Saturday, September 29, 2007

swollen noses

My apologies for the delay in posting. We've had a hectic time with my folks in town -- and sadly, we've been a little distracted even from attending to them because we've been trying to also take care of The Mominator.

He got stung about 20times by bees (we think) on Wednesday... a few around his nose and head, but most on his back legs and butt, presumably as he ran away. We gave him Benadryl for a day which helped eliminate most of the hives and some of the itching... except by Thursday afternoon, he's already gouged himself in the nose trying to scratch. So then we started regular cleanings and applying Neosporin. And made him wear his other e-collar: the Elizabethan collar, a.k.a. The Lampshade.

Yesterday morning it looked like swelling had stopped going down (although there was still some), but the itch was obviously still there. By the time I got home last night, it was obvious he had some kind of secondary infection as well as histamine still in his system. And so we went to the after-hours vet. He's now on steroids and antibiotics -- and even after just 12hrs treatment he seems a little happier and his nose a little less swollen.

However, with his drug load, he will therefore be ineligible to race in the Cycling World Championships roadrace for Hungary tomorrow. However, if you go there quickly, you'll see that he got a nice shout-out from Wendy & Chris at Widdershins about his performance at the VCCNE hunt tests. (And congratulations to Seeker and Kay C on their performance, too.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

living with Vizslak

After my last few days of ranting about the state of the world, I realise it's time for a picture of the boys. For those of you who don't have Vizslak (the plural of Vizsla, apparently), here's a newer phenomenon to us. Not so much sitting on a chair, but climbing onto the top edge of the seat cushion. Odd. Or better... eccentric.

Now, it would be fair to say that we could require our dogs to stay off furniture (and they are only allowed on some). But there is some real joy to be had from having a tired happy Vizsla asleep on your feet, your lap, or your head. It's only when they're jockeying for position that it's actually inconvenient.

And yes! that's the little one in the foreground... all 31lbs of him!

My parents arrive tomorrow for roughly two weeks. Hope they like eccentric dogs.

Monday, September 24, 2007

vuelta glory

Laurels #1: I was bold three weeks ago in my predictions for the Vuelta a Espana: Carlos Sastre (CSC), Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), and Stijn Devolder (Discovery). Sadly Stijn was sufficiently worn out from the season's racing that the Belgian National Champion may not even ride the World Championships in the next few days.

But the results are in: Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Carlos Sastre (CSC), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto). It was a dominating ride by Menchov and, while his second win in the last of the Grand Tours, he didn't win this year's race because the guy who finished ahead of him was disqualified for doping.

(I had Samuel Sanchez on my fantasy team as well... and so snuck in another victory in our 'yobbos' sub-league.)

Laurels #2: ESPN.com has a nice story on the dissonance between China's proposition that the Beijing Olympics will be the 'cleanest' Olympics to date, the approximately $480million trade in illegal Chinese-made steroids, and the monster raids by the DEA this morning.

jackass award

I was prepared to ascribe Lee Bollinger some credit for taking the unpopular stand of inviting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak and answer questions at Columbia University. Bollinger is an expert on free-speech -- and if you can't win hearts and minds by extending the freedom of speech to someone you despise (and who probably despises you), then when else can you?

But to invite someone to your 'house' and then make such insinuations about their character by assigning "all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator" to them is frankly entirely lacking in class. Either summon the courage to say that your guest is a dictator or deny them an invitation. This is perhaps the only time that I would fine myself in concert with Zionists and Republicans. As the Weekly Standard column by William Kristol states: "In fact, the introduction with "sharp challenges" by Bollinger makes the situation even more of a disgrace."

That Kristol sees Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia as a "propaganda victory." Hmmm. Not sure which propaganda war we're talking about here. Pretty sure that whether Amhadinejad spoke at Columbia or not, few people's minds were changed about US foreign policy, international terrorism, the immutable facts of the Holocaust, and sadly probably not about Lee Bollinger, either. Kristol references Scott Johnson at PowerLine who concludes in his thoughts about the initial invitation for Ahmadinejad to speak: "And President Bollinger is a fool who is not excused from the dishonor he brings to his institution and his fellow citizens by the fact that he doesn't know what he is doing." Sadly, Scott was more correct than I would have imagined.

Ahmadinejad replied with far more grace in this instance, adding "In Iran, tradition demands that when we ask a person to be a speaker, we actually respect the students and the professors to allow them to make their own judgment."

On a related note: I found Roger Cohen's op-ed in the New York Times this morning far more poignant a pre-amble to President Ahmadinejad's visit than any of the blunders Bollinger staggered through.

In a different related note: Maybe Dan + Margaret were also around for this, but I was in Ann Arbor for graduate school and witnessed the infamous KKK rally of 1996. The city defended the Klansmen's right to free speech and agreed to host them on the steps of City Hall -- and protection of even the vilest human's right to speak cost the city $72,000 (presumably in police overtime and hazard pay). Now, would I rather have had $72,000 go to improving public school conditions, roads, or shelter for the homeless? Sure. But if we never dare to risk the challenge of the First Amendment, we'll be living in somewhere like Uzbekistan.

I don't know where Keshia Thomas is these days, but go here to see bravery the likes of which we hope our university leaders genuinely possess.

Friday, September 21, 2007

verdict's in...

Verdict #1: The USADA has finally reached a decision -- actually a 2-1 opinion -- on whether Floyd Landis partook of illegal substances in his 2006 Tour de France win. And so, while Pat McQuaid of the UCI has made a few snide comments about Floyd's yellow jersey, Oscar Pereiro should shortly be awarded the official title of 'winner.'

TrustbutVerify has, by far, the best coverage.

Verdict #2: Genevieve Jeanson, former enfant terrible of women's professional cycling, has now admitted she also took EPO as a teenager. She has an interesting variation on the Senator Larry Craig defence:

'After the suspension was announced [in January, 2007], Jeanson continued to deny the charges. She now says, "It was not Geneviève that lied. It was someone else I did not know. It was something I was told to do and yes, I do regret it."'

Verdict #3: Sadly, while some skeletons do seem to be coming out the closet, professional cycling still needs to deal with over-zealots like Meat and Pat McQuaid and quasi-professional outfits like the French LNDD lab.

'"We are on the front line no matter what. It's normal. The lawyers use all the means at their disposal. They shoot with cannons," de Ceaurriz said, adding that some of the lab staff were affected by the hype surrounding the case. "I think they'll be happy but no more than me. They will be happy because they were dragged through the mud a little bit," he said. "That the laboratory or its director is dragged through the mud is not too serious. But it is bothersome when it touches the staff."'

Again, if Floyd did it, then he did it and damn him. But when the UCI asks Cycling Australia to withhold Allan Davis's entry into the upcoming World Championships (despite his repeated offers to submit DNA) because he may or may not be linked to Operacion Puerto, and the director of the LNDD whines about why having to run accurate tests cuts into his and his staff's summer break, the problem of doping in professional cycling is far broader than homologous blood transfusions, EPO, and where cyclists went on their summer vacations without telling anyone.

Monday, September 17, 2007

hunt test highlights

Here are a few reflections on the weekend -- which may be useful for folks out there who have pointing dogs and, while they may never hunt them, may be interested in more fully exploring their dog's intellect and genetic disposition.

As I mentioned, we met some great folks at the test including Kim and Mike Barry who are Forest King Vizslas. (Kim is also the President of the VCCNE. And therefore an Important Person.) We also met Rich and Adrian who were at their first hunt tests as well. They had brought Ella, their beautiful 16mos Vizsla-girl -- who took a shine to Jozsi, in particular.

In any case, her hunting ability outshone her taste in boys. The video is of Ella's run on Sunday morning. Even in the video, you can see what a pretty girl she is. And she does the same thing Momo does when she absolutely knows she's found a bird... everything goes rigid except the wiggling stub of her tail. She stays nicely staunch while Rich goes in to grab the bird (because it doesn't want to fly) and then throws it into the air. I'm not sure if Rich's pistol mis-fired or the video cuts off the 'pop', but for the purposes of the test when the bird flushes (or has to be thrown), the handler fires the pistol.

video

Here's Rich and Ella. Another proud dad and a dog who's happy their dad's so happy. And if there are a couple of things I've learned halfway through Junior Hunter, it's that this test level is really about the dog -- and if the dog has had some exposure to game birds, then the best thing the handler can do is simply minimize their presence as much as possible. You can certainly do your best to get the dog in as good a starting position as possible with regard to the bird-field and the wind -- but just trust the dog and get out of its way.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

two up, two down

This weekend's big adventure was a drive to our first Vizsla Club of Central New England event and Momo's first hunt tests. The two tests -- one on Saturday, one on Sunday -- were held at the Francis Crane Wildlife Management Area out by Falmouth, MA, on Cape Cod. I had forgotten just how beautiful it is down on the Cape especially at this time of year, and the Crane WMA is a lovely 2,000 acre parcel of barrens, scrub oaks, brambles and grasses. With Meg in Flagstaff spending the weekend with Denise and Steve, I took the boys down there to visit the Maine contingent of the VCCNE who were camping on-site, and for their evening walk -- to give Momo a baseline for what the vegetation smelled like. And he found a covey of four quail that were, presumably, left over from a previous trial.

I won't keep folks in suspense, in part because I'm incredibly proud of the Mominator. He went two for two in his first ever hunt tests. Now, it is an AKC Junior Hunt Test -- this isn't rocket science and Momo has demonstrated the basic skills to me many times. But he has also never run in a brace, ie. with another dog, only once had an audience while he worked, and has never had his dad throw birds in the air. (I was going to say that he's never had his dad point a gun at birds and miss... but sadly, he knows that all too well.) So, in short, he did great.

And I know. It's a nice picture of the boys. I don't care to have my picture taken and the smile is as proportionally cheesey as I am proud of His Senior Majesty.

Saturday: uh, glad I had my Filson hunting bibs in my hunting bag in the truck. What was allegedly supposed to be 'intermittent showers in the afternoon' turned out to be 'rain with intermittent drizzle and mist until mid-afternoon.' Uh, wet. For the test, they were putting out bobwhite quail... skinny, little bobwhite quail, I might add. And these poor little things just wanted to burrow into the grass to try and stay dry. So, several braces blanked due to the limited scent and lack of breeze. (And if you don't find a bird, your dog can't be rated on bird-finding ability and therefore can't pass the test.)

Momo did as well as I could have expected on Saturday. He was braced with a hard-running German Shorthair who needed so much hollering from his handler to keep him in the same county that it took a fair amount of reassurance from me to help Momo understand that he was actually doing fine. The test lasts 15mins, 5mins of which is spent walking into position. Once we got in the bird-field, Momo managed to find two birds. For the Junior Hunter, dogs have to look intent on hunting, listen to their handlers, point, and remain staunch while the handler boosts the bird into the air and fires a blank pistol. And then you keep trying to find more until time is called. Between the weather and the novelty of the situation, he did fine... solid, but nothing spectacular.

Sunday: Just a beautiful fall day. Perfect, maybe. Not too warm with a light breeze from the north. And as soon as we got to the WMA for their pre-test walk, Momo was just jacked. The picture here is of him pointing a very sodden quail -- it might be the darkly-striped spot in the foreground. He then posted another covey of four or five birds. And this was before the test. I then put them back in the dog-box in the truck until our brace was called. But all Momo wanted to do was get in the bird-field.

I was nervous for his run because he was braced with his cousin, Seeker, who was being handled by his original human father, Chris Russell from Widdershins. But after a very quick hello, he was all business. I will take credit for getting him in the right spot on the field for him to work most of it without having any major re-directions, but past that point he just became a quail finding machine. I don't know how many birds he found... two new friends, Rich and Adrian, who we met there who walked with our brace said they lost count after four. I think he got six, but it might have been seven. With the exception of one not-so-staunch point, he looked great. I was really proud of him. I made the judge laugh by saying that watching him was like giving crack to kids. Not perhaps the most politically correct metaphor, but he was high on quail -- and looking like every bit the regal vizsla he is.

Jozsi, to his credit, also pulled the occasional nice point, got his nose full of quail scent and, as with him and pheasant wings, isn't at all phased about sticking a live bird in his mouth and bringing it to you. The omens are good... but not for quail.

We had a great weekend -- and the folks at VCCNE who organized the test deserve a big round of applause. A lot of new friends were made -- and high expectations established for Momo's next two tests.

There'll be more to follow shortly. Including video.

Friday, September 14, 2007

holy miracles, Batman

I'm frankly stunned. I think the French are, too. Scotland has probably now been relegated to the Axis of Evil by Nicholas Sarkozy. 'Scotch whiskey' has now probably been re-named 'Liberty Liquor'.

Scotland beat France, in France, during World Cup qualifying competition two days ago. The wee tartan train that could... And what a magic goal! Radio Clyde's Peter Martin is no Phil Drabble or John Arlott, but his voice says it all.

Alex Massie has it right, though. Just what we need is hope. Shades of Argentina '78... "we're on the way with Allie's army, we're going to the Argentine..." Archie Gemmill's phenomenal goal against the Netherlands was the sole highlight.

We had to declare war on Argentina four years later to make up for that resounding disappointment. The Argentines had the good sense to surrender the day after the 1982 World Cup began.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

what kind of world do we live in?

Podcast #1: I've been having good luck recently listening to my Radio 4 Today program podcasts on the train in to work. Yesterday morning I caught the interview with Naomi Klein, author of the new book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. This essay from The Nation back in April 2005 seems to offer a nice slice of the book -- although the book itself apparently also uses the debacle of post-Katrina reconstruction as an example.

The criticism I heard about her approach was that it seemed heavily American in focus... which is to say that what she may be trying to chart as a several-decade phenomenon may be a peculiarly Bush-fils era that Ms. Klein may be trying to extrapolate too hard onto the rest of the world.

While I have yet to read the book it seems to be similar in angle as David Rieff's A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis. Rieff's principle tenet is that humanitarian organizations are themselves a sign of failure -- largely a failure of governmental organizations whether individually or in concert to contain and respond to crises of whatever forms.

Podcast #2: This morning's podcast focused on supermarket chain, Tesco's £25 million donation to the University of Manchester to establish a 'Sustainable Consumption Institute'. I'm a little surprised at how skeptical the interviewer on the 'Today' programme was in her questioning of the Tesco rep. (And I apologize for not remembering their respective names.) I will say that whatever-his-name-was was schlick as heck... he did a fine job of not responding to barbed and loaded questions and re-directing everything with some nice bits of rhetorical aikido.

But it seems, from reading more subsequently, that more folks than just Christian Aid think Tesco is manipulating the whole situation in a classic case of green-washing. I have a few questions. I haven't lived in Britain for long enough that I don't know if this analogy fully translates: but if I shop at Whole Foods already, does a £25 million donation to higher education make me switch from shopping there to Tesco (or Wal-Mart)? If I do shop occasionally at Tesco, do I just feel less guilty about it?

Now, Tesco is certainly not a 1% for the Planet business. And we can safely assume that £25 million is probably a drop in their corporate profit ocean, but that's still a sizeable donation for any institution of higher education to receive... and hey, if they invest it in a sustainable fashion, it's research that might otherwise not have been done.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

a couple of unlikely locales

Locale #1: My parents live in the Orkney Islands in northeastern Scotland. The northernmost of those islands is North Ronaldsay -- home to a lot of intertidal sheep, huge numbers of migratory birds and grey seals, and not very many people. It's also the home to an 18thC Stevenson lighthouse -- and replacing it, the tallest land-based lighthouse in Britain.

But looking for something else I discovered the website for the North Ronaldsay Community School and all five of its students. The banner image on their site is, I think, from the Nouster Bay beach -- where Meg and I experienced 'Seal TV'... the only place I've been where seals swimming in the sea will shadow you as you walk down the beach and back. North Ronaldsay is a remarkable place with an incredible history and culture all its own. Please go visit.

Locale #2: Here's a lovely quote from the Unholy Rouleur: "If you don't feel love for road bikes the way a hunter loves a fine Italian or English 12 gauge double barreled shotgun, or the way a fine woodworker loves a traditionally-made japanese straight saw, you just don't get it. Quit asking, I can't explain it to you. Spend some more time with it and you may come to understand. Otherwise... well, I hear jogging and rollerblading are always looking for a few good people."

I have no idea if Jim shoots or just rants and waxes lyrical about road-bikes, but he seems to like coffee and has an awesome banner picture on his blog of a cyclocrosser in some serious mud. Seems alright by me. At the very least, I love these analogies.

Friday, September 7, 2007

all dogs are bird-dogs (at least to birds)

Woof #1: Here's a genuinely interesting piece of research I heard about on my iPod podcast from BBC Radio 4.

Scientists in New South Wales, Australia, have done some research in several conservation areas and discovered that dog-walkers, walking dogs on leash, may have caused a reduction in birdlife of up to 41%. The lead scientist, Dr. Peter Banks, sounded remarkably level-headed even as he said this: "The birds were clearly showing an aversion to dogs - they clearly perceived dogs as a potential predator."

The team did some variable eliminations as well: single and pairs of human walkers did disturb birds but not to the same extent as humans with dogs. My only pondering in this is whether it is the combination of humans, dogs, and possibly leashes that causes the disturbance. For example, would dogs off-leash produce the same results (or worse)? And how do you control for natural canine and feline predators longitudinally?

Not trying to debunk the data, but I'm curious as to whether there are any other predators still extant in these conservation areas or if dogs and humans are sufficiently new or supplemental to an eco-system that they produce this shock effect on bird-numbers? as a new entrant fox population might, for example?

While I would never run our dogs free, as an example, in a peregrine falcon nesting site, my take is generally that well-trained bird-dogs also keep the birds they encounter 'wild' (especially in the absence of other man-managed predators). Nevertheless as the author of the study states: "We hope that this information will be useful when people are weighing up decisions about access by people and by people with their dogs."

Woof #2: Annie has some interesting observations on what it's like to walk a Labrador down the street in Ulan Bataar, Mongolia. Nobody blinks an eye at a camel on a lead.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

road-trip

We just got back from a lightning overnight trip to Maryland to visit with Bob Seelye at Cliffside Bird Dogs. This first pic is from the boys lounging in the hotel room. I won't mention the name of the chain (other than it also has a single number in its name) we stayed at, but it's one thing to say 'pets are okay' -- and another to have an entire sheet of pet rules and then charge an additional rate (neither of which are available on the web ahead of time). Not Super. As we do when we have to stay over in Brattleboro on our way to chase chukar in Bernardston, we will use and endorse Motel 6.

I'll try to keep it short as to why we'd gone out there. Meg and I are going back to Mongolia in February for three weeks and were looking for boarding kennels. Then I had the bright idea that if we found a kennel with a decent trainer, maybe we'd ask a professional to also spend some time helping Momo find a retrieve (which while not essential to the kind of hunting we do is the one chink in his armor). After a few field trips and phone calls to places that just didn't fully satisfy me, I found Bob. Bob specializes in Vizslas -- Bob is the man who trained Momo and Jozsi's common grandmother, Wylie, to her placement in the National Gundog Championships.

But... and it's a 'but' we haven't entirely decided on, but are close... Bob takes roughly 20dogs down to a camp in Florida for the winter (in the ongoing search for perfect 65degF weather, as he says) from early January till mid-March. We haven't entirely decided if we can live without our boys for an extra seven weeks or if we'll just feel guilty. Especially when there's love like this...

To be fair, if Momo is to get a retrieve, he will need to be force-fetched -- his natural retrieve drive isn't super strong (like his mother's) and so, if he's to acquire this, he will need to learn it as a task or skill which does require a high-level of structured training and potentially some discomfort. And if that discomfort is to be minimized, it may take the full 10weeks to do it. Some trainers force-fetch all their dogs -- one of the reasons I like Bob is because he only does it with the dogs that need it. The same is true for Bob as to whether to use e-collars. I like a guy who has an opinion but isn't willing to stuff it down your throat. I also like a guy who after twenty years of doing this still sounds like he's having a blast.

Sadly, I don't have pictures from Cliffside or from the walk in their back fields that they manage for birds. And while Momo didn't quite get a hold on a quail Bob tossed into the grass, he did locate two pheasants that were hanging out in the tall grass. Bob said it best, "He likes to hunt."

This was our first longer trip with both boys in the Super-Deluxo Deer Creek dog box. We'd taken a little trip out to Blue Lake on Monday -- which is about 45mins from our house -- to get them accustomed to the ride. And while they were eager to get out, both boys were very willing to go in their half of the box at every step of this longer drive (between 4 and 4.5hrs depending on traffic). We had a stop during each journey to get gas and human sustenance supplies and the boys got roughly 20mins of run-around time during those pit-stops. This last pic is of a tired Jozsi wrastling with his mother.

It was interesting that at both pit-stops the boys got attention from both some former Vizsla owners and a guy who had some very successful English setter field-trial dogs. It's nice to know that our boys look sufficiently like bird-dogs that folks will strike up conversation.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

blogs of note

Notation #1: I found Dan & Margaret's long-dog site via Stephen Bodio. If Craig Koshyk is the king of 'versatile dog' photography, then Dan & Margaret may be the king and queen of sighthound photography. Their blog about travelling the sighthound circuit is here.

Dan has already managed to mildly lampoon me for being a U.Michigan graduate. I have enough strength of character to know when an athletic program takes itself too seriously -- this article from The Onion says enough.

Notation #2: Through Dan & Margaret I quickly checked out Patrick Burns's Working Terriers blog. If we didn't have Vizslas, there's a good chance we'd have a Jack Russell (or an Airedale). Not sure which of those is nuttier, but they're close!

Notation #3: Here's the Junior Majesty working his magic on a pheasant wing a couple of days ago. I have a bunch of pheasant and chukar wings I clipped from my and Momo's trip up to western MA last week drying in the garage. I don't think he can quite believe that such smells should be in the same place as engine oil and anti-freeze (both safely out of reach).

Notation #4: As for the Vuelta, god bless the Russian! Vladimir Efimkin of Caisse D'Epargne put the hammer down and won today's 4th stage. He's one of those guys who's just under the radar -- like a Sylvain Chavanel or Jean-Patrick Nazon -- a guy who may never win a grand tour, but who has the guts and stubborness to win a stage. And in the process, he managed to put the hurt on Cadel Evans who got slightly dropped by Devolder, Sastre, and Menchov. Glad I picked him for my fantasy cycling team.

Monday, September 3, 2007

couple of nice pics + satire

Here's a nice picture from the other day in a rare moment of calm in the House of Vizslak.

And here's one from this morning's walk around Blue Lake in Sterling Forest. Bob claims he's always found grouse in this part of the forest. My empirical test results suggest that his claims are exaggerated or from a very small sample size. (And yes, I know, Jozsi's e-collar is on upside-down.)

Here's an awesome article from The Onion. It seemed appropriate to post as the Vuelta goes through stage 3... and while Paolo Bettini is winning the sprints and Oscar Freire is currently in the gold leader's jersey, this isn't terribly surprising. The only fact of note so far is that one of my fantasy cycling team guys crashed out after only 90km in the first stage.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

vizslas in action

Just a quick video from this afternoon's walk. If there is something I love about Vizslas it's the happiness in their eyes when a) they can run free outdoors and b) do something to please you.

Incidentally, while it won't be turned on for a couple of weeks, Jozsi is wearing his disco-red e-collar for the first time to get him used to it. I think he's actually got the self-confidence and strength of personality now at 16wks to understand it as a reminder tool and not get freaked out by either the tone signal or the lightest stimulation setting. But there's no need to rush things.

With two dogs now, we had to get a 2-dog unit. The nice thing that Tritronics did in the last two years was make their G2 system expandable, so you could add additional dogs as needed (generally up to three dogs, total). So we were able to use the collar from our previous TT unit and also decided to upgrade range and sensitivity of stimulation options. I'll keep folks posted on the particulars of this unit as we get used to it.

video

I won't beat around the bush: it is a shock collar -- 'stimulation' = shock -- but the lightest shock option feels like a very mild ripple when I shocked myself to test the unit. It's a tool -- and like any tool, it can be used properly or it can be used improperly. It's the difference between allowing Momo and Jozsi to run free virtually the entire time and only allowing them to run in enclosed spaces -- which seems to defeat part of the pleasure of having any dog. I use one to extend their range and reliability and to jog their memories if they get mesmerised by a flushing bird (or a pile of poop).

The Wikipedia article I linked to presents itself as balanced science -- and for the most part it is. The only thing I would take issue with is the closing statement: "Regardless of the disputes about the quality of some of the research into the effects of shock collars, the conclusion has to be that they do have the potential to do harm, especially when used incorrectly, and that there is no scientific evidence to support the proponents of these devices." My only skepticism about this statement would lie in the question as to why there are only scientific studies exploring the potentially negative effects of e-collars in training -- presumably because the proof of its positive training benefits can be found in many dogs.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

couple of interesting articles about Ferghana

The Ferghana Valley is the nexus of the modern states of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan -- a crossroads or meeting place between Europe and Asia since at least 329BC when Alexander the Great founded the town of Alexandria Euschate ('the farthest'). In many ways, it seems like an even more profound junction than other transitional places -- Malta, Cyprus, and Sicily in the Mediterranean, Orkney and Shetland in the northern Atlantic -- perhaps because it isn't an island archipelago, perhaps because what may have been a genuinely fluid cultural zone in the pre-Islamic period is now disrupted by artificial boundaries of modern nationhood. (I chose 'pre-Islamic' as a breaking point because the battle of Talas in 751 between the Abbasids and the defeated Chinese marks a point of fracture that sees the Chinese leave this part of Central Asia.)

I'd love to see this part of the world, to see where the Silk Road passed. My brother-in-law has spent a significant amount of time in this part of the world and my wife's pictures from visiting him are pretty spectacular.

In any case, here are three recent articles on the Ferghana:

1) This past weekend's New York Times has a nice feature article on the Ferghana Valley.

2) Here's another nice piece about 'Russian' ghost-towns in the Ferghana.

3) Here's a final piece about relaxed visa restrictions for Uzbeks and Kyrgyz trying to visit the shrine at Shahimardan. Nice pictures, too.