Category: cynical

Asked/Answered, Irritating People by Informing Them

My ole buddy Arab who learned lots with clicker and food rewards and also with classical training methods … he gets regular hand feeding now because he is nearly toothless. But he still enjoys any training session I want to offer him.

Do you ever reply to questions in Internet groups you’re in? You’re not one of those people who says stupid stuff, are you? I guess I am…

I wrote a reply to a woman who had posted a horse handling question on a Facebook group I’m in. She wrote, in response to some advice I’d offered, IN ALL CAPS! so she was yelling at me. She obviously didn’t want a stupid, behavioral, researched, positive-reinforcement kind of answer.

She believes I was off-target and didn’t understand what the problem was with this biting, kicking, angry mare. Oh yeah, that’s me.

What was I thinking? I knew I probably shouldn’t clarify when she brushed off the first person’s answer. But she was not getting it. Ugh! I have problems with leaving people in-the-dark when they are asking for some light on a solution.

Alas, elsewhere ignorance reigns. And the horse suffers – quite seriously in this case. Which is probably what spurred me on.

Should I have responded at all? Easy answer … Noooo! Do people actually honor FREE advice … mostly Noooo! Ah, they say thank you, but with no cost to them, there is also no value or commitment to the advice. Of course, this person didn’t say thanks…

The first person answering offered – how about clicker and positive rewards. I thought the questioner worried about the horse biting if she offered food rewards for behaviors. She wrote – “It bites.” So I said how to deal with resolving biting when offering treats … wrong.


I almost let it go. But then I did respond because, OK, I just didn’t want to let it go … and people who use negative reinforcement and punishment like it when it works. It’s a nice, for them, closed system – no thinking. Hence they tend to escalate their yelling or rude actions. Escalate, escalate, escalate … more, do it more, because it will work with MORE. But, what they don’t consider is it’s not good for them. It’s not good for them to be that way, it turns them bitter, shuts off their empathy and leaves them angry.

So I wrote, “You are absolutely right (I was being affirmative), the horse did need a different training approach (I was repeating her words) and that was offered by everyone who responded to your query.” (I wasn’t the only useless advice giver). And, I wished her all the best (definitely true –  plus I didn’t want her to yell at me anymore. Her negative reinforcement was working…grr).

Unwritten I wished some more stuff…

I didn’t say that her ALL CAPS shout was ironic. Although it was. It made me snort when I read it.

I didn’t chant, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” since she had written that she used positive reinforcement. I wonder what she thought she did that the horse would think, yay, positive reward. Yay, you didn’t whip me! Yay, you quit jerking on my face! Yay, you quit bothering me by removing the pressure of your presence. Yay, you slapped me  and said **gibberish**.

(–Aside whisper– If you don’t know the difference – positive means added something the horse likes and negative means something aversive  taken away to reward behavior … the examples were negative reinforcement, the slap might be considered punishment and the gibberish, well is gibberish**horses don’t know English until taught words by connecting them with actions, but they do know threatening body language/tones)

I didn’t say, don’t take in horses to train when you know so little about — HORSES…

Or; How do I even know what the question really is when the writing is so lacking in key information…like not mentioning that she only wants new approaches in the same vein as what she has been using, just new, but the same … OK.

To be fair, horse training is mostly the use of negative reinforcement, advance/retreat, bits, whips, spurs, pressure – the good trainers are very specific and measured with its application because they don’t want to push the horse into too much fear or anger. And it works, horses remember. They are a high-fear animal and running away is their claim to fame. Beautiful runners.

Rougher trainers tend to work (find some success) with the calmer horses, because they can get away with it (they’d wreck the hot-blooded Arabs, thoroughbreds …) This horse was sent on to a rougher trainer, one who would ‘lay it down’. Euphemism – for tying up, throwing down and restraining until the horse gives up (learned helplessness, mental shut down and strong risk of physical damage).

What would you think are the chances of this ending well? And, who will be blamed? The horse.

Right …  The positives like food, eek! The anti-food line is a big, wide gap between what research says and what many horse trainers do. No, we don’t use food to train … that would be … cheating. And the horses might like it. They would come too close to us, get too enthused and we don’t know how to train them if they aren’t more afraid. We don’t know what to do when it comes to using food, except avoid or only give it once we get done training.  There is a long tradition of using the tools we use. They need to respect us (euphemism for fear).

True, that’s pretty much the way it rolls.

Yup, I gave her an example of how food could work to start to repair the inter-species rift, silly me. Will I do it again? Well not to her, but  …. oh heck, probably yes.





Right to health? Health and interventions are not the same.

Right to health, what? What do you mean by right to health? Right to medical intervention is not the same as health, in fact it’s far from it. Access to preventative screenings is several steps closer to giving people the information they might need to promote their health – assuming the screening is accurate and not prone to false negatives or positives. In the ideal setting the intervention would be early enough that it was minor and effective.

Healthy people generally have the least contact with the medical field unless you are part of the medical field (as I was). So I’ve had lots of contact, just not many interventions.

The current system rewards interventions with payment and interventions breed more interventions. Iatrogenic mortality (one source) is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. (medications, surgeries and hospital based infections are often fatal). Basically, if the system drives illness-based-wealth, we will get more illness. Because there is money in it, lots of money, goodwill and power. Why else would churches be a main player in hospital ownership? Hm, religion is a player on the field.

Non-healthcare people generally seem to believe the medications they take are keeping them well. Most medications only control the symptoms of being unwell, they do not cure the underlying disease or chronically poor behaviors promoting the disease.

The great exceptions are antibiotics, which are rapidly being undermined by stupid use (meat animal growth enhancement and as placebos for viruses) driving evolutionary changes in bacteria. And vaccinations, which are a proven prevention strategy, being undermined by misinformation and fear (and inadequate understanding of the risks of the diseases being prevented).

One of the reasons surgeons are the rock stars of the medical profession is because with a scalpel they can cure disease (sometimes).

Let’s take for example the approach to an ever increasing chronic problem overweight/obesity. The answer, the weight loss industry – diets and surgery.

As a dietitian I know something about it although, because I’m an idealist, I never partook of its riches – it seemed wrong to me. The best predictor of unintended weight gain is going on a weight loss diet. The efforts to find one main cause for the obesity and subsequent diabetes epidemic have not really uncovered ‘a’ culprit, but the ‘best predictor of unintended weight gain is dieting.’

If you never, never were restricted, shamed, never went on that first diet…and next and next it is exceedingly likely that you would weigh much less now. It is more likely that you would have maintained the internal system for hunger and satiety cues that those without weight issues use to maintain their body weight. You wouldn’t be charmed by recipes or be entranced by foodie shows or have undeniable need to eat when not hungry. You wouldn’t be a prime candidate for adult-onset diabetes.

However if I wanted to partake and make money off weight loss systems I would use some modified diet, controlled portions, an external system. Because then you would continue to need my services ($) after great initial success and praise, then, oh darn you failed, lost your focus, lacked willpower, but some people succeed and you could be like them! See they’re famous on TV.

Or I would get aligned with a weight loss surgical team and do counseling about how to deal with minimal stomach volume. Lots of clients, effective surgery (people definitely lose weight following surgery) and follow up issues usually related to absorption problems or eating through – regaining and need for another surgical intervention. Nice economic system. Justifiable because of the serious health problems that come along with obesity.

If I wanted you to be able to really become free of this chronic problem I would have to help you see it in a completely different way and you would have to resist the multiple forces driving you towards dieting, food policing, scales, portion controls, fast change, elective surgery and whatever newest and greatest extreme exercise craze. And nutrition and exercise would be of the gentle long-haul quality, something you could and wanted to continue forever without will power. You would pay attention to your own body, how it reacts – you would be aware. Sounds spiritual, it is.

Makes you think – maybe. But we don’t want to have to change our behaviors, they are ours and we’re used to them. So what if they are making us sick, making us feel sick, making us less than happy.

It is the government’s responsibility to make the decisions that will benefit the whole country. Decisions like ensuring clean air, clean water, untainted food sources, fairness in economic systems and security in those systems. Perhaps being the police force for the world is part of that, probably not. It is also important to prevent endemics of diseases that would threaten the population and the population’s ability to produce healthy food and a reasonable living, which ties into education. The government which we deride, is us. We vote, we buy, we accept, we want, we demand, we blame and we ignore our responsibility to think choices all the way through.

The financial system is a completely made-up, arbitrary system. Its consistency important only because it stands for other things. Its regulation is very important because of that factor. Money means nothing if there is no health, no clean water, no clean air, no untainted food, no way for the majority to have security, except of course those with the most will be able to garner the last of the supplies and sway the ones who also want the power of money.

Having people driven into insolvency, poverty and death instead of being a productive member of society is tragic. Having subsidies, benefits, cheap loans for companies who will significantly damage the air quality, water quality, food quality, devalue employees, is idiotic, and amazingly short sighted; except if your over-riding purpose is to quickly accumulate money – which is most corporations primary goal.

Continuing to support a system that benefits from illness is dumb. Continuing to promote systems that encourage the formation of morbid chronic diseases is also less than brilliant.

Yes we should have freedom to choose with informed choice, but then we also get to have the results of those choices and how educated are we in our choices? Are the repeated pieces of marketing doing all the education? Are students even taught how to evaluate the risks vs the benefits of a health care protocol? How many men get treated for prostate cancer, when the statistics show that 49 will get the treatment and only one will benefit by not dying from that cancer. The other 48 get the side-effects and no life saving, but you don’t know it, you might be the one who is saved. Would you be tough enough to say no if your doctor told you of your cancer and what he could do to possibly save you?

We have tried this current system of private insurance health care for a while now and the results? Well U.S. does not have statistics that support continuing as we have been. But the players have a lot of money on the field and it is better for them financially if things continue and people already in ‘disease’ are afraid.

Afraid of the things they might lose, afraid they won’t be saved, afraid in a culture that keeps death at arm’s length and wants to hide from the declines of aging. Afraid medications won’t be there, in denial that sick old people often just want it all to end, denial about the level of mental illness in the population…  Do you think fear and denial make a strong country or are they more likely to set up ill-thought-out panic? Scare mongering seems amazingly blatant lately.

And everyone in the system can’t see a way out of the system, that’s the way it is with systems, they overtake ones whole perspective. They blind us to the potential benefits of other ways.

But yes, I call for choice in interventions. However I think there needs to be proof of homework, proof of viable research for the choice being made. Where is the risk/benefit ratio? How likely is this intervention to actually produce a healthy recovery. Would a surgeon from another medical center agree to have it done to him?

Choice based on proof of quality of life after intervention and understanding of the likelihood of little benefit and a myriad of unpleasant side-effects.



Deer season opener- Wisconsin

Warmer, snow covered, unfrozen ground with moist 20-30 degree weather welcomed those stalwart, orange-clad deer gun toting hunters today the first day of gun deer hunting 2014.indexSongs were being sung and excitement was building throughout the end of this last week – smiles gracing the faces of otherwise  somber, bearded, flannel-shirted middle-aged men.flannel

Sigh. As per usual I’m sticking close to buildings and wearing orange to ward off random poorly aimed slugs. A large percentage of the deer, also knowing what season it is, have moved into thickets, soggy marshes and closer to buildings to ward off being targets. I saw the tracks of a small herd crossing my horse pasture and headed for a stand of trees and brush bordering our property – they have successfully hidden out in this spot for several years.

There is no hope for respite from the collard, Brussel sprout, apple tree eating, fence busting furry hoard. Not at this level of white-tail-ness.deereatinggarden

This year, since 24 deer per square mile is inadequate concentration for successful hunting, there are no doe tags in our county.

deercarcrashThe level of concentration of deer is quite adequate for deer/vehicular collisions and a boon to auto repair shops, building the economy locally, one deer at a time. Remember, there’s seldom just one trying to cross the road in front of you … more like three or four.

With the advent of off-site registration much of the gatheringdeerregistrationjpg deer-registration joy and storytelling tradition has gone down the road. Social traditions and beer drinking with a bloody buck on the hood or hanging out the back of the pick-up truck be damned. Take a photo from the right angle and he’s shore a big’un. Onward facebook dead deer photo sharing.

Eight more days of wearing orange. Good luck everybody, stay out there ’til you get your buck … remember, don’t shoot at moving orange, or still orange or really anything that doesn’t have all the traits of a deer.


Volunteerism – and other free stuff

It’s county fair time, raspberry picking time, haying time and maybe time to rant.

Hay bales in neighbor's field - it's a late first crop this year.
Hay bales in neighbor’s field – it’s a late first crop this year.

A rant about volunteerism

Time, money, expertise – all the things so many people have so little of, but yet when it’s volunteered it gets devalued. Well maybe not the money, except think of it, free money gets spent in frivolous ways (ie. the big win, the birthday cash, the bonus go to things that are not really needed most of the time – the actions speak ‘this money isn’t as valuable/important as other earned money’).

Why is that? Why must there be an equal price to make something worthwhile? It makes no sense actually and it’s stupid. The value is in there, whether it’s paid for with the traditional exchange of cash or not. Someone has paid for it, has accumulated it, has done the time, done the gather.

This devaluing is why volunteers quit and why programs that are brilliant but free disappear.

So what to do? Because without volunteers/philanthropy so many community things fall apart – there just isn’t the money, time or expertise.

If to be valued there must be a cost, then recipients must pay some cost before they get any benefits. It doesn’t have to be money, but it does need to be of value to the recipients, some initial cost to get their attention and volunteers who are offering up their part need to get something they value too.

The big money people/corporations have this in place for themselves – favors, deductions, power, publicity and legacies. But the backbone of the volunteer workforce gets, pretty much, nothing for their efforts. Oh maybe new friendships, maybe good feelings, karma, charitable deductions for money or goods donated and a small amount for volunteer mileage and maybe a volunteer dinner that mostly you have to sit through. Or maybe just a lot of work that no one seems to appreciate and often doesn’t show up even though they were so enthused originally (of course they weren’t doing the work and so they didn’t have a clue). And then they never find out, never gain the offered knowledge … ah well, may they suffer later.

I despise people who say they will do something and then don’t without even an explanation. It’s so thoughtless, so rude, so hypocritical, such a lie and a bad example. I assume they make promises to themselves all the time and break them, because if you can’t keep  your word to someone else it’s got to be even harder to keep it for yourself when no one else knows what you’ve agreed to.

And maybe, stupid, this is all about values set by an arbitrary price. Over my life I’ve been paid $0 to over $100/hour for the same expertise — arbitrary isn’t it. And the further away I came from the more of an expert I seemed to become, downright silly isn’t it. Just think how much my abilities and knowledge would be worth if I came from a big city instead of up-north rural Wisconsin (you think I’m joking, think again).

The results of this rant haven’t made being a volunteer more appealing to me, in fact I’m thinking of always putting a price on things, always creating hoops, never assuming that others have any idea of what’s being offered – usually they don’t know the difference between an off-the-cuff opinion and researched answers/experience. Grr, this trying to change the world stuff is irritating.

Can’t give it away? Charge for it and be happier.

If you don’t want dementia, log in a gratitude journal

I’ve noticed that gratitude is often born out of misadventure, maybe that’s why it wards off dementia. I mean, there are choices; remember the problems and spin them into gratitude examples – ‘optimism r us’ or remember the problems, but don’t figure out any solutions – which would be the opposite of finding a reason to be grateful. A dead end. Or let someone else provide the answers and be grateful for them – which seems somewhat lazy, especially if they also do the work – maybe really smart.

I’ve met some people with dementia who are optimistic despite continually having forgotten what they were doing, but I doubt they were writing a gratitude journal.

Does it really need to be a journal? Do you have to write it? And are there actually any studies on this or does it just sound nice? Expressing gratitude is pleasing for the people around you, maybe this is just a plot to get potentially confused people to be nicer? Whatever.

Gratitude entry #1: Yesterday I dropped a used syringe out of my pocket in the horse pasture and couldn’t find it despite doing many grid search patterns over the area.

I am grateful for horses who were willingly bribed to a new grassy fenced area before stabbing themselves. I am grateful the syringe was capped so being stuck with a long pointy used rabies vaccine tip is low. I am grateful I got my additional hiking exercise in a grassy rough horse poopie area as the mosquitoes were rushing into full power. I am grateful I didn’t pick up any ticks (none that I know of) in the search process. I am grateful I didn’t write a review for the syringe seller since I now believe clear, gray and black is not the best color choice for syringes used on horses.

Gratitude entry #2: Today I hit the turquoise new post button and ended up with the message, flash program not responding continue or end program, so I hit continue, then after many seconds the page came up and I hit inspire me. I waited several minutes and nothing – I suppose this, if it worked, would be the lazy version.

Thank you for the frustration that drove new thoughts on dementia. Thank you for the opportunity to write in a gratitude journal, since I was actually intending to post in my dog blog, but this at long computer pause, came up first. Thank you for letting me wonder if computer foibles are helping to drive the explosion of dementia … wanting to go somewhere, but ending up somewhere else.

Yeah. Feel much more cognitively sound!

However, it seems that the building blocks of dementia are put in place up to 30 years or more before its onset. I doubt that backdating the gratitude journal would fool anyone.

Gratitude entry #21788: I’m 25 years old, visiting Pearl Lake. Lovely day, grateful for the blue skies, warm breezes and warm sand on the shoreline. Water’s cold yet, but looks pretty.

Yah, unlikely I would put my age into a gratitude entry. Plus dementia turns back the clock, don’t need to jump start the process.

So exercise anyone? I’ve got a syringe to find.




But I was starving – shipwrecked

Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.

But look there’s a guy over there, cut him up, what do you think?

Good bye Richard Parker, tasty Mr. Parker, the law of survival stinks.

The horizon showed, well, the horizon. Endless salt water, waves, blue sky and blazing sun. No beer, no ice, no umbrella, but we’ve got turnips and a raw sea turtle. Yum.

Raw, probably somewhat moldy, shriveled turnips, maybe if I was

English: Turnips (Brassica rapa) Français : Na...

real hungry I’d eat turnips. I do like them roasted, but there is no cooking fire included in this small, ‘got nothing in it for supplies’ boat afloat in the late 1800s shipwreck. Raw sea turtle would have to be several levels of hunger further up the scale, very chewy with an unpleasant fishy flavor especially in the bottom of this sloppy soiled boat. Yeah, eat anything, try anything starvation

English: Leatherback sea turtle with head abov...

level. And then that’s gone. No water, no food and no real hope of rescue.

Then thirst gets overwhelming and we’re on to drinking urine, mm. And salt water, uh uh. And we discuss whether one of us should die as sustenance for the others. I’m sure the thinking was real clear at this point.

But it is true that eating one sailor does give the others a better chance of survival. And the younger, more tender one, is always the culinary choice, especially in raw consumables. Plus if he is unconscious, that helps. “oh look he’s sleeping – stick him!”

So the question; is it murder or self-defense or just a slippery slope towards eating the least favorite shipping buddy?

Is it better to have one die than four? Well, that seems like a no-brainer – mostly yes.

Or is it more important to never kill a person(except in the military or if you’re in the judicial system)?  That seems like a no-brainer – mostly yes.

And is how the choice made of who was to die critical in the innocence or guilt of the human eaters? Well, that seems like a no-brainer – mostly yes.

And if we got rescued the day or two later or just survived against the odds would that be considered damning? Well, that seems like a no-brainer, then what were we thinking. What, no crystal ball? No satellite communications…hey it was the late 1800s.

And anybody who eats raw sea turtle and drinks pee is obviously in fear of dying, is dying, by Jove. And if they don’t die, kill them because they ATE somebody and if they’re not punished, well it could become a trend; a precedent. Sailors around the world will be just saying, I murdered him and ate him because I thought I was dying of hunger. And to really prove their case, report some other obnoxious things that were eaten prior to the other forbidden meat, like dark room-temperature ale and eggplant or, or kale raw, bruised and with no dressing.

Sailing, sailing who shall we eat today.

Calm seas, no shore in sight...paddle.
Calm seas, no shore in sight…paddle, appetizers at 7.

Sorrow, the sky cries

Rainysaturday2012 003It is raining, on the snow. Maybe a fitting showing of grief over the meaningless death of so many in that Connecticut grade school. It’s a long way from here to there. But we share the loss.

Crying to the universe, why is this happening and what can we do to prevent it? We are in denial. It’s already sad history; it cannot be prevented.

Little kids couldn’t have caused the shooter distress, so why? He shot his mother, can we blame his parents? Why did she have those guns? Who let him come into the school? That’s anger and maybe even rage for some. We want cause and effect and obvious reasons. Something to make it stay in its box, something to make it not so random or bewildering. And we can make up answers and we will. We’ll do this so that it won’t happen, won’t have happened. That’s bargaining.

It’s already grief, shared, but not abated for a long, long time for those that were there. And not abated for those of us who vicariously watch all the broadcasts about each ‘new’ development. That’s depression or acceptance, maybe, but we’ll go back and forth, zigzagging through the stages of grief. Lets try to understand ourselves (external focus and internal awareness) and try to accept and take the positive out of a mortal situation; it happened to make us do better and be a better people. Do we understand that the locally implemented heightened school security is to prevent ‘copycats,’ that the media notoriety spins off others of us who want this kind of fame. Attention changes actions, good and bad.

What would be a better people? A better nation? And what does this intense publicity do to us?

The religious among us will call for more faith. The righteous will call for stricter laws. The pacifists will call for banning handguns, assault weapons. The gun DIYs will want more concealed carry, even in schools. The parents will call for my child to be safe in public, but stay out of our home. The sociologists will talk of reducing societal stresses, violence in the media and in the country. The psychologists will call for earlier interventions for mental issues and training coping skills. The schools will lock their doors, barricade, hide inside and be suspicious of the innocent.The police will practice more urban warfare games and school lock downs. The politicians will try to pass laws without the money to fund them. And who will benefit, will society actually benefit or will we just be more scared, less trusting, doing whatever we were doing before, more?

Each perspective will have its best answer. Each will be right; each will be wrong. Emotion plus political will may drive the money for THE SOLUTION and then we’ll complement ourselves for our effort or shake our heads at the waste and loss of freedom. Just like we have for the homeland security changes in our airports, our border crossings, but wait a minute, wasn’t this terrorism?

Do we really think that anyone can stop an unknown, random person among our thousands of people who for whatever irrational reason is willing to kill known or unknown others and then commit suicide? If it was as easy as spending money, we would have done it already and maybe we did, but it’s gone unnoticed.

And after the fact of the incident it’s easy to see the signs, but that’s after the fact. We already have 25 percent of the world’s population of jailed people, in our jails. This kind of shooting was a rare event; terrible, but rare. Suicide by gun, is not rare. Mental illness is not rare. Poor coping skills…not rare. Unhappy people, far too common in a nation of abundance.

I’ve looked at some of the studies of various earlier efforts in US to quell gun homicide. The results, for the most part, haven’t been wonderful, well we’ve got, what we’ve got. Lots of guns and really, controlling guns/ammo would be a management tool, not actually an over-all solution. Problem oriented policing appears to have some of the best outcomes. In healthcare I was used to problem oriented interventions. That begs knowing what the  problem is and being very specific to the person(s) and family or facility. Do we know what the problem is and why we as a nation have so many more homicides than other nations at similar socioeconomic status or maybe we’re comparing ourselves wrongly because we haven’t come to grips with the current vast split in poor vs wealthy? Why do so many women go to get mental help and so many men that need it, avoid it?  And can we do the research without bias? And then would we have the will to do change, whatever the agreed upon many-faceted best solution is when it affects us, our business, our freedom and our pocketbook? Or would we just rather shout out our preferred solution that we already are doing? Because it’s someone else that’s the problem, not us.

Well, I told you I was cynical in my “About.” Maybe it’s from all those years in healthcare working with people who continued doing things that resulted in worse chronic illness and being really surprised when someone actually significantly made changes, wow when you do them they really work, of course, could be my skewed sample was that of those remaining in long-term care.

I am deeply saddened by the loss of so many in one day and my condolences go out to the community and families.