Tuesday, May 27, 2008

benign neglect

I have neglected two things in the past few days. And so, without further ado, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ELLA!!! Abby-Daba-Doo-Ella is her formal name -- and she is lovely! I am quite sure that Ella sang her own 'Happy Birthday' song this past Sunday.

The other thing I neglected was the Giro d'Italia. The first of the three Grand Tours, it is frequently characterised by beautiful scenery and steep-as-heck climbing. This year's edition is no exception. The first picture is from yesterday's individual mountain time-trial, a little over 8 miles long and 3500ft of climbing! The picture is borrowed from the Cyclingnews.com website and was taken by Roberto Bettini.

The particular last-minute excitement of this year's race was the last-minute inclusion of Team Astana -- the former team of Alexander Vinokourov, the Flying Kazakh, and while featuring several riders from the Most Glorious Nation (including Assan Basayev) is now largely The-Team-formerly-known-as-Discovery-Channel. Despite this virtual transmogrification, the organizers of both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France decided to make a stand against doping by excluding the team claiming that it was still the dope-ridden team of the previous year. However silly this was, the short version of the story is that with just a week's notice, Tour de France winner Alberto Contador was on a plane for a three-week stage race that he hadn't really been training for. Scarily, though, Astana's inclusion meant that Contador was also surrounded by Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden, both of whom could potentially win the race.

If you want to get a sense of just how much pain winner Franco ('Il Delfino') Pelizotti is in and want to figure out if regular folks like you and me would just have spontaneously combusted, one of the fellows at PodiumCafe put all the info into GoogleEarth. Be afraid, be very afraid. This picture is also borrowed from Cyclingnews.com but belongs to AFP Photo. Today is a rest-day and several riders have made vocal their opposition to such an individual stage coming after two major mountain stages. In regard to the mountain time trial, race director Angelo Zomegnan is quoted as saying: "I think that we need spectacular shows in cycling to pull ourselves out of this mediocrities. Without something spectacular it would be normal, and this is something is extra." I'm just glad it wasn't me.

If I had been blogging in time I would have said that my favorites for the Giro were Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes), Alberto Contador, Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval - Scott), and Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti). After this past stage, Di Luca ('The Killer') has a serious fight on his hands -- while Ricco and Simoni need to try and take some time out of Contador -- because he is a better time-trialer than either of them (and the final stage on June 1st is a much flatter time-trial). The surprises, for me, have been how strong Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare) and Franco Pelizzoti (Liquigas) have proven in the mountain stages riding themselves into the top-10 overall so far.

For folks looking to try and see some of this in real-time, I would suggest checking out Cyclingfans.com. The folks there have a really nice splice available that combines the great live video from Norwegian NRK TV and the English audio coverage from Eurosport. Be aware, though, that occasionally the beginning of audio for cycling doesn't necessarily coincide with the video... so watching the early riders heading out accompanied by commentary for the Roland Garros tennis was nicely surreal.

Friday, May 23, 2008

bonus round

Here are a few bonus pictures from our training day, courtesy of Sally's mom, Jen. The first picture is of Momo holding a lovely point, while I walk in to try and flush the bird and pop the blank pistol. This was early in our first run with Sally before we were all getting frustrated with the birds that wouldn't fly.

The next pic is of Sally, doing what she does so very well, hang out on point while all the humans figure out what the heck is going on. And while we blundered through the brush, kicking up grass, throwing our hats at quail, and cursing brambles, she stood around and waited for us to get our acts together. She's awesome.

The final pic is of the search-and-destroy machine that is Mr. Enthusiasm. He's pretty much a nose and a jet propulsion system. For all his speed, he did actually pull a couple of genuine skidding-to-a-stop points. I'm actually starting to think that his nose is coming along really well -- which is good because the rest of him is about 50yards ahead.

In other news, I did see that my name is on an approved judging panel for a pointing dog hunt test for the first time. So, it sure looks like I'll be headed up to Windsor Locks, CT, in two weekends or so.

In the meantime, for those of us either living in the United States or from the U.S. living overseas, please take a moment this Memorial Day weekend to remember those who have given their lives in the military. Whatever your political affiliation, we can ask no more of anyone.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

training update

We just had a whistle-stop tour up to Massachusetts to do some training on quail with Team Vizsla -- Eastern MA chapter and Dennis + Sally (who I need to come up with a good nickname for). But before that, a quick picture from this afternoon's walk taken on my cell-phone. Yes, that's a skunk, the Terminator of skunks, the skunk who literally chased us off our trail. This search-and-destroy beast saw us, came towards us, followed us down a trail, then doubled-back to make sure we couldn't get around him, and then pursued us when we emerged from our double-secret cross-country escape route. Psycho.

And now back to this: the biggest challenge of our day's training was that it was a clear and blustery day (even in some of the glades at Hill & Hollow) and there was a visible and audible hawk population. As a result, the vast majority of the birds didn't want to fly. And once they started running, there were lots of stumps and holes and logs to hide under. And even Sally, a dog with the conviction of a martyr and the patience of a saint when it comes to pointing birds, was showing signs of frustration -- which, as far as I could tell, just involved looking at Dennis as if to say 'you can't get another one in the air?'

I felt bad for Momo. He was finding birds like crazy but, for now, the retrieve seems to be the thing that seals the deal for him... because he knows he's going to get piles of love when he does it. And so when birds run, don't fly, can't be shot and can't be retrieved, he tends to lose some of his staunchness -- and while relocating is a great thing for a hunting dog to do, if it starts leading to bumping the bird from applying too much pressure, it's not a great thing and so I want to nip such behavior in the bud. Momo did get one great retrieve in, and on a bird that Rich had to shoot rather close. Which is to say that there was a lot less bird to pick up than usual -- and while a lot of dogs will balk on that, he didn't make any sign that this was anything but business as usual.

One of the encouraging things for Sally, Jozsi and Momo was that, after working them first on birds ejected from launchers, all three of them would 'stop-to-flush' and were 'steady-to-shot' -- which feels especially important when one is using a blank-pistol (and therefore no birds are going to hit the ground prematurely). Jozsi had a great first run -- but by the time he was let out for his second run, he was high on quail scent and had his first bird run in front of him -- at which point his wheels came off and he wouldn't hold a 'whoa'. And spent 20mins in the penalty box for 'roughing.' I took him out for a final spin in a fresh part of the field and he looked good, even if his first bird unexpectedly flushed somewhat prematurely.

With all respect to both my boys and to Sally -- who lived up to my high expectations -- the highlight of the afternoon was watching Ella + Khumbu. Khumbu is just starting to get genuinely excited about birds, but when he does find a bird, he holds a beautiful point (as you can see in the middle picture). Ella, by contrast, was looking like the fire had been started all over again. I'm not sure if she gets even more stoked when there's a second dog on the ground, but she spent some time running with Sally and was jazzed like crazy. When Sally pointed a bird, I would hold Ella while Rich shot a bird for Dennis -- and when that bird hit the ground, there was no restraining her. Nutso. Awesome.

Monday, May 19, 2008

loose ends

1) Culture: Meg and I had a little cultural experience on Sunday and went to the New York Historical Society to take in their 'Woven Splendor from Timbuktu to Tibet' exhibit. Between our travels and those of Meg's brother and sister, we're very fortunate to have a nice selection of woven and felted rugs from Central Asia ourselves.

It was my first time at the NYHS -- and being in the process of finishing Richard Rhodes's biography of John James Audobon, it was nice to see a fair number of Audobon's mammoth plates hung on their walls. As for the pieces in 'Woven Splendor' exhibit, they were a really nice selection from west Africa to southwestern China, with a fair number of pieces from Kyrgyzstan and Tadjikistan. It was great to see some of the motifs we have on our rugs and tuskiiz echoed in the textiles on display, although seemingly from very different parts of Central Asia. Here's a nice pic of the boys on one of our felt rugs from western Mongolia.

There is a nice blog entry here from a quilter who also acquired a tuskiiz on her travels. We bought ours from the craft shop in the museum in Bayan Olgii when we were there in 2004. We don't have a wall space big enough to hang ours -- and so when we take them out from time to time, we still get that great smell of lanolin and stove smoke when we open them out. Like Karen the quilter, we chose ours because they are 'signed' and dated.

In a lot of ways the exhibit affirmed one of the pioneers of art history, Alois Riegl, and his groundbreaking treatise Stilfragen (1893), or put another way, the idea that decorative patterns may have histories of their own, independent of whatever symbolic or technological factors may have inspired them originally. What the NYHS deserves true credit for, perhaps, is that it has another exhibit running as a prelude, 'Allure of the East: Orientalism in New York, 1850-1930.' This exhibit is useful for helping viewers understand how the Hajji Baba Club, the nation's oldest rug collecting club, came to collect the rugs that now comprise the 'Woven Splendor' exhibit.

2) Customer Service: here's a little applause for a couple of companies that still believe in good old-fashioned follow-up.

a) We were pretty sure we were having problems with our newer Tri-tronics e-collar transmitter that probably stemmed from the time the battery compartment somehow detached from the rest of the transmitter. As promised, all their repairs were complete within 72hrs and the unit on its way back to us. Everything is working great again.

b) I just eBayed a cool, out-of-production Spyderco knife, the Bob Lum-designed Chinese Folder. (I have Eric @ Quixotic Bicycles to blame for first introducing this beautiful knife to me.) I should know by now that when someone doesn't post pictures of the other side of a knife, there's an issue... in this case, no pocket clip. But I called Sypderco and the very nice customer service person happened to have a replacement clip for it in her desk (which she shipped to me at no charge). Bob Lum, incidentally, recently passed away in December.

3) Dog health compendium: Kim has a horror story about a night at the Vet ICU and a serious word of caution about keeping Gorilla Glue in the house; Ziggy the Unfortunate has been having some nose-bleeds; and poor Charlie Morph has been chomping sticks and spiking himself in the throat. At the other end of the spectrum Patti Khully has been helping out with K-9 Down, a not-for-profit organization that provides first-responders (police, paramedics, and military personnel) with critical first-aid training for their working dogs. Her original blog about the group was here -- and her subsequent adventures helping out in NYC are here.

Happily, both our boys' feet appear to have recovered just fine, but I am now dowsing them with Tuf-Foot to help them toughen up.

4) Fun: Off to do some dog-training on Wednesday... looks like we'll be able to meet up with the Team V- Eastern MA chapter as well as Dennis + Sally.

5) More fun: It also looks like I may have my debut as a hunt test judge at the beginning of June. Will keep everyone posted, but I'm excited that I may get to judge before the end of the spring hunt test season.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

why bird-dogs should run for office...

... because they're smarter than many of our elected officials. With all due respect to the Honorable Senator from Pennsylvania, how about actually ensuring that US veterans get the resources they need to re-integrate into regular life? or actually worrying about how the United States can afford to pay for two ongoing military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq? While part of your job, I guess neither of these is in "the public's interest". As opposed to whether the NFL has held an adequate investigation of Spygate after its interview with Matt Walsh.

But hey, if you've got time on your hands between the Appropriations and Veterans Affairs Committees and you're looking for something to do to appease your inner Steelers or Eagles fan, then go right ahead...

In happier news, we just received these pictures from Sally's mom, Jennifer, taken at the Mayflower GSP Hunt Test last month. I post them both because while the top one is nice, the bottom picture shows that we can all honor one another's closed-eyes without any verbal commands.

In other exciting news, we will get to see Dennis + Sally next week! Seems Dennis has a flexible job, too, so we're going to meet up at Hill & Hollow and train on some quail next week. It turns out that Sally has been busy -- and that other folks think she's pretty darn great, too. Sally finished up her SH the weekend after we met her -- and will most likely come up to the Katahdin GSP Club Hunt Test in Hopkinton, NH, at the end of the month to try out for her Master Hunter. So, hopefully, we'll get to see Dennis, Jen, and Sally again soon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

happy birthdays

First of all, a retroactive happy birthday to my brother, Alastair, whose birthday was on Sunday!

Second of all, a happy birthday to Steve of Coconino Cycles fame! It's been a tough couple of years for him, but he's one tough cookie. Here's a pic of Steve muscling his way around Sedona on his hand-bike. Denise has a few good pics of their most recent ride in the red-dirt.

Third, and most important of all, May 13th is also the happy first anniversary for Mr. Enthusiasm, a.k.a Lurch, a.k.a. The Evil Genius, but best known as Jozsi. Check out the pictures! Can you believe how big he is after just one year?

As you can see, though, he has maintained his feistiness since Day One. The picture of him sparring with Momo was taken just two days after he arrived here in the Bronx. Incidentally, the word 'feisty' has a nice canine origin. From the American Heritage Dictionary:
"Feist, also fice, is one of several regional terms for a small mixed-breed dog. Used throughout the Midland and Southern states, feist connotes a snappy, nervous, belligerent little dog—hence the derived adjective feisty, meaning "touchy, quarrelsome, or spirited," applicable to animals and to people."

He's had quite a year... and the omens still look like he might become a genuinely phenomenal bird-dog. For those that have just joined The Regal Vizsla, Jozsi pointed his first quail and then retrieved the downed bird to hand two days shy of 5mos old! (He hasn't retrieved a bird-to-hand since!) He has pointed quail, pheasant, woodcock, and chukar to date -- and will hopefully get some extended exposure to grouse in October -- and was awarded the first two legs of his Junior Hunter at 11mos old. Hopefully I can iron out a few schedule wrinkles and can take both boys up to NH to finish out their respective certifications at the end of the month.

He is one hard-running bird-dog, but for all his sulphur and mustard, Mr. Crazy Pants is a sweet, cuddling monster. Just as he was from Day One. Happy Birthday, Mr. Enthusiasm!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

geegaws + gimcracks

Geegaw #1: at the Mayflower GSP hunt test, I met a fellow with a nice jäger (or 'jaeger') leash. As the name suggests, these 'hunter's' leads can be worn across the chest to leave your hands free. I like the idea of it for hunt tests, especially, where you can have the leash on, unclip the dog, and then simply tuck the loose end into your vest or pocket -- always ready for the end of the brace or an unexpected circumstance.

This style of lead isn't super-common, but I found a nice one made by Paula Hogan at Hogan Custom Leather -- which I just received. In addition to having the capacity to be clipped to a variety of different lengths, some styles of jäger leash also have a floating ring on one end so that you can rig a slip-lead if necessary. Paula was willing to put one in on one of her standard leashes -- and I may regret it at some point, but I can't envision ever needing a slip lead for our boys and decided to do without it. You can tell immediately that she uses high-quality bridle leather and quality hardware. Very pleased so far.

Geegaw#2: Momo's foot is almost healed enough that he will walk on it full-time again. He seems to reserve four-paw use for maximum leverage when wrestling his brother. After months of ho-humming, I finally took Pat the Terrierman's advice and bought some Fish-Flex to have on-hand just in case things like cut pads look like they may become infected.

Gimcrack #1: Way back when we visited Denise + Steve in Flagstaff back in January, Steve asked me if I had heard Friday Night in San Francisco, a mostly live album by Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Paco de Lucia -- which as All-Music states "catches all three players at the peaks of their quite formidable powers." It is, frankly, pretty amazing as a live, acoustic guitar album -- so cool, in fact that it has its own Wikipedia page.

As folks know, I like to listen to podcasts on my subway commute -- and listen to (primarily) PRI's Global Hit. While I had owned the album for some time, I only recently heard PRI's podcast about Le Trio Joubran's (then) new album Randana. The trio is distinctive because a) they are brothers, b) they all play the oud, and c) the youngest brother, Wissam, is also a luthier and made all three of their instruments. In this podcast, though, Samir (the oldest brother) describes the influence Friday Night had had on him and how it had inspired him to try and recreate that album's electricity in his work with his brothers. Randana is great -- but after just a couple of listens, I would say that their newest album, Majaz, has perhaps even more of the spirit of Friday Night to it.

And while Le Trio Joubran are really great, I was actually reminded of Friday Night because I heard another great live album recently, Ojos de Brujo's Techarí Live. As the link tells you, the album features a fabulous, not-at-all-reggae version of Bob Marley's 'Get Up, Stand Up.'

And if I haven't mentioned them recently, my two other favorite live albums of all time would be Gilberto Gil's Acoustic and the incredible concert album 1, 2, 3 Soleils featuring the three superstars of Algerian rai Khaled, Faudel, and Rachid Taha.

Gimcrack#2: we are having brunch tomorrow with Emily, Tom, and their new son, Sam. (Emily is famous here at The Regal Vizsla for requesting more ballet -- for folks looking to test their ballet trivia knowledge, I would recommend this quiz at the New York City Ballet. Don't say I don't care, Em!) It will be the first time meeting Sam for me, so hopefully the experience won't be too traumatic for him. We'll probably leave the boys at home even though it might actually be better for Sam to get a few vizsla kisses.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


It's been a tricky couple of days -- we had planned to go up to Hill & Hollow Pointer and Retriever Club in Berkley, MA, but sadly Momo cut two pads on one of his rear feet and is now on light exercise, lots of triple antibiotic, and EMT Spray.

So, wearing his best Elizabethan collar, I left Momo out of his kennel, but alone, for a few hours while Jozsi and I went out to Long Island to meet up with Bill of The Black + Tan Bombshell fame. I have known Bill since we first moved to New York -- it's funny that we now both have blogs. Bill has met Momo and I wanted him to meet Mr. Enthusiasm, as well. Although to be honest, the real point of the expedition was to go out and shoot skeet with him at his club. Here's a picture of Jozsi running around in the woods, trying to move quickly to avoid the ticks.

Whiole we had hoped to train on quail this week, it's been nice to take advantage of Jozsi sight-pointing all the various robins in the woods to get him accustomed to 'whoa' and, perhaps as importantly, to see Momo begin to twig that when his brother is holding a fierce point that he should perhaps honor his brother's intensity. Craig Koshyk has just posted some video of his own recent efforts to get a younger Pont Audemer Spaniel to honor by having him back his Weimaraner, Souris, on-point. There are some gorgeous moments in there.

The next picture is what you can expect from two ferocious vizslas. As ever, wrestling is fun, wrestling next to Dad is better, but wrestling on Dad -- maybe even occasionally kicking him in the head or nipping him out of excitement -- is absolutely the best.

Hopefully The Mominator's feet will recover soon so we can actually start training again. For now, though, the next most exciting thing on the schedule is meeting up with our friend, Laura, who also has her own blog and her husband, Todd, on Friday and hitting one of our favorite NYC restaurants, HanGawi. Korean, vegetarian, very very tasty.

For those of you either following the friction between Georgia and Russia (or wondering how to spell 'Abkhazia'), Anne Applebaum at Slate has a concise overview of why few in the White House are giving it much attention either.

Monday, May 5, 2008

temporarily absent

When my wife starts hassling me that I haven't blogged in a while (and doesn't accept the answer "But I'm just sitting over here!"), you know it's time to put up an entry. It's the quiet season at work and my friend, Ed, had pulled this video up before the day started today. I used to listen to a bunch of country music but never really heard Brad Paisley till now. In any case, I'm really much cooler online, too.

"ONLINE" Brad Paisley Music Video

I still have a couple of draft posts that are waiting for information before I post them, but in the meantime here are some highlights.

1) Momo tested positive for anaplasmosis on his recent SNAP4 test. Anecdotally speaking, I have heard that anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis are the two tick-borne diseases on the rise here in the northeast. Happily, though, his secondary CBC test showed no effect on his immune system -- and so no treatment is necessary.

Heeding Pat the Terrierman and Kim's advice, we skipped the Lyme vaccine for the boys this time around.

2) We're thinking about heading up to the Katahdin GSP Club Hunt Test up at Sharpe's Farm in Hopkinton, NH, at the end of the month to try and round out the boys' respective test titles.

3) Back in January while blogging about what pedigrees and titles should mean to the prospective owner, I mentioned Bill Gibbons's Magma Birddogs website and had posted a picture of Upwind Kismet Rapid Fire (aka 'Mason'). I was browsing some back issues of the Vizsla Field and discovered that Mason had won the National Vizsla Association's National Quail Classic back in October. One heck of a dog!

Along the way I discovered Grace Anne Lawson's Ricochet Vizslas blog. Her good friend, Dave Pomfret, handled both Mason and Colonel, the first- and second-placed dogs at the Quail Classic. For those of you interested in the tribulations of field-trialing your vizsla, her blog may be a good place to start.

4) Joshua Foust at the excellent Registan posted recently on the posturing between Georgia and Russia. This has included claims and counter-claims that a Russian fighter jet shot down an unmanned Georgia spy-plane over Abkhazia. The Guardian has short video footage of the alleged missile-attack. Reuters has also recently reported that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will shortly send a mission to encourage the two sides to talk. I wonder how such a conversation would look once Kazakhstan, as opposed to current chair-nation Finland, assumes control over the OSCE.