Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mountain Gorillas Shot to Death

Conflict in the Congo has once again resulted in dead mountain gorillas.

This time another silverback and three females were killed.

Officials believe the gorillas were not poached, but instead got caught up in the crossfire of people illegally using the area for resource mining.

A similar incident occurred last month.

The uptick in gorilla deaths comes on the heals of renewed conflict over resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The last time gorillas were killed with this frequency and number occurred during the height of the region's civil war in the 1990s.

Although peace has come to neighboring Rwanda, where gorilla tourism contributes the third most revenue for the national economy, the DRC's efforts to establish gorilla tourism have been floundering because of political instability. The dead gorillas were part of a family that had been habituated to tourist groups.

An infant was orphaned and is now being cared for by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International shelter. Babies are often killed along with their mothers, however this one was rescued by his older brother, the group's blackback. Blackbacks are adult male gorillas who serve the role of backup protectors of the group. The silverback, the dominant male, monitors the group and its surroundings and alerts its members to danger. When the silverback determines that the group must move away from danger, it is the blackback who remains behind to see to it that all of the other gorillas move along and no one gets left behind.

Mountain gorillas are among the most endangered animals in the world. Only about 350 remain alive. They are a complex, highly intelligent and sensitive species that is besieged by threats on all sides and confined to a dwindling habitat that is in constant danger of being further eroded.

Mountain gorillas are considered a "flagship" species, one that attracts public support in its own right, but whose protection results in the conservation of habitat upon which many other species depend for survival.

Tax deductible donations can be made to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and the International Gorilla Conservation Program. The charitable donations are used to hire armed guards to patrol the habitat of mountain gorillas. Such guards are the only reliable safeguard to the preservation of this species and its habitat.

The DFGFI press release can be read here. This is the BBC coverage.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Some days I feel like this too...

Today is one of those days.

I received 'news' that the terms of student loan changed: a) my unpaid principle balance went up, 2) each payment went up 3 dollars, and c) my first payment is now due one month earlier.

In an effort to not end up working a minimum wage job, which is a depressingly very real possibility, I made an appointment to talk with someone who might be able to help me at least make enough each month to pay back my student loan.

I really hope it pans out.

If it doesn't, I will have to go down to the temp agency where they will look at my resume, scratch their head, make me take a typing test - at which time they will realize I will make a terrible secretary not only because I can't type well enough but also because I don't really have any competence with a 10-key, fax machine, multi-line phone system, or Windoze - and then some days/weeks later I will finally receive a call that they have found a job for me (yippee!!) passing out pre-paid phone cards for minimum wage.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

New(f) Toy

The newf's new toy is the XL size Kong Wubba. The smaller ball on top is hard; the larger one is softer and squeaks. The whole thing is covered with tough nylon fabric and has 4 "legs."

When Max came home from the kennel yesterday he expressed an interest in her new toy. He hasn't played with a toy since June 23, 2006 - the day before Her Royal Newfsance came to live with us - so when he sniffed and mouthed this new toy we thought maybe he would make a play for it, and he did, but she shot him the usual "oh no you don't!" stance and ended that all too quickly. Below is the shot I got of him trying momentarily to defend his stake in the toy.

His renewed interest in toys was short-lived. This was Max's ultimate response to the newf toy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Yuckima Report

All things considered, the whirlwind job/house scouting adventure was a big success.

First there's the time spent with family. I got to love on my little nephew so much. He's easy to love because he's such a good baby. He's 4 months old and rarely fusses. Most of the time he's smiling; he's certainly got the coy grin down. He smiles out of half of his mouth Elvis style, tosses his head back, and then looks away a bit and then smiles all over. We had meals together, went house shopping, looked at photos and even had a talk about religion of all things. She wanted to know more about Islam, and since I took a class on it in college and have traveled in a muslim culture, I gave her a mini-lecture that she seemed to find enlightening.

Then there's the fun of looking at houses and the information gained about what's available at what price. On the lower end of range there are smallish houses in older neighborhoods that would be fantastic to walk around in. In other words, the yard is fantastic and so is the neighborhood. But then the house is invariably a disaster that is not at all worth renovating. Or, you could get a house that needs less work, but still all new flooring, kitchen counters, repainting, AND is in a neighborhood that is not at all worth walking around in. The next step up is the set of houses constructed within the last ten years that invariably lack a yard and need cosmetic work like interior repainting. In some cases all you get is a dirt hill that you'd never be able to grow anything on, and, at the first downpour would be left with nothing but mud at your back door. If you can live without a yard, then you'll have to accept walking on streets without trees or mature vegetation. Blech. Cookie cutter subdivision hell. Then, the next step up are houses that need no work but are small. They are in good locations as far as tree lined-streets go and many have yards. These go fast; no surprise there. The next step up are the houses at the peak of our range - brand new and roomy with all the bells and whistles. These are in developments that have yards with trees planted but you have to drive a healthy distance to get in to town.

Finally, I got to meet new people and have some leads on who to talk to about finding employment.

Naturally, guess what was in the mailbox when we got home? The payment stubs for my student loan. The first $200 payment is due in September.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hardly a day goes by...

... without thinking about DNA. I still get a laugh out of the local "science" columnist's lead for a story about genetics.

This morning I checked out what Nanook and Pooka, two adorable Newfs, were up to. Evidently they dug up some dirt on Nike's history with promoting dog fighting. So disgusting.

Anyhow, this post really is going to be about genetics! I promise.

So, Nanook and Pooka are so cute and Katy is a wonderful dog, and I could imagine us living in the country ... gulp... outside of Yuckima. If that comes to pass, you'd better believe I will be lobbying for another Newf! In order to get a Newf you've got to work with a breeder at least a year in advance because puppies get reserved before they are born. There is often a waiting list and you may have to wait for the next litter. Next time we get a Newf I'd like to get a classically big and hairy one. Katy is slender and shorter coated.

Anyhow, in the effort to locate Newf dealers in the PNW I stumbled on the Columbia River Newf Club. Their page contained lots of links including one of which led me to a very well done series of articles about genetics to help a lay audience understand what chromosomes are, where they're located, and how they work.

The articles are written by Mark Martin, a Ph.D. molecular biologist who uses Newfs to illustrate how mutations and dominant/recessive genes work.

The articles, and especially the illustrations, are delightful. Check them out! Seriously good (and cute). I love the ones explaining mutations. The beer analogy is wonderful for explaining phenocopy mutation.

If I were a high school science teacher teaching life science, I would certainly introduce genetics through Newfys. It would be way more fun and relevant than learning about pea genetics. Kids these days are a lot more likely to own a dog than grow peas.

Speaking of dog ownership - Her Royal Newfsance just climbed up on the other couch cushion to sit with me. I really don't know why she bothers. She never stays long enough to make it worthwhile. Right now she's got her back end curled up on the couch with her front paws standing on the floor. She does this sort of half sit/half lie all the time. Cracks me up.

Friday, July 20, 2007


This afternoon I had planned on getting my WA license at the DMV but decided against it based on how packed the waiting area was. Having only my iPod with me I wasn't sure how I'd pass the hours of waiting. Last time I was at the DMV with Mr. Sleyed for his license we were there a long, long time.

So I came back home and went shopping again - for good deals on a house and a job for me. I'm not optimistic about either one. If I am lucky, I'll get the research analyst job I applied for. The pay and responsibilities are commensurate with what someone with a PhD should get. If I am less lucky, but still lucky, I might be able to convince someone to let me do secretarial things (blech) or practice my therapy skills... for a grand total of 32 thou a year. That's terrible pay.

The recurrent problems with me finding employment outside of academia in this area?

1) People see I have a degree in psychology and assume I am qualified to be a counselor. Those in mental health know this isn't the case.

2) People are reluctant to hire a PhD for a job that only requires a BA. They may figure the PhD won't stick around, would require too much money, or I suppose create insecurity for those who don't have that level of education. I think those are all justified worries, but would you really take a lesser candidate simply because you think you couldn't keep the better one? And, if the person doesn't take a job because you can't afford them, that's the way it goes. Why assume that you couldn't negotiate pay that would be mutually satisfactory?

3) I really don't know anyone and we all know a lot of jobs get filled because someone knew someone. Many jobs are never advertised. I've started networking with alumni in the area but am running into problem 1. It gets really old hearing people tell me I should get in touch with mental health organizations. Jeeezous. I have a freakin' PhD in psychology for dogs sake and you think I couldn't figure that out on my own?

As you can imagine I am fed up and frustrated. I'm thinking this potential move may be a really bad idea, especially if I can't find employment. At best, we'd be there one year and end up living in a place that is not in a great part of town. I don't know if I am being pessimistic or just realistic on this one. I've been having a heck of a time finding employment and a house that is at least as nice as ours, is not in or near the bad part of town, and can still be afforded on one, albeit well-paid, income.

Wanna see an unbelievable dump? This is not entirely atypical of what can be had. Now, if I only had a job offer for something that pays even modestly, we could have this lavishly beautiful place.

What do I do?

Last time we moved for a job (me), we thought that it would pay off. It hasn't. At least not yet anyway. I'd like to think moving for this job would pay off but it seems like all we'd be doing is trading a great job in a livable small town for a job slightly higher up on the totem pole in a town alternately called Yuckima or Crackima for well-deserved reasons.

Anyway, all of this will be over in less than 2 weeks.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Shopping for Houses

Lately I've been shopping online for houses in another city because we're considering a move. Our town is wonderful, but only one of us has a job. Fortunately we can live pretty well here on one income. We don't eat out very often, don't go out, make do with a lot of old stuff, have one car, etc.

We don't need to move, especially if it means moving to a place known for its high personal crime rate. It's got three times the national average rate of car theft, arson, and rape. That's not something I'm going to sign up for if I don't have to. On the other hand, if the pay is significantly better for my husband and I also have a job, then it's hard to argue we shouldn't move. We can easily find a great place to live if two incomes contribute to the mortgage.

We might even be able to find one with a mature fruit tree so Newfers can continue her new found game - picking plums off the tree. It's so cute!

We've lived for so long on one income since I've been in school for years. I haven't had to work just so we could get by. After looking at this other market, it seems that in order to get into a house that is at least as nice as ours in a neighborhood that isn't "ghetto" or on an arterial street, then we need two incomes. What if I hate my job? What if in spite of the endometriosis that has rendered my body incapable of being pregnant a miracle happens and I get pregnant?

We've spent a lot of time talking about "what if" scenarios. We have figured out how much the pay offer and benefits package would need to be in order to consider moving on one income, but after looking at houses, I think it would have to be even higher. Almost all of the houses that I am interested in already have offers in on them and the others either need work, are near the airport, or on an artery. Argh. I would be much less anxious if I had an interview scheduled too.

There's a lot to be said for staying here in this idyllic place of lavender and vineyards.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Male Dominance

After presenting some information on the practice of female genital mutilation or as it is sometimes euphemistically called female circumcision, MWR at Don't Trust Snakes raises an excellent question about why religions are so consistently misogynistic.

I was going to leave a comment but quickly realized I had more to say on the topic than would fit for a comment.

Modern day religion reflects patriarchal society; the real question is why we as a species so consistently come up with male-dominated societies. There are of course lots of opinions on this subject.

The party line EP opinion is that male dominance is a function of mate preference. Women prefer taller, more muscular men while men who are taller and more muscular enjoy more mating success and research suggests they also produce more children. Men tend to be larger, pound for pound and inch for inch, than women. This sexual dimorphism, as scientists call it, contributes to male social dominance. For some statistics on how height translates to dollars and influence, check this out.

This assumes size is what determines social hierarchy. However, any cursory study of primatology shows that dominance is maintained through alliances - not brute strength. This may be true for within sex dominance struggles, but when it comes to a battle of the sexes, females who team up can sometimes assert some level of authority over a male or two for some time. The fact remains that even in so-called "female bonded" groups, males are still dominant. Very few primate societies are truly female dominant (lemurs come to mind) and they are really only dominant during the mating season.

Size matters in the animal kingdom. The vast majority of animal species are sexually dimorphic and male dominated. The two go hand-in-hand. Exceptions are for monogamous species, who don't really live in groups and therefore aren't hierarchically organized, and species in which males provide most of the infant care. In those species, male competition for mates (the thing that drives sex differences in size), is attenuated. Instead, females compete intensely with each other for males who will invest a huge amount of energy, time, and resources in infant care. Once a female secures an investing male, she ditches him and looks for another who will take care of her next set of offspring. Females in such species call the shots and have all of the power. They also tend to be physically larger, though for monogamous species, size and power tend to be distributed equally.

In the realm of animal biology, there are definite relationships between social dominance, sexual dimorphism, and brood care. Where females assume primary care of offspring, males tend to be larger and more dominant. Where males assume primary infant care, the roles are reversed.

Human patriarchy is a relic of sexual dimorphism produced by a quirk of biology - women invest more heavily in infant care than men do. Under this scenario, male patriarchy will fade around the same time women a) date and mate with men who are shorter and smaller than they are, and b) are freed from the responsibility of raising children.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Belkin Ought To Be Sued!

I cannot stress enough how much of a rip off a Belkin brand router is.

The product is a royal piece of you know what.

We bought it for about $45-60 sometime in March/April. It worked for a grand total of 3 months before it crapped out.

We bit the bullet and bought an Airport. I really hoped it would arrive today, but no luck. So, I've spent the day performing the bizarre router re-setting ritual. I think I've reset it at least 6 times. One time I had to reset it after I managed to send one email and get a single webpage to load. I think that connection lasted all of maybe 3 minutes before it failed. The next connection lasted about 45 minutes. I wouldn't be surprised if I had to go perform the ritual again just to get this post to upload when I'm done writing it! I already went through the ritual twice just to get blogger to come up. The first time the ritual failed.

What is this bixarre ritual, you might be wondering? Well, I've got to get up from my comfortable spot in the couch in the cool room (it's 105 outside) to go into the warmest room in the house to unplug the cable modem then wait for about 45 seconds before turning it back on to defeat the mechanism that keeps power on through a momentary interruption. The modem has to really believe it's off, or some such garbage. Then I wait until the ready light comes on and is solid. Then I can plug the festering turd of the Belkin router back in and wait for the little globe light to turn on. Then I can go back to see if the router signal gets to my laptop. About 75% of the time it does. But it ALWAYS loses it at some point - sometimes after a few minutes and other times (rarely) after a few hours.

This has been so frustrating. The arrival of the Airport is hotly anticipated around here - almost as much as all of those people who went out and bought iPhones were about getting their new gadget.

What's funny is that I checked stat counter yesterday for the time in months and found out that already somebody found me by googling info about hooking up Belkin routers to Charter cable. Maybe I was hoping that I managed to get the word out to thousands of people about how awful the Belkin router is. At least that one person hopefully got the message about what they're in for in about 3 months.

Hopefully they didn't buy it from Staples - they won't take the Belkin router back. They also will not accept returns of electronics products unless you buy their "service plan." If you have a problem with something, like a router, printer, computer, etc that you buy at their store, you have to deal with the manufacturer, not them, unless of course, you PAY them to accept a return of a faulty product they are selling. What a scam!

My friend Rich, if he were here, would certainly treat me to his colorful impression of being in this sort of predicament.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Article Accepted for Publication!!!

That's right! Finally my article has been accepted for publication and with minimal suggestions for revision. This is my first article! Holy cow. I've been shopping it around for a while now and thought about dumping it altogether many, many times. When I read the laundry list of changes that accompanied the acceptance letter I was a little put off, but once I sat down to make the crazy stylistic changes (like changing "&" to "and" and spelling out abbreviations like etc (why???) and ALL numbers (why??) and writing percent rather than "%," I realized it was actually a breeze and far less of a nuisance than I thought it would be. It took me a little more than an hour to make the stylistic changes. I've already resubmitted the thing. The editor even thinks he'll be able to get it into the next issue. Sweet. I will be published. Wow.

Of course, this also means I have absolutely no excuse for sitting on the other two papers I can send out. That would be something! Three papers in one year... I can only imagine.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Charter Cable + Belkin Router = :-(

I haven't been posting lately because I have been having maddening internet problems. I have a cable modem plus a router that I use to get internet on my Apple laptop. For more than a week I have started the day with service but then lose it after about two hours and can't get it back.

At first I thought it was the spotty cable "service" because it frequently goes out anyway without explanation. If you can actually get to a person instead of a recording they often just say "we know" and "we're working to restore service." A-holes. We pay more than 100 bucks a month for cable and internet and that's the best they can do.

Now I know it's the freaking router. Sleyed figured that out. It's a good thing too because I know I don't have the patience to deal with this kind of crap. He called multiple companies, sat on hold for HOURS, and updates the router firmware only to find out the new file wouldn't unzip. Eventually he got through to a guy in Pakistan, India, or who knows where who walked him through the update.

Well what do know? Now my laptop won't pick up the router signal at all. Sleyed figured out how to monkey with the software, firmware, or whatever it is from our desktop (which hooks directly to the cable modem) so that my laptop can find the signal. I thought that was a once and for all fix but this morning I found out that wasn't the case at all. Now, every single time I want to use the internet from my laptop - which is every FREAKING day! - the numbers have to be fixed or reset or whatever he does at the Belkin site.

Fortunately this only has to be done if I shut my laptop off. It can still find the router when I wake it up after putting it to sleep. Unfortunately Sleyed only had time to fix the problem - not teach me how to do whatever he does to make it all work. So guess what we get to do tonight...

Still - that is not a solution. I don't want to have to monkey around with starting up another computer to be able to use mine to connect to the internet every freaking time I want to go online on my computer where all of my files are. Pain in the ass is what that would be. Hopefully Sleyed can figure out a permanent solution.

What's doubly frustrating is that I have no clue how to solve these kinds of technology problems on my own.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Katy Tells All...

I saw this on Nanook and Pookas blog. They are so cute, post lots of adorable photos of themselves, and write very entertaining stories about their lives. This Newf house loves them! Today we are hiding out from the 100 degree weather waiting for the fireworks excitement to start and decided to try our paws at this interview of Katy.

1. Your age?
1 year and 4 months. I was born March 18th, 2006. That makes me just about 2 weeks older than Nanook.

2. Your age when came to live with your people?
14 weeks. That's actually maybe a little old for a newf puppy to join a new family. I was already attached to me birth family and didn't really want to leave the mountain farm I was raised on. They had a pond and I moved to a desert valley in the summertime. I had a lot of adjusting to do! But now I really love my family and want to be with them all of the time. I am still trying to negotiate a pond for the backyard though.

3. What color is the collar you’re wearing right now?
It's that beautiful mint green Coach collar you can see in that picture of me being bad. A few weeks ago I got this hair brained idea to stand up to people nose to nose. It was fun while it lasted. Am I really that big?

4. Who is your favorite person other than the people you live with?
My grandpa Steve. He gives the best belly rubs! That's us (below) a year ago today on my first trip away from home.

5. How much do you weigh?
I haven't weighed in for a while and I'm still filling out. I'd guess around 110 pounds.

6. Most expensive thing you’ve ever chewed up?
Well... I've chewed a lot of things I'm not supposed to like the nob on the expensive washer, three remotes, and my mom's favorite sandals, but my biggest chewing accomplishment was my mom's video iPod. It was only a few weeks old, but I didn't completely chew it up! Sure, there are teeth marks all over it and the screen is scratched up, but it still plays!

7. Do you like other Dogs?
Oh yes I do! Especially the BIG ones. I love other newfies the most!

8. Who is your best non-human friend?
My brother Max.

My best wanna-be friends are Sasha, another newfy who lives in town, and Salome, my English Mastiff cousin in CA. She's a big beautiful sweetheart like me.

I am sure we would be best friends if we lived in the same town.

9. Squeaky Toys or Tennis Balls?
I go absolutely bananas over squeaky toys! My favorite squeaky toy is a flip flop my aunty Candice gave me but I also have a pheasant, a lobster, and a starman baby girl. I would like to have many, many more squeaky toys!!!

10. Do you like to be brushed?
Like Nanook, I don't really have a choice. I really don't like having my ears brushed out but my mom swears I look way more presentable when they are. I like my dad's technique better. He starts with my belly and always gives me cookies. I LOVE being blow-dried on the COOL breeze setting.

11. Peanut Butter or Cheese?
Peanut butter!!!!

12. Do your people cut your toenails?
Yes. My dad trims my nails. That's another thing I don't have a choice about. I have never once had my quick cut but I still try and jerk my paws away sometimes. I hate to admit it, but it TICKLES.

13. Any formal education?
I got home schooled.

14. Couch potato or Energizer Bunny?
I am a couch potato but I zip around like a maniac too. I run this high speed circuit around the house when I get really excited. Today I'm vegging out on the couch!

15. Five nicknames your people call you.
Baronness von Roughenhausen, Her Royal Newfssance, Kid, Katy Bear, Katydid

16. What is your best trick?
Swatting my older little brother over the head when he refuses to sit when we're asked. He's a scofflaw. Just look at him (below) in the sheet he destroyed.

17. Do you like kitties?
I don't know. I've never met a kittie. My people call me Katy Kitty sometimes. I like to lay on my back and bat my toys around in the air with my paws. I think I'd like kitties but not cats. I met a cat once on a walk and I just wanted to say hi but the cat did not not not like me. Since when do we make friends by swatting them on the nose?! I would never do that! [Paws crossed behind her back].

18. What did you have for breakfast?
This morning I had some Iambs large breed adult kibble, carob chips, peanut butter, 5 ice cubes, and a munchy snack.

19. Can you hunt (aka have you ever killed anything living)? If so, what?
I would be a very good hunter, especially in snow. I have perfected the stalk, the pounce, and then the shake to death with ALL of my toys. I've killed some towels, but never a living thing.

20. When & why was the last time you went to the V.E.T.?
It happened after I chewed up the remote and my mom couldn't find one of the batteries. She thought I might have swallowed it. I got x-rayed - no batteries! I am way smarter than she gives me credit for.

21. Where do you sleep at night?
On the dining room floor where it's cool. I have a view of the whole house from there so I can protect everyone at the slightest sign of trouble. After my dad leaves for work in the morning I make a big show of flopping down next to the bed where my mom sleeps. I make sure the bed moves when I do this so she wakes up and gives me breakfast. Lately I've been sleeping in the bathtub. When will the fireworks stop? This is madness!

22. Do you like to swim?

23. Can you make puppies?
Not any more. That makes two of us ladies who can't make them. If we want puppies we have to get outside help :-(

24. Your favorite place to visit?
Anywhere! I love going for rides. Just say the word and I am ready at the back door. I'll race you to the car and wrestle you down to the ground if you don't let me get in first.

25. Do you give kisses?
Yes, BIG SLOPPY ones. Where would you like yours?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Scuola Italiana Cani Salvataggio

That's Italian for Water Dog Rescue School. The Scuola Italiana Cani Salvataggio trains dogs, mostly Newfoundlands, to jump out of helicopters and rescue people. It is really mind blowing to imagine Katy could have been trained to do this. According to the school, "one dog alone can pull a boat full of 30 people for between 300 and 2000 meters."

The Italian Coast Guard uses them for rescues along the coast and in lakes. These dogs jump out of helicopters!

Who Likes the 4th of July?

Lots of people do I am sure, but for many dogs the customary celebration offers little escape from the barrage of bombs bursting in air. My Newf takes no pleasure in recreating the atmosphere of this nation's birth. She runs for cover in the same spot Max escapes to when she badgers him. When that doesn't provide enough cover she crawls into the bathtub as if she's seen countless westerns. I doubt she realizes modern bathtubs are no longer made of iron.

Last year at this time, Miss Newf weighed in at about 40 pounds and was 15 weeks old. Now she's almost 16 months old and weighs about 105-110 pounds. Aside from her shyness, she's a great dog. She does what she's asked, generally speaking, which can mean sitting, fishing out one of her daddy's socks from the dirty clothes basket, or going outside on official business without stopping to pull weeds. She loves pulling weeds and I really appreciate that's something she loves to do, but she developed a habit of running off to the forbidden front yard zone to pull weeds there too.

Since last year at this time she's learned a lot. She can sit, stay, come, wait, leave it, drop it, roll over, shake, and go out on official business and come right back in when she's done. She can also go get toys when asked but we're still working out the difference between getting a sock and getting a rope. Max doesn't do anything when asked anymore...

The only thing I haven't been able to train her to do is relax. It vexes me that she is so eager to learn and often gets the task by the fourth trial, but when it comes to training OUT a behavior I am having no success. I am not familiar enough with the literature on conditioning to know whether subtracting behaviors is generally more difficult than adding them, but it seems like a good subject to research. I suppose a strict behaviorist would suggest the behavior to be added here is relaxing in the face of an aversive stimulus. I think sometimes that getting the Newf to be calm around fireworks, gunshots, and other bombastic auditory stimuli is like conditioning the fear of snakes out of Indiana Jones.

There are a couple of techniques that could be used here. One technique is flooding or exposure therapy. This is the equivalent of throwing the kid in the deep end of the pool where she'll then realize she can actually swim and therefore no longer needs to fear water. Flooding is a very risky way to go but it doesn't have to be. Exposure to a less threatening stimulus involves less risk and can be used systematically by gradually increasing the strength of the stimulus until the individual no longer fears even the very worst of it. For a dog that fears explosions, systematic desensitization would begin with exposing her to quiet explosions and when she's habituated to them, increasing the volume and leaving it at that level until she's once again so adjusted to it that she ignores the explosions as background noise.

This technique of exposure is how field researchers get primates habituated to their presence. Initially primates are nervous around humans but with gradual exposure, humans fade into the background.

These techniques worked well for getting The Newfssance over her fear of my suitcase. Initially she was so scared of it that covering it with a blanket was the only way to assuage her anxiety. I tried systematic desensitization first by gradually removing the blanket to expose more of the suitcase, but that took too much patience on my part so I switched to flooding. I just left the suitcase in the living room. Eventually she stopped barking and raising her neck hairs at it. Now she doesn't bark at it; she's completely habituated to it.

I wonder how many days of fireworks it would take for Miss Newfy to habituate to them? Longer than is legal to set them off! Ideally we'd have a recording of fireworks, explosions, and gunshots that I could play day and night from quieter to louder until she realizes she's not being physically harmed by the sound. I think that would work beautifully. I wonder if anyone has made such a thing and marketed it with a training plan for just this kind of problem? Hmmmm.... Someone has.

*** For all you Japanophiles, here's a photo I found of a group of Japanese tourists meeting the biggest dog they've ever seen:

*** And, in the heart of Kawaramachi Sanjo, I found an advert featuring a Newfy!!

We got quite a kick out of imagining what would happen if we had Katy walking around with us there. She would definitely be the biggest dog they had ever seen. They would need some serious systematic desensitization after the big scary gaijin and their enormously frightening bear dog came by!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Green Tea

Over the weekend we got hit with some of the typically hot weather this corner of Washington gets during the summer. We have not seen the worst of it so naturally we loaded up on ice cream. We now have four flavors to choose from in our freezer, but sadly none of them are green tea!

While in Japan a few weeks ago I enjoyed my first green tea ice cream cone. I had been seeing them everywhere and although they seemed strange, I had to have one. The flavor was intriguing, complex even, and hard to describe. It tasted a bit, but not quite, like the blackberry green tea frappaccinos that Starbucks used to carry. It doesn't really taste like "green tea" tea either.

As I found out after having green tea several times in Japan, including at the oldest tea house in Kyoto, one green tea definitely does not taste like another. Sometimes it tasted earthy, other times insipid, but most of the time it had the consistency of chicken soup. Being a novice green tea consumer, I had naively thought they'd all taste the same.

Good luck duplicating the delicious, delicate flavor of the green tea ice cream!

I think the flavoring comes in powdered form that could be found, with some luck, at an Asian grocery. If we got hold of some of it, I bet Sleyed could experiment with making green tea ice cream.

Then all we would need is the nifty machine one ice cream man used to convert frozen solid cups of ice cream to soft serve - it was so slick. We ordered our cones and he reached down into a freezer, took out a cup, and peeled off the lid, revealing the frozen green ice cream in the cup below. In a move that made it look like he'd done it a thousand times before, he turned it over, and put it in a machine that then dispensed the swirling, twisting green tea soft serve ice cream sitting perfectly on a sugary cone.

Haagen Dazs makes a green tea ice cream sandwich; I don't think I tried one. I did try the green tea KitKat (and the green tea Pocky). It was worth a try, you know just to see what it's like. They were okay, nothing too exciting.

The green tea ice cream is definitely worth trying if you're in Japan during the right season!