Archive for January, 2012

Must-Hate TV

January 31, 2012 - 9:38 pm Comments Off

Watching some of the commercials that run during my dwindling supply of favorite shows, I find myself in the curious position of seriously considering watching a show featuring Jamie Oliver.

This is a curious position because I truly loathe Jamie Oliver. I hate his smugness, I hate his accent, something about him makes me want to punch him until his dentistry justifies said accent. I found him merely offputting until I saw his chicken-nugget demonstration, at which point my hatred blossomed into its full fire*. There’s nothing wrong with promoting fresh, real food for children, which is an agenda I agree with, but he manages to do it on a basis of what seems to be primarily shame and disgust, which is no kind of healthy relationship to have with food. It’s also more than a little classist- some people don’t eat Kraft dinner because they don’t know any better, but because they have little time, little money, and it keeps forever on the shelf and provides enough calories to get through the day.

So now, apparently, Jamie Oliver is road-tripping his way through America on BBC America. And I really want to see it, because it will be like the finest, blackest espresso of hate. I don’t know why this should be; most of the time, people and characters I hate make me change the channel. But not this time. I think it would be genuinely entertaining to hate on Oliver for an hour or so a week.

Is this the appeal of reality TV?

*The upshot of the demo is he butchers a chicken carcass, then blends the scrap meat with fillers, breads it, and fries it. Apparently this is disgusting and horrifying because it’s not whole skeletal meat and chicken carcasses are gross. Our grandmothers would have called that responsible use of meat, and a professional chef like Oliver ostensibly is would call a chicken carcass materials for stock, not a gross thing to be thrown away. That’s not responsible food education, that’s teaching kids that only pretty food is good food. The stuff he blends, breads, and fries is perfectly good meat- it’s some of the fillers and preservatives that make commercial chicken nuggets less than ideal.

I Was Busy Tonight Too

January 30, 2012 - 10:12 pm Comments Off

Gonna run away and join the roller derby.

BRB, buying Ben-Gay.

I Was Busy Tonight

January 27, 2012 - 8:18 pm Comments Off

And this will mean jackall to 99% of you. Occupy Nerd Ranch!

U mad, Bro?

YO JOE!

So You Want A Purebred Puppy

January 26, 2012 - 6:37 pm Comments Off

Over at Marko’s place where I was a’browsing while bored, Lissa asked how one goes about finding a good breeder for a purebred pup.

Sounds like time for Way More Answer Than You Wanted! Getting any dog from any source has its own risks and pitfalls, and getting a purebred dog certainly has plenty.

Bad starting points:

– Newspaper classifieds. Sometimes good breeders advertise here, but usually it’s the domain of mills and people who bred their own purebred because they were cute/nice or to get some money back out of them. It’s perfectly possible to get a puppy this way that is healthy and delightful, but it’s a riskier option.

– The back of dog magazines. For the same reason as above. Your signal to noise ratio can be better here, as sometimes bigger kennels looking to boost their name will buy an ad space without advertising a particular litter; this is an especially good strategy if your kennel breeds a rare breed that almost certainly cannot be found locally for most people.

– Pet stores. Not only is the pup virtually guaranteed to be a mill dog, pet stores are breeding grounds for epidemic- AND you will probably pay twice as much as you would have from a breeder, at least in most breeds. (Some breeds make breeding them extremely inherently expensive and you should expect to take a hit either way- like, say, French and English bulldogs.)

Bottom line: most ethical breeders don’t breed litters primarily to sell, they breed in order to get a particular hoped-for result from the cross and sell according to what they got. They don’t need to go retail or advertise in the classifieds first because they want to have as much control as possible over where the pups go and into what circumstance, and second because they usually have waiting homes already- or at least contacts who’d know who is looking for a pup of that breed or why.

Good starting points:

– Your veterinarian is always worth asking. Vets have good breeder clients and horrifying breeder clients, and they can sometimes either recommend or warn you off breeders in your area, and may know about upcoming litters, particularly if the breed is a relatively common one.

– A friend or acquaintance who is already in the breed, so to speak. Or someone who breeds/shows/trials a different breed, but is active in the dog world. Breeders and show people usually know everyone local who also trials or shows, or if in their actual breed, everyone in the region.

– Google and your wits. Don’t search for “(breed) puppies for sale”, search the full name of the breed and by state. Established kennels often have websites, as it’s a good way to network and to attract people making a slow, non-impulsive search for a good bet in that breed. Unfortunately, so do millers, which brings us to:

Bad signs

– The puppies are from “champion lines”, or “papered”. Having one champion in the lines only means that, at some point, a dog who titled was genetically involved, no matter how far back; people who actually show or trial take “registered” for given, the same way you would take “is definitely a dog”. Someone who has to make a selling point out of “is definitely a dog” probably doesn’t have something you want.

– They seem to breed lots and lots of litters, and in several different breeds. Sometimes there’s a “he’s in Malamutes, she’s in Rottweilers” situation, or an established kennel also has one other breed, but usually there’s a primary and a secondary and the total number of litters is still relatively low. Places that advertise they always have puppies available are places to run away from, fast.

– They’ll sell you a pup online, sight unseen. They are more interested in your ability to pay than in why you want a pup of that breed and what you expect your dog to be like.

– There’s plenty about how cute and maybe healthy the puppies are, but almost nothing about the breed, about actual health testing and existing health issues in the breed, and about what their rationale and goals for breeding are.

Good signs

– Pedigrees rather than “papers” or “champion lines”. Pedigrees can be very informative for people within the breed that know how to read them; probably not to the average prospective pet home, but this is an attempt to provide real meaningful information about the pups’ lines.

– The site, or breeder, is up front about giving you reasons why you DON’T want this breed. No breed is without its issues, and none is a good fit for every person or family; good breeders care about the eventual fate of their pups and the last thing they want is for them to end up homeless because the owners couldn’t cope with normal issues in the breed.

– They are also up front about discussing health issues known to the breed, at length. Again, while some breeds are healthier than others, NONE is problem free, and this should not be hidden information. Along with this should be the records for health testing, where tests are available; at the very least you want to see OFA (orthopedic) and CERF (retina) certifications on breeding stock. For most large breeds you also want thyroid testing. When testing is not available, the breeder should be willing to chat about that issue.

– Links to national and/or local breed rescue on the main site. Good breeders tend to be a community, and they care about the breed as a whole, not just their own dogs. Active involvement is even better. Speaking of, there should also be some mention of what happens if, for whatever reason, you can no longer keep the dog; if the breeder cannot take the dog in themselves, they should have a backup plan that is not “shelter”. “It’s your dog now, it’s your problem” is something to run away from.

– Discussion of temperament, both in the breed in general and their dogs in particular. If it’s not up, ask. “Wonderful” is not a temperament in and of itself. Even great dogs have more specifics than that.

– A purpose for breeding beyond money and cute. Titles are a good sign; many different kinds of titles are as well, or at least they can be. Years ago I would have said that titles were mandatory, but I’ve since changed my mind; in some breeds especially that have been heavily modified by the ring, it’s no longer possible to win with a dog I would consider healthy or reasonable and some breeders have forgone the ring in favor of trying to bring back a sounder dog. The key here is that the breeder should be able to talk all day about their goals and guidelines for breeding and what results they’re getting.

– If the dog is of some physically extreme type, there should be extra discussion of what that dog’s particular needs are. Flat-faced breeds should come with warnings on how easy it is for them to overheat. Deep-chested breeds should come with warnings about bloat. Long-backed breeds such as Dachshunds should come with warnings about how easy it is for them to injure their backs. Hairless breeds should come with a “needs sunscreen”. Very thin-coated, lean breeds need warnings about how easy it is for them to get chilled. Heavy-eared spaniels need warnings about ear infections.

– Mention of “temperament” or “aptitude” testing. Usually this refers to the Volhard test. You’ll not see it much outside of trialing working and sporting breeds, however. A good breeder should be at least somewhat concerned about matching puppies to families and this is one way to get an outline of their drives and personality.

One last caveat: figure out if the breed you want is divided into working/sporting and show or “bench” lines, or is all show, or virtually all field/work. The odds are that unless you’re looking for a dog to actually do that job, in which case you probably already know how to track down what you want, you want show/pet lines, NOT working. Working/field/stock lines have energy and focus to match their job demands, they want and need work, and they will *not* be terribly reasonable housepets. A Border Collie whose parents both herded stock is not going to be just-a-pet, and unless you have stock that needs herding you almost certainly don’t want one. Most show breeds and lines have been significantly mellowed from their original incarnation.

There are also some breeds that are almost guaranteed to be field/work dogs; Patterdale terriers, Large Munsterlanders, and Boerboels are likely to turn up with their bags packed and ready for the job. Avoid unless that’s what you’re getting the dog for and you really know what you’re doing, especially guardian breeds. Unless roving bands of wolves and barbarians are a bigger problem for you than neighborhood kids, that can be a short path to the ER.

Don't Try This At Home

January 25, 2012 - 7:01 pm Comments Off

Via Chas, a story of a fellow who planned to live off the land for a year in Scotland. In a battle of man vs. wild, winter won and he is presumed to have died of hypothermia. (His body was not found for weeks so it’s difficult to tell.)

OK, couple of home lessons beyond just “don’t do that, are you retarded” for those of us in the audience who are of an independent, outdoors-loving bent who find survival skills useful and interesting to know.

1. The vast majority of survival courses and training aren’t oriented to “living off the land”, they’re oriented to surviving for timespans of a week or less. All sorts of things become problems over longer time periods, because our bodies cannot handle certain kinds of stressors indefinitely, partiuclarly persistent calorie deficit and especially acute shortage of protein and fat.

2. While it is correct to observe that we evolved as hunter-gatherers and that there are societies of hunter-gatherers all over the world and in all climes and locales, it is important to realize that physically, we evolved in savannahs where hypothermia isn’t really a problem. We are not designed for, say, northern European winters. While the evidence for the capability of humans surviving in Scotland is present in the Scottish, it’s also important to realize two other things.

3. When we arrived in places like Scotland, we did so with all sorts of pre-existing cultural knowledge and technology that rendered us better able to adapt to things like Scottish winters. When we arrived, the landscape was also vastly different; we became primarily agrarian long ago and the land now reflects that reality.

4. Humans evolved as hunter-gatherers and later succeeded in environments they were not physically designed for because they are, at core, a group-living species. All of our life history revolves around it. A group of humans can divide and pool labor to get more fuel, more shelter, more water, more care for the sick and injured, and more vigilance and defense from danger in a way a lone human just can’t compensate for. If you plan to survive off the land, you’d better bring some friends if you’re planning to do it all that long. Even Bear Grylls doesn’t really travel alone.

My Genitals Are More Depressed Than Anything, Really

January 24, 2012 - 5:17 pm Comments Off

So yesterday Stingray sent me this article by Kay Hymowitz saying it pissed him off and he couldn’t quite figure out what to say about it other than “Article about angry males makes male angry! Woo irony!”, and I wound up with this link from another source this morning.

I’m not going to bother to go through either one line by line. The Hymowitz piece is something I can barely even bring myself to call “sexist”, because between it and everything else I found by the same author, her raging contempt for men and women alike appears to be roughly equal, if shitty. The Ask Men piece is yet another in the genre of short magazine pieces that are written like stereo instructions for women.

It would rile me up and you’d pretty much know everything I was going to say anyway, so instead of trying to do it that way- I tried, but it kept getting away from me- some observations instead.

– I’ve seen an awful lot of men react to the feminist “don’t objectify women/objectifying women is a problem” complaint as though they were being asked to stop being heterosexual. Objectifying != being sexually attracted to; it literally means treating someone like an object rather than a person. If you can’t see people of the opposite sex as people rather than objects of sexual desire, that’s a problem, but the odds are that’s not the case for the generic-you reader. Here’s a hint: if you’re talking about people of (category that doesn’t include you) as though they were all interchangeable and worked by the same “rules”, you’re objectifying them. It’s just we talk about sexual objectification as much as we do because it’s a persistent problem in our culture where we sometimes have conversations about things like that; it beats the hell out of talking about objectification in the context of buying and selling people. A narcissist constantly treats people in their life as objects for gratification or resource, it’s one of the defining traits of narcissism. You can be wildly turned on by someone you see wholly as a person and really enjoy as a person; arguably that is the definition of romantic love. (Or, for that matter, by someone you really HATE for who they are, which is an option, albeit a sad one.)

– If you find yourself persistently dating people you dislike, it could be that you simply have very crappy luck- it happens!- but it’s more likely to be one of three others.

1. You’re dating people whose value systems and desires are totally incompatible with yours. If you want a serious, long-term, sexually exclusive relationship with someone who will treat you like a friend outside of bed that will maybe lead to marriage, stay the hell away from bars and clubs. If you want a sex buddy, trying to find one at church or work is probably not going to work.

2. Your value systems are the same, it’s just that your values are shitty, or at least incompatible with hooking up with people you like and respect. If you treat other people badly or see them primarily as resources to be manipulated, you’re mostly going to end up with people who see you exactly the same way. If you’re a straight man looking for casual sex who thinks that women who have casual sex are sluts and whores, you’re… probably not going to meet a lot of women you like. There’s a flaw in the system there, not the gender as a whole. If you’re a woman who views men who play video games and have interests other than marriage and work as overgrown children you must civilize into respectability, you’re probably not going to find a lot of men you like either.

3. Your social skills are underdeveloped, either because you’re very young and your experience pool is small, or because you’ve been viewing other people as objects and thus you’ve missed most of the subtleties in your search to find ways to make them behave interchangeably and consistently. Figuring out people and how they work takes an anthropologist’s attitude, not an engineer’s. There is nothing inherently wrong with being inexperienced or socially inept, though there is in feeling entitled to other people in various ways or getting pissed and concluding that most of the rest of the population is “broken” somehow.

– There’s a very persistent meme in our culture, which movies and many stories have a terribly unfortunate tendency to reinforce, that love and boy/girlfriends are rewards, not relationships. You get it because you were good enough, or nice enough, or proved your worth- you get it because you deserve it, you earned it.

In the real world it doesn’t work like that. Relationships are relationships, formed and negotiated between two individuals, and metrics like how nice or pretty or successful you are may factor in, in terms of making you appealing to be with or sleep with, but are way far away from being determinants. Sometimes relationships are formed on shitty terms, sometimes on terms easily understandable to outsiders to the relationship, sometimes on terms very difficult to understand, but they are not ever terms that can be laid out like stereo instructions. No one actually “deserves” a relationship, in the sense that no one deserves another person in an entitlement or earned sense; they only do in the generally well-wished sense that they will find happiness and relationships they want.

We usually find this much easier to understand with non-intimate relationships like friendships; most people comprehend that after the age of 12 or so, being the same age and both liking Nintendo is no longer sufficient basis for friendship. It’s a complex dynamic that depends partly on your behavior but also on just enjoying each other on an elemental level that’s difficult to describe or define. Adding sexual and romantic attraction on top of that (which are not always even the same thing) makes everything much more complex and fluid. Yet, more people seem to understand that you cannot argue someone into being friends with you than understand that you can’t argue someone into wanting to start, or remain in, a romantic or sexual relationship- but friendships carry *far* less cultural baggage.

– Lastly, if you cannot tolerate being in a relationship with someone who is not exactly like you and can’t be predicted as always wanting or doing the same things you would, you don’t need to date, you need to masturbate. If you cannot tolerate being in a relationship with an individual person who has unpredictable wants and needs unique to them that they may have trouble articulating at times, you don’t need to date, you need a RealDoll or a sex worker. If you find it enraging that other people have wants and needs and perspectives that yours don’t automatically trump, you need a therapist.

War Horse

January 23, 2012 - 5:55 pm Comments Off

A few days ago NFO posted about Sgt. Reckless, a hero of the Korean war. Watch the video at his place if you want a fuller version of the story, but the short version is that she was a locally purchased filly who ran ammunition and other supplies to and from the artillery line, often through heavy fire.

The video begins with the line “Can you imagine this little, sorrel filly in the middle of all this (warfare scens)”?

Knowing that she was a Mongolian horse, and that she was purchased at a Korean racetrack? Yes, I sure as hell can.

Americans and Europeans are used to thinking of war horses as particularly big and powerful examples of their kind; our idea of mounted warfare is usually of a big, heavy animal meant to carry a soldier with a lot of equally big and heavy gear. Thus, Reckless’s relatively small size is often mentioned in a slightly marveling tone.

In Asia, however, war horses were for light cavalry that could move quickly, didn’t carry much heavier than a javelin or a bow and arrow, and could survive and thrive at very high altitudes and relatively poor fodder. The big European draft horses and warmbloods* would either break their legs, starve, or have a heart attack under some of the conditions that Mongolians and Koreans put their war horses through. Reckless was exceptional, especially in the sheer degree of her nerve and her willingness to protect humans, but she wasn’t that special- Mongolian horses are meant to be tough, extremely strong for their size, fearless, and highly intelligent. Her ancestors were shuttling Genghis Khan and his raiders down the battlefield; the Korean war wasn’t that foreign a setting. In many ways it was what her lines were originally bred for, though by the time the Marines came along looking for a pack pony they were far more often found at the race track. The breed is old and little-changed, though, given that that gene pool is more left to fend for itself than not, and horses that humans did get their hands on that WEREN’T fast, tough, smart, and loyal were food.

The Marines got a war horse rather than a pack pony because by breed, that gene pool has maybe the best claim to the title of horses still living. It was luck and training that they got a great one, but still.

(Half credit for this post should go to Farmgirl, who gave me an education on the breed in an unrelated conversation a few weeks back. Sadly I did not remember the anatomical and conformation portion of that education well enough to justify expanding on it here.)

*note for non-horse people: “warmbloods” refers to a class of midsized horses used for work and war, with the term coming from “cold blood” to describe heavy draft horses and “hot blood” to describe light, fast saddle horses.

Ohm

January 20, 2012 - 8:39 pm Comments Off

It’s Friday. Have a puppy picture.

Anonymous v. Big Media v. .gov

January 19, 2012 - 5:54 pm Comments Off

Seems today federal prosecutors shut down Megaupload, which theoretically has nothing to do with SOPA/PIPA except thematically but certainly is timed “well”.

In response, Anonymous has shut down the Justice Department’s website. Also Universal Music, the MPAA home site, RIAA, Warner Music Group, a music licensing site, the US. Copyright department, and a few other sites I don’t recognize and obviously can’t access right now. You can watch Anonymous’s feed for the operation, as well as the speed for which #opmegaupload is trending.

Whether Anonymous is right or wrong (they’re usually some mix of both), it’s fascinating to watch, particularly the sheer speed with which coordination happens and the number of different languages being used to spread the word. No wonder dictatorships are afraid of Twitter and Facebook.

A Mystery For The Reader

January 19, 2012 - 5:32 pm Comments Off

Somewhere in this 40 second clip is the platonic cartoon ideal of Stingray.

I leave it to the reader to identify it.