Sunday 28 November 2010

Snowy early morning

You've slept long enough and your hot water bottle is cold

It's a brand new day and time for your walk in the park

You step outside and wait for Gail to get all togged up

You check out unfamiliar objects

You spot some new friends in the distance

You join them for a conference

You learn their names are Ziggy and Rumpole

Gail admires the moon

You return home for porridge and coffee...

The simple things in life are the best.

Friday 26 November 2010

Bunty's list: Bertie reveals his competitive side...

Bertie: the picture of innocence
Remember Bunty? The little border terrier pup who ate my lunch?

Well. She sent me an email the other day.

I know what you're thinking. About time she apologised for that dreadful behaviour. Perhaps she's finally learning some manners.

Not one bit of it.

The email simply read as follows:

Trousers, leaves, pansies (eaten rather than chewed), dressing gown, cardboard boxes, woollen hats, twigs, feet of antique tables, flex, toilet paper, flower pots, combs, remembrance poppies, firewood, shoes, boots, matches, fir cones, newspapers.

This is, of course, a list of household objects she's chewed up so far. I think I'm supposed to be impressed.

Is this some sort of a contest Bunty?

Well let me make a few things quite clear:

1. I too have chewed just about every single item on your pathetic little list, and then some.
2. If Gail had owned any antique furniture, then I certainly would have had a go at that too.
3. Did you see what I did to that egg box?
4. Ditto the dog flap.

Finally Bunty, I would like to bet you half a dozen choice lamb shanks that you can't compete with my proudest achievement to date.

It used to be Gail's favourite cashmere sweater, but I guess it isn't anymore as I haven't seen her wear it lately...

Monday 22 November 2010

Leaping about in an excited state...

Welcome, students, to this the latest in my lecture series for budding canine scientists. Today, we tackle quantum physics. Do pay attention.

I am delighted that several of you already have engaged with the subject. Your answers to my Schrödinger’s cat question were most interesting and, er, creative…..And a big well done to the Special Wires, the only dogs apparently to appreciate the difference between a thought experiment and a real one. Back to the top of the class after that wee ‘hiccup’ on the Field Trip!

But I do know what some others of you are thinking – “Oh, no, quantum physics, this doesn’t sound like my cup of tea at all, Bertie.  Tell you what, I’ll pop back later when you’re posting some cute photos or telling a story about pinching your granny’s home baked scones….”

Well, if you want to pass up on this unique opportunity for improving your mind, so be it.

I’m not denying it has been something of a challenge, deciding how to present quantum physics in a canine-friendly fashion. But I would not be a true terrier were my middle name not ‘tenacious’.  After reading widely and deeply on the subject I am pleased to say I have come to realize that us dogs in general, and wire-haired fox terriers in particular, embody several of the key concepts of this particular sub-atomic science, at a macro-level, as I explain below!

For starters we – especially the younger pups - can surely relate to a theory based the notion that a burst of energy produces a tendency to suddenly leap about in various different and unique states of excitement? And there you have it; the quantum jump and the Pauli Exclusion Principle in a nutshell. Easy peasy.

Yes indeed, the rules for the quantum world might only apply at an atomic scale, but the basic concepts are ones that we can all readily comprehend.

The fast moving amongst us will have already observed that our humans often find it impossible to determine exactly where we are and how quickly we are moving at the same time. In fact a perfect illustration of the famous Heisenberg uncertainty principle! A related issue is the problem of the measurement system interacting with the thing being measured, and vice versa. Supposedly a difficult idea to grasp. Well I ask you, how often have you been to the vets and chewed up the thermometer? The real mystery is quite why anyone thought this measurement problem remarkable enough to even mention, much less mull over for years and write scientific papers on.  

Incidentally, this Heisenberg (left) sounds a mighty sensible chap, as well as smart (and despite his apparent fondness for lederhosen). When he needed to solve a scientific conundrum he would go for a hike in the mountains and the answer would come to him. If only he had had a dog to walk, then surely the still elusive unified theory of absolutely everything would already have been in the bag… 

On to another key aspect of quantum theory. Paired electron spin.  Think Agatha and Archie (right). They may not have realized it at the time, but our dear wire-haired friends in Boston provided a perfect illustration of this principle in their blog a week ago – click here and watch the short video at the very end of their post and you will grasp the spin thing quite quickly, I am sure*. 

Yes the more you think about, the odder it is that some humans have found the concepts of quantum physics a teeny little bit challenging. When it all becomes so clear if thought about in terms of wire-haired fox terrier behaviour!  Consider my own good self. On one hand, I can be seen as an adorable little chappie who loves nothing more than to cuddle up on a friendly human lap and gently lick the hand that strokes me in an affectionate and endearing, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth manner. Whilst at the same time, I can be a true terrorterrier, ever ready to bounce into action, teeth bared, and tear to shreds the nearest cat flap or cashmere sweater at a moment’s notice. I expect that several of my students recognize in themselves this dual nature too? Why then should a ray of light (an infinitely more simple entity than a wire-haired fox terrier, we might all agree) not be both a stream of photons and an electromagnetic wave, as Louis de Broglie proposed in his ‘wave-particle duality’ hypothesis?

Then of course we have action at a distance, and the related idea of entanglement. Two more basic tenets of the quantum world. And both so very familiar to dogs with blogs. I mean, how many times in the past year has ‘the Power of the Paw’ been invoked to aid an ailing fellow canine? Do we care if you are in Australia or Atlanta, France or the Philppines,  South Africa or Scotland? We do not. A few keystrokes in one part of the world and the impact is felt on the other side of the globe. Action at a distance indeed.

So dear Asta, my favourite New York based WFT. I hope you now can see that quantum physics is really very simple, and that you might even be able to explain it all to your Mommi in a way she can understand. Perhaps, with your help, she could now even retake that Physics 101 course 105 years later and snag a decent grade!  

*By the way, I believe that Agatha has prepared a side lecture, which she claims (??) will complement this one, on 'how to deal with a brother who is a crazy man'. As they say on Agatha's side of the Pond, "Go figure".

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Nice people and broken dog flaps

I am just taking a wee break from intensive preparations for next Monday's canine science lecture (it's Quantum Physics - you need to be there....) in order to tell you about a couple of my extra specially nice human friends.

First and foremost is Marie-Thérèse, who lives with us here in Gail's home while she is writing up her PhD thesis, and is, much more importantly, chief purveyor of absolutely the best cuddles going. She doesn't want me to show her face (although it is a very agreeable one) but I think you get the idea.

Secondly there is Clare, who loves to play, and always ignores Gail when she says "oh don't wind him up that's the last thing we need!" On Sunday she left me a great new toy. It was meant for me, wasn't it Clare?

(In case you are wondering, the fragments you see dimly on the far right of the photo above are the chewed remains of my dog flap. A new one has been ordered, meanwhile it is a little cold and breezy in our 'conservatory', although that doesn't matter 'cos the few plants are all dead anyway, some humans just have brown fingers I guess...)

Well that's all I have time for today. Of course I have lots more friends and and I'll tell you about them in some future post. Meanwhile, back to the physics equations. See you on Monday!

Sunday 14 November 2010

More on this grooming business

Is it right that our humans should give priority to their own grooming needs?

I'm just asking 'cos I overheard Gail the other day saying to a friend "well at least if I deal with Bertie's coat myself, then I'm no longer spending more on the dog's haircut than on my own. Which was the case when Hamish was around..."

Talk about selfish!

Now a certain person disappeared for a couple of hours yesterday morning after our walk in the park, and I couldn't help but notice when she returned that the pathetic little patch of fur on her head was even shorter than before and had changed colour. Less 'Aberdeen granite' now, and more 'ripe cornfield in the setting sun'.

Do you think she's been hand-stripped?

Oh, I am being told to stop focussing on trivia and knuckle down to work on my forthcoming quantum physics lecture (Monday 22nd November). I know some of my readers were hoping this next class in my course for budding canine scientists would also involve a field trip. Well I regret to inform you that theoretical physics is a subject best practiced indoors, with one's head stuck in a textbook full of very complicated equations.....

I'm sure you all can't wait!

Thursday 11 November 2010

At fifty seven point two degrees North ...

Yesterday afternoon, only half past three, and the river was turning pink...

Sunday, walking in the Deeside hills,  the path was all dusted with cold white powdery stuff and my paws were tingling...

And I couldn't tell where to tread...

Now which was the way to the equator?

Monday 8 November 2010

Learning about girls!

So. I have this new neighbour, Bunty. She's a border terrier, just twelve weeks old, and she came round to visit yesterday afternoon.

Well of course I bounced up to greet her with my customary enthusiasm. But she didn't seem to like that at all.

It was all "ooh I'm ever so timid, I just want to be with my Mummy, Mummy please stop that huge beast from jumping all over me, look at me, I'm so cute, with my big brown eyes and slightly trembling fluffy wee body, Mummy I need protecting, please make him go away".

I thought Gail might have sprung to my defence, but no such luck, and I was unceremoniously booted outside while darling Bunty held court in the kitchen.


Eventually, after loud and lengthy protests I was allowed back in and resumed my rightful place on Gail's lap, held tightly (Gail can be surprisingly affectionate at times), as Bunty roamed free.

Well, you won't believe what happened next....

Bunty, suddenly all bold as brass, went and ate MY DINNER!!!!

The little minx!

I was so flabbergasted I could only look on in mute horror.

Lest anyone imagine that this story casts some doubt on my masculinity, I refer you to the picture at the top of this post, in which I am demonstrating my latest accomplishment.

Friday 5 November 2010

Bad hair decade?

This is SO embarrassing. And you know what I heard Gail saying to a friend this week?

"Oh well, I guess I'll have got the hang of it by the time he's ten".

Just like that.  All relaxed.  As if there was no problem.

I mean. It's my fur. My coat. My beautiful fuzzy coat.

Would you want to spend the prime of your life looking like a badly shorn sheep?

Yes, the bad news is that Gail has decided that she will try to master the art of hand-stripping and grooming me, despite (I'm told) a fairly disastrous attempt one time to do the same with poor old Hamish.

Well I can tell you I am not at all impressed with the results of last weekend's efforts with the stripping knife and scissors, and I think you can see why.

The good news is that she soon gave up with Hamish and put him into the hands of a competent professional.

I live in hope....