Saturday, December 20, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Is this what you see?

Just our of curiousity, I'm wondering if this is what the page looks like on your browsers:


Thursday, December 18, 2008


I'm improving at flake-making:

Try it.

We can always go back but this seemed a bit easier to read...

while we have font issues.

Ah, bolding the text helps.


Here is something cool. It's the old folded-paper snowflake gone digital. And social. Make one; upload it to share it. And see other people's creations. You really ought to make your own before viewing the others so that you'll be fully aware of how much yours sucks. (Or at least that was my experience.)

Update: my flake:


Now looking at it in Futura Md BT font at the office. Like it a lot. Couldn't get that font at home so I'll have to keep looking.

RE: fonts

Does it look different now? Why in the heck would my browser affect our site. I don't get that. Am I having the same effect at other sites?


I used Identifont to determine the font of our proper SSJ title. Identifont asks a bunch of questions about the letters you have available to identify a matching font. It concludes our font is Ascender Sans:
That's not one of the options that I see for changing the title text. Maybe Scooter needs to install some fonts for use by the new browser? That doesn't seem like the problem to me, but I don't have any other ideas.

Stratfor Report

Since they encourage me to post with attribution, I give you the weekly Stratfor report from

In a little more than a month, Washington will host the 56th U.S. presidential inauguration, during which Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. In recent years, presidential inaugurals have turned into huge gala events. They comprise not only the swearing-in ceremony for the new president and vice president at the Capitol building and the historic parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, but also scores of other events including balls, dinners, prayer services and charity events sponsored by a wide array of organizations. Essentially, there will not be a hotel or other large venue in the U.S. capital that will not be hosting some sort of inauguration-related event. These events will range in style from the somber national prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral to the raucous live-on-MTV party at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center.

Due to the popularity of President-elect Obama and the significance of his election as the first African-American president, the Secret Service (USSS) and other authorities are anticipating the largest crowds in inaugural history. These crowds will present a number of security challenges and, perhaps just as significantly, huge logistical challenges. But unlike the presidential campaign, when the security resources of the USSS were scattered nationwide, the inauguration occurs on the USSS' home turf. This provides the USSS with a decided advantage over anyone planning an attack.

The Environment and Events

Since the 9/11 attacks, security measures for high-profile events such as the inauguration have been stepped up dramatically. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that it has designated the 56th Presidential Inaugural - including the swearing-in ceremony, the inaugural parade, the official reviewing stand on Pennsylvania Avenue and the inaugural balls - as a National Special Security Event (NSSE). This makes the Secret Service the top agency responsible for the design and implementation of the inauguration security plan. (Planning for the inauguration in fact begins about a year before the event, with the USSS hosting regular planning meetings with its counterparts.) The NSSE designation also places virtually unlimited resources in the hands of the USSS, the police and the security services that will be assisting it to neutralize any potential threat. From a security and intelligence perspective, the inauguration will take precedence over any thing else happening in the country.

The events leading up to the inauguration normally begin several days in advance. This year, in a move invoking memories of the election of another man from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, president-elect Obama will travel to Washington by train. Obama will hold an event Jan. 17 in Philadelphia. Next, he will travel by train to Wilmington, Delaware, where he will pick up Vice President-elect Joe Biden. The two will then hold another event in Baltimore before finally proceeding to Washington's Union Station.

The analogy to Lincoln's historic election is picked up on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which has a large photo of the Lincoln Memorial statue on its home page, More sobering is the fact that the parallels with Lincoln's trip run deeper than they might appear from a security perspective. Numerous rumors of assassination plots followed Lincoln's election, and his train trip to Washington had to be heavily guarded.

As we approach the inaugural, many rumors of threats to president-elect Obama are swirling. The president-elect received USSS protection at the earliest point in his campaign of any candidate in U.S. history, and during the final stages of the campaign, the perceived threat led the USSS to provide him with essentially the same level of security given to sitting presidents - another unprecedented measure. As with Lincoln's historic train journey, the security for Obama's train trip to Washington will be extremely tight. It undoubtedly will involve a massive operation to freeze, inspect and then post guards along the rail line, bridges and tunnels to prevent any potential attacks. This will mean a lot of cold hours for the agents and police officers assigned to guard the rail line.

The events of Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, will be fairly controlled for the first part of the day. The president-elect traditionally attends a morning worship service. Both Bush presidents and Ronald Reagan attended a service at St. John's Episcopal Church, which sits on Lafayette Square near Blair House and the White House. Bill Clinton chose to attend worship services at Washington's Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church on the mornings of his two inaugurations.

After the morning worship service, the president-elect and vice president-elect will proceed to the U.S. Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony; the vice president will be sworn in first. After taking the oath of office, the newly sworn-in president will deliver his inaugural address. Following the address, the outgoing president will make his ceremonial departure from Washington, and the new president will attend the inaugural luncheon in the National Statuary Hall at the Capitol. After the luncheon, the new president and his entourage will proceed down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, where he will review the inaugural parade from the presidential reviewing stand.

After the parade, the inaugural schedule will become much more chaotic. The president, vice president and their wives typically make appearances at a number of the inaugural balls, many of which traditionally run well past midnight.

The Challenges

In addition to the security issues presented by Obama's train trip to Washington, there are a number of other factors that will challenge the USSS and supporting agencies. The first is the size of the crowd expected to attend the inauguration. Normally, hundreds of thousands of people attend the inauguration and line the parade route. But as noted previously, the number of attendees this year might surpass prior records due to the historic nature of Obama's election. This means there will be more people than ever to screen for weapons. Because of the normal January weather in Washington, people will be wearing heavy winter coats, further complicating screening procedures. The large number of attendees also means the Metro will carry a far higher volume of people than normal.

Crowd control is difficult, even when the crowd is adoring and not hostile. And the bigger the crowd, the harder it is to control. Fortunately, in the case of the inauguration, the U.S. Capitol Police, U.S. Park Police and Washington's Metropolitan Police Department have extensive experience in crowd control - not only from past inaugurals, but also from working countless other mass rallies and protests in the District of Columbia. With their experience and resources, they should be able to keep the crowds in line. It can be anticipated, however, that those attending the inaugural events might have to wait for prolonged periods at screening points before being allowed access to the bleachers, parade route, reviewing stands or inaugural ball sites.

With dozens of inaugural balls taking place at once, the number of venues involved also will pose a security problem. The USSS agents in charge of security of these events not only will have to craft detailed security plans for the facilities and any VIP attendees, they also will have to consider the human factor. They will have to conduct name checks on thousands of cooks, waiters, caterers and other venue employees in addition to the thousands of people actually invited to attend the functions. Of course, some sites will be more heavily guarded than others, depending on their location and who will be attending.

Another security challenge associated with crowds occurs when a protectee approaches the crowd to shake hands. As long as the protectee stays in his fully armored vehicle, he is relatively safe from most threats. But once he steps out of the vehicle to greet the crowd - as new presidents are wont to do for at least a part of the inaugural parade route - he immediately becomes far more vulnerable. Most protection agents really dislike working the crowd because danger can lurk there. The compact nature of a crowd makes it very difficult for agents to see bulges and bumps that can indicate that a person is armed - and this is amplified when the crowd is wearing bulky winter clothing. Moreover, the sheer number of people makes it difficult for agents to spot individuals behaving abnormally. That said, the USSS spends a great deal of time and effort training its special agents to work the crowd. They are the best in the world at it, but that does not mean it i s an easy task or one the agents enjoy.

Another significant issue is coordination. A large number of important people with their own security details will attend the inauguration. This will apply not only to incoming Cabinet secretaries and senior military officers, but also to governors, the diplomatic corps, visiting foreign dignitaries, high-profile corporate leaders, celebrities and other high-net-worth individuals. The USSS must identify, vet and keep track of each of these protective details to avoid any incidents. Such an incident occurred in 1989, when the inaugural parade was delayed after a USSS countersniper team noticed an armed man inside a room at the Willard Hotel overlooking the parade route. The armed man was later identified as an agent from another government agency working a protective detail, but the USSS did not want to begin the parade until he had been identified. That 1989 incident resulted in an increased effort to coordinate and share information regarding the locations of protective d etails. These coordination efforts also include issuing identification to security personnel, placards for motorcade vehicles and providing screening points where motorcades can enter the secure perimeter.

There's No Place Like Home

While there are challenges associated with managing huge crowds at a number of venues, the inauguration occurs squarely in the USSS' home turf. Not only do many of the supervisory special agents have experience working past inaugurations, but even many of the street-level agents have an intimate knowledge of the area and the various sites. For example, the USSS has provided protection at Union Station thousands of times, and the site agent responsible for security there probably has worked dozens or even hundreds of events there. The USSS thus has a big leg up given that past experience, and based on its intimate knowledge of the facility, its agents know all the entrances, exits, nooks and crannies.

This superior area knowledge extends beyond the detail agents. Specialized support teams such as countersniper, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), hazardous materials and counterassault also know the sites well and have operated at them for years. They have plans for inaugural events that have been adapted and honed over many election cycles. They know precisely where to stage, sweep and secure. Undoubtedly, the countersniper teams will use the same vantage points they have long used, and the access control magnetometers also will be set up in their usual locations.

Security people like working in places they know intimately. This not only provides them with superior knowledge of the physical area, but it also gives them a baseline understanding of the human dynamics of the area. They have a good idea of who belongs there, what types of activities are normal and what is out of place. While at times this familiarity can serve to breed a sense of complacency, given the threats and perceived threats to Obama, the USSS special agents, uniformed officers and their counterparts from other agencies will undoubtedly be very alert this year.

Furthermore, even in non-inaugural times, the area along the parade route is one of the most heavily policed areas in the country. Consider that the parade starts at the U.S. Capitol, and in a few short blocks passes by heavily guarded facilities such as the National Archives, the Department of Justice, the FBI Headquarters, the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Treasury before reaching the White House. This normally high level of security would make it difficult for an attacker to place a device prior to the inauguration, and it also would complicate efforts to conduct preoperational surveillance.

The airspace over Washington is already carefully restricted. It will therefore not be terribly difficult for the USSS to work with the Federal Aviation Administration and the military to exercise even more control of the airspace over the event, and for them to have aircraft on station to enforce such restrictions.

Soft Targets

Our forecast, then, is that as with the last inauguration, the home-turf advantage will allow the USSS to erect a very significant wall of security around the main inaugural events. Therefore, potential attackers will have a much greater chance for success by concentrating on other, less secure targets - what we refer to as soft targets.

These soft targets could include crowds at Metro stations or on trains on Inauguration Day. While we anticipate a greatly increased police and EOD canine presence at Metro stations that day, such resources are nonetheless limited, and security personnel can only watch, question or screen a finite number of people at any one time. Thus, a huge influx of passengers will likely overwhelm the capacity of even an increased police presence in the Metro system.

Other potential soft targets are crowds outside of secure areas or the lines of people waiting to pass through metal detectors. There have been many examples of such queues and crowds being attacked in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Perhaps one of the greatest threats exists at some of the lower-profile inauguration-related events in Washington, and even in the Maryland or Virginia suburbs. Such events will not have the same level of security afforded to the big inaugural parties. This could cause them to be viewed as attractive soft targets, especially as they are being held in the Greater Washington area and are related to the inauguration.

Re: Is it just me?

Nope. I fear I've done this. If it can be restored please have a go. At the office yesterday we were instructed to immediately change over from IE to Mozilla/Firefox as our browser.

I made the change at home, too. All my fonts are changed and I guess I somehow changed things here.

I'd been a Mozilla user before and there were no ill effects. When I had a crash this summer, my repair guy put me back on IE. Don't know what's happened but we certainly look cheesier.

Is it just me?

or does SSJ look different today? New font on the heading and blue underlined titles on posts are the things that stick out to me.

Stangest Christmas Carol Ever

Little Drummer Boy, David Bowie and Bing Crosby.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Face to a name: Karma

In case anyone is interested in having a face to put with the name, here's Karma:

Saturday morning, just before the big pond incident, we'd been to the vet because the end of Karma's tongue was blotchy with dark pink areas. The vet's best guess was that Karma had gotten her tongue stuck to frosty cold metal or an icicle, and then ripped it off.

Re: Happy Birthday

One of his favorite shows apparently debuted on his birthday some 19 years ago, man.


The Eyes of Me

The Eyes of Me – Austin Downtown Lions

On December 11 the Board of Directors of the Austin Downtown Lions viewed a sneak peek screening of the documentary film titled “The Eyes of Me.” Sponsored by the nonprofit organization All Blind Children of Texas, the film follows the lives of four teens who have lost their sight. The parallel stories of two freshmen and two seniors unfold over the course of one dynamic year at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin.

After watching 15 minutes of selected scenes, several members of the Board admitted to holding back tears as they watched. “The Eyes of Me” offers a fresh perspective on the lives of young people living with visual impairments. The film captures intimate moments of their everyday lives and tells their stories as they have never been told before.

Their teenage dramas (dating, prom, after-school jobs, academic anxiety and family relationships) are familiar to the high school experience, while their personal stories (how they lost their sight; how they deal with their disability; what direction their lives will take) are unique.

“The Eyes of Me” will broadcast nationally on PBS in 2009. As the only portrait of its kind about blind teenagers, the film presents a unique opportunity to shatter many of the misconceptions that impede the personal growth and independence of young people with visual impairments.

To maximize the positive impact of the film, the Austin Downtown Lions Club has approved a lead gift of $10,000 to fund the filmmakers’ educational outreach efforts. These funds will support the creation of curricula to be implemented in Texas high schools and will promote learning standards established by the Texas Education Agency. The curricula will examine themes raised by the film, including appreciation of diversity and the struggle for personal independence. The Austin Downtown Lions contribution will be matched by the Meadows Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities to satisfy nearly 30% of the project's total budget.

The Board voted unanimously to approve the contribution in the hope that other organizations or individuals will support this worthy project. Calculating the impact of matching funds already committed to the project, an additional $30,000 is needed to fulfill the budget. All contributions to the project go directly to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization All Blind Children of Texas.

For information on how to support this project, visit the All Blind Children of Texas website at:

Happy Birthday

to Scooter's reader.


From the Strib:

WASHINGTON - In a stunning rebuke, the Securities and Exchange Commission chairman blames his career regulators for a decade-long failure to investigate Wall Street money manager Bernard L. Madoff, now accused of running one of the largest Ponzi schemes ever.

He said they never bothered to seek a formal commission-approved investigation that would have forced Madoff to surrender vital information under subpoena. Instead, the staff relied on information voluntarily produced by Madoff and his firm.

Credible and specific allegations regarding Madoff's financial wrongdoing going back to at least 1999 were repeatedly brought to the attention of SEC staff, said Cox.

"I am gravely concerned by the apparent multiple failures over at least a decade to thoroughly investigate these allegations or at any point to seek formal authority to pursue them," Cox said in a written statement.

Cox's statement is sure to fuel a new criticism of the SEC, an agency increasingly seen in Congress and elsewhere as incapable of carrying out its basic mission: to ensure a basic level of honesty on Wall Street.

Cox himself has come in for strong criticism. [You think?]

Steven Pearlstein

A Pulitzer Prize winner at the Post who saw it coming.

From last December:

We are only at the beginning of the financial world coming to its senses after the bursting of the biggest credit bubble the world has seen. Everyone seems to acknowledge now that there will be lots of mortgage foreclosures and that house prices will fall nationally for the first time since the Great Depression. Some lenders and hedge funds have failed, while some banks have taken painful write-offs and fired executives. There's even a growing recognition that a recession is over the horizon.

But let me assure you, you ain't seen nothing, yet.

This may not be 1929. But it's a good bet that it's way more serious than the junk bond crisis of 1987, the S&L crisis of 1990 or the bursting of the tech bubble in 2001.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wasilla and Tom Gresham

My reader knows that I've become a certified "gun nut" since my Dad died about 15 months ago and left my brother, sisters and me several guns--OK, a bunch of guns. One of the things I've tried to do as a new gun owner is to learn as much about them as possible so as to be responsible.

After a great deal of practice I took the CCP class this summer and became a licensed carrier in October. I never carry (in spite of the "rule" that one always should) except when traveling because of my profession and all the prohibited places that I visit. Don't want to be the legal profession's equivalent of Plaxico Burress.

Another thing I've been doing is fanatic reading and listening to a guy on the radio/Internet named Tom Gresham who has a radio show called guntalk. He also hosts programs on Outdoor television (which I don't get).

He is as anti-gun control as you'd expect and feared the worst two years ago and fears for the worster now but is incredibly civil to both sides and I do admire/enjoy the program. I post this for the gratuitous reference to Gresham's program and to make an observation:

I think Alaska has about 700,000 people. I think that about one in fifty of his callers are from Wasilla.

Rahm and Pelosi

From John Bresnahan at Politico:

In talks with Emanuel and others, sources say, Pelosi has “set parameters” for what she wants from Barack Obama and his White House staff — no surprises, and no backdoor efforts to go around her and other Democratic leaders by cutting deals with moderate New Democrats or conservative Blue Dogs. Specifically, Pelosi has told Emanuel that she wants to know when representatives of the incoming administration have any contact with her rank-and-file Democrats — and why, sources say.

Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are signaling that they won’t tolerate a repeat
[White House setting policy expecting Congress to go along] with a Democrat in the White House and Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate.

“There is tension. There is going to be tension,” said a Democratic veteran of Capitol Hill. “This is not Hastert. She wants to know what they are up to.”

I'm not sure it is as bad as he makes it sound but she definitely wants her finger in the pie.

Diminished trust

Anne Applebaum at Slate on the economy:

…The question now is whether American capitalism will also change over the next two decades—and for the worse.

Reading the accounts of the collapse of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, it is impossible not to conclude that it will. The scale of this fraud stretches far beyond anything a car dealer or even the purchaser of an apartment might commit, of course: Among the victims of Madoff's extraordinary pyramid scheme are major banks (BNP Parisbas, Nomura Securities), famous people (Mort Zuckerman), and Madoff's friends from the Palm Beach Country Club. In the wake of Madoff's arrest, charities are going to close, and previously rich people will become poor. Worst of all, everyone who invests anywhere will think just that much harder, take that much longer, demand that much more documentation. And they will do so not only because of Madoff, but because of the subprime lenders, Wall Street investment banks, and Enron fraudsters who have worked so hard to erode our faith in the reliability of our system.

I think she’s overly pessimistic but I do think she’s right that the level of trust has greatly diminished and will take a long time to recover.

HBO's Saddam

Did anybody watch? I usually love the HBO series(es). I know LJ can't watch unitl it makes iot to regular cable or disc; pass on this one. The last two hours were brutally slow. The actor's pronunciation of "E-rahhhk" was painful to hear. One son portrayed as pretty brutal but not so brutal as I have read. The other was almost heroic by contrast.

Re: Dogs and Ice

I hate writing these kind of replies because they seem more like, “Oh yeah, well here’s an even better story.” My story cannot begin to rival Steph’s but just have to tell. Again, I can’t say how relieved I am that no dogs or humans were harmed in the making of Steph’s story.

I guess I was about 14 or 15 and I was on a patrol campout with my Flaming (no Barney Frank jokes, please) Arrow patrol, a subdivision of my Boy Scout Troop. It was probably February or March in north Texas. We were camping near Frisco in what was then rolling prairie country and what I understand today is about as urban as one can get.

(For LJ: I grew up around Northwest Highway and Marsh Lane or Webbs Chapel just north of Love Field and my friends and I used to ride our bikes past farm after farm, past North Lake, all the way to Grapevine Lake and back for a fun Saturday.)

My longsuffering father had drawn the short straw (as he often did) and was spending the weekend “camping” in our yellow with faux wood side-paneling Ford Country Squire. At 6’5”, he could just fit diagonally in the back of the wagon. There were about 6 or 7 of us boys and my collie Grace was along for the trip. It had been a subfreezing week prior to the weekend’s activities although it had warmed to the upper 30s/low 40s by the time the weekend had come around.

While hiking on Saturday afternoon we foolishly played on the frozen creek. What did we know? This was Texas. At one point Grace and I were walking along and crack went the ice and both of us found ourselves in the water. Unlike Steph’s canine and human friends, I found myself in only waist deep water and Grace was quickly able to extricate herself without much, if any, assistance from me. Yes, it was cold and I was momentarily miserable but as I climbed out, I realized I was walking on unusually shaped and fairly large rocks. I reached down and pulled out an unusually spherical rock maybe ¾ of the size of a bowling ball.

Being a typically curious and destructive male teen, I had to smash it against something. We had stumbled upon a streambed full of GEODES. I wish I could say I now had a huge collection of them carefully harvested from the streambed but I can’t. We broke several and moved on.

Nothing a little chemo won't help

From VDH:


Unemployment is still below 7%. Inflation is low. So are interest rates. GDP did not go negative by much in the last quarter. The point is that we are not yet in an era of 1929-39 by any means.

There are enormous natural stimuli underway: in 2009 over a trillion dollars in national fuel savings will occur if energy prices stay below $50 a barrel. Indeed, they may drop even further, given slack world demand and enormous efforts at new discoveries the last five years. The price of housing is approaching, or indeed in some places below, the actual cost of replacement; so we may see millions of first-time buyers find their initial homes affordable in a way that had not been true in a quarter-century.

As bad as the condition that confronts the US, we are better off than most others. The EU owes $5 trillion in debt abroad, most of it uncollectible. Its members are at each other’s throats; higher unemployment and static demographics ensure there is not to be likely as much resilience and rebound as here in the US.

Russia, Venezuela, and Iran—as one-trick-pony oil exporters—are going broke and lowering their global mischievous profile. China is paranoid that its exports are ossifying when they must grow at 10% per annum if millions of new workers are to be incorporated into the work force. China has a multi-trillion-dollar rendezvous with unionization, environmentalism, suburban blues, and massive inputs in infrastructure.

Rather than look simply at our own dismal fiscal stats, instead, ask more germane philosophical questions: which country is more likely to remain politically stable during the global upheaval? Who encourages advancement more through meritocracy rather than nepotism or class and tribal affiliations? What nation will be the least likely to sink into work stoppages, religious and racial sectarianism, and violence? What country does foreign capital seek out to ensure safety in these unsettled times? Where are new ideas and products meeting the lesser resistance and accorded the greater compensation?

I think, in fairness, the US stands alone in most of the above categories that ultimately translate into superior economic growth. What we are seeing is a sort of global chemotherapy almost spontaneously occurring to destroy the cancer of speculation, fraud, huge borrowing, and creative accounting and to restore trust into the system. This naturally toxic medicine of deflation, doubt, timidity, and regulation may destroy some hosts, even as it takes out the cancer that started on September 14. Yet the US is in the best position to survive the toxicity and emerge on the other side of the treatment in remission and healthy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dogs and Ice Don't Mix

Yesterday, I wanted to take Karma to the dog park on the river. As we often do for Saturday walks, I invited Karma’s best friend Eddy and Eddy’s mom, L. to join us. Karma and Eddy met mid-summer on the beach on the river and were a perfect match. Karma is just a little older at 20 months than Eddy (1 year), and is maybe five pounds heavier at 51 lbs. They have the same energy level and enjoy the same kind of play. They were so well matched that L. and I exchanged phone numbers and routinely get Karma and Eddy together for dog park trips.

On the phone, L. and I pondered whether the dogs would have the sense to stay off the ice that’s forming at the edge of the river or whether we had secure enough command of them that we could keep them safe, and decided, no, we’d best not go to the river; instead, we’d go to a public golf course and risk getting tickets for letting the dogs off leash.

We met at the course. L. had both Eddy (Australian cattle dog/blue heeler mix) and H., her neighbor dog. The three dogs were getting along great. They were having a blast frolicking and wrestling and running as fast as they could on the wide open fairways, tumbling head over heals when they ran into deep snow going at top speed. We encountered a woman walking a huge young lab mix, Samson, off-leash. Samson insisted on joining our pack, so we introduced ourselves to the woman, V., and invited her to walk with us and the seven of us made our way down the fairway.

As we came up a hill, the dogs were running ahead of us and disappeared over the top of the hill. When we got sight of what was over the hill, my heart stopped. There was a huge pond. One end was iced over, but the other end was open water and covered with ducks. Of course the dogs, hunters and herders that they are, had run onto the ice to get to the ducks. Karma had slid or slipped into or cracked through the ice and was in the water and the water was too deep for her to touch, so she’d gone under before bobbing right back up. In the instant it took me to take in the scene, she was able to climb out of the water and get back on the ice. I don’t know how she did it: one part athleticism to be able to get a back paw onto the ice and get leverage to pull herself up and one part luck that she picked a spot on the ice that could hold her.

But just as soon as Karma was out, the ice under H. broke and she was in. H. tried to climb out but couldn’t do it. She just hung onto the edge of the ice with her front paws. I’ll never forget the look on her face. She was terrified. L. commanded us to run to the opposite side of the pond and try to coax H. to us, because there was a spot on the opposite shore where there was no ice adjacent the shore, so that if H could have gotten to the spot, she could have climbed out on the bank. It took us an age to get there, running through deep snow in snowboots, and when we got there and I looked back to call to H., I saw that L. hadn’t come with us, and was now sliding out onto the ice on her stomach. We yelled at L. to STOP until we could run back around to the shore near her, but she didn’t think H. could hold on much longer and L. was probably right about that. H. had been in the icy water for two minutes by then.

When L., on her stomach, got close to H., the ice broke and L. went in. We learned the water was over L’s head. L got behind H. and boosted her onto the ice and H. ran to land, but L. wasn’t able to pull herself onto the slippery ice.

In complete terror, V. and I tried to get back to the first side of the pond, hanging onto Karma, Eddy and Samson on leashes, so as to not lose dogs back into the pond. In hindsight, that attention to the dogs slowed us down and was pretty stupid. It took us what felt like forever to run back, lungs burning from the exertion of running in the snow, tripping and falling over dogs who thought we were having the best time. (To add to the misery and slowing me down, I was running for the first time since August when I broke and sprained an ankle – a story for another time.) I think it took us about two minutes to get back to our original spot on shore near L., though it felt like an eternity.

V. got to L. first and threw one end of a leash to her and was able to pull her onto the ice. (Yes, that’s right, I was useless.) We used L’s cell phone (maybe I need to get one of those things) to call H.’s mom who was just a mile away, and gave her a location to pick us up. V. was familiar with the golf course and knew of an open spot in the perimeter fence where we could get off the course and out to the street, so we only had to walk about a quarter mile from the pond. H.’s mom arrived with a minivan just as we got to the street, and she carted Eddy, H., Karma, L. and me to safety. (V. and Samson live just a block away so we left them to walk home.)

All is well. Everyone made it. No injuries or frostbite. I can’t stop thinking about how, if we hadn’t gotten to L. when we did, she’d be dead. (I’ve since read that people have 2-5 minutes in icy water before they drown. They can’t hold onto the ice with their arms because there’s no blood flow to the extremities, so arm/leg muscles stop working.) And I would be wondering why we hung onto the dogs as we ran around the pond. And I’d be furious and miserable that L went onto the ice before we were in a position to help her quickly. And our story would be in the Star Tribune instead of on this blog. And all the joy of life would be over forever.

You know in your head with complete certainty that the life of a dog isn’t worth the life of a human, and that a human shouldn’t risk their life to save a dog. And yet, when the dog is staring at you and expecting you to help, paws holding onto the edge of the ice, ears down as pitifully as they can be, is it really possible to just watch her sink to the icy depths? I don’t think you can make yourself do it.

Later yesterday, I was reading the Strib online and noticed a story from a couple days ago about a woman who drowned in the Mississippi River, apparently trying to save the dog she was walking.