Posted on April 3, 2011 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay8 Comments »

This week for Sunday Selections I’m going to tell you about something which fascinates me – communication by writing.

I’m talking about the different physical forms here; not the creative aspect of forming the message or piece of text, but the method of actually getting your meaning across. Normally, of course, this is accomplished by writing messages, notes, and letters by hand or using a word processor, or by printing, but sometimes people will use other methods – like spray painting graffiti onto any available surface.

One of the earliest forms of communication was, of course, rock etchings or paintings.

What we used to think of as ‘art’ was often a form of communication – ‘you can find water here’, or ‘good hunting in these parts’ or perhaps simply ‘go away, we don’t want you here’. We saw a number of sites when we were in Utah and Nevada last year, and one of the most memorable was at Mouse’s Tank in South Nevada. Here, you can see many of the ancient petroglyphs with no barriers, no glass cases, just a polite notice at the entrance asking you not to touch or climb near them. True, most of them are too high to reach, but not beyond the scope of an agile youth, I’d have thought. But there they are, on huge chunks of rock just sitting there out in the desert along the path to the natural cistern known as Mouse’s Tank.

If you’re interested in the legend, Mouse was a Native American who (allegedly) stole a sheath knife from a white person, became outlawed and was hunted. The truth was probably that the theft (if it actually occurred) was an excuse, since he was a person who made a bit of a noise about his people’s rights – and why not? After all, they had lived there for aeons before the white man came along. Anyway, he was fugitive for a long while and he hid out in this canyon, using for his water supply the natural rock ‘tank’ in which rainwater collected and was held for long periods owing to it’s secluded and shaded position. Presumably, he killed and ate ground squirrels, cottontails and even snakes and lizards – wildlife abounds in this area. Poor guy was eventually killed by a posse.

And then there is this.

I see this sort of ‘code’ of spray-painted symbols, letters and numbers all over the place on roads and pavements, both in this country and abroad. I’m pretty sure it’s done by road crews and pavement menders, and perhaps those whose job it is to maintain underground utilities.

Fascinating as it is – and useful as it may be – I can’t see this lasting for decades, let alone millennia. It’s ephemeral, that’s what it is. It’s really a bit like graffiti, and like graffiti, it’s done in semi-permanent media and will fade over time – or simply get painted or tarred over.

Some graffiti, however, simply doesn’t want to give up.

This picture was taken after a whole wall of overlapping graffiti had been overpainted with thick, silver-grey paint. It lasted a few months and then without any apparent flaking or weathering, the graffiti began re-appearing!

Perhaps it’s more durable than I thought.

Posted on April 2, 2011 in Hounds, Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay7 Comments »

I’ve been a little busy this week.

It was my Mum’s ninety-first birthday on Monday, so we went down on Sunday to take her out for her birthday lunch and spend the day with her.  Previous to that I’d been busy too, scanning the family photo album to get made up into a book.  I wanted to take it back down to her and pick up the other one.  More on that later.


So why is this post called ‘Darcy’s Party’, and not ‘Mum’s Party’?  Because my Mum’s name is not Darcy, you know!  You didn’t know?  Oh.  Well.  OK, then.

Darcy is a Scottish Deerhound, almost nine years old and a tripod, like Sid.  Unlike Sid, however, Darcy lost her leg because she had osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.   Now, I’m guessing you don’t know a whole heap about bone cancer in dogs, so let me fill you in.

Osteosarcoma is … I’m tempted to say ‘vicious’, but of course, illnesses (even cancer) are not vindictive, they are opportunistic – they just happen.  Osteosarcoma can turn up in any dog, but mostly affects those with long leg bones, and for this reason, sighthounds are one of the breeds which are prone to it. Normally it begins in one of those long leg bones, and if it does, you’re lucky because you have the chance to amputate to save the dog the agony that goes along with bone cancer and also the possibility of a sudden, pathological fracture*.

Osteosarcoma is aggressive.  It’s extremely painful, it’s crippling, and it’s fast.  It’s also insidious because dogs will do all they can not to show pain until they have to, so by the time your dog shows an intractable limp it’s almost certainly too late to save her life.  Only 2% of dogs are cured by amputation plus chemo and/or radiation, for the others it’s only a matter of time until the cancer shows up somewhere else .. and then it’s a death sentence.

Darcy, bless her steel-grey fuzzy fur and her soft brown eyes and indomitable spirit, had her amputation surgery 42 months ago, which is all-but unheard of.  Some dogs get only weeks or a month or so after surgery, some get a year.  Rarely, they get two.  Darcy has had three and a half years and is still going strong, so on April 6th, she will celebrate her ninth birthday and also the fact that she is still cancer-free after so long.

Darcy owes her life in part to the incredibly dedicated research team led by Dr Couto at Ohio State University who are doing intensive, long-term research into this horrible cancer.  They are pioneering treatment, doing genetic studies, and taking email consultations from vets all over the world, giving opinions as to whether a particular digital radiograph shows signs of osteosarcoma or not. They recommend treatment protocols, they implement treatment protocols, and for ex-racing greyhounds, the treatment is free, because race-bred greyhounds have a serious osteosarcoma problem in the US, and they need to see as many as possible in order to get a good picture of what’s going on.  Greyhounds do get osteosarcoma here, but only in the normal percentages, whereas some estimates suggest that more than half of all racing greyhounds in the US will die from it.

So what’s this got to do with me being busy this week?  Well, Darcy the deerhound is having a party on the web.  She has her own website and everything!  It’s going to be fun – but what it comes down to really is that her owner, the very dedicated B, is running an auction on Darcy’s website to raise money for the Greyhound Health & Wellness Programme at Ohio State University, where they treat so many hounds for their cancers.  And I’ve been busy getting a number of things made up and ready for the auction, which begins on the 6th April and runs until the 13th.

If you’re a dog owner, you might want to check it out. Some things are for UK bids only, but many will ship worldwide, often for free.  Go take a look!  It’s not open yet, but there are about a hundred items listed already – oh, and there is an online dog show too!


* A pathological fracture happens when the bone is no longer strong enough to support weight and just snaps or crumbles when the dog is doing something very ordinary – walking, or getting up from a bed, for example.  Pathological fractures do not heal when they’re caused by bone cancer, because this thing turns bone into a fragile, brittle ‘sponge’ and cancer cells do not regenerate normally.