Best in Show

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, January 23, 2011. The 2018 Elgin County Kennel Club dog show will be in October. Lots of other dog, and cat, shows too. To get in the mood, watch Cat Walk, a cat show documentary, Sunday, April 1st on CBC 9 pm ET.

Poodle getting final groomingThe Elgin County Kennel Club dog show this weekend at the Western Fairgrounds was great. So many beautiful dogs. I took a gazillion pictures and petted a gazillion dogs. So did everybody else there, at least the audience.

Poodle pup playing while waiting for classThe handlers had other things on their minds, and so did the dogs. However some of them, like the poodle pups, still found time to act silly outside the show ring.

For the second year now, the London rescue group ARF was there. They said they’d been warmly received. That’s good. There’s too long been a disconnect between the dog show world and the dog rescue world. That’s unfortunate because as any rescue group can attest, especially maybe breed specific rescues, any dog can end up in bad straits – even dogs with the best pedigree. Many breeders are active in rescue work through their breed associations or breed-specific rescue groups. ARF works mainly with mongrels and it was nice to see the two ends of the dog fancy world under the same roof.

Dogs and people wait backstage at dog showThere were lots of vendors there, selling grooming supplies and other dog products. One man I talked to had beautiful handmade leather leashes and collars (The Wag, Inc. London ON). His magnificent young German-bred German Shepherd was with him, not taking part in the show just modeling the leatherwear.

Inclusive Breed Surveys

While we talked about German Shepherds, Tibor told me about  German show and breeding standards for working dogs. There’s a breed survey that all dogs must undergo. In addition to the basic conformation standards that apply to physical appearance and health, it is an assessment of a dog’s character and temperament. The dog’s actions and reactions when in “protection” situations, for example, are measured.

A dog passes or fails and, in Germany, the tests determine what grade for showing and breeding that dog and its offspring will be given. Pups from a parent that passed the tests will be given the highest classification. They, therefore, can be sold for higher prices for breeding and showing. Dogs who fail the tests cannot be used for breeding.

Judging non-sporting classTesting like this seems to me to be a good way to help ensure continuation of good bloodlines. This is important not only for looks but also for physical health and temperament.

Responsible breeders test for genetic problems such as hip dysplasia in order to get rid of the problem. Breeding without such concern caused many of the breed-specific ailments in the first place. Temperament problems – too excitable, Photography Best Puppy winnertoo nervous, too aggressive – can be caused by too much emphasis on looks in breeding choices. Good breeders pay attention to all aspects of dogs’ health. And a dog show gives the chance to strut their stuff.

Also see my Cat Show for ‘strutting their stuff’, cat style.

Corrie Street 25 Mar. 2018

Fool for Love

Phelan in two scenes. Monday, his ‘so whaddya gonna do about it?’ admission of fraud to Tim. On Tuesday, his ‘I’m a fool for love, I did it all for you’ confession to Eileen.phelan-admits-fraud-to-tim-in-cab

In these confessions, Phelan only admitted to the Calcutta Street flats development, though. Not about the multiple murders. Nothing more to tell, nothing else had to do with him, he assured her.

tim-releases-taxi-radio-buttonInch by tiny inch we are nearing his downfall – I think. But just when you think he’s caught in the net, he slithers out again. Just this past week, he got out of a great big hole filling rapidly with water and concrete. That was thanks to Tim and Eileen. Then he escaped possible police custody, again thanks to Tim and Eileen.

He tells Tim that, yes, the Calcutta Street project was a scam that ripped off many of the nice neighbours on this street. So what, he says. Vinny ripped him off too, he says. A bid for pity? Or absolution? Maybe laying down a false trail for when Vinny’s body is found. Or just having fun. Who knows?

eileen-listens-in-cab-officeTim doesn’t use the material he’s been given – a confession that he had the good sense to share through the taxi radio. He leaves it to Eileen, who heard it all, to do the right thing. And she tries. Sort of.

Instead of going to the police, she goes to Phelan. Confronts him with what he said. Yes, he admits his wrongdoing to her. But he wanted to make life better for her. He wanted to build Jason’s phalen says he is a fool for loveinheritance up – for Jason. On Todd’s involvement, he isn’t so pure of heart. He uses Todd’s history for dodgy dealing, and the fact that Eileen knows that about her son. Just a chuckle and “it didn’t take much dragging, love” is enough to include Todd in any blame that’s going around. So, Eileen, turn in Phelan and you implicate your son as well.

eileen-looks-longingly-at-patFinally, after canvassing nearly the entire neighbourhood, she does go to the police. She’s given Phelan time to think up his next move. He too goes to the police station and intercepts her. It all goes his way. The police have left Eileen and Liz waiting in the hallway, too busy to take their statement. Then Liz does the gracious thing and leaves Eileen and Phelan to talk in private.

But Liz should have stayed on them like a vulture on roadkill. Because Eileen walks out with Phelan. No talking to the police, no confession phelan-looks-downof fraud. Eileen is going to stand by her man. Because he’s just a fool for love and he did it all for her. Yep, someone is a fool for love. Just not Phelan.

Corrie Street 18 Mar. 2018

Heroin

Oh my God! Billy and Lee bliss out in the church. Lying in the aisle, propped up by the ends of pews. All in the name of pain relief, at least for Billy. For Lee, it’s just Monday. ‘Smack. Horse. Heroin.”

billy and lee heroin in church“This must be what heaven feels like,” Lee says in dreamy awe. It’s not the first time he has experienced this. So imagine what it must feel like for Billy. Billy the Vicar, in the church, meeting what may become his new god. What an incredibly powerful image.

I immediately thought of Trainspotting, a great movie from 1996. “Take the best orgasm you’ve ever had, multiply it by a thousand, and you’re still nowhere near it.” That’s how Mark Renton, the film’s protagonist, describes heroin.

That explains the lure of heroin. He also shows the reality of chasing that lure. Renton lives in absolute squalor, with junkie friends who look as bad as he does. There is nothing transcendental about their lives, actions or thoughts.

The way they live shows the real price of heroin. But they also give the reasons they choose it. Both for that über-orgasm, or “heaven”, and because they prefer it to the options they see. “Life” as they see it defined for them.

Billy should have watched Trainspotting. No matter the pain he’s in, he might then have resisted Lee’s offer. Yes, it does relieve the pain – and then there’s a great big “But…”

A fabulously beautiful and chilling scene, immediately followed in the next episode by a more depressing and squalid one. Billy and Lee, passed out, amid a mess of beer cans and leftover food in Billy’s living room. That’s beginning to look more like the Trainspotting guys.

The Heaven/Hell equation begins to go the other way. And, probably like Billy, we didn’t have to wait long. However, according to  Bluenose Corrie, the scene in the church provoked 82 complaints immediately after it aired. Misguided complaints, I think. But then I think Trainspotting is the best “Just Say No” message ever made.

“Choose Life” by Renton

DNA Tests

Irish_Setter-Oct-2008-Douglas_0158-Flickr-wikicommonsI first saw DNA tests at London Ont’s Pawlooza dog festival, in 2010 I think. They were tests to find out what breeds were in the genetic structure of any given dog. The process was explained by a contest. Guess the genetic make-up of a dog in a photo, then compare your guess to the actual test results.

DNA my dog

The dog was medium sized with short brown and white hair and floppy ears. I guessed some kind of terrier, hound and maybe Corgi. The results? Everything from Mastiff to Chihuahua with no single breed group predominant.

“Want to test your dogs?” the lady at the booth asked. I looked at them, and thought why? One clearly was a Standard Poodle. The other one? I had studied his personality and his looks. My guess was some kind of terrier and Shih Tzu. A DNA test might show everything from Mastiff to Chihuahua. Useful? Not really.

DNA me

That’s my thoughts on human DNA testing as well. What does finding out that you’re 5% something and 10% something else actually tell you? It’s fun to know, sure. It lets you wonder who travelled across continents to wind up in your genetic map.

DNA tests were among the most popular gifts this past holiday season, Forbes reported last December. Quick, cheap and well-advertised, they address something fundamental: Who are we?

They answer that, to some extent. There’s a percentage breakdown of your geographical make-up. So you can see all the peoples and regions that went into making you. It can be a surprise.

Kiss me, I’m Irish

ancestry dna tests website 2018-irishIt was for my family. Our largest grouping? Irish. No German, nor anything we expected from documentary and family history. Does this matter? Yes, because it shows that our ancestors’ migration path was different than what we’ve thought. No, because documents and family history show another traceable geography. And, more significantly, tell the stories we grew up with.

DNA – ‘blood’ if you will – on its own does not define us. There have been systems of classification of people based on “blood”. But, before DNA tests, these could only rely on appearance and/or association. Guessing based on culture and history, not genetics.

But what do scientific DNA results actually do for us? Possibly give important medical information. Other than that, not much. New hobbies, new histories to learn. But do they make you someone else?

mom-dad-dublin-ferry-1989Am I now Irish? I could consider myself to be, I suppose. Stake a front row spot for myself in the Paddy’s Day parade. But would waving the DNA results help get me, say, a work permit in Ireland? “Oh, Ancestry says 41% of you is from the old sod! Well, come right in!” About as much chance as that dog in the photo convincing a Mastiff that they are brothers separated at birth.

Ford Ontario

The Ontario Progressive Conservative party yesterday chose Doug Doug Ford 2014 parade-Bruce-Reeve-wikicommonsFord as its leader. That’s Doug, brother and advisor to the late Rob Ford who has to have been the weirdest mayor of Toronto ever. And that’s saying a lot. There have been some dillies. But Rob was the biggest dilly of them all.

Doug Ford as leader of the Ontario PC probably means that Kathleen Wynne will be re-elected as premier in May. Or he gets elected premier. Either way, it’s a disaster for Ontario. I’m sure there’s still a leader of the NDP but I’d have to google to find out who it is. And I have no real faith that she or he would be all that much of an improvement on either of the other two. Just mess up the province in new and different ways.

Kathleen_Wynnes_Campaign_Bus_Alex-Guibord-2014-wikicommonsI am very glad I am no longer living there. Living under the Liberal flag of first Dalton McGuinty and then Kathleen Wynne was an endless nightmare of trying to survive under their endless, non-essential ‘improvements’. And also an endless source of amazement of what stupidity they could dream up next. Kind of like what living in Donald Trump’s USA must be like.

But I have another reason for being glad I have been well clear since long before this latest move to crazy-land in Ontario politics. A friend once told me that when I moved to a place, it tanked.

He was speaking about my move to St. Thomas, Ontario, years ago. When I moved there, a Ford assembly plant had been in operation for four decades. Then it shut down and over 1,000 people lost their jobs. It was the largest employer in town.st thomas ford plant sep-2011-photo-d-stewart

I moved to Sussex, New Brunswick, where PotashCorp had operated a mine for four decades. Then it shut down and over 400 people lost their jobs. It was the largest employer in town.

Penobsquis NB Potash-Mine-2009-Verne-Equinox-wikicommonsSo, superstitious or not, I’m glad I am far away from Ontario. I do not have to feel any responsibility for this newest shit show. Doug Ford and Kathleen Wynne could be the dictionary definition of ‘between a rock and a hard place’. Good luck, Ontario!

Corrie Street 11 Mar. 2018

Danny Zuko

brian-enters-roversFriday, for the first time I ever remember, someone walked out of Audrey’s salon looking different than when they went in. I was so amazed by seeing actual evidence of a haircut that I didn’t get the Danny Zuko joke at first.

Brian didn’t get it either, apparently. I guess we both missed Grease its first time around. But Bethany, whose mother was not even born until 9 years after the movie was released, knows it well enough to play a joke on Brian.

audrey-looks-at-haircutAudrey, however, got the reference immediately and wasn’t pleased. She knew Danny Zuko was not “some Greek singer that all the kids are mad after”. I googled to check that Audrey and Brian were talking Greece and Grease. I would expect that a teacher would google a name now associated with his hair. But with the teacher being Brian, it isn’t that far-fetched that he wouldn’t. ‘Curiosity’ is not Brian Packham’s middle name.

brian-shows-off-manicureAnd, after six hours of Corrie this week, that’s the best I can come up with for a scene that stood out. Oh, there were moments for sure. But something took the edge of perfection off them for me.

Phelan was perfect, especially in his moment of confrontation with Nicola in the hospital. But I’m weary of the extended permutations and ‘almost’ moments of that story. So I’m happy if we’ve seen the back of Nicola and Seb.

Jenny feeling excluded as the murder of crows called the Connors descended on her living room. That brought a little lump to my throat, and I am not a Jenny Bradley fan. But then she went off to Kevin and they commiserated. I don’t like even having to think about a repeat of them together, or any more secrets and sneaking around.

Johnny and Roy bonding a bit outside the hospital entrance while the transplant surgery was taking place. Great too was the guy in the background, having a smoke right by the No Smoking signs. I loved the scene, but I have nothing other than that to say about it.

greek singer called danny zukoSo Danny Zuko and Brian’s new look it is. The only downside is the appearance of Bethany’s friend at the salon. Because that foreshadows the return of Tassels and the lap dancing story. Gak!

Beef Stew

beef stew with garlic bunBeef stew is one of the easiest things to make. Brown meat cubes, add veggies and liquid and let it cook slowly. Plan on a couple of hours of cooking time. Stew can be a one-pot meal, with potatoes in it, or served on a bed of rice, noodles or mashed potatoes.

eye-of-round-steaksI like round or eye of round steaks for stewing beef. They have very little fat and you can easily slice or cube them. You can, of course, buy stewing beef. I find it’s more work because I remove the fat and cut the pieces smaller. However, any cheap cut of beef works, a blade roast or steak for example. The long cooking time makes the meat tender.

Stew Process, in short

  1. Brown meat cubes
  2. Add liquid
  3. Add barley, dense vegetables and dried herbs
  4. Let cook 30-40 mins, add delicate vegetables
  5. Cook an hour, add wine and fresh herbs
  6. Let cook 30-40 mins. (Cook stew ‘bed’ if needed)

Stew Process, long version

Put a bit of oil in a deep wide pot, let it heat up, and add chopped onions and garlic. When they have started softening, put the meat cubes in. Stir to get them browned on all sides. (If it’s a teflon pan, you don’t need oil.)

Browning the meat

A) Put it in the pan as is or (b) coat it in seasoned flour first. If you do (b) put maybe 1/4 cup flour on a plate or in a plastic bag. Mix a bit of salt and pepper in. Put the meat pieces in the flour and stir around or shake to completely coat them. Then put the coated meat in the heated oil in your pot. Stir to ensure all sides are browned.

Add liquid, barley, dense vegetables

Start with a cup or two. Any vegetable or beef stock is best, but water will do. The cooking veggies and beef will make their own stock. But using stock adds to the flavour of your sauce.

Stir a handful of barley into the liquid. It needs a long time to fully cook. Barley thickens stew wonderfully. I don’t add barley if I’m putting the stew on top of a starch. It makes it too dense.

Add potatoes (cut up if large or whole if very small) and chopped carrots. They take the longest to cook. Add any other dense vegetable, like brussels sprouts, now as well.

If you want a tomato-ey stew, add a can of whole or diced tomatoes.

Dried herbs, seasonings

Put in 1 or 2 bay leaves. Add dried herbs like basil or oregano as well. If you’re using fresh herbs, leave them until the final half hour of cooking. Add salt and pepper, a few shakes of Worcestershire Sauce and a dollop of ketchup. Simmer for 30-40 mins.

Add soft vegetables

beef-stew-cookingBy now, the potatoes and carrots should be softening. Time to add your other coarsely chopped vegetables. Celery, green and/or red pepper, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini – whatever you fancy. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, either cherry or chopped, add them too. I add these vegetables later because they are softer and more delicate. You don’t want to cook them to mush.

Now just let it cook for maybe an hour. Add more liquid if it needs it or if you want a thinner sauce.

Red wine, fresh herbs

This is the time to add red wine, both as a flavour agent and a source of liquid. Also add fresh herbs.

If the sauce is too thin, mix up a couple teaspoons of flour in a tablespoon or so of cold water. Stir well to remove lumps and mix slowly in the stew. Or shake in some blending flour, stirring to avoid lumps.

Let it cook another 30 minutes, and it should be done. You’ll see a thin film on the top, almost like a glaze.

Stew more or less cooks itself and it’s remarkably versatile. You can add whatever you have in the way of vegetables. Or if you like meaty stew, you can leave all vegetables out. I’d still put in onions and garlic, though. You can make chicken stew instead of beef, or leave out the meat entirely and make it vegetarian or vegan. Just change the type of stock you use.

Corrie Street 4 Mar. 2018

Helpful Hints

Monday and Tuesday episodes were like Hints from Heloise – what to do and what not to do.

1. Empty pockets before doing a wash.helpful hints summer puts hoodie in washer

Summer puts clothes in the laundry, including Billy’s hoodie. We know he never lets it out of his sight. It’s comfortable and it’s also where he keeps his painkillers. But he’s asleep. After he wakes and she’s gone and the laundry is done, he finds it in the washer. Only the pill package remains in the pocket. The painkillers dissolved into the water system.billy-finds-dissolved-pills

2. Why let perfectly good flowers go to waste?

craig-bins-rosesCraig put the beautiful roses he’d bought Bethany in the garbage bin. And just then Jude came along, holding a couple Valentine’s balloons.

jude-with-rosesWhat would go well with red heart-shaped balloons? Red roses. Will they do it? Yes! Next we see him, Jude’s walking off-screen with the balloons and the roses. Good man! Just don’t tell Angie!

3. “Proper disposal” of medication is not down the sink.

eva-holds-pills-that-billy-wantsEva finds the dodgy pills that Adam gave Billy. He says they’re an old prescription he found way back in the cupboard, way way back. He’ll put them in the bin, he says. She’s not letting him touch them, so says she’ll do it properly. Down the sink. No no no! See #1. They contaminate the water system. Take them to a pharmacy where they will do whatever they do to safely dispose of them.

4. Keep track of your kids so we can too.

liz-surprisedLiz is shocked to see that the new doctor at the medical clinic is Michelle’s son. So am I. I had to google to find out which one Alex is. Is he the biological son or the one she raised?

alex-or-aliEither way, I’d hoped we’d never see either of them again. It was a horrible ‘switched at birth’ story that was soapy both in construction and presentation – complete with recasting at the time and again now. So the present face wouldn’t help even if you could, or wanted to, remember Alex.