Accounting for Tastes


The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) performs many well-meaning services, and among them is listing on their website the houseplants that are toxic to dogs and cats who may chew on or ingest them. It’s alarming to read just how many houseplants can be dangerous to pets, and of course to small children as well, who similarly are drawn to taste testing unfamiliar plants. Reading the list, one comes to the conclusion that the only truly safe solution lies in ridding the household of plants entirely.

Katze Emmy im Blumentopf sitzend
The photographer’s cat, Emmy, sits among houseplants. Photo by Wikimedia user Mattes.


Closer examination of the information available on the ASPCA website and elsewhere reveals that such drastic measures are unnecessary. Houseplants (as their very name implies) have coexisted with adult humans, their pets, and even small children for centuries without calamity. Two factors account for the relatively peaceful, if not entirely harmonious, relationship of flora and fauna under one roof.

One factor is the mostly small amount of toxicity present in almost any plant you care to name, and the other is the common sense tendency of most creatures to cease nibbling on a plant that tastes unpleasant before ingesting a poisonous quantity. Plants manufacture toxins because they are a defense against nibbling animals. A toxin is not deadly in small amounts, while a poison is deadly in any amount. Production of poisons uses up more of a plants’ resources than production of toxins, and therefore plants have generally evolved to ward off nibbling creatures with unpleasant toxins rather than deadly poisons.

This explanation is an oversimplification of the state of affairs, but suffice it to say that if the situation were otherwise, unfortunate humans and animals would be dropping dead to the point of depopulating the planet. They are not. Toxins of some kind are present in most plants, indoors and out, but they exist as a warning to animals not to eat too much of the plant, and thus destroy the plant’s ability to make a living. On the scale of toxic household chemicals, houseplants overall probably weigh in favor of improving the health of people and pets since many of them do valuable service in cleaning the air. Still, no one can fault people for exercising caution when their children or animal friends are at risk, but only for acting heedlessly in reaction to insufficient information.
— Izzy


Sleep, Pretty Darling, Do Not Cry


“Golden Slumbers”, a song fragment that is part of the medley making up most of side two of the Beatles’ 1969 album Abbey Road, leads straight into “Carry That Weight”, followed by “The End”. The song fragment is credited to Lennon/McCartney, but really it was entirely Paul McCartney’s composition, for which he borrowed lyrics from “Cradle Song”, a 1603 lullaby written by Thomas Dekker. The wonderful orchestration on this recording was by George Martin, the Beatles’ long-time producer.

The lives of dogs and cats, or just about any animal we keep as a pet, are so much shorter than our own that anyone who has had an animal companion has certainly experienced the passing of one, possibly several, within the span of his or her own lifetime. It is never easy, whether death comes for a pet as the outcome of a quick accident or of a prolonged illness.

Grief only comes from having had an emotional bond with someone, and people have emotional bonds with their pets, otherwise there would be no pets, only creatures regarded by us with a certain distance and detachment. Guilt is part of the bargaining stage of grief, and it can be strong in people grieving the loss of a pet because they bear such a great responsibility for the pet’s well being and, sometimes, how the pet’s life ends.

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A light brindle boxer dog peacefully coexisting with a ginger cat. Photo by Rufus Sarsaparilla.

Even when, nearing death, the light seems to have gone out of a companion animal’s eyes, there is still a glimmer of that shared bond in the way they look at us as a friend and protector. What is happening to me, and why are you, always the powerful person in my life, helpless to make things better? There is no reproach in that look, only sadness, pain, and bewilderment. Ultimately, before the light in a dying pet’s eyes goes out entirely, there is a look of surrender and then acceptance. Relief and blessed peace follows for everyone.

It’s far too soon to contemplate taking on the responsibility for another animal’s life, much as there is never a shortage of them who need a home with a caring person. Why would anyone want to be assured of going through all that emotional pain again, five, ten, or fifteen years down the road? But the animals will die regardless of their situation, either alone as a stray or in near anonymity in a cage as one of many animals in a shelter. They can live better with someone who cares deeply, and they will give as well as they receive.


That’s all in the future, possibly, after a period of bereavement for this one pet, because after all they are not interchangeable parts, but individuals with personalities. For now, there are only sad hours, and tears, and prayers for a peaceful end to suffering.
— Izzy

In her 2014 rendition of “Golden Slumbers”, French Canadian singer and pianist Catherine Grenier fills out the Beatles’ original medley fragment into a full song.


Scaredy-Cats and Fraidy-Cats


The first rule of traveling with cats is: Don’t! at least not if you can avoid it. Unlike dogs, many of whom are not averse to travel as long as they are close to their human companion, cats in general do not like the experience no matter what. Before the traveling even begins, cats will balk at what they sense is an impending change in their routine and surroundings. For spayed and neutered cats who are well fed at home, there is no need to go on an adventure far from home, and there is limited appeal to wandering for the sake of wandering.

Cat on rear window car
The photographer’s cat rides next to the rear window in a car. Photo by Tangopaso. Even an extraordinarily calm cat should ride in a carrier of some kind within a moving vehicle.


The good news for those who must disturb their feline companions by taking them on a trip of any length is that in the past 20 years veterinary science and technology have conjured ways of calming cats without resorting to drugs. For hard cases, people can consult a veterinarian, who may advise them on administering over the counter antihistamines, but always with great care and starting with the minimum possible dosage. Antihistamines have a slight sedative effect on us, which is why the instructions warn against operating machinery, but a slight sedative effect on humans does not necessarily translate to a similar effect on cats when accounting for the difference in weight between humans and cats because there are differences in physiology as well.

For most cats at most times it is sufficient to use one of the many pheromone sprays, diffusers, or collars on the market, or some combination of them. There are also safe food treats that may have a calming effect, though results from cat to cat are highly variable. The pheromones and the treats are far safer than drugs, and experimenting with varying amounts and combinations is unlikely to result in unfortunate, unintended consequences for cats. There are also flower and herb remedies available, though people should make certain the labels explicitly state they are safe for cats. Citrus oils and essential oils, for instance, are poisonous to cats. Just because a product is advertised as “all natural” does not guarantee its safety for all creatures in all circumstances. A cat in nature would most likely have the good sense to avoid what is not healthy for it, and understand that “all natural” is merely a dubious marketing gimmick, not a guarantor of safety, and certainly not of efficacy.


An overlooked consideration in traveling with cats is how calmness or lack of it flows back and forth between cats and people. A calm cat can calm a person, and vice versa, though its most effective to solve the problem from the cat’s perspective. A human practicing Zen meditation while mindfully driving a motor vehicle will probably not go far toward calming a yowling, distressed cat riding in a carrier inside the same vehicle. A calm cat, on the other hand, can have a great effect toward reducing the stress of people sharing the vehicle on a road trip. First give that cat some things and some reasons to feel peacefully at ease, and then you can more easily feel peaceful and calm yourself as you tootle on down the road. Purr more, hiss less.
— Techly


Bugged Out


The eastern half of the country has received copious rainfall this spring, and in the eastern seaboard states the rainfall has been excessive, leading to flooding in spots like Ellicott City, Maryland. The high rainfall amounts have led to a greater than usual amount of standing water, and because mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water there is a greater than usual mosquito count in the eastern United States. There was also a mild winter preceding this spring, and that has led to high counts of ticks and other insects. People who want to spend more time outdoors as the weather warms this year must be prepared to either defend themselves or succumb to getting their blood drawn by numerous insects, taking a chance consequently on coping with a disease for which the blood sucking insects are vectors.

There are the usual recommendations from experts to cover up when outdoors in the summer when insects are most active, but it’s awfully tough to take their advice when it’s 90 degrees and the humidity is very high. Long pants tucked into high socks? Long sleeves on shirts? In order to stay comfortable, many people won’t heed that advice. The advice to wear loose fitting, light colored clothes is welcome, however, because in addition to coping with insect attacks that advice helps the wearer cope with hot weather. Above all, in more ways than one, the most important item of clothing in summer is a broad brimmed hat.

Tanacetum cinerariifolium - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-269
An illustration of Tanacetum cinerariifolium from the 1897 edition of Köhler’s Medizinal Pflanzen, a book on medicinal plants by Franz Eugen Köhler.

A good quality broad brimmed hat will serve to ward the sun off a person’s face, neck, and ears, as well as absorb sweat before it runs down from brow into eyes, and in addition will help keep insects away from one’s head. The last statement is based on nothing more than anecdotal evidence, but test it for yourself in the course of wearing a broad brimmed hat for all its other useful qualities. Insects seem reluctant to come up under the broad brim. Is it 100% effective? No, but then very few things are 100% effective in life. Toss away that useless baseball cap and try wearing a broad brimmed hat like a boonie hat. Bucket hats, the diminutive cousins of boonie hats, do not count.

Tanacetum coccineum - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-037
An illustration of Tanacetum coccineum from the 1897 edition of Köhler’s Medizinal Pflanzen, a book on medicinal plants by Franz Eugen Köhler.

For those who would rather resort to what they believe are the more certain results yielded by chemical insect repellents, there are the usual products readily available at most stores. Try not to go overboard. Before buying those clothes soaked in permethrin, consider eating more garlic and onions as a systemic repellent to ooze out of your pores for a day or two at a time, scaring off bugs and people alike. Botanical repellents are generally less effective than their more renowned chemical cousins, but they also leave a lighter footprint on the environment and perhaps on the user.

One product that straddles the border is the permethrin mentioned earlier. Permethrin is derived from flowers related to chrysanthemums, and is not a repellent but an insecticide. When you use permethrin products, insects will land on you and may get an opportunity to suck blood before they die and drop off. A repellent, of course, wards off insects before they land on you. Permethrin is more effective than other botanicals, and is generally safer for the environment and the user than chemical repellents or insecticides. It is used in some flea treatments for dogs. It is not used in flea treatments for cats, however, because it is toxic, even deadly, for cats. People who have both cats and dogs in their homes should keep in mind if they apply permethrin flea treatment to the dogs but not the cats that the permethrin can still adversely affect the cats by secondary contact. For everyone, as tempting as it is to reach for the most highly effective treatment when battling insects which can transmit troubling diseases, or at least cause discomfort, try to maintain perspective so that the treatment doesn’t end up being worse than the affliction.
— Izzy


Like Sheep to the Slaughter


Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away,
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air.
You better watch out!
There may be dogs about!
I’ve looked over Jordan and I have seen;
Things are not what they seem.

What do you get for pretending the danger’s not real?
Meek and obedient you follow the leader
Down well trodden corridors into the valley of steel.
What a surprise!
A look of terminal shock in your eyes!
Now things are really what they seem;
No, this is no bad dream.

— The first two stanzas of the song “Sheep”, by Pink Floyd, from their 1977 album Animals.


The first slave auction at new amsterdam in 1655
The First Slave Auction in New Amsterdam [New York City] in 1655, an illustration by Howard Pyle (1853-1911), published in 1917 after his death. Slave or master, master or slave, it has been ever thus.

Why listen to or read reports from corporate media outlets about what the comedian Michelle Wolf said at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, April 28, when C-SPAN has the entire video of her speech available so that you can make up your own mind about it?

Warning: foul language; also, self-congratulatory shills.

There has never been an age when information was as freely available in relatively open societies such as ours, and yet people out of laziness, habit, or ideology continue to rely on corporate media to relay news to them. Corporate media has a bias, though, and ultimately that bias has less to do with left or right than it does with green, as in the color of American currency. The part of Ms. Wolf’s remarks that the corporate media objects to most has nothing to do with what she says in the first sixteen minutes, largely about Supreme Leader, his incompetent administration, and the morally or legally corrupt officials in it, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but about her criticisms of their ethically bankrupt empowering of this administration for the sake of lining their own pockets. There are reaction shots of stuffed shirt audience members either stony faced or sour pussed in disapproval throughout Ms. Wolf’s remarks, but in the last three minutes, and especially the last minute, when she takes it up a notch, the reaction shots show media and administration types alike shooting daggers at her from their eyes. You know then she was speaking the truth, and that they weren’t going to report that part of her speech if they could avoid it.

Brit Floyd, a Pink Floyd tribute band, in an excellent performance of “Sheep” from 2015 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

But allowing lazy, dishonest media to get away with reporting like that are lazy, dishonest citizens who don’t care about the truth. And it doesn’t have to be that way. Criticizing the media is easy really, like shooting fish in a barrel. Who swallows the bait when they boost the weapons of mass destruction myth as reason for invading Iraq? Who goes along meekly when the corporate media repeats the lie from the powers that be that the banks and other financial institutions who nearly destroyed the economy in 2008, and did destroy the livelihood of millions of citizens, are too big to fail and require a bailout from the same people they screwed? Who listened and watched enraptured as the corporate media gave more coverage to a reality TV star presidential candidate in 2016 than any other candidate, regardless of substantive discussion of real issues? Who?

— Ed.

Who was born in a house full of pain?
Who was trained not to spit in the fan?
Who was told what to do by the man?
Who was broken by trained personnel?
Who was fitted with collar and chain?
Who was given a pat on the back?
Who was breaking away from the pack?
Who was only a stranger at home?
Who was ground down in the end?
Who was found dead on the phone?
Who was dragged down by the stone?

— The last stanza of the song “Dogs”, by Pink Floyd, from their 1977 album Animals.


Who Cares?


There appears to be no consensus among scientists about what pets do for people emotionally and how that affects our health. Some say pets have a calming effect and tend to stabilize the blood pressure of people who interact with them. Others say there is no evidence to support those assertions, and that having pets as we understand the practice today in western culture is a social interaction between people, with the pets considered as something like accessories. The truth most likely can be found within each person, and not universally for everyone.


It’s somewhat simpler for scientists to understand how people have changed animals as they domesticated them, eventually turning some of them into pets. Physical and emotional changes worked together to bring about the domesticated creatures we share our lives with today, with people intervening in their reproduction to secure preferred traits. Genetic predisposition of particular animals also played a part, as we see with the enormous variability in physical and temperamental characteristics of domesticated dogs. Compared to cats, the genetic malleability of dogs is enormous. It has made the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show a spectacle of great popular interest.

Chats wagner
Cats watching a dog through a window. Photo by Thierry Wagner.

Since scientists can’t agree on what pets do for us, however, it’s best to rely on personal experience, unscientific as that may be. Different people will have different feelings toward their pets, and that affects how the pet reacts to them and colors the entire relationship. For some people a pet is not a full-fledged part of the family, but an outlier who is expected to make do with accommodations outside in the yard. This type of relationship was the norm 100 years ago, and much less so now. People keep hunting dogs outside in kennels of varying degrees of comfort, and those people do not consider their dogs as pets. Much more the norm now is for people who consider their animals as pets to give them access to the house and treat them more or less as part of the family.


Cats and dog
Cats and a dog in sunshine by a door. Photo by Orlovic.

The main thing to understand about a relationship with a pet is that you get out of it what you put into it, and in that respect it is no different than any other relationship. The person who keeps a dog confined to a kennel outdoors in all kinds of weather merely to let the animal loose several times a year for hunting is not engaged in a loving relationship, and the very idea would strike that person as preposterous. For such a person, the dog is perhaps a step up in their regard from their pickup truck, but at bottom it remains a utilitarian relationship. A farmer who keeps fodder and corn to keep livestock looks upon barn cats the same way, since the cats are kept around mainly for dispatching rodents, and there is little if any affectionate interaction between the farmer and the cats.

For a depressed elderly person in a nursing home, a visit from a friendly dog or cat can be every bit as uplifting as a visit from a beloved grandchild. Whether some scientific studies say there’s nothing to that interaction is besides the point; what matters is how that person feels about it, and of course what they feel about the interaction is influenced by what they brought to it. Just about any animal is a good reflector of the behavior and attitude they get from people, a better and more honest reflection than what people can muster, because animals lack guile and the human talent for obfuscation. What you see is what you get. Not always, because mistakes in communication can happen, but most of the time, an animal, and especially a pet animal, knows your mood better than you do, and will care for you emotionally in equal measure to the care you give, and sometimes more than you deserve.
— Izzy

In the opening sequence from the 1958 French comedy Mon Oncle (My Uncle), by Jacques Tati, a pack of pampered pet dogs make their scavenging rounds of the neighborhood before returning to their separate homes.


Letting Go


There’s a movie out recently starring Hugh Jackman as the 19th century impresario P.T. Barnum, and it’s called The Greatest Showman. The script appears to play fast and loose with history, for one thing imposing a modern sensibility about sideshow freaks on people like Barnum perhaps, and on many in Barnum’s audiences certainly, who would have found modern ideas about respect for diversity bizarre and laughable. We, of course, have come around to feeling the sensibilities of people in the past regarding respect for diversity and individual rights were bizarre and cruel. It’s not clear from a review alone if the movie takes the same anachronistic approach to respect for animal rights.


In the last year, after many years of criticism of it’s inclusion of animal entertainment acts in its circus, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus folded its tents for good and went out of business. The criticism led to steadily declining ticket sales as well as loss of revenue from being shut out entirely from some localities where legislation had been enacted to ban the kind of animal entertainment acts that had long been part of circuses, even before P.T. Barnum came along with his great showmanship.

Jacko и Bess, мандрилы на представлении в Olympia Circus в Лондоне. 31st December 1931
Jacko and Bess, two mandrill monkeys with the Olympia Circus in December 1931. Some people find this sort of thing entertaining. Note the leashes.

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An African elephant at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Photo by Ronincmc.

Zoos may start closing in large numbers soon, after several of them around the world closed in the past decade, citing the hypocrisy of pretending zoos provided means for animal conservation and public education, when really they represent a more staid form of the entertainment seen in circus animal acts. Zoos have always dressed themselves up in a veneer of respectable science, often with little evidence to back it up. Zoos have played Dr. Jekyll to the Mr. Hyde played by the rest of humankind in its voracious appetite for resources and habitats, displacing and killing wildlife at will. It’s past time to go beyond trying to conserve wildlife from the rapaciousness of Mr. Hyde and to stand up to him and then relegate him to irrelevancy. Meanwhile, no one asked the animals what they wanted, but it’s clear from the more expressive of them that they are miserable in their zoo enclosures, however well disguised those are from steel cages.

These are steps in the right direction, and naturally it will take some time to redress the other wrongs against animals that people have perpetrated through malevolence, neglect, and a misguided sense of divinely bestowed dominion. At the same time that many people treat their pets, mostly dogs or cats, very well indeed, there is a whole revolting system of inhumane factory farming of animals for meat and other animal products that goes on largely ignored by the general public. Out of sight, out of mind. People will sometimes wonder how the Germans and the Poles could have turned blind eyes to the shipment by trains through their villages of millions of Jews bound for the gas chambers during the Holocaust. Surely they had to have noticed, and the claims by some of them that didn’t are self-serving lies. Maybe so; but then look what goes on across the United States and, increasingly, other parts of the world every day in order to feed the rising demand for meat with every meal. Or don’t look.

Lion Milwaukee County Zoo II
A lion at the Milwaukee County Zoo in June 2010. Photo by Antigrandiose.

Companionship with a pet is a fine thing, beneficial to human and animal alike when the animal is welcomed as part of the family. From that point on there is a sliding scale measuring the relationship of animals to humans, continuing past domesticated animal likes cows and pigs to partnerships like that with honey bees, and on to the last type of relationship, that with wildlife, which in its ideal state would be one of mutual respect and staying out of each others’ way. There used to be a television program sponsored by an insurance company called Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, in which the host and his trusty assistant were forever tranquilizing wild animals and then affixing a radio collar to them before letting them go. The people troubling the animals in this manner meant well, and they were doing it all in the interests of science and of the animals themselves, but another concept  seems to have never come up, namely leaving the animals be. There have been many other nature shows since, and thankfully some of them have grasped that concept: How about if we just back off, let these animals have the space any of us have a right to, and leave them the hell alone?
― Izzy


A Long Leash


“What gives the cops the right to open fire? Why didn’t they give him the same warning they gave us? That cop murdered my son over a false report.”
― Lisa Finch, mother of Andrew Finch, 28, who was killed by Wichita, Kansas, police on 12/28/2017.

The killing last week of Wichita resident Andrew Finch by police called out to his house on a bogus hostage emergency allegedly phoned in by Los Angeles, California, resident Tyler Barriss, who did not even know Finch, could lead to a court case in which this country finally confronts how it lets police get away with murder. Historically the courts have bent over backwards to whitewash the excessive, reckless use of force by police. Conviction rates for the few police officers actually brought up on charges have been laughably low. Now with this case in Wichita, the question may finally have to be addressed in the courts of whether police are responsible for their actions or not.

“Swatting”, the practice of phoning in a bogus emergency in order to harass someone else with the bludgeon of a police raid, has been around for many years, but until last week no one has been killed in an unnecessary swatting raid. Nevertheless, the consequences of swatting are usually more serious than those of a “prank”, as many reporters have irresponsibly and inaccurately dubbed the criminal practice this past week. Why would anyone call in a false report for purposes of harassment if they weren’t fairly certain that the cop mentality of overreaction and testosterone poisoning would lead them to escalating most situations to dangerous levels? What would be the fun of it for the hoaxer if instead cops could be relied upon to behave rationally and resolve situations peacefully when at all possible? That wouldn’t serve the purpose of the swatting hoaxer one bit and wouldn’t be the least fun in their eyes. No, the reason swatting exists is because people in this country know very well the police are all too eager to smash down doors, bust heads, and shoot first with their itchy trigger fingers. And the courts stand behind the cops to absolve them of all those actions.

Now there’s a case that will bring up those thorny questions. No doubt the cops will push blame off onto the innocent victim of their reckless stupidity, Andrew Finch. They will claim if he had followed their orders instantly and to the letter he would be alive today. The cops will try to push as much blame as possible onto the alleged swatter, Tyler Barriss. He undoubtedly deserves a long prison sentence if he is proven guilty, but there is scant precedence for prosecuting a criminal defendant like him. He will have to be dealt with in the gray area of analogy – what he did was like dropping a brick off a tall building onto a crowded sidewalk, or like pulling the fire alarm in a crowded theater when there was no fire – but that will not satisfactorily resolve ultimate guilt in this case, because it comes down to who pulled the trigger on the gun that put the fatal bullet into Andrew Finch, and that wasn’t anyone but a cop on the Wichita police force.

Military dog barking
Norman, a 55th Security Forces Squadron military working dog at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, waits to be unleashed and go after his target during training in April 2007. The Offutt K-9 unit performs regular training to maximize the dogs’ effectiveness on the field of duty. U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger.

People can be egged on to do any number of stupid things by other people, whether friends, employers, or strangers. It doesn’t matter. Ultimately you are responsible for your own actions. The cops will fight that assessment in court. They will say they are a tool in the hands of others, and unfortunately they will be correct in that. For too long they have been a tool in the hands of the ruling class to keep down everyone else, and the ruling class has taken advantage of police training to quickly resort to force and adopt the cultural mindset of an occupying army, looking on and treating everyone as an enemy. Us against Them. Shoot first and don’t worry about it later, because the police union and the courts and the district attorneys will sweep it under the rug. A few months administrative leave with pay, maybe a temporary desk job, and then it will all blow over.

In this case, however, it is abundantly clear the police were a tool used by some knuckleheaded video gamer. If a tool, then not responsible. But if not responsible, then who pulled the trigger? In all the arguing, there will still be a dead man to be accounted for, after all. The police have actually become more like their trained dogs. A dog can be trained in just about any way. A dog can be trained to be very aggressive when given the signal by its handler. A dog can be trained to become aggressive when receiving certain signals from a suspect, such as dropping his or her hands to waist level rather than holding them always high in the air as ordered. A dog will bark and snarl when it sees that, baring its teeth and straining at the leash held by its handler. A dog cannot understand that the suspect may only be confused.

The suspect may not necessarily see himself the same way as the police officers crouching by their vehicles with guns drawn, who see him as a suspect, and a dangerous one at that. He is, after all, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Until a few minutes ago, he was relaxing at home with his family, minding his own business. Seeing flashing red and blue lights outside, he opened the front door to check what all the commotion was about. From the police perspective, orders and training and cop culture kicked in after that. But what does that have to do with him, Andrew Finch? Didn’t he have the right to a reasonable expectation for human beings in positions of authority and trust in the community to behave with more discretion, more empathy, and with more judicious discernment of the real situation than a dog would? In the end, the dog goes free, and that’s as it should be because the dog only reacts according to its training and its handler’s signals. But we hold human beings to a different, and higher, standard than dogs, don’t we? Possibly the courts will address this case similarly, and in so doing force a change for the better in police culture and training.
― Ed.


Drink Your Fill


With the arrival of hot summer weather, people give more consideration to how much water they are drinking. It’s peculiar that such a basic survival and health issue has received as much medical and layperson attention as it has in the past forty years. It appears to coincide with the rise of the bottled water industry. Before that, people had a common sense approach to drinking water, as in drink when you’re thirsty, and drink a lot when you’re sweating. Not much too that. Certainly not enough to warrant the expenditure of millions of dollars in studies.


Ljubljana (7893964904)
Dog drinking from a fountain in Ljubljana, Slovenia; photo by Marjolein from The Netherlands.
One practice that has thankfully been mostly discarded in the past twenty or more years is the idea that restricting water intake helps lose weight, particularly during vigorous exercise in high heat and humidity. That boneheaded practice used to be the norm in outfits like football teams and military boot camps, though now it is suspiciously difficult to find evidence of it on the internet. Memories of survivors and their anecdotal evidence will have to do. The idea behind restricting water intake of a person who needed to lose weight was that a good portion of that weight was water. Sweat away the pounds! In reality, as opposed to just dreaming stuff up, there is more water weight in muscle than in fat.


Your body does a very good job of telling you what you need. When you’re outside working or exercising in 90 degree weather, with a heat index over 100 degrees, and you are pouring sweat, and your body is telling you to drink – nay, guzzle – some water, why would you let a moronic theory tell you otherwise? Would it make more sense if the moronic theory was proposed by a coach? a drill instructor? how about someone wearing a white lab coat and carrying a clipboard? Do you think your dog or cat would hesitate a second to listen to those people before lapping up copious amounts of life-giving water? How much more or less sensible are you than your dog or cat?


Fat tabby cat drinking water from a pond-Hisashi-01
Fat tabby cat drinking water from a pond; photo by Hisashi from Japan.
Thank goodness that nonsense is all behind us, or should be. Now it seems the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, with the silly recommendation about eight glasses of water a day. That recommendation appears to have arisen from bottled water industry executives whispering in the ears of select scientists and doctors. Ever since, there have been an awful lot of people striking poses with their high profile branded water sippy bottles. It gets to be like an article of clothing with a visible logo, announcing to all and sundry that you are a fitness-minded person with class. Sippy sippy all day long, eight glasses worth.


In this collection of Oompa Loompa songs from the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the Oompa Loompas didn’t address water drinking, but their common sense, didactic advice would have been welcome if they had.

What really matters, again, is what your body tells you. Your age, body type, and regular level of physical exertion are trying to tell you things, too, though sometimes a doctor’s advice may be required for you to properly hear what they are saying. Common sense, listening to what your body wants and responding to it, and a plentiful supply of cool, pure water ought to keep you safe and healthy in the summer heat. Pain doesn’t always mean gain; sometimes it means maybe you should be sensible and take a break in the shade.
― Vita


A Pitch Too High


In trying to specifically target their advertisements and therefore get a higher return per ad, companies like to know as much as possible about the consumer, and lately some of them have resorted to using ultrasonic beacons embedded in their ads. Say you are at your desktop computer reading a news story from the online version of your local newspaper, and nearby on your desk is your smartphone, which is on but currently idle, or so you would assume. Unknown to you, one of the ads on the webpage you are looking at emits an ultrasonic beacon lasting about 5 seconds through your computer’s speakers. Most likely also unknown to you (because like most people you probably don’t bother to read all the permissions you grant an application when you install it), one or more of the applications on your smartphone pick up that ultrasonic beacon through the phone’s microphone and, through various commercial agreements also done without your knowledge, relays the packet of information encapsulated in the beacon, along with information contributed from the smartphone application, back to the advertiser on the webpage as well as to anyone else who has an interest in information about you.


The more advertisers know about you, the better, as far as they are concerned. The problem here is how sneaky they are being about collecting information. It is even possible for advertisers to embed ultrasonic beacons in television advertisements, though so far there is no proof any of them have done that. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which regulates deceptive advertising practices, nonetheless recently warned 12 smartphone application developers about deceptively implying they were not monitoring users’ television viewing habits when in fact they were capable of doing so. Researchers recently discovered that as many as 234 Android applications are capable of using beacon technology. Unfortunately, it appears the FTC is reluctant to force the developers to divulge this capability to Android smartphone users. There is even less information available from Apple application developers.


Statue of Liberty, NY
The Statue of Liberty, also known as a beacon of freedom, on Liberty Island in New York Harbor; photo by William Warby.


This cross-device tracking, as it is known, is as invasive and sneaky as it gets, yet there seems to be little political will to either outlaw it or regulate it. A warning letter? That’s all? In the 1950s and 60s there was a public outcry about subliminal messages in print and television advertising. While the effectiveness of subliminal advertising has always been dubious, people were nevertheless upset they were being manipulated in such a sneaky, underhanded way. Because of the public outcry, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was moved to state it would revoke the license of any broadcaster who used subliminal messages in programming or advertising, and the FTC stated that it would prosecute advertisers under Sections 5 and 12 of the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, which governs deceptive practices.


Given the remarkable similarity of ultrasonic beacons in electronic devices to subliminal messaging, in practice if not in usage, it’s difficult to understand why the FCC and FTC have not come down harder on the commercial use of this technology. The practice is the same because both seek to take advantage of consumers without their knowledge, and certainly not with their explicit approval; the usage is different because subliminal advertisers cast a wide net to boost sales, while companies employing beacons gather information about users in order to more specifically target them, like fish in a barrel. Until federal regulators take stronger action against the use of ultrasonic beacons, people upset by the practice will apparently have to rely on the more acute hearing of their dogs to alert them.
― Techly
His Master's Voice
His Master’s Voice, an 1898 painting by English artist Francis Barraud (1856-1924) of his brother’s dog, Nipper. The Victor Talking Machine Company began using the painting in 1900, and in 1929 the painting became the symbol of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), aka RCA Victor.


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