and dams, but Black and Tans produced out of crosses with other breeds. For example, the winner of the first show in 1884 was a dog named Crib that was a cross between a blue-black rough terrier and a famous smooth fox terrier owned by L.P.C. Ashley called Corinthian.

In 1885, the Kennel Club took a Solomonic approach to the name and breed standard for the dog, featuring both dogs at their 1885 show. On April 5, 1887, however, because the English could not get organized, they were dropped from Kennel Club listings, and the new "Welsh Terrier" breed was born, perhaps propelled forward in popularity a bit by the rise of David Lloyd George, the son of a Welsh cobbler, who himself has risen from humble origins to stand should-to-shoulder with the gentry.

The "Black and Tan" terrier is not the only breed that either never existed (or still exists today, depending on how you look at it).

At the same time that one faction was pushing for the introduction of the "Old English Black and Tan Terrier" another faction was pushing for the introduction of the "English White" terrier which, it should be said, has nothing to do with the old English White molosser dog used as a butcher's dog 150 years earlier.

In fact this new dog was really a toy breed created by crossing a small smooth-coated white foxing terrier with some sort of lap dog, which left the resulting progeny with a propensity towards deafness and a bulging "apple head" like that of so many modern Chihuahua.

Both the "Black and Tan" terrier and the "English White" terrier live on in the fevered minds of the breed-obsessed thanks to a book by Vero Shaw entitled "The Illustrated Book of the Dog."

Printed in 1881, right in the middle of the "terrier wars," this book contains about 100 chromo-lithograph plates and engravings of dog breeds that were being put forth as distinct entities at that time. Shaw rather optimistically included the "Black and Tan" as well as the "English White," betting that the political machinations of English Kennel Club dog breeders would prevail.

He was wrong, which is how two "ancient" breeds of terriers, that in fact never exited, managed to appear on the scene for less than 20 years and then disappear altogether.

Make Millions Milking Mice!

Page 1, page 2, page 3 (click on links to read full article).

Wow! What a great idea! Raise pet mice, milk them, and sell mouse milk for $10,0000 a quart!

Apparently you ranch mice for milk them just like dairy cattle, with a feed bunk and everything (though it seems the milking stool might be a wee smaller than standard).

Mice breed really fast too, so there should be no problem getting enough mice to milk.

Plus think how low your refrigeration costs are going to be.

What could go wrong with the scheme? Nothing!

So what is mouse milk for? Research!

It turns out that milk from white mice causes breast cancer in mice, but milk from black mice does not.

A special offer for readers of this blog: If you start a mouse milk ranch right now, and can guarantee a gallon of mouse milk a week, I think I can hook you up with Heather Mills -- Paul McCartney's ex-wife, who is looking for a steady supplier of rodent milk. I think she may be willing to do product endorsement as well!

Article from the December 1947 issue of Popular Mechanix. .

More Backyard Feedtray Visitors

House Finch, aka "Hollywood Finch"


Carolina Wren

Black-capped Chickadee

Squirrel eating fruit.


Mourning Doves

Male Cardinal

Female Cardinal


Monday, January 28, 2008

Getting Free of Terrorists & Dependency is Job One

Only 130 years ago, no one used gasoline for anything.

Peter Colby of Rye, N.H. asked Barack Obama:

“If you could make one change in the world, enact one piece of legislation — one thing, that’s all you’re going to get through in your presidency — what would it be?”

After thinking it over for a few seconds, Obama replied:

“I would enact a bold energy policy because I think that we could save so much money, engineer such a resurgence in our economy and solve climate change all at one time. And it would improve our national security posture. So you get a three-fer. It helps our environment, our economy and our national security, and it would free up resources over time to deal with what I think is the most important domestic issue which is health care, and I think it would help us strategically on the international stage.”

4 Donate to the Obama campaign

McCain: Giving Up America Without Firing a Shot?

I really thought I had seen and heard it all as far as U.S. immigration policy is concerned.

But nope. There are some things that are so unbelievable even I have a hard time getting my head wrapped around them.

How about this one: John McCain's Hispanic Outreach Director, Juan Hernandez, is actually a Mexican government official who not only wants open borders, he wants Mexican Americans to have their primary loyalty not to the U.S., but to Mexico.

Don't believe it? Go ahead, look at Mr. Hernandez's very own web site!

So what did John McCain say when he was asked about it?

Well basically, McCain reaffirmed that he remains a "Big Amnesty" kind of guy. As for the Mr. Hernandez's statement that he thinks it's OK to steal your Social Security number, he'll "check in to the information ."

Don't believe it? Check it our yourself: two videos and transcript here.

John McCain: He couldn't secure his campaign. How will he secure the borders?

To read what my friend Mark Krikorian has to say on all this, click here.

End Note: It turns out Jon McCain's National Finance Co-Chair appears to be Jerrold Perenchio, who made a fortune with Univision and has been a major defender of failed bilingual education policies.

Laughing Fox

Maybe it's just a hairball, but I prefer to think the fox in the back is really laughing.

The bright white thing that is hanging from the bird feeder pole is an edible dog-chew on an elastic cord that I am playing with. The fox ignored it the first night, and the wind made it sway quite a bit, setting off the camera too much, so I have now lowered it so that it just touches the ground.

I have decided the fox with the white tipped tail is the female, based solely on physique. The fox I am calling the male is distinctive in that he has a dark patch on the shoulders and no white tip on his tail.


Backyard Bird Tray

Blue Jays and male Red-bellied woodpecker.

Funny, isn't it, that the red-bellied woodpecker does not have a red belly? Go figure.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Imagine That Together We Can Do Great Things"

Caroline Kennedy has never said this before. It is the kind of thing you say only once in your life. Read the whole thing.

A President Like My Father

New York Times January 27, 2008

OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.

Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual.

Senator Obama has demonstrated these qualities throughout his more than two decades of public service, not just in the United States Senate but in Illinois, where he helped turn around struggling communities, taught constitutional law and was an elected state official for eight years. And Senator Obama is showing the same qualities today. He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people — known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics — to become engaged in the political process.

I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.

Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

  • Caroline Kennedy is the author of “A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love.”

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Blank Day

Pearl points a lot; a birdy little terrier.

A nice den pipe, but no one home on this warm (40 degree) day.

An old artist's mushroom, turning to wood.

Mountain and Pearl attack a stump trying to dislodge a nest of mice

A blank day in the field as far as hunting was concerned, but saw two nice redtail hawks, heard a pilieated woodpecker, chased three mice with the dogs, and walked some land, so not all was lost.

Opening Up a Can of Obama

Over at Slate John Dickerston writes:

"Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton so badly in South Carolina it may spawn some new kind of Southern colloquialism. When Clemson spanks an opponent by five touchdowns it will be called an Obama."

An excellent line, and I like it.

Mostly what I like is that the greatness of America has been affirmed. In South Carolina, Obama not only got more than twice as many votes as Hillary, he did better among non-black men (i.e. whites) than Hillary, and he also did better among women. Obama also clocked Hillary among the young and the college-educated.

And turnout was off the hinges. More people came out for the Democratic primary in South Carolina than they did in the last general election from both sides.

I have appended Obama's South Carolina victory speech below, in part because Obama writes his own speeches (read his books!) and in part because this is his message: We have to find a new way of doing business.

Obama is suggesting a new way, but to get there we have to stop rewarding liars and cheats, and we have to recognize that when America is great we are one people united by a higher purpose, rather than a nation of petty poo-flingers who retell lies and forward hate-filled emails.

Before this speech and this win, Obama was only three points behind Hillary in the general national polls. In South Carolina, just three months ago, he was 40 points behind where he ended up yesterday. Bottom line: He's in it to win it, as I said back in mid-November.

Bracks Obama in South Carolina, Jan. 26, 2008:

"Over two weeks ago, we saw the people of Iowa proclaim that our time for change has come. But there were those who doubted this country’s desire for something new – who said Iowa was a fluke not to be repeated again.

"Well, tonight, the cynics who believed that what began in the snows of Iowa was just an illusion were told a different story by the good people of South Carolina.
After four great contests in every corner of this country, we have the most votes, the most delegates, and the most diverse coalition of Americans we’ve seen in a long, long time.

"They are young and old; rich and poor. They are black and white; Latino and Asian. They are Democrats from Des Moines and Independents from Concord; Republicans from rural Nevada and young people across this country who’ve never had a reason to participate until now. And in nine days, nearly half the nation will have the chance to join us in saying that we are tired of business-as-usual in Washington, we are hungry for change, and we are ready to believe again

"But if there’s anything we’ve been reminded of since Iowa, it’s that the kind of change we seek will not come easy. Partly because we have fine candidates in the field – fierce competitors, worthy of respect. And as contentious as this campaign may get, we have to remember that this is a contest for the Democratic nomination, and that all of us share an abiding desire to end the disastrous policies of the current administration.

"But there are real differences between the candidates. We are looking for more than just a change of party in the White House. We’re looking to fundamentally change the status quo in Washington – a status quo that extends beyond any particular party. And right now, that status quo is fighting back with everything it’s got; with the same old tactics that divide and distract us from solving the problems people face, whether those problems are health care they can’t afford or a mortgage they cannot pay.

"So this will not be easy. Make no mistake about what we’re up against.
We are up against the belief that it’s ok for lobbyists to dominate our government – that they are just part of the system in Washington. But we know that the undue influence of lobbyists is part of the problem, and this election is our chance to say that we’re not going to let them stand in our way anymore.

"We are up against the conventional thinking that says your ability to lead as President comes from longevity in Washington or proximity to the White House. But we know that real leadership is about candor, and judgment, and the ability to rally Americans from all walks of life around a common purpose – a higher purpose.
We are up against decades of bitter partisanship that cause politicians to demonize their opponents instead of coming together to make college affordable or energy cleaner; it’s the kind of partisanship where you’re not even allowed to say that a Republican had an idea – even if it’s one you never agreed with. That kind of politics is bad for our party, it’s bad for our country, and this is our chance to end it once and for all.

"We are up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. We know that this is exactly what’s wrong with our politics; this is why people don’t believe what their leaders say anymore; this is why they tune out. And this election is our chance to give the American people a reason to believe again.

"And what we’ve seen in these last weeks is that we’re also up against forces that are not the fault of any one campaign, but feed the habits that prevent us from being who we want to be as a nation. It’s the politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon. A politics that tells us that we have to think, act, and even vote within the confines of the categories that supposedly define us. The assumption that young people are apathetic. The assumption that Republicans won’t cross over. The assumption that the wealthy care nothing for the poor, and that the poor don’t vote. The assumption that African-Americans can’t support the white candidate; whites can’t support the African-American candidate; blacks and Latinos can’t come together.

"But we are here tonight to say that this is not the America we believe in. I did not travel around this state over the last year and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina. I saw South Carolina. I saw crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children. I saw shuttered mills and homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from all walks of life, and men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. I saw what America is, and I believe in what this country can be.

"That is the country I see. That is the country you see. But now it is up to us to help the entire nation embrace this vision. Because in the end, we are not just up against the ingrained and destructive habits of Washington, we are also struggling against our own doubts, our own fears, and our own cynicism. The change we seek has always required great struggle and sacrifice. And so this is a battle in our own hearts and minds about what kind of country we want and how hard we’re willing to work for it.

"So let me remind you tonight that change will not be easy. That change will take time. There will be setbacks, and false starts, and sometimes we will make mistakes. But as hard as it may seem, we cannot lose hope. Because there are people all across this country who are counting us; who can’t afford another four years without health care or good schools or decent wages because our leaders couldn’t come together and get it done.

"Theirs are the stories and voices we carry on from South Carolina.

"The mother who can’t get Medicaid to cover all the needs of her sick child – she needs us to pass a health care plan that cuts costs and makes health care available and affordable for every single American.

"The teacher who works another shift at Dunkin Donuts after school just to make ends meet – she needs us to reform our education system so that she gets better pay, and more support, and her students get the resources they need to achieve their dreams.

"The Maytag worker who is now competing with his own teenager for a $7-an-hour job at Wal-Mart because the factory he gave his life to shut its doors – he needs us to stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship our jobs overseas and start putting them in the pockets of working Americans who deserve it. And struggling homeowners. And seniors who should retire with dignity and respect.

"The woman who told me that she hasn’t been able to breathe since the day her nephew left for Iraq, or the soldier who doesn’t know his child because he’s on his third or fourth tour of duty – they need us to come together and put an end to a war that should’ve never been authorized and never been waged.

"The choice in this election is not between regions or religions or genders. It’s not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white.

"It’s about the past versus the future.

"It’s about whether we settle for the same divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today, or whether we reach for a politics of common sense, and innovation – a shared sacrifice and shared prosperity.

"There are those who will continue to tell us we cannot do this. That we cannot have what we long for. That we are peddling false hopes.

"But here’s what I know. I know that when people say we can’t overcome all the big money and influence in Washington, I think of the elderly woman who sent me a contribution the other day – an envelope that had a money order for $3.01 along with a verse of scripture tucked inside. So don’t tell us change isn’t possible.

"When I hear the cynical talk that blacks and whites and Latinos can’t join together and work together, I’m reminded of the Latino brothers and sisters I organized with, and stood with, and fought with side by side for jobs and justice on the streets of Chicago. So don’t tell us change can’t happen.

"When I hear that we’ll never overcome the racial divide in our politics, I think about that Republican woman who used to work for Strom Thurmond, who’s now devoted to educating inner-city children and who went out onto the streets of South Carolina and knocked on doors for this campaign. Don’t tell me we can’t change.

"Yes we can change.

"Yes we can heal this nation.

"Yes we can seize our future.

"And as we leave this state with a new wind at our backs, and take this journey across the country we love with the message we’ve carried from the plains of Iowa to the hills of New Hampshire; from the Nevada desert to the South Carolina coast; the same message we had when we were up and when we were down – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope; and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people in three simple words: Yes. We. Can. "

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

Get Rich Raising Chickens!

Wow! What a great idea! Meat and eggs! And everyone loves to eat chicken and eggs. A chicken will lay about 5 eggs a week, or 250 eggs a year. Do the math! You can become a millionaire raising chickens -- just look at Frank Purdue. What could go wrong? Nothing!

Just look at how this one lone girl raises 15,000 chickens indoors and all by herself while wearing a perfect white apron and high heels. You can too!

The top article is about an automated, rotating chicken egg facility in Japan from the April 1960 edition of Popular Mechanics. The ad is from the July 1952 edition of Popular Mechanics, and article at bottom is from the January 1937 edition of Popular Science.


Only In America


The Song Hillary Does NOT Want You to Hear!

We Won't Be Fooled Again.

The Who with Keith Moon on drums, Roger Daltry on vocals, Pete Townsend on guitar, and John Entwhistle on bass.

This is as full-tilt as any band has ever gotten in the history of the world.

And yes, Roger Daltrey is a supporter of the Countryside Alliance pushing to keep fox hunting and rural values going in the U.K.

So yes, the kids are alright. Thanks for asking.


Hillary Lies Because She Thinks You Are an Idiot

Bill Clinton is shameless.

We all know that. This is a man who not only cheated on his wife again and again, but continued cheating (and lying about it) long after the whistle was blown. And not with just one woman, but with several over many years.

Bill Clinton lied to press, public and politicians, and he lied under oath.

As a consequence, he was not only impeached for lying, he was also disbarred from his legal profession.

So it should come as no surprise that Bill Clinton is now lying on the campaign trail in his attacks against Barack Obama.

Lying and cheating is what a liar and a cheater does.

The question for America is a simple one: Do we want to see four or five more years of this?

Because have no illusion, that is what Bill and Hillary Clinton have to offer.

If we reward lying and cheating, we are sure to get more of it.

To be fair, in the past it has been possible to give Hillary a pass on the lying and cheating stuff.

"Bill is not Hillary," was her redemption when she was running for Senate.

Or, as one of my Democratic friends put it, "You can't blame her. She didn't give Bill Clinton the blow job."

Which is fair enough.

But now we are being asked to blur the picture.

We are supposed to attribute Bill Clinton's experience to Hillary, and ignore the fact that she actually has less time in elected office than Barack Obama does.

We are supposed to forget her disaster of a health care reform campaign, which set that important debate back more than a decade.

And while we are supposed to be confused or forgetful about her experience and accomplishments, we are supposed to be crystal clear on one point: Hillary Clinton did not lie to the American people.

That was not her. That was her husband. That was Bill.

Which is true.

Until today.

Today Hillary Clinton's campaign officially crossed the line and began intentionally and willfully lying to the American people about what Barack Obama has said.

Even The Washington Post has thrown the foul flag, noting that:

"[O]n policy grounds, the two candidates [Obama and Clinton] are extremely close, which makes the nomination fight in part about character and judgment.

This episode does not speak well for Ms. Clinton's."


So the lesson learned is that with Hillary Clinton, we won't get one liar, we will get two.

Yes, that does make it simpler.

But the question remains: Why does Hillary Clinton think she can lie and cheat her way to the top?

The short answer is that she thinks the American people are stupid, and (let's face it) lying and cheating sure has worked in the past to win elections. Look at George W. Bush. Look at Bill Clinton. Look at Congress.

There is no doubt we are a strange nation with an odd way of doing business when it comes to the political marketplace.

The average American can rattle off the complete recipe for a Big Mac, but cannot name the Four Freedoms, recite the Ten Commandments, or name more than two sections in the Bill of Rights.

And so politicians treat us like we are idiotic trailer trash, expecting us to knee-jerk our way into the voting booth.

Taking a page from the folks that sell us McDonald's hamburgers, they figure we will ignore the quality of the product being sold, and simply buy the best slogan, the best song, and the best wrapper.

And Lord knows McDonald's has made a mint with that business model, haven't they?

History has shown that Americans will swallow any mystery meat served, no matter what price we may pay for it in our old age.

So why would politics be different?

Never mind the clogged arteries, and never mind the mounting debt, collapsing infrastructure, and millions of jobs going overseas.

We deserve a break today -- at McDonald's!

Or with (insert candidates name here).

So we get one-word candidates.

Giuliani becomes "911," and Hillary becomes "experience," and McCain becomes "Veteran."

The good news, if there is any, is that while we may be slow learners and quick forgetters, we are not unteachable.

Americans do learn, however imperfectly.

We have learned that if we cut taxes the deficit grows very rapidly -- as it did under both Ronald Reagan and George Bush, father and son.

We have learned that if we do not detail our troops to actually finding Bin Laden, then the leader of the world's largest criminal terrorist gang will outlast the President of the United States.

We have learned that if the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, it may not help to invade Argentina ... or Iraq.

And, we have learned that a leopard does not change its spots.

A liar lies. It is in the nature of the beast.

We cannot change the liar, we can only change our response to it.

Of course, the Republicans are loving this battle between Hillary and Obama, but not because they have anything better in the starting gate.

In fact, the only joy on the GOP side of the aisle is that the Democratic scuffle helps draw attention away from their own dreary field of non-contenders and complete pretenders.

Or, as I ask my Republican friends: "Which gun-grabbing, abortion-loving, cross-dressing, war-mongering, flip-flopping say-anything-to-get-elected candidate are YOU going to vote for?"

Ha! No good answers there!


Which is why I am recommending that folks in both parties give a good hard look at the one person that seems to be playing a different game -- the one that seems to assume we are not all idiots.

Barack Obama assumes we might actually read a whole paragraph and research a few things on Google before we nod our heads and swallow the toxic lies being told.

In short, he is treating us as if we were smart adults rather than stupid children.

Now we get to see if that novel approach will work.

Of course not everyone is unhappy with the old lies, the mounting debt, the nicely stuffed body-bags, and all of America's jobs going to China so that prices will stay low at WalMart.

Not everyone is unhappy with an FDA that winks at toxic dog food and pharmacy companies that kill our kids with hillbilly heroin, and politicians that have ignored illegal immigration for 20 years.

So let me say this right now: If you are happy with what we have gotten in the past, then keep on voting the way you always have.

Don't think about voting across the aisle. Do whatever your party leadership tells you to do.

Let the pundits tell you how it is going to be before you even vote.

If you want to be treated like children, just do whatever the nice people with the clip boards tell you.
Or, as my old friend Victor B. says, "If you keep on doing what you always did, you're sure to keep on getting what you always got."

Of course, when Victor's talking it's mostly to people in homeless shelters who are alcoholics or mentally ill. Still, it's good advice if you really do like how it's all been going so far.

On the other hand, if you think maybe America deserves better or if you want something different, here's a hint: Stop rewarding the liars, cheats and thieves.

Stop saluting the folks who will say anything.

Give integrity a chance.

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Unremarkable Vistors to the Feed Tray


Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Royal Society for the Preservation of ...

The point of this humorously titled site is a simple one: all things need to be managed, and that includes pigeons.

To which I would add rats, groundhogs, white tail deer, wild pigs ... and at certain times and locations such other animals as beaver, snapping turtle, fox, raccoon, elk, coyotes, bear, alligator, etc.

Control is not about eradication, of course, but about time, place, and number. All things in moderation, etc.

This is a terrific site and it is not really "anti-pigeon." In fact, in some ways, this web site is a celebration of the fecundity and adaptiveness of the pigeon. No wonder Darwin loved them so!

. .


The High Price of Not Pushing Back

Beware of independent fruit merchants!
I swear to God, if you are not happy to be an American, you are not paying attention to what is happening in the U.K and Europe. This poor woman is being prosecuted for selling fruit by the pound. That's it -- the entire crime. Never mind that all her customers prefer to use weights and measures they have known their entire life, and never mind that this is not international commerce. Mindless politicians and regulators will find something to legislate and regulate until we end it by taking out a pot of tar and a bag of feathers and painting them up proper. Push back!

Beware of Pantomime Weapons!
This is the kind of thing that makes me think it may be time to stockpile guns, ammunition and antibiotics in anticipation of the coming apocalypse. In the U.K. plastic cutlasses, wooden swords and toy guns that fire out "pop" flags now have to be kept in a safe box in a locked room when not in use. Oh yes, and when in use a "university academic" will be standing by to make sure no rules are broken. Push back!


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Janis Would Have Been 65 This Week

Singing "Maybe," live in Germany, 1969.

No, You May Not Pet My Dog

Earlier this month, in the comments section to this post, I wrote:

"My favorite people are the ones with little tottering kids who think Jack Russells are like Toy Poodles or Maltese, and who act shocked when I say it's NOT okay for their barely walking kids to pet my dogs.

"Jack Russells are not good with very small children," I explain. "They have a habit of removing the front lip of children that squeal and jerk when they move."

And it's not a lie. A working Russell has to have brains and discretion, and most of the time it's all fine, but working terriers also have "the code that explodes" within them, and when that happens they are true terriers. Bottom line: they are not a dog for everyone.

"Is he he good with cats," I am asked. "Oh yes," I reply, "he loves them. What flavor is yours?" And no, that is NOT a joke.

Now comes the horrible news that a Jack Russell Terrier in Kentucky has killed a 6-week old baby that was left unattended in the middle of the bed with the dog in the same room.

A rare thing? Of course. That said, it is not a thing that defies the laws of nature, is it?

The folks who look at dog bite fatalities will tell you that Jack Russells do not normally bite people to death.

True enough, but only because of their relatively small size.

In fact, terriers bite folks quite a lot, and Jack Russells may be near the top of the biting list for the simple reason that they are fairly common, and have strong prey instincts.

Of course there will always be people who will tell you that their Collies have no drive to herd, their Pit Bulls have no drive to fight, their Cattle Dogs have no urge to nip, their Rottweilers have no urge to protect, and their Terriers have no secret urge to wreck carnage on pet store rodents and small birds.

Fine. Believe if you want. But do me a favor, eh? Keep an eye on the very small children. And don't leave the baby alone with the dog.

Yes, your kids are more likely to be killed by a swarm of bees than by a dog bite. That said, use common sense and be carefull.

A dog that bites does not violate any laws of nature. And, as uncomfortable as it may make some breed defenders, biting is very much in the nature of all dogs, and some breeds in particular. A Jack Russell is one of them.

I have said so in the past, and I say so again: Caveat emptor.