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Archive for January, 2010

The latest, A Dog At Sea (pictured and purchasable above), has been out a month today.  I have only just now gotten my land legs back.

Being the author and the subject of a series of book while gratifying can also be quite tiring and at times, frankly, a bit disheartening when one suspects that one’s work is not always quite understood.  Fortunately, I have a corp of stalwart fans who frequently remind me that they “get it” and appreciate Yours Truly and the books.  Thank you!  There are also, from time to time, those reviewers and critics who courageously brave the dangerous shallows of the misleading “cozy” label and champion the depths they find in my books.  Today, I would like to link to Detectives Beyond Borders and his insightful and brave writings.  His blog is well worth a visit at any time –it is a lively place and raises the bar for all of us who value writing.  He found fit to pick out a few excerpts from my books and make some excellent points:

2) I also like a couple of bits inside the book, including:

“He crammed what looked like a Maryland crab cake into our deeply troubled refrigerator, the interior of which had remained a shadowland of petrified broccoli and pizza since the bulb burned out months before.”

and

“His reputation in the writing life had been launched and sustained by this pedigree of mid-twentieth-century entitlement and superiority, which by the time of his death in the twenty-first century, was anachronistic.”

and, for what it says about Randolph as a palatable contemporary vehicle for sentiments that might seem precious, dated or eccentric in the mouth of a twenty-first-century human fictional detective, this:

” … the detective is the last true humanist, standing at that intersection where observation and reason meet emotion and intuition revealing the secrets that measure our fragile, inconstant, but extraordinary beings.”

January 30th, 2010
3:45 am

Recently there has been some mumbling (just within earshot of Yours Truly) about a future trip to Australia.  In keeping with my habit of looking before I leap (not always successfully as is borne out by my plunge from the Nordic Bliss into the Caribbean), I decided to do a bit more research into this continent.  As I mentioned in my recent post about Bronson (the Labrador pictured below with a snake wrapped around his snout), Australia is home to some of the most venomous creatures on the planet.  This wouldn’t be so worrisome if those venomous creatures were enormous and either made a racket when they approached or skittered away into the bushes when you approached.  Naturally, when I first heard of the Irukandji jellyfish, I assumed that we were speaking about a large creature.  As you can see from the photo above, this is not the case.  The Irukandji has nearly invisible angel hair pasta tentacles matched with a nearly invisible body the size of a pencil eraser.  Not only will you not see or hear this one coming, you will probably not know that you have encountered him until Irukandji Syndrome develops twenty minutes later.  Which syndrome is defined (by Wikipedia) as: Irukandji syndrome is produced by a very small amount of venom and includes severe pains at various parts of the body (typically excruciating muscle cramps in the arms and legs, severe pain in the back and kidneys, a burning sensation of the skin and face), headaches, nausea, restlessness, sweating, vomiting, high heart rate and blood pressure, and psychological phenomena (such as the feeling of impending death).

Perhaps I should stage a boycott (or sleep-in) in my sunlit corner.

January 27th, 2010
2:41 am

The photograph above of Bronson, the Labrador, with a copperhead snake around his schnoz is yet another reason for Yours Truly to give thanks for his urban surroundings.  Here is Bronson’s tale from the Herald Sun (it is almost pointless to remind my good readers that this latest dangerous-animal-encounters-dog story comes to us from Australia that rugged country which boasts 17 of the world’s most venomous creatures):

HE’S never had a nose for trouble before but black labrador Bronson sure knows how to turn heads with his retrieving tricks.

The champion obedience dog stunned his Victorian owners when he recently returned to them to proudly show off his latest find.

Locked firmly in his jaws and coiled around his snout was a long, live snake, believed to be a deadly copperhead.

“He’s normally an excellent duck dog but he’ll pick up absolutely anything and return it to us, hanging on to it until we say ‘give’,” Deborah Allen said.

“My husband Peter didn’t know he’d lost his mobile phone out in a paddock recently until Bronson returned with it in his mouth.”

The couple were lucky to be at home together at their property at Yarragon on January 4 when Mr Allen called out to his wife: “Hey, come and look at this.”

“There was Bronson with the snake hanging out of his mouth and the snake’s body wrapped around his nose,” Ms Allen said.

“We weren’t sure if it was alive or not and we touched its head which was down at ground level and it moved - it appeared slightly stunned.”

As they grappled with a plan to deal with the snake, Mr Allen told his wife to quickly take a photo first.

“He didn’t reckon anyone would believe it,” she said.

With a camera always by her side, Ms Allen captured the stunning sight as perfectly obedient Bronson, 11, remained totally rigid, trained not to move his head while carrying anything he had retrieved.

“But he had a real forlorn look on his face like he was saying ‘Hurry up and take this thing’,” Ms Allen said.

Ms Allen said their second labrador, Madeline, usually tried to steal anything Bronson was carrying.

“But this is the first time ever she wouldn’t have a bar of him. She kept well away.”

Ms Allen found a chaff bag and lowered it to the ground, pulling the bag up and over the snake while at the same time releasing its body which remained wrapped around Bronson’s snout.

“And as soon I said ‘Give’ he dropped it right into the bag and we sealed up the ends.”

With the snake safely stored, the pair rushed Bronson to the West Gippsland Veterinary Centre where a coagulation blood test confirmed Bronson had copped a bite.

Four days in hospital followed on a drip, but Bronson is now happily at home.

Australian Veterinary Association president Peter Gibbs said an alarming number of pets had been brought to clinics this summer for treatment of snake bites.

“Snakes tend to be at their most active towards the end of day, with snake bites usually happening in late afternoon or early evening,” Dr Gibbs said.

“Dog owners should avoid snake-prone areas.”

Symptoms of snakebite include seizures, vomiting, bleeding around the bite, weakness in the limb and paralysis. The animal will collapse with laboured breathing.

Urgent treatment is needed but call ahead so they have antivenene on standby.

Here is the link…the comments seem to suggest that this sort of thing is a regular occurrence over there (I think I’ll stay put on the Upper West Side).

January 23rd, 2010
2:54 am

A friend of Yours Truly just sent me word of the new “bowlingual” device.  Apparently, you can now buy equipment that will translate your dog’s barks.  Here are some snippets from the website:

The Bowlingual dog translator translates your dogs barks. You’ll know if your dog is:

  • happy
  • sad
  • frustrated
  • on-guard

How this marvel is accomplished is (vaguely) elaborated upon in this interesting chart:

Dog Translation

Bowlingual Dog Translation uses sophisticated Voiceprint Analysis. The Voice Translation Function analyzes the dog’s voice and compares it to over 200 emotion patterns. The dog’s voice is translated from sound into words and pictures on the LCD screen.

Emotion
Symbol
Translation
Happy
Happy Dog Symbol
  • I’m excited
  • I’m ready to play
  • I love you!
  • Great…Let’s go!
  • I’m on top of the world.
Sad
Sad Dog Symbol
  • I miss you.
  • I feel sad.
  • Remember me?
  • Please dont forget me!
  • Please take me out of here!
On Guard
On Guard Symbol
  • You can’t beat me!
  • I don’t like it.
  • Leave me alone
  • That’s bad!
  • Just try it!
Showing Off
Showing Off Symbol
  • Look at me!
  • I want to help you!
  • Show me more!
  • I feel great!
  • I’m OK- how are you?
Frustrated
Frsutrated Dog Symbol
  • This is too much!
  • I want some fun!
  • Please play with me!
  • Please be quiet!
  • Please listen to me.
Needy
Needy Dog Symbol
  • Please play with me some more!
  • Spend more time with me.
  • We need some quality time together.
  • Let’s play more together.
  • I need a friend.

Is it for real?  I have no idea.  Here is the link for you to explore for yourself.  I’ll be roused from my Labrador slumber if they launch a translator that translates an intelligent dog’s musings on Dante.  If this happens, you might just see me hit the lecture circuit (even if it means wearing one of those goofy plastic collars).  Expressing frustration or my earnest desire for more food (something that the translator doesn’t seem to handle) I can manage on my own.

January 19th, 2010
8:07 pm

Yours Truly is always a bit reluctant to talk about animal consciousness and intelligence (since as he often thinks “To be underestimated is to remain free.”), still this particular story about research showing that fish don’t have the poor memory that many have thought is well worth a glance.

SCIENTISTS SAY FISH NOT HALF-BAKED

Ben Cubby
January 16, 2010 - 12:03AM

FISH are much smarter than we think, say Australian researchers who have spent years probing their hidden depths.

And, just when you thought it was safe to buy an aquarium, the enduring myth that goldfish swim happily around because they have a three-second memory span has been thoroughly debunked.

”That fable has been totally put to bed now,” said a Macquarie University behavioural ecologist, Culum Brown. ”It’s well established that fish have relatively long memories and to be honest it was ludicrous that anyone ever thought otherwise. They’re intelligent creatures that learn and adapt.”

The research underpinning this view will feature in a new edition of the fish expert’s bible, Fish Cognition and Behaviour, to be published this year.

As well as editing the book, Dr Brown has carried out original research of his own on allegedly-forgetful fish. In one experiment, fish in a tank were assailed by a trawler-like mechanism and had to figure out an escape route. It took about five attempts until the fish mastered the art of escape, but when they were subjected to the same experience a year later, they remembered what to do the first time round.

”This was for fish that live about two years in the wild, so the evidence is that the memory was ongoing for much of their lifespan,” Dr Brown said. ”That was about the record for fish memory findings so far, but the results are limited more by the difficulty of repeating the experiment years later than it is by the memories of the fish.”

The animated film Finding Nemo, which features an absent-minded fish character named Dory, divides fish researchers.

”I suppose I’m a glass half full kind of guy, but I really loved that film because I think it demonstrated how absurd it is that anything could live without a memory,” Dr Brown said.

January 17th, 2010
12:05 pm

I came across this video and am treating it as at least tentative evidence that dogs can sense earthquakes.  I will note that while Sophie bolts out one door, all of the humans go in the opposite direction (hopefully a safe one).  As with any talent or additional sense, the addition of what Rabbit called “brain” is important.

January 15th, 2010
11:52 pm

It is not my habit to be too current, but the recent earthquake in Haiti and the tragedy still unfolding there leads me to reflect on the role that dogs –indeed, Labradors– will be playing in the efforts to find and free those in the rubble.  Pictured above is Cadillac and handler, Jasmine Segura, of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue team.  Cadillac has been trained to use that extraordinary canine nose to detect living victims.  CNN interviewed Segura and Cadillac at 2:19 here (I think the reporter calls Cadillac “Chocolate” by mistake or perhaps this is a different dog –yes, sometimes it’s even difficult for me to tell difference between my kind).  In any case, the team is en route as I write.  All the best to them and to Haiti.

January 14th, 2010
12:28 am

Scout being greeted by a nosy New Yorker.

I really have to wonder about my devotion to The New York Times.  How many articles have I attempted to leave comment only to be denied by some unseen moderator (an Ivy-league apprentice stewing anti-dog over a morning cappuccino?) despite the obvious thought that has gone into my contribution and the lack of space limitations in the digital format (this is not, after all, a niggle over the cramped letters to the editor section).

Still the Gray Lady delivers value more often than she does not.  As a well known and wise critic once said about the newspaper: she’s a shabby old thing, but she’s the best we have.  For now, at least, I’ll hold to that and pass along word about the ongoing “Puppy Diaries”  series, wherein Miss Jill Abramson documents in twice monthly columns the trials of raising her puppy Scout.  I haven’t read all the columns (puppyhood through my own eyes and recollections remains an almost unmitigated delight; I have little interest in re-living it through the eyes of a human victim).   However, she seems to include a wealth of practical and scientific information –as one would expect from the over-active and educated mind of a Times contributor– so many of you might find it good reading, although my sense is that a little less thinking and (dare I sound so Zen) a little more being is a good strategy for the owner of any puppy.   Here is the link to the series page.

And, for those of you who have not yet heard, A Dog At Sea is out and I have been told that it was worth the risk of Yours Truly’s life and his four limbs:

January 12th, 2010
2:26 am

The newly-arrived Californian Chihuahua pictured above is wearing an I Love New York button.  I would too, given that he has arrived in a place that is happy to receive him and give him a home.  Apparently, there is an over-abundance of Chihuahuas in California, but a shortage in New York.  From the number of times the frisky little things have nipped my ankles at the Bull Moose Dog Run, I find this deficit hard to believe, but since it appears in The New York Times it must be true (or at least not wildly inaccurate).  Here is a link to the story and a portion is pasted below.  Welcome Californians!

A passenger in Seat 20E took a two-hour nap. A fellow traveler nearby named Malibu had trouble relaxing, and was given a mild sedative. A cross-country plane ride from San Francisco to New York City will do that to you — especially if you happen to be an eight-pound dog.

On Virgin America’s Flight 12, which arrived on Wednesday at Kennedy International Airport, there were 108 human passengers, three flight attendants, two pilots and nine Chihuahuas.

The dogs, joined later by six other Chihuahuas who made it to New York on another flight, sped down the Van Wyck Expressway that evening in two vans to their new temporary home on the East Side of Manhattan — the Adoption Center of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, at 424 East 92nd Street.

Northern California it is not. The center is across from a few of the city’s public housing towers, where pit bulls and other large dogs have posed such a problem that officials made the controversial decision last year to ban them from similar complexes. Down the block, construction workers tore up the road with heavy machinery, Chinese-takeout deliverymen raced through red lights on their bicycles, and a man had transformed his white Volvo into a four-wheeled billboard, scrawling messages all over the car in black marker (“Support Your Local Nut,” one read).

Yet since arriving at the East Side shelter, the 15 Chihuahuas — Jeb, Orlando, Bella, Colette, the aforementioned Malibu, Annie, Bebop, C. J., Nala, Sherlock, Hancock, Honey, Tina, Holly and Maximus — have been adjusting to life in the big city. Some of them are living in fourth-floor condos (that’s what the A.S.P.C.A. calls its deluxe, glass-walled rooms), listening to classical music that is piped in and enjoying three walks outside and two feedings a day.

January 10th, 2010
12:35 pm


View StreetZaps NYC in a larger map

I am usually reluctant to promote websites, but decided to make an exception after receiving an email from Mr. Blair Sorrel, founder of www.Streetzaps.com, an organization apparently devoted to raising awareness about the electrical dangers that regularly confront (and sometimes sadly maim or kill) urban dogs. As many of you know, street zapping plays a role in the plot of my first novel, A Dog About Town. Unfortunately, this is one entirely non-fictional danger in my work (besides man’s tendency to murder each other) and one that people ought to know about. Above is a map of various New York electrical hazards and places where shocks have occurred. Below in italics is some cautionary information Mr. Sorrel has provided. Here is to a New Year with no (or at least fewer) shocks!

WHY URBAN METAL ISN’T PRECIOUS  -Blair Sorrel, Founder, www.StreetZaps. com, 212-877-2104

Of course, you want a worry-free walk year-round, so adopt this simple strategy:

EYEBALL THE BLOCK, AVOID A SHOCK.

Take just a few seconds to survey the immediate surroundings and make your trajectory toward a non-conductive surface, ie., plastic, wood, cardboard, rather than risking any metal or electrical fixture. The lowly, free-standing garbage bag, is you and your dog’s best friend, most of the time, unless it’s snowed and salted. Consider the safer, hardware-free RopeNGo leash and harness to help shield against a possible zapping and for greater peace of mind.

CONTACT VOLTAGE IS, INDEED, A BITCH.

Your pooch’s sex is irrelevant. True, the most gruesome scenario is that of a male dog electrocuted by its ricocheting urine, but contact voltage is just that, mere interaction with an energized surface. Our poster girl sidled a fire hydrant and limped for five days. Intuit your dog’s cues, if resistant to an area, choose an alternative route. Elude potentially live work areas or carry your canine, if necessary. Opt for indoor products such as The Pet Loo, Hammacher Schlemmer’s Indoor Restroom, or Wee-Wee Pads, if external conditions are ominous. Dog booties can leak and make your pooch even more vulnerable.

ARE YOU PLAYING RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH YOUR DOG?

Any of these fixtures might be dangerous, so again, choose non-conductive where and when possible. (link to home page fixtures listed below and/or the visuals page):

View All Home Page & Safety Images

Street & Traffic Lights can leak if damaged internally, even if the compartment is fully closed and the light is not illuminated

– While wooden blocks anchor Scaffolding or Sidewalk Sheds, be aware that sloppy wiring by a contractor and/or the use of lighting equipment which is NOT WATER-PROOFED or even suitable for outdoor usage, may still shock a passerby.

– ATM Vestibules

– Decorative Lighting

– Dog Booties may increase
the risk of a shock

– Electrical Boxes

– Fire Hydrants

Fire Police Call Boxes

– Manhole Covers

– Muni Meters

Phone Booths

– Service Boxes

Street Light Boxes

– Traffic Boxes

– Work Areas

After all, why chance it when there’s a choice?

BETWEEN YOU, ME, AND THE LAMPPOST.

Tampered equipment can become pernicious so please map damaged fixtures and known hot spots to admonish other pedestrians and alert the utility and transportation department.

(Utilize StreetZaps’ Report Form, thank you).

January 8th, 2010
4:53 am