Animal kingdom

The dogs are settling in to a better routine. We all have more
fun when they take their walks separately, so they decide who goes
first. This morning it was Sunny who went first, and we saw this
beetle on the sidewalk. Sorry, just the cell phone camera; I
didn’t have the real camera with me.

beetle on sidewalk

Monte finally got to meet the dogs downstairs, who have been
seeing and hearing (and barking at and with) him since he came.
Xander, the male Newfie, didn’t like him much, but he and Boo (a female
mutt
about his size) enjoyed chasing each other around.

Isabelle the iguana

Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of her, but she looks a
bit like this one from google images:

[iguana in Cincinnatti zoo width=450]

Sunny and I were hanging out on a beautiful evening in the
park when a neighbor walked up with her on top of his head and
introduced her as Isabelle. We’d
met the human before because he likes talking to Sunny. She’s apparently really
glad the warm weather has come at last and she can go for walks.
Her tail hangs down his back, to past his waist.

Dog Parks again

A few years ago, I made a post about the dog park that
Sunny and I
were going to. It was a big part of my life for several years,
but last year, they closed it for refurbishing at about the time
I was spending a lot of time on Bonnie’s
estate
. So I stopped being in the habit of stopping what
I was doing at 6 PM and going there and hanging out with Sunny’s
and my human and canine friends.

[Sunny at dog park in 2000]

There is actually an enclosed dog run not too far from there.
It’s nothing like as good a space but does seem to fill a
similar function for a smaller number of people.

I went to check it out last night, because starting next
Thursday, Sunny and I are going to be having his cousin Monte
stay with us while my mother and sister go to Poland for two
weeks. Now that Sunny isn’t moving so fast, there are a number
of places I can let him off the leash that aren’t official dog
parks, but I wouldn’t want to do that with a young, active dog like Monte
who doesn’t know the area.

[Monte]

As a place to take Sunny, it’s no better than a lot of more
convenient places we go, but assuming Monte turns out to be a good
dog park dog, I’ll probably be bundling both dogs into the car and
taking them there while I have the two of them to deal with.

One thing I noticed was that the owner who spent the whole time
she was there on her cell phone had to leave sooner than she had
planned on because her dog (a 2-year old Newfoundland) had some
undesirable interaction with another dog (I didn’t see what it
was; I doubt that it was anything serious). People really
shouldn’t assume a dog park is a substitute for interacting with
their dogs — you should be using the time to socialize with both
the dogs and the humans so that your dogs get used to how it’s
done right.

Doggie day care in an economic crisis

One of the guests at the cookout I attended yesterday runs a day care center for dogs. You would expect the demand for this to be fairly elastic, so people were asking him how his business was responding to the economic crisis.

He said it was actually holding fairly stable. Of course there are people who’ve lost their jobs and aren’t using day care for their dogs any more. But there are also people who have two jobs or longer commutes and need it more than they did.

And there are the people who thought they should cut back and then came back two weeks later and said the day care was cheaper than reupholstering the couch. Paul said these are all married people; single people just put something over the part that needs reupholstering.

Marley and Me

This
film
is exactly what you’d expect — Hollywood’s take on a
family’s love for its dog. I enjoyed it.

One thing some critics have said is that the
book
is a little bit less of a Hollywood picture of a
marriage. So that might be a good thing to read, some time when
you need an easy read, or one you can get from the drugstore or
airport bookstore.

The end of the movie is a tearjerker, but putting down a dog
you love is a difficult decision, and people should have seen
versions of it in other people’s lives. I thought the John Grogan
character’s verbalization of it was apt: Marley, you tell me when
it’s time. And the funeral where the children write letters to
Marley is beautifully done.

Of course the “world’s worst dog” subtitle is completely
unjustified; Marley doesn’t ever do anything that any dog doesn’t
do. The Kathleen Turner dog-trainer turn is brilliant, but not at
all fair to the dog-trainers I’ve known.

The least well-captured aspect of dog-ownership in the movie
was the other dog-owners in the park — my experience is that you
can get a great deal of support for dealing with a difficult dog
(and they’re all difficult sometimes)
from other dog-owners.

Hollywood doesn’t really try for the kind of accurate depiction
of a lifestyle that some of the European and Independant
film-makers do, but they really should have done better in the
scene where Marley decided stairs are too hard, even to sleep with
the family. He lies down in front of a blazing fire, which the
family is just leaving there as they go to bed. I’m sure this
isn’t what the real Grogan family does.

In terms of my personal situation, Sunny is at the stage where
he doesn’t always hear me come in, but he’s still dealing with
stairs. It will be a major decision point if he decides he can’t,
since I can’t carry him, and our apartment starts on the second floor.

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Following up

I’m back at home, mostly unpacked, and typing this on a real
computer, with an X-windows system that I know what it’s going
to do when I try to copy and paste, where emacs has psgml
installed, and there’s a clicky keyboard at the
right height. And it’s now past when I normally post, so I
thought for a quick post I would write some followup posts, and
save anything strenuous for tomorrow.

Pianos are out of tune

Saturday’s post
on tuning drew an official comment with a book
recommendation. It also drew an email from my friend Ishmael,
who works in a lab at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear
Infirmary
. A colleague of his has written an article
claiming that there’s a neurophysical basis for the stretched
octave. His research subjects for this article are cats, who
tend in my experience to have rather wierd musical tastes, so I
don’t know that this is relevant to why equal temperament was
adopted as the standard tuning by humans, but you can read it
and decide for yourself.

Ishmael also reminded me in the same email that we both play in
lots of contexts where the official tuning system is completely
irrelevant because enough of the performers or instruments
aren’t capable to keeping to a system. This is probably
historically true of an awful lot of music. Which is why many
tuning discussions seem pretty off-the-wall to most practicing
musicians.

Concert construction

Last Wednesday’s
post
about the concert program drew an email from one of the
participants. He agreed that more instrumental music would have
been good, and also said that a wider variety of instruments
(more serpent, some crumhorns) might have helped.

I’ve loved you so long

I said in my
post about this movie
that I’d had A la claire
fontaine
running through my head a little bit wrong since I
saw it. I eventually got out my book of French folk songs and
learned it.

Nokia 810

In my post on my
new Nokia 810
, I may have forgotten to mention that it
works much better than the Nokia 770 did as an MP3
player.

I also found a new application for it — because of the foldout
stand, I was able to set it up on my bedside table in Fall River
as a traveling clock.

Blogging in my 59th year

This post
drew a couple of comments, including one from Mike Cane, whom I had
cited as part of my inspiration for doing this.

He remarks that he’s sure the energy he put into it has
shortened his life, and he doesn’t know how people do it on a
longer term basis.

I think my one post a day isn’t quite as energetic as Mike was
doing — it doesn’t seem any harder than practicing a musical
instrument every day, which I’ve done for several decades. Of
course there is a limit to how many things you can do every day,
and this is cutting into some of the others.

Forgetting a baby

I was pointed to this
item
in the Washington Post from the Making Light
blog, one of many I read in Google Reader before
breakfast most mornings.

Like a lot of people, my first reaction was, “How can anyone
forget a baby?” But then I remembered a story from the early
nineties.

At that time, I had a cat named Geoffrey. I
thought he should be an indoor cat, but he wanted to be an
outdoor cat enough that in spite of how much bigger, stronger,
and smarter I was than he was, he quite often got out the door
when I got home.

[Geoffrey]

He didn’t want to be outdoors for very long at a time, and he
seemed to have a healthy fear of cars, so nothing very terrible
ever happened because of this — he would prowl around for half
an hour or so and then come sit by the front door and wait for
me to open it. I had the pet owner’s physical sense of where
Geoffrey was in relationship to me, so I always remembered to go
open the door a half an hour after this.

But one night, when the temperature was in the teens and headed
down to the single digits, I got home to a full answering
machine of messages I needed to do things about. I handled them
as well as I could, and tumbled into bed.

I think it was about 3 PM that I woke up to the sounds of a
very indignant cat outside on my front steps, and realized that
I had completely forgotten to let Geoffrey in.

I think I took this as a sign that I was trying to do too much,
and that this incident was one of many that led to my resigning
as chair of my neighborhood association, which had been the
source of all the answering machine messages.

But in any case, this happening gives me more sympathy for the
parents who somehow got their mental wiring screwed up enough to
forget a baby in a locked car on a hot day.

Thinking about this on my walk with Sunny this morning, I can
think of several reasons why this baby-baking phenomenon is
happening more often now than it used to:

  • More people trying to do too many things at once. You can
    make a case that just having a baby in this era is already too
    many things at once.
  • The technical problem alluded to in the article, where
    current thinking on physical safety of babies in cars leads to
    the car seat being in the back seat with the baby facing the
    rear of the car, that is, away from the driver.
  • Increased worry about security leading people to leave their
    cars locked with all the windows closed as a general rule. I’m
    sure when I was growing up (before most cars had air
    conditioning), most people left some windows open when they left
    their car on a hot day. When I leave Sunny in the car, which I
    try to avoid on days that are particularly cold or hot, I always
    leave two windows open several inches. Of course, he looks like
    a pretty formidable watchdog, even if he’s mostly retired these days.