Monday, January 22, 2018

Two weeks of 24/7 Super Bowl hype. Here we go again…

On Saturday, I turned on the 11 o’clock local news, assuming that the lead story would be the government shutdown or the Women’s March (even though the Boston/Cambridge edition this year was quite low-key compared to last year’s event – but that’s another story). But, no, the lead story was Tom’s thumb. Or Tom’s hand. Or whatever was maybe going to impact The Big Game on Sunday, in which the Patriots played Jacksonville for the AFC Championship and the opportunity to go to (yet) another Super Bowl.

Not only was the news dominated by the Patriots, but at some point in the “news”cast, they announced that the pre-game show on Sunday would start at 5 a.m. Yes, folks, that’s 5 as in the a.m. Ten hours and five minutes before the kickoff at 3:05 p.m.

Here we go again, I said to myself. If they win, we can look forward to non-stop coverage of the Pats until (one way or the other) a day or so after the Super Bowl is played on February 4th.

And then there they went and beat the Jaguars, even if they didn’t look like they were going anywhere until the last few minutes.

So, on to Minneapolis for Super Bowl. And on to non-stop news coverage.

Oh, we may have a break or two. Maybe on Groundhog Day they’ll manage to wedge in a report on whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow. This being New England, there will no doubt be a bit of weather here and there. And there’ll probably be yet another importunate outburst from the Tweeter in Chief. Mostly, though, it will be non-stop Patriots. Which means lots of focus on:

  • Tom Brady’s hand injury. The one that didn’t end up shutting him down in the AFC playoff game, but we’ll want to know the exact nature of that injury, ad medical nauseam.
  • Our Tom’s new Facebook video “series”, Tom vs. Time. (God help us…Forget that. God help me. I just watched the first episode. Or the trailer. Or whatever I just watched.)
  • Our Tom’s Minnesota connection. Super Bowl is being played in Minneapolis, and Our Tom’s mother is from Minnesota, so…
  • Our Tom’s being the GOAT. (Greatest of All Time). Which even a relatively casual football fan – casual enough not to be a complete and utter homer when it comes to these thing - like me gets that he pretty much is.
  • Rob Gronkowski’s concussion. (Good thing he was able to do his PSA for Tide, telling teenagers that when it comes to ingesting Tide Pods, it’s NO NO NO NO NO.)
  • Danny Amendola’s Boston roots. (What can I say. Hero of the day on Sunday, so I googled him. Both his folks are from Boston. Who knew?)
  • Et al. team members.
  • Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia’s final game with the Pats before he heads off to be the head coach of the Detroit Lions.
  • Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ final game with the Pats before he heads off to be the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
  • Whether the ESPN story about the trouble in paradise – bad feelings between – in this corner -  Our Tom and the Pats owner Bob Kraft, and – in the other corner - the Pats taciturn genius head coach, Bill Belichick. (Which is actually a pretty interesting story. More interesting than what goes on on the field, IMHO. But, then again, I’m a student of organizational dysfunction, politics, and backstabbing, so I’m loving it. Not quite Fire and Fury, but pretty darned engrossing.)

We will hear about fans who are driving to Minneapolis for Super Bowl, even though they don’t have tickets. We will hear about fans who’ve been to every Super Bowl the Pats have played in. We’ll hear about fans who’ve just gotten Pat Patriot shaved onto their head or tattooed onto their butt. Etc. Local soldiers in Afghanistan and other warzones – I was almost going to say shitholes – who are rooting for the Pats from afar. Kindergarten kids wearing their Pats gear and doing some adorable Pats cheer.

There’ll be human interest, athletic interest, and inhuman interest. Even political interest, as our governor and senators and mayor will place bets with their opposite numbers in Minnesota (lobster vs. lutefisk) or Pennsylvania (lobster vs. scrapple).

But the best of the 24/7 coverage – and the local TV stations and newspapers will go all in on this – will be the us vs. them narrative.

Doesn’t really matter who the Pats end up playing. (As of this writing, the Vikings are tied with the Eagles, but I don’t know where this one ends up.) New Englanders (with the exception of New York suburban Connecticut) will be pulling for the Patriots. And everyone else in the US of A (with the likely exception of the current occupant of the White House, who is a buddy of Bob Kraft) will be rooting against the Pats.

So there’ll be all kinds of “they hate us because they ain’t us” stories. Retellings of Spygate and Deflategate. Debates over whether the Pats are the greatest football dynasty of all time.

Last I heard, in surveys, the Dallas Cowboys are still more-hated than the Pats, but that’s subject to change.

Hating the Patriots is the perfect opportunity to root against a winner – and who doesn’t like to do that? It’s the perfect opportunity to dredge up what cheater pants the Pats supposedly are. To rail about how rotten New Englanders are in general, and Patriots fans are in massholes against assholesparticular. Not to mention that Pats haters get to combine their antipathy towards New England in general and Massachusetts in particular with despising “our” team. We’re obnoxious. Snobby. Snotty. Know-it-alls. Elitists. Blah-di-blah-blah. To which I say, have at it. Hate on! And back at you, with this picture, taken by my sister Trish at Saturday’s Women’s March in Cambridge.

I will be watching the Super Bowl. And I will be rooting for the Pats. I’d rather see the Red Sox in the World Series. The Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Celtics in the NBA Championship Series. But if I have to have a football team – and to watch the Super Bowl, you really sort of do – I will, quite naturally, root for “our” team.

But, for the next two weeks, I will be boycotting local news. I’ll be avoiding all the brash talk, all the trash talk, all the “we are the champions” nonsense, and all the “New England sucks” comments online. And since I’ve been cutting back on MSNBC, I should be able to get a lot more reading done.

Coverage is going to be non-stop. It’s going to be pervasive. It’s going to be boring.

But, hey, it’ll be exciting around here if they do manage to pull off another win.

On to Minneapolis! Wake me up on game day.

Friday, January 19, 2018

How’s this for a headline

How’s this for a headline:

You might soon be able to throw axes while drinking a beer in Somerville

I don’t drink beer. And I don’t spend a lot of time in Somerville, a neighboring city that borders on Boston and Cambridge. I’m too old, for one thing. And patently unhip. Somerville, once a blue collar town has, because of its proximity to Boston and its relative affordability, become something of the Brooklyn of Boston. Plus, while I have owned an axe – purchased 40+ years ago when I was a camper, and still around here somewhere: it’s handy to pound things in with – I have never been particularly interested in throwing an axe. 

But if I were to take up beer drinking (beyond the occasional Guinness, which – I know, I know – isn’t exactly beer). And if I were to decide that someone my age wouldn’t be stopped at the border (or the Davis Square T stop) if I decided to head over there. And if I wake up one morning with the hankering to hurl an axe, well, I now know that:

Urban Axes a competitive indoor ax-throwing business that opened its first location in Philadelphia in 2016, plans to open a location in Somerville’s Union Square this summer. (Source: Boston Globe)

I don’t know how keen I am on the idea of people being armed and hammered. Sure, you could lose an eye if you got between a dart thrower and a dart board, but an axe could really do some serious damage.

Oh, this isn’t as bad as the gun ranges that serve alcohol.

But it still raises the same question: what could possibly go wrong?

Of course, it’s not like anyone can just stride in and start lobbing axes around. Those hoping to participate are first trained by one of the company’s “axepert” before they can start pitching axes across a room, Osgood said: “You can’t just come in and toss axes by yourself.”

That’s good.

Interestingly, Urban Axes is also positioning themselves as a place to have a corporate outing.

I’ve been on plenty of corporate outings. Bowling. And pool playing. Softball and/or volleyball in the park. Learn-to-paint-like-Van-Gogh. Jail break. (Both learn-to-paint and jail break were surprisingly fun. Unfortunately, my jail break team was composed of three people with the same overthinking analytical types. We could hear the team in the cell next to us throwing anything against the wall, acting – we assured each other – completely irrationally. We would think it all through, and then act. Well, our approach worked. Eventually. But the crew who were pin-balling around, yelling at each other, trying everything, made it out a couple of seconds before we did. There was certainly a good corporate lesson to be learned: each group would have done a better job if we’d been a bit more diverse in terms of thinking and doing types.)

But I don’t know if I’d want to go to a corporate outing featuring axe throwing.

Frankly, my wish at corporate outings – and, blessedly, I don’t spend a lot of time at them these days – is that the “fun” would be something that I was good at. Like Trivial Pursuit. Or Boggle. But axe throwing?

But Urban Axes’ Courtney Osgood has her rebuttal:

“Oh my God, it’s crazy,” Osgood said with a laugh, adding that the bar has hosted companies like Google, Facebook, Bank of America, and even members of the Philadelphia Eagles organization at other locations. “It’s such a great experience. . . . Would you rather do that or have cocktails and just stand around?”

I’m down with “its’ crazy.” But I’m pretty sure that I’d rather stand around having a cocktail with a colleague than have an axe whiz by my head.

But that’s just me. Non-beer drinking. Pathetically unhip. And someone with zero desire to throw my bad shoulder further out of whack by trying to hurl an axe.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Rich man drives a Cadillac, poor man drives a Ford? Not any more.

There are certain things that I’ve hung on to from childhood.

If I watch network news, it’s NBC. I use Scott toilet paper. And I have a sentimental attachment to the Ford Motor Company.

Oh, Henry Ford was a rancid old anti-Semite, but he sure knew how to get a car in every little guy’s driveway.

And every two years, my father was one of them.

There was a little ditty that kids used to sing that went (to the tune of It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More No More:

A rich man drives a Cadillac.
A poor man drives a Ford.
But my old man drives down the street
On two wheels and a board.

It never bothered me that it was a poor man who drove a Ford. I knew we were neither rich nor poor. I was just proud that we were a Ford family. After all, if my father drove a Ford, then Ford was the best.

The first car I remember was a two-tone light-green/dark-green Ford Fairlane. Two years later, it was a robin’s egg blue and white 1956_ford_fairlane-pic-8385-1600x1200Fairlane. Just like this one.

Then there was the solid green Fairlane with the cool fins. Then back to a two-tone with an egg-yellow body and a white roof. Then a colossally boring solid white Fairlane.

The solid white was followed by an upgrade to a Ford Galaxy. This was the first car I remember that had a name: Black Beauty. I learned how to drive on Black Beauty, and it may have been the only car I ever hit 100 m.p.h. in.

Two years after Black Beauty, it was the Green Hornet. Another Galaxy 500.

My father’s final car was a gold Galaxy 500.

Like Black Beauty and the Green Hornet, the nameless gold Galaxy was a company car. My father was a sales manager for a specialty wire company, and his big perk was the company car. Like the cars my father bought, the company car was for a two-year period. After the two years were up, the family bought Black Beauty and, later, the Green Hornet, as we needed a second car. We had teenagers, and only my father could drive the company car. And then, in her mid-40’s, my mother realized that she was on her way to becoming both an empty-nester and a widow. So she got her license.

We still had the Green Hornet when my father died.

I remember the day that someone from my father’s company came to the house – a few weeks before my father died, but when he was clearly rounding the end of life bend  – to take back the gold Galaxy.

Shortly after my father died, the Green Hornet had to be put out to pasture, and my mother had to get a new car. She went with an Oldsmobile Cutlass.

Given that she worshipped everything about my father, I wonder why she didn’t stay loyal to his brand. Too late to ask.

I don’t know why my father was a Ford guy, either. In his younger days, when his father was a prosperous saloon owner (pre-Prohibition), his family’s car was a Cadillac. My understanding is that Charles H. Rogers never learned how to drive – or was the only man on the face of the earth in the history of mankind (other than my late husband) who was actually willing to admit that he was a terrible driver. In any case, Charles H. – my father’s father – hired a chauffer to take the family on their weekly jaunt from Worcester to Barre, Massachusetts, to visit his folks.

Alas, the family fortune went out with Prohibition, and my grandfather died shortly thereafter.

In any case, my father never owned a Caddie, or expressed any interest in having one.

My feelings about Ford are pretty much nostalgic, warmish and squishy. It’s the brand of my father, the brand of the people. But any brand loyalty hasn’t quite translated into buying Fords. I’ve only ever owned three cars: a used Honda Civic, a new Mercury Tracer, and a VW New Beetle. Yes, the Mercury was a Ford. But I didn’t buy the Tracer because of that.

Still, I was a bit taken aback to see the news that Ford is exiting the mass market that has been its sweet spot since the first Model T rolled off the assembly line.

The company responsible for launching the modern carmaking era with Henry Ford’s assembly line will pivot away from being a full-line automaker, shrinking its passenger-car lineup and shifting only to low-volume, high-margin models.

The reason? Years of coming up short on a long-held profit-margin target. Earnings disappointments cost former Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields his job in May, and his replacement Jim Hackett has since laid out plans to reorient the company around lucrative sport utility vehicles and pickups, plus play catch-up on the trends that are sweeping the auto industry: the rise of electric, autonomous, connected and shared vehicles.(Source: Bloomberg)

Poor man drives a Ford? Not any more…


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Get along little dogecoin

Yesterday, there was a bit of cryptotrouble in cryptoparadise, as the share value for most of the crypto-currencies, including granddaddy of them all Bitcoin, plummeted by double digits, which has been the trend for the past month.

Depending on who you listen to, cryptocurrencies are either the wave of the future and the place where all that smarty-pants money has been going, or they’re nonsense: all the hype and market run-up that’s been associated with cryptocurrencies is the greatest market mania since the tulip bulb of the 17th century. Or at least since the bubble.

As for cryptocurrency overall, I tend to agree that it’s the wave of the future, only it will be some sort of governmental, regulated apparatus – trading partners, central petsdotcombank amalgams – not private companies that will control it. So, yeah, I think the current market activity has been maniacal. In terms of historic parallels. I actually prefer the tulip bulb analogy to the one, having so painfully lived through it that particular era. If I remember correctly, the company I worked through during that era had, which became the poster-puppy for blow outs, as a client. was a client; Enron was a potential business partner of the same company.I remember getting into a discussion with my boss in which I pushed back a bit on his argument that Enron was so fabulous.There were some things about Enron that I just plain didn’t get. My boss, who was extremely intelligent and certainly “got” things like Enron a lot better than I did, patronizingly explained why our partnership with Enron was going to be such a game-changer for both companies.

Well, that didn’t happen.

At least we didn’t go down in handcuffs and ignominy.

So when it came to all the bad stuff of the late 1990’s early 2000’s, I was in the catbird seat.

To me, the best cryptocurrency story isn’t whether Bitcoin or Ethereum is the “it” currency. It’s the Dogecoin story.

Dogecoin is a cryptocurrency that was set up as a lark. Named after the 2013 meme dogecoinof the year, in which memers memed pictures of Japanese Shiba Inu dogs. While its market cap dropped yesterday along with the “legit” cryptocurrencies, a couple of weeks ago, Dogecoin had a market value in excess of over $1B.

The creators of dogecoin positioned the virtual token as "the internet currency" that can allow users to easily send money online…The rise of Dogecoin and other bitcoin descendants is due to the fact that they're perceived as being "cheap" compared to bitcoin or ether, according to Dave Chapman from Octagon Strategy. (Source: CNBC)

Even at $1B, Dogecoin was a drop in the overall crypto valuation bucket. When Dogecoin was “worth” that bill, the total market for cryptocurrencies was over $750B. (Bitcoin remains top dog.)

As noted above, Dogecoin got traction because it was affordable when compared to the price of, say, a bitcoin. (Even after its fall from its peak, as of yesterday, a single bitcoin cost more than $11K. You can get an awful lot of Dogecoins for $11K. And we all know that, psychologically, a lot is better than a little. Too late to get in on the big bitcoin returns? Why not take a chance on Dogecoins.

The Washington Postwhich is leaning tulip mania bubble, had a nice, clear explanation of what’s been up with Dogecoin and bitcoin and the entire madness.The article pointed out that, among other absurdities, Bitcoin went crazy “despite the fact that it still works so poorly as a payments system that people won't even accept bitcoin at an upcoming bitcoin conference.”

Another oddity pointed out is that there’s a cryptocurrency – Tron – that’s got a value of over $7 billion, “even though it doesn't actually exist. It's just a white paper filled with a bunch of buzzwords.” Hmmm. I’ve written plenty of white papers, and plenty of them were larded with plenty of buzzwords. What is WRONG with me that I never managed to glom onto something like Tron, get in and – of course – get out while the gettin’s good.’

Then there's Dentacoin, the $1 billion “blockchain concept designedfor the Global Dental Industry.” (It's a digital currency you can use at the dentist.) Why anybody would want money you can only spend in one place instead of dollars you can spend everywhere is apparently a question with which they — and their investors — didn't concern themselves.

Who knows what today will bring to the cryptocurrency market? Will the plummets continue? Will the cryptos rally? End of beginning? Beginning of the end?

All I can say is that if a nonsense “company’ created as a parody of a popular meme can end up with – however fleetingly – a market cap of $1 billion, something really does seem bubble-ish, no?

I’m guessing that the idiocy of the remarkable “success” of Dogecoin may not bode so well for the overall cryptocurrency market.

Get along, little dogecoin, get along.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Duck and Cover

On Friday, they were forecasting something of an ice-pocalypse for the Boston area on Saturday morning. Heavy rains. Then a precipitous temperature drop. Ice-armaggedon. We would all be sheltering in place from mid-morning until mid-afternoon. Unless you were having a heart attack or a baby, STAY PUT!

Well, the temperature did drop precipitously.But it was no longer raining, and the wind had blown the streets and sidewalks dry, so no big deal.

That was the minor hysteria we had to put up with this past weekend.

Just imagine what it was like to be living or vacationing in Hawaii and getting the message that ICBMs were on the way, with the ominous trailer: THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

I cannot imagine the horror and desperation as people were faced with figuring out what to do. Call their loved ones to say goodbye? Get in the car and flee? Figure out where to find shelter? Congratulate yourself that you’d bought that mid-century modern house and kept the bomb shelter intact? Wonder how big a missile they were talking about? How many? Where would it strike? Where was the safe space?

I grew up in the foolish era of duck and cover.

I have a vague memory of one drill when we were marched out of school and CD Shelterinto the schoolyard, where someone pointed out that the church basement was an air raid shelter. We did not actually go into the church basement, mind you. We were just told that, if the Commies bombed Worcester (and why wouldn’t they: we had a lot of manufacturing, plus a lot of Catholics, and it was well-known that Commies targeted Catholics), that was where we’d go.

Mostly, we just heard the “duck and cover” warning. If the siren goes off, put your head under your desk and pray.

It would, of course, have made more sense to go to the church basement, where there would have been some scrim of protection. But our flimsy little desks? Our prayers? Good luck with that.

Fortunately, the Commies never bombed Worcester, and, frankly, I was more worried about Commie infantry who, we were told, might well make their way into the Our Lady of the Angels choir loft and have their snipers shoot at us while we attended Mass.

And, as a student at a school named Our Lady of the Angels, I lived in fear of fire after Our Lady of the Angels in Chicago burned down, killing nearly 100 students. I probably wouldn’t have been quite so fearful – the Chicago OLA was an ancient building, ours was a new, one story, presumably more fireproof edifice – but the nuns had a way of enhancing our worries. In this case, they did so by telling us that God seldom made mistakes, but in this case, the wrong OLA had burned to a crisp. He had actually intended the conflagration to happen in Worcester, Massachusetts, not Chicago, Illinois.

Anyway, we had a lot of fire drills, which kids pretty much enjoyed, as it broke up the day, even if it did send us shivering into the schoolyard for a few moments until we got the all-clear.

That was then, and this is now.

And frankly, I don’t think I want any advance warning if Boston is going to be leveled. If we’re engaged in that sort of war, I’d just as soon be at Ground Zero, wearing a beanie with an arrow labeled “AIM HERE.”

I don’t want to spend my last hours on earth in a panic and despair, trying to call my loved ones on jammed phone lines. Trying to hail an Uber to go where, exactly, given that the roads would all be jammed, everyone following those ridiculous “Evacuation Route” signs, but going nowhere fast. And to do exactly what? Throw my body over the first loved one I came across, hoping to protect and save someone – hah! – from a nuke.

Maybe I’d go Zen, get off a so-long email, followed by a stroll over to the Esplanade, where I’d sit on a bench and calmly await my fate.

Anyway, what those folks in Hawaii must have been feeling for those 38 minutes on Saturday before the all-clear, especially those with children they were trying to save. How utterly horrible.

The only good to come of this will be if those who run the drills in the future will be prepared enough so that, if an erroneous warning message does go out, and everyone gets it on their smartphone, it won’t take 38 minutes to rescind it. And/or if, before another drill or, God forbid, before the real thing occurs, there’ll be some information made available to citizens telling them exactly what to do.

I supposed it doesn’t make much difference what people are told to do. They’ll just run on instinct, doing what they think is best, cool-headedly or running amok.

The more I think about it, the best advice may well be to shelter in place, to duck in cover. If you do get hit, you’ll at least die with the vague, idiotic hope that the flimsy desk lid, the comforter on your bed, the solid doorframe of an inside bathroom, may provide you some degree of safety. At least you’re doing something.

That said, if it’s going to happen, I think I’d just as soon not be forewarned.

And you?

Monday, January 15, 2018

MLK is spinning in his grave

Until she died a few weeks back, a few days short of her 98th birthday, I’d never heard of Recy Taylor.

In 1944, a young wife and mother on her way home for church, Taylor was kidnapped at gunpoint and raped by six white men. This was in Alabama, so you know where this is heading. There was a sham trial. But, guess what?

The incident had been reported to the NAACP in Montgomery, Alabama, and the organization sent one of its leading investigators with respect to violence against black women to look into it. That investigator was one Rosa Parks, who brought national attention to this shameful situation.

Fast forward a bit more than a decade, and there was Rosa Park, back in Montgomery, refusing to move to the back of the bus. And there was Martin Luther King Jr., heading to Montgomery to help organize the boycott of the bus system. And the rest is history.

History is, of course, still happening.

And thus we have Trump - "I am the least racist person that you have ever met” – showing himself at his unscripted best as the racist he has long told us he is by saying that he didn’t want all these immigrants from “shithole” places like Haiti and some African countries. And asking why we couldn’t get more immigrants from places like Norway. This all took place, of course, on the eve of his clumsily reading some clearly scripted words – “I know words, I have the best words”  - acknowledging Martin Luther King Day.

To me, the problem isn’t that Trump thinks that some countries are shitholes. A lot of people want to emigrate precisely because they live in countries that are, at least where they live, holes or hellholes or shitholes.

As my Irish grandmother so famously said, “If Ireland were so great, we all wouldn’t have had to come over here.”


And my German grandfather sure knew he was escaping a shithole when he jumped on the boat with my grandmother and my toddler mother. Unlike a couple of his brothers, Jake Wolf managed to survive the trenches of the Welt Krieg – it didn’t yet have a number, it was just the plain old World War. And he could see nothing good in the future. More trenches on the horizon. Talk about shitholes…

If Trump has said something like, ‘No wonder people are trying to come here. Their countries are shitholes,’ I don’t think the outcry would have been as fierce as its been. It’s the “people coming from these shithole countries”. It’s the “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.” It’s the bemoaning the lack of Norwegian immigrants.

Hey, Mr. “President”, the Norwegians already came here. Back in the day when Norway was, I suspect, something of a shithole. And not just because of lutefisk. But now Norway is one of the best places to live in the world. Healthiest, wealthiest, happiest. Other than the weather.

Martin Luther King, whatever you think of him, was a man of courage.

He risked his life, and lost it. As a young man, not even forty.

And then we have the spectacle of those twin profiles in courage, Senators Tom Cotton (cotton, eh? how apt is that?) and David Perdue (chicken name, anyone? how apt is that?) who don’t recall whether words like shithole were used.

I’m no big fan of Lindsey Graham of late, but at least he reportedly called Trump out. And then told his fellow South Carolina Senator, Tim Scott (an African-American, by the way) that the words that were the said were the words that were said.

It’s Martin Luther King Day.

I suspect that Doctor King has been spinning in his grave for a good long time. But I’m guessing the spin cycle just revved up a few notches.

Friday, January 12, 2018

More evidence of the wonderfulness of doggos

Every once in a while, amid all the bad or unfathomable or annoying news, there’s a smile- or tear-inducing human or, in this case, canine- interest story. The current Boston feel good story is about a dog who’s in training for a swell new job at the Museum of Fine Arts. Oh, the job may not pay well – or pay anything, for that matter. But how great is this:

Riley, a Weimaraner puppy, was recently acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts on a volunteer basis to detect insects and other pests that might be hiding on existing or incoming collections at the gallery. (Source: Boston Globe)

It’s like a William Wegman photo shoot made real.

Dogs, of course, have a superior sense of smell, which is why they’re used to sniff out drugs in airports. And why pups have been known to detect cancer in their owners. So why not train them as sleuths to determine whether moths or bugs that can do great harm to “certain types of artwork, like textiles, wood, or organic materials”?

“We have lots of things that bring, by their very nature, bugs or pests with them,” said Katie Getchell, chief MFA puppybrand officer and deputy director of the Museum of Fine Arts. “If he can be trained to sit down in front of an object that he smells a bug in, that we can’t smell or see, then we could take that object, inspect it, and figure out what’s going on — that would be remarkable in terms of preserving objects.”

The museum already checks for these types of problems, but with Riley, it’ll have “an added layer of protection.”

And an added layer of cuteness. Weimaraners are pretty darned cute in general, and Riley is pretty darned cute in particular. Other than in William Wegman art, you don’t tend to see all that many of them. In my neighborhood, there seem to be a preponderance of Labs and Frenchies, with a few terriers, bassets, and shepherds thrown in. Occasionally, I see a Weimaraner, but not all that often.

My Chicago grandmother had a succession of Black Labs – Midnight, Thunder, and Lightning – but her next door neighbors, the Baumgartner sisters, stuck to their German roots and had Weimaraners. And on our biennial trips to Chicago, we’d get to see them hanging around and playing with Thunder and Lightning. (I think Midnight went to doggy heaven before my time.)

I actually don’t know why Grandma Wolf had dogs. She was a cleanliness fanatic. You could eat off the floors of her whitewashed basement. And surely she must have been bothered by some of the behaviors and antics of dogs.

Plus my grandmother had absolutely no sense of humor, which seems to me one of the essential qualities for someone who wants to have a dog.

My Uncle Bob and Uncle Jack were both hunters, so Labs – those duck retrievers – might have made some sense. But what kind of hunters were they in the 1940’s, when Grandma acquired Midnight? Jack was born in 1930, and Bob in 1940.

Or perhaps it was that Grandma recognized that dogs are worker bees. Just like she was. If anyone I know can be said to have worked like a dog, it was my grandmother. When she came to Worcester for her biennial trip – we switched off years, with respect to who went where – my parents would save up chores for her so that she’d be happy. Put in a row of hedgerows! Whitewash the basement, so it could at least somewhat resemble hers!

Yes, dogs are workers.

They’re retrievers. They’re hunters. They’re ratters. They’re sniffer-outers.

And even if they’re not gainfully employed, they have those innate skills. Not to mention that they have superlative skills in terms of companionship, affection, cuteness, and emotional intelligence.

Honestly, I didn’t need any more evidence on the wonderfulness of dogs. But reading about Riley, well, talk about frosting on the cupcake of life.

Best of luck to Riley. Even if the job at the MFA doesn’t pan out, I’m guessing he’ll have plenty of opportunities in the normal doggo world.