Wednesday, July 28, 2010

There's gulf oil...and then there's Gulf Oil.

Confused? Welcome to the club. I was Googling up some 4-1-1 about the ongoing lubrication of the Gulf of Mexico the other day and found this picture:

I'm sure you've heard the seemingly endless "oil-leak" stories coming out of the white noise machine in your living room. (A hundred days now, but who's counting?) And you know that that fiasco was the work of a company called BP and not of one called Gulf Oil. But in another day and time it could have been! M says that when he was a little jug-eared kid, the Gulf Oil Corporation was one of the "Seven Sisters"--the seven biggest Anglo-American oil producing companies. There were Gulf service stations all over the place. They still exist in the Northeast, as part of Cumberland Farms convenience stores. But that's just a marketing deal. The trademark was sold separately when Gulf's exploration and drilling and refining operations were merged long ago into Standard Oil of California, which is now Chevron--and which was another of the Seven Sisters. (Ha! And they say dogs are incestuous!)

My point is: If the rig that blew up and started the leak had belonged to the eponymous Gulf Oil Corporation, wouldn't that have been a fine howdy-do? Do you think the company's damage control might have begun with shortening its name to GO? Is a bear Catholic? Does the Pope--wait, cancel that. But just imagine the added stigma of having millions of people see all that sludge come ashore day after day and know that it's not just any old oil from the Gulf, but genuine Gulf Oil!

Wow! That gives me an idea: The company that owns the Gulf Oil trademark should consider bottling the spilled oil, slapping their label on it, and selling it in souvenir shops. Maybe they could find a way to turn it into suntan lotion. (Don't scoff--people buy the artwork of incarcerated serial killers.)

M says I make a good point--about the name shortening, not the suntan oil--because oil companies have been known to look for reasons to change their names, usually for the sake of improving public perception. And getting the word "oil" or "petroleum" out of the title has often been a useful thing to do. (Cigarette companies went through a similar cleansing with the word "tobacco" back in the 1960s. Just try to find it in one of their corporate names today.)

However, in the case of BP, he says, that ship has already sailed. (Let's hope it's a giant oil skimmer!) For many years BP was British Petroleum, which was known first as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and--you guessed it--another of the Seven Sisters. But as the power of the British Empire faded and carbon fuels came to be viewed as a mixed blessing, the company saw wisdom in booting both of the keywords from its moniker. Those who never knew of its previous name could go through life thinking BP meant Beyond Petroleum (which is probably what the suits had in mind), or perhaps Brilliant People. Of course, nowadays folks are more apt to think BP stands for Big Profits, or Beyond Pathetic, or Bumbling Proctologist.

I asked M if BP has a logo and he said yes, they've had a couple over the years. The first one looked like an Interstate highway sign--and not coincidentally a knight's shield, which is often seen as a symbol of strength, power, and nobility. But later they switched to a sunflower, which appears very eco-friendly and less menacing. Interestingly both of the company symbols make much use of the color green--apparently the only thing "green" about that den of thieves.

It didn't take us long to find examples of both of these logos online. Here's the old in-your-face, "Kneel and kiss my shield" one:

And here's the newer, friendlier image:

It's a bit hard to see the sunflower with all that shadowy business going on in front of it. Or maybe that's part of the design. I'm a dog. What do I know?

Last month an organization called Greenpeace had a contest inviting people to submit designs for a new and improved BP logo, in honor of the oil giant's fine work on behalf of the environment. Here's a submission that I think says a lot, not just about their good deeds in the Gulf of Mexico, but up at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, and elsewhere:

To see some of the other entries, follow this link.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

If you build it, they will rumble.

I think I've mentioned that Mike is an economist. He's fond of saying stuff like "supply and demand" and "the law of diminishing returns" and "cost-benefit analysis" and "niche market." I asked him what that last one means and he said it's when there's a narrow but noticeable demand for a specialized good or service. It doesn't have to be something brand new, he explained. It can be a new twist on something that's already out there, but that fills a particular need for a subset of its consumers. I wonder if this qualifies:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Howdy, Heidi!

This is way cool: Today we welcome our first visitor from Burgdorf, Switzerland! It resulted from a rather unfocused Google search where the search phrase was "give me a hint" (without the quotation marks). Can you believe it generated 11.4 million hits? And number 26 on the list was my cartoon post from June 9th, entitled "You wanna give me a hint?" (Note: If you click on that link to go see the cartoon--or any of the links below--please remember to come back, because you might learn some JOG-ruh-fee and a little German, too!)

The first thing I noticed in the hit's Site Meter details (after its Swiss location, of course) was that the search language was German. M explained to me that Switzerland has four different official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. The latter is actually a group of dialects spoken in parts of southern Switzerland and northern Italy. M says that Switzerland's success with its multiple languages is a good counterargument to the xenophobic nonsense about the need for "English-only" laws in this country. He's probably right. I'd especially hate it if they outlawed Doggish. In fact I wish more humans would make the effort to learn that one, as it's a lovely language.

M showed me a website called, and when we typed "Give me a hint" into the English text box and asked for a German translation, up popped "Geben Sie mir eine Andeutung," which M says is pronounced Gay'-ben Zee mir eye'-nuh Ahn-DOY'-tung. He says the "Sie" (Zee) form is a thing you use if you're talking to someone formally--and always to anyone you've just met. The Germans are big on formality, as are the German Swiss, only not as much. If you're talking to a friend or relative or classmate, you can be less formal and say "Gib mir eine Andeutung." (I have no doubt this is proper informal German, but when we typed that exact phrase into the German text box and requested an English translation, what we got was "Gib me a hint." So I guess the site's translation engine is mostly for teaching you to speak to people you hardly know--which makes sense if you think about it, because if you already speak the language, you probably know a lot of Germans and wouldn't need the website in the first place. Duh!

M also made a good point about the ups and downs of learning German: While it's mostly not a walk in the park, at least they have the good sense to capitalize all of their nouns, not just the proper ones, no matter where they are in a sentence! (Andeutung, for example.) That helps with reading the language, though not with speaking it, of course--unless maybe you shout the nouns, or wink your eye or give some other signal each time you come to one. For further insights, M suggested I read an essay by Mark Twain called "The Awful German Language." I did--and now I highly recommend it to you. Here's a link to it.

The next thing I noticed about the blog hit was that Burgdorf is in the State/Region (in Switzerland it's actually called a "canton") of Bern. According to M the nearby city of Bern is the capital of Canton Bern and also of the whole country. Burgdorf is also in the Emmental, a river valley known for producing the kind of Swiss cheese that has all those holes in it and tastes delicious even though it smells like dirty socks.

M bet me that if we Googled "Burgdorf, Switzerland," we'd find that it's a village built near a castle--and he was right. Then he told me that Burgdorf is German for "Castle Village." I'm glad I didn't put any money on it! That M always has an ace up his sleeve.

I'd love to know what sort of "hint" our Swiss visitor was looking for. Probably not the same kind I was referring to in my earlier post! But I'm glad (s)he stopped by.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

You want fries with that?

Yesterday was Wednesday, so our friends Bonnie and Judy came over and took M and me to McDonald's to pick up our weekly burger feast. When we got home with the goodies, J mixed one of my hamburgers in with my regular supper, as usual, and we saved my other one for tonight. After I cleaned my dish, I had a Milk Bone for dessert but still felt a little hungry spot. I could hear M and J and our guests talking as they always do about how weird it was for me not to like French fries, and how I'm the only dog they know that won't eat a fry, and yadda-yadda-yadda, and I thought what the heck--maybe I'll give 'em a thrill and try one. So I walked up to Judy and wagged my tail a little, and sure enough, she offered me one. Here I am thinking about taking it:

You can imagine everyone's surprise when did I take it. But I couldn't bring myself to bolt it right down. Instead I turned and headed for the living room with that spud dangling from my lips like a greasy yellow cigarette. When I got there I still couldn't swallow it. I didn't even want to sink my teeth into it. It might have helped if I had opposable thumbs and could hold my nose, but I don't, so that wasn't an option. I ended up leaving the fry on the carpet.

When I came back to the kitchen table, everyone made such a big deal of my taking it that I just let them think I ate it. Then Judy offered me another and I was in such a people-pleasing mode that I took it without thinking. This time I went into J's office, where I have a spare bed. I dropped the fry on the bed and lay down beside it. I was starting to wish I'd politely declined this French fry and the first one, too, when M came in and snapped a picture of me still not liking the dumb things.

Oh, well, you can't please all of the people all of the time.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Another day, another country, another capital city . . .

Hot off the press: We can add New Delhi, India, to yesterday's update!

And in the Accidental Hits Through Google Department, someone from an undisclosed location has found us by searching for "Growing Potatoes blogs blogspot." It's a stretch, but I can see some truth in that.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Don't know much about JOG-ruh-fee . . .

Don't know much tech-NOL-uh-gee . . .  But I'm learning a little more each day, thanks to Site Meter, Google, and my scintillating chats with the M-ster.

When I started keeping this blog, I had no clue that the world is such a big place--or that computers can make it seem a lot smaller than it really is.

About two months ago I did a post thanking my growing numbers of blog visitors for stopping by to have a look. I mentioned seeing folks from all over the United States as well as England, Germany, Spain, Israel, and Afghanistan. To the list of foreign places we can now add Australia (including Tasmania, which according to M is known for its devils!), Honduras, Canada, Russia, Japan, Vietnam, Scotland, Singapore, the Philippine Islands, and a delicious sounding country called Turkey. There might also have been a visitor from Finland. M says we can't be sure of that, because for a lot of the hits, including that one, Site Meter gives the location as unknown. But the language for that particular visitor was shown as Finnish, so the odds seem pretty good it was Finland.

As for places in the U.S., we're way over 24 now--probably pushing 40 or so. First, there are 23 states:  Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, Kentucky, Montana, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Maryland, California, Colorado, Missouri, New York, North Dakota, Texas, South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Washington. And for some of those states, especially Florida, California, and Virginia, Site Meter has shown visits from a number of different cities.

A couple of blog hits came from a special city called Washington, D.C., also known as the District of Columbia. It's special because it's the capital of the United States. It took me a minute to get my head around that one, because I thought the United States had two capitals, U and S. But M explained that in this case, capital means the headquarters of the federal government. I asked him what headquarters means, and he said it's where our representatives make our laws, which usually are variations on the Law of Unintended Consequences, and our president then either enforces them or doesn't, and eventually our highest court, a group called the Supremes, misinterprets them.

"Does every country have a capital?" I asked, and he said yes, and that each state does, too.

"Have any of my hits come from from state capitals?"

He looked at the list. "Yep," he said. "I see Helena, Montana; Richmond, Virginia; Tallahassee, Florida; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Annapolis, Maryland. And this particular Melbourne is the capital of Victoria, which is a state in Australia."

"Neat," I said. "How about capitals of other countries? Have we got any of those?"

He gave me the stink eye. "You ever hear of this new online research thing--The Google? You should try it."

M can be pretty sarcastic when he puts his mind to it. I went to work Googling and compiled this rather short list of foreign national capitals from which visitors apparently found my blog:  Hanoi, Vietnam; Tokyo, Japan; and Moscow, Russia. Tel Aviv, another of my hits, may or may not be the capital of Israel, depending on which website you consult. Oh--and Singapore is a country, a "city-state" (hence its own capital), and an island to boot. (If you ever run into Singapore on a multiple-choice exam, the correct answer is probably (d) all of the above.)

I was surprised to learn that Istanbul, my Turkish blog hit, isn't the capital of that country, since according to what I read, it's really big. But M says capital cities frequently aren't the biggest. One interesting thing about Istanbul, however, is that it's the only metropolis in the world that's located on two different continents. (If you'd care to know which ones and why--or what the capital of Turkey is--may I suggest The Google?)

I wish I'd started writing down all of these places from the beginning, back in April, because the free version of Site Meter just allows you to see the most recent hundred hits, and M is much too cheap (or as he says, frugal) to pay for the better version. Also, I wish Site Meter didn't show so many locations as unknown. But there's probably no way around that because a lot of computers and networks use heavy encryption and proxy servers to hide their identities.

M told me that proxy servers can even make it look like someone is on a computer in, say, Shanghai, China, when they're actually right down the road in Yeehaw Junction. Great, I thought. So it turns out that we can't trust Site Meter to give us the straight scoop about any of these hits.

"Most of the stuff is probably on the level," he then said as if reading my mind. "But as I used to tell my students, always remember one thing about the internet:  It's the information superhighway, not the super information highway. Take everything you see there with a grain of salt. Preferably on the rim of a Margarita."

One thing I like about Site Meter is that sometimes it will give you a visitor's Referring URL, which means where (s)he was just before coming to your site, and the Out Click, which is where (s)he went upon leaving it. Sometime the Referring URL or the Out Click is one of the blogs listed in my sidebar. Some of the more interesting Referring URLs, though, are from Google searches. That's because the search words will often give you a clue as to whether the visitor was actually looking for the blog or just stumbled across it. For instance sometimes people search for "canine couch potato," which probably means they've heard of me or maybe have been here before but forgot to bookmark the link. Other times it's a toss-up. Yesterday someone got here by Googling "fun things to do with a couch potato dog." Well, I happen to think that reading my blog is about the funnest thing you can do with a couch potato dog. But whether the Googler agrees is something you just don't know.

Also yesterday, someone found my post of July 6th ("GEICO Goes to Boot Camp") by searching for "commercials army guy screaming at man on couch." That cracked me up. It's pretty clear that the commercial was the objective. I'm also pretty sure, though, that the searcher wasn't displeased to have found the video embedded in my blog. Who knows--
maybe I'll get some repeat business out of it. (By the way, when I showed those search words to M, he was quick to remind me that R. Lee Ermey was not an army guy but a Marine D.I. Apparently there's a difference.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"That dog was my worst nightmare!"

If you're one of my regular blog readers, you know there's no love lost between me and Animal Control. That's why I have to share this recent gem from my main mutt, Marmaduke. It reminds me of the time an Animal Control officer told J that I was her worst nightmare.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Holy cow! I think I've been in boot camp! Did I get drafted?

Okay, technically it wasn't basic training. I was at sleepover camp again, this time being "boarded" (which sounds brutal enough, when you think about it). Granted, they didn't yell at me like they do in boot camp. But I sure was there for a long time--from last Wednesday until this morning, in fact! M and J are lucky that the Noah's Ark people were nice and took some time to play with me, or believe me, I'd give them all a real earful.

I was supposed to get to swim in the pool and had been looking forward to it. My "drill sergeants" (just kidding) took me over there twice, and I tried my level best--I really did. But I just couldn't make myself jump in. Everywhere I looked, it was so . . . deep! There was no place to just wade slowly in and get used to it, which, say what you will about mucky old ponds, at least they give you that option. And all the time I was trying to work up the nerve, my mind kept replaying the story M and J told me about how the real Noah built his ark to keep the different animals from drowning. There's an old saying that you can't baptize a cat, and I thought hmm . . . maybe that applies to some dogs, too. So, long story short, since I didn't see a boat anywhere in the pool, I decided to err on the side of caution and signed up for extra playtime instead.

When we got home from camp, I noticed that Arlo and Willis weren't here, and M said they'd been boarded, too, only at a different camp. Then while J went to get them, M stayed with me and gave me the 4-1-1 about why we all got boarded in the first place.

It turns out that M and J have been in Kentucky. (See? I knew they weren't standing out in the Noah's Ark lobby all this time!) They went up there to see their grandchildren, Mike and Annabelle, perform in a youth theater production of something called a play. A play is like a television story, only in a huge room instead of on a small screen, and with live, full-size people in it. And here's where things gets a little creepy, because the play, Bye Bye Birdie, is about a young rock star named Conrad Birdie who actually does get drafted and who is on his way to Army boot camp! Isn't that just the weirdest coincidence you ever heard of, since my last post was about a drill sergeant in an insurance commercial and also since Willis and Arlo and I all had to go to camp, too? And in this play, Mike (not my M but the younger one--my adoptive nephew, I think) pretends to be Conrad Birdie and Annabelle pretends to be a beautiful floozy named Gloria Rasputin. Annabelle also does a lot of singing and dancing as a member of the Conrad Birdie Fan Club.

M and J got to see the play three times and said that it was one of the best community theater productions they've ever seen. Here is a cast picture with Mike as Conrad (2nd row) saluting in his Army uniform and Annabelle as Gloria (top row) wearing her floozy suit with a green feather boa.

There are some nice video clips from the show at this link on YouTube. I especially like this one with Mike singing "Honestly Sincere":

And this one of Annabelle's Gloria Rasputin busting a move on Albert Peterson:

All in all, I guess I forgive M and J for leaving me in the slammer. It was for a good cause.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

GEICO Goes to Boot Camp

I was dozing on the couch when this TV commercial woke me up. Actually what woke me was M laughing at it. The next time it came on, I studied it to see what was so funny. (One nice thing about television ads is that if you miss them the first time, you don't have to wait long to get another chance.) But I couldn't see the point. Mostly it was about a really cranky guy in a chair yelling at a younger dude who was lying on a couchy-looking thing. You might guess that as a couch potato myself, I'd take a dim view of that unless it had some redeeming value.

The commercial was for an insurance company, so I figured there must be something clever or catchy about it for M to like it. Well, it turns out that it was also an inside joke about a special kind of camp that M attended when he was a young man. A boot camp.

"Was boot camp a sleepover camp?" I asked him, remembering my recent experience at Noah's Ark.

"You might say that," he replied.

"Did you like it?"

"Did you ever have a throbbing toothache? Was it fun?"

I took that as a no and pressed him a bit. "Did a cranky man scream at you there?"

"Oh, yes," he said. "Several cranky men, in fact."

"Did it make you laugh?"

"Not right away."

I didn't understand. "But it's funny now?"

"Some things are like that," he explained. "Like when you come out of a haunted house and realize the golliwoggle didn't get you. And you laugh out of relief."

I didn't know what a golliwoggle was but didn't want to appear ignorant, so I let it go. But anyway, for your enjoyment here's the commercial. It might scare you at first. But after you see it a few times, it gets sorta funny. Maybe real funny, if you made it through boot camp.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Reasonably Happy Camper

I went to sleepover camp last night at a pet hotel called Noah's Ark. I'd already been there once a couple of weeks ago for a day camp "trial run." As I've mentioned before, I have separation anxiety issues, and what M and J are doing is trying to prepare me for longer times when I have to be boarded so they can go away on trips. When the lady in charge took me back to the kennel, she told M and J they should stay up front. That way, when they came back later to pick me up, she could go get me, and I'd see them standing there and believe they'd been there the whole time. Hello-o! Did she think I don't understand a word of English? If she's seen my blog, I guess she assumes I pay someone to ghost-write it.

But I went along with her little joke and I must have passed the trial run, because last night was the real deal. I got to take my food and Milk Bones and my blue blanket and blue puppy, and it was a lot like being at home, only in a tiny living room with no rug and no couch and no TV. To tell the truth, I wasn't all that thrilled with the accommodations. But at least it beat sleeping outside. And when the thunder started crashing and booming, I didn't have to look for someplace small to hunker down, since I was already in one.

One thing I was looking forward to was getting to swim in the pool. (Not a creek or a funky old cow pond--they have an honest-to-goodness swimming pool!) But that didn't happen because of the rain, which started soon after I arrived and didn't let up until after I got back home this morning. All in all, I guess being at camp for one night wasn't too bad. And I can probably tough it out for several days at a stretch--as long as it doesn't rain the whole time. The people who work there are nice, though it gets kinda lonesome after they go home in the evening and there's no one to talk to except other dogs. When the lady in charge brought me back up front this morning--where M and J had been "waiting all night," har har!--she told them I was a real sweetheart. But of course they already knew that.

On the drive home I asked if the lady who runs Noah's Ark is Noah, and M said no, that's generally a boy's name. Then J told me that an ark is a big boat, and that Noah was a famous guy who many years ago saved a bunch of animals from drowning in a flood by building an ark and having two of each species get on board.

"Just two?" I asked.

"Uh-huh," said M, "a male and a female of each type."

"Why not more?" I asked. "Couldn't he build a bigger boat?"

"Apparently not. Besides, with one male and one female, they were able to keep each species going."

I thought about that. "So there was a boy elephant and a girl elephant?"


"And a boy tarantula and a girl tarantula?"

"Musta been."

"And a boy T-Rex and a girl T-Rex?"

He gave me a look that suggested I was skating on thin ice, so I tossed him an easy one: "How 'bout a boy dog and a girl dog? Did they have that?"

"I'm sure they did," he said.

Perfect. I set the hook: "So the next time I go to camp at Noah's Ark," I asked, "can Daisy come with me?"