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Tag: university of north carolina

This is so much better than PokéGo


This could be the healthiest and least imbecilic fad to hit college campuses in a long, long time.

It’s a simple little idea — taking a photo of a dog who is out in public and posting it online — though the rules, which vary from one Dogspotting group to another, can get much more complex.

It strikes me as a much better use of time than PokéGo, in which people step out into nature and then ignore it while transfixed to their electronic devices, searching for creatures/objects/whatever that aren’t really there, other than virtually.

spotted2And it makes infinitely more sense than gulping goldfish, stuffing humans into a telephone booth, or streaking, all of which have caught the fancy of college students over the years.

Dogspotting has been around, and has had an international following, since 2006, but in the past few years it has caught on as smartphones have evolved. Nationally, it now has more than 300,000 members.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, sophomore Emily Korest started a Facebook Dogspotting group earlier this month. It already has more than 500 members.

“If you miss your dog at home this is the group for you!” she wrote in a post, “A collective to inform on dog sightings, post cute pics of dogs, and for dog owners to let us know when we can hang out with their dogs.”

spotted4“I have a couple friends who go to different colleges that have Dogspotting groups, and I just assumed that we had one and that I wasn’t in it and I realized we didn’t,” Korest told the Daily Tarheel.

“I just really like seeing dogs. I feel like we’re all really stressed — it’s midterm season — and every student deserves to have dogs in their lives.”

It’s not uncommon, when a new photo or video is posted of, say, a dog in The Pit, a gathering area outside the student union, for participating dog-loving students to stop what they’re doing and go meet it.

“I am more in it for actually seeing the dogs on campus,” Korest said. “I like the pictures a lot, but when somebody says, ‘There’s one in the Pit now,’ and I’m in Davis, I can just walk out and see the dog. That’s what I want.”

Nobody seems too interested in the game’s point system — one point for posting a photo, two more points if that dog is eating something — and the UNC group, unlike some others, has a pretty lax set of rules.

spotting3John Savoia, said to be Dogspotting’s founder, came up with the idea of making a game out of it while walking through downtown Boston taking photos of other people’s dogs.

According to The Guardian, he came up with some rules and shared them on the comedy website SomethingAwful.com in 2006. The Facebook group was created in 2009.

“From the very beginning, Dogspotting was something that I thought was cool to share with people in a personal, real-life setting,” Savoia said. “It’s great that, despite the majority of it happening online, people are brought together by dogs.”

Of course, like any pursuit carried out by humans, over the Internet, it has the potential to abruptly turn mean, vicious, perverted or hazardous to one’s health.

At its core, though, it’s a pure and refreshing pursuit.

“I just love dogs,” sophomore Ryan Alderman, a member of the UNC group, explained. “Dogs are such pure, beautiful animals, and I love them so much. We don’t deserve them, and I like that other people feel the same way, and we can point them out and tell you where you can pet them. It’s just so sweet.”

(Photos from the Facebook page of UNC’s Dogspotting group)

Two Beans, one dollar and a homeless guy


It was the sort of scene I can’t walk past: A muttly looking dog, a white-bearded homeless guy and a handmade cardboard sign offering: “Dog Tricks 1$.”

On the sidewalk along Franklin Street — the main drag in Chapel Hill — Mark Williams, after offering me some room on his bench, said he and his dog, Two Beans, have been homeless for about a year. “Work’s kind of slow now” in the construction /handyman/odd jobs field, he explained.

The dog trick — Two Beans knows only one — helps rake in enough money for meals.

I’d gone to Chapel Hill for a meeting of the Board of Advisers of the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, an esteemed panel on which I still serve, despite having left my most recent newspaper job a year ago, and despite — other than doing some revisions on the book I left the business to write, and writing this website — being unemployed.

Twice a year at UNC, members of the board gather to hear what the school is up to in terms of research, fund-raising and curriculum changes, which are coming pretty fast and furious nowadays as the industry, facing declining profits, continues to try to pull new tricks out of its hat, or in some cases get a whole new hat.

This meeting was a special one because it’s the journalism school’s 100 birthday — a benchmark the university’s basketball program also hit this year. That’s pretty old, but there are older journalism schools, I learned during the festivities, such as the highly respected one at the University of Missouri, which was the nation’s first.

DSC06777Getting ready to pick up my dog Ace (who I’d dropped off for a bath during the meeting) and leave town, I was walking down Franklin Street. Doing that always triggers memories of my days as a student. Thirty-four years ago, I was getting ready to graduate with my degree in journalism, and I was sending job applications to newspapers across the country. I used the seventy-some rejection letters I got then to wallpaper my room.

It dawned on me that, today, I’m in sort of the same situation — job hunting, getting a few rejections, and much more often getting no response at all. At least in the good old days they sent you a form letter. Today, many companies often don’t even bother to acknowledge receipt of your application. While students are still finding jobs, the journalism job market — like journalism — seems tighter, shallower and meaner than ever.

So bleak, in fact, that when I saw Mark Williams’ sign, I ever so briefly considered getting my own piece of cardboard, picking up my dog and setting up shop on the next bench down, offering higher-priced, upscale dog tricks (the Starbucks approach) for $5 to cover gas for my trip home.

Two Beans’ trick requires a dollar bill. Having only a $10, I asked Williams if that would work. He pocketed the ten dollar bill and pulled from his other pocket a crumpled one dollar bill. “Now go back in that alley and hide it somewhere, and Two Beans will find it.”

I wedged the bill behind a drainpipe, about waist high, and sure enough, Two Beans, when I called, came around the corner sniffed around, pulled it out, and brought it dutfifully to his master.DSC06809

Williams got the dog from a friend, shortly before he began a stretch of life on the streets. He named him Two Beans, he said, because the dog — a golden retriever-Rhodesian ridgeback mix, he suspects — is not neutered. Williams said police don’t give him any trouble about his street business. “They’d rather me do this than just be panhandling like these other guys,” he said.

In addition to providing some income — as much as $70 a day when there’s a home football game — Two Beans makes life on the streets “a little less miserable,” Williams said. He said teaching Two Beans the trick cost him $3, because the dog ate the first three dollar bills

As we sat and talked, Williams, originally from Greenville, N.C., revealed that he once wrote a book about dog training. It was only 20 pages and, so it wouldn’t cost him much to mail it out, weighed only an ounce. “It was basically plagiarized, and not very good.” He took out an ad in the National Enquirer, offering the mini-book for sale for $3.  He says he only sold two copies, one to a customer in Virginia Beach, another to a customer in Acapulco — making him, he joked, an “international author.”

When he learned I was a former newspaper reporter, Williams revealed that his family was in journalism as well: His grandfather, Walter Williams, founded the journalism school at the University of Missouri.

“That’s the nation’s first journalism school,” I said.

“Yup,” he answered.

Coincidentally, I’d also recently applied for a job there, in my continuing quest to sniff out writing/teaching/multi-media positions. I received an emailed rejection, one of at least a dozen so far.

I don’t print out my emailed rejections. They don’t have the cool logos on them that I once found decorative enough to serve as wall art. I think I also take them a little more personally, now that I have experience and credentials. So I won’t be using them as wallpaper — either the kind you put on your wall, or the kind on your computer.

Instead, I’ll keep plugging along, like Williams, and waiting for the better times I keep hearing are ahead.

Until then … dog trick, anyone?

Ace shows his colors

Ace, being both neutered and neutral, isn’t normally one to take sides, but he will be pulling for the University of North Carolina Tarheels in tonight’s final four game against Villanova, at his master’s command.

In Chapel Hill yesterday, Ace, after picking up a new bandana, attended a journalism school picnic for some retiring professors — and got to enjoy some Bullock’s barbecue, once when high winds flipped my plate over, again when a kindly Bullock’s employee brought him a plateful.

In addition to a little gas, Ace also got to pass along his best wishes to the retiring — or halfway retiring — professor Donald Shaw, who, many years ago taught Ace’s master a thing or two, including calling things by their correct names. So make that School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Best of luck to Donald, and if I may — against his teachings — be slightly less than objective: 

Go Heels!