Thursday, June 30, 2011

If Wimbledon Were Run by the Kennel Club

If Wimbledon were run by the Kennel Club, we would hardly care about the score. 

Play tennis?  Practice?  Who needs that when it's all about looking the part?

Tension is growing among fans of attractive women in short white pleated skirts as the annual Ladies’ Prettiness Championship entered its final stages this week at Wimbledon. And, despite complaints in some quarters that the standard of gorgeousness is not what it used to be, there have been plenty of surprises along the way.

Long-time no-hoper Venus Williams surprised many observers by getting to the second round by means of an unusual style of dress but was subsequently knocked out for unfashionable collars, while plucky Brit Laura Robson managed to outscore Italy’s Francesca Schiavone on face, legs and shape alike, before inevitably succumbing to the honey-toned loveliness of Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic in round three.

Should Math Be Taught?

Coffee and Provocation

The Dog Toy That Survived the Pit Bull Chew Test:
I got a lot of suggestions a while back from readers of this blog, but the winner so far is a mail order Galileo bone.  The thing is so heavy it will break your toe if the dog drops it, but it lasts and lasts and my son's Pit Bull likes it quite a lot.  Perfect!  A total Pit Bull failure:  any and all Kongs.

Quite a Terrier Story:
In 1938 in Dubuque, Iowa, it took 12 guys 12 days of around the clock digging to get a 10-pound terrier out of the ground alive.  Iowa is a generally flat state with deep soil, but around Dubuque there are old lead and iron mines and old vertical works.

Idaho Needs to Cowboy Up When It Comes to Wolves:
Over at High County News Besty Marston writes about the people of Idaho going through a little introspection:  "Whiny, weak and what you might call wussy are adjectives that characterize too many people in Idaho today, complains the Idaho Mountain Express, and even some elected officials admit they're living in fear. What fills folks with such anxiety? Wolves -- which, according to one legislator, are loitering at the mailbox, holding innocent women hostage, and hovering near school bus stops, ready to gobble up children. So "with lightning speed," the state Legislature "rammed through" a bill that allows the governor to declare war on wolves whenever he feels they're threatening people, livestock, outfitters or wildlife. This trembling at the thought of the Big Bad Wolf is downright embarrassing, says the state's largest weekly paper: "The chance that someone will ride on a commercial airliner whose top will peel off or develop a hole is higher today than being attacked by a wolf." >> Read the rest!

Our Lefty Military:
God bless the gay-loving, universal-health-care-having, racially-diverse, sensible-pay, day-care-establishing, sucking-on-the-big-tit of Uncle Sam, U.S. Marine Corps! Is any other American institution more liberal?

Worst Horror Movie Ever:
The attack of the rabid beavers. And it's happening in Philadelphia of all places.

Dinosaur Fish:
A 234-pound alligator gar was bow hunted out of the Yazoo River in Mississippi.  Check it out!

Mona Lisa in Coffee?
Of course.  It only took the Australians 4,000 cups.

Remember Jayne Mansfield:
"Remember: Jayne Mansfield never went to Cannes in order to win the Best Actress award. She went to Cannes because that was where she could find the most cameras, so that when she bent over, her cleavage could get the widest exposure. Same thing here: Trump and Palin and Gingrich don’t run for president to become president: running is just the thing they have to do to create their brand." >> Read the rest!

Two Cow Parables:
The parable of the farmer with the two cows makes it to the Middle East.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How Fast is a Peregrine Falcon's Dive?

Real measurement.

Another Mutant Mutt Takes the Prize

Yoda is a a 14-year-old Chinese crested and Chihuahua mix and was named the world's ugliest dog at the 23rd annual contest held the Sonoma Marin Fair.

We used to parade around freaks tooGood times!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

That's Why They Call It Hunting

Had a rather uneventful day in the field on Sunday. A good friend came out with me, and it was not a bad day in terms of weather (about 85 degrees or so), but not much happened. 

It started hopefully enough with the dogs appearing to find in a very overgrown thicket of multiflora right by the road, but they never got in very far to this 30-foot sette, and they never opened up. I popped into the pipe, but the dogs seem to lose the story. This may have been a case where the groundhog bolted why we were busy locating the dogs. Lot of holes at this sette!

The same story followed at two other good holes over the course of the day -- the dogs finding in very thick growth, but by the time we caught up to them (once after the dogs had to come find us twice!), there seemed to be no one home even though both dogs were still very interested.  There was no open-up baying all day except for a short burst above ground, on the last hole, when I am pretty sure the groundhog bolted into the brush.  Ah well, no day out with the dogs is an entirely bad day.

Numbing Numbers

Click to enlarge.

This data is from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Check out the rise of Nigeria, versus the collapse of Russia.

Now look at U.S. population growth.

The projection is that the U.S. will add 112 MILLION people to it population in the next 40 years.

To put that number into perspective, that's a population larger that the entire population of the United States west of the Mississippi today.

And where is this population coming from?

Almost all of it is coming from immigration and the children of recent immigrants. 

When we talk about an "energy crisis" and "unemployment problems" here in the United States, it's worth remembering that both of these problems are greatly exacerbated by our open borders.

You would think that once this country found itself in a hole, it would know enough to stop digging, but you would be wrong. 

Welcome to the Modern World

I was reading a bit about spam email and the choke points that come with international banking (PDF), and came across this little paragraph:

On October 27th, the Grum botnet delivered an email titled VIAGRA Official Site. The body of the message includes an image of male enhancement pharmaceutical tablets and their associated prices (shown). The image provides a URL tag and thus when clicked directs the user’s browser to resolve the associated domain name, This domain was registered by REGRU-REG-RIPN (a.k.a. on October 18th — it is still active as of this writing. The machine providing name service resides in China, while hosting resolves to a machine in Brazil. The user’s browser initiates an HTTP request to the machine, and receives content that renders the storefront for “Pharmacy Express,” a brand associated with the Mailien pharmaceutical affiliate program based in Russia.

After selecting an item to purchase and clicking on “Checkout”, the storefront redirects the user to a payment portal served from (this time serving content via an IP address in Turkey), which accepts the user’s shipping, email contact, and payment information, and provides an order confirmation number. Subsequent email confirms the order, provides an EMS tracking number, and includes a contact email for customer questions. The bank that issued the user’s credit card transfers money to the acquiring bank, in this case the Azerigazbank Joint-Stock Investment Bank in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Ten days later the product arrives, blister-packaged, in a cushioned white envelope with postal markings indicating a supplier named PPW based in Chennai, India as its originator.

So six counries are involved in a single spam email transactionAnd they said the world would never learn to get along!

What was interesting about this paper is that it makes it so transparent that the credit card companies and the banks are complicit in maintaining the problem. There are scores of millions of possible bogus URLS, but there are only two or three major credit companies in the world, and only a limited number of banks that will process spam email revenue. The world of spam pharmaceutical companies, fake knockoffs, and bogus herbal medicines could be brought to its knees in a week if the credit card companies actually took action.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Seed Man's Collies

W. Atlee Burpee and seven of his collies.

Google Books is a deep well for obscure information, and it's one I sometimes dive into just to see what I can find.

Early this morning, suffering from insomnia, I was looking for an ancient snippet on working terriers when I came across an online copy of the January 3rd, 1891 edition of The Fanciers Journal, a magazine that once covered everything from show pigeons and poultry to sheep, pigs and dogs.

Inside the front cover, as was common in that era, were a slew of ads for all kinds of products, pamphlets and kennels, several of which caught my attention. Just as I was about to flip the page, however, my eye landed on the ad to the right below, and I noticed the name.

Burpee. W. Atlee Burpee. The seed man.

Collies, of course, are both working dogs and show dogs and, like terriers and a few other breeds, have some interesting names attached to them.

A quick search for more information about Burpee's collies turned up a terrific little site on "farm" collies and shepherds, packed with history and photographs.

What I was interested in, however, was Burpee.  How did this seed man come to raise collies, and when did he stop doing that?

It seems W. Atlee Burpee borrowed $1,000 from his mother in 1876, at the age of 18,  and launched a small business to sell seed, chickens, turkeys and other fowl bred on his little farm near Philadelphia.

Over time, Burpee expanded to breed collies, sheep and hogs.

Burpee's business plan for dogs, stock and seed was simple: cull through European and Asian varieties and through selection, breeding and hybridization, improve that stock for American purposes and conditions.

In 1877, Burpee introduced a new cabbage variety, the first of hundreds of vegetable and flower varieties created or brought to America.

In 1894 Burpee introduced Iceberg lettuce, in 1902 he gave us Golden Bantam yellow sweet corn, in 1907 the Fordhook bush lima bean.  In 1948, Burpee introduced the world-famous Big Boy tomato -- still a staple of gardens from coast to coast.

A July 5, 1890 copy of The Fanciers Journal gives us a dog's eye view of Burpee's setup at that time:

Most of our readers are aware that Burpee & Co. have one of the largest seed houses in America. The Fordhook Farm is almost entirely devoted to the growing of seed and bulbs. Although our visit was rather late in the year to see the flowers at their best, still what we did see was the grandest horticultural display we ever had the pleasure of witnessing.

As we approached the farm a large field of salvia appeared in view, looking like a rich red velvet carpet. Then plots of phloxes, tuberoses and gladioli were passed. The variety of brilliant colors was a most attractive sight. Upon our arrival at the farm Mr. Burpee showed us over the place, pointing out the numerous new and beautiful plants, how the new varieties were made, the manner in which seeds were tested and separated.

But it was the dogs we went to see; so we reluctantly leave the flowers and pass by the poultry yards on the way to the kennels. These poultry houses, by the bye, are models of cleanliness and convenience. In the numerous yards we noticed nearly all the leading varieties of fowls, particularly some fine specimens of Indian Games, Light Brahmas and Black Minorcas. We also saw a new breed, secured a photograph of the birds, and an illustration and description of them will be given later in our paper.

The Fordhook Kennels are devoted exclusively to Collies, good, big, intelligent working Collies, with stamina and pluck that enables them to endure fatigue and hard work.

The kennel buildings are detached and scattered about over considerable ground, which is fenced off by wire into runs. The lying-in hospital was the first building entered. We found it partitioned off to hold six bitches, each having her private run. Daisy Dean, whose acquaintance we made in 1886 at Boston and New York, where she took first prizes, we found nursing a fine litter of puppies by the well-known Champion Scotilla. In an adjoining stall was Miss Constance, closely related to the renowned Metchley Wonder, with a nice lot of pups by Fordhook Squire. The hospital for sick dogs, an isolated building, we found empty, and Mr. Holmes did not seem anxious to have these quarters occupied.

When did Burpee stop breeding collies, and why?

I have no idea.

The "Fordhook Scotch Collies" kennel supplied collies by mail-order and shipped them by train until at least 1911. W. Atlee Burpee died in 1915, so perhaps the kennel operation died with him -- a personal obsession not shared by his son, David Burpee, who appears to have been more interested in plants and seeds and in moving the company's seed-production operation to California.

Burpee's 1945 catalogue -- the start of many a Victory Garden.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fifty five Pounds.

Fifty five pounds.

That's the official weight of what I carry into the field to dig on the dogs. I have often wondered, but never checked.  I just did.  It was easy enough:  sling the pack on my back with water bottles in it, shoulder the post hole digger and the bar.

The postie weighs 15 pounds I think, the bar another five, the shovel a little over 5, and the bar another 5.

Add to that a half gallon of water (about 4 pounds), and assorted stakes, collars, tie outs, two leashes, a root saw, two knives, a long-handled trowel, a scraper, a pole snare, a camera, a locator box, a machete, a small veterinary kit, two short lengths of parachute cord, an extra pair of leather gloves, a collapsible water dish for the dogs, a cell phone, collar tape, and the pack itself, and you have 57 pounds, which I have rounded down to 55 pounds as understatement beats overstatement most of the time.

No apologies.  I have used everything and been glad I had it, and it's mine to carry and I generally carry it alone.  I know how to shave weight in a rather extreme manner when it comes to backpacking, but when a dog's life is in the swing I do not want to wish for a tool to do the job, and I never have, and as a consequence I have never lost a dog underground.  Knock on wood.


God Plays Favorites

How twisted is religious education, when this is the message and this is how they sell it?  Source.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dirt Dogs Chew off Human Toes?

Rubber prop feet are not great chew toys.

Dirt dogs chew off human toes?  One is an oddity, two is a coincidence, but three is a New Trend! 

Let's start with the latest:

In a case study that illustrates the need for people with diabetes to be cautious of foot injuries and to protect themselves from pets, a woman with numbness in her feet caused by diabetic neuropathy slept through a traumatic episode in which her Jack Russell terrier chewed off part of her slightly infected big toe, according to an article published in this month's issue of the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association.

The patient's wound required surgery, and it ultimately led the amputation of her leg, leaving her a double amputee.

The case study, co-authored by Valley Presbyterian Hospital specialist Lee C. Rogers, D.P.M., is only the second of its kind to be published in the medical literature, although more cases like it have been reported in the media. This case highlights the need for diabetic patients with neuropathy to avoid having their feet or wounds exposed when sleeping with their pets.

"Pets have a tendency to lick wounds, and that simple lick can turn into a bite, if there is no response from the owner."

She lost a toe?  Big deal!  She could have lost her life as this Grand Rapids News article reports in another case in which a Jack Russell chewed off the toe of a diabetic:

Kiko apparently sensed an infection festering in his master's right big toe -- and chewed most of it off after [Jerry] Douthett passed out in a drunken stupor.

A trip to the hospital confirmed Douthett's digit required amputation, and Kiko is being heralded by his owner for helping him realize he has been suffering from Type 2 diabetes. Douthett had a dangerously high blood-sugar level of 560 when admitted -- many times the recommended 80 to 120.

"Jerry had had all these Margaritas, so I just let him sleep," said his wife, Rosee, a registered nurse. "But then I heard these screams coming from the bedroom, and he was yelling, 'My toe's gone, my toe's gone!'"

The Rockford man's strange odyssey began several months ago when he started picking at what he thought was a small sliver on the bottom of his toe. He used a knife to cut skin away from the affected area, but it worsened, swelling so much he had to eschew shoes and resort to loose-fitting sandals.

"I was hiding it from people, Rosee included," said Douthett, 48, who is a musician and a well-known wheeler-dealer in Rockford, where he was born and raised.

"It smelled, and I look back now and realize every time we'd visit someone with a dog, their dog would be sniffing all over my foot."

Of course Jack Russell's are not the only offenders in the toe-chewing department. Dachshunds, another dirt-dog, have gotten into the act as well

AN American woman has had her beloved pet dachshund put down after it chewed off her toe while she was asleep.

Linda Floyd said she discovered the toe missing after waking up from a nap, AP reports.

The 56-year-old did not feel any pain because of nerve damage from diabetes.

A vet said the dog may have been attracted to the toe because it had been bandaged due to an ingrown nail.

Is there a lesson to be learned here?  There is, and here it is:  If you have a wound that is not healing or if you are starting to feel numb in your extremeties, have your doctor check you for diabetes. If you are a diabetic, lose weight and stop drinking, take your insulin, get at least two decent blood glucose meters, and maybe get tropical fish instead of a Jack Russell terrier or Dachshund.

Count these as my helpful hints for the day.

Veterinary No Parking Sign

Fly Rod As Art and Craftsmanship as Porn

Scott | behind the scenes from Scott Fly Rods on Vimeo.

This little commercial is marinated in awesomeness.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Purina and Water

Ingredients:  Purina and Water.

Another Cup of Insecticide Please!

My drug of choice... the world's most used psychoactive drug... "pure awesome"... increases concentration, decreases fatigue, and gives you better memory.

World Record Blue Catfish Taken in Virginia

This 143 pound blue catfish was caught in Bugg Island Lake, Virginia, and should beat the previous world record by more than a dozen pounds.  Link

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kate: The Outcross Bitch?

You want to know why it's hard to get the dog show crowd to stop inbreeding within a closed registry pool? Simple: dog shows started in Europe where they have been led to believe, for more than 500 years, that incest is best. As Jessa Gamble at The Last Word on Nothing blog notes:

All ten current European monarchs — that’s Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg, UK, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Monaco and the Netherlands, for those who haven’t kept track of republican trends — are direct descendants of John William Friso, Prince of Orange, who died in 1711, ten generations ago. This fact understates their actual degree of kinship, however, because the interconnected bloodlines cross much more recently. Most of the European monarchs are also descended from the grandmother of Europe, Queen Victoria of England and from Christian IX of Denmark, both of whose many respective grandchildren – who occupied their thrones during the First World War – married each other so conscientiously their family tree sports the systematic order of a round-robin badminton tournament. Of course, Queen Victoria and her consort Albert were first cousins to begin with, and Victoria passed her hemophilia down to her far-flung grandchildren....

So is there a glimmer of hope? There is. As Ms. Gamble, a Canadian, notes:

... My own Queen, whom I first pledged to serve shortly after my seventh birthday as part of a Brownie Guides initiation, three fingers solemnly raised, has reared her children to break the pattern. None of her four offspring married into royalty and her grandson’s match with a commoner — which might elsewhere have been considered morganatic (unequal) and been denied the full conferral of privileges — promises to widen the gene pool yet further. I look forward to seeing their children healthier for it, whatever their title.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Demand for Opinion to be Law

I thought I had seen it all, but of course there's something new everyday.

The lady, above, is British and holds the record for the most pierced person on the planet. She is getting married to the calm-looking older man, below, in the blue suit, tie and shirt.

What a world! I am glad there is no requirement that I have to marry this woman, although I do wonder if it might be an abridgement of my right to board an airplane if I happened to be stuck behind her at airport security!

I kid!  In all seriousness, I wish her and her new husband well.  Let freedom ring, and may her freak flag fly from the highest halyard.

Of course not everyone takes such an open-ended view about letting people go off in a different direction. 

In France, for example, there's a movement to ban Muslim women from wearing a burka even if they want to

Apparently, in France ladies have a right to wear a dental floss bathing suit with two postage stamps affixed to it, but they have no right to dress as they want, and never mind their own religious views or cultural traditions.

Of course authoritarianism is not limited to the French, nor is it limited to the political right or left.  I recently got an email from someone who was outraged that all but five of the Kennel Club's dog shows in 2011 did not charge an entrance fee.  It seems the Kennel Club managed to get around the law that bans docked dogs from being shown in venues that charge admission by charging a parking fee instead of an admissions fee.  Oh the horror! My friend proclaimed the Kennel Club work-around was a "complete mockery of the law."

A mockery of the law?  Nonsense.  The law was already a mockery, which is why so many people feel free to ignore it or openly work around it without penalty.

If you demand that laws be respected, then  pass laws that engender respect. In a world of dyed hair, tummy tucks, face lifts, nose jobs, breast augmentations, nipple piercings, and all-body tribal tattoos, a simple tail docking on a puppy might not pass the laugh test of concern!

Of course there is no convincing some people who are quite convinced that their own opinion on every matter should be bolstered by a change in law. 

Persuasion and education?  That takes too long.  Legislation is quicker and easier, especially if the opposition is small and weak.

Now, to be clear, I am no libertarian or anarchist rebel.  I believe in both taxes and public services, and I am a rather scrupulous observer of the law. 

That said, not every idiot law deserves to be saluted.  In my own home state of Virginia, for example, it's illegal to have sex with anyone to whom you are not married.  Really?  Are we going to lock up everyone?  No, of course, not.  The law is an arcane piece of nonsense and it is simply ignored, same as the law in Chester, England which says any Welshman caught within the city walls after sunset may be shot with a longbow.

But not all stupid laws are hundreds of years old; some are as fresh as this morning's coffee.  A case example is the Seattle law, passed this week, which makes it illegal to go swimming in the local river unless you are wearing a life vest.

Of course, if you are looking for stupid on stilts, it's always hard to beat San Francisco.

In San Francisco, the local Yellow Pages advertises genital piercings, but this very same city has just decided to put a ban on the circumcision of infants on the ballot.

Eh?  A ban on circumcision?  What on earth is that about? 

Surely, it's not just me that finds it a bit creepy that anyone is obsessed with the penises of other people's children?  

And then, of course, there are such matters as religious freedom, the right to privacy, and public health.  Are these concerns to be kicked to the curb with a never-mind?

Good enough for Jesus?

But, of course the absurdity does not stop there, does it? 

The latest is that San Francisco's City Council is moving to ban the sale of gold fish.  The City has already banned the sales of puppies and kittens in pet shops.  This ban was followed by a ban on the sale of:
  • hamsters
  • mice
  • rats
  • gerbils
  • guinea pigs
  • chinchillas
  • rabbits
  • all birds
  • all snakes
  • all lizards
  • all frogs
  • all turtles

At the moment, the pet store sale of ALL animals except fish is banned in San Francisco.

And now the push is on to ban all fish.

So is there good news?

Perhaps a little. San Francisco Supervisor Sean Elsbernd says "this is another animal welfare idea that will end up in the dustbin of history and go absolutely nowhere."


No doubt that same turn of phrase was uttered just before San Francisco's ban on hamster and mice sales was ushered into law.  

One thing is for certain: if this kind of nonsense is listed on the menu, it's already too close to the kitchen.

To be clear, the issues here are about more than what is happening in San Francisco. 

You see, if we are truly interested in animal or child welfare, we can no longer afford to stand silent when the nutters take the stage, 

To put it simply, we are going to have to mock the lunatics and throw stones at the extremists.

The reason for this is simple:  the counter-argument to any and all regulation dealing with nearly everything in this world is that any step in the right direction moves us closer to "the slippery slope" of idiocy and jack-booted authoritarianism.

Now, as a general rule,  I am not a fan of slippery slope arguments, and I speak with some real-world experience with slippery slopes. 

You see, my own house is built on top of a very steep hill, and in winter my driveway can be as slippery as oiled glass. 

But so what?  

My driveway has two sets of rock-and-concrete steps up the side, and my car is a four-wheel drive vehicle.  No problem.

And so it is in the real world of public policy. 

Slippery slope?  There is no requirement that we check rationality at the door. 

All slippery slope counter-arguments are predicated on the notion that people are stupid, irrational, and prone to extremism and that we are incapable of hacking sensible steps into the sides of public policy solutions.

Those who oppose all regulation, all the time, argue that intelligence, common sense, information, discretion and foresight are rare commodities.  

They tell us that regulators, social policy engineers, and arm-chair policy pundits cannot be trusted. 

And how are we to counter those argument when we have tail docking, circumcision, and goldfish debates being elevated to the forefront of animal and child welfare concerns?

What's next? 

Are we going to see campaigns about hair spray on poodles and whisker trims on whippets elevated to cover story concerns? 

Are we going to see debates about the status of women devolve to why women should be forced to wear whatever they are told by nameless, faceless men meeting in secret in the Capitol?

Are we going to let real child welfare concerns be hijacked by the penis obsessed?

Because if we do, then it's time to call it quits and go home. 

If we cannot sort out the REAL problems from those that are little more than contrived crises, then we have well and truly lost our way.


Two Let Go for Another Day

This little fellow is a baby groundhog, probably born in the midde of March, at about the same time same as fox kits are born. 

He was in the same hole with his mother, pictured below, and I let them both bolt off to freedom as we were far enough from the fields that they are not likely to do much harm.  This fellow should be just about weaned and will soon be bullied to move out on his own. 

Baby groundhogs and possums are "meals on heels" for fox, coyote and hawks at this time of year.

Mom was a tough little customer, and anxious enough to bolt into the brush after I got her picture.

We bolted another pretty large groundhog right at the start on Sunday, but it got too far up into the tree to get a decent picture.  In fact, I was not sure he was up there until I got him to move a bit with a well-placed bit of  old branch winged up into the greenery!  Groundhogs are members of the squirrel family, and though they are ground squirrels, they can climb trees pretty well when pressed.

This Isn't Arizona

I'm pretty sure this isn't Texas.

The hares look familiar however... and the dogs... and the birds.


You see? We are all brothers after all.

Other videos from the same series are on Youtube; check links to the right of the above videos.

Pearl Looks Pleased!

Pearl is not retired, but Gideon and Mountain are seeing all the time in the field, as Gideon needs the experience and Mountain has it. I cannot remember when this picture was taken or where, but it was sometime in the Fall according to the corn in background, and someone else was clearly holding the camera. I mostly hunt alone, so there are not that many pictures of me with the dogs.  This had to be a couple of years back I think.

Old School Dog Training

Are you an Old School Dog Trainer?

If so, let the world know with this great little shirt proclaiming the sage advice of Hostilius Saserna, given in 49 B.C.:

"Whoever wishes to be followed by a dog should throw him a cooked frog."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Zebra Swallowtail

Just a common butterfly, but I like butterflies as they are a sign you are on an organic farm or in an area without too much spraying.

The Zebra Swallowtail, Eurytides marcellus, was first named in 1777 when the country was only one year old, and it's pretty common east of the Mississippi.  It is in a different genus from the other swallowtails, which are Papilio.

Zebra Swallowtail caterpillars live off off the the leaves of bushes in the pawpaw family of plants, while the adult butterflies feed off of milkweed, blackberry, lilac, mutliflora rose, redbud, verbena, and dogbane -- all plants you are likely to find along forested river and creek bottoms of the kind I was hunting Sunday.

On Eugenics and Dogs, Circa 1942

As I have noted in previous posts, Charles Darwin's work in The Origin of Species drove Francis Galton, his half-cousin, to create the field he called "Eugenics" -- the notion that natural selection done by the unguided hand of God could be put into hyper drive by unnatural selection at the hand of man.

It was Galton who framed out the core intellectual construct that became the Kennel Club, though it was John Henry Walsh who created the points system which was based on the eugenics theories of Plato several thousand years earlier.

It was not until almost the turn of the 20th Century that the Kennel Club fully embraced a closed registry system, and by then the field of eugenics was taking off like gangbusters.

By the 1920s American veterinarian and consummate dog man Leon F. Whitney was not only writing about dog breeding, but he was also head of the American Eugenics Society where his work involved holding dog-show-like "Fitter Family" contests across the Midwest and writing and publishing a book advocating the sterilization of some 10 million Americans -- a book praised by none other than Adolph Hitler.

Into this arena, the Rockefeller Foundation stepped in 1926 with a grant to Dr. Charles Stockard for the establishment of the Cornell Dog Farm at Shrub Oak, near Peekskill, New York. 

The purpose of this dog farm was simple:  to study the endocrine systems of dogs and determine the role of breeding and the impact of genetics on this system.

Kennels at Peekskill, NY
The research progressed for 13 years until Dr. Stockard's death, but a summation of what was learned can be found in a July 1942 paper by German-born Jewish geneticist Hans Grüneberg, M.D., published in The Eugenics Review (the house publication of the Eugenics Education Society) in 1942.  At the time Grüneberg was with the Department of Biometry at University College London.

In Dogs and Eugenics he writes:

The breeds of dogs studied included the following:
  1. St. Bernard
  2. German shepherd (Alsatian)
  3. Saluki (a large North African greyhound-like animal)
  4. Great Dane
  5. Bassethound
  6. Foxhound
  7. Dachshund
  8. English bulldog
  9. French bulldog
  10. Boston terrier
  11. Brussels griffon
  12. Pekinese

Of these widely differing breeds the Alsatian [German Shepherd] is rightly regarded as the most normal type, lacking obviously pathological stigmata and being closest to the wolf-like ancestors of our dog breeds. Comparatively harmonic in general shape are also the Great Dane, the Saluki, and the foxhound. The giant St. Bernards have signs of acromegaly; Bassethound and dachshund show marked achondroplasia of the legs, but not of skull or tail; the two bulldogs, the Boston terrier and the Brussels griffon have extremely shortened muzzles, but normally shaped legs, while the Pekinese is highly achondroplasic both as regards skull and appendicular skeleton.
Pekingese X Salutki cross
Grüneberg goes on to note that Stockard created some fantastically odd crosses, and that many were quite unsatistactory -- a result that Dr. Charles Stockard pointed to as a caution as to what might happen if there was too much race-mixing in humans.

Is it surprising that the startled author of this nightmare dog show should utter warning after warning against "mongrelization" of human races? And yet, most of these monstrosities would have been predictable from the ingredients contributed by the parent breeds. These divergences are vastly greater than anything that could possibly occur in human race crosses. And if you cross breeds of dogs which are not predictably incompatible, like a bulldog and a dachshund, or a Saluki and a Pekingese, quite alluring animals may be produced. For instance, the hybrid between Great Dane and Alsatian is a strong and distinctly handsome dog, and a similar type could no doubt be made homozygous in a later generation. But a good deal of the highly pathological, and unpredictable, monstrosities probably owe their origin not to the race cross per se....

Grüneberg then goes on to discuss inbreeding, and how a doubling down on the genetic load to be found in Stockard's small pool of dogs likely led to to some of the disease, deformity and defect that was found:

... there is every reason to believe that all breeds of dogs are soaked with harmful recessives; in an outbred population these remain largely under the surface, but inbreeding makes them homozygous. Now Dr. Stockard's experiments involved not only race crosses, but also much closer inbreeding than is customary within breeds; for technical reasons most experiments started with a few specimens of the " pure " breed, and the production of an F2 or backcross generation involved close inbreeding. Hence the pathological types recovered owe their appearance to a double reason; one is the reshuffling of genes, the other is the segregation of pathological recessives which were hidden in heterozygous form in the " pure " breeds; The latter source of monstrosities has not been recognized by Dr. Stockard, and for this reason his argument about the undesirability of human race crosses is considerably weakened.

And so there you have it: even as men, women and children were locked in World War, and millions of bodies were being tossed into ovens and graves, the Faustian eugenics dance between Germany, America and Britain played out in the world of dogs as scientists, geneticists, and social theorists looked to canines and Kennel Club breeds as a predictive models for human differences and human breeding.


Little body, enormous head, huge heart, big smile.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Not an Idiot Wins Beauty Contest

The title to this post is as unlikely as "battle-scarred working terrier wins Crufts" but nonetheless, it has happened:  someone with an average brain has won the Miss USA contest.

The odds of a person with an average brain winning Miss USA were not very good. 

All 51 contestants were asked if evolution should be taught in US schools, and only two (TWO!) could bring themselves to answer yes.  But guess what?  One of those two has won! 

A good mind is always a sexy thing, and if a lady looks as fine as Alyssa Campanella of Los Angeles, who calls herself "a huge science geek," then even an adequate mind will do.

Sadly, however, most of this year's Miss America contestants proved to be as dumb as a stump.

One after another contestant like Miss Maryland, confused the evolution of species with the origin of life (not the same) or said a variation of Miss Michigan's line that it's "silly" and "ignorant" not to teach "both sides" including, evidently, religious views in public schools.

Three were flat out opposed: Miss Kentucky, home state of the Creation Museum; Miss Alaska who assures us "each of us was individually created by God for a purpose;" and Miss Alabama who doesn't believe in evolution.

That's right:  It's a headline when a beauty contest winner even knows what evolution is!  Please note that the headline to this post is not "Genius Wins Beauty Contest," but that "Not an Idiot" wins beauty contest.  

Such is the rarity of that event that it is being heralded in newspapers across the U.S.... same as if a healthy honest working dog won a major dog show.

The Memphis City Attorney Is an Idiot

The Memphis "Shelter"

Over in Memphis, Tennessee, they can't stop killing dogs in the pound, and NO they don't want anyone collecting donations to get more people to help spring the dogs (some of whom may need veterinary care), and NO they don't want anyone to talk about it either. 

They just want to kill the dogs, quick and quiet, as they have always done.

So when Shirley Thistlewaite at the YesBiscuit blog offered to raise money to help pay for veterinary care and to help spring dogs destined for the death chamber, the response from Memphis City Attorney Herman Morris Jr. was to threaten to hit her with a SLAPP suit

Only problem is that SLAPP suits (aka, "strategic lawsuits against public participation") are illegal under the Tennessee Anti-SLAPP Act of 1997.  Whoops!

Now, to be clear about the title to this post:  I have not done a medical intake on Memphis City Attorney Herman Morris Jr., so I cannot say for certain that he is a diagnosed idiot, i.e. someone with an IQ of less than 20. 

I am using the term "idiot" here in the colloquial sense of that word, i.e. a dolt, or dullard or someone who acts in a self-defeating or significantly counterproductive way. 

In short, I am pointing out that if the City of Memphis wants to bring more press attention to the fact that they are killing most of the dogs that come into their shelter (such as this story), there is no better way to do that than to have Memphis City Attorney Herman Morris Jr. shoot off a letter about something he has not taken the time to research.

In fact, I await my own letter!  Bring it on, moron. 

Gideon Works a Hole

Gideon comes into the bore hole I have punched into the sette.

Gideon moves past the hole into the far reaches of the sette.

Gideon latches on to the groundhog's rump to get it to turn and stop digging.
A happy Gideon with dispatched groundhog.

Mountain in a Tight Pipe

There's not a lot of extra room in a groundhog pipe.  This is Mountain going in sideways, with my camera arm up the pipe as far as I could stick it.  Past this turn, all will be dark and she has to have room to box a bit with whatever she finds inside.  A dog jammed in too tight is an accident waiting to happen!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fox Rock

Fox will defecate on top of prominent field rocks with such predictabilty that you can walk into a field you have never been in before and, if the conditions are right, point to a location and tell your companions that fox scat will be found on top -- a kind of field sports parlor trick.

This rock was unusual in that it was tucked inside the forest edge, which would not usually give it much prominence, but since it's bright white quartzite and stands out rather dramatically against the forest green, and is also very close to a field corner, it seems to have met all the requirements as a vulpine boundary stone.

Box Turtle Meets Tiller... and Loses

The dogs and I had a nice day in the field today. Saw something between the rows of rising corn and flipped it over to find this box turtle shell that had been capped by the tiller. If you look, you can see one of the larger bones (a pelvis?) in the upper left.

Box turtles are in decline all over the U.S., mostly due to roads. For more on that, read this earlier post on the topic.

Coffee and Provocation

Courts-approved Stoning of a Possessed Dog?
Apparently (but read on to the end) a dog entered a Jerusalem financial court several weeks ago and would not leave, which reminded a lunatic judge of a curse passed on a now deceased secular lawyer about 20 years ago, when judges bid his spirit to enter the body of a dog.  Fearful that the lawyer had come back as this dog, the judge ordered the dog stoned to death.  Happily, the dog ran away. But read the story again. The court cursed a secular lawyer to have his spirit enter a dog? Then the court believed that that had actually happened? And the remedy was now to stone the dog to death? Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.  Proof that crazy religious nuts are all over, I suppose, even in the courts.  UPDATE:  This story, which originally appeared in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, appears to be false.  The head of the court, Yehoshua Levin, now says "There is no basis for abuse of animals from the side of Jewish Halacha [law]'' and that the dog which had entered the court was simply "removed."  More herehere and here.  For those actually interested in the contradictory Halachic opinion on dogs, see here.  For a post on Islam and dogs, see here.

Kenya Supersizes Its Elephant Corridors:
If wild elephants are to make it in Africa, the Africans need to make sure that ancient migration corridors that follow the rains, and the grass and brush that comes with the rains, are respected.  Kenya is trying to do just that.

France Moves to Protect the Great Hamster of Alsace:
This is the last wild hamster in Europe, and as both the French and the courts of the European Union are involved, expect a cluster-fark of epic proportions. On the upside, it should make for a hilarious movie resulting in a lot of very nice Happy Meal toys.

The 10,000 Year Clock:
I did not win or lose the first Long Bet put up by the Long Now Foundation (I was beaten out by Ted Dansen), but I am happy to report that the 10,000 year clock continues apace.   Right now, a robot is carving steps inside the mountain where the clock will eventually be housed, and the largest of the clock components are now being assembled.  Read more about it at this link and check out the website on the 10,000-year clock as well.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It Takes More Than Money to Get a Falcon

This amusing ad is now on local TV, but I am going to use it as an instruction piece too.

You see, you can't actually own a falcon just because you have a little cash in hand.  That's how falcons, hawks and eagles are different from parrots or dogs.

Owning a falcon requires a person to first pass a Federal Falconry exam, and then take at least two years of apprenticeship with a master falconer or general class falconer in order to get a state and federal license to own a bird.

Before a bird is in hand, there must be at least two mew inspections (one by the master or general class falconer, and another by state or federal officials), and enough paperwork must be filled out to make a college student wilt.

The result: falconers tend to be dedicated fanatics who put their birds first and who go to incredible lengths to keep their charges healthy, both physically and mentally.

A falconry license is dependent upon the routine free flight of the bird, which means the owner and the bird not only have to train, they have to be in such tight sync that during hunting season the owner can tell you what his bird weighs within the weight of a penny.

What about Parrots and Pit Bulls? A very different story. Anyone with cash can buy these animals, and the results show.

In the world of large parrots we find a lot of birds as vicious as Harpy Eagles, feather-plucking themselves bald, and generally driven mad with boredom. Too many (perhaps most) are dead within a year or two of purchase, despite the fact that these birds should live to 30 years or more.

As for Pit Bulls, about half are given up to "shelters" within their first year or two of life. Once in the shelter system, Pit Bulls have little chance of being adopted out, and a 90 percent chance of being killed for no other reason than young fools are led to believe that a Pit Bull is "just like any other dog," and that if they are "good people" they will be sure to raise a dog that will be no more trouble than a hamster or a Labrador Retriever.

And the result: almost a million Pit Bulls are killed in this country every year -- more dead Pit Bulls than the total number of dogs registered by the AKC and the UKC... over 40 million pounds of dead Pit Bulls being tossed in land fills and incinerators every year.

And why? Because idiots keep breeding these dogs, and ignorants keep adopting these dogs based on a theory that all dogs are the same, that all dogs are blank slates, and that a young dilettante's love can cure all and make everything right.

Falconers and hawkers know better. They know a bird of prey is not a Zebra Finch, and that a Red-tail Hawk is not a Budgie or a Cockatiel.

Yes, a falconer may grumble at the expense, paperwork, and length of apprenticeship required to own and fly a raptor, but in the end they wear the right as a badge of honor, status and commitment.

The right to fly a falcon or hawk does not come with cash. It comes with a demonstration, over time, that the person manning the bird has the discipline and knowledge to fly a happy and healthy bird. Is there anything more beautiful than that? Is there anything better than the fact that this is NOT a "cash and carry" bird?