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Tag: computers

Who’s the fairest of them all?

bestinshow

Here’s an “infographic” (more graphic than informative, we’d say) that’s popping up a lot on the Internet these days.

It’s from “Knowledge is Beautiful,” a new book by British data-journalist David McCandless.

In it, he crunches data to explain the world, or at least random bits of the world, through graphics that — though they might intimidate those of us who prefer a good old fashioned story — are intended to be entertaining, artful and easy to absorb.

“Every day, every hour, every minute we are bombarded with information, from television, from newspapers, from the Internet, we’re steeped in it. We need a way to relate to it,” his publisher, Harper Collins, writes. The author’s visual presentations ”blend the facts with their connections, contexts, and relationships, making information meaningful, entertaining, and beautiful.”

kibWe’ll withhold comment on the book, because we haven’t read it (if reading is even part of experiencing it.)

But we’ve got problems and questions with this particular chart — a ranking of the 87 “best” dog breeds.

(To see a full size version, click here.)

For starters, why — when there are about 180 recognized breeds now — did he limit himself to only the 87 most popular breeds?

Is that a more algorithm-friendly number? Is that the most that could fit on a page before it became so cluttered as to be reader unfriendly, or leave us feeling dog bombarded?

The infographic contrasts the popularity of the breeds with what (according to the formula used by McCandless) are the “best” breeds. The best breed, according to the chart, is the border collie. It concludes the bulldog the most “inexplicably overrated” dog breed.

McCandless ranks the 87 dog breeds based on these factors — intelligence, lifespan or longevity, ailments, grooming, appetite and costs.

In a way, at least four of those factors are cost-related, aren’t they?

How much a dog eats and how much grooming he requires both can make him a more expensive proposition, which we can only assume McCandless attaches negative points to.

The Newfoundland, for example, falls into the “inexplicably overrated” quadrant of the the chart — well, most of him does, a little bit of his big head seems to stick outside that border.

We’d hope McCandless considers a longer life span for a dog to be a good thing, worth positive points, but wouldn’t a dog gaining points in that category be losing them in the appetite, grooming and costs categories?

Of course, our biggest is complaint — on top of the sheer stupidity of picking a best dog breed — is that the chart ignores the “best” (and most popular) dog of all, the mutt.

That would complicate matters though, and infographics are all about over-simplifying. And stereotyping, and quanitfying the unquantifiable, and smugly considering yourself an expert based on what your computer has churned out, which infographic perusers should bear in mind, is only as reliable as the data it was fed in the first place.

(Photos: “Knowledge is Beautiful”)

What you can count on this holiday season

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‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a computer was working, not even a mouse

The connections were tight, all plugged in with care
But even after rebooting, my desktop was bare

There was no way to email, no access to data
No Facebook on which I could update my status

Without any Internet, there was no way to Tweet
And that Obamacare deadline would be tough to meet

There was no YouTube, no Google, no Huffington Post
No Instagram, or Tumblr. I missed Amazon most

For last-minute gifts, there was no online shopping
That meant going outside to do some store hopping

The traffic was awful, but lucky old me
I found what I needed at Target for cheap

It was with things looking up and with nothing to fear
That I handed my credit card to the smiling cashier

Back home I felt something quite close to bliss
My computers were working, my shopping finished

But my website I learned was nowhere to be found
The server had crashed, I realized with a frown

I had a poem in my head, some good cheer to spread
But ohmidog!, on the web, was for all intents dead

I started shouting un-Christmas like phrases:
Dagnabbit, gosh darnit, fiddlesticks, what the blazes?

Far be it from me to say there is no St. Nick
I don’t think his magic is all just a trick

What I believe in much less is the Internet
For something to count on, your dog’s your best bet

(ohmidog! wishes all its readers the happiest of holidays, and apologizes for recent server-related downtime.)

(Image: From the Etsy website of artist Todd Young)

Bulletin: Not everybody loves your dog

Farhad Manjoo doesn’t want to pet your dog.

In fact, he’d prefer it if you’d keep your dog to yourself — out of the park he wants to read in, away from the cafe where he enjoys his Frappuccino, and definitely not in the gym in which he works out.

It was a case of the latter that triggered a well-written, semi-playful, anti-dog diatribe he wrote for Slate last week.

Manjoo argued that dogs are getting too many privileges. He pointed out that not everybody enjoys their presence, cited health hazards they could conceivably pose, and suggested all those people who take their dogs everywhere start leaving them at home.

Not sharing one’s dog? To me, that’s the equivalent of hiding a Van Gogh behind an ironing board in the basement. Or putting a newfound cure for cancer in a time capsule. Or shielding your eyes — just to be safe — from a blazing sunset.

Still, we’d defend Manjoo’s preference to live life without somebody else’s dog in his face. That’s his right. It’s his loss, but it’s also his right.

Manjoo is Slate‘s technology columnist and the author of True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society. So it doesn’t surprise me — he being caught up in all things digital — that he has failed to catch on to or be captivated by the wonder of dogs.

Microchipping aside, dogs and technology are best kept separate. They don’t always get along, maybe because they are the antithesis of each other. Technology may be the cure for everything, but dogs are the cure for technology. We’ll get back to this point, but first let’s look at what Manjoo said — after an unwanted encounter with a Doberman inside his gym.

“The dog came up to me, because in my experience that’s what dogs do when you don’t want them to come up to you. They get up real close, touching you, licking you, theatrically begging you to respond… I guess I was fairly sure he wouldn’t snap and bite me, but stranger things have happened — for instance, dogs snapping and biting people all the time. 

“Why was this dog here? And why was no one perturbed that this dog was here?

“…No one was asking because no one could ask. Sometime in the last decade, dogs achieved dominion over urban America. They are everywhere now, allowed in places that used to belong exclusively to humans, and sometimes only to human adults: the office, restaurants, museums, buses, trains, malls, supermarkets, barber shops, banks, post offices… Dogs are frequently allowed to wander off leash, to run toward you and around you, to run across the baseball field or basketball court, to get up in your grill. Even worse than the dogs are the owners, who seem never to consider whether there may be people in the gym/office/restaurant/museum who do not care to be in close proximity to their dogs. …”

Manjoo admits to not being a dog person, but at least — unlike most anti-dog types — he has a sense of humor about it.

“It’s not that I actively despise mutts; I just don’t have much time for them, in the same way I don’t have time for crossword puzzles or Maroon 5,” he writes.

“But here’s my problem: There’s now a cultural assumption that everyone must love dogs. Dog owners are rarely forced to reckon with the idea that there are people who aren’t enthralled by their furry friends, and that taking their dogs everywhere might not be completely pleasant for these folks.”

And seldom, he points out, does anyone whose dog accosts him say they’re sorry.

“… I can promise you she won’t apologize for the imposition. Nor will she ask you if you mind her dog doing what he’s doing. Nor will she pull on its leash, because there won’t be a leash, this being an office, where dogs are as welcome as Wi-Fi and free coffee.”

The same holds true, he notes, at coffee houses.

Here we should point out that the dog pictured atop this post is mine, and that, in the photo, Ace is enjoying an iced coffee product at Starbucks, offered to him by a customer whose behavior indicated she wanted him to visit her table.

When I take Ace to a Starbucks, or most anywhere else, it’s usually pretty apparent who wants to meet him and who doesn’t, and I restrain him accordingly. I don’t have to compile any data or crunch any numbers, I can just tell. It’s not brain surgery, or computer science.

Even though most people go to Starbucks for the free Wi-Fi, or the expensive coffee, I’d estimate about one of two customers wants to meet my dog. Ace — and this isn’t true of every dog — has a way of figuring that out himself, and generally will avoid those who show no interest in him, unless they are in the process of eating a muffin or pastry, in which case he’s willing to overlook the fact they may not be dog lovers.

What makes the numbers even more impressive is that 8 of every 10 customers at your typical Starbucks are under the spell of their computer device and not at all cognizant of what’s going on around them.

Ace is sometimes able to break that spell, at least he does for me.

As for me, I’d rather have access to Fido then Wi-Fi anyday. Fido will soothe me. Wi-Fi will likely, at some point, make me angry and frustrated. Fido will focus me. Wi-Fi will distract me. Wi-Fi will accost me with uninvited and intrusive messages, and send me alerts, and remind me of all the things I need to do today.  Fido will remind me all those things aren’t really that important and can wait until tomorrow. Wi-Fi will take me out of the moment; Fido will keep me in it. Wi-fi has no soul. Fido does, and his presence allows our souls – those of us who have them — to be refreshed. Dogs keep us from becoming an entirely manic society.

No one, if I have my laptop on, will want to come up and pet it, except maybe Farhad Manjoo, who — while not having the least bit of interest in my dog — is probably curious about my gigabytes and apps.

On this much I will agree with Manjoo: There are dog owners who seem unaware that not everybody will delight in their dog, oblivious to the fact that some might find their dog annoying and intrusive. Similarly, though, there are parents of children who don’t realize not everybody will delight in their antics. Similarly, too, there are grown-up people who fail to realize that they themselves are annoying and who we’d prefer not to have inflicted upon us.

Unfortunately, we can’t just ban them. Our choices are limited. We could work on being tolerant –  of all ages, sizes, shapes and species, despite their noise, intrusiveness and abrasiveness levels. Or we could go somewhere else. Or we could complain.

Sometimes, when visiting a Starbucks or other coffee place, I wonder if I should lodge an official complaint with management about Wi-Fi — objecting to its omnipresence, and how it seems to be turning people into keyboard-pushing zombies.

“No,” I’d say, “I’m not technically allergic to it, but I’m uncomfortable with it near. I’ve had some bad experiences with it. Sometimes it bites people when they least expect it, and I’m pretty sure it harbors germs.”

“But it’s wireless,” the manager might say.

“Exactly,” I’d say with a huff. “Put a leash on it.”

Where well-informed dogs go for their news

bimini

 
Carey Hughes, a longtime friend of ohmidog!, sent along this photo of her dog Bimini, whose attention has been drawn to something on the computer.

Look closely and maybe you can see what website Bim is so caught up in.

It leads us to wonder — how many of the 50,000 visits we’ve been getting a month are actually dogs, logging on after their humans have gone to bed?

Do they visit websites other than ohmidog!?

Do they Google their own names, or if they’re Irish setters, perhaps Doogle them?

Do they enjoy some cyberfetch? Order treats delivered? Go on Facebook and post the trivial details of their lives for all to see:

Rex is looking out the window watching the snow fall. Can’t wait to play in it. I love snow. Rain, not so much. I’m glad I’m not a cat. OMG, I’m so hungry! And I just ate three hours ago. I think I’ll order some treats.”

Maybe that dog who ordered Xbox points via a remote control is just the tip of the iceberg, and dogs around the world are evolving to the point that they understand computers, or at least understand them as much as humans do.

Or maybe not.

In any event, they’re all welcome here.

Keep reading, Bim.

Dog on Xbox, spends $62 while owner sleeps

Greg Strope claims his dog Oscar, in the process of chewing his Xbox remote control, purchased $62.50 worth of Microsoft Xbox points while he, his roommate and girlfriend were asleep.

Oscar managed to purchased 5,000 Xbox points, thanks in part to the fact that Strope had programmed his credit card information into the remote control of the computer game system.

Nevertheless, Oscar, a Lab-hound mix, turned on the console and, by gnawing the remote, purchased the points, Strope insists.

“I realized it when I checked my phone to see what time it was (I had to be at work soon) and saw the e-mail from Microsoft confirming the purchase for $62.50,” he told Kotaku via email. “At that point it was a little after 5 a.m … not something you want to wake up to.”

Oscar has a history of gnawing, Strope said, having chewed up pillows, boxes, flip flops, socks, slippers, underwear, candles, toiler paper, bottles, work IDs and the living room blinds.

“Now, I can’t call Microsoft and say ‘My dog chewed my controller,’” Strope said. ” That excuse never worked in school for homework, what makes me think that a multi-billion dollar corporation is going to believe it?”

“1 dog died get another 1?”

One cool thing about running your own website — in addition to the fame, fortune, respect, freebies, groupies and the tingly feeling my elbows get from typing so much — is that through the use of a program called Google Analytics, I get to see not just how many people are stopping by, but where you are from, how long you stay, and what’s on your minds.

I can ascertain with but a few clicks, for instance, that 1,498 of you visited Monday, perusing 1,978 pages; that more than 2,000 of you graced us with your presence yesterday. I also know what towns and states you came from, and what led you here. Don’t worry, though, I can’t see into your bedrooms.

Many of you are led here by search engines. Yesterday, for example, 14 ended up here after Googling “dog and elephant,” two after Googling “dog walking in Baltimore,” two by Googling “Biden dog.”

But there was one that landed here after typing in these words: “1 dog died get another 1?”

Abbreviated as the query was, it made me think. Here was a person, I assumed, undergoing some pain and confusion – someone who, on the one hand, was willing to research the dilemma life had thrown at them, and who wanted to do the right thing. On the other hand, I worried, here was a person who might accept the first answer that came up on Google.

We’re becoming a society that thinks our home computers hold all the answers. Maybe, by now, they do. But knowing as I do that what shows up first in search engine results isn’t always the best — that the cream doesn’t always rise to the top — I worry that some of us put a little too much faith in Google, Yahoo and the like.

Like I imagined this woman was doing, when it came to the decision on whether to get a new dog. Maybe she asked a friend or two for advice, maybe it was conflicting. So she turned to what we all turn to nowadays: Tell me, in my hour of need, almighty Internet Search Engine, what should I do? Read more »