Tuesday, May 29, 2007

another quick link...

For those of you interested in another spin on the world, I encourage you to go here and check out the columns by Ron Ferguson. Ron is an ordained Church of Scotland minister turned journalist -- and while his life is more secular, his soul is not. This is simply to say that he's introspective, intelligent, and approaches life as someone trying to live a Christian life. Even as a relative heathen, I still find a lot of sense and compassion in his meditations on the world.

Monday, May 28, 2007

a quick pic...

Thought I should post something cheery after venting about George Vecsey. So, anyways, went to the B&H Photo superstore this morning and essentially swapped my medium-format rig for a schwanky new Panasonic TZ3 point-and-shoot. I think this camera is smarter than me.

In any case, here's a rather relaxed picture of His Majesty flaked out after his afternoon walk. It's hot and humid here in the city... no place for dogs or humans... and sadly, around the marsh that was such a beacon for woodcock headed north in early April, exactly the place for mosquitos. Damn them all!

wieners whining...

George Vecsey just wrote an opinion in yesterday's New York Times titled 'A Sport Can No Longer Peddle Denial,' claiming that with all the revelations about doping in cycling, it has as much credibility as professional wrestling. 'Bogus' was the word he used.

When will you understand, George, that the world is rarely a fair place and that even some of the smartest of us are duped from time to time? Don't take your bitterness about believing that Bjarne Riis (amongst others) was a clean rider out on the hundreds of riders who ride substance-free, or dismiss cycling 2400 miles in three weeks during the three Grand Tours (whether hopped up on steroids or not) as not being an achievement worth attention. You make it sound like sponsors are leaping off the sponsorship bus, when you have several adamantly standing behind their teams (like T-Mobile) especially because they have former riders coming forward and confessing their use of dope. You're a weanie, not for being duped like the rest of us, but for imagining that you couldn't be.

The argument simply doesn't hold water coming from a sports writer in New York City after one of its most prominent athletes was revealed to have taken amphetamines, even after they had been recently outlawed in baseball, and even after he had lied to a Grand Jury about his use of steroids. So, before we start calling cycling a 'bogus' sport, we should keep in mind that it has far more scheduled and random drug tests than any other professional sport in the United States.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

another love of my life

I used to race bicycles about ten years ago... in all honesty I did a handful of local cyclocross races back in Michigan, moved to Oregon, realized that Oregonians love riding bikes a lot more than Michiganders, actually trained seriously for a year, but then got a dog (Molly) and realised I liked spending more time with the dog... but still follow professional cycling with a fervor.

In light of the recent revelations about blood doping, I just want to set the record straight: I have never used any kind of blood-doping products, knowingly or unknowingly, nor have I ever thought about doing any kinds of blood doping products in the past, present, or future. I don't know any Spanish or German doctors, have little or no knowledge about bio-medical science, and have never had any contact with Floyd Landis. I did see Jason Giambi in the street once.

(For the record, though, I have no idea whether Floyd is innocent or not. I have to admit that what little I know of Dick Pound, the WADA, and the French testing lab, a lot of high school science experiments seem to have more integrity. While there are so many bizarre details about his case, I have to admit that his lawyers' argument that why would Floyd take synthetic testosterone, a stimulant with no known short-term benefits, to win a stage knowing that he would definitely be tested at the end of it, is pretty convincing. I hope I'm not gullible.)

In any case, the Giro d' Italia is currently about halfway through. While few of the major contenders will race both the Giro and the Tour de France, the Giro is a serious test of teams and team management... and that can give a few clues for how the Tour and the third of the major tours, the Vuelta d' Espana, will turn out.

For all things cycling related, I go to cyclingnews.com. If I'm being a major dork and have the time to spend, I go here to find any live audio and video feeds. I think I watched a fair chunk of last year's Tour on Serbian video with English audio, and the cyclingnews.com live ticker.

While it's a little late to join the overall competition, folks who are interested in participating in a free fantasy cycling league should go here. The only winnings are bragging rights. I'm hoping to take my third consecutive win in the sub-league that I and three friends are in. Would love to finish better than 53rd overall at the end of the year... but I think all this blood doping is making some of my selections rather difficult.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Memorial Day...

As the United States winds up to remember and celebrate its soldiers, sailors, and airmen, past and present, I thought it fitting to remember two wartime heroes in my own family... my mother's father and mother.

My grandfather served in the Royal Navy in WW2 as a medical petty officer. He served in the Pacific and in the North Atlantic, was sunk once by a Japanese submarine and survived several days in the shark-infested Java Sea. While his behavior was commended in dispatches on a couple of occasions, the only medals he received were his regular Navy service medals. I know enough about the North Atlantic convoys, even those later in the war, to know that these were no cake-walk, that rough weather was a blessing, and that the few moments of levity were absorbed to the full. (One of few stories he told was of the accidental slaughter of a surfaced whale by an escort plane thinking that it was a submarine ready for attack.) The first picture is of his aircraft carrier in heavy weather; the second picture is of the sickberth staff. He is seated on the right with the full beard.

The other hero was his wife, who was a nurse during the war. Arguably, the greatest task she took on was being a newly-wed wife and mother, getting pregnant during one of his infrequent times at home, and giving birth and raising my mother while he sailed in some of the most dangerous places on Earth. (The third picture is of her with my mother as a newborn.) This was a time of telegraphs and letters... where somehow partners tried to convey their commitment and love through short phrases and sentences, knowing that every intimate word would most likely be read by a censor. My grandmother celebrated her 75th by crewing on a tall-ship across the Atlantic... maybe raising a child during wartime wasn't so hard, after all.

My father's mother, my gran, certainly also deserves a mention for raising my father in wartime Glasgow, and managing a family after they were evacuated from the city to the Isle of Arran to avoid the heavy bombing over Clydeside. I think there maybe some pictures of them from Arran somewhere in the family, when I find them, I'll post them. And without diminishing my gran's strength of character, he was born before the war broke out, where my mother was born shortly after D-Day. Nevertheless I'm lucky to have been surrounded by strong women in my life.


... for taking pictures of bird-dogs. I have a small dilemma and sufficiently limited cashflow that I can't just go buy another camera. All this bloggery has me thinking that maybe it's time to finally take the bull by the horns and go digital.

My dilemma is that I have a very nice 35mm set-up and a nice medium-format set-up. They both take great pictures, but neither is especially spontaneous. But the medium-format was never intended to be and I love looking down into a waist-level finder on a TLR. Between that and thinking in squares (rather than rectangles), I just find myself composing pictures differently. However, the 35mm takes gorgeous color slides and, frankly, can make good enlargements up to 16x20". So do I need the extra resolution on a 120-format camera? Probably not. But if I need a portable, point-and-shoot, why not sell the 35mm and keep the 120-format for exactly what I bought it for (tripod-based, largely posed portraits and still-lives)?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

two blogs to look at...

Here are two blogs I found recently.

Chiendog is by Craig Koshyk, a pretty damn good photographer out in Winnipeg. He seems to be in the lucky position of being able to get paid for travelling around Europe to take pictures of beautiful hunting dogs in action

Urban Mutt is the blog belonging to Brisztow Jones, a "Vizsla puppy who is learning how to take a bite out of the Big Apple." Who knew. And Brisztow's mom cracks a Regal Beagle joke in there, too. Looking forward to checking out their adventures.

a short history... part 3

And then there was Choya Chunkosaur... the dog that won my wife's heart and convinced her that she was a dog-person, too. Choya was a Mexican streetdog scavenging food from her neighbourhood pig-farm until a) the pig-farmer slaughtered the pig, and b) friends dog-napped her and her brother, Boojum, and drove them from Baja to Bar Harbor to find them homes.

Both of them would have been dead within months due to heartworm... which while a brutal treatment regimen gave them life they would otherwise not have enjoyed. I adopted Choy-choy when she was roughly six months old. And she was a gem... fiercely independent (as one might imagine), but she recognized loyalty and she was a great companion. We had some great adventures up in Maine. She loved to hike -- and after being taught, she loved to swim.

The two pictures of her here were taken at Little Hunter's Beach on Mount Desert. She had been a tentative swimmer to that fateful day that she discovered a washed-up lobster buoy on the rocks. Once she discovered it was made of foam and that she could grip down on this thing bigger than her head, it was like crack. The next thing I know she's not happy to wait for the waves to bring the float back after I'd thrown it, but the little 53lb monster was charging into 2-3ft waves to get that thing first.

I'll post more pictures of her as I retrieve them.

Choya was sadly hit by a car and killed while being looked after by friends. It's still difficult to envision how such an event was possible and telling her mom, my wife, that she had been killed was the worst thing I've ever had to do. While her death may have opened a door for Momo in our lives, the slightly weird piece of coincidence was that she was killed on the eve of a friend's wedding. After the wedding and at roughly the same time that we decided to get another dog, the friends subsequently adopted a dog of their own... a Vizsla. It's hard to know if or how fate or destiny work, but it certainly seems that even in our worst moments there are good omens for the future. The saddest part is that Choya and Momo would have worshipped each other... and we would have been along for the ride.

The final pictures aren't of Choya, but she was there when they were taken. We have them framed, just as they appear here, in our house as a quiet reminder both of how tangible and intangible the dogs we love are in our lives. The view is of the Great Meadow in Acadia National Park from March, 2003.

(For those of you who like weird technical details, it was shot on a 1958 Rolleiflex 'Grey Baby' TLR. That was back in the day when you still readily find a photo-lab that would process 127 format, 4x4cm, film. It's perhaps fitting that I took some of my favorite pictures of Choya with that camera and that, with her passing, it was also time to move on with that camera, too.)

a short history... part 2

I see the picture in the previous post and still get a kick out of it. I had no idea it existed until fairly recently. I've always had some affinity for animals in general, but as is proven here, dogs were always special to me.

Cecil was the dog-beast that first really stole my heart. At 120lbs, there was a lot of him to love, but with 400acres of Vermont woods to play in, he was as fit as a fiddle. And he had that wonderful balance of independence and loyalty that meant he'd take you for a walk in his woods, but always come back to bring you along when you weren't quite keeping up. He belonged to good friends of ours and somehow I got in a routine of driving non-stop from Michigan to their house, often in the winter it seemed, and would then pull out a sleeping bag and bivvy sac and go to sleep in a snowbank in the driveway instead of waking them all at 3am or 4am or whatever god-forsaken time it was. Cecil would always run out first thing in the morning, lick my head, and then try get his massive head inside my sleeping bag.

Molly was the dog I first really considered my own. I was living in Portland, OR, at the time and adopted her at 4 years old from the SPCA shelter -- and while she didn't seem to have been abused in any way, she had clearly been neglected. As a Rottweiler-Kelpie mix, she was a tank... 63lbs of solid muscle. She and I hiked all over the place and when cancer took her just 9months later, I carried her up into the mountains she loved and now she rests in peace with a grand view and, unbeknownst to them, a constant stream of visitors.

Nevertheless, this is a blog inspired by our golden boy. I first met a Vizsla in person on my way east, moving from Oregon to Maine. My good friends, Dan and Rosie, were house-sitting for friends and the assignment included looking after Daisy. I think I spent a total of three days with them in Boulder and she was a queen. I read Marian Coffman's book on vizslas while I was there and realised she was more typical than an exception -- energetic and loving, but with a sensitive on/off switch so that she could easily turn herself down when the moment required it. And so, somewhere in my head, I stored 'vizsla' as a likely future companion.

And again, to keep re-visiting Clif Boggs, I had no idea exactly how far that would take me.

a short history of dogs: part 1

While His Majesty is the most recent canine member of the family, it might amuse you all to see a short history of the dogs in my life. We never had dogs in our family back home in Scotland (nor cats, for that matter). I think my parents were wise enough to know that neither I nor my brother would be genuinely capable of raising a dog -- and that we were all too busy to give a dog a life it deserved.

But then, maybe two years ago, my mother found this wee classic in the folder of old pictures. July, 1968: yours truly at 8mos old fascinated by a friend's dog. Sadly her name is forgotten, but she must have been a dear to let me pull on her face. Who would have known that dogs would be such a part of my adult life?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


This is the first post for 'The Regal Vizsla'... I am quickly realizing that I have unwittingly ripped-off my friend Paul's screenname, The Regal Begal, for my first blog-attempt. But if I can post anywhere near the quailty of pictures that he takes, then this first accident will actually be flattery.

With flattery in mind, I owe the motivation to build this blog to Denise and Steve Garro of Coconino Cycles fame. You can find them here. In addition to making beautiful bicycles, Steve is one of the toughest guys I know... and for all the crap that goes with being broadsided by a pick-up at 40mph, he's an inspiration for guts and determination. Denise is also an inspiration for helping him get through the multiple surgeries, the rehab, and the learning to walk.

I went on a bike ride in Flagstaff with Denise once. I am still broken. And not worthy.

This blog, nevertheless, has a dog as its starting point... his majesty, Widdershins Momchil, a.k.a. Momo. He will shortly turn two years old and this blog is a tribute to the incredible change a dog can bring to your life. However, he and I would be nothing without the love and support of my wife, Meg.

Clif Boggs has written one of the major monographs on vizslas titled, startlingly enough, The Vizsla. Somewhere toward the front of the book he wrote this: "Vizslas lead owners on paths they never before dreamed they would follow." This blog is, in several ways, a map of those crazy paths, those already passed and those on the horizon.