Friday, July 31, 2009

The Elephant Brothers

If these guys:

were the Bash Brothers,

Then maybe these guys:


are the Elephant Brothers.

I mean, I know I just made it up, but I saw them in person, and they're huge. New call-up Tommy Everidge seems even bigger than Jack Cust, if it's possible, and when they were on base at the same time- well, they reminded me of that thing they do on Diamond Vision when Stomper (the elephant) shakes the whole screen. I can't find it online- bonus points if you can. The puppet version of Stomper comes down like Tarzan from each corner, one at a time and then somehow the whole screen is shaking. Well, when Everidge and Cust are both on base, and you're sitting in section 111 in row 13, the stadium is at risk of shaking. It's a good comparison, as far as "brothers" similes will go.

In other baseball notes: it was nice to see a win. It was sad to see Dallas Braden left in one out too long. He stood there looking at his glove like he was sending secret messages to Geren: take me out! The Blue Jays got the message and Took Him Out! And, finally, I do not get the concept of pda at a ball game. OK, we know I don't get the concept of pda, period. But really, the coliseum is not a romantic place. There are loud, unromantic noises everywhere. The seats are uncomfortable. People are watching you from behind by nature of stadium seating. And if you've paid (presumably, I didn't) $40 to sit in MVP seating, why are you wasting your time making out? And don't even mention the kids, because that's just disgusting... so, so gross.

Go A's! Go next year! Go Marco Scutaro! How cool was it to see him? And why did they pinch run for him? Oh well, see you next year Marco, or tomorrow if I am awake enough to go to Rickey night! And congrats, Rickey, for being inducted! I was going to post Rickey's induction speech, but it wasn't enough of Rickey being Rickey. Someone else wrote that speech and pinched him each time he tried to go off script. It was the most boring thing ever to come out of Rickey's mouth, even if he did mention Oakland. Maybe I will go tomorrow, just to see if he gets to talk.

The Origin of Sofafree

I was inspired by Whole Wheat Toast's recent stellar sofafree shot to discuss my fascination of sofafree. What *is* sofafree? Technically, and I mean this is a very serious, technical term, according to the king of sofafree, the sofafree pool on flickr, sofafree is free couches and sofas, outside of the home setting. Free seating if you may. It is also a a takeoff of the SF graff term sucka free. Pick your definition, I'm no slang expert. I am, however, developing into somewhat of a sofafree expert. If not an expert, an advanced beginner.

I have even published a book on sofafree. For some holiday last year (escaping me now which one), I made a book of sofafree shots for my mom. She had expressed interest in the pictures as a statement on urban life, and so I put together about 100 pictures of them- the majority mine and a few stellar examples from generous flickr donors. Sure, it was self-published, but that doesn't mean anything nowadays, right? I'm still published.

So WHY sofafree? Who does this- dumps a sofa on the side of the road, in a park, next to the freeway, on the sidewalk, etc. It's not just sofas people dump, it's just sofas I take pictures of. There are tons of mattressfrees, strollerfrees, dresserfrees, etc. And it's not just in Oakland- the fine folks in the sofafree pool are from all over- I see lots from LA and San Francisco, and Europe is represented. You'd think it would be a requirement to join the EU that countries have trained their citizens not to dump furniture. Guess not. And apparently, One Chicago blogger is so pissed off that he is starting a grassroots campaign to stop the dumping. I've only ever seen one sofafree being picked up by Oakland Public Works, though I've seen a variety of sofafrees (and other -frees) orange-tagged for pickup. This is a system I've never understood- why tag them and THEN separately pick them up? Why not just pick them up? There's a way to save Oakland money- eliminate a step!

best spot sofa free, cushion free

Anyway, I may have an insight to the why sofafree, as I have now seen someone make a dresserfree. My neighbor just moved out (thank goodness). I was pulling into my house the other day and I see her loading a dresser into a truck. I then see her driving the truck a block and a half to the freeway underpass where I have seen three or four awesome sofafrees (and a whole lot of other dumping) in the last 2 years. I try to stall going in the house, but it's too obvious. The next day I ask runningwdogs- yes, she had really dumped the dresser there. My neighbor had dumped a dresser under the freeway! Why not use freecycle? Craigslist? God forbid, the DUMP? Very odd, but definitely what happened. So I guess I don't really have an answer to the why- no idea why she did it- but she did it.

Now to the other why- why do *I* do it? I guess I find it fascinating. There are sofafrees in all kinds of neighborhoods. Just last week I spotted one in Piedmont and my heart skipped a beat. There is one by Lake Merritt right now that has been there over a week. It's always my dream to see them while urban exploring, and this week I saw TWO at Fort Ord. It's sort of a glimpse into society- what's in people's living rooms, or what was in people's living rooms. It makes you wonder who put the sofas there, why they put them there, where they're going. Are they moving? Did they get a new couch? How far did they haul the sofas, and how did they pick the spots to leave them? Did they just leave them in front of their own houses or did they put them somewhere else? Did they pick the closest underpass like my neighbors? When there are no cushions, did someone take them? Did the dumper put those in the trash? Do people ever take the sofas and use them or do they all get picked up by public works?

I don't know, I like them. It's like a scavenger hunt, and I get REALLY excited when I see them. I was running errands today, and pulled over to shoot a sofafree in a spot I had never seen one. On the radio was the soundtrack song below. It seemed fitting- for people who dumped the sofa, and for me, who shoots the sofas.

Check out my entire sofafree set. It's growing daily (both pictures from under the overpass, where my neighbor dumped her dresser).


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ehud Havazelet: Bearing the Body

I did not like this book. I try to like the books dad gives me, because he has good taste, and I feel like there must be some reason he invested in them, and even more, there must be some reason he felt I would like them. So I was so, so let down to find out that I had slogged through this one and he hadn't liked it either. Sheesh. OK, not that let down, just disappointed that I had bothered to read this book at all. Put them down, themacinator, if you don't like them! I'm sure someone would like it. Someone who hadn't grown up reading every book about Holocaust survivors and their families. And who hadn't read a billion books about the traumas drug use can cause on families. This book is a combination of the two- and that might be exciting and stimulating and page-turning for someone who doesn't ho-hum about it. It just felt ... trite to me. The ending was even expected. Part of the book takes place in San Francisco, but the details are just vague enough that I was left wondering if the author even had visited San Francisco or if he had just kind of melded Chinatown, Union Square, and the Tenderloin into one seedy image that served his purposes. And wit that ringing endorsement, this one is in the give-away pile if you want it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Training a Retriever Positively

I know I've been blabbing about Mac and dockdiving, here, on flickr, and on twitter, but it was an educational day for me. Check out that picture (even if I've already shown it to you because I love it so much). That's Mac in line, being happy as a clam. We waited in that line for ever- probably 1/2 hour- for a practice jump. And Mac pretty much did that the whole time. He smiled and wagged at every person who came near (he's smiling at M in this picture, who is holding the camera), and did his best to ignore the dogs that were everywhere around him. He paid attention to me and worked for food or attention. Now look at the yellow lab behind him. That dog looks shut down (he was) and stressed. His owner hardly ever paid attention to him, and he took every chance he got to stare at Mac and whine. His owner told me that he is a "compulsive humper" and I believe it. This yellow lab was wearing some kind of correction collar but his owner was fairly low key and appropriate with it.

Note: I am not opposed to prong and choke chains, when used fairly and appropriately. I have never used an ecollar and probably never will use an ecollar. I don't consider myself anywhere near a good enough trainer to use one in a way that isn't detrimental to a dog (if there really is one) and I'm not convinced that all of the training other alternatives aren't better. I do prefer positive methods, and, as I've stated, relationship based training. I almost wish I had been trained to train two years later than I was, because maybe all compulsion based training would have been omitted from the curriculum, but in the meantime, it's part of my repertoire, and I'm still working to figure out when/how to phase it out.

So, being at splashdogs was informative. There were some seriously wound up dogs, in high arousal modes with lots of drive. It was pretty awesome to watch. Their theme song clearly wasn't "doodeedoo" like Mac's. So cool to see that their owners had found an outlet for their drive- chasing kongs and balls and all sorts of other things into a pool. And such a contrast to see them manhandling them. M made a great point- the dogs were in a huge state of arousal, and control was key- it *was* much more difficult to control the dogs that were actually in drive than to control Mac. On the other hand, the overhanded handlers that I saw were not giving corrections for particularly appropriate things- if there is an appropriate thing to correct for when a dog is in high drive, at an event where you're asking that of your dog. On handler corrected her lab each time the lab jumped on her. The dog would hit the ground after the correction, pause a few seconds, then jump on her again. Not only inappropriate, but ineffective. Another handler was correcting his dog with harsh corrections for barking. The dog was not the only dog barking and was frantic to get in the pool. I was annoyed at the barking, too. Maybe I should have passed dude some earplugs. One of the most distressing corrections I saw was on the dock- a man asked his dog to stay. He walked towards the end of the dock, looked back, and the dog had inched forward. He walked back to the dog, repositioned her where she had originally been, then gave a trainer-who-shall-not-be-mentioned ear pinch. I actually thought he was going to alpha-roll her, he was so intent on the correction. Bad timing and very physically abusive. Ineffective, and inhumane.

I was disturbed and reminded of another post I read- actually the comments- on Gina Spadafori's Pet Connection about distance retrieving and E-Collars. It appears there is a culture of believing that retrievers need correction: they're hard headed and stubborn, and when in drive, in need of correction. From one of Gina's own comments:
But again, if you think you’re getting the attention of a hard-driving, hard-headed field-bred retriever on a mission at 300 yards with anything other than shock from an e-collar … well, you will be giving lots and lots of seminars to all us wimpy chicks who’d love to know how you did it. Because we would if we could.

Then there's Retriverman, who explains he is not a lab person (neither am I) and says:
The American trial Labrador is usually a very hot-blooded animal with lots of spirit and more than a little stubbornness. Some can be scatty, and others are furry lunkers that can’t be controlled without judicious application of the e-collar. A lot of these Labs also lack retrieving instinct and must be force-fetched. (The average working gundog should never need to go through it. It should be a natural retriever.)

GunDog Magazine explains that you should eliminate choices when teaching your puppies to retrieve, and then to make sure it works as best as possible, add an ecollar:

I doubt if there is a successfully field-trialed Labrador retriever in the country nowadays that was not force trained to retrieve. Retriever trialers have learned the stakes are too high to risk having a dog refuse/fail a retrieve in a trial, especially when force retrieving is so reliable.....Fact is that there is little “force” involved. Part of the beauty of force/conditioned training is that again, the method eliminates choices; pup can do only what you want him to do or he cannot move."

The final thought provoking this blog is Patricia McConnell's question in her blog today.
I’m curious if any readers have some advice for me and a friend of mine. She and her husband have a young German Shorthaired Pointer they’d love to train to hunt, but are having problems finding any professional trainers who don’t use ear pinches, forced retrieves and a basic attitude of “Do it because I say so!” This is not the first time I’ve been asked about positive trainers in this field, whether for retrievers or pointers, and I haven’t had a lot of luck finding professionals who take dogs in and train them using primarily positive methods. If you know the world of hunting dogs, you know that there is a long history of “positive punishment” and dominance-based training in the field, perhaps more so than any other, at least in my experience.

Why is this? Why has the culture of other dog sports changed while it seems that sports involving retrievers lag behind? Or is this just my very, very limited glimpse of the situation? Newer sports, like Rally-O, do not allow physical corrections and encourage communication between handlers and dogs. Agility is run off leash, which makes training-tool based corrections hard, and in AKC rules, pinch, choke, and ecollars aren't even allowed on the grounds. More people working their dogs are using prey drive to train for schutzhund, instead of defensive drive brought on by fear. And obviously canine freestyle is too ridiculous to take seriously enough to use force. So why do some sports- and some breeds?- remain stuck in the ecollar era?

Addendum: I realized that in my hurry to go to bed last night, I missed another comparison. I think that some of the links I made are good: SplashDogs to freestyle, agility, etc- these are dog sports. But I forgot the other half of the analogy: field work is not always a sport (though it is sometimes- Gina Spafadori was talking about trials not hunting)- it is work. So a better comparison might be to dogs doing stock work, or herding. Herding and stock dog people discuss teaching a focus on the handler. They discuss using a "line" which sounds an awful lot like a leash, and having it nearby if necessary. One trainer, from the stockdog website, talks about starting puppies right, just like from Gun Dog magazine, and not giving the pups too many choices. Her methods are a little different:
Next the dog must learn to respond to me while working. With dogs that don't much care what I say or want I will gradually escalate my attention getting techniques until the dog notices and finally responds to me. First I will yell. Then I will throw something at the dog (a glove or my hat or a small branch). If this doesn't work I will put the dog on a line and use the line to stop the dog and get its attention while it is working. In this case I usually end up teaching the dog "lie down" instead of "get back". It doesn't matter which command or action the dog learns first. The important thing is to teach the dog to respond to the trainer while working the sheep. Once they learn that the rest is relatively easy.
It's true, she might throw her hat, which is, in my language, a "gift from god." I've been known to do the same. It's just enough to distract the dog from whatever undesired behavior he's doing and and have him look around to where the handler can go "oh, back here, bud, let's do something constructive." It's not a negative- it's just a distraction that usually is enough. And if it's not enough, the trainer rights, she limits the dogs choices.

I don't know enough about herding or fieldwork to keep on in this vein, but it's what I've noticed, and apparently Patricia McConnell has noticed it, too. Oh, to have a thought on the same wavelength as a guru! Does that count as a claim to fame? I'm blushing. Anyway, it's thought provoking for me, and I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The World's Biggest Water Bowl

... or Mac has no drive.

I have always wanted to try Splash Dogs or Dock Diving with my dog. Basically, the you get your dog revved up about a toy, and the dog leaps into a (usually artificial) pool. The dog is scored by the length of the jump. This just seemed like a perfect thing for me and Mac to do together- Mac really only gets totally excited about his toy when he's near water. And when he gets excited about he toy, he gets really really excited. Here's an example:


He throws himself at his toys, backs into the water, and panics when he can't find the toy.

So today, I happened to have the day off. I went to the Solano County Fair last night and met my friend M who had just done some runs with her foster dog Tuile. She told me I could bring Mac back today- Bingo! Everyone warned me that Mac might not jump off the dock and that he could go off the ramp that the dogs use to get out of the pool instead. No problem. I was so excited last night I could barely sleep.

Yeah, it didn't go so well. Mac had a great time, but it wasn't Mac's sport. There were about 35 dogs there, the majority of them barking and carrying on about their toys and the pool. Mac was cool ole man, which of course made me proud. He ignored them and was very good, paying attention to me. He made some human friends, leaping into any available lap. But he did not care one bit about his toy. I couldn't get him to look at it.

When we finally got to his turn at the pool, I led him up the ramp. He started drinking out of the pool. Mac likes water a lot. He likes to swim in it, but I guess he likes to drink it even more. So I ran him up to the dock. He sniffed and sniffed because it smelled like dogs. Dogs kept barking and he kept sniffing. I waved his ball in front of him for a minute and then threw it in the pool. He crouhed on the edge of the pool clung to the end. I don't think he'll ever know if he wanted to drink some more or if he wanted to jump in. He thought about it, but by the time I thought he'd go in, they asked me to pull him off. We tried a second time, and Mac tried to drain the pool. He was soooooo thirsty and the pool tasted sooooooo good.

I know Mac is no high-drive-bulldog the fanciers rave about. He's Mac. It's what I like about him. But he really does get into his toy, and almost nothing can stop him when he's like that. Once he gets the toy he gets to the point where I can't even get it away from them (call that what you will). But with all of the stimulation going on, Mac semi-shuts down. He can pay attention to me, and ignore the other dogs (unless they get too close). But he can't also lose his inhibitions enough to go cccrrrrazzzzzyyyy about his toy. He's not that into his toy. He is into momma, he's into food, but he's not into toy. And he's not into momma or food in a drivey kind of way. He can get in that drive mode when we're alone and he can let go, but not in front of a bunch of screaming dogs, in a strange place. It's just not mac.

At least he got to drink some nasty overchlorinated water. Ew.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ending BSL: Big Picture vs DNA

The blogosphere/Twitterosphere (?) is alive with posts saying DNA tests may end BSL. The study came out from Victoria Voith (the summary is in that second link, from Best Friends), and basically says we suck at visual breed identification. I totally agree with this. It's impossible to *know* what's "in" a dog. I make this argument all the time- to people adopting puppies: "What's in this dog?" "I can raise him just how I want him." Well, says me, "I have no idea what kind of dog he is, I didn't see his parents" (thinking, even if I did, I wouldn't really know...) And, "no, I can't guarantee that 8 week old puppy doesn't have pit bull in him," and "well, you can do your durndest to raise him exactly how you want him, but he's going to have some genetic make up beyond your control, based on his heritage, which I can't really tell you about." And so on.

On the other hand, I'm not sold on DNA being the answer to BSL, either. First, I'm not sold on the DNA tests. Maybe it's because I saw this video awhile ago, and, well, it's convincing. Savvy, a purebred, with known heritage, Am Staff, was DNA tested with less than stellar results:

I looked up the DNA test that was used in this video, and it's apparently not the preferred one. However, none of the DNA tests are flawless. There are two main tests, as far as I can tell: the Wisdom Panel and the Canine Heritage test. The Wisdom Panel claims to have 157 breeds in its database, and used 13,000 dogs to get their markers. The Canine Heritage test has 100 breeds, and both claim over 90% accuracy. The authors of this article had the same concerns that I did, so they submitted the DNA of their two dogs to Wisdom, Canine Heritage and another company with 3 different results. Obviously not scientific, but not convincing proof.

So, I agree with some of the pro-DNA'ers: I picked up the term "Oakland Brown Dog" years ago, and have incorporated "purebred mutt" into my vocabulary. I use these terms to describe dogs of unknown heritage and limited breed-identifiablity. I find this a useful jumping off point to talk to adopters. I don't think it's a stopping point, though- breed characteristics have their place: it's what we like about purebreds, and what we hate about them. Which is why another reason (besides inaccuracy) that I don't think this is the way to fight BSL.

I don't want people to have to test the DNA of my pit bull to tell me he's a pit bull to say ok, BSL doesn't apply. My pit bull is probably a mix. When strangers ask what kind of dog he is, I describe him as a pit bull mix. I could call him a lab mix, a beagle mix, etc- because I really don't know, and probably, one of those things is accurate. But mostly he's a pit bull (walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc.) I see the argument: sure, you can't properly visually ID a pit bull. According to DNA, this dog is actually a border collie/schnauzer/chihuahua, so BSL is bunk. That may save my dog, and it *may* show politicians that BSL is wrong, but I doubt it. I think a better approach is what I write about here all the time: changing politicians and owners mind about dog ownership. This isn't about the dogs, it's about the owners. It's not about whether the dog who bit a person or killed livestock is a pit bull or a border collie/schnauzer/chihuahua or even a purebred mutt, it's about the decisions the owner made that got the dog in that spot. Let's have Responsible Owner Legislation. Pointing fingers at DNA to end BSL is still talking about the dogs. It's still about breeds, it's still about identification. Forget it. I want to talk about people and stewardship. Educate and penalize for that, not for heritage. Don't even let the conversation go in this direction.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Spent my lunch today with these two goons. Seriously, the nose-diving, rolling-over, jump-spin tricks were to die for. Thanks to Steve for an awesome video. The song grew on me. Many laughs included.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gregory Snyder: Graffiti Lives

Wow. I hit the jackpot when I found this book. I seriously feel like the stars were aligned when I found it in the "Recent Arrivals" in a used section. I had never heard of Gregory Snyder's ethnographic study of New York graff in the post-subway world, but it's like he knew I was coming. Snyder is the academic answer to the fight I've been fighting for years: graffiti is not just a menace to society. By page 5, Synder is discrediting the "broken window" theory:
[The "broken windows theory"] argues that petty crime increases the propensity for more serious criminal activity- and quickly enacted "zero tolerance" policies for many petty crime such as graffiti writing, subway jumping, and vagrancy... it has been critiqued by criminologists for the way in which it provides rhetorical justification for the harsh treatment of the homeless, poor people, petty lawbreakers, and, often enough, people of color... So-called "quality of life" policing quickly becomes a justification for police occupation of poor communities and harsh treatment of the people living in these neighborhoods.
The problem is, Snyder shows, is that graffiti doesn't just exist in poor neighborhoods. One of the main goals of writers is to "get up" where people can see their work: to achieve fame. Their main demographic is not just poor neighborhoods, and needs to be where the buffing (or painting over) isn't rapidly targetted by QofL police. Synder compared high graff concentration neighborhoods to high violent crime neighborhoods and found that there was no correlation. Basically, graffiti does not lead to violent crime:
the "broken windows" theory would predict that the highest concentrations of graffiti would occur in those areas with the highest crime rates, and that areas with low rates of violent crime, like downtown Manhattan, should be relatively graffiti free. However, nearly the opposite is true.

So Synder is academic, and thorough on the big issues. He's also got a great thesis: he really thinks that graff can be a starting point to a "real" career. Rather than leading kids to a life of crime, he thinks that graffiti artists should be recognized as future contributers to society. He developed a black book to help get to know artists (I just found it on flickr). He wrote a bunch of words on pages of a blank black book, and as he got to know writers, asked them to pick pages to fill in- Vandal, Respect, Family, etc. This was his way into the subculture- he was a grad student, not a writer- and by getting to know enough writers, he spent enough time with these guys to believe that they can/are/will be other things besides criminals- whether "petty" criminals- graffiti artists- or violent criminals like the theory predicts.

This isn't just another graff book (I've got lots of those). The pictures aren't very exciting, and it's not a history that makes you nostalgic. It's the study those of us who think too much and love street art have always wanted to write. And to read. You want to find this book. And read it thoroughly and carefully.

Why I Voted Against Prop 2

It's true: I voted against Prop 2 in November. Prop 2 requires that "hens, sows and veal calves be given enough room to stand up, lie down, turn around and fully extend their limbs n banning modern production practices." I didn't broadcast my "no" vote on Prop 2, obviously. I'm a vegetarian animal control officer- I spend my day walking the walk and fighting the fight- why on earth would I subject myself to repeated berating? Well, I'm ready to out myself now, and explain myself.

In no particular order, or a particular order depending on the day, my reasons for voting against Prop 2:

1. The California Proposition system sucks, and in general, propositions are bad law. Robert Elisberg of the Huffington Post (everyone's most reliable news source, I know) writes a great, though tongue in cheek, piece about some of the failings of the proposition system. Here's the nuts and bolts:
The voting public didn't willingly study even thin guidebooks when they were in high school and required to. Instead, with propositions, they turn to watching 30-second TV ads to learn what the laws are about.

Watching 30-second TV ads to learn what a law is about is like reading a fortune cookie and believing that you now understand Eastern Philosophy.

Elisberg continues: "We," the California voting public continue to vote for propositions that support initiatives and then vote against funding these initiatives. This leads to reason 1.a: themacinator is a communist (well, sort of). themacinator believes in the state supporting lots of services. California voters don't seem to agree with themacinator. Who's going to support prop 2 financially? I know, I know, you free market people will say, well, the local businesses! And you've shopped in Oakland lately, right? That's going really well!

Anyway, back to the original Reason #1: Propositions are bad law. I'm not a lawyer or a legislator or any other person qualified to make a law. I probably shouldn't even be voting on them. So now that I've produced the Huffington Post as one good piece of reputable source material, I give you propaganda to do some more research: don't take my word for it, check out Vote No on Everything, which pretty much sums up how I feel. And if you really really think there is some merit in propositions, just remember Prop 8 and historically, Prop 13. Oooh, we're onto #2. Segue!

2. Prop 8 was also on the ballot in 2008. I had a horrible, awful, sinking feeling that Prop 8 was going to pass. Even if none of the other reasons on this list weren't in existence, it pained me to vote for rights for animals when I knew that fundamental human rights were going to be denied to my fellow Californians. I know this sounds messed up- I work in animal welfare. But bottom line, animal welfare is also about human welfare. There's this link that I believe in- we need to have respect for each other, and we don't. How can we respect animals if we deny each other basic human rights? Obviously, this isn't an either/or. Animals AND humans deserve basic rights. But I'm ornery sometimes, and I was pissed. I am pissed. But you will see that other factors are at play.

3. One of these factors is animal rights groups such as HSUS and PETA. Again, I can be ornery, and just the fact that all of the big name AR groups turned out in major support of a lousy California Proposition really turned me off. Again, the fact that this was a proposition was bad enough- why would a big name/big money group throw weight behind it? And why would I support a proposition that was supported by a big name/big money AR group? AR groups stand for most of the things that I stay far far away from. Sure, HSUS lately has started to change their tune on pit bulls, but approximately, oh, 20 years too late. (As recently as 6 months ago, an HSUS representative told a training class for animal law enforcement professionals that I attended that pit bulls are dangerous for children because they may chase and kill small animals.) Check out the awesomely distorted video on the HSUS website promoting "humanely" raised animals- I'm getting ahead of myself- again, if this is the 2 minutes that voters are using to decide on a proposition, I think that we're fooling ourselves. Of course I'm going to pick cutesy wutsey ootsy schmoopsy little piglet sucking on mama. Awwwww. But it's deceptive. Thank goodness HSUS has enough money to put together shiny/deceptive videos for their favorite causes!

Even more awesome, PETA promised that a "yes" vote would terminate cruelty! Wow!!! I almost regret my "no" vote, except then I'd be out of a job. I mean, one little vote and Cruelty, Over? Oh, wait, there's fine print. PETA doesn't want us to eat animals at all, so I guess a yes vote didn't end ALL cruelty. Shoot. Another awesome video- are we going to eat those cute dogs they're holding? It's old news about PETA and why I steer clear, but really- I can't help it. It's hard for me to support something so clearly supported by my enemies. There's some cliche about that.

4. I guess I'm not really a communist (you didn't believe that, did you?), because I think people should make their own informed decisions about where/what they eat, drink, read, buy, etc. I chose to be a vegetarian. I haven't eaten meat in almost a decade, and red meat in almost 15 years. I don't think that's the right choice for everyone. But it's a conscious choice for me. I hate dogma of all kinds, and really, preaching vegan-ism is a dogma. It's just not right for everyone. There is no humane meat (see the next item- you're getting the picture, right? these are all related...) and this law just kind of makes choices for people. I believe in accurate labeling, I believe in having open options, and I believe in letting people make informed decisions. We *should* have advocacy groups- as much as I am annoyed by PETA and HSUS if they want to put their propaganda/educational materials out there about humanely raised animals out there to encourage more people to buy these products, I think that's awesome. If other groups want to encourage people to shop at farmers markets and local stores, I think that's great. To force people to purchase one type of meat means the industry will produce one type of meat. It means people will stop educating themselves and looking for other, better options.

5. And here we have it; the bottom line; the big Kahuna. It's a myth. Humanely raised meat is not humanely raised, or slaughtered. There's a whole website you can read called, appropriately, The Humane Myth. I'm just guessing that when you picture a "Humanely Raised Cow" you think of something like your Great Aunt Jo with her goat with a kid out on the back acre. Something like this:


Yeah, factory farms don't look like that. "Humane" farms don't look like that, either. (Ok, that's not really a farm at all. That's a stray goat we housed at a barn for awhile. I loved him.) What does "cage-free" actually mean? Check out this picture and article from the New York Times in 2007. The chickens aren't in cages, but they sure are packed in there. If you've ever dealt with chickens in bulk, you know that they're very very dirty creatures. They poop a lot. The chickens in that picture aren't litter box trained. So it doesn't surprise me to read
The university decided that its current source of eggs, which uses a cage system, had the edge in food safety.
The article also states that these chickens will never peck, and that "these are not free-roaming chickens living out in a pasture." Buyer beware! What exactly *is* humane?

For some definitions of "humane" terms, check out Stop Smithfield Foods. It's eye opening. The pictures are telling- it may be better, but it's not good. This goes back to my last item: people need to be able to make choices. Sure, we *should* all eat humanely raised meat. But we should all eat REALLY humanely raised meat, and there should be a federally imposed and enforced standard, enacted by lawmakers and agreed to by the industry (as opposed enacted by the uneducated citizens of California, who were pressured by Animal Rights groups.)

I also believe animal rights groups dropped the ball on this. Did they really think that this was humane? Those cage free chickens? Sure, the chickens can turn around. Awesome. I would confiscate chickens in those conditions. Those cows sure look like a health hazard. And check out how happy Happy Cows are, thanks to Prop 2. Even animal rights activists are calling the bluff: humane certifications are meaningless. And now Prop 2 has won. We've bought the goods, and the meat industry can sell them to us for even more money because the animals are So Happy! Seems bass akwards to be, but, hey, I voted no.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Go Home, Gio

I had heard enough in the 2nd tonight, but it got worse. I turned on the A's game for a second, and two pitches later, Gio Gonzalez gave up a grand slam. That was 7 runs in less than 2 complete innings. I turned it off. I turned it back on a minute ago to find out that 11 runs were charged to Gio in less than 3 innings. WHY WHY WHY? I almost went to the game tonight. Plans changed, but when I realized Gio was pitching, I was relieved that we didn't go. It's that bad- when Gio pitches I don't want to go, and I almost never listen when he's pitching. His stats kind of speak for him- why do the A's keep bringing him back, and why do they keep putting him in games? It's not like they can afford to keep putting in a guaranteed loss.

The bets predicted a shelling for Gio. Maybe the A's should start reading what the bookies are saying.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Follow Up

I know I said I was done with dog posts for awhile, but my twitter has been bouncing with good dog blogs. I just have to share some. Consider it herding dog blogs. Ha. Ha.

Dr Sophia Yin on dominance and the man who won't be mentioned. Times when management is more appropriate than behavior mod (very relavent to my last post). Patricia McConnell also posted about this recently.

What I DO Believe

The last few posts I feel like Negative Nelly. "I hate this," "This dude's a douche," etc. So what DOES themacinator believe about dog training? (And don't worry other readers... I know, back to my vast reading population!... I will get back to other topics soon. Got a good graff review coming up.)

Here is one trainer I really like: Suzanne Clothier of Flying Dog Press. Here's one of her awesome articles on collars/training tools: are they training tools or restraining devices? She asks trainers and dog owners to take themselves past the leash into "Relationship Based Training." I love this. I've read Excel-Erated Learning by Pamela Reid, and I get the learning theory concepts, but for the life of me, I can't explain them or remember the grid of learning theory. (Don't ask- read the book or ask a smarter dog trainer.) But I can remember that training and working with a dog is about relationship. I've popped a dog. My dog wears a prong collar sometimes now, and did for about 5 years. But when we're working together (or even existing), what I believe in is working together. You'll have to login to read her definition of RBT, but it's free, fast and worth it.

I also believe in setting your dog up for success. This means management and knowing your dog. Obviously the dog I know best is Mac so he's good for examples. Mac is an 8 y/o pit (mix?) with unknown heritage and about 7 years with me. I try to set Mac up for success at all times. Sure, I fail him sometimes, and we've failed- he's failed, but I blame myself. I know my dog (see part 2 of above statement), but generally, we do pretty well. Sometimes people call me paranoid, and it's true, my management borders on paranoia, but I want my dog to be a winner in the Game of Life. The cards are stacked against pit bulls, and Mac is not the most stellar pit bull- All Dawg's Chidrens Got Issues- so I want people to see Mac in the best light possible.

I'll start with the obvious. Mac does not go to dog parks. I don't think dogparks are great, and they're especially not great for dogs who don't love other dogs. Here's my favorite article ever about dog parks, by Trish King. My second management tool is the leash. I do use it as a restraining tool. I really think that dogs should be on leash when out of their (fenced) yard. Not everyone likes dogs. Not all dogs like dogs. It's a safety tool. Mac hates cats. If I let him walk next to me off leash, he probably wouldn't go very far. He's kind of like my shadow. But if he saw a cat, I'm just not cool enough. And if there was a naughty dog, sorry, Charlie. Another example of managing my dog and setting my dog up for success is a simple confinement technique: When I'm gone, Mac stays in my room. Yes, all day. Yes, I know, this is cruel and unusual punishment, bordering on torture. However, this keeps him from a variety of things. Obviously, Mac is a dog. He loves the trash. I can't keep him from eating out of the trash if I'm not there to monitor him. What a yummy and disgusting learned behavior he would develop if I let him roam the house while I was gone. Secondly, Mac doesn't bark. I love this about him. I have a noise sensitivity to barking dogs. Probably because I deal with them All Day Long at the shelter. When I get home, I love having a dog who doesn't bark at the door. When Mac is in my room, at the back of the house, he can't see people passing by. He can't even really hear them. He doesn't get a chance to learn barrier frustration and that barking "works" to make people go away. I set us both up for success. Mac takes very long naps. If I break my routine and come home early, sometimes he looks at me in disdain. I have disturbed his slumber.

I know my dog. I know he is a little more iffy at night/twilight. I avoid walking him then, though I do training walks then to boost his confidence, but only when I feel up to it. If I'm just going through the motions, it's not a good time. I know Mac doesn't do that great with small children (gasp! a responsible pit bull owner with a pit bull who doesn't love kids!). When I take him to the park, I make sure it's a Big People park. These are things that come with relationship: I pay attention to what Mac tells me, and I work with him. Then I set him up for success. I have expectations of him. When I ask him to do something I think he can handle, and he doesn't, I reevaluate what I'm asking (unless I'm really in a bad mood. themacinator is human). I love my dog. I am obsessed with my dog. Everyone knows that. But he's a dog, and I believe I have a fair approach with him. Maybe if I keep it up, he'll live forever. That's reasonable, right?

For your trouble, a recent picture of Mac, courtesy of Pfyeh.

Monday, July 13, 2009

On That Note: Dominate This

I have thought about writing this post for about a bajillion years, but every time I go to write it, I think to myself, "Well, themacinator, doesn't EVERYONE know this by now? I mean, really?" And then I feel stupid. Even more stupid because who else calls themselves by their blog name? Yeah.

So, dominance theory is like so 50 years ago. Until Mr I-Can't-Say-His-Name-Makes-A-Billion-Dollars-A-Year-So-He-Can't-Really-Be-A-Dog-Trainer came around and popularized it again.

I'll start with the science. In May, Science Daily put up this short review of an article published by the University of Bristol’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Sciences in the Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research. I mean, could it get better than that (it did- they also mentioned the TV-Trainer-Whose-Name-Shall-Not-Be-Mentioned without mentioning his name!)? Short version: NLIF doesn't do much, and trying to pin everything on dominance and answer aggression with aggression is dangerous. This is why I haven't posted this before: it seems so obvious to me, but I guess it's not. (Another summary of the same article.) There's another short article by Patricia McConnell that talks about science.

Here's another explanation, a little less scientific (and a little less pleasing- the Trainer-I-Won't-Mention's name is mentioned a little more explicitly): dominance is related to pack theory, and pack theory is old fashioned. I love the part about submission vs. dominance: If you've actually seen dogs interact- just stood back and watched- you'll see how little dominating actually takes place. There's a some posturing, a lot of flirting, and even more grovelling. I'll find a video if I can some other time, but look for lip licking, play bowing, flinging onto backs, etc. I dare you to really see one dog "roll" another. Good luck! I'll buy you a beer. There are some other awesome links on that page- highly recommended by this blogger.

This position paper on the usage of dominance theory in behavior mod from the American Veterinarian Society of Animal Behavior is pretty clear cut:
"Overall, the use of dominance theory to understand human-animal interactions leads to an antagonist relationship between owners and their pets. The AVSAB emphasizes that the standard of care for veterinarians specializing in behavior is that dominance theory should not be used as a general guide for behavior modification. Instead, the AVSAB emphasizes that behavior modification and training should focus on reinforcing desirable behaviors, avoiding the reinforcement of undesirable behaviors, and striving to address the underlying emotional state and motivations, including medical and genetic factors, that are driving the undesirable behavior."

Please note the awesome myths section, and the way this brief article spells out the problems with the dominance theory and gives much better alternatives. (Please also note the lack of references to My-Least-Favorite-"Trainer".)

I can find many, many more articles about this. Every day I hear people who should be in the know describe dogs as "dominant." Sometimes this is used as a reason to sign off a dog. The dog may not be adoptable, but I really really hate putting a dog to sleep because it's dominant. Staring at a person does not make a dog dominant. Jumping on him does not make him dominant. Rudeness is not dominance. Even behavior with other dogs that includes "dominance" does not make the dog "dominant." I prefer words like "undersocialized,""low tolerance levels" "high arousal levels," etc. Most of us in the field have seen true dominance aggression once or twice. I am wracking my brain right now to remember the dog I saw last year who really made me think "Wow, is this dominance?" It was just who he was. He was very "doggy" as I remember- an unneutered male, not particularly social, and very into having all resources be his, including whatever humans were in the area. I see a lot of dogs. I don't see a lot of dominance. I don't see any need to dominate the dogs that I see.

I'm going to bed now. Mac's coming on the bed with me. If you don't hear from themacinator for awhile it's because Mac dominated me and I died. Don't call the police, call the Tv-Dog-Trainer-Who-I-Hold-Personally-Responsible-For-This-Crap.

Just What We Need

aka The World is Full of Experts

Running With Dogs recently posted her scores on a "Dog Owner Threat Assessment Guide" created by the fine folks over at Smartdogs. We had a talk today about what a coincidence this was, but I guess it's not that much of a coincidence. We *are* roommates, and we do... share a lot of interests. But it's funny, because I read about this on July 9th over on YesBiscuit and tried to get Tamara Follett to give up her application/contract (she offered it in a comment somewhere above mine). I forgot I asked until Running With Dogs posted- I was not surprised that Follett had not coughed up.

So here's the background: Tamara Follett is an "expert." She is the creator of "Dog-Trax" which purports to solve the "dog bite epidemic" by having a public notification system of where a "dangerous dog" lives. Follett is on target about a couple things: many dog bites happen when fencing is inadequate. I was discussing this with another friend today- the cliche phrase that "good fences make good neighbors" is totally applicable in a responsible dog ownership situation. One part of responsible dog ownership is adequate confinement. I appreciate that Follett breaks this down into manageable pieces. I also agree with her that education is key. I agree with this in most areas- lack of education about vital issues is a societal failure. I taught humane education briefly and it was an eye opener, and totally rewarding. I also think that targeting education is important, as is community policing.

I'm just not sure that if Tamara Follett and I were to sit down, we would agree on much else. Her methods for stopping and preventing dog bites scare me. I've never heard of this BAM method, and really, handing out info on how to stop a lethal dog attack on the Internet, even with a bright yellow caveat, well, it's no good. Hit the dog with a shovel? Awesome. Great. Lovely. Then we get to the "CAT": Canine Threat Assessment Guide. You can probably already guess why Running With Dogs and I liked the Do-Tag, even though it was kind of tongue and cheek: the responsibility falls on the owner. The CTAG is all about the dog. You'll have to open the link yourself, but it's about 1/3 of the way down, under suggestions for Municipal Animal Control. You could argue that some of the factors (# of times "re-homed" (my least favorite word), environmental stressors, etc) are actually about the owners, but the language is all about the dog: "Heightened aggression or excessive behaviors can be exhibited in dogs that are stressed for any reason, including environmental, physical, mental, and hormonal factors."... "1. Consider the “worst-case” scenario when assigning points to a given dog. For example, in determining points for Function, if a dog is primarily a pet but also utilized as a guardian of the home, the points should be 2, for Guardian dog. This is because that, in order to accurately assess a given dog’s potential for attacking, we must consider the worst possible sequence of events and the worst possible reaction from the dog in that situation." And then we get to the dominance part. I'm not sure if you've figured out by now that I hate the dominance crap. I feel another blog coming later tonight.

WHERE IS THE OWNER in all of this? I think this video is telling. This is a National Geographic video of Tamara Follett and her dogs, Caucasian Ovcharka. Follett clearly is a genetic determinist, to large degree. I think the grey area of nature/nurture might be lost on Follett. Additionally, I think the fact that we expect a LOT of our dogs, and ask them to live in a heightened, unnatural situation while still being dogs is also missed. Watch the video. The dogs "get mad."

I'm not sure Follett's containment is adequate. The dogs stick their entire (giant) heads through her fence. She advertises her dogs as "as good as 45 caliber" guns. And yet she is concerned about a dog bite epidemic? I've got a gun epidemic in Oakland we could talk about... She shakes her puppies' noses, to "test aggression," because she wants the 3 week old puppies to naturally display aggression. Most breeders are concerned with socialization, not demonstrations of aggression, even/especially of large guardian breeds. The narrator states that these dogs are naturally aggressive. Perhaps they're missing some socialization? Or they've been improperly socialized? Which gets me back to the labelling of dangerous dogs: Dangerous dog laws should target the owner. Sure, some dogs are inherently dangerous. A lot of dogs are dangerous because their owners have failed them. Their owners set the dogs up by inadequate fencing/containment, inadequate socialization, inadequate understanding of their dog, of their breed. Like the guy in the video, who got a giant, undersocialized, guardian breed, for example. Do we blame the dog if he gets loose and bites someone? Or if he drags the guy into the street and bites someone? Or is that a failure of ownership?

Dangerous dog laws are not perfect. Responsible dog ownership is a work in progress. We need education all around, and we need to educate and penalize dog owners who jeopardize their own dogs and the safety of the community. Or we can just keep blaming the dogs.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Antoine Wilson: The Interloper

I'm thinking of adding a category on the blog of "Don't read this book." It's sad, really, but true. The premise of Antoine Wilson's "The Interloper" is nice, but the book is really not that nice. But again, I'm trying to read all of my books, and I'm feeling guilty because I bought 3 books at Diesel last week, so I had a lapse in my resolve not to be compulsive about finishing bad books. So I Read The Whole Thing even though it sucked. Dad gives me books, and we go through them- books he likes and books we think I'll like. I try to only take the books he thinks are good (I'm a bad giver- I only give away books I don't like...) but somehow I keep getting dogs. Not dog-dogs, but dogs like they suck, dogs. Anyway.

Protagonist/narrator Owen's wife's brother dies. It ruins their marriage. Owen resolves to fix their marriage by creating an elaborate ruse that somehow he is convinced will bring his wife back to him. He (by way of Antoine Wilson) doesn't even convince the dear reader that this ruse is real, let alone going to bring Owen's wife back, so the whole thing is a little... shaky. The characters are all a little shaky and odd and don't fit together well. Why did Owen marry his wife to begin with? Why did Owen's parents marry each other? What town does this take place in- somewhere in the OC, it seems like, but it's not quite clear. And is Owen some kind of autistic person? Or a sociopath? Yeah, skip this one, too. Sorry to keep reviewing books that suck, but... I'm working on finding dear themacinator readers a better one. I promise.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Denied Michael Jackson Post

I said on flickr that this picture was all I was going to say about Michael Jackson.

this is all i have to say about

But I lied. This article has been circulating on twitter faster than a speeding bullet, and more often, too. (I've actually never seen a speeding bullet circulate, so that's not saying much, I guess.) The article really has me kind of weirded out, as does the excessive "ReTweeting" of the article. I guess this is one of the weird things about twitter- because of the size limits of the messages you can send, the "tweets" are sent out of context. I can retweet an article or link or post without any context. Does posting an article mean I support it? Hate it? Think it's bizarre? The amount of retweeting this article makes me think people like it. Basically, the article is short, and you should read it yourself, but the take home message by the author Earl Ofari Hutchinson is that Michael Jackson was not a child molester, and that continuing to call him that is a disservice. The public only can do this because there was no trial- MJ settled out of court, and people hold the settlement as proof of guilt: "The settlement under extreme duress must not sully his name and place as an honored American icon. The myth of Jackson as child molester must finally be buried."

The article is from Black Politics on the Web, which is a site I had never heard of before, but claims to be "online community featuring political news & information geared towards the African-American community." I read this article as essentially apologist and strange. I never follow the ins and outs of celebrity hijinks, but really, this is it?

You can guess where I'm going next: a Racialicious article by Joseph Shahadi that takes a much more sincere look at the man and the legend, and the pedophilia. Again, you should read the article (it's a little longer) but here's a peak: "Most importantly, Michael Jackson’s name had become synonymous with child sexual abuse. He paid out millions to the families of boys who’d accused him of molestation. And, while he was acquitted, that was not a definitive vote of confidence in Jackson’s innocence." There we go- less apology, more subtext. A deeper look:

"I can't let that discomfort, or even my own nostalgia and love of his music completely overshadow my conviction that we should be talking about the sexual abuse of children when we talk about Michael Jackson. If we excuse his behavior–sleeping with young boys (which he described as “a beautiful thing”, giving them alcohol, presenting himself as their peer etc.–then we are handing a defense to men who behave similarly and that is not acceptable to me.


Michael Jackson was both an iconic star and a pedophile, and these identities do not contradict each other."

And I can't sit here and watch people mindlessly re-tweet ridiculous, simplistic articles that hide disturbing aspects of a legend. It's awesome to revere Michael Jackson and his music. It's awesome to question things, too.

Always the Last One to the Party

You've probably seen this, if you're in the Oakland loop, but if you've followed my blog for even a week, you know I'm always a little late.

This video is hilarious in a Borat way- totally offensive, and totally hilarious. Only I hated Borat and I love this. Maybe because Borat was racist and awful and this just... disses Oakland. I can take it. Plus, it totally also hates on Mission hipsters at the end, which makes it all worth it. That and the green and gold lettering. Sick.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

An Animal Shelter Calendar You Can Count On

February 14th, Valentine's Day: People seeking to adopt pets as gifts for their new boy/girlfriends or (less often) for their partners/husbands/wives. Pets do not make good gifts, especially as suprises. (Interestingly, while researching this blog, has changed their position and does NOT think that pets as gifts is such a bad experience. They quote a study that says that pets given as gifts are less likely to be relinquished. This is not my experience.

April 1st - November 1st (approximately): Kitten season. This is one of my favorite topics. It's also one of my least favorite topics. I hate kitten season. I cannot mention kitten season without stating that I hate kitten season. Part of my hatred for this time of year is mitigated by the fact that it overlaps with baseball season. How else would I survive without the distraction of baseball? I'm listening to the A's game as I type (though they're getting soundly thumped by the Red Sox, of course.) But it's awful to get to the point where you hate kittens. How can anyone hate kittens, you may ask, if you're not in animal welfare? Well, you live through enough of these kitten seasons, and you might understand. You might not, but scrape enough sloppy, hardened kitten poop off of walls, and see the unbelievable numbers of kittens coming in every day, from 1 day old on up, and I dare you not to resent kittens, at the very least. Obviously, it's not the kittens' fault. But it's easy to forget that.

Easter (date varies): The days after Easter, and sometimes up to a month after Easter means bunnies and chicks/chickens/roosters. You would think we would have evolved past bunnies and chicks in Easter Baskets, but no. My mom reports that they used to be in window displays, but I'm lucky enough to have missed this. One day this year, every night drop box was full of white bunnies and juvenile chickens. I hope I don't have to remind people not to use real live animals in Easter baskets. Seriously. Chocolate tastes better, anyway. Use Peeps if you have to.

July 4th: Fireworks start early in Oakland- like the end of June- but they climax July 3-July 5th. I will never quite understand why people haven't figured it out that their dogs WILL get out during fireworks, but they haven't. One year, when I worked in a shelter on the coast, we literally ran out of room to such an extent that we had dogs stacked in crates at the front counter and dogs tied to the desks. At least most of the dogs there got reclaimed. Some were not so lucky to even make it to the shelter. People go out of town and leave their freaked out dogs in their backyards and then can't figure out why their dogs aren't home when they get back. Just in case: keep your dog safe next year or if fireworks are still going on in your neighborhood (like they are here).

December 25th, Christmas
: see Valentine's Day

365 Days a Year: Days the shelter is closed (i.e. holidays, furlough days, etc). People banging on the door. People tying animals to the front gate or otherwise disposing of them (throwing them over fences, leaving them at the front door like they'll stay there- cats, chickens, bunnies, etc). People leaving irate messages. People showing up 3 hours early the next day and demanding service. People holding employees responsible. People leaving flaming piles of poop on the door (ok I made that one up...)

Saturday, July 04, 2009


It's really hard not to laugh when reading 78 Photography Rules for Complete Idiots.

An awesome article about how health care reform happens and can happen here by Atul Gawande.

And an interesting factoid (totally newsworthy): the most used camera on flickr is the iphone.

The 4th of July, themacinator Style

70 Years Ago

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Nate Blakeslee: Tulia

When you live in a politically correct metropolitan area by the coast and you wear custom-fitted rose colored glasses, it's really easy to forget that Bum Fuck Nowhere still exists in this country. I try so hard to pretend that W. was an abberration, that the US under his reign was a bizarre bad dream, and that his warm up in Texas was out-of-sight-out-of-mind.

Yeah, it's easy living in la-la-land, but not particularly enlightening. In the late 1990s, an "undercover" cop busted 50 people in a tiny town of less than 5k people in the Texas panhandle for dealing coke. This "cop" was white and the alleged dealers were black. Most of them had a history of drug use of some kind, but few had actually used coke (crack was the black drug of choice in Tulia) and the cop had no proof on a single one of his busts. The black men and women were literally rounded up at the crack of dawn swat-style, while they were all in their pajamas. Tellingly, not one of them was found with drugs at their houses or on their persons. They were all sentenced to decades or hundreds of years in prison. On the word of one REALLY corrupt cop with a history of skipping town, theft, wife battery, etc. I'm not saying shit doesn't happen in Oakland (Oscar Grant was killed here) and that there isn't rampant corruption in places outside of BFE, but Nate Blakeslee makes a solid case for a really messed up situation.

This book is amazing. As I was about 30 pages from finishing it, I heard this amazing and relevant Marlena Shaw song on KALX. I highly reccommend listening to it while you read- Shaw demands that legislators do something about the ghetto. She's right- how are you going to pick which child to feed? And how to fight when the system is so much bigger than you, and the sherrifs and the judges and the lawyers aren't even going to give you a second look, when the truth is on your side?

Luckily, the story in Tulia has a happy ending, thanks to some dedicated pro-bono lawyers and national media attention. (All of this gave me a little squirmy feeling inside- the big PC, up-to-date, educated folks coming in to enlighten the natives- but at least it had the desired result? Haven't made up my mind on that. Jury's still out...)


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Prude, Part 3

I have mentioned before that I'm a prude. Well, apparently, even cartoons are too much for me.

I post pictures and participate in a flickr group called guesswheresf. It's just what it sounds like- a whole bunch of random pictures of places in San Francisco posted without their actual location information. Then other flickr users guess where the shots were taken. It's very esoteric, dorky, and fun.

Recently I posted this picture that I found of sgraffito (something carved in cement) that I thought was a picture of Homer Simpson as devil. I mean, it has a tail.

devilish homer

Almost immediately, someone commented (without guessing his location) that Homer actually looked more like a sperm. I shuddered, but forgot about it. Until today, when someone else posted the link to this video. That is, in fact, Homer-as-sperm, apparently from season 3. Ew, ew, ew.

Coming When Called

All of us who deal with dogs in a semi-educated way know that the cardinal rules of recall do not include whacking a dog when you're trying to him/her to come. There are a lot of great ways to teach recall, but bottom line, it's about making it FUN for the dog to come to you, not awful, dreadful, and full of fear of being hit.

But I had a realization today when a small dog got out of his house and charged at Mac during our walk. This small dog always barks at Mac through his door when we walk by his house- I alternate routes, so it's maybe every other day or every third day. Today was the first time I've ever seen him. He was a pure bred Oakland Small Dog- kind of a chihuahua terrier thing, white and brown and he made a bee-line for Mac, barking and growling. Mac did his normal "I see a stray dog and I don't like him but I'm too spechul too know what to do with him" thing- he postured like a mad man while I kicked at the small dog helplessly in my flip flops (one flew off) and a bunch of bikers stood by watching (and laughing, I'm sure). A woman came out screaming at her dog to come, which of course he ignored, and when she got close, she made a VERY serious gesture like she was going to smack him with an open hand. Her hand loomed very large to me, and I'm sure even larger to the smallish dog. She wasn't close enough to hit him, but close enough the dog cowered.

This is where my "aha" moment came- Although the woman didn't hit the dog, hitting the dog worked for her- it stopped the dog from running, and she was able to pick up her dog. She didn't achieve a recall, exactly, but she achieved her goal: she caught her dog. Maybe this is why so many people think that scolding, yelling at, hitting their dog or otherwise using a negative works to get their dogs to come: owner does something negative/abusive and the dog acts in a fearful way which causes them to STOP what they're doing, i.e: run. This allows the slow human to catch up with fast dog.

I am not advocating this, just walking through something that (also being a slow human) I just realized today. Perhaps a sad truth that trainers teaching recall need to acknowledge when looking at re-training humans.

On a positive note, when the whole incident was done (3.5 seconds later) the bikers told me I had a good looking dog. I pulled together a shard of dignity, found my errant flip flop, and said "thanks."