Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rose's $2000 haircut

Not very stylish!

Rose had an MRI and spinal tap, and our bank account had a severe money-ectomy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

On the road

Here are some of the exciting animals we did not see at the zoo in Providence, RI:

Babirusa (butt disappearing into cave)
Mara (one ear flutter barely visible in cave if you crouched down at the right angle at the right moment)
Binturong (great exhibit where you could crawl under and stick your head up one of those clear plastic bubble right in there with the binturong, if it hadn't been hiding)

We had the perfect timing to see a sloth actually moving in one indoor exhibit but otherwise that one was all, like, saki monkeys and GLTs, which I have had enough of for a lifetime and never liked that much in the first place.

They did have some great tropical birds - but the main effect of that was just to make me think that my life would be richer if I could manage to give a shit about birds. Sadly, I just can't.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Puggy Christmas!

Puggy Christmas!
Originally uploaded by wombatarama

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Travel advice for out of towners: think twice about taking the bus

The other evening I got off the metro in a strange neighborhood. I knew I had to go south on Georgia Ave, a major-north south route, but wasn't sure which way that was.

But I was in luck - there was a city bus waiting at the corner. So I stopped and asked the driver if I was walking south.

He was all, "Uh..."

I finally got an answer by asking if it was the downtown direction or the Maryland direction, but he even had to think pretty hard about that one.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Embittered former academic - who, me?

In the 1960s, faced with the possibility that her husband would be jailed for his activities in opposition to the Vietnam War, Carol Chomsky resumed her education: a doctorate would be useful should she need to become the sole family breadwinner.

-New York Times obituary for Carol Chomsky

Well, weren't those the good old days!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I managed to finish my holiday shopping while buying only the following for myself:

Panamanian Golden Frog T-shirt, on sale
Panamanian Golden Frog mug, on sale
Expensive black tights that I actually needed
A third package of Manatee Margarita chocolate, to ensure that I actually give away the first two.

I bought a dozen things that were actually gifts, so really, that's pretty good, isn't it?

Friday, December 19, 2008


All of a sudden I am constantly hearing the phrase "high net worth individuals."

When did it become unacceptable to say "rich people?"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pug Life

Yesterday I got a letter with the return address "Department of Police, Animal Services Division." My immediate reaction was, oh no, what did we do? Even if they have invented off-leash cameras, I know we haven't been to the park since the summer.

Uh, right... I realized after half a second that although the only other thing we get from "Department of Police" is traffic tickets, this was just a dog license renewal notice.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why publishing is dying

I am designing a website for a friend, who shall remain nameless for the purposes of this post, who has a book coming out next month.

The publisher told her that she MUST have a website for marketing purposes, but provides no support for this at all, which is why I am doing it. My friend asked several times what to do about a 'buy' link, and they ignored all her emails.

Then, after the site was already done, someone looked at it and said "include more places to buy." They provided a link to their catalog, which includes a number of sites to buy the book.

One of those sites is Alibris, which in case you don't know, is a used bookseller.

When she inquired about this, she was told "it's a corporate decision." In other words, !%&$ you, author, and your sales numbers and your royalties.

This is just one of many stories I could tell but I will leave it at this: they will blame it on the economy and the web and people not reading anymore, but if the publishing business is collapsing, they have no one to blame but themselves.

It's a shame, really. I kind of don't want to publish a book so much anymore after this experience, but I really liked reading them, you know? It will be sad when they are gone.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The melting pot

Yesterday I passed a store that is about to open, with a big sign out front:


It's a great country we live in.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Household Tip of the Day

Recycling and reusing is all well and good, but avoid using an envelope marked "Expiration Notice" as a bookmark, especially in a book that is turning out to be somewhat less than a page-turner.

(Yeah, I just figured out why I haven't gotten the last few months of Cook's Illustrated.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Party animals

Dog tic-tac-toe at the dog club Christmas party - you know, like Downs are O and Sits are X.

Lilly was brilliant at this when we played, even though we ended up on the Down team which was always harder for her. It made me feel bad that her talents and skills are being wasted. Or maybe she prefers retirement? I don't know how to tell.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cat toys for hard times

I don't usually do this, but I think that my current column is a hoot.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

Elsewhere on the Internet...

Lilly and Rose on Pug-A-Day

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bare keepers

OK, I guess I'm actually kind of glad that all the zoos I've worked for were too stuffy to have an idea like this. I really wouldn't want so much of my skin exposed to all those sharp claws.

Dudley Zoo (UK) keepers strip for fundraising calendar

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Another career change? No thanks.

I have resumes posted on some of those big sites where you can set it up to automatically search for appropriate jobs and email you the ads. This morning, one of them thinks I should apply for a job as a lawyer for a local public school district, or, if I am not feeling so ambitious, as a legal secretary.

I think where I should really apply is the company that programs that search agent. Even I could do a better job than that.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Not fair

The pugs will never let me sleep late. And who can blame them? When I get up, I have to shower, get dressed at least vaguely respectably in case someone rings the doorbell, and then commence the neverending struggle to make something out of the day that is at least marginally worthwhile according to modern human standards. When they get up, they get to eat breakfast, and then basically go right back to bed.

So, yeah. What do they have to lose?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rant: Business advice

I know, everyone hates their cable company. It's not a new rant. I won't bore you by describing what idiotic thing they did this time.

But I only just realized the depth of this. I realized that every time I try to decide whether I want to give them money for some new or additional service, the calculation doesn't just involve whether the service is worth X dollars to me. Every time, I also have to decide whether I want the particular service badly enough to overcome the fact that I just hate the idea of giving them any more money.

Really, I'm not asking for greatness. I just want them to run a business in a normal, average, mediocre manner, so that I can decide whether to purchase something solely based on whether it is worth the price.

Is that so much to ask? Just don't run your business so badly that people actually hate you. That is my advice.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

happy thanksgiving!

Poised for takeoff
Originally uploaded by wombatarama

Here's Rose about to be blown away by the blustery weather at the Thanksgiving parade this past weekend.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Raised by Smush-faced Wolves


The baby may think she's a pug, but pugs think they are human, so it all works out in the end.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A job well done... or not

I just read this review in the Onion of the apparently ridiculously long-awaited new album by Guns N'Roses.

I'm not sure why I started reading it, because I have never heard an old album by this group and have no interest in the new one. But I kept reading to the end, at which point, I wanted to run right out and buy - no, not the album, even though it was quite a good review. Instead, I couldn't believe that anyone could be such a good writer that he could get me to read 1700 words (I counted) about the new Guns N' Roses album, so I wanted to run out and buy one of this guy's books.

There is some kind of important lesson about writing here, but I can't figure out what it is, because I can't decide: Does this mean he is doing a good job as a reviewer or a terrible one?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Newfangled West Coast innovations

On the news lately they keep talking about 'fire season' in California. Listen up, California people: I know that you are inexperienced with the whole 'seasons' thing, so trust me: 'fire season' is a really bad idea for one.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Honeymoon period

I was out today doing research for a holiday gift guide for the newspaper (pay no attention to those bulging shopping bags) and found places that were selling Obama purses, totes, mousepads, and Christmas tree ornaments.

It was way too expensive, but I was sorely tempted to buy the ornament and hang it on the tree next to our only other celebrity-portrait ornament, the one with the Pope on it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pug powers

How do they do it? How can it be possible that when I am lying in bed in the morning with my eyes shut tight, and they are not making a sound or moving a muscle, I can still tell that they are staring at me?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


It's hard to imagine what I could blog about that would be worthy of pushing that last post off the top of the page. But I suppose I will just have to post this lovely picture of Bamu and try to move on with my life.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Internet made me do it

The artist hard at work
Originally uploaded by wombatarama

Having my arm autographed by Chris Onstad, author of the comic Achewood. Sort of a peak moment of my life, actually, and I am not ashamed to say it. Slightly embarassed, yeah, but not ashamed.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Autumn shadows

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I'm Smush-faced and I Vote

I'm Smush-faced and I Vote
Originally uploaded by wombatarama

Obama sweeps the Pug-American demographic!

Now I have to go write two post election pet stories. I am not making this up.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pug with Large Voter Turnout

Only a small section of the line, about 9 am. No way to get the whole line and a visible pug in the picture.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Murder most foul

The purloined pumpkin was returned safely - it was found on the front wall of the house next door. But then, we came home from dinner last night to this gruesome scene.

Perhaps the kidnapping of the other pumpkin was a red herring meant to distract attention from which pumpkin was really in danger?

Unfortunately, the corpse had been moved, no doubt destroying vital evidence, by the time I investigated. I was only informed of the situation belatedly, when we were out for dinner, and the Technical Staff realized that he'd forgotten to mention seeing a pumpkin smashed in front of the house as he drove by. By the time we got home again, someone had replaced it on the retaining wall.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Purloined pumpkin!

The pumpkin in the last post (better view here) was gone when we went to blow its candle out last night.

It had gotten a lot of compliments from kids all night, and whoever took it had to walk up the stairs, and ignored the much lamer pumpkin that was right at the bottom of them:

I guess I should be flattered, but why did they leave the lid? I imagine a gang of inexperienced pumpkin thieves getting back to their lair and yelling at each other "I thought YOU had the lid!"

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

from the barfing pumpkin in the dark

Thursday, October 30, 2008

One country divided by a common language

Yesterday I talked to a very friendly and helpful lady on the phone about a dried sweet potato product for dogs. She had one of those Midwestern accents in which, in my experience, people are always just so nice to other people.

What do you suppose these people do when they need to swear? Do they suddenly sound like they were born in the Bronx?

My linguistics education tells me no, but my gut instinct has a hard time believing it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Eskimos have one hundred words for 'hyperlink'

Last night I looked over the Technical Staff's shoulder at his computer and asked him why he was Googling 'Taunton river.' He swore he didn't remember. He knew he hadn't started with that, but didn't know what he had started with.

There needs to be a word for that thing, where you end up lost somewhere on the internet after clicking too many links and searching too many terms and don't know how you got there, like you're waking up from sleepwalking. Googlewalking, maybe.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Bamu with a lovely Japanese sweet potato. Why don't my pug pictures look this good, or those sweet potatoes when I cook them?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

General Announcement to Other Humans in the Bed

If a pug is snoring, please feel free to poke it by yourself. It is not necessary to wake me up and tell me to poke the pug because it is snoring. I have no special skills or qualifications in this area that exceed your own abilities. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Highly recommended

I submitted a story a week ago to Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine (yeah, I know, I write mysteries... it was sort of a fluke).

Yesterday - after one week - I got a rejection letter. With actual original sentences in it, written and signed by a human being.

This is totally astonishing service. I wish I was a science fiction writer, it was such a pleasure doing business with them.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Another Halloween pug picture

Rose has a better attitude. But that is always the case.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Halloween season

Lilly seems less than thrilled about it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Topsy-turvey world!

It was warm enough to eat breakfast outdoors in a t-shirt... but there were red and yellow fallen leaves all over the table. Despite the temperature flirting with eighty today, I am not fooled. It was almost dark by seven last night. It's winter.

I wanted to write a haiku about this - it seemed like the perfect seasonal topic - but I couldn't get the syllable count right:

Breakfast in short sleeves
Fallen leaves on the table
Wasn't born yesterday

And... Lilly went for a morning walk! Lilly never takes a walk in the morning. I think she wanted to go to the fancy dog store. I tried to explain that they are not open at 8:30 but I think she is very cross with me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pugs in the sun

on an unseasonably warm beautiful weekend

Friday, October 10, 2008


I have always prided myself on being a rather original thinker. But recently I got a press release from the AKC about the current most popular names for dogs, and what do I find in the top twenty? Both Rose and Lily/Lilly.

The next day, a man driving past pulled over and got out of his car to meet Rose, and told me that one of his pugs had recently passed away. Her name? Cocoa Pig.

I felt bad enough about that. And now today on Pug-a-day? King Snorkie von Squigglesworth.

I have to conclude that at least, I did not put an adequate amount of effort into this important subject.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Belated plug

I realized today that while I announced a while ago that I got a gig at a website that reviews snacks, I stupidly never linked to it. Here it is, and over there on the right hand side.

Monday, October 6, 2008


I got nothin' half as good as this.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

General Announcement to Pug Dogs

I know it's cold, but it is simply not possible for me to work on the laptop computer with a pug on my lap. Please stop looking at me that way and go curl up under a blanket like you would if I left the house and worked in an office. Thank you.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pug on pug

Poor Lilly, how she suffers.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Indifferent pug with lichen

I think she's gotten tired of having her picture taken. She really had a much better time on vacation than it looks.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Technical difficulties

Kind of bad weather for swimming. Fortunately, we never go swimming at the beach. Not so fortunately, we got home and found there was a power failure that fried our cable modem.

After lots of yelling on the phone, tomorrow I have to go try to get one, or else I can't really work. In the meantime we're hoping that our neighbor's wireless doesn't stop working. Thank goodness for people who don't worry about computer security.

Friday, September 26, 2008

At the beach! Not too wet!

There was something like a monsoon yesterday and they forecast a 90% chance of rain today, so it was not looking good. But it's 4 PM and so far we've been having a good time outdoors all day. All the rest of us would get fired if we did our job as poorly as weather forecasters do, but at least it is not raining on my vacation.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

And the mattresses are so much more poofy!

So we have huge nasty economic perturbations AND gas lines; why doesn’t it feel like the 70s? Better graphics, I think. The society’s look-and-feel is set on perma-shiny, and even if we do see apple vendors on every corner, they will have signs they made at Kinkos. And the apples will be organic.

-James Lileks at

Friday, September 19, 2008

Middle age is not for sissies, but preferable to the alternative

Nature, in her infinite wisdom, did us the favor of having our vision deteriorate at the same time that our skin becomes wrinkled. We had to go and screw it up by inventing eyeglasses.

But just after thinking this, I noticed I was having trouble seeing a tiger at a distance yesterday. Which could have been a problem if it were happening somewhere other than at the zoo. I guess the survival value of eyeglasses outweighs their cost to vanity.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Question regarding the banking crisis

If you want to keep your money in a mattress, are you supposed to put it between the mattress and the boxspring, or are you supposed to actually cut the mattress open and put the money inside?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Business opportunity

My sister emailed me over the weekend to say not to try emailing my mother, who just moved, because her email is not working. A little later I went out to the bookstore, and as I passed their huge selection of cards I realized that I needed a sympathy card for someone whose email is not working. Why hasn't someone invented that? How could it lose? It's the only kind of card that can't possibly be put out of business by an email.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

At the Zoo

I'm writing an article for the zoo magazine about enrichment. Here's some stuff for the sloth bear, ready to be filled with mulch and such with treats hidden inside. The bears don't care if it looks pretty as long as it's fun to dig in.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Huh, and I thought this was a spectacular fungus. Shows how much I know.

Here's a more panoramic view:

This is the kind of thing that goes on when people go hiking without me. How come I never get to see the good stuff?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The pug mind

Lilly has developed that obnoxious habit of barking like a hysterical lunatic at other dogs that walk by. She doesn't do it every time, for mysterious reasons that I initially thought had to do with being surprised by the appearance of the other dog. So I started warning her when I saw a dog coming.

This seemed at first to work and I don't know where things went wrong, but in any case at some point I started to say 'no barking' instead of just "there's a dog."

Now, when she hears me say 'no barking' she immediately whips around and starts barking like a maniac. Apparently I am such an accurate predictor of dogs that need to be barked at that she doesn't even wait to see the actual dog.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mysteries of technology, etc.

Nothing I can think of to post would be funnier than this.

Also I don't usually delve into politics but let's just think of this as a plea for civility.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The amazing animal mind

A waitress had just come and left, and all of a sudden there's Rose in my face. Unfortunately, all the waitress had brought at that point was napkins and silverware.

An animal that knows what a waitress does. It's a mind boggling concept.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Oom Pa

The band was very nice later when Lilly had a barking fit while they were playing. When the piece was over they announced its name, "for two alpenhorns and two pugs." It was only the fault of one pug, though.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Cute babies

Bullfrog tadpoles in a big concrete tank where they can't swim away from us, for a change.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pug brunch

Pugs in a fancy new shopping lane in fancy Bethesda.

We were supposed to go away this past weekend but canceled at the last minute due to a migraine. We went out for Sunday brunch in a strange new place to pretend we were on vacation. It was nice, but I don't think any of us were really fooled.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mt. Fuji morning glory

Grown in a pot like the Japanese do. I am ridiculously pleased with this.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

General Announcement to PR People

If your name and phone number are listed as PR manager on the website of a major national organization, you might want to consider answering the phone "Hello, this is Name, Major National Organization."

As opposed to, "Hello?"

Seriously. We didn't even answer that way at the Reptile House, where outside people had no way of getting our phone number. Isn't this basic business etiquette?

Monday, August 25, 2008

No prejudice here

Originally uploaded by Karl Kuchs

I've never posted a black pug with its chin down. Black pugs are much rarer. We keep meeting new pugs in the neighborhood lately, but never a black one. But Flickr has everything anyone could need, so here we are.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The dog mind

Rose follows me around the house no matter where I go. Lilly does not do this, because she long ago learned how to identify the subtle signs of imminent Pug Fun or the lack thereof, so she doesn't have to waste energy. Rose is more willing to take her chances and also, I guess, after living her first four years in a cage, figures she's already spent enough time lying in one place.

But I feel kind of bad when she uses all that energy to run down the stairs after me when I'm getting a glass of iced tea and coming right back up to the office. Or when she leaps up in the backyard likewise when I'm just grabbing something and coming right back out.

Since I talk to them all the time whether they understand it or not, I always say, "no wait I'll be right back."

I just noticed that now, when I say "I'll be right back," Rose does not get up and follow me.

This is what I love about dogs.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

General Announcement to Pug Dogs

There is no conceivable circumstance in which a pug dog would leave even a single edible molecule behind in a food bowl. This should be obvious to both of you via a moment of reflection upon your own behavior. Therefore, it is not necessary to run to each other's bowls after every meal to lick them clean. It is absolutely certain that there will never be anything left in the other pug's bowl. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pug eats local

On Monday I finally crossed off my to-do list something that had been there for years, ever since we moved to this neighborhood. I took some pictures of this small vegetable farm that is around the corner from me.

This farm is only a couple of blocks from downtown Silver Spring office buildings, metro, etc. Every year I assumed the bulldozers were going to roll in and ugly McMansions would get crammed onto the lot and I'd kick myself for not getting the pictures. Just like I still kick myself that I didn't get pictures of the Orthopedic Truss company on Bonifant Street, or the artificial limb place on Wayne, or any of the other pleasures of urban decay that are rapidly vanishing from the neighborhood.

I don't know how much longer we'll be able to walk around the corner and buy figs, but at least I didn't miss out on taking the photos.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Went herping and all I got was this lousy fungus

Actually it's a really spectacular fungus, isn't it?

We went to try to look at some tadpoles again. We perceived a lot of things swimming away faster than you could see them, and also a lot of little things jumping into the water before you could see them.

It was somewhat less eventful than the last trip. We used the GPS this time and didn't get lost, although I found the dirt road rather terrifying, and even worse was the HUGE bee-like insect that got into the car on the way back. I swear it looked like the nightmarish creature in this video.

Really, it's a lot better to go to the zoo.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I am happy to report that after deciding on Wednesday that I was going to give up trying to get anything done for the rest of the month, on Thursday I accomplished absolutely nothing.

It feels so good to make a resolution and stick to it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cry uncle

August: I concede defeat. You win.

If you asked me, I would say that I hated winter more than any time of year. But in reality if I were paying attention I'd realize August was the lowest point. I spent last August basically lying on the couch with migraines for the whole month. The year before that it was lady-part-problems. I spent a few previous Augusts lying on the same couch sick with stomach problems. This year it looks to be a reprise of the lady-part-problems.

It's not even that hot this year, so although I hate the weather, I guess that's not it. I don't know if it's the shortening days playing some kind of primeval hormonal havoc, my body crying out in protest at never getting a summer vacation longer than a long weekend, or what.

Whatever it is, I am not fighting it anymore. I will not bother feeling bad about not going to the gym. I will not resist the urge to take the pugs to an outdoor restaurant on a weekday evening and have for dinner a margarita and spinach-cheese dip, followed by a piece of cake covered in whipped cream from Whole Foods. I will not expect to finish any major projects, start any new ventures, or make any life decisions. I give up. Ambition, plans, and goals, see you in September.

Monday, August 11, 2008

And a lovely pug evening too

Rose and Lilly at a free concert on Saturday night by the Dixie Power Trio. There are four guys in the band actually, and when asked, the answer was that they are the world's largest trio.

They played a song called Zydeco Dog that refers to a dog that wants to stay out all night. That's Lilly - we were out for at least two hours and we still had to drag her home. While Rose is all "Ooo, we're going home now? Really? Really?"

(More pug internet celebrity: this same picture on the website of our cool new local dog store, Living Ruff.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Glorious pug morning

I walked the pugs to the farmer's market this morning and shared a brioche with them. Usually only Rose will come with me, but this time Lilly condescended to accompany us.

Just as we were finishing, the man at the bakery came running over. He had dropped a croissant on the floor, so he gave it to me for the pugs. For them, of course, this was like winning the lottery.

This is just how Lilly is, she's that lucky person that these things happen to.

I bet she remembers this and I don't have trouble convincing her to come next week. If the baker drops a croissant again I hope he does it sooner, though. It would have been nice to be able to eat my whole brioche myself.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Why newspapers are dying

This morning I read a restaurant review in the Washington Post Weekend section which contained the following sentence:

"Let's be honest, Mexican food is pretty straightforward with variations on a cheese, meat and tortilla theme."

I immediately had to drop everything I was doing and write a curmudgeonly email which began "I know you've downsized the staff, but what's going on here, are you having the high school interns write the restaurant reviews?"

Seriously, this is Washington DC. This is an audience that has a high level of culinary sophistication. The existence of Mexican regional cuisines is not a secret nowadays, nor is the existence of dishes beyond Tex-Mex tacos and enchiladas. And surely it's not news to readers in an area with such a large Latino population that "plantains are a fruit similar to bananas."

I managed not to also comment on the style of the quoted sentence, so really, I did exercise some restraint. But, although I know from personal experience that it's the time of year when a lot of the grownup editors are on vacation, there's really no excuse.

(The title of this post is stolen from my famous writer friend Beth Harpaz, who forwards around terrible newspaper stories under this heading.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mysteries of technology

Words that my MS Word spellchecker does not recognize as correctly spelled English words:


Words that it thinks are perfectly fine:

The f-word itself, spelled out
"the f-word"

Monday, August 4, 2008

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Typing more words on the internet

There is this new blog I am writing for:

Go read it and click on all the ads so I make some money, unlike on this gloriously ad-free labor of love and curmudgeonry. Thanks!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

General Announcement to PR People

Note: When you send out a press release or pitch a story, the whole idea is to get reporters to call you up and ask to interview the person you talk about in the press release. Therefore, could you please make sure that the person is not going on vacation the day that you plan to send out the release?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pug internet fame

This blog post has a picture of Lilly that must have been taken by someone who was standing right behind us when we were taking the picture below.

(Note to local photographers: pug pictures are better without accompanying humans. Lilly and Rose were on another local blog a while ago, but I didn't link to it because unfortunately I was in the picture too.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Deja vu all over again

“There’s nothing new, is there?” Albert asks. “Stealing gas, OPEC, high prices. It’s like the Seventies are being recycled.”

“Yep,” I reply. “First the kids started wearing bell bottoms, growing their hair long, and sporting mutton chop side burns. But when Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow started to become cool again? Oil shocks and economic collapse were sure to follow.”

“I just hope disco doesn’t come back,” Albert says.

“You and me both.”

- Waiter Rant

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Goofy trio of pugs on astroturf

Lilly, neighborhood pug Henry, Rose. With Henry's family's kid and a bunch of feet and legs. On the plastic grass field in downtown Silver Spring, at what is supposed to be a party to say goodbye before they fence it off and start building a building. Although actually it looks like any other Friday night on the green, which always attracted its own party.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pug entertainment review

A few months ago I was sent a review copy of a set of DVDs for dogs to watch. The other day I was desperate for something do that counted as work but involved mostly lying on the couch, so I decided to finally try them out.

The pugs paid no attention to them at all. Yeah, Rose is mostly blind, but she didn't even react to the soundtrack. I think Lilly perked up the first time a dog barked, but that was it.

The only part that interested them? When I unwrapped the plastic wrapping around the DVD boxes - they ran over, thinking that it was the sound of some kind of food wrapper.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pug wisdom

Roscoe and Zoomar on life and death.

(Roscoe's dad works for Archie McPhee, which is a great place to shop if you need to take your mind off of sobering topics like life and death.)

Addendum: and if instead you want another Roscoe post that will really make you want to cry, click here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Don't do it on the cheap

"Today I saw a 40-year old man in a pink polo shirt cruising down the street on a skateboard. It really impressed upon me the importance of saving up for your midlife crisis."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rose pose with tongue

You really can't see too many of these, I'm sure.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Couldn't have said it better

I'm not really much on dog whispering, I find that dog storming off in a huff and pouting is what gets their attention.

-mrskennedy's Twitter (

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


American Eskimo with its chin down:

(from faithful reader Jaydub)

Monday, July 14, 2008

General Announcement to Pug Dogs

OK, I know that the reason you get so excited and happy when I'm about to leave the house is because you're about to get a Goodbye Cookie. But do you think you could tone it down a little? It doesn't exactly make me feel loved, you know?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Rose poses

Seriously is this dog cute or what?

A bunch more pictures from this session on Flickr. Just Rose, because Lilly won't go for a walk in the morning unless Not the Mama comes with us, and he wouldn't, so they were sitting home reading the paper together.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Today's success story

Healthy Eating Moment: I just put a half-gallon of peach ice cream back on the shelf, and bought a box of six Chocolate Eclair bars instead.

Oh, did I mention I just got a job blogging for a site that reviews snacks?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Today's Hell in a Handbasket Report

On July 2, the Washington Post ran a couple of pictures of frogs that I know personally from the Reptile House. They misidentified the species of one of them, despite giving a description of that species in the caption that didn't match the frog in the photo. The caption also said the pictures were taken at Amazonia, despite the fact that neither were South American species, which should have given someone pause.

I wrote to them to point this out, but apparently they have decided it was not important enough to run a printed correction. In contrast with the following:

· A Reliable Source item in the July 1 Style section incorrectly described Kansas City Barbeque in San Diego as the site of the scene in "Top Gun" in which Tom Cruise sang "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." Kansas City Barbeque was the site of the scene in which Kelly McGillis played the song on a jukebox, but Cruise's singing scene was set in a different bar.

Yup, that's clearly more important than scientific facts about nature. Who could argue?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Old Dogs and New Tricks

Last night, I walked into the dining room to see if Lilly was pestering Rose, as usual, by staring at her while she ate a bone in her crate. She was in fact doing this very thing, in a lovely down position - ON THE TOP OF THE DINING ROOM TABLE.

Now, Lilly was trained in agility at an impressionable age, which is a sport in which dogs basically jump on, walk all over, and jump off complicated pieces of furniture. And, even younger, she learned from the cats that on top of the back of the living room couch was the best place to lie. And now that we have a table in the living room she does occasionally get up on top of it - she can walk onto it pretty much directly from the couch.

But it was only a few days ago, after nine years of living in this house with this furniture, that for the first time it occurred to her that if she jumped up on a chair, she could reach something on the dining room table. I don't know why she never realized it before or what inspired her at that moment. But I guess the next step was an easy one. I don't even have any idea why she thought it was useful to be on top of the table to watch Rose - it certainly doesn't put her closer to her. I don't know what the advantage of the aerial view might be.

Whatever it was, though, everything has changed. I fear our lives will never be the same.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Miracles of modern technology

I got out of the habit of wearing a watch when I was working at zoo jobs. It would get stuck on things, and it would get dirty and wet, and there was usually a clock on a wall somewhere, and precise times weren't usually that critical anyway. Since I didn't wear one at work, there wasn't much point in putting one on for a few hours when I got home and changed, and since I wasn't wearing one most of the time I mostly didn't on my days off either. And gradually all the batteries died and I was pretty much watchless.

I just put batteries in all the dead watches and started wearing them again. It's really cool. All I have to do is look at my wrist and I know what time it is. I don't have to dig in my pocket for my cell phone and push a button. It's so easy! What will they think of next?

Friday, July 4, 2008

No fireworks

Just a nice head-tilt from Rose for the Fourth of July. We went to a local block party looking for a holiday photo op, but there really wasn't anything suitable. I don't know what I was expecting - even if I could figure out how to hold a pug up to shoot with fireworks behind her, it was the middle of the day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

General Announcement to Book Reviewers

I am tired of reading reviews of mysteries (or pseudo-mysteries) in which you're told that you're supposed to want to read the book because it's better than the whole rest of the genre - that it really has good characters, or that it's well written, or, like one recent example, that it's worth re-reading. As if it's incredibly unusual and surprising for a mystery to have these qualities.

I am hereby officially refusing to buy any book reviewed this way. And not just out of annoyance. I actually LIKE the genre. So why would I want to take the advice of a reviewer who apparently thinks that the genre is crap? Obviously we don't like the same thing, never mind the possibility that the reviewer actually has no idea what standards are applicable.

While I'm at it, let's include any book where the publicity makes a big point out of the fact that the author's previous books were not mysteries, implying that s/he is a REAL novelist.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


We think this is a wood frog. The Technical Staff has been to this pond at different times of year, without me, and seen many adult frogs and many tadpoles. I got to see this in-between one.

I was reminded on this trip of why I prefer to see wild animals at the zoo:

1. There's no missing the highway exit and getting off in the wrong place twice.

2. And no wondering why a man who owns TWO car GPS devices, and usually insists on using them when I don't want to, would have left BOTH at home.

3. And no missing a short cut and then finding that the road for the usual route is permanently closed.

4. And no going back to the short cut to find that that's even more closed.

5. And when you finally get there, no boot-sucking mud or poison ivy without the option of buying cold drinks or resting in air conditioning.

Another picture of this guy, and some nice moss, on Flickr.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wombat bows to technological progress

I just had the urge to listen to a particular album in the living room, where the least primitive technology we have is a CD player.

I failed to do so, and thereby, had a relevation: I just figured out the real reason why mp3 players and downloading music and so on are better than CDs. It's because the music on your mp3 player is always there, in alphabetical order.

You younguns reading this, you probably don't even know what I am talking about. You have probably never spent ten minutes of your life trying to find one thing on an unorganized shelf of hundreds of objects that have music on them.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Some of the fruits of yesterday's interviews/research:

From the web page of Guiding Eyes for the Blind:

"A dog will take advantage of you if it thinks it knows more than you do."

From the dog dentist:

"If you would feel safe to chew on it yourself, then it's safe for your animal."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


A dog is eating, and a pug, who is not getting any of it, is about to burst into tears.

This is Japanese pug Bamu - more here. Don't worry, there was a happy ending.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Remember the trip to the beach? I bought seven pairs of pants - a new world record - but I continued to be unable to buy anything like a shirt or a dress.

Well, I took the pugs to an outdoor concert on Saturday night, and, looking around at the people, I figured out what the problem was. Because I suddenly noticed a generalization that has been simmering in the back of my mind for, oh, maybe a year: Women's clothes right now are appalling.

Mark my words: This is one of those periods in history when people are going to look back at the photographs of themselves that are taken now, and are going to be absolutely mortified by their attire.

Trust me. I lived through the seventies, I know what I'm talking about.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

General Announcement to Pug Dogs

I am unable to imagine a circumstance in which, having asked one pug to vacate the kitchen, I would need that pug to be immediately replaced by another one. Therefore you may safely assume that the request applies to all pugs in the vicinity.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I just walked Rose to the ATM outside our back to deposit some checks. I had filled out a deposit slip, remembered to bring a pen to write on the envelope so I didn't have to sneak a dog inside the bank, and expected it to take ten seconds.

Well, I discovered that they have installed new machines, labeled with great fanfare about how you don't need deposit slips and envelopes. What you have to do instead is:

Press "check"
Type in amount of check
Hit another button to continue after reading instructions to endorse the check and smooth it out
Insert check, facing in the correct direction, flat and smooth enough to go into the machine
Wait while it is scanned in
Hit another button to answer whether the number you gave is the correct amount
Wait while they process it
Hit another button to say you want to deposit another check
Repeat for each check.

I think that was all the steps.

Hello? How is this easier than filling out a deposit slip in the comfort of my home and sticking one envelope in the machine? When did I volunteer to work as a bank teller for free?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fine distinctions

At the beach we bought some freeze-dried meatball treats that the pugs are crazy about. I know what you're thinking - since they'll grab anything remotely edible and swallow it whole in about five hundred milliseconds, how can I tell the difference?

This is how: When Lilly's in the backyard and I stand at the back door and yell "Cookie," she will usually come inside. Sometimes, though, she's more interested in what she's doing, and a cookie's not enough incentive to stop.

But, if I then yell "Meatball!" she comes running.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Boston Tea Party

I don't know who I stole this from, I am sorry, I wish I did so I could see more of their pictures. But it really needs to be here and to be looked at again and again. Mmm, I feel calmer already.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Big Snack

Front and back, with five foot tall human for scale.
(Click on the pictures to see close up.)
Goodness, that big squid makes your hips look large, even before you eat it.

As for the taste test: It was a very nice texture for a dried squid treat - not too hard to chew. But it was too sweet.

Another interesting point: Not only is Big Squid illustrated with a picture of an octopus, the only cephalopod in the ingredients is cuttlefish.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lesson in pug control

Here is a good example of poor quality pug wrangling: The person who is off-camera holding the bag of croissants should have been A, behind the photographer, and B, not so danged much taller than the dogs.

More pictures of the pugs' trip to the beach, in at least one of which you will be able to identify the same error, on my Flickr page (link over there to the right).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sloth and relaxation

Baby Sloth Box Home
Originally uploaded by carnegieho

We're at the beach! Regular blogging will resume next week. In the meantime, here's another baby sloth in a cardboard box.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Help Wanted

As noted in the previous post, I have no decent clothes. Working at the zoo was perfect because we had uniforms, so I never had to decide what to wear. And at first, working as a writer was perfect because I was always on the phone, at home. But now, I am fairly regularly having to go out in public for work. It's rarely a formal ball, but there are lots of situations where you just can't wear a ratty pair of shorts and a webcomics tshirt.

It's hard to solve this problem because I am not interested in clothes and hate shopping for them. Nothing fits right, everything costs more than I want to pay, and despite being not interested in clothes I am very opinionated about how they look.

I've decided that the solution would be a service which, when I arrive at a shopping mall, takes away my car keys, and refuses to give them back until I return carrying bags full of purchases. They must be careful to check the bags for cheating if the mall has a bookstore - only clothes count.

In the meantime, we're about to head for the beach for the weekend, where there are a lot of outlet malls. Wish me luck.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Party Animals

On Saturday night, I went to the Bark Ball, a black tie fundraiser for the Washington Humane Society, to write a story. I have so far spent most of my career in journalism sitting in my home office talking on the phone, and otherwise have been a zookeeper for the past several years. The result of this is that I have virtually no respectable clothing.

I tried on some dresses belonging to a coworker (resulting in much joking about female animal keepers all owning one dress between them that gets passed around in the rare cases that we need it). I went shopping twice. I finally realized that buried in my closet I had one dress that would be just barely suitable and also not cause me to pass out in the near-100 degree heat.

It was discouraging but not surprising to discover when I arrived that some of the dogs were better dressed than I was.

(Pictured: Faith Buttercup, in a dress her owners brought back from the Virgin Islands. She gets a new dress for the ball every year.)