Here’s what SOPA means to me

SOPA Rufus Dogg

SOPA Rufus Dogg

I just need to get this off my chest: The entertainment industry does not “overcharge.” It prices its products to what the market will pay for. Just because it is too expensive to YOU, does not mean that anyone is “overcharging” anyone. Quit flinging that around like it is fact. It is not. Just because you think it is expensive, it does not give you the moral right to pirate stuff.

Ok, that being said, here is my really short take on SOPA.

SOPA is a bad idea because of the enforcement power it gives the US government and copyright holders. The real issue goes something like this: If Ally Bank or Petco wanted to expand out their Rufus dog characters in future commercials (you have to Google them; I’m not going to lead them here) their legal team might slap me with a C&D and take down my blog, G+, Facebook and other sites as my name is Rufus and I am a dog. I would have little recourse with my domain registrar. Or the corporation that owns me might somehow offend a minor league baseball team on the East Coast and decide there is some confusion with their fans and order a takedown of my company I’ve held for twelve years before they even threw out their first pitch. (same name with one letter difference at the end)

Who would hear my redress, my government? HA! Just ask the Eat More Kale dude how his little venture is going.

Of one thing I am certain. Law enforcement has and will use laws far beyond their intended purpose. I am sure some bureaucrat at the Department of Homeland Security has been poring over my blog since the day I started writing, wondering how to apply some provision of the Patriot Act to initiate a take down order and throw my hairy behind into an unmarked prison cell for an indefinite amount of time without a warrant.

But that might just be the heart worm meds talking.

Copyright infringement (piracy) has been a severe problem for more than a decade now and has essentially hammered an entire generation of creative class into simply not producing much of value that does not include a remix or some reality show. Writers with talent are being exploited, filmmakers being ripped off and photographers have just been put out of business. Something needs to be done, but SOPA ain’t it. But I think somehow a form of it will pass because the entertainment industry is huge, well-heeled and very pissed off.

Don’t misunderstand me by citing that I am anti-SOPA. I am not. I am anti-the-enforcement-provision-of-SOPA. That is all. The rest of the bill that protects the rights of the creative class, I’m right there with them. I think Google, YouTube, Huffington Post and tons of other sites have gotten a free ride for a very long time. They have built obscenely profitable businesses without having to pay for the true cost of their inventory.

Tech without content is a store without goods. Tech without content is crap nobody wants. The entertainment industry does not really need tech to distribute anything. It wants it, but does not need it. If Amazon, Apple, Google went away tomorrow, entertainment still owns printing presses and movie theaters. And we would buy books and go to the movies again.

Yes we would.

For those who are interested in finding out more about what piracy has done to the creative class, read Free Ride by Robert Levine. Then craft your own opinions about SOPA and piracy.

God, please save the copy editors

Dear God, if you are listening, it’s me, Rufus.

I know you and I don’t talk much these days but you never say anything. Praying to you feels kinda like ranting into a twitter account. But we really could use your help about now.

In today’s social media-driven world where everyone thinks they are the next Joseph Conrad, John Steinbeck, Kate Chopin or Nate Hawthorne, we could use fewer guardian angels and more copy editors. I’m not sure if I should appeal directly to you or if you have an HR department or something that would be more appropriate, but … well, just let me know.

If you can’t actually send more copy editors, could you at least save the ones down here that all these newspapers and Arianna Huffington are slashing and burning? I don’t need to tell you that once they leave the publishing industries for a job at Waffle House, we’ve pretty much lost them for good. The words — including the apostrophes — can’t take much more of this abuse.

I was going to write a snarky post about this emergency in a couple days, but I couldn’t find the right angel… I mean angle. So, I jotted down this little prayer. The direct route seemed to be the best way.

Ok, gotta go. I’m sure you have more important things to do as well. Just thought I’d ask.


Open letter to the people who will eventually buy my house

Dear people who want to buy my house;

Thank you for your interest in taking over the landlord responsibilities of this property I have held for almost thirty years. It has been quite a ride. But before we begin to sully our new-found relationship with talk of money and such, there are a few things you should probably know.

I know that you know I know that you have most likely grown up watching HGTV. You don’t look old enough to have lived in any other age before cable TV dominated the airwaves. If you have not been made aware by now, everything they have ever told you about buying a house is a lie. It has all been made up for the sake of attracting sponsors and advertisers whose only goal was to sell you more crap to improve your home. Oh, it’s ok, I believed the lies for a while too as you will soon discover the do-it-yourself projects I have embarked on throughout the house.



Sarah Palin kicks a dog in the ribs

Ok, not really but she blocked embedding on Rachel Maddow, so I thought I’d see if Rufus could make it to her hit list as well!

If this gets blocked, Pitbulls 1, Hockey Mom 0.

Sarah Palin: “America’s Enduring Strength” from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.

The video appears to now be active on MSNBC. @maddowblog thinks it is just weirdness, but I think someone at the Palin camp blocked the domain and then realized that would probably be worse than just letting it ride; like stomping on anthills. So, they turned it back on.

Screenshot at 2011-01-12 15:04:19 EST:

All dogs go to heaven but dogs who can write live forever

I was struggling with how to go with writing my own obituary. When the idea was thrown out, it was at first exciting. Then it felt kinda weird, like the urge to giggle in church. At one point, I was going to just reject the premise and write something hokey that avoided the whole exercise altogether. In the end, I decided that I would play this one straight.


Who are you and what do you want

While everyone seems to be writing a “Best of 2010” and “What to look forward to in 2011” post of some sort, I’m just going to ignore all that entirely and keep rolling forward on other stuff. The year-end, year-beginning is an artificial tear in time anyway and by the second week in January, New Year’s resolutions and predictions will be a distant memory of auld lang syne. I like more sustainable posts.


If money were no object, here is what I would gift to you #letsblogoff

First, I would buy health care for everyone who was willing to take care of themselves. If you don’t have health, you have nothing. Then I would buy an education for everyone willing to learn. Educated people influence others around them to want to learn. Lastly, I would buy a home for anyone who is homeless and wanted one. Everyone should have some place to call home.

Then I would figure out how to save time in a bottle and give it to all the writers and artists who left works unfinished. The world is a poorer place without artists and the art they create. Most often, they just need more time.

And I would create bottles of compassion, wisdom and patience to give freely to those who need each. Because there is no such thing as a self-made man and those who think they are need to be reminded from time to time.

Happy Holidays from Rufus, Sallie, Charlie and our intern Zoey. We wish you and yours lots of cold noses and many long, pointless walks.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “if money were no object, what would you gift.” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

How to shape and light a Christmas Tree properly

This guide was published two years ago and it one of the top read blog posts here. As lots of people will be decorating their homes for the holidays today and in the coming weeks, I thought we could at least save a few more of them from ugly trees.

I have “decorated” a lot of pine trees on my walks, so it is probably safe to say I’m as close to an expert as you will ever find on shaping and lighting a Christmas tree. Almost all of the Christmas trees I have seen since Halloween in the stores are dreadfully shaped and badly lit.

It doesn’t need to be like this as shaping and lighting a Christmas tree is so very, very easy.

Overall rules: Do not buy a pre-lit tree. They look great for one season, but after one wire goes bad, the whole tree is shot. Also, buy a good quality tree. Personally, I like the ones that come in three sections with permanent hinges on the branches. If the branches need plastic inserts or hinges or any other part, walk away.

Step One: Think like a tree.
No, really. You have to think like a tree. The primary job of the needles on the branches is to attract sunlight so photosynthesis can happen. Don’t worry about the science, but think about where the light is relative to the branches you are shaping. If the branches are near the trunk, how do they get sunlight? Well, they stretch out and up. Now, ask yourself this question of every branch you are shaping and it all suddenly makes sense. For the visually impaired, I drew a sketch. (I’m a dog, people, not an artist, but if someone wants to draw and send me something better, I’ll use it!)

Branch side view. Note that the closer the branches are to the truck, the more upright they will be.
Branch side view. Note that the closer the branches are to the truck, the more upright they will be.

The closer the branch is to the trunk, the more upright it will be as it strains to reach the light. This also has the side-effect of filling in the tree more. Don’t be afraid to stand thses branches straight up.

Nature makes sense, but she is imperfect. All this means is that nature has a reason for everything and it usually points to survival. Everything competes with everything else for resources; even individual tree branches on the same tree. That is one reason you will never see the branches all lined up in a row, neat levels of branches or a 90 degree bend in a branch! So, don’t do this while shaping your tree.

As you can see in the branch diagram above, the smaller branches are curved. Use your forefinger and palm to gently curve these branches.

The smaller branches also alternate left to right in the rows. Remember, there are no perfect rows of branches on a tree. Choose an alternating patterns and make sure the branch in front is alternated between the branches in the back. That way, each needle on the branch does not have to compete with the branch in front of it for sunlight. Are you still thinking like a tree?

I wish I could draw better, but the diagram below should kinda work. As you work through each row of branches, from the trunk to the end, alternate with the row behind it. When looking at the diagram, imagine you are looking at it straight on from the front.

Alternate the branches with the row behind each. Once you start left-right, left-right, DO NOT change your mind and go right-left. Do the entire tree in the same pattern.
Alternate the branches with the row behind each. Once you start left-right, left-right, DO NOT change your mind and go right-left. Do the entire tree in the same pattern.

Step Two: The top
The trick for the top is to make sure it blends into the rows below it. Most tops will have long tree branches on the lower rows. Shape the branches like the diagram and then shape the upper top branches with the gentle curve you used throughout the tree.

Shape the top branches to swoop into the layer below it. The goal is to make the top and the layer below it seamless.
Shape the top branches to "swoop" into the layer below it. The goal is to make the top and the layer below it seamless.

Step Three: Touch Up
If you have shaped each branch to reach toward the sun, with the back branches standing up and the end branches reaching out and alternated each row with the one in back of it, your tree — no matter how cheap — should look full. Tweak the branches you may have bumped into and don’t be afraid to pull the lower branches wider to fill out the bottom row.

Step Four: Lighting the tree
For a 7 1/2 foot tree, you will need a minimum of 600 lights. Really, don’t skimp on the lights. Make sure you plan your outlets accordingly as many manufacturers will recommend only 3-4 strings per. DO NOT BLAME RUFUS IF YOU BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN. If you were too stupid to follow the directions on the box, homeless is probably going to be the least of your worries anyhow.

If possible, use LED lights. They cost more, but they are brighter and they don’t burn out.

Like shaping, lighting a tree is very simple once you know the technique. Start from the back, bottom and near the trunk. Run the cord to the power source. If you will need 2 circuits, now is the time to run a green extension cord about 1/3 up the tree trunk and tape it there. Why 1/3? Because you will use more lights at the bottom of the tree (bigger branches) than you will toward the top.

Look at the diagram below. (Again, any artists out there, please)

The pattern of lights on the branches.
Working from the back to the front, lay the row of light on the top of the branches, looping them around the front branches, underneath the main branch and back to the trunk.

Working from the back to the front, lay the row of light on the top of the branches, looping them around the front branches, underneath the main branch and back to the trunk. Do this on EVERY branch, making sure the lights are laying in the middle of the row of branches. When you are done with the layer, move up, but always move up at the trunk. Never connect a new string of lights aat the front of the branch. Make sure you wrap loosely and don’t mess up your shaping job you did earlier.

If you string lights like the diagram on every layer, your tree will look amazingly full AND you will not be able to see the light cords (well just barely).

I hope this helps save at least one tree from a fate of looking ugly for the holidays. Feel free to let me know if this has helped at all by leaving a comment!