Here we are after another little break, and I thought about starting up with Macro Monday again … but it’s getting more difficult to find objects to photograph.  The ones I find are either too darned difficult, or so easy that every single one of you would guess them every single time. And it’s not Monday anymore, either.

What to do?  Well, I have rather cleverly invented another little puzzle game for you, because  I know how you all love puzzles!

This time, I’m going to photograph the shadow of a familiar object, and you are all going to tell me what the object is.  For this first one – just to get you all into the swing of it – I’ll start with a really easy one.  But don’t get too complacent, because these are rapidly going to get more difficult.  Much more difficult!


So.  Take a look at the shadow in the photo up there.  It’s easy, isn’t it?  Good!  So pop the answer in the comments and I’ll be back tomorrow to add a picture link to the bottom of this post and you can check if you’re right.  OK?

You want clues?  Oh, puhleeeeese.  You really need them?

Alrighty.  This is a very familiar object indeed.  It’s quite a unique shape, but pretty much all of these are designed on exactly the same lines.  Oh, they vary in size and colour, and a little bit in shape too, but as to basic design, this is about it.  I don’t think the design varies much throughout the civilised world.

You might not have one yourself, but I bet you’ve seen quite a few – either in reality or in books or movies, but probably all three.

The photo is not altered in any way, apart from cropping and brightening up the image.  What you see is what I saw.

And really, chaps and chapesses, I’m pretty much expecting 100% defeat on this one!

Off you go – have fun!  And see you tomorrow evening. That’s Wednesday, somewhere around 10pm UK time.

PLEASE NOTE:  I’m extending the deadline on this one, since The Depp Effect has been down for most of the last two days.  So the picture link will now be added tomorrow evening – that’s Thursday evening, UK time.

Well, you are a clever lot!  I think that’s the first time we’ve had a 100% success rate! Thanks for playing – you are the ones who make it fun to do.

For those who want to take a look, the picture is here.  OK, I’ll be back next week with another shadow puzzle for you, but meanwhile, look out for more posts … now that the blog seems to be working!

Posted on February 16, 2012 in Hounds, Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay5 Comments »

I was reading Facebook this morning, as I usually do, checking on what people have been up to and so on (yes, that does include games, sadly), when I came across a link to a blog by Houndstooth of Tales and Tails. She writes a very good blog, often informative, often very funny, but always entertaining. She is a fellow owner of ex-racing greyhounds and her husband is currently training up a young German Shepherd for search and rescue work, which makes very interesting reading indeed.

This morning’s post was about the choice people make to breed dogs for function, or for looks. In other words, they breed them for work or for the show ring. Yes, it is possible to do both, but sadly, many people do not, and the result is that we end up with dogs that are distortions of their true type, with exaggerated slopes to their backs, with Queen Anne legs, with faces so short that they can’t breathe properly, etc, etc. And it made me realise how lucky I am that my chosen breed is the greyhound.

There are, of course, ‘Kennel Club’ or show greyhounds, and they can look entirely different to my ex-racers. They tend to be longer, less well-muscled, and have deeper, narrower chests – and they carry their tails like whippets. This one is the most exaggerated example that I’ve seen, and to my mind, is a travesty of her breed*. The greyhound shape, elegant and streamlined, has been ‘improved’ to make it appear even more streamlined; narrower, longer, and smoother. Now compare that one to Mozart from the Brambleberry site. Mozart happens to be a non-chaser who would rather play than chase the hare for his living, but he nevertheless comes from racing stock and was bred for the track. See the difference in the width of the chest and the strength in the loins? See how close-coupled and strong Mozart appears to be compared to the red show dog?

That super-streamlined shape can come at a price, in that the show greyhound is far more likely to get bloat, gastric torsion, or gastric dilatation volvulus than its working cousin. Bloat is a very serious, life-threatening medical emergency, which can kill – very painfully – within hours, and many people do not recognise the signs**.

Seems to me that breeding a dog which looks good at the expense of its health is very much Not a Good Thing.

Greyhounds bred for work, however, whether they are Traveller-bred coursing dogs or racers, tend to come in various shapes and sizes, because people don’t much care what they look like so long as they can do their job. So on the one hand there is this type –

My beloved first greyhound, Jim, who was almost certainly left behind by Travellers and does seem to embody the field worker. He was a great dog.

And then there is the ‘linebacker’, the lovely Susan –

Close-coupled, incredibly muscular and strong, she was my high-prey girl, who needed very careful handling. She had raced in various parts of England, and then bred to produce two litters of future stars before retiring.

Lovely Irene, on the other hand, was a dainty ‘princess’ of a girl.

Slender and long, her hindquarters stood a tad higher than her forehand, so she looked as if she were walking downhill on level ground. I was told by a racing person that she looked very classy indeed. She certainly thought so!

Of course, gender matters not at all when it comes to greyhound shape. Ranger is the same basic kind of shape as Renie. He’s tall and slender –

Except he’s pigeon-toed, and has a half a floating rib on one side only. He’s a little bit of a mistake, in terms of breeding racing greyhounds, actually, because while he is, indeed, lightning fast, he tracks a little bit when he walks or runs and his racecard was full of ‘bumped’ comments, meaning he ran into another dog. He is clumsy. He didn’t do well .. so guess what? He retired early and was never in the running as a stud dog. If, as a racing greyhound, you don’t perform, you don’t get to pass your genes along.

The funny little short, straight-hocked dog at the top, however – the incomparable Captain Jack – was a very successful racer and did get to breed. Just goes to show, doesn’t it?

And then there is the beautiful Sid; a big, muscular dog, who was fast but not particularly clever on the track, and didn’t win often enough to earn himself a place in the ranks of progenitors. He broke his hock very badly in his last race and retired as a tripod.

So there you have it. A racing greyhound must be bred true (most have pedigrees you can trace back to the 1800s) but apart from that, it really doesn’t matter what they look like. Doesn’t matter how much they weigh, whether their tails are feathered or not, or how long their noses are, or whether their ears can go all the way up or whether they flop halfway. Doesn’t matter what colour they – or their eyes – are.

If they can run fast enough and win at the track, they will get the chance to pass their genes along to another generation. They can be perfect specimens of canine pulchritude, but if they can’t win, they can’t breed. On the other hand, they can be almost unrecognisable as greyhounds, with all the beauty and grace of a warthog, but if they win consistently, their place in the record books – and the sperm bank – is assured.

Oh, and one more thing: no trainer wants a bad-tempered greyhound in their kennel. Racing greyhounds must tolerate a lot of handling with complacency. They are examined, groomed, dressed and undressed, muzzled and unmuzzled, they have their ear tattoos checked before and after every single race, they are weighed, vetted, massaged and washed. They are loaded into crates for travelling and traps for racing. They are lifted and carried, they are moved, sold, relocated, and fed, wormed and de-flead by many different people. They simply have to be amenable to a lot of human handling and as a result, they have been bred to have reliable temperaments and they are – pretty much all of them – gentle-natured dogs.

Leaving aside what you think of the actual business of greyhound racing, what you end up with is a dog which is sound of body and temperament with few genetic disorders … and isn’t that what everyone wants?


* She looks as if she’s been designed by a committee, and in a sense, I suppose she has, poor soul.

** It starts with panting and pacing. The dog will try to vomit unproductively, and may drool copiously. He may also repeatedly try to drink only to throw up quantities of frothy, stringy saliva. He may eat grass, again, vomiting froth or drool. If he is not taken to a vet immediately, you will probably see the stomach swell, and become tight, like a drum. If he gets to this point, he is close to death and needs a vet, like, half an hour ago. An operation may save him at this point, but the longer you leave it, the less likely it is that he will survive.

Posted on February 16, 2012 in Life, the Universe and Everything, The Home Front by Jay2 Comments »

Yes, I’ve been neglecting this blog for a week or two. This has happened for various reasons, but probably the biggest is that I have been working really hard at trying to get a little fitter, because I have become far too fat and lazy and this is not helping my blood pressure.

So, I have bought myself a pedometer, and I have spent the last seven days checking just how many steps I take each day. Of course, being me, I didn’t do this until I’d already made some improvements in my level of activity by taking to the treadmill and the iJoyRide again, so that I wouldn’t have to face just how bad I’d got.

The reason I decided to get the pedometer was this: I joined a Facebook group composed of greyhound people who wanted to get fit and/or lose weight and through this group I learned of an initiative called ‘10,000 Steps A Day’.

Yeah. That does seem rather a lot, doesn’t it? It was with some trepidation that I clipped the pedometer to my belt on that first morning, I can tell you.

So what did I discover?

Well, for a start, it pays to have a dry run so you can find the best position for your pedometer, because depending where you clip it, it will give a more (or a less) accurate step count. I found that the best place for me was just in front of my right side belt loop. You can check by taking 20 steps and then looking to see what the display says. If it says ’30’, that’s all very encouraging, but it is Not Right, and for your own good you should move it. If it says ’12’, you don’t need me to tell you to move it. When it actually says ’20’ after you’ve taken 20 steps, you have it in the correct position. There. I’m sure you all feel better now.

Having done all that, I went about my first day. This involved an iJoyRide session of 15 minutes followed by the treadmill for 25 minutes, and two separate dog walks plus the usual stuff. Walking around in the house, driving to, and walking around, the shops, etc. And at the end of the day, lo and behold, I had done 9,980 steps! On my very first day!! I was stunned, amazed, and extremely pleased with myself.

For the rest of the week, I kept track assiduously, and I have to tell you that just having it sitting there on my belt made me very conscious of how much walking I was doing. Or not doing. By the evening, if it didn’t look as if I was going to make 10,000 steps, I found myself making excuses to go upstairs for something, or hopping from foot to foot while stirring a saucepan or waiting for the kettle to boil. See? These things work!

Dog walking helps, too!

The result of the first week was interesting. Two days under 10,000 steps (one a disgraceful 9,620), three days over 10,000, one at nearly 11,000 and one – amazingly – at 11,342!

So where do I go from here? Well, I will keep wearing the thing until I’m fairly sure I know what level of activity I need to carry on walking those 10,000 steps a day, and then I suppose the plan would be to clip it on every week or so, just to check that I am doing OK. It would be nice to think I could increase the number of steps, but realistically, I’m not sure how soon I’m going to be able to do that. What I’d like to do is get fit enough by October to walk down to the bottom of Bryce Canyon and back up to the top again.

Think I’m going to be able to manage that?

There are many sites which have information about the 10,000 steps a day challenge. This one is from our own semi-beloved NHS, but you can find others with a simple Google search. It’s a great start for unfit people, because it’s attainable and gives you a great sense of Doing Something.

Now, just before I go, this blog is going to be moved to a new host during the next day or so. The address will stay the same, but it’s likely to disappear for a short time. If you drop by and it’s not here, or it looks funny, please do come back in a day or two when everything should be sorted out. ‘Kay?