Xtreme Distance Qualifier at Flying Dog Farm

It’s less than two weeks to the Hyperflite Skyhoundz Xtreme Distance Qualifier at Flying Dog Farm. It’s been five years since I have had an event at the old homestead and I’m looking forward to having some disc dog guests. For those of you who don’t know about the strange place that I live, I should tell you that it is referred to as a “Fly-in Community.” That means that all of the folks who live here have airplanes on their respective properties. We’ve got Super Cubs, Staggerwings, Stearman, Extra’s, Cessna 185s, 195s, light twins, heavy twins, a bevy of experimental aircraft, as well as ultralights and sailplanes. Rather than tennis courts and swimming pools, we have as our “common area” a long grass runway that is the center of activity on sunny days. Some of us live in houses, and some of us live with our airplanes in our actual aircraft hangars. It’s a pretty cool place to live, actually.

As fate would have it, the piece of property that I live on is large enough to accommodate an Xtreme Distance event and I have worked hard on my grass — or should I say my “collection of green weeds” — to make sure it is in tip top shape for the XD Qualifier. If you can make it, please do. Weather permitting, I may roll the Super Cub out of the Hangar for a little bit of flying with my disc dog friends.

For more information on the Xtreme Distance Qualifier at Flying Dog Farm, please visit www.skyhoundz.com. See you there!

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Busy Bee

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. Despite my best intentions, I have ignored this blog for far too long. But, I have a good excuse! For the past month or so, I have been working hard on three rather large projects. The first is a new digital disc dog book entitled “Disc Dogs! A Beginner’s Guide.” The book contains some excerpts from Disc Dogs! The Complete Guide, as well as some original material that I thought would benefit anyone getting started in the sport. The new introductory book is intended to complement our already released book Disc Dogs Rock! which is available digitally from the iTunes Store. The new book is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes and is a modestly-priced, digital-only, book.

The second project is one I have been working on for the past two years. It is a brand-new book in the Disc Dogs! Series of books entitled Disc Dogs! Compete and Win! This book will be approximately 200 digital pages in length and is designed to help disc dog enthusiasts take their competitive aspirations to the next level. It should be released just before our World Championship in September. If you want to win, this book is for you.

Finally, with our expanded World Championship format this year, we’ve been extremely busy. Everything we did before with the Skyhoundz Worlds, must now be done in triplicate. I will spare you the details but we think that folks that compete in this year’s Skyhoundz World Championship, featuring the traditional Skyhoundz Worlds, as well as DiscDogathon and Xtreme Distance World Championships are in for a treat.

Until then, I will try and say hello more regularly.

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Cinco de Mayo

Springtime is always dangerous in Atlanta. The pollen attack usually weakens your immune system allowing opportunistic viruses and such to jump on the gravy train. If you have kids who are in school –especially young kids — then you can expect them to serve as vectors by bringing home a veritable cornucopia of illnesses to share with you. And so it was that I picked up a strange bug about a month ago. It’s trying to kill me right now. But, I am not alone. Nearly everywhere I go I can hear coughs that sound just like mine. Like yawning, once one person coughs, everyone similarly afflicted starts coughing as well. My kids have come down with it too, though it doesn’t seem to be more than a minor inconvenience for them. This morning, the coughing was so bad that I actually pulled a muscle under my arm. I figure broken ribs must be next. I went to a doctor and he suggested I go to church more often….because other than praying, there’s not much you can do for this miserable scourge. And before anyone suggests one of those Netty Pot contraptions, know that I would sooner be slid off a board into the ocean than stick one of those things up my nose!

Were I feeling better today, I might enjoy celebrating Cinco de Mayo, but not for the obvious reasons. It was about 18 years ago that I temporarily lost my World Champion dog “Gilbert” who was riding in the back of my camper-top-covered pick up truck with another World Champion named “Whirlin WIzard.” We were on our way home from doing a half-time show at a sporting event in North Carolina. The horrifically bumpy road somehow jarred the door of the camper top open and Gilbert, who was sitting on top of a suitcase, tumbled out the back onto the interstate at 70 miles per hour. Another car caught up to us a few miles later and told us what happened. A frantic 2-hour search ensued and by some miracle I found him hiding in the weeds in the median of the busy expressway. It was nearly dark and raining. Gilbert popped his head up when I yelled his name from the top of an overpass. When I got to him I was expecting him to be badly injured. But, aside from a few minor scrapes, he was fine and as elated to see me as I was him. He was back to his normal self by the time we made it home to Atlanta.

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Peter Pan (The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up)

Oh how the mighty have fallen…or have we?

Fatherhood has been an eye-opening experience. My suppositions of what being a parent might entail have been supplanted by such inescapable realities as pink diaper bags, ballet recitals, soccer practice, and endless birthday parties. Being a father to two girls has made for a very different me, indeed. Although I was well equipped to teach throwing, running, and boy stuff, the “girlier” pursuits proved to be more of a challenge.

Despite my best efforts at turning my three and five-year-old girls into boys, they have still managed to become obsessed with the color pink and anything princess-related. So, I evolved, lest I perish. Now, a mere five years after my journey began, my transformation is so complete that the new me can put on a pair of tights as fast as any woman (on my girls that is). I can give baths, brush teeth, shop at rummage sales, and keep appointments (doctor, dentist, hair, teacher conferences, etc.) like a master. I can scarcely remember the last time I did anything solely for myself. My transformation is complete.

This past weekend, in my continuing efforts to support the youthful whims of my daughters, I found myself at a J.M. Barrie production of Peter Pan. The musical was staged under a giant circular tent in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park. Yes, while some of you folks were watching disc dogs at the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge (just an Xtreme Distance toss away) I found myself watching crocodile’s, one-armed pirates, and fairies do battle with swords.

While a single man with no kids might scoff at the idea of going to watch a silly children’s story, that same single man would have missed the dance of Tiger Lilly (I should add that all the actors were grown ups!). All I can say is, J.M. Barrie was a kindred spirit…a man’s man. Fellows, you can have all of your dating, your late-night drinking, your non-pink colors. I’ll be content with princesses and tutus…as long as I get to watch Tiger Lily dance every now and again.

For the record, I believe in fairies…

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Pollen – Don’t Get Mad…Get Even!

When it comes to blogging, I can’t help but think of the expression “feast or famine.” Often, the blog topics come effortlessly. But occasionally, ideas are as rare as a pollen-free car on a Georgia Spring day. Speaking of pollen, we have all kinds here in the south. Right now, a fine white talcum-powdery kind of pollen is in fashion. Later on in the spring, yellow pollen will fall from pine tree branches like winter snow, and I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. Georgia, I would argue, is pollen central. On some days in Georgia, the sky actually turns yellow when a strong breeze stirs things up a bit.

Bees love pollen and need the yellowish powder to transform their bee larvae into adult worker bees. Farmers, in turn, hire beekeepers to bring colonies of their bees to help fertilize farm crops. Health food stores sell pollen as a nutritional supplement. Nearly every plant makes pollen and, without it, plants would be unable to reproduce and perpetuate. Most people understand that pollen is very beneficial and necessary. The problem is that many of us humans are allergic to it in varying degrees.

Under a microscope it’s easy to see why pollen causes trouble. Pollen spores are tiny and, consequently, easily enter your sinuses and your lungs, as well as every other nook and cranny in your body. They look like World War two naval mines with Velcro grabbers that hook onto anything that might transport the spores to a willing host. In a sense, we, and every other living thing, serve as delivery devices for the plant world. Using the aforementioned Velcro grabbers, pollen latches onto us as we wander about until we accidently rub up against, or sneeze on, a receptive host plant.

Before we can perform our “duties” as pollen vectors, lots of bad things often happen…but only to those, like me, who are allergic. Fortunately, in this best of all possible worlds, nature has provided us with an opportunity to exact our “pound of flesh.” It’s called vegetarianism. What better revenge could there be than eating the offspring of your enemy? I’ve been doing it, guilt free, for more than 20 years.

A Pollen Haiku

Yellowish you are
Delightful you are so NOT!
I hate you a bunch

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Watashi-tachi wa Minna, Nipponjin desu (We are all Japanese)

The developing tragedy in Japan has been particularly painful for me to watch. When catastrophes occur around the world they are always saddening, to be sure. When one has a connection to a country that is suffering, it gets personal. Other than the United States, Japan happens to be the country where I have resided the longest. In fact, more than 6 months of my life have been spent in Japan at various times, including a four-month stretch in the late 1990′s. The Japanese people have always been warm and welcoming to me and Japan remains one of my favorite places on earth to visit. Now, as this calamity plays out, countless lives have been lost in cities that I frequented.

As recently as last summer, I journeyed to Japan to give clinics and judge a Skyhoundz Qualifier near Saitama, a “suburb” of Tokyo. There was even a small earthquake that could be felt during the competition. I have experienced dozens of quakes during my time in Japan and, although unnerving, you get used to them after awhile. But, a magnitude 9.0 quake is an event I can’t even begin to imagine. Thankfully, rumbling 3.0 to 4.0 temblors, lasting only ten or fifteen seconds, represent the extent of my experience with quakes. That said, even small quakes cause buildings to sway, and picture windows to undulate in-and-out, like a bass speaker on your home stereo.

Slowly, but surely, I have been hearing reports from friends and acquaintances of their own personal quake-related experiences. Thankfully, most only felt the big quake and are now dealing with the comparatively minor hassles of rolling blackouts and a lack of phone service. There remains a sense of dread and sadness punctuated by moments of terror when aftershocks –themselves large earthquakes — rumble through with frequency. And, not surprisingly, there is great concern about multiple failing nuclear reactors and potential exposure to radiation caused by core meltdowns which may be occurring as I write. Images of mushroom clouds over exploded containment buildings conjure up memories that must be painful and frightening. I would imagine that those images are as distressing to our Japanese friends as images of the collapsing twin towers still are to us Americans.

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A Love Note to Hyperflite Retailers!

One of our retailers contacted us, upon returning from a trip to Europe, and described her strange visit to a large super-box pet store. At first, she was overwhelmed by the selection. Then she realized that, despite all of the colors and styles of products offered – every single toy, collar, and leash – was made by the same manufacturer. The packaging didn’t even try and disguise this fact. She marveled at the length that this big box store went to in order to squeeze every nickel out of the supply chain. And her comments got us to ruminating on the future of the pet industry in our own country.

If you visit an independent pet retailer in the U.S., you’ll find a wide selection of really neat toys and products for canines. The aisles might not be endless and the shelves might not be overflowing as they often are at the Big Boxes, but, if it’s new and cool, you’ll find it at an independent long before you’ll find it in a Big Box. In fact, our own recent walk through of a major Big Box pet retailer made us wonder whether the homogenization of pet products has already begun in this country.

Ever-increasing chunks of aisle space at Big Box retailers are taken up by a smaller contingent of manufacturers all fighting to acquire precious shelf real estate. Ten years ago, hundreds of manufacturers were represented in the toy section of pet superstores whereas, today, less than fifty might be the norm. Increasingly, private label pet products – usually inexpensive, big box-owned knockoffs – are beginning to take space from traditional pet manufacturers. This “vertical integration” business model allows the big boxes to eliminate much of the overhead of dealing with manufacturers in favor of in-house control over lower-paying overseas manufacturing and labor. In ten years, U.S. Big Box Pet Retailers may well descend into the homogenous abyss, just as some of their European brethren already have. And, that’s not a good result for our four legged friends. However, we think it can be good for independent pet retailers who have weathered the financial storm and can nimbly outsell any Big Box on a per-square foot basis.

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Gloom

I was feeling blithe, almost jocund…no wait, that was Mark Twain in “The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut.” My mood was quite the opposite, dictated largely by a rainy and sunless weekend in Georgia. There wasn’t a happy bone in my body.

As I was scouring the “internets” for a ray of sunshine to add some cheer to my day, it was fitting that I would stumble upon an article about the saddest songs ever written. I thought the author missed the mark on most of his choices so I decided to have a go at it myself. I narrowed my list down to the top-ten tearjerkers and then searched for some videos of the songs being performed…just to add a little human expressiveness to the mournful “tea” that I had brewed. Occasionally, there are multiple video selections, and all are worth a listen. WARNING! If you are feeling morose, do not listen to these songs, or you will likely fling yourself off a building.

So, grab a bucket to cry in, and let’s get started —

500 Miles by Peter, Paul, and Mary

If you are far from home and down on your luck, this song is definitely not for you!

Shannon by Henry Gross

Written about the passing of Beach Boy Carl Wilson’s beloved Irish Setter, this one-hit-wonder was the perfect arrow to the heart for dog lovers everywhere.

Streets of Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen

Somber tones, a ghostly chorus, and raspy, mournful, lyrics make Streets of Philadelphia pure misery.

Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter, Paul and Mary

If you’ve ever been a kid, then you’ll know why Puff made my list. Sure, you can smile when you sing it, but the loss of innocence is nothing to smile about!

Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot

This song, loaded with facts, tells the sad story of 29 sailors lost in a Lake Superior Storm.

Earl Morning Rain By Peter, Paul and Mary

Written by Gordon Lightfoot (See previous song), Early Morning Rain makes you feel as if you were standing in the drizzle, looking through an airport fence, wishing you were headed home.

Rag Doll by Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons

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It’s Kickoff Time!

The first Skyhoundz Qualifier of the year is about to be held in Olen, Belgium, this weekend. Having been to Belgium a few times myself, I can safely say that those who make the journey will have a delightful time. Belgium is a wonderful blend of language, arts, music, architecture, and let’s not forget the beer and chocolate!

If you have time for a side trip to Bruges, you will not be disappointed. Bruges is often described as the “Venice of Belgium” and, best of all, you don’t have to get your feet wet like you sometimes do in Venice proper.

I know that all of the hosts of our Skyhoundz Qualifiers work hard to stage first-class events that will become fond memories for those who attend. If you are new to canine disc sports, all you have to do is attend a few disc dog competitions and you’ll find that you suddenly have friends no matter where you go. Having a fun time with your dog in the park is great, of course, but doing the same thing with a gaggle of like-minded new friends is priceless!

Enjoy!

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Thoughts on Promoting Canine Disc Sports

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a tireless promoter of canine disc play and competition. “One-dog-at-a-time” is my mantra. But, gosh, it sure would be nice to grow the sport a bit faster. To that end, I’ve been thinking up some clever ways to draw attention to the cause. Here are some of my ideas, in no particular order –

1. Invite Charlie Sheen to host the hospitality tent at the World Championship in Chattanooga (he has tiger blood and Adonis DNA).
2. Offer a Michael Vick dunking booth at each of our Regional Qualifiers, with the profits going to our local shelter partners of course.
3. Create a low-budget TV special called “American Disc Dog Idol” in which Peter Bloeme would play the Simon Cowell, mean-guy role.
4. Announce that we are replacing the Jawz disc with “New Jawz,” a la New Coke/Coke Classic. Remember that soda fans?
5. Film a special show in Alaska called “I can throw the disc to Russia from my house.”
6. Go flying with an airplane full of discs. Declare an emergency. Wait for the news helicopters to show up and then jettison hundreds of sample discs, one-at-a-time, as the helicopters provide a full-day of coverage that would rival a slow-speed Bronco chase (Just kidding FAA).
7. Offer Jawz discs to the military to serve as extra armor plating on Humvees and M-1 tanks.
8. Have a free body-painting booth at the Worlds.
9. Advertise free iPads with the purchase of a Jawz disc (use only radio advertising so folks don’t know you’re really talking about “eye pads”).
10. Give out a ton of free stuff to competitors at the World Championship and hope for the best (THE WINNER!).

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