Review: Bristly dog toothbrush

12 Feb 2019 In: Random

Goldie's Bristly Dental Set Christmas gift finally arrived a few days ago! Here's my review.

The (slightly crumpled) package I received had three items in it: the big, green, sturdy Bristly itself; a smallish tube of "Bristly pre-biotic toothpaste"; and a triangular blue, umm… thing… which is apparently a tongue cleaner. It has a wide, round suction cup on the back so you can stick it to the floor for your dog. I'm not sure how useful it is, though, since Goldie ended up doing a great deal of licking on the Bristly itself.

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Later edit: I was notified that some of the video links weren't working. I think they all are now, but please do notify me if any of them don't?

Yesterday I bragged on Goldie's Novice Trick Dog title, so today I'd like to share some of her awesome work on her Intermediate and Advanced titles! To receive the titles a dog has to successfully perform 15 tricks for the Novice, 15 more for the Intermediate, and then five more difficult tricks for the Advanced, and five tough ones for the Expert.

Goldie in new bandanna & ITD certificate!

Goldie in her spiffy new purple DMWYD bandanna & her ITD certificate!

For me, a fabulous part of this was discovering that there are Facebook pages by accredited coaches which are dedicated to helping folks reach the various levels they wish to accomplish. Best of all? They give you excellent tips on teaching the tricks, and they'll witness your films of the tricks for free! I'm currently working with Kim Mayes' Rockin' Dawgs Spark Teams. They are, of course, closed groups but they're easy to join; the link will take you to the Novice one. It's a ton of fun. ;)

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Later edit: I was notified that some of the video links weren't working. I think they all are now, but please do notify me if any of them don't?

So there's this thing called patellar tracking disorder which, if you are a middle-aged or older woman, is apparently something you have to watch out for. In a nutshell: the muscles that hold the patella, or knee cap, in the right place for your knee joint can weaken to the point that the patella sort of drifts away from where it should be — and ends up rubbing painfully against other bones in the knee. It was not something I knew about, but I've become intimately acquainted with it in the past couple of months. Did I mention painful?

According to my doctor, for two to three weeks I needed to stop any running or twisting motions with my knees — which effectively wiped out my agility training with Goldie, and my ATS bellydancing. Drat! Fortunately, the "fix" for patellar tracking disorder is relatively simple: exercise. So I did the doctor-recommended exercises for about two weeks, and one of my wonderful housemates gave me my Solstice gift a little early: a gym membership with a trainer! I've consequently been working out there for the past three weeks or so, and now I am deeply pleased to report that my knee is doing much better! It's funny, though, how often physical and mental issues I have are resolved by exercise. Geez, you'd think maybe I should, like… do it routinely or something! ;)

So because I wasn't able to do any agility training with Goldie I decided I would do some other type of work with her, so she wouldn't get bored. It had to be something we could do inside, where I wouldn't be required to move around too much — so I chose trick dog training. I'd been idly training her to do tricks to relax in between agility training elements, after all, for the past two or three years, and it was clear she enjoyed doing them… so surely it wouldn't be too much of a change for her?

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Things that make me happy (part 1)

8 Nov 2017 In: Random

Because I'm feeling somewhat under the weather due to a touch of stomach flu, I've decided to put today's writing time into happy thoughts. The following occurred about two years ago, but it still makes me smile, and people laugh when I tell the story, so I thought I'd write it down to share to a larger audience.

At a recent steampunk convention I was at I noticed there was a sort of scavenger hunt in which one could participate. I eagerly signed up, and learned that the things to be collected were stamps from different locations at the con, which you had to figure out from the clues. Several of them turned out to be in the dealer's room, and in order to get your stamp you had to do some funny little thing the dealer asked you to do. These varied from doing a "proper villain's laugh" to singing a short bit from a song about balloons to decorating a little steampunk cog and adding it to a board of interlinked and moving cogs, and other similar things.

There was one dealer I located, but I noticed two girls were there before me — so I politely waited and watched. The two girls were standing in front of the little desk/table, swaying slightly and making low groaning sounds. That… was odd… but the dealer smiled at them, told them that was good, and stamped their papers. They scampered off and I stepped up and explained why I was there. He said he was happy to stamp my paper, but first he wondered: had I ever seen the legendary Galapagos Tortoise, and heard its beautiful song? It was reputed to sound a bit like whale song. Did I know the Song of the Galapagos Tortoise?

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Author: Maya Angelou

Review first posted April 2004

It took a while to decide to review this book. There is an unfortunately strong current societal meme which says if you are: (less victimized, &/or more financially secure, male, white, privileged, whatever) then you don't get to comment. I understand it's a natural reaction to the horror of being silenced due to not being recognized as even human, and I emphatically don't want a return to that. But as Angelou herself notes, bigotry perpetrated by those who have suffered bigotry doesn't make it right.

 

Too, if I am silent due to fear of censure but blame society for it, who is really at fault? I strongly believe in both facing one's fears, and in allowing all to speak, so meaningful dialogue occurs. How else to learn from each other? So here's the review. I feel contributing one's thoughts & experiences to on-going societal dialogue is good, even if — especially if — one's personal experiences are different than those of others. After all, wide variety in experiences makes for more interesting shared commentary.

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This makes me feel bad — so it must be bad!

On deeper examination of this issue, I believe the selfish desire to profit regardless of the pain or damage it causes others is behind the deliberately inaccurate reframing of cultural appropriation as something good. For example, I've seen terms such as "cultural evolution" and "anti-censorship" tossed loosely around as justification. Let's try unpacking these phrases to see what they really mean.

The concept of cultural evolution is an attempt to broadly apply the theory of evolution, based on biological natural selection, to a different intellectual field. However, if we more deeply explore the theme of cultural appropriation as a form of evolution, how do we account for the hurt and damage it causes in the unjustly appropriated culture? If we are matching this to some sort of biological exchange then aren't we perilously close to admiring what is in effect cultural rape? Do we really want to take that route to self-justification?

Fortunately cultures (unlike individual organisms) are not biological organisms, and therefore cannot engage in natural selection — there are no "culture genes," for example. As a consequence, trying to apply natural selection to cultures makes about as much sense as trying to apply it to, say, mathematics. True, mathematicians are biological entities which perform the math in question — but you cannot point to, say, a gene in the math itself that will lead to the creation of calculus from algebra. Similarly, you cannot point to a gene in a culture that helps produce authoritarianism or egalitarianism or whatever. Read the rest of this entry »

But why does it matter?

Well, I feel it's always easier to understand something when it's personal… so let's do a little thought-exercise. Yes, I know what this example will most properly describe is something more like a copyright issue, but work with me here; I'm trying to explain something conceptual in an emotive matter, and it's not easy. :)

So. Imagine yourself as the proud creator of something — a song, a painting, a story, a ritual, a dance… whatever speaks to you. You're justifiably proud of this creation because it came from your heart and your culture: it is a beautiful fragment of all that is quintessentially you, brought to life in your creation. You start to become somewhat known for your marvelous work, and one day a man comes to you and asks to talk to you about it.

You show it to him with great pleasure — you like sharing beauty! He is flattering and complimentary, and you realize he's going to write a truly amazing article about you. You open up to him, telling him things about the work's creation that you've not told anyone else — personal things. When he leaves you're very happy that more people will read about your beloved work, and maybe purchase things from you that are based on it. Life is good!

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A few years ago I was in a class about being a good ally to people of color, or POC. It is a sad fact that often any such class on allyship is least well attended by those who most need it. As a white woman I can certainly understand that — had it not been a required class I likely would not have chosen it, due to a fear of butting in where I wasn't really wanted. Regardless, I took the class… and found it a fascinating and enlightening experience. There were no men in the class, of course — it is vanishingly unlikely to see a man in any Women's Spirituality class — but there were more women of color than white women. I learned a great deal, and I hope I wasn't too obnoxious. ;)

At one point, and with some trepidation, I asked what it was that I could do to most help POC — what did they most want from white women? I was nervously braced to receive some anger or racism in reply, considering that most of the time POC have to simply swallow rightful rage at the social injustice they face on a daily basis. As a consequence the answer I received was extraordinarily startling to me: they wanted me to listen. Just listen — deeply and truly. I remember saying incredulously, "That's it? You just want me to listen?" Looking around the room, I received nod after nod after nod of agreement: yes, listen to them — no interrupting, no 'correcting' them or shouting them down, no telling them what I thought they should be doing. By truly listening I would no longer be ignoring, erasing, or appropriating them; rather, I would help to socially validate them, their beliefs, their needs… their very right of existence.

So that's what I've tried to do with all the POC I know, both on-line and off: I try to listen with respect and caring. Since I also believe in continuing to fight for a just society I have simultaneously attempted to share this received learning with all my white friends. As a feminist once put it, misogynist men are not going to suddenly start listening to women and decide to be good allies… but they ordinarily will listen to other men. If a man therefore truly wishes to be a good ally for women, he should speak up to stop misogyny when he stumbles across it in men around him, and if he can, take the opportunity to teach a more feminist perspective. Equally, most white people aren't going to truly listen to POC because that's not how they were taught — and so it is incumbent upon white people, not POC, to teach other white people how to be respectful to POC.

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Just got back from another personal first: a town hall meeting with my Congressional representative, Zoe Lofgren, at the Mt. Pleasant High School. She's a Democrat and has been this area's Congresswoman since 1995, if I heard her correctly. She mentioned returning home (this area) each week, and she's got that smooth way of responding to questions that says she often communicates with her people. I can respect that, especially compared to those (hopefully few) cowardly Republicans who choose to hide from, lie to, and ignore their people. As someone who lives in California — one of the possibly safest states to be in during the Trump administration — my heart goes out to the poor folks who live in those areas whose representatives are claiming ever wilder excuses to not hold any town halls or actually do their jobs and represent the will of their people. But enough of that… for now.

Returning to the town hall: apparently far more folks RSVP'd than actually attended — which didn't surprise me considering what an utterly gorgeous day it was today. Here are some quick cell phone snaps (apologies for the blurriness!) of the auditorium before Congresswoman Lofgren arrived. Incidentally, that gray-haired gent in the suit seated at the white table right in front of me was Dave Cortese, representing District 3 on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

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Well, PantheaCon is concluded for another year! Also, our ritual/performance of The Descent of Inanna was enormously successful — "House of Inanna" has been asked to do it again! There were far more audience members than we expected, which was a real delight — they filled the room and we even had folks standing in the back. Further, we had handouts for the audience so they could engage in a sort of call & response with the Narrator, and we made far more than we thought we'd need… but at the actual performance we had to ask the audience members to please share their handouts with the folks next to them! It was really nice.

So now that we've been through the entire play and some time has passed, I've had a few more thoughts on things I'd like to remember for future. A few of these are repeats from my previous post simply because I felt strongly that they were really important, but most of them are just me musing to myself again, or a happy pat-on-the-back. That said, enjoy and please feel free to contribute in the comments!

  • More rehearsals! I really, really want to make sure there's more time to rehearse. Quite frankly the vast majority of issues I saw — and there were blessedly few of them — had to do with people not being entirely confident in where they should be and when. Also there were a few stage directions such as: "The attendants… [are] carrying baskets and greeting each other as they wander around the stage." If we'd had a bit more time to work on learning how to do stuff like that I think it would've really added a visually striking element to the ritual.
  • A pat-on-the-back: the circle dances went really well as far, as I could see! Some of us practiced together while the stage was getting set up before the show, so we were all together and right on the money. I was one of the participants in the circle dances, so all I could see consistently during the actual ritual was my side of the circle… but from what I saw my side stuck together nicely. Yay! With just a bit more practice I bet we could have all of us moving smoothly and gracefully together!
  • Another thing I'd like to see as part of rehearsals: how to come out and bow after the performance! We had a singer who started and closed the ritual, but she wasn't at any of our rehearsals and so not only were we shaky on how to come out to bow… but we started doing so as she waited to sing. Yet another note to self: make sure EVERYONE attends at least a few rehearsals, if I'm ever organizing something like this — no excuses! Having the singer teaching a volunteer how to drum with her as the stage was being set up just before the actual performance? Can't have been confidence-inspiring. I felt bad for the poor woman.
  • For that matter: our Narrator was awesome at projecting her voice — but I suspect both she and the singer (whose voice filled the room less than the Narrator's did) would have appreciated a microphone. I hope someone thought to make sure there was a drink handy for the Narrator too, now I think about it.
  • I've already mentioned how I wanted more rehearsals for the performers. In future, though, I also want to remember that the stage crew itself needs a rehearsal — so they know what props go where, and when, and how to bring them onto the stage between acts, and how to not be seen behind the larger props that need moving while the performance is on-going. That kind of rehearsal would also give the stage hands time to figure out which props go where behind the stage too, so the various pieces are ready to be quickly and smoothly moved on or off stage. So: MOAR REEHERSLZ! :)
  • Speaking of changing scenes: since we were in two hotel seminar rooms we didn't have any sort of stage curtain. In such a situation I think having something to mark a scene's closing would be good — not just for the audience but also so the actors know to clear off or on as needed. A suggestion from the theatre-trained housemate: two tall poles attached on each side of a wide, very light, possibly decorated piece of cloth. Have two people (one to a pole) walk out downstage side by side at end of scene. The first one will stay on one side of the stage while the second one walks to the other side. The cloth will (at the very least symbolically) block sight of the stage as actors hustle off and stage crew hustles props on… and when everything is ready the second pole-holder walks back to the first, they both head off stage — and the next scene begins.
  • For that matter, I think a sort of "costume" for the stage hands would've helped build more of a sense of being part of the performance community. Heck, it could also function to help obscure the stage hands as they moved around on the stage. Maybe all-black clothing with an appropriate (dark) T-shirt that we could gift to them to wear?
  • Another thought re the actual stage: the backdrop needs to be sturdy — or the non-sturdy bits need to not be where people are entering and exiting — and people need to know precisely where those bits are so they don't bump into the fragile pieces and/or dislodge them. This fortunately did not happen at our performance, but there was some confusion as to where and whether we could exit between certain backdrop curtains. Oh, another thought: all the backdrop needs to be opaque! We don't want to give the audience an unexpected shock as a half-dressed actor wanders backstage behind the lacy curtain backdrop. Hmm… maybe a few more chairs for those backstage would be nice too — I'm not sure there were enough for everyone to sit quietly when it wasn't their time on stage.
  • If I can find one, I'd love to have a photographer present with a good camera too! We had a couple of folks taking shots from the audience, and I posted those I received on the website. Unfortunately many of the photos taken during the performance were either quite blurry or very dimly lit — we didn't want a flash disrupting the performance, you know? However, I was surprised and pleased at how excited the various participants were at the photos! I'd like to have better ones for us all, if possible — and I strongly feel good photos and videos make for good publicity for the group.
  • Having more than one set of eyes check all printed materials — well ahead of time! — is an excellent idea… as well as the best way I know of to avoid typos!
  • Something to consider for everyone who comes out on stage at any point, even if it's just for a bow at the end: body language! As well, if anyone intends to speak — or even thinks they might be called on to speak — planning ahead on what would be appropriate is an excellent idea. Everyone should know to carry their head high, smile warmly, walk with confidence, speak clearly, and move strongly. We may feel awkwardly shy, embarrassed, or self-disparaging — but when in the spotlight we want to portray ourselves as polished and professional in both language and behavior.
  • Something I need to consider for later: would it be helpful to have the occasional all-crew meal together? I think building a feeling of community amongst everyone is an important part of ensuring we're all committed to making the best show we can, after all. Or would this be something better done to celebrate the end of the show?

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Bestiaries depict mythical, moralizing animals, but are also potential allegorical sparks that can bloom into brilliant mental bonfires. My bestiary is this mythologizing animal's fascinated exploration of beauty & meaning in the wonder of existence -- in the hopes of inspiring yet more joyous flares of intellectual passion.

Enjoy!

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