27 December 2014

Solely instinct? Wrong.

     I sometimes meet people who don't believe that  an animal can feel any emotion other than fear. They don't believe that an animal can think, or reason, or dream.They don't believe that animals really have lives and thoughts and worlds of their own.

    This is a hangover from the Descartian philosophy. Descarte was convinced-and pontificated-that animals were merely animated machines. They were incapable of emotions like love, hatred, fear, or physiological ones such as hunger, pain, or cold. He demonstrated this to people who disagreed with him (even back then there were enlightened folks) by nailing a living dog to a gate, and then explaining its anguished screams as merely labored exhalations caused by the unnatural, head down position of the dog.

     This philosophy was by no means unusual. Pope Pius number I don't know which made it 'law' that  animals didn't go to heaven because they had no souls. (He was also the pope that made it law that popes were infallible. Talk about circuitous reasoning!)

     This decree was merely the capstone of a belief that was almost universal as well as ancient. Many people believed otherwise, such as the Native Americans and Buddhists, but in general, "advanced' societies bought into the idea that animals could be treated inhumanely.   It was the philosophy that allowed humans to treat animals with the utmost cruelty, neglect, and maltreatment. The horse that was whipped to pull a much too heavy load was not incapable of the work, it was merely trying to escape the (probably less painful) sting of the whip or  just  lazy (interestingly, a undesirable characteristic, such as laziness or meanness, was fully attributed to the animal.  The Puritans would hang a horse along with it's criminal master, punishing it for being an accessory to the crime.) It was no different than the use one gave a tool, like a hammer. Once it broke, dispose of it. (as an aside, I cheer the current Pope, Francis, for stating that animals do too go to heaven.)

   This dogma, if you will, was so pervasive that scientists used it to justify painful experiments on animals AND in some cases, fellow humans. An especially thick headed refusal to use common sense is the practice of circumcising male human infants without benefit of a topical painkiller.

     In the US, at least, things have and continue to change, but slowly. The arena of animal experimentation is an especially contentious one. It's impossible to create a new drug without experimentation, but it is morally, ethically and illegal to test new medical procedures and medications on humans (although there are many humans I think would be ideally suited to experimenting on, just to punish them...but there you are. That's the problem.)

     Scientific experiments sometimes cause death, and courts (not to mention the families of people being experimented on) don't look kindly on such results.

    So they use animals, that have no civil rights.  Scientists and researchers who can't be bothered to properly sedate or anaesthetize an animal justify it by saying that such medication may skew the results. I suspect it truly is because such work costs more money, or puts the researcher in danger of being bitten, or for so many other reasons. Oh dear.   I won't go any further into this realm, I could go for days.

   Researchers merely put scientific jargon in Descartes mouth. They called an animals actions 'instinct', and insisted that animals were wholly instinctive animals. The mothering of a baby, feeding it, teaching it to hunt or flee from a predator, establishing a relationship with another herd member-these and other actions were merely instinctive acts. The animal didn't really love its young. The animal didn't really prefer the company of another herdmember.  They insist that the dog at your feet is incapable of anything but an instinctive drive to coerce you into feeding, grooming and housing it. They don't mention that living with apes is certainly not natural, and dogs shouldn't have such instincts that allow it to do so.

    This not to say that animals aren't instinctive. They most definitely are. Many of their actions ARE due to instinct. But they aren't solely instinctive creatures. 

   Hypocritically, they wholeheartedly agree that a human infant exhibits instincts: the sucking reflex is the very first one to kick in. But infant humans have other instincts less well known, because we no longer live on the African savannah. For instance, the reason babies used to be slapped upon birth was to get it to breathe. Somewhere in our past, we had an aquatic lifestyle, because infants instinctively don't breathe when they first exit the birth canal.  Some cultures take advantage of this by having women give birth in water, depending on the infant to hold its breath until it is brought to the waters surface to take a deep breath. In this same vein, infant humans also instinctively swim, and retain that ability to swim, even underwater, until the age of six months or so.
    Yet no one claims that human infants, creatures that really DO operate solely on instinct for several months, don't 'feel emotions'.

   I guess they also believe that humans are somehow not animals.

   You and I know differently. You know that animals think, reason, feel. I know this because you wouldn't be reading a blog about an animal you're crazy about.

   You know your horse has the same gamut of emotion and feelings you do. That's not to say that horses think the same way you do. No, a horse thinks like a horse. He values horse things.

The sin that animal behaviorists were taught for years to avoid was that of 'anthropomorphizing'. To anthropomorphize was to 'attribute human values to the actions or reactions of an animal."
The concept was, animals couldn't be tested to find out if they really thought, emoted, or dreamed, therefore, they did not.  It didn't matter that they were unable or unwilling to learn to speak their study animal's language. The guinea pig couldn't say 'I am hurting', therefore, the scientist attibuted it to the animal being incapable of feeling pain.

    The tests were created, monitored and scored by humans. Thus, they were biased.  Because a mouse can't read the arrow that pointed to the maze exit, it meant the mouse was stupid. Animals refuse to learn their ABC's.  Obviously that means they are stupid.

   Well, that is so much bullshit, too, and you've seen it. No, my cat may not ever wonder where in the world am I going to find the money to feed her. She doesn't think that way. She is incapable of understanding money, or economics, or being paid by someone else to do work, or going to the feed store to purchase food, or paying the utilities so we all can sleep in a nice warm house. None of these things are within her mind, or even her capacity to understand. What she DOES understand is that I am the Filler of the Bowl. What she does understand, and know, is that she must, every time she feels a hunger pang, come and rub up against my leg, or sit and stare at me, until I fill the bowl for her. Where it comes from she doesn't know, or care.
    And she is, too, capable of loving me, without the impetus of hunger to tell me so.

   Researchers who marginalized scientists for anthropomorphizing had, apparently, never  thought that animals were just as capable of doing it to us. They apparently had never loved a pet. They did not want to believe that a dog was capable of caninomorphizing (meaning, attributing canid values to a human). Yet it was in front of their very eyes. Conducting an experiment to conclude that a dog is most definitely capable of attributing canine values to a human is easy to conduct. Have the owner, a stranger to you, give his equally strange to you dog a juicy raw bone, covered with raw meat. Now try to take that bone away from the dog. What happens? You get a snap and a growl if you're lucky, and a full out bite/attack if you're not. Why? Do you want that nasty, raw bone? Hell, no. But the DOG values it, very much so. He knows you want it and will try to take it from him because he is caninomorphizing-attributing HIS canine values (that of the bone) to YOU, the human.

    Why is this not factored into the theorizing that an animal has the full suite of emotions and feelings that we do?

    Because it's inconvenient. 

    Because believing that a dog is in incapable of love, doesn't want to be free to move around where and when he will, makes it easier to do things to it-like keep it chained in the backyard to a tree.

    Because it's easier to think that the monkey in the cage is shrieking because it wants food rather than because it is insane from being caged.

          It makes it easier to put a severe bit in the mouth of a horse rather than try and work with the animal to get it to do what you want. 

    Yes, most animals are incapable of passing tests that an average three year old human can ace.

     Yet the folks who insist animals cannot think do not see the proof that they DO, despite it being right in front of their eyes.

     How 'natural' is it for a cow to live in a barn, and allow a machine to be placed on its milk distended udder? How natural is it for a horse to willingly enter a claustrophobic box that moves? Or to allow a man to put metal in its mouth, get on its back and ask it to chase a cow? How natural is it for a dog to allow itself to be dressed in dolly clothes and carried about in a purse?

    It's not. But they allow it. Only by being able to think, and reason, and learn that such actions, while odd, don't hurt it, and usually are followed by other, nicer things like eating, petting, etc. And most of our companion animals actually do things that are unnatural because they LIKE it. I know horses that adore jumping. I know dogs who would rather go for a ride in the car than eat. My neighbor had a chicken that was raised by ducks, and believed it was a duck, and couldn't understand how it just wasn't able to float atop the water.

    To the researchers who insist animals cannot think, reason or emote, I give this challenge. Lets see a more balanced and unbiased experiment.

    Let's have the researcher go out onto the prairie with a domesticated horse. Somewhere in the vastness is a body of water. All about him is grassland-no trees, no rocks, not a bit of civilization. It's high summer or deep winter.

    We want the researcher in the exact same condition as the horses. Naked. Shoeless. Carrying nothing-no bottles of water, no food, no tools, no weapons,  no shelter. He is in the exact same condition he was in at birth.
    To be a true scientist, in order to truly dismiss the concept that animals can't think, he must be exactly the same physical condition as the horses. No, he cannot ride the horse. No he cannot kill the horse and eat it.  No, he must subject himself to the exact same conditions the horse is in, in order to truly see who is intelligent, who can think and make decisions.

   Leave the man and the horse out there for two weeks.

   Who do you think is going to survive?


21 December 2014

Dubious accomplishments and unearned fame

     I don't have a competitive bone in my body.

     Even as a kid, if someone taunted me with "I'm better than you are.", I shrugged it off with a 'eh, whatever'.

    So I've never been involved in competitive sports. I just don't see the point of grownups chasing after a ball. Individual sports, i.e. downhill skiing, or running marathons, or just about anything done on the back of a horse, yes, I get that. I do understand the desire to improve one's own score, or performance, etc. I do understand competing against one's self, against the body you were born with.

    I find it reprehensible that football/baseball/basketball players get paid MILLIONS of dollars to run about in tight fitting(in the case of football players only) (ooh la la.....!) uniforms, chasing a ball, and thousands of scientists who actually provide a service to the betterment of humanity get nothing.

    Most of that is because men rule the world. They really do. There's a T shirt out there that said, "Imagine a world without men. A bunch of fat, happy women and no crime."

   That's unfair, because I adore men, I prefer their company, and I''m married to one whom I love to a distraction. But it is also only fair that I do say it, because men are the competitors. They love their sports. They are the hunters, the chasers, the aggressors, the CEO's who think it's just fine and dandy that women are paid much less than men for the same job. Men start wars. They die in them, but millions of women and children die, too.

   But I digress. No matter if I like it or not, professional gladiators get paid millions. I must admit, too, that when I watch a pro football game, when a team is hot, it's because they're working as a team, and stars who excel at what they do. Football is a lot like war, and I understand the tactics, the strategy, and I do like to see a team coalesce and work as one unit. But actually play football? I once was forced into a game of touch football. Someone very stupidly threw the ball at me. I knew I was supposed to catch it and then run with it for the end zone. However, I caught the ball with my nose.  That's the last time I tried THAT shit.

    It's the lower tier of 'competitor' that I just do not get. These are the folks...and again, it's usually men...who are obviously not NFL material, so try to make their fame and fortune with more esoteric, weird shit. By which I mean, things like 'hot dog eating contests'.  Or any 'competition' where the idea is to consume a certain amount or number of food items in a very short amount of time. These folks practise for this. The contest itself pits numbers of  men with a plate piled high with the item, (let's keep with hot dogs) and the man with the stop watch. Ready, set, go-and the competitors start gobbling as fast as they can. Some even have helpers, shoving the food into the man's mouth. Just the idea of watching such a display of what can only be termed competitive gluttony makes me ill. The time period is fairly short and the winner stands in glory, face and hair full of food particles, joyously proclaiming his feat. He's eaten sixty hot dogs in two minutes flat. Woo hoo. The rule is, too, that he must keep it down. No fair going and upchucking afterwards.

    I don't get this. What, precisely, have they accomplished? The demonstration that they can ingest an obscene number of hot dogs without chewing? That they can keep that many hot dogs in their stomach? Pfft. The Native Americans, in the 1800's, were known to being able to eat five pounds of meat in a sitting. But they, one, lived a life where they didn't routinely eat every single day,  two, had chased down and killed the bison themselves, three, weren't racing the clock, and four, didn't boast about their abilities or choose the one who could eat the most as their leader. Food was a means of survival, not a way of gaining notoriety or status.

     Then there are folks who are even lower on the achievement scale. Their claims to fame are vague and vacuous.

     Right now, it's Christmas season, meaning the TV is replete with ads for stuff you don't need to present as Christmas gifts. One of those is the perennial "clapper'. This is a little gadget that you attach to a lamp and then, clap twice and the lamp turns on or off.  You only see this gadget for sale at this time of year. I don't have one, but have seen one in action, and okay, it works, but...big deal. The thing that perplexes me is this year, it's being advertised by a rather fatuous looking fellow who appears as if he's a used vacuum cleaner salesman in real life. He's not manly or masculine. He's obviously not an athlete.  He's dressed in a suit and tie. His claim to fame is, quote  Man's Name, "World Class Clapper" "721 claps per minute". The ad starts with him clapping at a high rate of speed, and then he shows  you that YOU don't need to be a World Class Clapper, no, you only need to clap twice to turn on a lamp.

    Seriously?? I mean, REALLY? There's a contest for being able to clap? Does one actually win something? How does one time that sort of thing? Or count the number of claps? Or, to be brutally honest, why? Did he wake up one day and think, I can't run, I'm too short for basketball, I'd be squished by a linebacker, I think I'll work to become the fastest clapper in the world."

    I bet my boots he's single. And has been for a very long time. (maybe even lives with his mommy). Can you imagine going on a date with the guy? "Hi, I'm a nurse, what do you do for a living?" "Well, I practise clapping." Or worse, "Dad, this is my fiance. He's a world class clapper."
If, girls, you do bring home someone of this sort, be prepared-you're going to have to work two jobs just to keep yourselves fed. I know of no realm of work, I have never seen a help wanted ad looking for someone who can clap that fast. Or at all.

    There's even lower a level of asinine accomplishments.When I was a kid, 'variety shows' were standard 'family fare' on the television. Usually shown on Saturday and Sunday nights, these shows were hangovers from the vaudeville shows of the 30's and 40's. Usually hosted by a washed up and aging former Catskills singer/stand up comedian, a variety show had just that: a variety of acts. Usually there was a 'big dance number', with lots of girls dancing in gaudy costumes; a singer; a comedian or comedy act; and almost always, something from the circus days. This last often consisted of a man or woman doing a magic act (cutting a pretty girl in half), or juggling torches or knives, or (and this I always thought was weird)-a guy spinning plates on sticks. Not just one stick, many sticks. He'd run frenetically back and forth across the stage, balancing dozens of spinning plates on sticks. The act was always accompanied by a fast paced tune that is running in my head as I speak and I've not the faintest idea who composed it.

    Even as a kid, I was less than impressed. I just didn't see the point.  I didn't find it interesting, or amazing, nor did I feel any aspiration to do the guy on the stage one better. I never thought, I can do that. And I wondered, did this guy really take himself seriously? Did he plan out his day: 8 AM. Spin plates. 9 AM sweep up plates. 10 AM. Spin plates. Noon: eat. (on paper plates, I'm betting).

   But apparently, to this day, there are people who DO. In fact, it's gotten worse. These days, You Tube has taken the place of the Sunday night variety show, with even less monetary reward for what are supremely stupid stunts. It's become "Hey, hold my beer and watch this" Night on the Internet. I've seen videos of a guy who stuck a lighted Roman candle firework in his asshole. Guys attempting to jump their quads over burning firepits. One guy had himself videoed with a live tarantula and a snake erupting from his mouth.  (if he comes down with a good case of salmonella, he can only blame himself.)
     There was something just recently in the news about a man who was in a live cockroach eating contest. Oh, no, I am NOT making this up. I don't remotely have that type of imagination. The winner ate an unremembered number of live cockroaches. Just the idea of touching a cockroach makes me retch. This guy ate them alive.
And died. Yup. He vomited up the cockroaches, choked on them and died.

    Which won him the most dubious accomplishment of all: a Darwin Award.

    Winning a Darwin's Award is a true accomplishment. Most Awards are posthumous. You usually only win one by doing something so fundamentally stupid, so incredibly ridiculous,  that you die in the process. You've cleansed the gene pool of your own volition.

    That, in my mind, is an accomplishment of the best sort.

20 December 2014

Maddening computer glitches

     Despite coming from the shop, polished, spiffed up and vaccumed inside and out, with the assurances of the geeks saying she all better, my computer ain't.

   I had the same issue today. Turn on the computer (a desktop PC). It beeps once and hangs up at the mother board logo page. No response to any peripheral (i.e. keyboard, mouse). Nix, nein, nada.  Hard shut down (meaning holding the power button in rather than going through windows 7 shutdown because, well, I don't GET the windows screen.) This is not a good thing, it effs up the 'registry', as I've been told.
     I have to start and stop it several times until it 'catches'. I haven't the damnedest idea what is wrong. I've gone surfing from my tablet and found a  thousand different 'fixes', most of them entailing more expertise than I will ever have, and usually in a lingo I will never understand. For instance, "defragilate the goomber switch, cycle it using PCII protocols, making SURE you don't ground the hevertine and then it should work." What the eff?
For me, a decidedly unsophisticated, non-technological biologist, I think I'd have just as much luck burning incense and sacrificing a goat to the PC demons. 

    (Now I understand the frustration non-horsey people feel when a bunch of us horsepeople start talking in our lovely if exclusive and archaic Horseish)

   What it ultimately means is no one has an effing clue. So I am probably going to have to fix it the  way I learned to fix tanks in the Army: Keep throwing parts at it until it stops being broke. But that gets expensive, especially when it's me, not Sugar, buying the parts.

   Honestly, were I not so insistent on blogging and writing in general, I could do very well with just a tablet. I use my computer mostly for surfing the web on topics that interest me, and email.

   But tablets are murderous on your wrists and eyes if you want to type. I love my sprawling QWERTY keyboard and my big ol monitor. And my muse is a bitch...she's been especially active, perching on my shoulder and murmuring topics that must be blogged immediately, knowing full well that my computer is deadlined.

   OK. I guess I could handwrite it. But my penmanship was never very good, and that was in the days when I had a shoulder that would allow me to write. They're shot now, and I don't write at all, if I can help it. 

   No, I won't use my husband's. It's not MINE, you know?

   It's also frustrating that the thing was in the shop for several days, the geek who worked on it went by a check sheet, and mentioned, "only boots up after several tries."
Well DUH? that's what I took in for in the FIRST place.  And, "runs slowly". Hello? Didn't you try to fix that?

  Oh, man. This is frustrating.
Couple that with the fact that Blogger still refuses you to make comments on this blog.

   So if you comment, please send it to me via email (if you can) and I'll try to respond.

19 December 2014

My computer loses her mind.

I've been offline for about a week.

     My desktop computer had a mental breakdown. It's a 'homebuilt'. I didn't build it, of course, but I had it built by a geek. It's worked fairly well, but we had a tremendous windstorm last week. I was too stupid to not work on it during the storm. Two power surges, both so fast I had absolutely no time to react, blew her mind away.

     So she went to the Geek Squad repair shop. Now she's home, and I"m working to restore all the changes I made to Microsofts idiotic platform. Many aren't so easy to fix...for instance, now I find little check boxes next to desktop icons. What in the eff is this? Microsofts infuriating insistence on changing things for the sole purpose of change is driving me right around the bend. But what else is there? Nothing. The one thing Microsoft does best is make it ever more difficult to do even the smallest of changes. Their corporate mission statement must be, never let the customer think he's anything more than a moron.  Microsoft's idea of intelligent organization...well, it doesn't exist. If Microsoft ran the telephone system, when I wanted to call my dentist to schedule an appointment, I'd have to buy a raffle ticket first. That's where they'd keep the dentist's phone number, under Purchase. (NOT raffle, not dentist, not appointment, not ticket) The two are completely unrelated to each other, but...that's what Microsoft does. Hides even the simplest of functions under arcane names and even more unintelligible procedures.  The "Start" button to shut off one's machine is absolutely the classic example of that.

     While my computer was in the shop, I learned that thousands of  Word Press bloggers had been hacked.
      Go figure. WP spent millions of dollars and a year 'improving' (meaning infantilizing) their blog editing software, pissing off thousands of loyal Pressers, refusing to listen to the thousands of agonized pleas to return to the original, well working software. Yet their vaunted software engineers had neglected to notice a huge opening in their security software, allowing the invasion by hackers in the former Soviet Union. I wonder how they handle security in their offices? A big neon sign says "This way to the WP company safe. Combination is printed in big letters on the door."

     Worse, they're blaming the blogger. "If you hadn't done this update to an arcane and unintelligible program in WP, the hijacking of your blog is your fault." Not once did WP ever make me aware of one, the need for an update, two, the capacity or expertise to accomplish it, and three, the tools with which to do an update. But that means nothing to WP. Once again, WP is dodging responsibility, dismissing their customers (many of whom paid a bunch of money to supposedly secure their own domain) as whiners, and neglecting even the most basic steps of internet security.

     Which is, again, why I'm glad I moved here to Google. Blogger is clunky and doesn't work well. I have to take half a dozen steps just to get my dashboard to appear, and I still cannot figure out why it won't allow people to comment.
But so far it seems to be fairly secure against evil slimemold shitheads from hacking into it.

08 December 2014

My Non Horsey Husband makes a horsey joke

I've been utterly swamped with 'life', so it's been a while since I've blogged.

However, I'm healing a foot and have to be off it for several weeks. This will give me a chance to work on Horse Mad.

The other day, my beloved but utterly horse averse husband made up a joke on the spur of the moment. Here it is:

A farmer insisted on using a draft horse to plow one of his garden plots.

One day a woman stopped to watch. Her young daughter had stars in her eyes at the sight of the horse.

The woman asked the farmer, " can my little girl sit on your horse?"

What do you think the farmer said?

"Sure. Perch 'er on the Percheron."