Overweight Dogs

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The photo here has nothing to do with what follows. I just wanted to put something here to break up the text.

When my wife Tamara and I discuss breeds of dogs that appeal to us, one dog that I have said I am not so keen on are Labradors. There is nothing wrong with them, I want to make that clear. I don’t have the right to say there is anything wrong with them. But they don’t appeal to me, and the reason is that often they are – at least to my eyes – fat.

There is nothing wrong with a fat dog. Well perhaps there is if it affects the dog’s health but that’s a different story. But from my point of view there is nothing ‘wrong’ with a fat dog, they just don’t appeal to me.

I love watching spaniels run. Their bodies are so full of movement. Nothing rigid, nothing tied down – they move like fluid energy unbounded.

Which is not to say I am fixated on spaniels. I like all kinds of dogs. I have to say though that I was a ‘small dog ignoramus’ until my wife got me to actually look at them. She is a very observant person. She notices colours and articles of clothing, and just notices things that pass me by.

She pointed out the immense variety in the way small dogs walk. Some walk like they are just so happy to be there that they would burst if life got any better.

Some walk on tiptoes like they are the bee’s knees. Or like they are just not going to sully themselves getting any nearer to the ground.

Some are very intense, very purposeful. I mentioned that to a man with a dog as I was passing. He smiled and agreed and said that one day he hoped his dog would find out what he was being so intense about.

So, back to Labradors. My wife makes fun of me when we see a Labrador. She says: ‘Look, there’s an overweight dog.’

But, and this is a big but – today I was looking at a recent issue of The Week and noticed an article entitled ‘Why are so many Labradors fat?’

I started reading it and then noticed that my wife had marked the margin for me to read the article. So, to complete a pun, we were on the same page about it…

The article was a reference to a study by Conor O’Donovan and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge, who found that Labradors having the highest rate of canine obesity and that 23 per cent of the dogs carried at least one copy of a mutant form of a gene called POMC, which encodes proteins that help switch off hunger after a meal.

And the gene mutation was much higher in Labradors used by blind people – accounted for because the desire for a food reward makes the animals easier to train.

So there is science behind the impression I had that Labradors are overweight.

Who knew?

Monetise Your Jetpack-Enabled, Self-Hosted WordPress Site

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I bought a small job lot of old inkwells a few years ago. I stuck feathers in them and photographed them. I may get some more feathers and try again.

Do You Jetpack?

Did you get an email from Jetpack? You probably will have done if you have any self-hosted WordPress sites with Jetpack installed.

Jetpack is a plugin made by Automattic (the commercial arm of WordPress). It’s for self-hosted WordPress sites and it gives you:

  • Site stats & analytics
  • Automatic social network sharing
  • Related posts to keep visitors on your site longer
  • Enhanced distribution on WordPress.com
  • Protection from brute force attacks
  • 24/7 Uptime monitoring
  • Single sign-on
  • Automatic plugin updates
  • Centralized, cross-platform dashboard
  • Bulk installation & management of plugins
  • Automatic plugin updates
  • Streamlined content editor
  • High-speed content delivery network for images
  • Easy CSS editing
  • Contact forms
  • Custom image galleries

I have self-hosted sites with Jetpack installed and the main reason is for the nice Contact form and the social media sharing buttons built into the plugin.

The section in the email that interested me, was this:

Jetpack Ads is instantly available to all users who have purchased the Jetpack Premium plan — no approval process required. Once you’ve purchased the plan, activate the feature in the Engagement tab within Jetpack. You’ll start seeing ads on your site right away, and can tweak ad placement settings and view your earnings on WordPress.com.

It is interesting that as a website owner, Jetpack and WordAds doesn’t require that you have a certain minimum number of monthly visitors.

Nor does it require that your Alexa, or Klout, or Kred ranking are high, or that your content is high quality and not just ‘thin and spammy’.

Just pay for premium Jetpack and you are good to go.

And I am somewhat surprised at that because hitherto I have had the impression that WordPress is to some extent a gatekeeper of quality.

So what does Jetpack Premium ($9/month or just $99/year) give you? It gives you:

  • Automated, daily backups with one-click restores
  • Bulletproof spam filtering by Akismet
  • Daily, automated malware scanning
  • Dedicated priority security support

If you are running a self-hosted WordPress site, many web hosts offer backups and one-click restore. There are also a number of plugins that will backup your site off-site, such as to Dropbox.

Spam filtering by Akismet is free provided you are not monetising your site. So blogs get Akismet for free anyway. I guess that running WordAds implies the site is being monetised even if there is no other commercial aspect to the site – and so the spam filtering is justifiably described as a benefit.

Malware scanning is great, but preventing malware is better. Wordfence has a free version that gets good plaudits.

I can’t comment on dedicated security support as I don’t know what it entails or offers.

What is the competition – Google’s Adsense, of course. So this is a direct competitor to Google. Is it better?

What does ‘better’ mean?

For me it means this: Does it pay better and are the advertisements of higher quality? If the advertisements that appear on this WordPress.com site are anything to go by, I wouldn’t say so. I wrote about that a while ago under the title ‘Why, Dear WordPress, Oh Why?

I opened another browser to look at this site without me being logged in and currently I see advertisements for Expedia (a travel site), Very (a fashion outlet) and for something that I don’t want on my site because I strongly oppose the internet gambling laws in the UK. Here is a screen grab of the advertisement.

gamblead

Unlike some countries that keep a tight rein on online gambling the UK is full of advertisements for it on TV and it is a huge industry.

Meanwhile, household debt (credit card and loans) in the UK has gone through the roof. The average household debt excluding mortgage obligations is over £7,000.

I used to pay to not have Ads on this site. I stopped paying because I thought ‘Why am I doing this?’ – but now I figure that on next renewal I will pay just to keep gambling ads off the site.

In This Most Uncertain Of Times

This is a bit of a mishmash of a post, so forgive me if I wander into a different territory here.

Tamara and I have just been talking about the current state of the world – and this that follows touches on some of the things that we have been talking about.

The quote is from Isaiah Berlin’s 1957 Herbert Samuel lecture on Chaim Weizman, in which Berlin said:

Weizman had all his life believed that when great public issues are joined one must above all take sides; whatever one did, one must not remain neutral or uncommitted, one must always – as an absolute duty – identify oneself with some living force in the world, and take part in the world’s affairs with all the risk of blame and misrepresentation and misunderstanding of one’s motives and character which this almost invariably entails.

Consequently .. he (Weizman) called for no compromise, and denounced those who did. He regarded with contempt the withdrawal from life on the part of those to whom their personal integrity, or peace of mind, or purity of ideal, mattered more than the work upon which they are engaged and to which they were engaged and to which they were committed, the artistic, or scientific, or social, or political, or purely personal enterprises in which all men are willy-nilly involved.

He did not condone the abandonment of ultimate principles before the claims of expediency or of anything else; but political monasticism – a search for some private cave of Adullam to avoid being disappointed or tarnished, the taking up of consciously utopian or politically impossible positions, in order to remain true to some inner voice, or some unbreakable principle too pure for the wicked public world – that seemed to him a mixture of weakness and self-conceit, foolish and despicable.

Sharp Lens, Dull Mind

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Click the photo to see a larger version.

We have just moved, and now we are unpacking and I am consolidating things in boxes. And I came across a tiny compact camera that I knew I had but hadn’t looked at for a while. I took out the card and stuck it in the computer.

It’s got photos taken on that camera and on other cameras. And they go back to 2007.

I just processed one and the EXIF data says I shot it on 16th November, 2007 with a Nikon D40 with a lens with a focal length of 55mm.

So that must have been the 18-55mm kit lens I got with the camera. I sold the lens and kept the body and used it with a little 35mm lens. And the reason I did that in part was that I was convinced that the kit lens was not very sharp and was going to hamper my photography.

So now I put this photo through Photoshop and I wonder what I was thinking. It’s sharp enough and the colours are pleasant. I know colour is mostly a function of the sensor in the camera body, but a poor lens will rob colour and micro-contrast out of a subject.

And I am still doing it – chasing sharper lenses. Crazy.

The ‘dull mind’ in the title of this piece is a play on my lack of clarity in seeing that the lens was perfectly adequate, and a nod to the clarity of mind with which the woman in the photo is concerned.

The woman in the photo was part of a Falun Gong group. They had a stand and leaflets and were talking about how they are persecuted in China.

Look them up in Wikipedia – it describes Falun Gong (Dharma Wheel Practice) as a Chinese spiritual practise that the Chinese Authorities cracked down on, deeming it a heretical organisation that threatened social stability.

I shot this in England somewhere. I can’t recall where but I think that is a ‘Pret a Manger’ cafe sign in the background – so I probably shot it in Leeds.

The first time I saw a Falun Gong group was about fifteen years ago. They were protesting – gathered on the grassed area outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C.

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Peace For The New Year

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JenT and Cardinal Guzman, both WordPress.com bloggers, published posts on the topic of 2016 in review.

It got me wondering what had stuck a chord with my readers in 2016. In fact, nothing did the way one photo got a lot of attention a couple of years ago. It is this photo of a auto-rickshaw driver in Delhi. I think someone in Delhi who recognised the driver must have come across the photo and then his friends and everyone in Delhi looked for it.

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Back to the photo at the top of this article. I saw it in the folder on my hard drive today and want to make it the motto for the coming year. And the motto is – Peace.