Cary Neeper

Writer, Blogger, and Painter -- esteeming life wherever and whatever it might be.

Check out Critical Non-fiction for links to reviews in Goodreads.com

COMPLEXITY
Exploration of complexity, its indicators, embedded chaos, and value in human organizations.

Forty Years with Birds and Dogs
Care and Respect

The Hen House Takes On Mark Twain--8. Man is the Only Animal that Does War?

November 19, 2013

Tags: Human Self-Image, Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing, Book Club Discussion

Mark Twain’s eighth Horrendous Commendation of the Human Race as inferior to all other animals is open to question. Do ants do war?
Quotes cited below are from Mark Twain’s Letters From the Earth: Uncensored Writings, the letter entitled “The Damned Human Race, Section V. The Lowest Animal.”

MT puts it this way: Man gathers together “for sordid wages” other men “to exterminate without passion those who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel.”

I’m not sure E.O. Wilson would agree. Ants do something similar. Ants They are quite good at warlike behavior, but perhaps we can excuse them, for several reasons. They have a smaller brain than we do. It is programmed to do a simple, specialized job (most likely), and the purpose is attaining food and surviving as a species. All life needs to do that. MT’s statement gives defending Homo sapiens two challenges 1) we do war against others of our own kind and 2) against others who are innocent.

I agree that (1 may be unique to humankind. We seem to have nasty tribal instincts left over from a time when competition for food was necessary for survival. Recently we have discovered a gene, allele D4-7, that gives us a dopamine high whenever we win a battle or eat good food.

MT’s (2—doing war with those innocent of hurting us—will bring a storm of protest from many who feel we always have a righteous cause. There’s always something, from someone’s point of view.
Now, however, as borders dissolve under the impact of rising global communication, economic necessity, migration and interracial breeding that produces hybrid vigor in the species—we have less and less reason to war against our human brethren, more and more reason to work together for a stable future.

In short, the writing is on the wall. Our numbers are now so large and our impact on mother Earth is so great, if we don’t get together soon to agree on a way to limit our avariciousness and our blind tribalism, we will forfeit our chances of rising to our best potential as long as Earth is habitable.

The Hen House Takes On Mark Twain-7. “Man is the cruel animal.

November 14, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing, Book Club Discussion

Written at the worst time of his life, Mark Twain’s seventh Horrendous Commendation of the Human Race goes on to say [Man] “...inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.”
Quotes cited below are from Mark Twain’s Letters From the Earth: Uncensored Writings, the letter entitled “The Damned Human Race, Section V. The Lowest Animal.”

MT’s list of human cruelties is not fun to read. It goes on for a full page. I hate to think what would be on the list of current incidents.

MT excused the cat who plays with a “...frightened mouse...” because the cat doesn’t deliberately torture the mouse. The kill is sudden and quick, as is the deadly throttle of experienced non-human hunters.

As MT suggests, the cat may or may not be conscious of the mouse’s fright . The jury is still out on that issue, but, at last, evidence is gathering that non-human consciousness is more astute than we have recognized to date.

If the cat knows that the frightened mouse is suffering, but plays with it anyway, we’ve got a serious problem. What’s the point? Philosophically, should we write off life knowingly torturing life as the inevitable consequences of a brain too complex for its own good.

Maybe it’s like the price we pay for being made out of stuff. The material called flesh and bone is subject to harm. Pain is an alarm system so you can fix your hurting stuff. Too much pain and you shut down—another blessing in disguise.

Looking at torture as a byproduct of the most complex object in the universe—that’s what students of complex systems call the brain, due to the super-astronomical number of connections between neurons and other brain cells—one can say that our moral or religious challenge is to rise above such complex aberrations and prove ourselves worthy of heaven.

Though that may be viewed as a primitive western myth, it has some merit in giving us motivation to be the best complex critters we can be. However, viewing the ability to do torture as a byproduct of natural processes doesn't make it acceptable, not in the least.

When Creation started tinkering with matter so that is could come alive, consciousness and complexity were as inevitable as vulnerability and imagination. Surely we can meet these challenges and live as if we were grateful for the miracle of our conscious lives.

The Hen House Takes on Mark Twain 6-“Man Is The Animal that Blushes.”

November 7, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing, Book Club Discussion

Scooter, feeling what?
Mark Twain’s sixth Horrendous Commendation of the Human Race as inferior to all other animals since he invented “indecency, vulgarity, and obscenity.”
Quotes cited below are from Mark Twain’s Letters From the Earth: Uncensored Writings, the letter entitled “The Damned Human Race, Section V. The Lowest Animal.”

Well, maybe. This is a tricky one. Nature has pruned and shaped us so that our mating signals are far more obvious than most other animals.’ Hence, we wear clothes, so we can do good work without distraction. The historical and current cleavage fad is a rebellion against this work ethic and should be considered carefully. Because of our blatant biological design, maybe we should not advertise unless we mean it.

MT blames our “moral sense” for our invention of “indecency, vulgarity and obscenity,” but I blame the accident of nature’s creating a “naked ape” with a brain so complex it has resulted in the human capacity to invent such concepts, plus a million reasons why the concepts induce lewdness and/or humor.

“The “...higher animals...hide nothing; they are not ashamed.” MT’s second statement for the superiority of animals on this topic is simply not true. Dog owners know very well that dogs are capable of intense shame—though it may be triggered more often by their sensitivity to human expectations than not. Is it shame that some dogs feel when their luscious fur is shaved?

I need more input on this one. Anyone have any experience with animal shame to share? It’s closely related to, but different from, guilt, isn’t it.? Or does MT have this one correct?

The Hen House Takes On Mark Twain 5-- Loose Humans Are More Guilty Than Loose Cats

October 31, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing, Book Club Discussion

Oscar and his pal Boots, circa 1940's
Mark Twain’s fifth Horrendous Commendation of the Human Race is based simply on the fact that humans are consciously loose, while cats are “unconscious,” hence innocent.
Quotes cited below are from Mark Twain’s Letters From the Earth: Uncensored Writings, the letter entitled “The Damned Human Race, Section V. The Lowest Animal.”

How unconscious are animals? My first reaction to this assumption by MT is that in his day no one imagined what we have discovered recently about animal behavior. The old fear of anthropomorphism in this specialized field of science has finally been overcome by the rational acceptance of common sense, a huge collection of anecdotes, and some clever experiments. Recent Titles

I understand that behavior scientists can now publish words like empathy and joy when referring to animals. In MT’s day—in fact, even a short time ago—scientists would not be published if they used such words.

I suspect that what drove this unscientific verbal prejudice was our historical need to feel unique in creation. If animals did not have emotions, then we could feel superior and make cruel use of them more easily.

MT took another angle on the problem, stating that since cats were unconsciously loose, “The cat is innocent. Man is not.” He had no idea how conscious cats are. They know exactly what I’m about when I chase them away from our bird feeder. And I believe they know exactly what they are about. My childhood barnyard cat Oscar certainly did.

Oscar was so “loose,” he sired dozens of kittens, who came into the barn for the pan of milk Pa provided while milking Buttercup, our World War II Victory Farm cow. They came for the milk, I’m convinced, because Oscar showed them and their mothers where it was. He was a good family provider. He knew exactly what he was doing—proof positive of his consciousness. He just didn’t agree with MT’s condemnation of looseness.

The Hen House Takes On Mark Twain 4—Do Humans Rank Lower Than Roosters In The Keeping Of Harems?

October 24, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing, Book Club Discussion

This is Mark Twain’s fourth Horrendous Condemnation of the Human Race as inferior to all other animals.
Quotes cited below are from Mark Twain’s ”Letters From the Earth: Uncensored Writings, the letter entitled “The Damned Human Race, Section V. The Lowest Animal.”

I can confirm MT’s observation that “...roosters keep harems, but it is by consent...” For eleven years, Peeper, the Hen House’s resident male, a gorgeous game cock raised as an only child by a devoted hen, wooed and won his harem with generous offerings of crickets and worms, even his treasured tidbits from the kitchen scrap bucket.

However, when MT states that men keep harems by “brute force,” I’m afraid he exaggerates. Sure, it has happened in our sad history, and we still have MT’s “atrocious laws” that don’t respect women’s rights, but not all men do this. I know many good men who respect and support their wives. I’m married to one. There are many who exercise amazing patience with domestic fal de rals that any self-respecting eunuch would not endure—the famous Honey-Dos.

At least human males don’t have to fight other males every spring for mating rights, as do many of our fine furry friends. Or do they? At least, I’d say humans come out close to the top in the courtship competition category.

The animal at the very top of the list in my opinion is the humble squid--the one who wins the female by imitating her skin coloration, hence fooling the competing males and snuggling in closer than other suitors. Is there a lesson there? Or an analogy I’m missing?

The Hen House Takes On Mark Twain--3. Are Humans the Only Animal With A Passion For Revenge?

October 18, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing, Book Club Discussion

Mark Twain’s Third Horrendous Condemnation of the Human Race as inferior to all other animals is simply wrong. Quotes cited below are from Mark Twain’s Letters From the Earth: Uncensored Writings, the letter entitled “The Damned Human Race, Section V. The Lowest Animal.” In this ten-page article, Mark Twain (MT) lays out the evidence as he saw it at a terrible time of his life. Perhaps we should excuse him, but on this point I can’t agree. Personal experience has told me that revenge is not unique to the human animal.

Nowadays we know a lot more about animal behavior—both good and bad. Turns out, we’re all carved from the same DNA, and it shows. Read the work of Frans DeWaal and Colin Tudge. (more…)

The Hen House Takes On Mark Twain--2. Are Humans the Only "...avaricious and miserly" Animal?

October 10, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Sustainability/Steady State Economics, Writing and Publishing, Book Club Discussion

This is Mark Twain’s second observation in his list of human faults, due to their unique “moral sense.” Quotes cited below are from Mark Twain’s Letters From the Earth: Uncensored Writings, the letter entitled “The Damned Human Race, Section V. The Lowest Animal.”

MT states that when several animals were offered the chance to accumulate all the food they wanted “...none of them would do it.” Humans who become millionaires, however, “...show...a rabid hunger for more.” (more…)

Guest Blog from Mia Darien--Writing Suspense

August 11, 2013

Tags: Writing and Publishing

There are a lot of thin lines you have to walk when writing. At least, if you ever plan for anyone to read what you write!

One of those things is between complexity and simplicity. When you're writing for adult audiences, you don't want stories that are so simple that it sounds like a children's novel, but you also don't want it so complex that you confuse and lose your readers.

It's even more important when you're writing thrillers, suspense stories, or mysteries. I consider my Adelheid series to be suspense, which means that you need an intense series of events, a mystery to the tale even if you're not writing it as a mystery and leaving clues for the reader to pick up on. (more…)

Aging in the Hen House and Elsewhere

July 12, 2013

Tags: Aging, Domestic Bird Care, Writing and Publishing, Book Club Discussion

Gwen and Puddles in her maturity
What has the Hen house been telling me lately? Something about aging, I'm afraid. Should I blog about aging? In this culture? Maybe. But I'll do it anyway.

We're all aging, aren't we? Turkey's knees are thick with rough scales, and she has quit whining for her flock, content to hang out with the geese and chicken. Lucy is still a beautiful fat white goose, but she laid only a few eggs this year. Baby duck Puddles, now one year old, has sprouted lovely dark brown patches in her feathers. She is still laying one egg each day, more than her mother Khaki.

And the miniature Mallards, Kiebler and Ms. Ritz, can no longer fly all the way up to the stock tank for their morning swim. Even so, Ms. Ritz is sitting faithfully on several eggs I neglected to collect. I haven't the heart to take them away. Maybe they'll hatch. She's a good mom, but the Hen House is quite full enough. I don't know what I'm going to do.

What do I do if they don't hatch? She once sat for eight weeks on eggs that didn't make it while we were on travel. That's why I got her Meatball, a broiler, the only chick in the feedstore.

Back to aging. The dogs hips are arthritic, but they don't complain, like the rest of us. We're cutting back and looking for end-of-life options, so we don't leave a huge legacy for our children to cleanup. There are many different options for elder care. Most people wait too long, then move when they have to--when there's no time to make a comfortable choice. Here's a few links to start working on it. NACCRA or a 2010 overview

Our problem is that the Hen House birds could easily outlive us, and most Life Care campuses don't allow geese.

Where Have All the Collies Gone—Hybrid Vigor Is In

June 18, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Sustainability/Steady State Economics, Writing and Publishing, Book Club Discussion

Meatball at three weeks
How many people own or breed Collie dogs these days? You hardly ever see them on the street. Even shepherds like Boots, those wonderful, intelligent, sensitive ball-chasers, are more rare than they used to be. It’s all Labradors or a variety of short hair, middle sized dark-haired dogs—as if the flexible canine gene package has reverted to its wild mix.

Maybe more people are adopting shelter dogs, once roamers of the streets. That’s a good thing. It is probably good for the long-term survival of the species. Hybrid vigor may be working good things-though the specialties or unique beauties that result from inbreeding may be more interesting.

Too much in-breeding has led to a remark from a vet I know: “I can tell by the breed what disease to expect when they come in with an ailment.” That’s why people don’t marry cousins. Somehow, biologically, we know better--except for royal families who sometimes forgot that recessive genes can get together for ill effect.

By people of mixed racial heritage, there is a new recognition of hybrid vigor and the perks of being raised by two different cultures. It’s a rapidly growing population, exhibiting all the genetic advantages and getting together to share the experience. Biracial Meetup Groups

My first job was at a home for children of Asian-Caucasian mix. They were gorgeous, strong, healthy kids with a capacity for robust character and the healthy ability to apologize when called-for. I’ll never forget Jadine coming to me after I told her go to go to her room until she could stop screaming—her beautiful tan face turned up to me with wide, tear-filled eyes saying, “I’m sorry, Miss Almond.” I hope you’ve had the great life you deserve, Jadine.

In an earlier blog, I talked about chickens that have been bred for non-stop egg-laying, which seems to shorten their lives. They also suffer the horrors of selective breeding for fast growth (meat), which damages their ability to walk up hill on legs not designed to carry their weight. See my story about Meatball, the sweetheart rooster with the bass crow.(Week of April 19, 2013 Los Alamos Daily Post)

Dogs and Lost Hens—Time Is Precious

June 4, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing, Domestic Bird Care

DeeDee and Scooter in their prime
I should explain that the dogs do not reside in the Hen House, but they have a lot to do with it. They have a huge pillow bed and a life-sized artificial bear rug to sleep on under my desk-door-resting-on-file-cabinets and a closet devoted to the two-dog door system husband Don invented to prevent heat loss (into the closet, then outside).

The dogs’ job is to watch and protect the birds while they’re out in the yard. They do their job effectively, except when the hungry hawks that nest next door are on the hunt. They got my old hen Jupiter when the dogs were off terrorizing chipmunks in the woodpile. The hawk must have startled the miniature Mallards, Kiebler and Ms. Ritz. I hunted all over the yard for them. Finally I heard their quizzical quack and found them outside the back fence, waiting for me to let them back in. Some years later the hawk, probably a chicken hawk, got Butterscotch in a heavy rain, when the birds were hunched under an apricot tree. All we found was a small pile of feathers.

The dogs managed to kill a skunk one week, without getting more than a token perfuming. Poor thing. We hadn’t seen a skunk in the yard for several years. In the 80’s they lived under the Hen House, and in the ‘70’s our current dog Poncho was best friends with daughter Indra’s pet skunk Streak. Her story has been told in my weekly online column with the Los Alamos Daily Post. Search "Cary Neeper".
The gophers are also long gone from the yard, after a summer-long pursuit that left a six-inch deep trench in front of the Ponderosas that frame and shelter the Hen House. The one they caught was huge. Until this year, I haven’t had to clip the dogs nails since they were pups.

Now the dogs are aging. They don’t dig for gophers any more, and they are once again invading the yard. I’ll also have to get out the clippers soon. The dogs’ nails are long enough to make them skid and trip on the back stairs—not a good thing, for DeeDee’s arthritis is slowing her down.

So what’s the point of all this? Life is a strange mix of eat and be eaten, live and let live when you’re bonded as youngsters, survive when you can and enjoy the ride. Time is precious.

Boots—A First Dog

May 29, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Sustainability/Steady State Economics, Writing and Publishing

Boots and Oscar circa 1944
We’ll continue in a more orderly way for a while, viewing life as a continuum of nonlinear interactions that weave us into a complex universe, making things unpredictable at every level for at least six reasons. I’ll be including stories from my forty years with domestic birds and dogs. Many will add to the current flood of wonderful anecdotes and studies that illustrate how we have finally come to realize how much we humans share with other life.

My life with animals began at age three in San Leandro, California, when Ma and Pa gave brother Harold and I a string to pull. We did, and in came two white legs under a waddling ball of brown fluff. We named her Boots. During World War II we had a Victory Garden in the hills above Hayward, California. My dad kept a few chickens in a pen in the apricot orchard. My job was to herd them back into the pen. (more…)

Jealousy Amongst the Beasts

May 7, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing, Domestic Bird Care

Lucy, Bobbi and Turkey Two (Little Bear)
This column is about jealousy, which turkeys are not. They simply demand attention and swipe bites of sandwich when they get a chance.

I hate to complain, but it’s only been a few short decades since animal behavior scientists could publish words like affection or empathy in their scientific papers, thanks to Frans deWaal and others on the Discovery Channel and PBS broke the ice.

All good soap operas should deal with jealousy once in a while, instead of relying on poor communications to turn the plot. I’ll deal with it right up front, right now, while Bobbi goose rapidly attains status as the dominant personality in the Hen House. Jealousy is the most prominent driving force of Hen House sociology. I watch it every day, amazed.

Dogs are the most jealous of critters. DeeDee, being the most alert of our two canine family members, can’t stand to watch me murmur sweet nothings to the birds of the Hen House.

There doesn’t need to be any food involved. If I kneel down to talk to young Bobbi goose and scratch the bottom of her neck, I immediately have two wet noses nudging my hand and wet tongues washing my face. DeeDee and Scooter can’t stand to hear me sweet talk the baby goose without getting some for themselves, and a neck massage to go with it.

Baby goose Bobbi also has a jealous streak, and it prevented my making friends with Motley and Lance, the ducks Ms. Ritz raised one spring. When Bobbi scarped the melon rind I held for her, I tried offering it to Motley. The yellow and black hybrid duckling cocked his head and looked at me straight in the eye as if to say, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

Still, Bobbi wouldn’t ever stand for my approaching Motley with the leftover Honey Dew rind. With her raspy complaint she’d get between us, and sometimes Lucy would join her, as if to protect their treat from such lowly beings. Lucy acts the same way toward the chickens, so I’m reduced to squatting at the chicken wire barrier between the wet nursery and the dry hen/turkey pen, holding one melon rind in one hand for the chickens while the other hand holds a rind for the geese.

The ducks watch, but not jealously or longingly, not even very interestedly. I think they know it’s a hopeless cause. They even give way to the geese at the ponds. Taking turns, I call it.

But the real reason the melon rinds don’t interest them is probably because their bills aren’t made for scraping out bites of fruit. It took Lucy some time to master the art, and she can scrape out a bit with the tip of her beak or chew up the entire rind with the serrated edges of the back of her beak. No problem. However, it’s taken Bobbi some time to learn the technique, and she still doesn’t get it. Or maybe her beak or jaw muscles are not strong enough yet. She can sure pick apart the little green apples that fall into the pen, so maybe she just isn’t motivated by the taste of Honey Dew melon.

Martha’s Belly

April 23, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing, Domestic Bird Care

Selective breeding has done a real number on layers and broilers—chickens, that is. The layers I’ve had, poor things, don’t live long after a life laying a two-ounce egg every day or so, even in winter, after they reach six months. Modern chickens are living examples of how rapid evolution can be. At two years of age they sit around one day and fall over dead the next. Or they walk around like they’re carrying a load, and are put to sleep by sympathetic vets who can tell a rampaging cancer from a stuck egg, At least death comes quickly to the kindly birds.

Some vets don’t know much about chickens. I discovered this shocking fact some time back in the 1970’s, when Martha started walking around splay-legged, like a bird with a loaded diaper. I drove her, with her suspiciously balloon-shaped abdomen, to the vet ten miles down the road. The young vet extracted some clear fluid from Martha’s belly and admitted to being somewhat puzzled. I suggested I would be willing to pay for an x-ray, and the deed was done. In the x-ray, to our horror, we spotted a very clear dark object framed by the l-shaped bones of the overloaded chicken.

“How much would it cost to have that removed?” I asked

The answer was also shocking. $100 was real money in the 70’s. Sadly, I took Martha home, but something about that x-ray bothered me. When I deposited the sick chicken in the back yard, she ran off to greet her nest mates, apparently relieved at having escaped major surgery.

I ran for the bookshelf still loaded with text books from my college days and found the basic zoology text. There it was, on page 108, a simple anatomic diagram of a domestic chicken, a familiar dark spot framed nicely by the l-shaped bones of leg and pelvis. It was labeled “gizzard.”

I laughed out loud, then smirked knowingly to myself and gave myself ten brownie points for not calling the young vet with the good news. Martha lived another happy six months before she succumbed to her mysteriously bloated belly.

What You Expect Is What You Read—Or Not

April 16, 2013

Tags: Writing and Publishing, Reviews

Since viewing the Nature program “Animal Odd Couples,” a PBS video, I’ve been focused on the many engaging stories aired by PBS and by many authors, including Penny Patterson, and Koko, Temple Grandin, making a difference, and Frans deWaal, studying animal emotions. Therefore, I expected more anecdotes when I started reading Gary Kowalski’s Blessings of the Animals.

Indeed, in the middle of that book, there are some good stories--a polar bear coming nightly to play with Huskys in Alaska, a young leopard playing with a Golden Retriever puppy in South Africa, the friendship of two Groton goats and a timber wolf at the San Diego Zoo, the gorilla Koko and her kitten.

As I began reading I became disoriented. The first two chapters of Kowalski’s book talked about animals in church and something about old saints. I should have known better. The book was about blessings. The title said so.

Once I woke up to that fact, I was ready for the wonderful examples of blessings the author had written. Each chapter illustrated a different way in which animals have blessed human life.

Our job as writers clearly demands that we do our best to reflect the essence of our stories in our titles and 25-word tags. As readers, it might be helpful to believe what the titles of books are trying to say.

Bullsnakes--Friends of the Hen House

April 9, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing

Rescued Bullsnake
I could use a few more bullsnakes. (We called them garter snakes in California.) A lovely long one lives under the dog igloo where Kiebler and Ms. Ritz reside, but he has not been able to keep up with the mouse population, now that they have learned not to drown in the ducks' bathtubs.They scamper away into the ground when they hear me filling the water tubs. They don't bother anything, and they don't eat more than their share, but it means I have to be careful how I handle things. I don't want to encourage hanta virus.

This Friday the Los Alamos Daily Post will publish my column about the rattlesnake we met while working on a Seismosaurus dinosaur site here in New Mexico. As a result, I heard from Jan Macek, who has published her snake rescue stories on Animalrescuechase.com. Here is her bullsnake story from that site. Her "rattlesnake" story appears as a comment on today's other blog, below.


Skinny Bullsnake
by Jan Macek

"I should explain that I have a great love for reptiles especially snakes and do free educational snake programs. Snakes, especially in New Mexico, and elsewhere, don't have much of a voice so I try to give them one. Early Nov. 2010 I got a call from a lady who told me that her kids had found a snake stuck in a hole. When we got to the site, sure enough, there was a bullsnake head protruding from a hole. Somehow, a bullsnake had gotten into a gopher hole but for some reason, the hole had caved in and the snake couldn't get out. We live in the mts of NM and the nights were getting cold so if this snake hadn't been rescued when it was, it would have frozen in the near future. When I dug the snake out, I discovered a very skinny bullsnake about 5 ft. long. I have had him for almost 5 months and he will not eat on his own. I have had to tube him with turkey babyfood to get this system ready for food items. He will not eat on his own so I have had to assist feed him with large (frozen/thawed) pinkies and fuzzies. I am hoping he will eat on his own in the future. I am not sure what happened to him but I suspect that he was someone's pet for many years and then he was let go and couldn't fend for himself. I had been hearing about this large bullsnake all summer and it is strange for so many people to see the same snake in the same area all summer. I should have known that this is not normal for a snake. I don't know if he will survive but I do know that if he does, he has a forever home with me. This picture was taken right after he was rescued. He looks the same after 5 months because one can"t stuff a snake in order for them to put on weight quickly. It has to be done slowly. Reptiles, deserve the same compassion as we give our 4 legged pets."

Universal Emotion: Relating to Animals and Aliens

April 9, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing

Seismosaurus Site Rattlesnake
Now that we’ve reviewed Rob Dietz’s “encouraging scenes from the steady state” in his recent guide to the future Dietz and Dan O'Neill Enough Is Enough, we should move on to the other issues that the books in “The Archives of Varok” address. We are running a comment contest until June 20—a set of books going to the most thoughtful ideas about two issues.

The first issue is directly related to the Hen House theme of our responsibility to animals that we adopt. Also to those who live near the Hen House and keep the mice under control, like this friendly rattlesnake who lived at the Seismosaurus Site and warmed himself around the generator. He politely let me take this picture, but only if I stayed back exactly 3 feet.

My reviewer at the Los Alamos Daily Post asked the best question so far--could an extended family, including aliens and humans, really work? The mixed family of The Archives surely do have their problems, and though they’ve met them head-on in both A Place Beyond Man and The Webs of Varok, there are more to come in the next volume, Conn: The Alien Effect, to be released early this summer.

I’d like to believe that we humans have matured to the point where we could appreciate the alienness of other beings. We’re doing much better with animals now, since Temple Grandin shared her experiences with us in her book Animals In Translation, New York: Scribner, 2005. (more…)

"Enough Is Enough" Not A Cliche--A Critical Book by Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill

January 15, 2013

Tags: Writing and Publishing, Reviews

The rumors are true. I am reading Robert Fishe's "The Dimwit's Dictinary cover to cover. I'm underlining it too. What? You heard me. (Ha! I just looked up that phrase. He forgot that one.) I said, I'm underlining words and phrases that I probably would use, phrases like "express (concern)" or "attitude." Fiske lists helpful alternative words, sometimes, so I'll continue reading and underlining. I'm up to G. I'm sure his book will help me in the ongoing struggle to ramp up my verbiage to new heights. (Ooops. No, that one's not there, either.)

That said, I'm moving on. (Ha again! Neither phrase is listed, but "moving forward," is.) I'm going to express my doubts about the phrases listed in the Dimwit's Dictionary. Some are too useful; they express too precisely what I mean to say, sometimes with a tone that no alternative phrase or word captures. Take, for example, the title of Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill's excellent, concise summary of why we need to do this and that to begin the conversion to a steady state, now. "Economics for Dummies?" No! It's called "Enough Is Enough." Rob thought long and hard about using that title. A search can get 150 hits on the phrase. But it says exactly what they wanted to say, and I agree. They say why. They say how to make a steady state work for the betterment of all. It's a text that should be required reading in every school in the country, important for all of us to read before we can't stop imploding. I doubt that the title will hurt his sales. Enough Is Enough memorable and right on target. Just be sure to add the Dietz and O'Neill to your search. Here's an url to help. Enough Is Enough

A Review of Pi, Dogs, Geese and Family Values

December 11, 2012

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing, Domestic Bird Care

Cary with DeeDee, Bobbi and Lucy. The chickens are lost in the shadows.
Yesterday we saw the movie "The Life Of Pi"--a thoughtful exploration of religion and meaning and the animal mind--a masterful use of 3-d to express nature's power and human fragility and beauty without going over the top too often. The effects did not steal too much story time, just a little, with lengthy storms. What impressed me most was the director's restraint 1) in leaving the large questions unanswered, and 2) letting the human be a human and the tiger be a tiger.

Tigers are not dogs, nor are dingoes or wolves, though they share genes with domestic dogs. I suspect coyotes' tameness/civilized gene packages may be changing with their urbanization as dogs' did. The many nuances of eye contact tell the tale.

Geese also do eye contact, but it's very hard to read, maybe because their facial muscles don't attractively contract the orange ring that encircles their eyeballs. Or maybe I lose the eye contact in the constant honking they do when faced with a creature who leaves them puzzled.

My geese--Lucy and Bobbi--honk every morning at the three ducks, establishing their dominance over the favored area in the pen. Then everyone quiets down to do their morning washup, using their fluffy heads as very effective washrags--which bring me to the point of this blog--the concept of family. Dogs are family. They've had 50,000 or more years to refine their tameness gene cluster. They understand my emotional outbursts, and I understand theirs.

I don't understand goose Bobbi, as Pi failed to understand the tiger. We meet on a primitive level all right--the level where hunger and safety and dominance are clear, but Bobbi is also family. I am committed to her well being, to her health, her happiness. (I do believe she has such a thing.) Geese hate being handled, so I don't try to pet them, and I restrain them only when I must, to tend to a torn toenail or to put them into a dog crate for a fire evacuation. I provide shelter from the cold, and I will never prepare Bobbi's carcass for Christmas dinner--because she trusts me. She eats corn and Honey Dew melon rind from my hand. In fact, she expects goodies to appear every afternoon at 4, for she follows me to the pen when I come out with the kitchen scrap bucket. She doesn't know I'm a carnivore and never will, for I will never stalk her. She's a creature of schedule, like most animals, but she's puzzled. She hasn't got me figured out. I'm not quite flock. Lucy knows that; she was raised by 4H girls. But Bobbi hasn't learned what family is. Yet.
2013 Nautilus Silver Award YA and 2012 Foreward Finalist Adult Science Fiction




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A Place Beyond Man
Authors Guild Edition 2011


The Oil Patch Project--Mystery team Cary and Don
See Oil & Gas tag above.