Thursday, February 15, 2018

Meet the Breeds - Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show 2018

Last weekend's wonderful rainy-day fun - a trip with an old friend to the Meet the Breeds event and Agility Competition run in conjunction with the world-famous Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show! And I loved it that this is what we saw just as we got out of the cab.

Neapolitan Mastiff. Look at those wrinkles! 

This was another one of those events that I've been hearing about for a while. thought it sounded like fun, but just hadn't gotten around to attending. I might well have gone another year without it if Mandy and I hadn't planned ahead; I got the flu last week and had spent 4 days flat on my back with a fever, returning to work the day after my temperature went down to normal, and I totally could've used Saturday as a quiet day at home - but we'd bought our tickets weeks ago and I really was excited to see the dogs! I was wiped out by the end of the day, but yes, it was tons of fun.

Meet the Breeds is exactly what it sounds like. It's held in the enormous exhibition spaces at Piers 92 and 94, and all the various breed clubs from Affenpinscher to Yorkshire Terrier have booths. The clubs decorate their spaces in appropriate themes, with lots of fun pictures and interesting information about the respective breeds, and then yes, of course, each booth is "staffed" by the friendliest and best-natured examples of each breed you could ever hope to meet! Some of them are the champion show dogs, but for this event the personalities are really more important - I particularly recall talking to a lovely lady and her very sweet and friendly Spanish Water Dog. She had actually brought her dog in from Long Island just for the Meet the Breeds; he was a rescue and under new mom's care he'd become a certified therapy dog, the perfect pup to represent the breed at an event where ten million people are there just to pet the dogs!

I'd actually thought I was there to take pictures too but there was this one little problem with that idea - it's actually really hard to take pictures of a dog and play with a dog at the same time. There were also a zillion people there so it was also actually a little tricky to line up a nice shot, but I think I pretty much threw in the towel in the borzoi booth. The boxer club had this adorable and very popular set up featuring a kissing booth with a particularly smoochy boxer girl, plus a couple more super-friendly boxers walking around (one in a tux!). I'd stepped into the borzoi booth next door to scope out a good shot, and I was just starting to do that when a warm and solid body gently started leaning against my leg. I looked down and there was this absolutely sweet and elegant face looking up at me with an expression that said "Forget the boxers, can't you see that my silky borzoi ears need petting right now?"  So I did and I was stuck there for quite some time because every time I would stop petting he would push his nose up into my hand (borzois are the perfect height for that) and ask me to not stop. I finally moved along when I looked up and realized that Mandy had vanished into the crowd ahead but I seriously could've just hung out with that borzoi for an hour. Such a sweet dog! And yes, I completely forgot to take a picture. Sorry!

We did make it through most of the dogs by the end of the day, and here are the pictures I did get. We did sit and watch the agility competition for a while to take a break, and I wish I had gotten better pictures of that - the competition was run by size order; we got there just as they were getting ready for the afternoon session by setting the jumps at their very lowest height. Yes, we were there just in time for the first competitors - all the little toys and tiny terriers and corgis! There is just NOTHING cuter than tiny dog agility, and some of these tiny dogs were VERY serious about the competition! That was especially fun, people sometimes think of toy dogs as, well, toys, but some of these little guys were just as enthusiastic about doing a good job going through all of the various obstacles as any of your bigger dogs.

It was a fun, fun day, and for all I ended up being much more focused on actually meeting the dogs than taking their pictures, I did get some cute ones! There are captions, but as usual, click on any picture for more detail.

Belgian Tervuren
"Want to go see Grandma?" As Mandy and I cracked up over the dog's head-tilt of happy interest, the club folks explained that this dog LOVES to go see Grandma, because she always has the best treats.

Handsome Malamute
American Eskimo, like my parents' dog Belle

We had a nice visit here and one of the pups showed off her obedience skills. Down, stay. Good girl! 

Bearded Collies. The one in the corner was just getting back from going for a walk and the one on the table was so happy to see him again!

Corgi pup mug

Chow chow getting groomed. The gentleman in the chow sweatshirt had a handful of the undercoat so you could feel how soft it was. I can't remember whether it was the Samoyed or Siberian Husky booth where they'd taken this one step further and had some mittens and scarves that they'd knit with yarn spun from their dogs' undercoats on display - if you saw it in a store you would've thought it was angora, that soft and fluffy!  

Chow chow face! This dog was VERY relaxed and comfy with his people grooming him to fluffy perfection.

Border collie performing before the tiny dog agility session

The handlers walking the course. They don't know how it's going to be set up until just before the competition. They have a few minutes to memorize it and figure out how to convey the order to their dogs; a lot of them ran the course doing the signals, which was pretty funny because it looked like INVISIBLE tiny dog agility!  It was pretty interesting watching a bunch of dogs and their people run the course - there was a fine balance between the dog being enthusiastic but paying attention and a dog being TOO enthusiastic, forgetting to watch for directions, and just going for the next obstacle they saw (on our end of the ring, for example, it went jump, jump, jump, tube, but the tube was right in line with the 2nd jump and some dogs just got carried away with their own momentum and OOH OOH THERE'S THE TUNNEL I'M GOING FOR THE TUNNEL YAY!). It was really impressive to see the teamwork where the dogs did have both the drive to go as fast as their tiny little paws could carry them but also the presence of mind to look for each next direction as they finished an obstacle.

Corgi go ZOOM. Corgi butts bounce in the most adorable way when they're charging around and jumping over things - they almost look like bouncing bunny tails! Mandy and I just about fell off our chairs laughing at the first corgi gallop we saw.

Beware of low-flying Scotties!

Back to the breeds. One of these Papillons was being presented with Best in the Toy Group. Very exciting for all of them!

Otterhound puppy, seven months old and just wanted to play with everybody in the world. I knelt down to get a better picture but failed because an instant after I did he was up and washing my right ear for me.

And here we are at N is for Newfie, and that's where my camera battery ran out - too bad, I would've loved to get a picture of the sweet little blue merle Sheltie named Potato, but this is as far as I got.

Really a fun day! 

Friday, February 09, 2018

1/27/18 Continued - A Walk In the Park

Just a few more photos from Central Park, the day of the Winter Jam. We decided to skip a long wait for a short ski and went for a bit of a hike instead. Here's a random scene looking South, Balto, Bethesda Terrace, the boathouse, Bow Bridge, scenes in The Ramble, King Jagiello of Poland (fun seeing that again, that's where I used to go for Wednesday night set dancing in the park - don't know if that still goes on in the summertime but it did for many years), the dormouse from the Alice in Wonderland statue, reflections in the Model Boat Pond, and the Hans Christian Andersen statue (with the Ugly Duckling). Felt good stretching our legs after the slow walking around the festival!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Central Park Winter Jam, 1/27/2018

After hearing about it and thinking it sounded like it might be fun to check out for several years now, I'm glad to report that I finally made it to the annual Winter Jam winter sports festival in Central Park this year! I'd actually missed the advertisements this year, but my friend Barbara had heard about it from Iris, another friend who works for the Parks Department and was working that day. She thought it sounded like fun too, and I joined her for a really fine afternoon in Central Park.

This is a great family activity, with a whole range of activities for kids (including a wild free-for-all variation on the dodgeball theme that actually looked like a lot more fun that the original game - sorry no pictures of that, we ran into more friends there and got to chatting) and ice sculptures, with food trucks and a little farmers' market for refreshments. It was a great day for being outside, blue skies and sunshine; maybe a little warmer than you might want for a winter festival, with the temperature getting up to the 50's, but some of the local ski resorts are always there for this thing and one of them brings a snowmaker to create the little ski hill where they offer free tastes of skiing and snowshoeing all day.

We didn't end up doing that - Iris had mentioned that it was good to get there early, and we did, but we didn't run straight for the ski line, opting to do some walking around first. When we finally did, the line was up to a two-part affair, with one line of people who were guaranteed that if they were willing to wait for a long time, they would get to spend some time on the snow, and then a second line a little ways away with no guarantees (the first line was closed, of course). 

We'd already been standing for quite some time talking with friends and watching the fun, so we decided to skip that and just go for a walk instead - Barbara had suggested a bit of a hike afterwards, and I just don't get up to Central Park much these days, so that was a good part of the appeal, so we weren't actually that disappointed. There are actually ski buses you can catch from various places in the city for a day on the slopes, they leave at, like, 6 am, which is a pretty horrible time for this non-morning-person, but if I really wanted to see if I remember anything from my 2 winters of skiing when we were in Washington State, that would probably be a much more satisfying way to do that. And the walk was great, Central Park is so beautiful! 

Photos from our stroll tomorrow, here are some pictures from Winter Jam. Click on any photo for a slideshow view.

Click here for more info about the Winter Jam from the NYC Parks Department. It's over and done with for this year but it'll be back!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Women's March NYC, 1/20/2018

Pardon the blog break, been catching up with life after a kind of rough finish to 2017. Work had been a bit crazy and I was clinging to the idea of a year-end staycation for the last week of December, which I then couldn't really take - worked out OK because we had an office move the week before Christmas and it was actually very helpful to have a couple of quiet days in the office to get my crates unpacked, rather than coming back and having to unpack AND deal with the usual month-end close reporting that happens the first week of every month. Still a bit of a bummer to be looking forward to a week off and then realizing it's just not going to happen.

Move and close are both all done now and so far January's been reasonably quiet; sadly no kayaking because the weather's been kind of cold and blowy on weekends, so I've been having some good chances to catch up with myself. Apartment's getting tidier, ukulele's getting practiced (YES I HAVE A NEW TOY! TQ is SO good at presents, he floored me with this one, more on that another time!), Irish music and dance is being done (and so was some Hawaiian music and dance, more on that at another time too cause there's more in the offing), new shoes and socks (both sorely needed) have been acquired, etc., etc. - and last weekend I was able to join friends for the Women's March here in NYC, and it was a wonderful afternoon. The trains were royally messed up but the march was still going strong when we got there, the weather was beautiful, the signs were funny and angry and strong, sometimes all at the same time, and I was so glad to be there.

More photos on Flickr. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Gotham Whale on WNYC's The Takeaway

The Takeaway's Oliver Lazarus interviews Gotham Whale founder Paul Siesweirda

Congratulations to the folks at Gotham Whale on an excellent radio piece on The Takeaway, a show produced by our local NPR station WNYC. I'd actually meant to do a couple more posts about my November 5th whalewatching trip on the American Princess; I didn't get any very good whale photos but there were a couple of very interesting activities on board, one of which was Takeaway producer Oliver Lazarus gathering material for this show! 

Click here to listen. I was a little disappointed that my friend John (the storm chaser kayaking friend I mentioned in my last post) didn't make it in, but having to condense a four hour boat ride down to ten minutes meant having to focus pretty tightly on the aspects they chose to feature. I think they did a great job of giving the listener a real sense of what it's like to be part of one of these amazing NYC whalewatching excursions - and I so admired the eloquence of fellow passenger Edie!

Saturday, January 06, 2018


It's absolutely beautiful-looking outside and for a second this morning when I woke up and saw how sparkly a day it was out there, I thought about going out to Prospect Park to take some snow and iced-up tiny waterfall pictures, but then I looked at, saw 11 degrees with winds gusting to 35 mph, giving a wind chill factor of -9, and decided to skip on the outside thing today. Leave out the wind and I'd probably be out there (because it IS pretty gorgeous out there!) but taken as a package it was all a bit much for this transplant from Hawai'i.

So I'm just puttering around at home, and here's the SNOWMABOMBAGEDDON bonus post. The New York Times produced a couple of nice short videos about the storm here in NYC, which I nearly added to Thursday's "Daily Commute" post, but in the end I thought they were enough for a post of their own, so here you are. If you're Facebook friends with me, you may have seen them already, I shared them there as soon as I saw them.

One's just New Yorkers being New Yorkers in exciting weather. Good fun! BTW, hit stop when it's over, the Times has these videos set up to keep going unless you do.

The other is a quick explanation of some of the terminology you saw in the media storm hype. I generally rely on NOAA's for solid hype-free weather forecasts for trip planning, where it's so crucial to watch how the weather is shaping up in the days leading up to a trip, and also for day to day getting around in the city. I therefore wasn't really reading a lot of the articles, but I was seeing some increasingly dramatic headlines. Paddling friend John Huntington, who is a storm chaser, knows a ton about weather, and is a very smart and rational guy, posted a good in-a-nutshell explanation of the alarming-sounding "bomb" terminology that was being used a lot:

"Also 'bombing out', which is being bandied around by the click-bait media as some sort of apocalyptic, once in a generation event just means the storm is forecast to intensify rapidly..."

The Times video expanded on that very nicely:

And here's a bonus-bomba-bonus - what does a good stormchaser do when the storm comes to him? Bundles up and gets out there, of course! John headed out to Coney Island where he got some spectacular shots. He's an excellent photographer, too, for his blizzard photos and lots of other good weather and New Yorky stuff, check out his Instagram! 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Daily Commute, Big Nor'easter Edition!

Good evening from Brooklyn, where I'm quite happy to be snug and warm at home, with a big pot of corned beef and cabbage simmering on the stove.

I did actually make the trek in to work today. There's an option to be set up to work from home from time to time as necessary; I've never chosen to "take advantage" of that because I really prefer to be done with work when I leave the office, even if that does mean the occasional weekend day where I go in to meet a deadline -- or the odd day where I have to at least make a good faith attempt to get to work even if all the news for the last week has been about SNOWMABOMBAGEDDON!!!

Seriously, this one did end up being a very serious winter storm, but the hype still bugged me - and excuse me, Weather Channel, but Grayson??? Bad enough the Weather Channel has taken it upon themselves to name these winter events, but you'd think they could come up with something better than a name which just makes me picture some guy with elbow patches on his tweed jacket, leaning casually on a mantelpiece, smoking a scholarly pipe. Apologies to anyone out there who might actually be named Grayson and is nothing at all like my stereotypical academic yuppie. I'd actually managed to not know what this one's WC-assigned moniker was until an internal communications memo about the storm came out, using the name as the subject line. I nearly blew tea out of my nose. Grayson??? Jeeze.

OK, enough for that rant (although I may come back to the topic with a little SNOWMABOMBAGEDDON! bonus post tomorrow). Today was a good day to be riding the subway, things were a little slow but considering conditions, I would rate things as "Not bad at all" at the times when I was travelling. Would NOT have wanted to be driving around in a car today! I checked the MTA website first thing when I got up, reports there were that all was well on my line, so I threw on some blizzard edition office casual clothes (which looked an awful lot like hiking clothes, for some reason), set out, and arrived at the office without any particular trouble. Must've been true on other lines too, because the office was not the ghost town I was kind of expecting to find. In my department, six out of seven of us live in or right across the river from NYC. Our department head lives farther out in the suburbs and he worked from home. 

The rest of us left early, but I did get in a pretty good day, finishing the things I'd wanted to get done and a few other items too. I would've gotten more done except that we went through the final move to the shiny new renovated part of the building and now, for the first time in a very long time, I can look up from my work and see outside! WOOHOO! I'm really happy about that - it's especially great to see the days getting longer, yesterday was clear and it was so nice to look up after 5:00 and still see light in the sky. Today's weather was kind of hypnotic with the wind-whipped snow whirling about.

I was a little concerned about getting home, the B and Q do run outside, in a cut, and can have problems if we get too much snow dumped on us too fast, and it was really coming down through the afternoon. Right around the time I first started thinking I had really better go if I didn't want to end up camping out in my cubicle, though, the snow stopped - phew! Checked the MTA website,  my trains looked to be OK, so I did a couple more quick things I was originally going to let wait, then headed out, and got home in time to cook. Wind was still a little on the crazy side but I don't have to go too far out of the way to get to a grocery store. NYC's good that way.

Glad it all worked out so well.

Notes from places other than the office:

Sebago clubmates are reporting ice floes in the basin. May not be much winter paddling for a while (I am looking forward to a pool session on Sunday, though).

I've started watching the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club site - with weather this cold they may get to sail this year!

Commute pictures below. The last one is from the trip home and you can see how much it had cleared up; it was still very windy and cold but the snow seemed to be done. As usual, click on any picture for a slideshow view. BRRRR.

Looking out of the living room window

Foster Avenue

E. 17th St.

East River, Brooklyn Bridge, and Manhattan, as seen from the Manhattan Bridge.


The view from the office

Look, I can see outside from my desk now! Hurray!

Photo on the monitor is a Sebago clubmate's showing ice on Jamaica Bay, a couple of days ago.
Heading home. Still cold and blowy but the snow was done.