Cloning Your Dog: Threat or Menace?

January 31, 2009

You’ll never find me bashing science on this site. It’s my belief that science, broadly defined, is the sole redeeming activity of mankind.  Adequate nutrition, clean water, working sewage systems are more important than all the poetry in the world. I won’t be able to impress you with Shakespeare if your belly is empty.


Cloning is an incredible technical advance and I’m not against it. However, I am against the way it’s being marketed to well-to-do dog owners whose understanding of cloning is more Star Trek than science. Yes, cloning your dog will produce a genetically similar animal — but it will not produce a Xerox copy of your beloved pooch.

Cloning is not reincarnation, your relationship with your new cloned dog will not be identical to your previous dog. Your cloned dog will not duplicate your old dog.

Given that an estimated 3-4 million abandoned dogs will be killed in America in 2009, using cloning to try and recapture what you had seems like an incredible waste of resources.

I also think it can be seen as disrespectful of the unique relationship you had with your previous best friend. Would you consider cloning your wife or husband after their death, (if you could somehow speed up the maturation process so you aren’t changing your spouse’s diapers and dealing with their teenage angst?).

In this economy  if you’ve got money to burn for cloning, consider doing something more useful with it. If you want a great new dog, check out your local shelter or breed rescue group.

And if you want to understand exactly why your cloned dog will not be a duplicate of your previous dog, spend $11 on Steven Pinker’s excellent The Blank Slate, The Modern Denial of Human Nature.

From IPWatchdog:

BioArts International announced today that delivered the world’s first commercially cloned dog, a 10-week old Labrador named Lancey, to Florida residents Edgar and Nina Otto.  According to the press release issued by the company, “BioArts International is a biotech company focused on unique, untapped markets in the global companion animal, stem cell and human genomics industries. The Best Friends Again program is a collaboration between BioArts and the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in South Korea, home to the best and most experienced dog cloning team in the world.”  The technology that makes this animal cloning possible stems from the cloning patents developed at the Roslin Institute for the cloning of the now famous, or infamous depending on your view, Dolly the Sheep.


The Ottos were one of five families to bid and win an auction held by BioArts International in July for a chance to clone their family dog. Lancey’s genetic donor, Sir Lancelot, died in January, 2008, and the Ottos had his DNA stored. By October, samples from the original dog were on their way to the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in Seoul, South Korea, which provides cloning services to BioArts.


Lancey was born on November 18th, 2008, and brought to the US on January 25th, 2009 after being weaned from his surrogate mother.  Lancey was hand delivered to the Ottos on Monday, January 26th by BioArts Chairman Lou Hawthorne. “This is a very special milestone for our company – and great fun for me too,” said Hawthorne, who delivered Lancey personally.  “We can’t believe this day is finally here,” said Nina Otto, “We are so happy to have little Lancey in our family. His predecessor was a very special dog. We are thrilled beyond words!”


BioArts has been granted the sole, worldwide license for the cloning of dogs, cats and endangered species. The license was granted by Start Licensing, Inc. and applies to the somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) cloning patents developed at the Roslin Institute for the cloning of Dolly the sheep.

Single Brain Cell Can Hold a Memory

January 26, 2009

I’ve been reading about brain function for 30 years and the past ten have been the most exciting, in terms of new discoveries. Read about this fascinating new study here from the good folks at


A neuron receives and processes information through a network of branches called dendrites. Once it processes the signal, the brain cell relays it along an axon to a terminal linking to another cell’s dendrites. When millions of brain cells communicate with each other at once, cognition occurs. Credit: L. Kibiuk for Society for Neuroscience.

How Stupid Are You? A Quick Test. . .

January 26, 2009


Can you explain how a 20th Century Astronaut came to be carved by a 12th Century stonemason on a cathedral in Salamanca, Spain?

Pretty incredible mystery, huh?  Proof of  Chariots of the Gods?-style ancient alien visitations, isn’t it?  So, can you explain it any other way, huh? Can ya, punk?

Give up? You can’t, because the premise is false.

The carving pictured was done not in 1102 but rather commissioned in 1992 by Jeronimo Garcia, chief of the restoration of the Cathedral of Salamanca, who specifically chose an astronaut as a symbol of the 20th Century.

For the complete story, go to here. And don’t believe every ‘mystery’ that circulates on the World Wide InterWebs. . .

30 Useful Open Source Apps for Web Designers from Six Revisions

January 26, 2009

There are plenty of open source applications that can help you tremendously as a web designer. Open source projects are great not only because of their price tag (free), but also because of the passionate community that typically forms around them. In these economic times, it’s often a worthwhile endeavor to see places where you can conserve, and open source alternatives are a good place to start looking.

In this article, you’ll find 30 exceptionally handy open source applications for web designers. There are a variety of tools here that include source code, WYSIWYG, and graphic/image editors, as well as useful software utilities that can improve your task management and production processes.


30 Useful Open Source Apps for Web Designers – Six Revisions

3D to “Revolutionize” Porn Industry. . .Again? Maybe. Possibly. (I doubt it).

January 26, 2009

3d_porn_glassesEvery few years this same story crops up: being such a natural fit, pornography and 3D viewing systems are announced to be forming an alliance that will have us all lolling about having fake sex with 3D images of the already artificial, botoxed, surgically-enhanced, bleached and shaven vixens of Hollywood’s shadow industry. Announced with great fan fare, these stories and their 3D systems never deliver on their throbbing, pulsating promises. But maybe this time it will be different. . .?

A $4 million 3D remake of the Hong Kong softcore classic Sex and Zen is in preparation; only 25 to 30% of this new version will be sex scenes so apparently this is being geared for the imaginary ‘couples market’ niche of the porn world.

But wait, there’s a fly in the lube already! Producer Stephen Shiu Jr. complains. “We’re having trouble finding a male lead who is willing to undress in front of the camera.” For the complete article, (SFW) go here.

Back in the day when I was introduced to the high octane, bullet ballets and swooping kung-fu wire work that have long since been incorporated into the Hollywood film lexicon, to see these films you needed to go to certain video stores in your local Chinatown (for me Lafayette or Bayard Streets below Canal). Bootleg copies on VHS cost $4 and the first time a gwai lo (“ghost person,” e.g. white boy) ventured inside you could expect to wait a longish time before the owner was prepared to sell you anything.

My ‘bible’ in those days was a paperback titled Sex and  Zen and a Bullet In the Head by Stefan Hammond and Mike Wilkins. It remains an excellent introduction to the pre-takeover (before 1997) HK cinema.


The back of the book had thumbnails of the movie posters for their essential picks, along with titles in English, Cantonese and Mandarin. I would point to these and the video store owner would dutifully get them (or quickly dub a copy) for me. After a few visits, I evidently passed some sort of test and was welcomed into these stores as a true fan. Now I would get suggestions for new movies, based on my previous selections.

If you’ve never seen The Killer, A Better Tomorrow, Hard Boiled, Project A, Parts I & II, Armor of God Parts I & II or Police Story I, check them out and see what made the pre-Hollywood careers of director John Woo and Jackie Chan the stuff of fanboy legends.

And know this: if it wasn’t for what he learned worshipping at the altar of 1980s & 1990s HK cinema, Quentin Tarrantino wouldn’t even have a job as gaffer today.

TypeDNA – a new Font Manager with ‘Magic’ Features

January 20, 2009

TypeDNA is a robust, standalone PC & MAC compatible Font Manager and plug-in set that seamlessly integrates with all of the most common host applications including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Microsoft Office. Once integrated, TypeDNA significantly enhances your application’s font capabilities. For example, anyone can integrate TypeDNA with Adobe Photoshop to access a unique algorithm set that analyzes, matches and mixes similar font features. Combined, these grant anyone the power to FIND / SORT / CHOOSE / COMBINE and MANAGE fonts quickly and easily without having to understand formal typography rules. 

For the TypeDNA website, go here. To learn more about its ‘magic’ features, go here.

17 Really Useful WordPress Plugins

January 20, 2009

A selection of great WordPress  plugins from those wonderful folks at Smashing Apps.

17 Really Useful WordPress Plugins That Probably Are Essential – Opensource, Free and Useful Online Resources for Designers and Developers.

13 Free Web Apps for Designers

January 20, 2009

The folks at Smashing Apps are constantly coming up with links to worthy tools and programs that will help make your working and design life easier. Follow the link below to their latest selection of free web-based apps.

I especially like TinEye, a reverse image search engine. You submit an image to TinEye to find out where it came from, how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, or to find higher resolution versions. And  also Spending Diary, which offers a simple way to track and analyse your spending.

13 Free Web Apps To Simplify Designer’s Work Life – Opensource, Free and Useful Online Resources for Designers and Developers.

“My Bloody Valentine-3D” — 3D film, 1D plot & characterizations

January 20, 2009



Technically, the 3D in “My Bloody Valentine- 3D” is excellent; however, the use this technique is put to here is simply moronic.

This is a horror/thriller with no horror and no thrills despite a very high gore content and extremely gratuitous nudity.* Unless you consider sudden loud noises and the abrupt, unexpected appearances of supporting cast members to be ‘thrilling.’

To earn the ‘bloody’ in the picture’s title you get sequences like this: a buxom midget motel owner is impaled on the ceiling with a pick axe; the top half of a pretty blonde’s head is severed with a shovel in a mine shaft; an eyeball is popped out of one character’s head; the jaw of an old man is ripped from his face and hurled at the camera; a comatose patient awakes after a decade asleep in a hospital and severs nurses and fellow patients in two, disemboweling some of them and placing one woman’s heart inside a box of Valentine chocolates.

You get the feeling that this stuff was written by two stoned 14 year olds, cracking each other up with how ‘outrageous’ they were being. Dude! A word of caution to parents: let them have the pot, but please lock up the lap tops and word processors.

The film is a remake of a 1981 Canadian slasher picture set in a mining town where a pick axe swinging menace slices and dices teenagers trying to have sex on Valentine’s Day. (Teen age sexuality is the number one cause of serial killing, as depicted by Hollywood screenwriters). The original was a low-budget entry in the category of the more imaginative Freddy’s, Jason’s and Michael Meyer’s that continue to spawn sequels today.

What 3D slasher horror really needs is a great genre director like John Carpenter; if only this level of quality stereoscopic filming could have been available to him for the first “Halloween” picture!

Not only does the story of “My Bloody Valentine- 3D” make little sense, the film stoops to outright cheating to deliver it’s ho-hum ‘twist’ ending. Scenes that we originally saw with two characters in them are shown in flash back with only one, so that the reveal of the killer will ‘kinda sorta’ fit. The final shot even sets the stage for a sequel (that I doubt will ever be made) and is the only truly frightening thing about the entire picture.

Given all the above, you’ll probably think I’m crazy to praise the 3D filming but, if you can separate what is being filmed from how it’s being filmed, you have to be impressed.

3D movies can now be produced with excellent depth and no eye strain. The glasses are comfortable to wear and they fit easily over prescription glasses. They simply need better content, if Hollywood expects to pull people away from their wide screen TVs and into theaters for a ‘premium’ viewing experience (and ticket price). “My Bloody Valentine- 3D” cost $13.75 per at my local multiplex.

It really all comes down to the story and the writing. Sadly, for both 2D and 3D cinema technical production today far exceeds both the skill and imagination of our current crop of screenwriters.


*For the record: I stand in full support of gratuitous nudity, but isn’t it supposed to be naughty or tittalating? Not here it isn’t.

One attractive young actress (Betsy Rue as “Irene”) is required to perform almost her entire on-screen time completely nude, except for a pair of platform heels, for no discernable reason. She even walks out of a No Tell Motel in the buff to confront her fornication partner, a bald trucker, over his illicit videotaping of their rutting encounter.

She’s upset that he filmed them having sex but she stands stark naked in the middle of a parking lot to complain about it?

Rather than arousing the entire sequence came across as merely uncomfortable. It was a relief when the trucker’s bald dome was punctured by the killer’s pickaxe, even if only to allow poor shivering Betsy to run back inside. (Also: didn’t adult human females used to have pubic hair at one time? I’m just saying, is all).

3,000 Free Pet Adoptions — Jan. 24, 2009 sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition

January 16, 2009

Save money. Save a life. Bring Home your New Best Friend for Free!

If you’re considering bringing a dog or a cat into your home this year, you probably already know that I’m going to urge you to check out your local animal shelter first.

Now there’s even more incentive: next week Hill’s Pet Nutrition will cover all adoption costs (which can range from $25 to $300) at participating shelters. The 3,000 free animal adoptions represent the first 10 animals adopted at each of the 300 locations on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009. 

Get involved in CHANGE A PET’S LIFE DAY and open your home to a pet. The first ten adoptions at participating Hill’s partner shelters are free on January 24, 2009. New pet owners will also receive a starter kit that includes free Hill’s® Science Diet® pet food and tips to give their adopted cat or dog the best start in their new life. (from their website).

Pet Animal Welfare Society
504 Main Ave
Norwalk, CT 06851-1038

For a complete list of participating shelters, go here.

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