Harry the Skye Terrier

I’m a dog person who started life as a cat person. I grew up with a pair of yowling Siamese cats acquired in Houston in the early 60s, but will always remember my first dog, a mutt named Sam Houston who rubbed his butt on the floor to my immense amusement. Sam Houston vanished to the “farm” one day and I had to be content with the two cats until the arrival of a black labrador retriever named Mildred Midnight (Churbuck dogs were generally female and named after deceased great aunts or former girlfriends).

Once we moved to Cotuit in 1991 my wife Daphne decided country sea-side life required a sea-side dog. She did her research and found a breeder of Skye Terriers in Western Massachusetts. She had always been a terrier person, growing up around Yorkshire Terriers and had always admired the Skye breed from her childhood in Paris.  She came home with a little puppy whom I named “Harry” because he was hairy.

DCCandHarry1991
Me and Harry in 1991 after hurricane Bob blew through town,

Skye terriers were once one of the most popular breeds in England due to Queen Victoria’s love of them and the legend of Greyfriar’s Bobby — a story that became the subject of a book by the same name which was filmed by Disney. Bobby was a Skye terrier puppy abandoned in 19th century Edinburgh by his owner, a night watchman named John Gray who passed away in a rooming house near Greyfriar’s Kirk, or churchyard. After Gray was buried in the Greyfriar cemetery Bobby guarded the grave for 14 years and became a sensation in the Scottish city, with patrons of a local pub keeping the dog fed and comfortable through its heroic vigil. After Bobby died in 1872 a statue was erected in his honor.

The National Galleries of Scotland
Greyfriar’s Bobby: By National Galleries of Scotland [Public domain or No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Today the breed “one of the most endangered native dog breeds in the United Kingdom” according the the UK’s Kennel Club. When my wife acquired Harry the breed was ranked absolutely last on the American Kennel Club’s list of the most popular breeds.

Greyfriars-bobby-edin
 Photograph taken by Michael Reeve, 15 September 2003. 

Skyes are considered the oldest of the terrier breed and are  speculated to have come to Britain from the wreck of a Spanish galleon during the disastrous rout of the Spanish Armada in 1588 in a storm which blew the Spanish fleet across the Irish Sea and beyond. Their name comes from the Isle of Skye on the northwestern coast of Scotland in the Inner Hebrides archipelago (home to one of my favorite single malt scotches: Talisker.) The dogs were prized for their long coats and low, extended bodies. Think of a full sized dog with tiny legs that looks like a hair covered caterpillar. That hair hangs over their face like a sheepdog’s, giving them face-first protection when they chase a fox or otter into a rocky crevice or hole.

Skye_terrier_800
By Pleple2000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

According to Wikipedia:

“Skye Terriers were first described in the sixteenth century,when it was already noteworthy for its long coat. Some confusion exists in tracing its history because, for a certain time, several different breeds had the same name “Skye Terrier”. The loyal dog, present under the petticoat of Mary, Queen of Scots at her execution, has been ascribed as a Skye Terrier. In 1840, Queen Victoria made the breed fancy, keeping both drop-(floppy) and prick-(upwards) eared dogs.

This greatly increased its popularity and the Skye Terrier came to America due to this. The AKCr ecognized the breed in 1887, and it quickly appeared on the show scene. Its popularity has significantly dropped and now it is one of the least known terriers. There is little awareness of its former popularity.”

Harry and I had a special relationship reflected in his insistence on being near me at all times, and my giving him multiple names ranging from the “Scottish Shit Pig” to “Kenneth Branagh.” He had an immense jaw and a rack of teeth that would make a Rotweiler jealous. I think we waited a bit too long to neuter him as he was oversexed his entire life and was fond of dragging the children’s stuffed animals onto the lawn and raping them while the summer walkers on Main Street marveled at his rutting diligence. His coat was a wiry misery of mats, burrs, sticks and leaves. He was remarkably fast for a dog with nearly no legs, and a great game that amused the children was called “Where’s Daddy?” in which I would hide somewhere in the house while Harry searched for me.

His bad behavior led to enrollment in obedience school. I was elected by my wife to be Harry’s handler and went with him to group lessons at a trainer’s house near the Marston’s Mills airport. Harry did not appreciate his leash and refused to learn his lessons like the other dogs, leading the trainer, a nice young man named Derek, to take him from me to teach him a lesson. That lesson deteriorated into a snarling attack and Derek having to swing the dog in the air with centrifugal force to keep from being bitten. Other than his hatred for the leash and a taste for biting the children if they messed with him, Harry was a very smart animal and went on to impress Derek and the other owners at the obedience school with his very percipient ability to obey and perform various tasks.

Harry also was a roamer and despite investing in an “invisible” electric fence and a shock collar, was able to break free and roam the village like some nocturnal assassin. Where other dogs in my life had been too stupid to avoid the skunks living under the boat shop, Harry managed to kill them without getting skunked, leaving multiple skunk corpses in the flower garden for me to dispose of. During the Labor Day meeting of the yacht club my wife and I watched with horror as Harry lifted his leg and peed all over the back of a nice lady wearing a white Irish fisherman’s sweater.

I loved that dog and still rue the day when he was hit by a van on Main Street in 2000, ending ten years of delightful companionship. He was followed by another Skye Terrier, a rescue I found in Nashville, Tenn. named “Ned” who was perhaps the sweetest, stupidest dog I’ve owned. I’d get another Skye in an instant.

 

 

50 Pieces of Random Advice

Here’s a list of random advice and rules of thumb I’ve picked up over the years and  still cling to.

  1. The Golden Rule still applies
  2. If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything
  3. Trust your intuition
  4. If offered a Tic Tac, accept it. You probably need it.
  5. Bitch up, not down
  6. Never eat anything bigger than your head
  7. Don’t s%^t where you eat
  8. Omit unnecessary words
  9. Shorter words are better than longer ones
  10. Listen more, talk less
  11. The only time to use an exclamation point is in the sentence “You cut my arm off”
  12. Don’t date someone with more than three cats
  13. The sky is high and the Emperor is far away
  14. Don’t quit your job until you have your next one
  15. People think in three’s — three acts, three bullets, three concepts
  16. The 80-20 rule always applies
  17. A car carrying a AAA sticker or a license plate with a sub-five digit number is driven by a bad driver
  18. George O’Day Died Defending His Right of Way — watch out for the other guy
  19. Throw back the first fish of the season with a kiss
  20. Red Sky At Night, Sailor’s Delight
  21. Red Right Returning
  22. When offered something, take the one closest to you
  23. No pleats
  24. Bowties are asshole detectors
  25. The Abe Lincoln rule of pissed off letters (and emails) applies: write, don’t send
  26. Tough guys don’t dance
  27. Tough guys don’t tweet
  28. Tough guys don’t sip cocktails through straws
  29. Powerpoint sucks
  30. Never bullshit your boss. Just say “I don’t know.”
  31. Rub dirt on it and take a lap
  32. Children only need to go to the ER if blood is coming out of their ears
  33. Don’t wear clothing with the name of any school you attended
  34. Don’t be the Closer of any party
  35. If you don’t know who the sucker is, then it is you
  36. 80% of Walmart shoppers turn right when they enter the store
  37. If ignored for 5 minutes in a restaurant, get up and leave
  38. Keep the crew dry and in the sun
  39. There is no bad weather, only bad clothing
  40. Cheese and fish do not mix
  41. High tide in Cotuit is always at noon and midnight when the moon is full
  42. The 20s are the worst decade
  43. No one gets out alive
  44. Don’t arrive empty handed
  45. Handwritten notes work
  46. Nothing important happens after midnight
  47. Take a cab
  48. Do what the officer tells you to
  49. Keep religion and politics out of it
  50. There’s always hope

Richard Sapper, Designer of Sleek Housewares, Dies at 83 – The New York Times

Mr. Sapper was especially revered by coffee connoisseurs for his lustrous stovetop Coban 9090 espresso maker, sold by Alessi, the Italian housewares manufacturer.

Source: Richard Sapper, Designer of Sleek Housewares, Dies at 83 – The New York Times

Sorry to learn the sad news that Richard Sapper passed away. I worked with him on an amazing prototype of a “cloud” PC called the Skylight which he carved from wood in Gloucester and mailed to the design team at Lenovo wrapped in bubble wrap. My Tizio lamp on my desk is lit today in homage. A very talented, influential designer who did amazing things to simple devices from pens to lamps to Thinkpads. He also was a fellow fan of Cynar, the Italian apertif concocted from artichokes.

And David Hill delivers the goods with this beautiful reflection on Richard on the Lenovo blog.

When Algorithms Discriminate – The New York Times

Recent research has shown how some websites can produce results that perpetuate bias.

Source: When Algorithms Discriminate – The New York Times

I’ve been obsessing about machine learning for some reason — probably due to reading the Project VRM mailing list assiduously and looking at the massive flaws in so-called marketing automation systems.  The idea that algorithms can reliably target and personalize media and messages is showing some signs of collapse as the technology does more to expose the ignorance of the sender than true understanding of the recipient.

ThinkPad Time Machine? | Lenovo

Step with me now into the ThinkPad design time machine. Fasten your seat belt, settle in and share your thinking.

Source: ThinkPad Time Machine? | Lenovo

David Hill, Lenovo’s original and greatest blogger and the bearer of the ThinkPad design torch has lit up the  Faithful with a tease of bringing back the best of the original Richard Sapper bento-box inspired design. I’ve been ThinkPad free for a couple years, suffering on a MacAir and buggy Microsoft Surface — and missing the hell out of the Thinkpad keyboard before island keys and fuzzy magnetic clip on keyboard covers took over my typing-obsessed fingers.

This is the machine I’d hit my personal funds to buy. I mean the current crop of ThinkPads are “nice” but not the power-boxes that just scream out professional writer, astronaut, carnivorous captain of industry. Give the frat boys and sorority girls their Apple toys.  Give the suffering masses their Dulls. I want this Thinkpad.

Dries Buytaert: Winning Back the Open Web

Dries Buytaert is the inventor of Drupal — the open source content management framework — and co-founder of Acquia, the Boston based provider of services, support and tools to build, deliver and optimize websites and other digital brand experiences built on top of Drupal. I work at Acquia as the vp of corporate marketing, but offer this link to a post published on his personal blog because it resonates with my view and concerns over the direction of the open web

Dries invented Drupal as a student in Antwerp and was inspired to put it into the open source world because of his admiration for such legends as Linus Torvalds and other pioneers. Today Drupal is the basis for some of the world’s most crucial and well-known sites, powering countries, cities, Fortune 500 brands and yes, even blogs.

Coming the day after this chapter from a forthcoming book — Follow the Geeks (chronicling the career of my friend Om Malik, another Open Web visionary) I sense something in the wind, a questioning reflection as the web moves into its third decade and takes on a new meaning as it shifts from browsers and desktops to apps and phones and tablets.