Sunday, August 28, 2005

Too pupped to pop

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Adopting a new puppy is a rewarding, frustrating, educational, exhausting and fulfilling experience, in that order. It's not something to be undertaken lightly -- puppies need constant care and attention to grow into healthy, happy dogs, as opposed to vicious, bloodthirsty killing machines with no regard for your life or even their own. It's literally just a few Snausages' difference.

I know. My wife and I just this week welcomed a pup into our home. We used to have another dog, Sable, an adorable mutt who died in June at nearly 15. It left a hollow spot in my chest that I tried in vain to spackle over with nougat. So after a while, we adopted another dog, a five-month-old pup named Myrna. She's half Labrador retriever, half border collie and half German shepherd. Her folks were swingers.

We got Myrna online through a service that rescues dogs from the South and brings them up north. Down there, many shelters keep dogs for only three days before they're destroyed. They meet their awful fate by being forced into endless Civil War battle re-enactments, or else are shipped to West Virginia and die of shame.

It is taking Myrna some getting used to, living away from the South. She seems to miss the banjo music, for one thing, and the wind a-sighin' through the magnolia blossoms. It's also difficult for her to understand our commands unless we're chewing a sprig of hay. Instead of "sit," we have to say "seeeit." She doesn't understand "no," so we tell her, "G'oan -- git!" And she ignores anything unless it's immediately followed by a nonsensical folksy metaphor:

"Myrna! Want to go for a walk? It'll be more fun than a hobo rasslin' a pillowcase fulla peach pits."

"Off the couch, Myrna. Excuse me -- off'n. Or I'll be mad as a catfish with a xylophone."

"Dad-blame it, Myrna, you pooped in the house! Your bowels must be looser'n tube socks on a rooster."

But little by little, we're understanding her and she's understanding us. So I feel qualified, after these few days, to share some of my tidbits of puppy-rearing wisdom with you.

The key to raising your puppy to be a decent, upstanding member of the Democratic Party is being able to think like a puppy. Perform your market research. Analyze your demographic. Get into its quote-unquote "groove."

I know as a human, for example, that my puppy should go to the bathroom outdoors. But let's examine this from the puppy's point of view. Wouldn't it be more fun to crap in Daddy's shoe? Plus, more challenging and all, given the concentration and aim required?

Thus, we've established what the puppy is thinking. Now you can explain to it, calmly, that going outdoors is a more cost-effective solution, given the high cost of replacing shoes versus the low cost of dog poop fertilizing the grass. Puppies are extremely logical, particularly when it comes to economics. The puppy may then suggest that you compromise, bringing the shoe outdoors so it can crap in it out there.

Many owners find this to be the easiest solution, but others demand a zero-tolerance policy on shoe-crapping. Be aware that if you have more than one puppy, they can override your veto on this issue.

I've discovered that puppies also like to chew things. Pretty much any form of matter will do, but they go crazy for anything expensive or difficult to replace. My own Myrna finds that Pottery Barn endtables have a mild flavor perfect for breakfast, and would've pulled the roof apart if she hadn't already chewed the legs off the ladder.

Again, if you think like a puppy, you can minimize the damage. Start by removing anything in your home that could be tempting for a puppy to chew -- this includes tables, chairs, rugs, TVs, household appliances, lamps, curtains, bedsheets, sofas, pillows, clothes, decorative wood moldings, cabinets, refrigerators, washers and/or dryers, toilets, furnaces, electrical wires, floors and walls.

If you catch your puppy chewing anything inappropriate that's left, never make the cruel mistake of hitting the poor pup on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. This only makes puppies resent The Media. Instead, give the dog something positive to chew, such as a thick porterhouse steak cooked rare, or, better still, a cow.

It's important to give your puppy a decent name, one that reflects its personality. Years ago, in Kennedy Park, I met a dog named Hitler. I'm going to go ahead and say that's not a good idea unless your dog is interested in the organized slaughter of millions of people, and then you should probably have him neutered right away.

Above all, the best thing you can do for a puppy is give it lots of affection and training. If you love it and care for it well enough, then the barking and whining and biting and chewing and destroying and howling and pooping and yanking and tinking and jumping and clawing and drooling will find their way into your heart for life.

Lastly, remember that unlike other pets -- such as those blithering morons of the animal kingdom, goldfish -- puppies are quite intelligent. Too intelligent, actually. This is why you must, at all times, communicate with puppies in baby talk. Rub their bellies and pitch your voice high and call them "woodgitty woo-woo kins." Otherwise, the puppies will pick up enough English to get by, and that's pretty much it for the human race.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

LNG facts get the ax

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This LNG thing is an emotional rollercoaster. Just thinking about it for too long gives me the vapors. I cure this with a bracing pony glass of crude oil.

First we were not getting LNG. Then we were. Now we're not again. Stop the federal energy regulatory process -- I want to get off!

Part of the journalist's mission is to make things clear for the public -- particularly, things that, I might add, being complicated, as so many municipal processes are, could benefit from the elucidative touch that bestows upon the very unclear thing a heretofore unknown film of transparency that improves one's understanding of the issues and, yes, most of all, the comprehension thereof, especially for anyone who knows already what exactly they are.

So, yes.

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about the recent developments to the LNG project that you may find helpful. If not, feel free to find them unhelpful.

Q. What's going on with the LNG project lately?

A. Welcome back to Planet Earth! Let's see. On June 30, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave Weaver's Cove Energy the right to horn in on a residential neighborhood so it can build a huge tank of liquefied natural gas and a facility to turn it from liquid to gaseous form. Everybody who lives in that area of North Main Street yelled a collective "SHIT!" And then the "For Sale" signs went up.

While the bigwigs at Weaver's Cove were busy twirling their mustaches with evil glee, our representatives in Congress were busy finding a nice, cozy spot in the more than 1,000-page 2006 federal transportation bill to bury a provision making it illegal to use federal money to tear down the old Brightman Street Bridge when the new one is built. It literally blocks LNG tankers from getting to their proposed destination. It's a scheme as clever as it is diabolical. President Bush recently signed that into law -- so the city has used the energy industry's most powerful tool against itself. Weaver's Cove then issued a press release saying, "SHIT!"

Q. Why would having the old bridge in place matter?

A. The old bridge is downriver from the proposed facility, and it's too narrow to squeeze an LNG tanker through, not even one that's slathered in butter. Weaver's Cove would have to sail its tankers up to the old bridge, about a half mile away, and then offload the LNG by carrying the stuff in buckets back and forth to the facility.

Q. I'm confused. Does this mean that once the new bridge is built we can drive across the old one, too?

A. God, no! I wouldn't drive on that bridge now, and there's a Pizza Hut over there!

Q. So what, pray tell, will the old bridge be used for?

A. Bike riding? They can use it for storing elephants, for all I care. The LNG tankers can't get through!

Q. Can't the LNG tankers just plow right through the old bridge, smashing it to pieces, like in a Will Smith movie? People diving out of the way? Tommy Lee Jones should play the renegade LNG ship captain.

A. I agree. That would look cool.

Q. Were any other anti-LNG provisions put into the transportation bill?

A. Yes! In case the bridge thing doesn't work, there's also $25,000 in funding to build a large arrow-shaped sign that reads "FALL RIVER THIS WAY" on it. It will be installed at the end of Mount Hope Bay, and will point toward New Bedford.

Q. Have you taken a stand on LNG?

A. Listen. I have no problem with LNG itself. Some of my best friends are LNG. What I do have a problem with is putting an LNG facility where people live. A terminal doesn't belong here. It belongs someplace where, if there's an industrial accident, human beings will not be hurt -- the Gulf States, for instance, or Delaware.

Besides, even if Massachusetts needs more natural gas, it's not Fall River's job to carry the burden for the rest of the state. We already take their garbage and their heroin addicts. And think of this: Once we let Weaver's Cove put LNG in here, what other kinds of LNGs will it sneak in? Live nude girls? In a residential neighborhood? How about loud, noisy gorillas? Are you going to be the one to say yes to loud, noisy gorillas in Fall River?

Q. Weaver's Cove Energy has been putting up a lot of billboards and online ads. I even got something in the mail addressed to "Our Neighbor." What's up with that?

A. Ah, advertising -- the last refuge of a scoundrel. Personally, I don't like the tone of their ads. They're very elitist and bullying, if you think about it. They keep telling me to "get the facts," like I'm an idiot who's been easily misled by lies all this time. Also, the ads say, "You haven't heard the whole story," which implies that I haven't been paying attention. That's just mean.

"We might not be able to change your mind, but we'll settle for opening your eyes," reads the little bit of propaganda I got in the mail. OK -- first, it's saying that I'm stubborn. Then, it's saying that I'm living with my eyes closed. Basically, the ads could only be worse if Joe Camel started pushing LNG to children.

If anybody from Weaver's Cove is listening, there are three ways your ads can be improved.

First, learn my name and don't call me "Our Neighbor."

Second, don't talk to me like I'm some closed-minded schmuck. I've read your Web site, thought about it for a while, and it turns out I still don't want LNG here. I gave you more of a chance than I do the religious wackos who knock on my door. Now go away.

Third, next time, mail me a sample packet of LNG so I can try it at home. If I like it, maybe I'll buy it.

Until then, I'm getting my bike and fishing pole ready for the Brightman Street Bridge. See you there!
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