Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year of the Tiger

11:45 and these great young adults are rallied round the dining table playing a game and laughing. (darling daughter is 2nd from right). With all the noise they are making, it will be difficult for me to get to sleep but I don't care. They are home and safe and happy. The best start to this year of the tiger. As for me, I'm reading the end of the latest John Irving novel tonight, and earlier today my friend Sue and I went to a matinee of "It's Complicated". We loved it. If you are a fan of romantic comedy, it may be a must see for you too.

Blessings of good health to all of you - most of the rest of life's stuff can be worked out.

From the archives - Give more, expect less (Sept 2009)

I had a wonderfully restful day yesterday and feel better for it today. Thank you for all the good wishes you sent.

I've had some emails recently from younger women thanking me for being their role model. I love getting those emails because one of the things I hope to achieve writing on my blog is to show, by example, how we can work towards a better future simply

Is 400 Million Pounds of Dead Pit Bull Enough?

As you can see from the graph, above, canine shelter impounds and euthanasias have seen a steady decline for more than 30 years. This trend continues across the nation.

Now for the other math.

Nearly a million Pit Bulls were euthanized in American shelters last year --more dogs than were registered by the American Kennel Club.

Rather than decline, Pit Bull euthanasia rates have been on the rise for 30 years due to the fact that Pit Bill "lovers" continue to breed these dogs, and Pit Bull "lovers" then acquire them as puppies only to abandon them in jaw-dropping numbers that far exceed demand.

More Pit Bulls were killed in shelters this year than the total number of dogs registered this year by the American Kennel Club.

In the last decade, about 800,000 Pit Bulls a year have been killed in shelters (the number is rising, and is now nearly one million).

To put it another way, about 8 million 50-pound Pit Bulls were euthanized in Animal Shelters in the last 10 years.

More than 400 MILLION POUNDS of Pit Bulls were euthanized in American shelters this decade.

How can we assure that more than 400 million pounds Pit Bulls are killed in the decade ahead?

Just follow these steps, which helped this last decade improve on the record Pit Bull kill rates of the 1980s and 1990s:

  1. Be sure to devote 100 times more space to the evils of local and national animal control organizations than you do to the need to spay and neuter Pit Bulls. Remember that it is not enough to stand silent about the need to spay-neuter Pit Bulls -- you need to demonize the people who have one million Pit Bulls a year dumped on their doors. Remember the problem is never Pit Bull breeders or owners. The problem is always with those who have yet to figure out how to cope with the massive Pit Bull mess thrown into their laps. Only by talking about their failures, can the Pit Bull community keep the spotlight off of their own silence and acquiescence to the problem. Make this "Step One," and we are to kill more Pit Bulls in the decade ahead than we did in the decade behind.
  2. Continue to say Pit Bulls are "just like any other dog." If anyone points out that no other breed is abandoned at these rates, that no other breed is euthanized in these numbers, and that no other breed is implicated in so many violent dog attacks, be sure to claim that raising these points is bigotry. No other response is needed. This tactic worked fabulously well in the past decade, and was key to achieving rising Pit Bull kill rates this past decade. Let's keep it up!
  3. Define the problem as being about dog fighting and law enforcement. Ignore the fact that most euthanized Pit Bulls are not fighting dogs, and that there is no law against breeding dogs or dumping poorly placed dogs in local animal shelters. It's enough to say "those people" are the problem and that "animal control" is not doing its job. However, if animal control ever does show up to levy a fine or seize a dog, be sure to scream "Gestapo" as loudly as you can, and never mind if you have any evidence.   When all else fails, divert the conversation to Michael Vick.

There is every reason to believe we will kill more Pit Bulls in 2010 than in 2009.

We have already started the year off with a bang. With the help of Pit Bull breeders and owners who have supplied the dogs and then abandoned them, we can expect more than 2,400 dead dogs to die tomorrow!

Sure, it's just a start, but if the Pit Bull community will continue to follow the three-step program outlined above, I know the numbers will only increase in the decade ahead. Remember: If you keep on doing what you always did, you'll keep on getting what you always got.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

From the archives - Living Small (October 2007)


It never occurred to me when I was a spender that I was actually giving away my independence. I thought the opposite. I believed I was the queen of my realm and the more I had and the more dollars I spent, the more power, strength and independence I had. When I stopped spending I realised how pathetically wrong that was.

What I was doing was working in a job I didn't

WW and Elroy

I'm a bad WW Blogger today, but I have an excuse. I'm racing around this morning trying to get things done so that I can go meet my new grand nephew Elroy. That's him ah, "sitting" in my niece Meghan's lap. He's black and WHITE, so let's pretend it counts OK?

A special thank you to all of the new visitors to oldgreymare because of the lovely post June wrote about me. I am overwhelmed and so touched by the outpouring of good wishes and kindness from all over the world (literally, all over the world!) It will take me days to read all of your blogs but I plan to visit every one. We all have that one thing in common. We all love June! Isn't she just the best? That is why the gift box was sent her in some way let her know how many lives she touches in a positive way. She's a blessing. I promise to do WW better next week. Maybe show all the white in my house going down instead of being put up? OK , so that wouldn't be too interesting. I'll think of something I promise.

Happy New Year! WOOF!

Pit Bulls and Holocaust Deniers

When told that nearly a million Pit Bulls a year are now being killed at shelters, and that these dogs were bred by Pit Bull "lovers" who then sold them to other Pit Bull "lovers" who then abandoned them to their death a year or so later, most of the folks who have been boiled in the oil of the Pit Bull community are shocked.

You mean Pit Bull "haters" are not the problem? No, they are not. Pit Bull haters are not breeding the dogs. Pit Bulls haters are not abandoning the dogs. Pit Bull haters are not fighting the dogs. Pit Bull haters are not abusing the dogs. That's all on the Pit Bull "lovers".

You can see the tiny mental wheels working .... rationalizing. And, then, as predictable as a squaking parrot, the excuse for abuse kicks in, most of it framed on the same same stage as that used by Holocaust deniers and minimizers.

  • A million Pit Bulls a year? That's not so bad. That's only 40% of all canine euthanasias.
    "Even if we agree a few million Jews died at Auschwitz, let's remember how many Sioux died from smallpox after Columbus. Also let's remember all those deaths on the Russian front. Besides, people die in wars all the time. So what?"

  • Humane groups are blamed for not doing more to stop "back yard breeders," and its proclaimed that "no one else has the money" to do anything.
    "The Americans could have bombarded the railroad tracks to Auschwitz and the other death camps. If Jews died, it's the Americans fault. The average German could have done nothing."

  • The number must be wrong. After all, they are experts, they had no idea.
    "The mass killing and burning of millions of Jews? It's all a fiction. The towns people at Auschwitz said they smelled nothing. And really, who knew more about what was going on than they did? They were right there!"

  • No one knows what a Pit Bull is, and so no one has any data.
    "The Jewish holocaust numbers are fiction. Everyone looked alike in Germany to the point the Jews had to wear a Star of David. No one really knew who was Jewish. Besides, not everyone who died in Auschwitz was a Jew -- some were dwarfs, or gay, or mental defectives, or Catholics. All the numbers are meaningless."

  • It all has to do with poor people with bad values. As soon as we get rid of all the poor people and all the bad values, everything will be fine.
    "What happened in World War II is not Germany's fault. The Germans should never have been treated so harshly at the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. The Germans were really the first victims here, and the Jews just followed as collateral damage. If you want to assess blame, then blame the countries that wrote the Treat of Versailles."

That's about it, isn't it?

Those are the head-in-the-sand arguments made in defense of doing nothing, saying nothing, and ignoring the over-breeding of Pit Bulls in this country.

It's no big deal, nothing can be done, we had no idea, and besides if anyone is to blame it's those people who framed the Treaty of Versailles."

Of course there is another argument.

This one was heard all the time in the U.S. in the 1930s. It goes like this:

"Every country is independent, and we do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. We can try to persuade the Germans not to do bad things to the Jews, but really, it's their people, and we would not want to violate any country's sovereignty. That would violate our principles."


Wouldn't want to violate any "principles." There is no principle against killing a million Pit Bulls a year. No one to blame for that! All perfectly legal. Nothing can be done. Why even talk about it?

Besides, who cares? They're just dogs. Pig-chasing dogs.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Screaming Vixens

It's 2 am, and one of my yard foxes is screaming for a mate in the front yard. This is the mating call of the red fox, and when they do it (in late December through early February), their jaws are so wide they seem unhinged, as in the picture at left.

The sound itself sounds a bit like a cat in distress, or a dying rabbit, My fox was next to the tall ornamental grass right outside my study window and in full view, and I have to say I got a real eye full and it was quite thrilling.

To hear what it sounds like (mine was much closer, as he was screaming just 5 feet from where I now type) click here.

Fox generally give birth around here in mid-March, but they have been know to cub or whelp as early as mid February (rare) or as late as April 1st (rare). For the record, fox offspring are called kits, pups, or cubs -- all three terms are proper and fine, and they are born coal-grey and redden off as they get a bit older and start to tumble out of the den (around mid-April).

Love Is All You Need

On December 7th, 2009 at 1:30 pm GMT Starbucks invited musicians from all over the world to sing together at the same time to raise awareness for AIDS in Africa. In that one moment, musicians from 156 countries played "All You Need is Love" together.

I think John Lennon would definitely approve.

This song, by the way, was the first live global television link, watched by 400 million people in 26 countries, via satellite on June 25, 1967 with John, Paul, George and Ringo on vocals and instruments, and Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful, Keith Richards, Keith Moon, Eric Clapton, Pattie Harrison, Jane Asher, Mike McCartney, Graham Nash, Gary Leeds and Hunter Davies singing in the fade out at the end (some on tape). How cool is that?

Sweet Carola


Please contact me through my email link here on my blog. I have so much I want to say, but could not find a link for your email on either site. First Thing: Thank you so much for all your wonderful comments- you absolutely made my day, maybe even my week, and I will be going all through your beautiful blog starting this evening. Just the first page alone has me in awe. I am thrilled to meet YOU!

a note to all:

Please hold special thoughts for a friend of mine who is going through a tough time. I just learned tonight of her troubles and do not wish to invade her privacy by sharing here, but please send up a prayer for good health for that friend of Suzan's. We're all in this alone and therefore we're all in this together.

Monday, December 28, 2009

From the archives - Just do it (April 2009)

I'm having a short break but I noticed there are a lot of readers visiting this morning. I've decided to occasionally feature popular posts from the archives so you have something to read when you visit.



Anna S by Carl Larsson from here.

I really enjoyed reading a comment from Elizabeth yesterday. She said, in part, “I have been reading your blog for

Bo Obama Does Not Have Rabies

Bo Obama does not have rabies, but that hardly matters to the law, which is why he is back at the White House this Christmas vacation, even as Barack, Michelle and the kids jet off to the land of sun, beach, volcanoes and "Dog the Bounty Hunter."

It seems Hawaii has a strict canine quarantine policy, requiring a 5-day isolation and a current blood test (done within the last 120 days) or else there is a 120-day isolation in order to avoid an incidence of rabies ever coming to the island.

Who knew?

The Decline in Terrier Coats

Christine W. writes:

Is a proper wire coat easy to lose with careless breeding? After looking at many pictures of old terriers from 50-100 years ago, it seems they've gotten much 'woollier' than they used to be. For instance, the old Wire Fox Terrier looked like it had a coat very similar to a JRT in it's earliest days, but now it seems much longer haired. Is it the result of breeding for 'beards' and other points other than a natural short, hard coat?

My reply:

Yes, you have it exactly.

A really hard coat that sheds water and briar is what you want on a terrier in cold country. A hard coat is somewhat brittle, and the hairs will naturally break off if they get too long. Dog show judges, who generally have NO IDEA what is actually important in a working dog, generally judge on all the wrong things. Chest size alone is more important that everything else that can be judged in the ring, but one of the few important visible things you want in a working dog (other than chest size) is a decent coat. A long curly coat is a soft coat, and a soft coat cannot shed water, ice and dirt like a hard one. I much prefer a good smooth coat to a woolly coated dog.

The best coat on a working terrier, in my opinion, is what is called a "slape coat." Not sure of the origins of the word, but I have been using it for more than 25 years and everyone who works dogs in the UK knows what it means as well. It's a hard coat, and pretty short, and it lays down with hard guard hairs on the outside. You will see it on a good working Patterdale or Fell and sometimes on a Jack Russell of the right sort. Border terriers often have terrific slape coats, but we are seeing those get ruined by the ring as well.

I put coat a distant second to chest size in importance when looking for a working terrier, but when you are out foxing and the temperature is 15 degrees and its 20 mile-per-hour winds, you want a coat that is hard, and which the wind and water and ice cannot blow through. A linty coat or a long and woolly coat will generally not do. A working terrier has no "furnishings" at all. In fact, if you ask a working terrierman about his furnishings, he will show you his couch!

Knut Haugland Has an Obit That Must Be Read

Dead at age 92, he escaped three times from the Germans in WWII, was a major figure in the Norwegian resistance movement, ate a reindeer's stomach, helped lead a daring nuclear raid against the Germans, had his life made into a movie (starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris), and was the last survivor of the Kon Tiki expedition which traversed the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood raft. >> Read his obituary and wish yours could ever be as good.

Pit Bulls In the River

A slightly modified tale:

One summer in the village, the people gathered for a picnic. As they shared food and conversation, someone noticed a Pit Bull in the river, struggling and yelling. The dog was going to drown!

Someone rushed to save the dog. Then, they noticed another yowling Pit Bull in the river, and they rushed in to pull that dog out. Soon, more dogs were seen drowning in the river, and the townspeople were pulling them out as fast as they could. It took great effort, and they began to organize their activities in order to save the Pit Bulls as they came down the river. As everyone else was busy in the rescue efforts to save the dogs, two of the townspeople started to run up the shore of the river.

“Where are you going?” shouted one of the rescuers. “We need you here to help us save these dogs!”

“We are going upstream to stop whoever is throwing them in!”

And who is throwing them In?

Not Pit Bull haters. Pit Bull lovers.

Almost a million Pit Bulls a year are being killed in animal shelters across the U.S.

All of these dogs were bred by people who said they loved Pit Bulls.

All of these dogs were bought or acquired as puppies by people who said they loved Pit Bulls.

And almost all of these dogs were relenquished to the pound or "shelter" when their owners found out that an adult Pit Bull comes with a lot of responsibility.

Pit Bulls are not being pushed into the river by breed specific laws.

Cities that do not have such laws are killing dogs wholesale.

In fact, some of the cities with the lowest Pit Bull kill rates are cities that have banned the dogs, such as Denver.

Others, like San Francisco, have not banned Pit Bulls but have seen a marked decline in Pit Bull euthanasias after implementing a mandatory Pit Bull sterilization law coupled to free Pit Bull spay-neuter programs.

One thing is clear: Pit Bulls have breed specific problems.

Perhaps their biggest problem is that so many Pit Bull breeders and owners are young, irresponsible adults who have unstable lives and who are acquiring their first dog -- a Pit Bull -- for much the same reason that they might acquire a big-bore motorcycle, a sports car, or a "hummer".

Is it an accident that Pit Bull owners are much more likely to have problems with the law than the average dog owner? I don't think so, and neither does Stanley Coren.

The responsible people who are adoping Pit Bulls from shelters deserve unending applause for their efforts.

But have no illusion: the good work they do will never be enough so long as so many people stand silent while so many people breed Pit Bulls, and so many others are acquiring puppies from these breeders only to "thrown them in the river" in just a year's time.

Pit Bulls have a breed specfic problem.

At what point, do we begin to recognize that these dogs need a breed specific solution?

At what point do we say we are sick and tired of killing nearly a million Pit Bulls a year?

At what point do we agree that if we want something different, we need to do something different?

At what point do we run up the river bank, and start at least talking about all those people who are throwing the dogs in the river?


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas morning

We had a beautiful Christmas morning.  It wasn't too hot, there were clouds blocking the sun and when we left home at 6.15am, there was the promise of a wonderful day ahead.  Hanno and I drove to the Centre where, along with a few others, we packed our cars with tables, chairs, equipment and food, and headed off to the local park.

 Hanno and some of the volunteer chefs cooking up a feast for

Florida Coyotes

Coyotes are now found in every state of the Union except Hawaii, and everywhere their numbers are on the rise.

Sean O'Quinn sends me these photos of a coyote he photographed just a few miles outside of Fort Pierce, Florida. He says coyotes have just arrived in his neck of the woods, but clearly they fear little if they are so bold as to be abroad in daylight.

Eastern coyotes are extremely variable in size, with some as large as small wolves, and others sized quite a lot smaller, similar to their western counterpart.

In the East, there is no shortage of food for coyotes, from mice, rats, possums, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, groundhogs, and wild turkey, to gut-shot deer, downed duck, and feral cats. Perhaps the biggest buffet of all is roadkill. Around Ft. Pierce, the menu will be supplemented by snakes, frogs, and lizards (including iguanas), which are all found in abundance.

Ft. Pierce is surrounded by farm land and variable edge habitat combining pine woods, scrub, lush prairie areas, marsh, lake, and shore. Bottom line: It would hard to find a more ideal location in which to grow up as a young coyote.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

You, me and the kitchen sink

Today we have the last kitchen sink photo for the year.  We'll continue the series next year and soon I'll be calling for more photos, so get your cameras out, ladies and gentlemen.  I'd love to see a man's kitchen and kitchens from Australia, New Zealand, England, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Japan and every other cosy corner of the world this blog is read.

Our photos today come

Friday, December 25, 2009

You, me and the kitchen sink

Our boxing day kitchen sink is situated in America.  This kitchen is Pam's from Life on a Southern Farm blog.   Pam writes:

"This is our recycled kitchen sink. When we were building the house about 15 years ago we came across 2 sinks like this one and 2 bathroom sinks at a salvage store. The sinks came out of an old hotel near Atlanta, Ga that was torn down. I think we paid maybe $10 for all 4

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas ~ Michael Leunig

Recently I conducted a comprehensive survey of Hanno and I and discovered that we have the warmest, friendliest and most loyal readers in the entire blogdom. Thank you for your visits and comments this year and for supporting the Down to Earth forum.  Thanks also to the wonderful group of ladies who help me on the forum, I couldn't do it without them.  You'll find their blogs on my blogroll. 

Stewart Brand Looks at the Future

Stewart Brand has good values, and he asks good questions, and looks hard for intelligent answers. He is a national resource unto himself, and someone I have followed, off and on, for about 35 years. The Last Whole Earth Catalogue is still on my shelf -- and I click through it for a few hours every year.

Stewart is an old hippie. He (literally) drove the bus for the Electric Koolaid Acid Test, and if you have ever heard of Wendell Berry, then it is only because of Stewart Brand, who first gave him a platform for his "small is beautiful" theories of farming.

Stewart Brand has spent the last 40 years as a die-hard environmentalist. He has always put the Planet First, and he still does.

Watch this video and learn why Stewart is: 1) pro-city; 2) pro-nuke; 3) pro-genetically modified crops, and; 4) pro-geoengineering.

He is right on every point, whether that makes you happy or not.

Buy a copy of his latest: Whole Earth Discipline.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fast Facts About Christmas

  • Not in the Bible:
    Christmas is never mentioned in the Bible, and there is no suggestion as to the season, much less the date, of Jesus' birth.

  • Not Celebrated in Early Christianity:
    In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated.

  • The Date Was Chosen by a Politician:
    The actual date of Christ's birth was chosen by Constantine I, after his conversion to Christianity, and appears to have been a political act designed to have a holiday in his new religion line up with several holidays celebrated by older competing sun-god-worshiping religions, including Elah-Gabal, a Syrian sun god; Sol, the god of Emperor Aurelian, and Mithras, a soldiers' god that originated in Persia. After Constantine's death, Pope Julius I codified the date of Christ's birth as December 25th. The term Cristes m├Žsse or "Mass of Christ" is an early English phrase first recorded in 1038, 1,000 years after Jesus' death.

  • Poetic License with the Nativity Scene:
    Despite all the depictions of the nativity scene, the Bible mentions no "stable” nor does it mention animals. A "manger" is mentioned, but a manger is a feeding trough, not a stable.

  • The Pagan Christmas Garland:
    Across Europe, Pagans of every stripe have always celebrated the Winter Solstice by draping doorways and mantels with evergreens (holly, pine, fir, spruce, mistletoe), a tradition embraced by the Romans during Saturnalia and the feast of Sol Invictus. After the conversion of Anglo-Saxon (i.e. Norse) Britain in the very early 7th century, Christmas was referred to as Geol, or Yule, the name of the pre-Christian solstice festival which honored the god Thor.

  • A Drunken Street Festival:
    By the Middle Ages, Christianity had more-or-less replaced paganism with believers attending church and then decamping to drunken, carnival-like parties in the street generally accompanied by caroling and, in some locations, re-enactment of the nativity scene. Partying and excessive eating was not illogical for this time of year: December was the only real season for fresh meat, as the weather was cold enough that slaughtered animals did not spoil, nor did they have to be salted to preserve them. Late December was also the when the year’s supply of beer or wine (made from grapes, apples, and grain) was now ready to drink. As Stephen Nissenbaum notes in his book The Battle for Christmas (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1996), "From the beginning, the Church’s hold over Christmas was (and remains still) rather tenuous. There were always people for whom Christmas was a time of pious devotion rather than carnival, but such people were always in the minority. It may not be going too far to say that Christmas has always been an extremely difficult holiday to 'Christianize.'"

  • Banned in England and Scotland:
    In Scotland, John Knox tossed out the "multitude of the monuments of idolatry" in 1562 as part of the Protestant Reformation. These included not only the celebration of Mass, but also Romish liturgical ceremonies, Roman bishops, and many Ecclesiastical holidays, including Christmas. When the Puritans took over England in 1645, they sought to rid the Church of England of all qualities for which they could find no biblical source or authorization. Among the holidays tossed out was Christmas, which was derided as a Pagan holiday adopted by Catholics from the Romans and the pagans of earlier times. Christmas was banned until Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, at which point the Puritans were persecuted and fled to America.

  • The Return of "Misrule":
    For the next 150 years or so, Christmas in England was a time of "misrule" i.e., socially permitted drunkenness, promiscuity, and gambling, with direct ties back to the Roman tradition of Saturnalia.

  • The German Christmas Tree:
    Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition in the 16th century when devout Christians began to bring entire evergreen trees indoors -- a kind of one-upmanship on the ancient pagans.

  • Banned in America:
    The Puritans that came to America in 1620 did not celebrate Christmas, and from 1659 to 1681 anyone celebrating Christmas in Boston was fined five shillings.

  • Christmas Was a Weakness of our Enemies:
    On December 25th, 1776, George Washington attacked the Hessian troops outside of Trenton, giving his demoralized forces their first real victory of the war. Washington could be reasonably sure his plan of attack would succeed, as American troops did not celebrate the "German" holiday of Christmas.

  • Not Celebrated by our Founding Fathers:
    Christmas remained out of favor in the U.S., and on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America's new constitution, Congress sat in session. In fact, Congress sat in session on Christmas until 1870, when Christmas was finally declared a federal holiday.

  • A Turkish Elf:
    St. Nicholas was actually born in modern day Turkey -- an early Christian saint famous for giving away all of his inherited wealth and traveling the countryside helping the poor, the sick and small children. His traditional feast day was December 6th, but it was celebrated on Christmas eve by early Dutch settlers in New York who called him Sinter Klaas.

  • Christmas is Introduced to America:
    The idea of Christmas was introduced to the U.S. by writer Washington Irving who wrote Knickerbocker History, a satire on the transplanted customs of New York's Dutch population, which contained several references to the legendary "Sinter Klaas," who delivered gifts to children on Christmas Eve. Later, in 1921, Irving wrote a Christmas poem called "The Children's Friend," in which the first reference to a sleigh pulled by reindeer is made. Sleigh, reindeer and elves are a cross-over from Scandinavia, where Christmas is celebrated with a jolly elf named Jultomten who is said to deliver gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. In Finland, of course, they had much the same story, only there the sleigh was drawn by reindeer.

  • Expanding on Washington Irving:
    In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister, wrote a long Christmas poem for his three daughters. This poem, later retitled, "The Night Before Christmas," was a huge hit and helped establish a picture of "Santa Claus" in people's minds. This picture was crystallized in 1881, when political cartoonist Thomas Nast used Moore's poem as the basis for an illustration showing Santa Claus as a rotund, cheerful man with a big white beard, a red suit trimmed in white, and carrying a sack of toys, and whose base of operations was a North Pole workshop populated by elves.

  • The German Christmas Tree Comes to England:
    Charles' Dickens' book A Christmas Carol was published in 1843 and it played a major role in reinventing Christmas as a holiday emphasizing family and compassion over self-centered excess. In 1846, just a few years after A Christmas Carol was published, Queen Victoria (who was of German descent) put up a Christmas tree. This was an entirely foreign tradition to England and came about because of Queen Victoria's marriage to the German Prince Albert of Coberg. As Queen Victoria was a hugely popular figure, and Christmas was already in the process of being reinvented, everyone quickly rushed out to get a copy the Queen and get their own Christmas tree decorated with glass ornaments made in Germany.

  • An Ad Man Invents a New Icon:
    In 1938, a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store invented the story of "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" as part of an advertising campaign. The story that would sell several million copies, before it was turned into a song (1949) which propelled it into permanent orbit.

  • There Is No Public Ban on Celebrations or Public Displays:
    In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled in Lynch v. Donnelly that religious themes in government-funded winter holiday displays were permitted under the First Amendment. In 2001, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling in Ganulin v. United States which said that observing a day off on December 25th served a legitimate secular interest. .
    • And now, for a little musical interlude: the incomperable Nat King Cole.

      This is a repost from 2008.


      You, me and the kitchen sink

      I think today's kitchen comes from America.  Montanasmama doesn't say where she is from, but from the name and the measurement in inches, I'm guessing the USA.  Montanasmama, if you drop by today, please let us know what state you're in.
      She writes:
      "I know my sink looks huge in this little kitchen but it has the same foot print of a double bowl sink. I have found it SO much more user friendly

      Pedigree Dogs Exposed Generates Research

      From the Sydney Morning Herald comes this article:

      Hip Pain a Bone of Contention for Pedigree Pooches

      Lissa Chrtopher :: December 24, 2009 .

      THE case for pedigree dog breeders to stop pursuing exaggerated physical traits and focus instead on breeding healthy animals has been strengthened by Australian research published in The Veterinary Journal.

      Dog breeds with relatively long bodies for their height were significantly more prone to hip dysplasia, found Taryn Roberts and Associate Professor Paul McGreevy from the University of Sydney faculty of veterinary science. In hip dysplasia the ball joint ''slops'' around in the socket, wearing away cartilage and bone. The condition dooms many dogs to a life of crippling pain and costs owners thousands of dollars in vet bills.

      Treatments include hip replacement, about $6000 per hip, stem cell therapy which costs about $5500, and a lifetime of medication. Many dogs with the condition are euthanased.

      The hip dysplasia research comes after Pedigree Dogs Exposed, a controversial BBC documentary shown in Australia in September, found many dog breeds in Britain were plagued by health problems that were the result of breeding for extreme physical characteristics, and the mating of closely related dogs. Australian pedigree dog breeders employ many of the same practices and breed standards.

      Pedigree dog breeders and show judges had ''inadvertently exacerbated'' the prevalence of hip dysplasia by preferring longer-bodied dogs and enshrining the look in breed standards, Professor McGreevy said. The condition is particularly prevalent in labradors, pugs, dogues de bordeaux, St Bernards, neapolitan mastiffs and basset hounds.

      Taller and more square-shaped dogs were less likely to suffer hip dysplasia, he said.


      Bert Gripton's Dogs & Techniques

      This post recycled from November 2004.

      Bert Gripton is one of the few legendary terriermen who was not known for breeding dogs, but for working them. He had a small pack of working terriers and whippets, and was terrierman to the Albrighton Foxhounds. His father was a gamekeeper on the Aqualate estate in  Staffordshire near the Shropshire border.

      Gripton was a die-hard digger who specialized in badger, but he also hunted otter (he took the last legal otter in the UK), and fox. Phil Drabble, author Of Pedigree Unknown, from which the above picture is lifted, said that Gripton "could, and did, catch Fox with greater certainty than the hounds."

      Bert Gripton appears to have kept a pack of very small dogs. This is not surprising -- the more people dig, the more they seem to value a small dog able to get up to the quarry and to manuever around and with it. Brian Nuttal notes of Gripton's terriers: "No one called them Jack Russells in those days, just white hunt terriers."

      Phil Drabble explained Gripton's technique for removing a fox:

      "Quite often it was the fox's grinning mask which came into view, in which case there is an effective trick that requires supreme confidence and dexterity approaching sleight of hand. Hold a bit of stick, as thick as your thumb, and about a foot long, and wave it rapidly across the fox's mask, within reach of his jaws. The reaction is reflex and certain. He bites the stick in a vice-like grip. That is the exact split second when it is safe to shoot out the other hand to grab him by the scruff of the neck. It takes more cool nerve that I possess, but it was one of Bert Gripton's star performances."

      American Jack Rabbit History

      A repost from this blog circa February 2006.

      A Jack Rabbit is not a rabbit -- it is a hare. The name comes from the fact that early settlers distinguished this animal from the various forms of cotton tail rabbits by comparing the ears of this hare to that of a jack ass. A "jack ass rabbit" became, in time, a "jack rabbit".

      American jack rabbits come in two basic flavors -- white-tailed jack rabbits and black-tailed jack rabbits. There is also the snowshoe hare, but it is uncommon in the U.S. which is the southern terminus of its range.

      Jack rabbits are so common in much of the drier parts of the American west that in most states the law says you can kill as many as you want, any way you want, on your own property.

      Long gunners kill about 2 million jack rabbits in California every year, and the numbers are not in decline as a consequence. Kills by coursing dogs, such as greyhounds, are so rare they do not even register in the statistics.

      Truth be told, it is hard to make a dent on jack rabbit populations because they are as prolific as .... well rabbits. Female jack rabbits breed for about half the year (January to July) and have 3 or 4 litters a year with three or four young on average. Gestation is 41 to 47 days, and the young are born alive and running, straight out of the box -- there is no den or nest.

      The white-tailed jack rabbit is about 8 pounds and a bit larger than its black-tailed cousin. Fox eat almost no jack rabbits (too big and fast for a fox to catch), but coyotes take quite a few. The main enemy of the jack rabbit is tularemia -- an ugly little disease, and not a very nice way to die.

      Jack rabbit hunts are an old tradition in the American West. Hunting them with dogs, however, is certainly less efficient and more sporting than the way it once was done!

      The old-fashioned American jack rabbit hunts that occurred in the West were done with snow fencing that would stretch out for a mile or two in a large funnel. Rabbits would then be driven into the funnel and the rabbits would then be penned at the end of the funnel and clubbed to death.

      The picture above is of an 1893 Fresno, California bunny roundup with snow fence used as a "boma" to corral the rabbits.

      Some jack rabbits were eaten, but the real reason for the jack rabbit roundup was that 15 jack rabbits could supposedly eat about as much as a cow, and while there was a market for cattle hide and salted beef, there was no market for jack rabbit.

      Jack rabbit roundups in the American west were not hunting -- they were a failed attempt at extermination.

      1894 jack rabbit haul from Lamar, Colorado.

      The first greyhound coursing clubs in the U.S.
      were a product of the massive rabbit drives pictured above. The healthiest rabbits taken in a jack rabbit drive were sold to coursing clubs (some are far away as Florida!). Today, the live rabbits that were once used in open fields, have been replaced with race tracks in which a mechanical bunny runs down an elevated track. In less formal "lure coursing" trials, a plastic bag is tied to a moving string run across a motor fly wheel and pulleys.

      20,000 rabbits taken in one Fresno, Califonira Jack Rabbit roundup, 1893

      Around the turn of the 20th Century, the federal government put most of the American West in control of the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, various Indian reservations, and the military. Federal protection of these environmentally marginal lands has meant that jack rabbits have been allowed to breed unfettered by cattlemen for about 100 years now. The cow at McDonald's is probably a feed-lot animal, not a free-range western cow competing head-to-head with jack rabbits. In short, the jack rabbit has never had it so good.

      A few greyhounds are still used to course jack rabbits in the West, but they are not much of a threat to jack rabbit populations. The reason for that is pretty simple: A jack rabbit can hit speeds of 40-45 mph and turn on a dime. The few rabbits that are caught are easily replaced through natural reproduction.

      In fact, getting chopped by a greyhound may be the best of all possible exits for a jack rabbit. The alternative death is not a hospital bed with a morphine drip and soft music in the background, but debilitating disease, vehicle impact, starvation, or being ripped apart by a coyote, owl, and/or the blast of a shotgun or a .22 rifle. In the litany of ways a rabbit can die, a chop by a practiced greyhound is a good way to go.

      Tuesday, December 22, 2009

      Have a Happy Awkward Christmas

      Robert Earl Keene :: Merry Christmas from the Family

      From all your trashy friends, relations and neighbors.

      Meanwhile I am struggling with deep theological questions such as: Is there wireless in heaven?

      Last WW of 09

      Had some extra Christmas baubles rolling around on my studio desk and decided to pop them up on the gates in my hallway. Prior posts show these gates showcasing darling daughter's black and white photography. With no thought to placement or design I just hung them here and there and then stood back and snapped away. I am sure I will fiddle around with the display over the next few days and probably add some more trinkets as I come across them. A very flat Christmas tree. If you're counting, that is No 9 in the house this year.

      My annual Care package today from cousin Cindi in Pittsburgh. I am an original Western PA gal myself, and those of you from that area are quite familiar with "chipped ham". Usually heated in barbecue sauce and served on a soft bun, but my absolute favorite is on cheap white bread with Ketchup (Heinz) of course. Cannot be found anywhere else in the US except in a small area where people still say "yunz". My heart strings are still pulled back to that area, the most beautiful country ever. Latrobe was home to me, the Steeler's training camp, Mr. Rogers and Rolling Rock. Mr. Rogers is gone and Rolling Rock is no longer really Rolling Rock and no longer brewed there. :-(. I think the bottles are still fibbing about it however.

      I am thrilled by this sweet act of kindness each year and for just a minute I am 6, plopped on the back stoop, with an icy cold glass of milk and a stacked "sand witch" of chipped ham.

      Thank you dear Cousin.

      From my heart to your home- a very blessed Holiday to you all. See you next week.