Animals – Ghost in the Machine http://www.ghostinthemachine.net Haunting the Web Since 1999 Sat, 25 Feb 2017 18:27:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Berkday 17. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/berkday-17/ Sat, 25 Feb 2017 18:11:51 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=22266

A very happy 17th birthday to the Berk-man. GitM’s original ombudsdog — three years gone but still in our hearts. I bet even Murf misses you sometime, li’l buddy, and I hope they have ham and cheese croissants on the rainbow bridge.

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Catching Up: Lady and the Murf. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/catching-up-lady-and-the-murf/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/catching-up-lady-and-the-murf/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 18:19:12 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=22069
Alright, June 1st. So, before posts start up here with any regularity again, I should probably catch y’all up on recent events. (Consider the next few posts the recap in front of the comic and/or the “Previously On” for the seasons you missed.)

First, up above is me and Amy — whom I’ve mentioned a few times over the years — at my sister‘s wedding last October. And below is us at the Trianon in Versailles (Wilson’s base during the Conference) last summer, a day or two after I proposed.

Amy is a criminologist at George Mason, and while I won’t sing her praises too much here, suffice to say we get along swimmingly (perhaps in part because, yes, we do have the same last name. Good enough for Franklin and Eleanor, good enough for Jaime and Cersei.) We moved in together on Capitol Hill a year and a half ago, around the same time I left Congress and started at the Trust. Our wedding is this September in Maui.

And this is Murf. Formerly Amy’s, now our seven-and-a-half-year-old bichon frise, Murf is completely blind after several bouts with canine glaucoma — in fact, both of his eyes have now been eviscerated. But he gets around surprisingly well by smell, hearing, and memory, almost as easily as Berk did after he went deaf. (Maybe one day, we’ll get a basenji and complete the triptych.)

Speaking of the old man, and as I said here, he and Murf shared this realm for a year or so, during which they went from antipathy to generally ignoring each other before Berk’s end. They had different interests anyway. Berk was into watching, circling, and barking, while Murf is more of a sit-in-your-lap, incessant licking man. To each his own.

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Berkday 16. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/berkday-16/ Thu, 25 Feb 2016 18:05:40 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=22015

Pour some bacon, haribo cherries, and sundry other treats out for those who are no longer with us. Today would have been Berk’s sixteenth birthday. RIP old friend.

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Berkday 15. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/berkday-15/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/berkday-15/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 14:50:32 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21938

Today would have been Berk’s fifteenth birthday. Rest easy, old friend.
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Also, the Cheese is a Trap. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/nimh-mice-experiment/ Wed, 01 Oct 2014 18:28:12 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21698
“The researchers had mice run through a maze to get a reward of chocolate milk. The animals could figure out the location of the reward either through sensory cues such as rough or smooth floors, which corresponds to declarative learning. Or, they could discover the reward was always linked to either a left or right turn, which corresponds to procedural learning. The investigators discovered the mice with the human form of FOXP2 learned profoundly faster than regular mice when both declarative and procedural forms of learning were involved.”

Scared and smarter: In an experiment right out of the The Secret of NIMH, researchers discover that mice learn faster after being given a gene linked to human speech. ‘What surprised me most was that the humanized gene actually improved the animal’s behavior rather than messing up the system.'” Remember…Dubya did try to warn us.

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The Last Dog Scout. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/the-last-dog-scout/ Fri, 12 Sep 2014 19:02:20 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21663
“You’d see firefighters sitting there, unanimated, stone-faced, no emotion, and then they’d see a dog and break out into a smile,” Otto recalled. “Those dogs brought the power of hope. They removed the gloom for just an instant — and that was huge because it was a pretty dismal place to be.”

Thirteen years after a dark day, 15-year-old Bretagne, one of the last surviving 9/11 search dogs, returns to Ground Zero. “In the years that followed 9/11, Bretagne and Corliss deployed together to numerous disaster sites, including Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ivan. Bretagne retired from formal search work at age 9 — but today, even though she’s roughly 93 in human years, she still loves to work.”

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Of Mice and Men. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/of-mice-and-men/ Tue, 29 Apr 2014 14:45:57 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18473
“‘People have not paid attention to this in the entire history of scientific research of animals,’ says Jeffrey Mogil, a pain researcher at McGill University and lead author of the study. ‘I think that it may have confounded, to whatever degree, some very large subset of existing research.'”

Sorry, Lenny: A new study finds a potentially problematic issue for decades of research: Mice are scared of men (or males of any species). ‘If you’re doing a liver cell study, the cells came from a rat that was sacrificed either by a man or a woman,’ Mogil says. As a result, ‘its stress levels would be in very different states.’ This, he says, could have an effect on the functioning of the liver cell in that later experiment.”

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Arkham Aquarium. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/arkham-aquarium/ Tue, 18 Mar 2014 15:29:04 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18352
“Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. I must be a creature. I must be a creature of the night…I shall become a shark.” Iconic Batman villains reconceived as cartoon sharks, by artist Jeff Victor. Mr. Freeze’s goldfish is a nice touch.

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Time is a Flat Circle, Filled with Milk. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/flat-circle-filled-with-milk/ Thu, 27 Feb 2014 17:37:39 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18159

The True Detective credit sequence, now reimagined with kittehs. Because the Internet. As I said on Twitter, this is cute and all, but Watership Down remains my go-to for cute and depressing existential animals.

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Jurassic World. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/jurassic-world/ Thu, 27 Feb 2014 17:29:02 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18156
“The earth is about to become a lot less ‘natural.’ Biologists have already created new forms of bacteria in the lab, modified the genetic code of countless living species and cloned dogs, cats, wolves and water buffalo, but the engineering of novel vertebrates — of breathing, flying, defecating pigeons — will represent a milestone for synthetic biology. This is the fact that will overwhelm all arguments against de-extinction.”

By way of Follow Me Here, the NYT’s Nathaniel Rich examines the promise, challenges, and ethics of reviving extinct species, and beyond:

“What is coming will go well beyond the resurrection of extinct species. For millenniums, we have customized our environment, our vegetables and our animals, through breeding, fertilization and pollination. Synthetic biology offers far more sophisticated tools. The creation of novel organisms, like new animals, plants and bacteria, will transform human medicine, agriculture, energy production and much else. De-extinction ‘is the most conservative, earliest application of this technology,’ says Danny Hillis, a Long Now board member and a prolific inventor who pioneered the technology that is the basis for most supercomputers.”

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“The Blood Harvest.” http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/blood-harvest/ Wed, 26 Feb 2014 16:31:19 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18102
“‘Every drug certified by the FDA must be tested using LAL,’ PBS’s Nature documentary noted, ‘as do surgical implants such as pacemakers and prosthetic devices.’ I don’t know about you, but the idea that every single person in America who has ever had an injection has been protected because we harvest the blood of a forgettable sea creature with a hidden chemical superpower makes me feel a little bit crazy. This scenario is not even sci-fi, it’s postmodern technology.”

In The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal unearths the amazing secrets, and industry, surrounding horseshoe crab blood. “The thing about the blood that everyone notices first: It’s blue, baby blue…The iron-based, oxygen-carrying hemoglobin molecules in our blood give it that red color; the copper-based, oxygen-carrying hemocyanin molecules in theirs make it baby blue.”

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Berkday 14. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/berkday-14/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/berkday-14/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 14:41:34 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18057
Today would have been Berk’s fourteenth birthday. I don’t believe in an afterlife — the end is The End, so enjoy it while it lasts — and if there is some sort of Rainbow Bridge out there, I expect Berk would probably be trying to base-jump off it regardless. So, when it comes to life after death, my memories and this here Interweb will have to do.

With that in mind, happy b-day, old man. The apartment’s too quiet without you.

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R.I.P. Berkeley 2000-2014. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/r-i-p-berkeley-2000-2014/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/r-i-p-berkeley-2000-2014/#comments Thu, 13 Feb 2014 19:33:36 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=17810
Yesterday morning, two weeks before his 14th birthday, Berkeley and I went to the vet. This was just for a check-up and a bordetella vaccine, and Berk seemed chipper as always — He was always especially happy and excited when we broke our morning routine to venture somewhere else. I told the vet that I was actually surprised by the good health he’d been in. Since the bad bite and lost toe in 2012, Berk had been the picture of vitality — Just the night before, we’d played a solid half-hour of “apartment Frisbee.” From what they could tell, the vet agreed — they said his heart seemed normal, his movement lively, his disposition upbeat, his joie de vivre intact. He did have an ear infection in one ear, so they gave me some topical meds for that. I took him home, applied them, scratched him behind his ear, and went to work.

Yesterday evening, I came home from work to find Berk splayed out on the floor, dead for many hours. (His body seemed like it was in a violent position – legs up, head half under the couch. But now that I think about it, what probably happened is he died on the couch, hopefully sleeping, and his body fell off sometime later — hence the contortion when the rictus sent in.) My friend Arjun and I carried his corpse downstairs and drove it to the vet for cremation. In the space of ten hours, he’s gone from being happy to just being gone. Looking out at the snow everywhere this morning, I can’t help but think that this is the type of day he would have loved.

The shock of it all notwithstanding, I know that this a pretty fortunate way for the old man to go. He was happy and in good health — still able to jump to his perch on the table whenever he wanted, still interested in smelling things and exploring the world, still eager for a bite or three of whatever I was having for dinner — on the day he died. Neither of us had to go through the long fade, as it were. And, y’know, he would have been fourteen in two weeks: We had an amazing run together. I knew this day was coming sometime in the relatively near future. I just thought — and hoped — it wouldn’t be today. What do we say to the God of Death? Not today. But today — or yesterday — it was. And now his watch is ended, his perch is empty.

Berkeley was born on February 25th, 2000. My ex-wife and I got him on May 15 of that year. We knew we wanted a sheltie, and I had seen a Mother’s Day sale for them out near Harper’s Ferry. We ended up seeing three or four pups in a barn — three brown-eyed shelties barking and licking our hand, and one blue-eyed one, watching us silently from afar. I knew right away I wanted the introvert.

My ex-wife and I divorced the following year, in 2001. I knew I wanted Berk and gave up all our other (very few) common possessions — Berk coming with me was never really in doubt. And for the next twelve+ years, he was my constant companion and power animal. We’d walk the streets of New York and DC together, spend the weekends in Riverside and Central Park, Dupont Circle and the Mall, and days and nights just hanging around the pad — him circling or on watch.

There was a year or two of grad school there where Berk was the only living entity I had consistent contact with. I remember at least twice in our time together, when I was devastated after a scorched-earth break-up and the general despair of the long-term PhD process, where the only thing I could do for days was stagger around my apartment sobbing, clutching a half-gallon of water so I didn’t completely dry out. Berk would dutifully follow me around, tail wagging, and lick my face dry when I got in a place where he could reach me. Despair or no, there was salt to be had here.

He was a great dog. Lived happy until the day he died.

And he was my best friend. I can think of a lot of times when he felt like my only friend.

RIP, little buddy. I’ll miss you.

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Llewyn to Caesar. | The Cat is the Hat? http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/llewyn-cat-is-the-hat/ Tue, 10 Dec 2013 17:32:35 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=16598
“You always blithely write shit in and then find out that it’s a pain in the ass to do it,” groaned Joel. “In Inside Llewyn Davis, we very blithely wrote that there was a cat in all of these different scenes. And then we got on the set and had to do it, and you know, cats are a pain in the ass. They’re just an unvarnished pain in the ass, that’s all there is. There’s nothing fun about it.”

As Inside Llewyn Davis hits theaters, Joel and Ethan Coen talk about their potential next projects — looks like Hail Caesar is still flitting around — and the trouble with filming felines. “‘You have lots of different cats on set,’ said Joel. ‘”Oh, that one won’t do the scene? Try this other one, see if he’ll do it.” And you just sit there until he does it, or until you say, “Fuck it, he ain’t gonna do it,’ and come up with something else.”‘”

I haven’t seen Davis yet — DC being a second-tier film town, it hasn’t arrived yet — but I have a sneaking suspicion Llewyn’s kitteh will be playing the role of Tom Reagan’s hat here — a metaphor for his self-possession. Looking forward to finding out this weekend.

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I Don’t Normally Bark Like Cujo… http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/most-interesting-berk/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/most-interesting-berk/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 18:25:14 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=16456
…but when I do, there’s probably in-line skates, skateboards, Segways, or Ranger the Australian sheepdog (Berk’s neighborhood nemesis, the Joker to his Batman, snake to his mongoose, etc. etc.) involved. I put this up on Twitter/Facebook last week, but for the GitM-inclined, here’s Berkeley, nearing 14 this February, cultivating his Most Interesting Dog in the World cachet. Stay thirsty, my friend.

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Skynet, Year One. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/skynet-year-one/ Wed, 09 Oct 2013 16:57:47 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=16293
“‘If a drone’s system is sophisticated enough, it could be less emotional, more selective and able to provide force in a way that achieves a tactical objective with the least harm,’ said Purdue University Professor Samuel Liles. ‘A lethal autonomous robot can aim better, target better, select better, and in general be a better asset with the linked ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] packages it can run.'”

Er, right, but aren’t we forgetting something here? And don’t you people ever go to the movies? Scientists are apparently working toward drones that can make their own autonomous decisions about targets. “Though they do not yet exist, and are not possible with current technology, LARs are the subject of fierce debate in academia, the military and policy circles. Still, many treat their development as inevitability.”

Meanwhile, over on the other side of the world:

“Scientists at Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have come up with one solution to the jellyfish problem: build robots to kill them. For the last three years, the team has been working to create robots that can travel the ocean, seeking out swarms of jellyfish using a camera and GPS. Once the jellyfish are located, the robots set about shredding the jellies with an underwater propeller.”

INITIATING PROTOCOL SHRED-ORGANBAGS 101101111…Due to a climate-change-fueled ascendance of jellyfish across the world, Korean scientists have unleashed automated robotic sentinels to mitigate the problem. [T]he video at top is what they’re doing beneath the surface, using a specialized net and propeller. Be warned, it’s graphic. In preliminary tests, the robots could pulverize 2,000 pounds of jellyfish per hour.”

Sigh…this will all end in tears, people. Paging Kent Brockman.

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Take Berk Out to the Ball Game. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/take-berk-out-to-the-ball-game/ Tue, 17 Sep 2013 17:19:42 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=16233
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you can help them pick up a new pastime or two. On account of Pups in the Park night at Nats Park, Berk got to take in his first MLB game Saturday night: Phillies over Nats, 5-4. FWIW, he seemed to quite enjoy the experience, most notably all the many other dogs around and the bag of peanuts in the seat in front of him. The folding chairs, not so much.

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A Mean Fender Corgi. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/a-mean-fender-corgi/ Thu, 08 Aug 2013 21:49:48 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=16098
“People who play bass with their fingers look like they’re tickling hairy dogs.” And, lo, a meme was born: Because of, y’know, the Internet, Bassists tickling dogs. It’s heartening to see that Daft Punk opted for a traditional K-9.

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The Wheel of Pain…for Dogs. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/the-wheel-of-pain-for-dogs/ Wed, 31 Jul 2013 21:53:30 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=15759
“The Turnspit Dog, 1500-1900 – A dog specifically bred to run on a small wheel in order to turn meat so it would cook evenly. This took both courage, to stand near the fire, and loyalty, to not to eat the roast. Due to the strenuous nature of the work, a pair of dogs would often work in shifts. This most likely led to the proverb ‘every dog has his day.'”

Time to raise Berk’s retirement age? By way of the re-designed Quiddity, which has tons of intriguing posts up at the moment, a curious history of dog-powered engines. “The last illustration displays a very unique, but now extinct, dog called the Turnspit…bred in Britain for hundreds of years to help with cooking and is the original ‘working dog.'”

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His Watch Continues. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/his-watch-continues/ Tue, 11 Jun 2013 20:32:11 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=15392
Quiet around here the past fortnight or so — sorry, busy as ever. In recompense, and since there’s been very little dog-blogging in recent months, here’s Maester Berk yesterday, maintaining his watch on the Wall…er, Table. Canine Dohaeris.

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