Book Reviews: Lower River by Paul Theroux & 3 Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin & Greg Mortenson

November 2, 2018

I love Paul Theroux as a writer, and he served  in Peace Corps in Malawi (where I also served about 40 years after him). Thus, I was interested in  this book, which is a bit of a horror story,  His main character, after a divorce and selling his business, chooses to go back to the village he served in  to  support the school he helped build.  Unfortunately, it is merely a shell, & other misfortunes befall the guy.  I know it is fiction, but I also know the story is plausible.  If you’ve never ben to Malawi, his description is accurate.

I recently picked up “Three Cups of Tea,” as it is ubiquitous in the book bins &  resale stores.  For those who don’t know the gist, Mortenson, who was actually raised in Tanzania, became a mountain climber, attempting K2,  and got lost.  A villager in a very remote area in Pakistan found him, and he promised to build  the village a school. That he did.    He networked among other climbers to help find  donors and sponsors,  and in the end, in the  1990s, Th Central Asia Institute (https://centralasiainstitute.org) was founded.  Now, their board is mostly Asians who oversee fundraising  and project development.  You can go on Wikipedia and learn Mortenson was charged with mismanaging funds and taking liberties with the truth.

That said, you  DO get the gist of what Mortenson did and what he was up against, and some of the history of what was going on at the time.  Both books are worth the read if you are the typical American ‘do-gooder’ type.  You learn  that nothing gets done without local ownership of the project.  You also learn that, as we Americans have allowed our government to  give foreign aid to both countries among others, and  what a waste it is.  Should we have to give up Social Security and Medicare to fund corrupt governments in the name of democracy? What a joke!  Should our military veterans have to wait over a week for care, or be homeless, so we can  give weapons and training to  militaries that rip off their citizens (and even brutalize them)?  Yet… that we do.

Both books are great reads.

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Irritating issues in American Life: Problems & solutions

October 6, 2018

Is America a great country—or what?   In what country can you criticize government practices & not be thrown in jail for  being an enemy of the state?  My  current beef is about  a getting  a city sticker for my car.  See, in Illinois, you don’t just get a license plate for the car,  which is a state fee…you also have to buy a  new sticker every year.  It’s a tax. And in Chicago,  you need to pay another tax, and the city sticker is evidence you paid the tax.  In fact, they mail you a notice that you have to pay & tell you that you can either pay  for a stamp & mail it in go to a currency exchange & pay—but then you have  to bring in evidence that you have the car registered (to the state) in your name (something I  do NOT understand—who is going to pay a tax for a vehicle they don’t own?)…or you can pay online with a credit card & you don’t have to prove anything.

I opted to pay online with a credit card….but I noticed they listed a car model that wasn’t right.  I  haven’t owned the car listed in  six years.  Here, I’ve been paying for the  sticker…yes, I bet I went to the currency exchange a few tines, or I paid on line, and they had the wrong model number  (& VIN) for the car. So, I called the city clerk’s office—-where they have the computers listing all this data, and asked to have them change the incorrect information.

A snooty woman answered the phone & was clearly put out having to actually talk to a citizen.  I asked her to change the model  type in the computer.  She told me she would not do that—-that I should go to a currency exchange. Then, she read me off my license plate number. Well, that was to the old car, too. I now have a totally different plate number.  I just sighed and hung up and bought the sticker…online.  I posted this information on a social media site for our neighborhood, and most people agreed with me—just buy the sticker—& here’s why:

If the car is in an accident, the police will look for a current  license plate & sticker for that plate. They will look at the permanent VIN number for the  car. They will look to make sure I have a sticker—but they won’t bother to trace the sticker.  They only care that I have paid the tax.

Have I broken the law?  It’s just a clerical error that somebody in the city clerk’s office didn’t  take care of when I originally bought the car & had to pay to have information transferred. Their mistake, not mine.  Move on.

Our street lights were out on the street behind my house. In some places, this is an alley…because there are no residential addresses on  the street.  However, the treet does have a name and it is on official maps.  This was not an emergency, so I called 311, the non-emergency  phone number, to report it. So did several of my neighbors. After  about six weeks & at least 4 of my phone calls, I called the alderman’s office to ask why this was not being taken care of.  The answer:  since there are no actual street addresses, and although I gave the 311 operator the  block number for the  street, they could not process the request without an actual street number, so it sat there.  The  alderman’s office just called the department of electricity directly—something a citizen could not do—and in 48 hours, problem solved.  You have to wonder how much the 311 operators are paid and who trains them.

A police officr was recently convicted of 2nd degree murder for shooting a teenager 16 times.  A whole can of worms here…from  several  police cars  and at least a dozen  other police officers already on the scene, all lying in their official reports of why  the shooting was justified. The problem—for them?  Dash cam video of the whole thing—of the kid walking AWAY from the shooter—not towards him.  & why were all the police standing around? They were waiting for a …taser.  We pay our millions to families of people ‘accidentally’ shot by police…why can’t we afford to equip every police car with a taser?  And—just as important—-we know all these police lied about the incident. What do we do with them?

I have some friends who just found out that—horrors—immigrants who are not citizens are voting in our elections.  They want this …fixed.  Here’s the problem of why it will not be fixed:  All  boards of elections are local. They get federal money filtered through the state, but they are charged with running free and fair elections….and, statistically,  for the most part they are….and that’s the best we can do. Why? They hire regular folks, like you and me—only more  addle brained, to actually sit in the polling places and run the elections.  You do get training, but it is really up to YOU to  ask what you don’t know.  Having done this for over 30 years, I try my best—-but there are usually  six other people serving with  me, and thy are all friends, are bored, and not paying attention. They do not take the  time to make sure the people they hand ballots to understand what they need to do to make their vote count.  In Chicago, we use a specific type of marker to mark paper ballots. Someone got a contract,  and that is what we do. We don’t have enough computers for everyone to vote electronically.  So, if some election judge is talking to her friend & ‘forgets’ to make sure you have a  special magic pen, yuor vote won’t count.  We also don’t generally tell people that taking a ballot is voting, and you don’t have to vote for anyone you don’t know. Don’t vote for judges if you don’t know how they judge—-this is how we get bad  judges.  But the parties don’t like this. In any case, since you can now register to vote on the same day you vote, all you have to do is show up with proof of i.d. listing your address.  You fill out a form and you can vote. Simple….except the  Secretary of State sends a postcard to everyone holding a driver’s license to tell them to vote.  & some of those people aren’t citizens.  In fact, many of those green card holders can’t even speak enough English to ask for a ballot, but they damn sure want to vote.  There is no citizenship test. You can’t ask, all you can  ask is for proof they live in the precinct at the address on their forms.  Usually, they can find at least 1 person who speaks their mother tongue to help them  sort this out.  Yes, this bothers me, but keeping it in perspective, it bothers me that  40 to 70 percent of Americans who are eligible to vote don’t bother.  That’s the real problem.

Refugee Children

June 22, 2018

I am generally uncomfortable around a gang of children.  I can manage  one to one conversations, but  a bunch of  kids under age 5 leaved me flummoxed.   There are a number of reasons I never had children of my own.  My parents  didn’t seem to be overly thrilled with the four of us.  I could see how much work a child would be, and what if I bore a handicapped child?  It was all I could do to keep myself afloat.  I had thought at some point I might foster, but when I looked at the economics of it, and the time constraints on all other activities, I knew I couldn’t manage this.

I was able to become a Peace Corps Volunteer because I didn’t have children.  In the country I served in, Malawi,  about 10% of the people living in country were refugees, mostly from Mozambique. And since everyone was dirt poor, it made no difference.  People farmed what they had as best they could.  I could not  imagine the strain of uprooting, the fear.  After I was out of Peace Corps, the Rwandan genocide happened, and there was ethnic cleansing in Bosnia,  I’ve met a lot of refugees.  You have to admire their determination.

But, in 2018, in the United States, the President—Trump—and the Republicans have turned desperate people into evil-doers.  I’ve met so many white Americans who think these people should ‘get in line’ & not cross ‘illegally’.  Americans  have no idea how many wealthy people ‘jump the queue’ and , while it is legal, they have often cheated people  in the countries they came from & continue to do so.

First of all, if you own a small business, you constantly meet foreigners who came ‘legally’ & overstayed their visas…who then finagle. Virtually all these people speak English and have  friends/relatives who might sponsor them, and they are mostly white, so they have a leg up.

Now, imagine you can’t read, and you don’t have access to a radio or TV…or the television stations are run by  your government.  You get all your info as either rumor or propaganda.  Men come to your community and know you are vulnerable, and they harass and threaten you and your children. Maybe your  husband has gotten into debt with them, or killed one of them, or caused 1 to lose a job. Your government won’t help you.  Worse, your government has been getting aid  from the USA (my government) to strengthen ‘civil society’ but has never been asked for an accounting.  The rumor is to go north to the USA ans ask for asylum.  You don’t know that there are ‘official crossing  points’.  You just go.  You are walking with  very young children.  Are you walking a mile?  No.  10 miles?  No.  You are walking hundreds of miles with kids, risking your lives, because  you would for sure be hurt or killed had you stayed.  You’re dealing with  finding food, a place to sleep, maybe transportation.  Gambling with the odds?  These people don’t know from the odds.  Can you imagine being this desperate?

Then, for reasons you don’t understand, you are separated from your children & told to wait.  So many Americans really believe these refugees knew they were breaking the law and would lose their kids.  Not true.  So this serves as no deterrent.

And can you imagine the terror of the children—some so small they can’t speak any language?  I remember the terror and panic I experienced  several times as a child. I am in my 60s and I still remember the physical feelings.

So, in the name or ‘rule of ‘law’ we have traumatized thousands of people for no other reason than enriching a  major GOP donor who charges my government over $700 a night per person to incarcerate them.

My government is raiding  Social Security & Medicare—-monies taken out of our paychecks for  security in the future, to pay for the  lavish lifestyle and  wants of their  leader…the president…and trying to make us think this all benefits us American citizens.  We should really be ashamed that we allowed the president to lie about this.

Pick Your Battles

June 15, 2018

I have had the same roommate for  almost 20 years now, He says he is too lazy to move,  In reality, he’s in love with my dogs.  It’s  great living with trained dogs who love you back & think you are marvelous.  Sometimes you have to let them out, or feed them, or pick up poop in the yard, but not every day.

He doesn’t smoke or drink, and is very reliable  with paying the rent.  Our big issue is that he never throws anything away, and is a bit of a hoarder. You can barely walk into his  ‘bedroom’, which is now an office. So, he sleeps in the living room.  Several people have asked me why I don’t ‘make him’—-clean up, throw stuff away, etc.

I’ve weighed the pluses and minuses.  I’ve learned to pick my battles.  I’ve lived with other men. Drinkers.  Guys who I’ve given  mail to—with checks enclosed (and they’ve forgotten to mail them).  Guys who were unreliable.  I know when I’ve gotten a good one.

I  am a dog groomer, and some of my friends  do  ‘creative’ dog grooming. This involves dying dogs with vegetable dyes.  It’s messy and time consuming, Not my deal.  I am really shocked by people who get their panties in a bunch over this.  Ut does not hurt the dog.  you want to know what hurts dogs?  pinch collars. They are designed to hurt dogs.  people make excuses & say they are better than choke collars. So, what they are saying is that 1 method of hurting a dog is BETTER than another method, Really?

You know what  rankles me?  People breeding pet dogs for fun and profit, not caring about genetic defects, and selling to naive idiots who don’t know how to find a well bred dog.  Coloring dogs?  not a problem.

You know what else isn’t a problem? Which way the toilet paper hangs—over or under…or how  the dishwasher is loaded.

You know what REALLY upsets me?  A president that thinks science is hokum, and  has convinced people who should know better that he didn’t ‘drain the swamp’, but  put the swamp swelling lobbyists & the legislators they paid off into  dismantling consumer and environmental protections that benefit us all.   One who  promised better healthcare than ‘Obamacare’ but  didn’t do it.  One who makes deals with  countries so he can brand his own massage parlors &  escort services.  Who  insults our friends &  praises  torturers.

I am shocked that some many  people, who think they are patriots, and keep citing the Bill of Rights, think Trump is protecting them & their interests—-when there is clear evidence that he is not.  That is my battle.

The New Bait & Switch: Long Term Care Insurance

June 9, 2018

Insurance. Everyone loves the topic. The first thing you need to know about insurance is that the business is modeled on fear that you won’t have the money to fix something, or to live, after a disaster, and the company not paying out. That’s it, pure & simple.  The odds are, your house won’t burn down (as an ‘act of God’, like a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake are not covered unless you specifically pay for that kind of additional coverage).  You may have an accident in your car, like by sliding on ice or being  pushed by another car, but odds are  it won’t happen…but if it does…

In an ideal world, our government would offer the same kind of  insurance for citizens that  all the governments of all developed countries offer: health insurance, a decent old age pension, assistance for the elderly.

This is not the ideal world. This is America, where insurance is not considered a right, but a commodity to be  bought and sold.

I totally understand the need for home owners liability and fire insurance, as I understand the need for car insurance, but for the last several decades, the  insurance industry has been  promoting  long term care insurance.  It had been sold as an annuity:  you pay in  every year for  a certain number or years, until  you are vested, and the fee is the fee…no matter how old you get…and the benefit is locked in with the fee. For me,  It WAS  $1564.91 per year as offered by  Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, and offered, after a 90 days ‘exclusionary period ‘(where you actually had to pay  for care on your own, at a rate of well over $100 per day..), once you notified Northwestern Mutual that you needed to benefit, it started paying $220 per day for  a nursing home, There were other benefits as well if you didn’t need a nursing home, ‘but assistance’.  However, the cap on benefits— ‘defined benefit’ as they call it, for my plan, is $481,800.  That’s it.

This seemed like a decent value 10 years ago.  How did Northwestern Mutual come up with the cost of the policy? Why…they paid actuaries:  mathematicians not only trained, buy licensed by the state, to  come up with fees, costs, and what the company  would need to  still be profitable if they paid out.  Really.  I-thought—BY LAW—the contract I signed was the deal.

Apparently not.   Apparently, all those actuaries that were employed by all the companies offering  Long Term Care insurance, in a phrase, fucked up royally. They are claiming now, 13 years into my paying the locked in rate for locked in benefits, that “….thanks to medical advances, people are living longer today than ever before.  While this is something we are thankful for, it has increased the anticipated cost of future LTC claims for the industry as a whole….”  So. long story short, they want to raise the rates $380 a year, to  $1942.60 until  2021, and they the rate will be  $2460.60. They claim they don’t anticipate a rate increase after that.  Riiight—-as I have a contract that says the rate is $1564.91  PREMIUM PAYABLE FOR LIFE.  What did I miss?

More bullshit follows.  People are not living appreciably longer than they were 10 years ago when they sold me the policy.  While there is a lot of ‘fake news’ out there, you can Google life expectancy. https://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/table4c6.html  or how about: http://www.data360.org/dsg.aspx?Data_Set_Group_Id=195

They are raising rates because they know nobody is going to charge them with fraud.  Or,actually,  after I complained to my state representative that the the foxes watching the henhouse at the Illinois Department of Insurance approved a rate hike of 25% for the next 3 years, and then 50%  I  got a  letter from the president & CEO explaining that they had to justify the increase to the Illinois Dept. of Insurance.  The whole point of buying the policy while I was ‘young’ (in my very late 40s) was to keep premiums low, but alas, you can’t beat the house—ever.  To make this even  crazier….insurance is based on a pyramid scam:   new policies help fund  old policies…but they are not writing any new policies, at all, at any price.  I have  very wealthy friends who would like to preserve wealth for their children in case they have to go into a nursing home, and these parents can’t buy a policy at even $20,000 a year.

What I learned was, not only is Northwestern Mutual raising their rates, but Unum, Allianz, and  several other companies are….same excuse:  “People are living longer”   and interests rates are  down..all the same  per centage. What are the odds?  Also—-very  funny—-this  insurance policy is only good in the USA.  You can’t go to Mexico, India, Viet Nam, etc, where the cost of  care is much cheaper.

Capitalism  relies on  integrity.  It relies on the concept that if  a seller says a product is a  certain price, you pay that price.  Otherwise, there is no trust. That’s what Adam Smith said in so many words.  But if Trump can change the terms of a contact when it is inconvenient for him, why not everyone?  As I said, people are not living longer. What is happening is that  the people who bought this policy are expecting it to pay out and are taking advantage of the benefit they paid for. The actuaries were wrong (and whether you like it or not,  our rates paid their salaries as well).  This is right up there with the GOP  insisting that Social Security is an entitlement after we’ve all paid for it….and they are convincing journalists to call it an entitlement.  But I digress.

So, they’ve given me 3 options:  to accept the rate increase, to continue to pay the same rate at a vastly reduced benefit, or no longer pay anc accept  the benefit of the premiums I have already paid, which are $20, 334.

I am still mulling over pros and cons of keeping this policy in force, but no matter what the law says, i…and many others I know, feel defrauded.

 

Book Review: Tales of Two Species, by Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D.

May 24, 2018

Notice the Afghan Hound taking her half out of the middle. What do you think the Whippets are thinking?

Because I work with dogs, I am  often being warned that  a certain dog is a biter, or I am asked by others if I ever get bitten.  Yes, it happens. The statistical odds are that  if you  work with a bunch of ‘strange’ dogs whom you get familiar with in a hurry, some are not going to like what you are doing to them.  For me, it is important to read the dog’s body language and understand  what stresses dogs, what they fear, and  how to alleviate stress and fear.   I  am bitten in fewer than 1 per cent  of the encounters I have with dogs.

You have to wonder about who is getting bitten and why.  Are they reaching into a cage to grab a dog?  Patting a dog on the head (many dogs HATE that)? Hurting the dog?  Trying to do something to the dog when they are both on the floor (the dog’s territory)?  Are they trying to take a dog out of someone’s arms (how scary is that—to be picked up and them  handed over…you could be dropped)?

I learned a long time ago to NEVER take a dog from an owner’s arms.  Most dogs will bite either because they are ‘protecting’ the owner or are afraid. Best to put a slip on the dog’s neck, have the owner put the dog on the floor, DON’T MAKE A CEREMONY OUT OF LEAVING, JUST TURN AROUND AND GO, have the dog see the owner go, and  most dogs will then follow me  calmly ans quietly.

If you groom dogs, you  have to learn how to ‘train’ dogs.  You have to learn to understand dog behavior and be able to tell that when a dog’s eyes are red, he yawns or licks his lips, puts his ears back, or growls (of course!), the dog is stressed.  Yet these days, ‘dog lovers’ enter the pet industry with no knowledge about dogs.  The owners of the businesses are retailers or marketers, or just plain capitalists,and they aren’t  training staff in safe handling techniques.  From anecdotal evidence, it seems that less than  half the dog groomers  working now have  some background in either some sort of conformation handling or performance —meaning  training a dog one-to-one in obedience, rally, agility, or another dog sport.  It was at a dog show that I learned to  teach a dog to defecate on command (see my blog, “Housebreaking the Difficult Dog”).  But I also learned—-from being  with hobbyists and fanciers, that not all dogs could be pet dogs.  The statistical odds are, with so many dogs being bred, and we have to include the ‘backyard breeders’ producing dogs, that there will be temperament ‘aberrations’.  Often you can tell  around the  time the dogs are weaned, if you use the Vollhard Temperament tests:  some dogs don’t like being picked up or rolled on their backs, some  are afraid of loud noises, some react with a bite if you pinch the webbing between their toes.

A responsible breeder will  evaluate her pups and either cull (that’s right—kill…euthanize)  dogs that will require exceptional care for life…or the biters, or at least won’t sell them as pets.    But we still have too many people who think , “It’s all in the way you raise them,” and make excuses for temperament issues.  Just remember:  if a child is bitten, that family may choose to never again own a dog—-or at least a dog of the breed that bit.

What is genetic, and what’s environmental?  Dr. McConnell has written about 35 essays that address dog behavior issues and how to understand  dogs. Her  essays on reactive dogs are particularly valuable.

I don’t want to discount  Dr. Horwitz or Dr. Coren and the valuable  books they’ve written about dogs.  Both have contributed enormously  to our understanding of how dogs experience  life, as has Temple Grandin.  However, this particular book includes  training methods that will be very  helpful to  anyone  working with dogs on a daily basis.  It is very well written and edited, and I plan to give it as a gift to fellow dog professionals for a long time.

Paris & NYC

March 19, 2018

Eiffel tower from below

On my ‘bucket list’ of destinations to see and experience,  Paris and the Eiffel Tower were big ones. I am in my 60s, and had only  been to Paris on a stopover from Bosnia.  I just never had the opportunity until Gate One offered this 6 day deal–airfare and hotel for about $700.  Huh?  How do they do it so cheap?  A bunch of  reasons:  One was to  offer  the deal in the OFF SEASON.  Not many people really want to go to Europe during cold weather, so this gives hotels and airlines the opportunity to fill  seats. Keep in mind that hotels and airline seats are what they call ‘perishable commodities’.  You can’t store them.  Also, we had a window of about a week to decide.  The tour operators need to know if there is interest.

I asked my friend, Gloria, to go with me.  We spent  four days in New York City, first.  I had never been to NYC, either.  We stayed at the Wellington, just  across the street from Carnegie Hall, in Midtown.  Perfect location.   A really nice, elegant place, but breakfast did not come with the room. Just  4 blocks from Central Park and  across the street from an L stop.  Because I had never been to NYC, I got  Big Bus ticket.  I think this is a good value because they take you all over, and if you have a guide-book,you get to see  for real what you read about.  The thing about NYC, however, unless you go for a specific purpose—like to see plays or  specific museum exhibits, you can see what you want to see in a day or 2. We did go to the Statue of Liberty and the  really nice Ellis Island museum (which I am sure that if Trump knew what the museum was about…he’d shut down), and we went to an over priced comedy club.  I wanted to go to the top of the Empire State Building, but not for $30!  Indeed…everything is expensive in Manhattan (as it is in Paris),  I guess I’m spoiled living in Chicago (I also don’t buy anything in the Loop). We walked around Greenwich village but all the cute shops are gone.  Real estate is just so expensive.    We took a city bus back from the Village to Midtown & really saw a lot.  The actual highlights of  NYC?  There is a subway food court off  58th ST. & 8th Ave, and we ate at a Japanese place, and the food was cheap and really good.  We also ate at a place called “IndieKitch” on 8th ave off 57th st.,   which offered Indian  fast food, and that was really good, too.

We then left for Paris via Icelandic Air.  Read the online reviews.  Bring snacks.   They charge 6 euros for a cup of oatmeal! A brief stop over at the airport in Reykavik (we got in around 3:00a.m., so missed the northern lights), and on to Paris. We got into Orly at about 9:30a.m.   We got our bags and….no immigration!  Just walk out!  We were a bit dismayed we didn’t get stamps in our passport.  This was, apparently, because we came from Iceland, where we DID get stamps.  Oh well.  A fellow tourist told us to take the Orly bus to the

Gar d’lest, train station across from Holiday inn in the 10th

Denfert-Rochereau metro stop, which  would have taken us all the way to Gare de ‘lest had we been better map readers—but we weren’t, so we changed trains at Gare du Nord  for no reason.  A little disoriented, and because the  sign was so hard to see, we walked around for about 20 minutes before we found the Holiday Inn, which was DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE  GAR DE L’EST!,  In any case, we got settled in.  Made arrangements for the  Hop on/Hop off bus (there are 2 companies, both  ok,tho we saw more red Big Busses), paid for the ‘skip the line’ to the Eiffel Tower for the next afternoon (I wanted to see the sunset over the city, but even at 5p.m. we were still too early ), and went to dinner at a local cafe, where I had a wonderful chicken in mushroom cream sauce for about 15 Euros.

Holiday Inn, 10th, cross from Gar de l’est

The Holiday Inn came with an excellent breakfast buffet, which included cheese, bacon, sausage, yogurt, fresh fruit, and  of course, croissants, so we scarfed some for late as we went around.  Paris is expensive. From taking the bus, we got a feel for where everything was, and most places are easy to get to via the metro.  However, there  are at least 10 metro lines.They are  by color &  number on  the map,but you really have to kinow the difference between pink, rouge, lavender, and magenta.  No joke.  But in any case, we got  to see Notre Dame, which is falling apart, and  lots of interesting sites, then went  in the afternoon to the Eiffel Tower, which had huge long lines. Then, I reread our tickets, and we were to meet our  guide at a souvenir shop 2 blocks east. That was fine, and  she took about a dozen of us back to the tower where we had to pass through  what they call ‘airport style security’—where your bad is checked for metal (guide told us that  no  metal—knives, keys, locks, etc,. were allowed)& they wand you.

View of Seine from Eiffel Tower

So, even with ‘skip the line’, it takes about 1/2 hour to get in. But it’s worth paying an additional $30 or so.  Really.    The guide told us some interesting facts and then set us loose.  I had wanted to eat at the tower, but a friend told me that the Jules Verne Restaurant was really over prices…and indeed…all the little restaurants were. A slice of pizza was 12 Euros (about $15). Gloria had wanted a glass of champagne—20 euros.  Not worth it. So we took photos and walked around.  It was the  one sunny day we had in Paris…the rest were rainy.  Just  what you’d expect of Paris in the Springtime!

Another tourist told us the Louvre was actually free—it’s the galleries that are 15 Euros each.  The Louvre is open

Me at the Eiffel tower—on top!

until 9 on Friday nights. so, there was no line, and we did get it, but it was about  8 by then. Gloria looked into it, I went to the gift shop and got a s little view slide toy with the ‘highlights of the Louvre’.

Gloria wanted to try a walking tour early Saturday, so we met up at Musee D’orsay late in the morning. This was where all the impressionist are.  I could have easily spent a few more hours there.  It was crowded (and I think about 15 euros to get in), but there was no line, and you could move around. We then went to l’Orangerie, where the Monet water lilies are.  I didn’t know that this building was built for Monet, and we’ve all seen  those water lilies. Well, there are six giant murals in  two rooms, and frankly, you can see  that he could not see.  Giant size blurs. His smaller paintings are better.  We saw some  great paintings in the rest of the museum.   I bought water lily socks and an interesting book of  paintings.  Then we went back to the hotel and decided to walk to the canal, which is about 1/2 mile away from the hotel. There are cute shops there, too, but all expensive.  We stopped at a small bistro and had crepes, which were wonderful.  We then got a little lost, but  got back to the hotel and had seen a lot of Paris.

On the first Sunday of the month, the museums are free. I wanted to go to the Rodin museum, which is not far from Musee D’Orsay, in a mansion. Riordan was really not that prolific  You get to see the Thinker & The Kiss, and a few of his other works, but the museum is mostly his studies of what he planned to do, as well as what some of his students/apprentices did. Still, I felt it was worth seeing.

We had dinner at the Strassbourgiouse which was steps from he hotel, splitting a salad, crepe, and dessert.  We left Monday morning, early.

Paris is just like you see in the photos:  all old buildings  seven stories or less, with wrought iron work, cobblestone streets, and rain.

Now, the trip  got stressful. We got to Orly 3 hours early, and Icelandic did not have a check in desk—not until 11, for a flight at 1…and the people in front of us, well, 1 had to  get rid of some of the junk in her luggage, as she was overweight, and another couple was at the wrong airport.  We were lucky  security is more ‘relaxed’ at Orly—we didn’t have to take off our shoes.  We got to Reykjavik, and Gloria was flagged for additional screening. it’s apparently a statistical thing. We then went to the gate for our flight, were there weren’t enough chairs, and the  sign said B0ARDING NOW…but we actually stood in line for about 1/2 hour more until the FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS  were boarded…and then, it was a free for all. it’s as if Icelandic has never boarded a flight.

We returned from Europe to JFK, and, knowing there might be delays, as well has having to take a shuttle from JFK to LaGuardia, we booked the  early March 6 flight –Tuesday morning…. back to Chicago.  However,  we got to LaGuardia about 7:30p.m..  on Monday, March 5. We attempted to fly ‘stand-by’ but were told—twice—that  we would be charged  an additional $99 each to change our booking.  In fact, the  9:00 p.m. flight did not leave until after 10:00 p.m.,  We also attempted to check in our baggage and they would not let us do it.  This does not make any sense. We  were  not only freeing up our seats for you to resell the next morning, your unsold  seats on that Monday evening flight were wasted You can not recover that in any way.  We ended up spending the night in arrivals sleeping on the floor.  We ultimately,  around 2:00 a.m. ,slept in wheel chairs & were chased out of those at 4:00 a.m.   Not that anyone needed the chairs.  Just policy.  LaGuardia was under construction. We could have  walked to another terminal, but   we didn’t want to do that & possibly miss the morning flight, and obviously it didn’t make sense to  go into the city for a room.

But it gets worse.

So…people started arriving to check in for  morning flights about 4:00 a.m.  There wasn’t a line, so we, again, attempted to check in about 4:30.  Your staff would not allow us to do this and made us wait an additional 10 minutes.

What I’ve seen happening more & more…due to ‘policy’—is airline staff making people wait until they are ‘ready’, a long line  happens, things get  bogged down due to  issues over luggage, then there is a crowd at TSA security screening, and everyone is frazzled & flights leave late. Makes no sense.

I’ve traveled internationally and have never had this happen even on an African airline.   “It doesn’t make any sense, it’s just our policy,”  is why Northwest folded.

So, except for the airline travel, it was a great trip.

If You are Accused, do you get the Benefit of the Doubt? Judge Kathy Bradshaw-Elliot Thinks Not.

February 1, 2018

This is a very sad story of a guy getting railroaded by an inept judge and inept council, based on …hearsay:  what a defendant said to a friend.  Long story short:  Lisa, a cousin of the defendant, decided to  accuse her cousin, Aaron Minzghor, of molesting her: http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/R23_Orders/AppellateCourt/2013/3rdDistrict/3120116_R23.pdf.

At the time Lisa said  this happened, there were witnesses:  My sister and brother-in-law, Sharyn & David Ferrie. They were with the the defendant, his wife, and the cousin, because they were delivering furniture.  Lisa left, the Ferries left, and  a couple weeks later  Aaron is charged with raping a child. Lisa was not a child, she was an adult, but because she worked in a sheltered workshop, the judge said she was a child , and so Aaron was charged with raping a child. He never touched Lisa, at all.  When it comes to hearsay, there was some that Lisa was jealous of Aaron’s wife, as SHE wanted him to marry her.

Aaron had a public defender who knew there were witnesses, but didn’t contact them until it was too late for them to get to court. The judge would not give a continuance.  So now Aaron is branded as a sex offender, and he is not.  He’s served his sentence, but because the way the laws are written in Illinois, he can’t be in a home with a child—not even his own, and can’t be anywhere there is internet.  He  is serving time still for a crime he did not commit, with real pedophiles and rapists.

Sharyn inherited some money and gave  a lawyer who was recommended to her a $10,000 retainer to reopen the case.  He never did,and when she told him she’d  complain to the Illinois Bar Assoc, he said, “Go ahead, I’m dying of lung cancer.  It won’t make any difference.”

This is our ‘justice’ system.

Why I Have Chosen to Join a Kennel Club

December 28, 2017

My Saluki as a young dog.Sold as a pet, he finished his AKC championship in fewer than 10 shows.

Why would a  person who doesn’t have a dog to show join a kennel club?  Good question!    It’s not  like I don’t have enough on my plate.  It’s because I want to support …purebred dogs.

At one time, I did have a dog to show, and  I was a member of  kennel club to meet  others who had dogs to show, possibly to network to expand my  dog grooming business, and to learn more about dogs.  I was a member  of the Goldcoast Kennel Club for several years, but a  lot  of life events, including divorce, moving, and  going to graduate school  made me lose interest.

I first became interested in showing dogs when I was learning about  breeds and  what breeders look for in making their dogs into champions.  My first ‘show’ dog, an Afghan Hound, wasn’t really a show dog, but I didn’t know that.   I was only  12  when I got him. He had a magnificent pedigree.  This is how I learned that you don’t breed pedigrees…you breed dogs.

My first dog show was the Skokie Valley Kennel Club show in October, 1967. I entered my young dog in Novice, as we were both novices, and he was  just over a year old.  He got a blue ribbon (he was the only dog in his class) and my mother had it framed.  I still have it.  He never became a champion, but I was learning.

About a yer after getting the Afghan, we got a Miniature Schnauzer from a very well known Schnauzer breeder. This breeder taught me how to hand strip a dog.  He also didn’t turn out as I had hoped, but I was still learning.

I became active in a breed club:  The Afghan Hound Club of Greater Chicago.  This was in the 1970s, and Afghan Hounds suddenly got popular because of the culture of the time.  We’d have educational programs at meetings, but mostly what we did at meetings was plan matches and dog shows.  Our events were well attended.  I thought my fellow club members were all dog lovers, but what I learned was that, when push came to shove, not all of us were on the same page. This was because I was very interested in  Afghan Rescue.  Some breeders  took their dogs back if they sold them to people who decided they did not want the dog any more, but more were really backyard breeders…hoping to play the dog show game on a grand scale, but not willing to be responsible for all the dogs they bred.  One member  actually said to me, “If you sell a toaster, and the  buyer decides he doesn’t want it anymore, you don’t take it back, do you?”   I saw the mindset of  many people who were breeding dogs, making some money, but not caring about the dogs they bred.  This shocked and demoralized me.

I got involved in lure coursing, and  my dog turned out to be amazing at it, but the club was ambivalent, and my interests drifted to other areas.

So now this is about 40 years later, and I am  a witness to  the end of purebred dogs.  There are several factors  affecting  dynamics.  The ‘fancy’—that is, the people who were breeding dogs, are aging out.Their kids never were really interested.  It costs too much.  Our costs of living went up exponentially, we  had the ‘great recession’ when  not just the  real estate industry collapsed, but those fiduciaries (LOL) we trusted with out savings invested in smoke and mirrors, and a lot of people lost a lot of money.  Also, partly due to the internet, and partly due to us training most veterinarians as ‘agricultural veterinarians’  mixed breeds and ‘rescues’ are more popular than purebred dogs.  We’ve all heard, “Don’t shop, adopt,”  never mind that backyard breeders bred all the dogs & cats abandoned in shelters.  And the whole ‘hybrid vigor’ excuse for breeding a Poodle to just about any other breed.

I’d hate to have the fancy die out.  While my breed (Whippets) are not really in trouble, there are many ‘rare ‘ breeds without a gene pool, and some very popular breeds—-like French Bulldogs, Cockers and Bichon Frise with horrible genetic issues and most of their gene pools  consisting of puppy mill bred dogs—-bred as livestock to sell.

As someone who doesn’t breed dogs…what can I possibly  do to ‘add value’ to the sport of dogs?We can find more ways to  make entry fees cheaper, or find ways to  include more pet owners.  We can  offer more  activities and opportunities to compete, and we can  do more to educate the public about why we care for the breeds we love, and why planned breeding  not only makes future generations of dogs more genetically sound, but  addresses the unwanted pet problem.

More on Puppy Mills…and the Unfair Attack on Joan Huber

December 16, 2017

I m revising/editing this post as I have gotten more information, and it is only fair to address the issues.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog called, “What is a Puppy Mill?” & cited a well known commercial breeder whom I felt was NOT a puppy mill:  Joan Huber of Blythewood Miniature Schnauzers.  It is not clear how many dogs she kept in her kennel before a deranged ‘animal rights’ idiot decided to  turn her in to authorities for running a puppy mill (and, with apparently no actual evidence—cropping her own dogs ears—-a violation of law because she is not a licensed veterinarian).  We have several issues that have to be addressed.  Actually, it was not 1 ‘AR’ person, but several past employees who turned her in to the  Montgomery County SPCA over multiple issues.

1.Joan Huber is NOT a hobby breeder.  Her business is  breeding and selling Miniature Schnauzers.  She is not selling entire litters for resale.  However, she has a market for her dogs.  I have mixed feelings about people breeding pets like livestock, but the fact is that even  many  hobby breeders don’t keep housedogs—their dogs are not pets, but without people like Joan Huber,  there probably won’t be many well bred—meaning  Miniature Schnauzers free of genetic defects available in even  five years. Why?  The  old  hobbyists/fanciers are dying out, and it is too hard to  get a Miniature Schnauzer ready to show. This is true of many terriers.  Too much work, no money to be made and lots of money to be lost on an indulgence.  You  need an ‘economy of  scale’ these days to  have a ‘breeding program’.  We may not like it that we see these breeding dogs as being in ‘dog jail’—but  not liking it is an emotional response.  I have worked in many kennels, and the dogs are just fine. Happy, engaged in life, and more so than many pet dogs.  She apparently had  41 dogs in her kennel(including over a dozen stud dogs), and was of the mindset that nothing was amiss.

2.  When I was barely a teenager, in the 1960s, a neighbor who knew I had an interest in purebred dogs and showing, invited me in to  watch him crop a puppy’s ears.  He sedated the puppy,  drew a line where he wanted to cut, and sutured the ears.  It was gross and fascinating. Why did he do it & not pay a veterinarian?  It was not to save money.  It was because he didn’t want the dog’s ears butchered.  Now we know, it is an unnecessary surgery, but  the dogs are not in pain.  It doesn’t affect their behavior, and  are we going to call this  a crime, but still allow  idiots who  don’t know how to use either shock or prong collars—-both of which DO CAUSE PAIN—-to continue to buy these items and cause dogs constant pain?

3.  Who should decide what is humane?  Do we let  so-called ‘animal rights’ do-gooders who have never trained a dog, or think  keeping pets should be illegal as it exploits them, to make rules?  Or how about  the many  veterinarians trained as agricultural vets, to influence what is cruel or what is kind. As it is, the veterinary profession makes a lot of money  off ear cropping, tail docking, dewclaw removal,  DECLAWING CATS,  making deals with pet shops to  vaccinate puppy mill bred dogs,   and over vaccinate out pets by law.  Thus, the fancy  has decided  our pet dogs should not have rights—totally on the other end of the spectrum.

4.  Is all this an  ‘either/or’ situation?  Go on Craigslist any day, particularly the pet section, in any city, and you will find backyard breeders selling puppies on a site which has rules  prohibiting the sale of puppies.  Craigslist relies on the public, the community —to ‘flag off’ sellers.  Yet,  so many people have no idea how to find a well -bred—meaning healthy AND  predictable–purebred dog.  The issue in this case is tht  the backyard breeders are dishonest and unethical…but are they inhumane?

5.  Can ‘the fancy’—-those of us who  promote the predictability of purebred dogs, quit defending selling  entire litters for  resale, in defense of being able to not be regulated?

6.This is how the public sees us all: https://www.clickorlando.com/news/41-dogs-confiscated-from-deltona-breeder-accused-of-selling-sick-puppies.

As someone  who  supports  prosecution of  crimes against animals, being a  donor to Safe Humane Chicago, I don’t understand  how  Joan’s litter could be ‘adopted out’ & her bitch spayed without due process.   Apparently ther was due process, but her lawyer could not defend her and she did not deny cropping her puppies’ ears!   In Chicago,  dogs  that have been abused are held ass evidence until the defendant relinquishes  ownership. We’ve had some dogs held for almost  two years as the owners deny a crime was committed, and get continuance after continuance.  Something is seriously wrong, and  now I understand anyone with a grudge can report any of us, any time, whether  the facts are true or not, and cost us all a fortune.  Sort of disgusting that  the  do-gooder didn’t get a job working for one of the many bona fide puppy mills out there.  this is why i contributed to Joan’s defense.   I hope you will, too.