Archive for September, 2011

I have a greeting disorder….

September 29, 2011

I come from a family of visual artists.  My grandfather was an artist, his 2 sons (my mother’s brothers) were & are artists, and 3 of 4 siblings (my  youngest sister, and my brother)  worked in the visual arts.  Like some families are into music, or athletics, we drew, painted, did assemblages.  I am not sure this matters, but it is said that we autistic types…think in pictures.

See, we are not just artists. It seems that a few of us are strange.  Some of us suffer from chronic depression.    Dysthimia…ennui…At least that’s what an internist/friend called it.  He said to me, “It’s not you. It’s the rest of the world. you’re not crazy” .  But Asperger’s Syndrome was not  recognized until about 1994…

It upset my father that we were strange, but  that’s how it was.  I had a cousin who had an autistic child,  and the family  became estranged from her because  …I am not really sure.  I think my mother felt her own  genes were superior, even  though the cousin with the autistic kid was a relation of my father’s.

I  was teased in junior high for  how I looked and acted,  even bullied.    I was told by guidance counselors that I was  more intelligent than average, and lazy.  I was really just bored with school and annoyed by my petty classmates, but  so much for hindsight.  I was obsessed with dogs.  I learned everything I could about dogs.

A lot of my personality was  attributed to being very intelligent, and being  an artist.  It was really more, but I was not to learn that it was Asperger’s until I was in my 50’s.

I think my parents fretted that I was such an idealist, but they were also concerned that my depression would lead to psychosis or suicide,  and concerned that I was poisoning the minds of  my younger siblings. I went through several psychiatrists and a psychologist, and they all took my parents money and  were just the foxes watching the henhouse.  They were of virtually no help, and I became very skeptical of talk therapy.  The whole therapy industry is  make-work for  a bunch of people who’ve conned politicians into  giving them legitimacy. Look how many have allowed  child molesters out of prison.

Several years ago, I was talking to a client (a psychologist, as it were)  on the phone.  It was at a place I was working, so others were listening to my end of the conversation.  At the end of the conversation, I hung up.  I might have said, “Ok,” but I don’t remember.  One of my co-workers  said to me, “Robyn, you are so rude!  You didn’t even say ‘Good bye!”  I just shrugged, as I knew the person I was talking to knew it was the end of the conversation. I did not hang up on her.  That’s how many of us Aspies are. We call people or  met them & dispense with greetings….as though we are just continuing a conversation.  I have to remember to greet people, and I have to remember to look them in the eye.   I generally CAN ACT NORMAL. except if I am under stress.

I generally don’t just get together with friends to hang out.  I just  get together to share an activity…and even that can be stressful.

1. It gets too complicated when people change plans  at the last minute.  We Aspie’s love routine.

2.  They complain about my car and/or my driving, but they don’t have cars.

3.  They  like to go out & spend money for the sake of spending money.  I have always been marginally employed and am always thinking about the slow times;

4. They are into fashion.  I am into functional clothing.

I guess all of the above are why I was not able to get a professional job after I got my Master’s degree.  I don’t suffer fools gladly.  It makes me crazy that people are so dishonest and will lie about  everything.

After reading John Elder Robison’s book, “Look me in the Eye.” about how he  coped with being strange. I  felt I had to address this in myself.  I can understand why people would not want to work with people like me.  That said…

I have a friend who is a dog groomer and dog trainer. She bought a business 20 years ago. It was a good business. but, due to her skills, she made it a better business.  It is very successful now.  She is successful at everything—dog grooming, training, breeding good dogs.  I respect her  a lot.  Thing is, she  has an attitude.    We get along, to talk, but I can’t work for her.  I respect her. but  the problem is that she  really thinks  everyone should like her, that her way is  the only way, that she is never inarticulate, and doesn’t believe  that anyone would not bring their dog to her.  I have gotten several of her clients because they don’t like  dealing with her and her business for  many of the same reasons I don’t:  she talks down to you.  She has trouble  accommodating clients.  Her shop is noisy & often a mess.  She has  all her dogs around, and some dogs find them intimidating.  There is nothing wrong with my friend. SHE IS NORMAL.  I’m the one with a problem.

Lately, I’ve seen several TV programs  addressing the issue of Aspergers in their scripts.  I learned about the autism spectrum from reading Tempel Grandin’s book, Thinking in Pictures.  Were it not for her, we’d all be a bunch of wierdos walking around.  That’s just how it is.

Book Review: Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, by Naomi Klein

September 21, 2011

I didn’t go to college right out of high school, I sort of relied on my boyfriend (ex-husband after a while) to  point me in the right direction  regarding  my political  thought development.  He was a philosophy major and economics minor in college.  What did I know of communism, socialism, Keynesianism or anarchism.  In fact, we were members of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies), and  our group’s philosophy was  anarcho-syndicalism.  That means we believed in  government owned by the workers—the people who made  things work, the producers.  You’d never know it if you got all your information from  privately owned media:  Google ‘worker collectives’, or even ‘Employee Stock Ownership Plans’ and you may find some successful examples.  In any case, the cold war was sputtering out, and would  continue to for another 20 years or so..more of a trading of insults than a war. In Chile, Pinochet had Salvador Allende killed, and the  fact that he was assisted by our CIA was no secret.  Our government was telling us citizens that Chile was not a democracy, because the wrong guy won.

While you are at it, Google “Marshall Plan” and you will find out that is NOT what the USA has been implementing since  we’ve decided to meddle in the economies of so many countries.

But what did it matter?  It was the 1970’s.  We had declared victory in Viet Nam and left. We could still make our rent &  other expenses on a week’s wages (as long as 3 of us split the rent) &  I didn’t think about health insurance, or saving for a rainy day.  I was too immature, too unsophisticated, to understand the economic system.  Fact is, due to the  entire  group of educational systems in the USA is a make work project for teachers, few of us know how economics works.  You can  ‘graduate’ from primary school and not know compound interest, how to start a business or do bookkeeping,  basic, vital economic concepts.  I found them teaching this stuff in Kenya in 1987.  I know I learned it in the late 1960s. What happened?  Why aren’t parents demanding that their kids be able to function?  Because they’ve been sold a bill-of-goods that their kids are educated if they major in liberal arts.  So much for that…when even a toxicologists can’t find a job, we know we are in trouble…We don’t even know what questions to ask about how our government spends out money.

Klein starts her history of how we allowed  Dubya (President Bush the 2nd) to not  provide immediate help to the  victims of Hurricane Katrina.  She describes how   we (American citizens…after all, having a democracy, WE are responsible for the mayhem)  support so many domestic companies and foreign leaders who really  don’t believe in democracy as we generally think of it.

She describes the orchestrated  overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973…the CIA assisting Pinochet with guns and money,  and destroying Chile.  Why did the CIA do this?  Even though he was democratically  elected, he nationalized  natural resources (the copper mines) for the public good.   Because Allende was a socialist and  Pinochet was a Chicago School free marketeer…. Really.  It’s a fact.  Sen.Bernie Saunders in Vermont is a socialist.  He hasn’t been offed because he doesn’t have that much power. How many of us knew what was happening with out tax $$$?

Is that an excuse?  Are we Americans off the hook? Do we really not understand why the rest of the world hates us?  But,  why individuals in the countries that ‘hate’ us want to take the gamble & try their luck here? Then, remember when Poland chose democracy & threw out the old communist regime?  Well, Klein painstakingly documents (copiously footnoted)  how  the World Bank/IMF insisted on an immediate sell off of  every state owned entity…and they(our government employees doing this on behalf of us..) did the same in Russia, South Africa,  Thailand & much of southeast Asia,  and now Iraq.  In Russia, the Communist Party  oligarchs were allowed to buy the  entities they ran.  In Iraq, they were prevented from bidding.  She  goes into detail how Paul Bremer, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld  totally destroyed the  all of Iraq, making it appear that Saddam Hussein  did this, when WE did this to them & the citizens there know it.  In fact, she describes how they started electing governing councils, and Bremer sent in our army to stop them from doing democracy on their own.

It is 2011 as I write this. President Obama  is either unable or unwilling to embarrass the rich, the Republicans, and bring vital change. Seems he  thinks  our  economic policy as we act and implement abroad is fine.   The American congress is now  deciding how, exactly, to dismantle the  home mortgage  interest & property tax deductions, and makes sure nobody can get by on the  social safety net of Social Security.  We’ve got a bunch of free market senators and representatives who do not know  either history or economics,  thinking—no—KNOWING —they are next in line for largesse.  Their  pensions will NOT be cut, and they will join the corporate boards of all the companies who will benefit by what Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize Winner, called,  a colossal transfer of private wealth into public hands. comparable to Russia’s giveaways to the oligarchs.    His book, Freefall (published by Norton in 2010) is also worth reading. He had been an Obama supporter…

Kinda makes you sick, doesn’t it?  There have recently been news reports (and it was on National Public Radio, which I believe  reports more truth than any other media in the USA) that  about 25% of Illinois homes (my state) are in foreclosure.  1 in 4.  This means so much. It means  a lot of wealth (equity) evaporated.  That money was what people were using to reinvest in the economy.  It’s gone.   If the rich don’t  throw around more,  the economy will never come back.  Not in 10 year, not in 20.   This is it.  Those are families who got dogs groomed, had their hair & nails done.  People who shopped for clothes as a recreational hobby! No more. Orthodontia for the kids?  Please…

You really can’t complain about what is going on  if you don’t understand what is EXACTLY going on.  The book  was published in 2007 by Henry Holt.  I am sure you can get it on Amazon if your local used bookseller (please support them, first, or  all you will have is Walmart & no choice in what is available for reading, except the internet), and if you want your kids to have jobs anywhere in the world, start emailing your elected officials–particularly your senators, representatives, & President Obama and tell them no more  defense spending or foreign aid until we reinvest in ourselves.  You’ve got nothing to lose. It’s all gone…

Dog Daycare

September 14, 2011

I am not a huge fan of dog daycare.    Or…I was not.  Having 2 male dogs who love each other suddenly get into it for no reason I could see… in the blink of an eye  …confirms that a fight can happen at any time, for any reason.   However, my feelings have changed over the years because I have work (as a groomer) at a couple of places that do a pretty good job of managing their packs.  Yes—packs of dogs.    & the reason  they manage well is because they take their businesses, dog behavior, and  pet care…seriously.

One place I worked at for about two years was Paradise4Paws in Schiller Park, Illinois.  Saq Nadeem, a business consultant and dog lover, was frustrated by the kennels that were providing  ‘care’  for his pets.  He  developed a unique business model for a kennel that would be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  The biggest  ‘negative’ aspect to  his  O’Hare facility is that it is a totally indoor kennel, and that doesn’t work for a lot of dogs.  However, the positives are many…including that the facility is staffed 24 hours a day, and managed by veterinary technicians who understand stress and the dynamics of dog behavior.  I can not stress how important that is—because so many  facilities hire dog lovers who haven’t bothered to learn about dogs.

The dogs stay in spacious ‘suites’, and it is the only kennel I ever worked in where  you could walk around and find most dogs sleeping when they aren’t in a play paddock.  That’s important because it means they aren’t stressed.

This environment doesn’t work for all dogs.  If your dog is not social, he’s not going to get more ‘exercise’ than he would in a traditional kennel. And, if you have a drape coated dog in ‘specials coat’, the  dog is going to get wet…just like any other kennel (so you would have to ask for extra brushing if the dog would be  boarded over3 days).  It is not  going to be a good environment for most intact male dogs, & there have been some problems with unspayed bitches.  But if you have  2 or more dogs, it is a great environment (& their cat area is outstanding).  The sporting dogs love this place because there is a pool.  Most of the staff endeavors to learn about  dog behavior.    Also,  they take cleaning very seriously as well.  They’ve opened up another facility near Midway Airport in Chicago, and it is worth checking out. Note:  none of the staff is ‘doggy’ in terms of being interested in  conformation or dog performance events. but I’ve  come to think of this as not so important in  taking care of pets.  I know a lot of people involved in  dog events who own kennels, and they don’t run them as well as this kennel is run.

If you live  far south of the city, Pawsatively Heaven Pet Resort in Chicago Ridge is also a full service kennel offering daycare.  Because it is  managed by  pet care professionals with  backgrounds in grooming, veterinary care, & dog training, it is also well run, and has several different areas for  daycare playtimes.

In the city, very close to the loop, is Petcare Plus, on Lake Street, a couple of blocks west of Racine.  They used to be in another facility, and when the business at this location became available, Jennifer & Chris Stavrianos bought it, and have been making improvements to the  infrastructure ever since.

I  have worked there part time, and  they have 6 different play areas for dogs.  Like any  well run facility, there is always someone with the dogs when they are in a group, and they are out of their suites most of the day.  Bad weather can be a problem, but they do their best to make sure all the dogs get exercise and are stress free.

Dog daycare is not for every dog. Yes, it will  alleviate separation anxiety to an extent, but  there is no magic. There is nothing that replaces dog training/behavior shaping.  If your dog doesn’t like being with other dogs, or is hyper sexual or  has to dominate, or is toy possessive, it won’t work. However, if your dog  has a lot of energy to burn and enjoys being with other dogs, it is worth checking out. Check out as many places as you can. See how the employees interact with the dogs. Do they have separate areas for smaller, calmer, and/or older dogs, and separate groups for the rambunctious?  What if your dog  fits in neither group?  Can you contract solo play?  Is there a separate nap area for each dog, or are they all together for the entire day?  No dog plays for  8 hours nonstop. Average is  20 minutes/ 1 half hour.  They need a place to  chill & regroup.  Are there enough employees for each group.  Really, it’s hard to keep an eye on 20 dogs.  The state of Illinois  mandates no more than 6 ‘unrelated’ dogs be   run together (but the law is not enforced).

People ask me about daycare at the  big chain pet stores.  Having had  unpleasant experiences with how they are managed, I’d say it depends on the individual store & how it is managed…but that is true of any kennel.  Don’t believe that  because they are in business,  the business is a good one, or good for your dog. You have to be a responsible  dog owner/consumer.

The damages—“Yelp!”, anonymous sites on the interenet, and what people believe.

September 8, 2011

A dog grooming client I had not seen in just over a year called me to groom her dog.

Last year, she googled (key words) dog groomer Chicago Miniature Schnauzer show grooming and found my single web page (embedded in another web page).

This year,  by Googling me, she found the  petition to have me banned from Craigslist (It has been up over 4 years.  I’ve signed it 3 or 4 times, my friends have signed it—there is no author or monitor…so it is going….nowhere)  and many libelous comments.

“Robyn, they are terrible!  Why are people posting this?”

So, I explained  about how I refused to work for Dan London, Doggie Bath House, back in 2008 (he has a ridiculous WORDPRESS  post up about what  a liar and mental idiot I am—but, for some reason, has never posted anything else…I can only think that I really aggravated him before he WENT OUT OF BUSINESS….) and between him and the pet brokers who use Craigslist to sell…

“But that’s not allowed, is it?” she asked.

“Well, no, it isn’t, but  if you can’t find a lawyer to sue them, and a subpoena alone costs $5000, and even if I find out who they are, so what, they have no money, so they are not worth suing.   So, by not enforcing the law, that makes it—libel— ‘legal’ .   Do you know how much illegal activity happens over the internet because the laws are not enforced?  The government is broke.   These people are making money selling animals, but not a living….  & it’s legal.” By warning people that the breeders who use Craigslist to sell, I am cutting into their  extra income.

I am in Chicago, & I told her that one of the brokers has posted as far away as Texas.  They called Paradise4Paws and threatened  the manager, Linda Lee, with death.  I didn’t know that until they fired me, and neither did the business owner…but the owner,  Saq Nadeem, told me he would pursue these people, and he did not. I don’t know  who all was calling, and harassing them, but he knew it was Dan London calling him when he first hired me, & he even had  his phone numbers.  Saq’s strategy was to ignore the guy, so  Dan London made sure he would not be ignored.  Meanwhile, Saq continues to open new branches of his kennel, because his business  plan and formula are good ones. But this is not the issue. Saq is not the target—-I am.

I told the client that there is one  ‘rescue’ in Clifton Illinois.  She calls herself Poyner Pet Rescue.  She is a puppy mill breeder among other puppy mill breeders, & ‘rescues’ the dogs her fellow ‘farmer wives’ breed & can’t sell, & will also take  puppies and purebred adult dogs from area pounds &  post them on http://www.adopt-a-pet.com .  Several of us have told http://www.adoptapet.com  she is not a bona fide rescue.  By Illinois law, she is supposed to  include shots & neutering in the fees, and she does not, & Dr. Ernst won’t shut her down—she is a licensed breeder.

I am not saying licensed breeders can’t do rescue—but they do it with a bona fide group.  It’s the puppy mills that get away with this scam.

I told my client how Dan London and his friends had posted fake reviews on “Yelp!”   My client had never heard of  Yelp!.  I told her it was a site that you can review businesses.   It doesn’t matter if you are a client of the business.  Many of the bad reviews are from competitors.   I often check the reviews. Sometimes they are accurate, sometimes not.  Any slick business owner can get his friends to post reviews of his business, and also get his friends to slam  competing businesses.  Dan London had called several of the businesses I worked for besides Paradise4Paws and claimed I had injured his (dog, cat), & the  managers were looking all over for client records—that did not exist—because this guy was not a client.  Illegal?  Only if you have the money to sue the bastard.  Unethical?  This is capitalism.  It was legal for years for banks to tell people they could afford homes they could not afford.  Really.

“Aren’t you worried about your reputation?”  she asked?

“Yes and no.   As I said, Craigslist would tell me who the posters are if I can get a subpoena.  Like I said…even if I did find a lawyer, these people have NOTHING. They are breeding animals to sell—like livestock—for supplemental income. They  can’t support themselves by working real jobs.  The irony is, that if the state would enforce the laws, and Dr. Ernst at the Illinois Department of Agriculture wouldn’t rely on voluntary compliance and, instead,  fine these people who are out of compliance, the  department could more than break even on fines and make a dent in the number of animals killed in shelters, but it is not a priority.

I mean…are you aware that the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has at least 10 sattelite offices in foreign  countries to encourage investment in Illinois?  Johannesburg, Jerusalem, Mexico City, Warsaw,  at lest 1 in China, and there was 1 in India.  When the best thing you can say about Pat Quinn is he’s not  a Republican…”

“Yeah, George Bush did a real number on this country,”  she said.

She made an appointment for the dog and  is now a bit more skeptical about how  business works.

book review: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

September 1, 2011

In the 7th grade, my family moved from  one school district to another.  The first day of school, I wore my  Girl Scout Uniform, as I knew I’d be going to  a meeting after school (at my old  school).  I guess that sort of set the tone. That, & my  frizzy hair. This was in the  mid 1960’s, when  Asian straight hair was ‘in’.  I was not cool.

I got teased a lot.    Called names. I clearly was not  welcomed into the ‘in crowd’ of sexually precocious girls into putting on make up, nylons, and mini skirts when they arrived at school.   A bit of irony  was that my mother was in a synagogue sisterhood with the mothers of some of these ‘cool’ girls, and she, of course, asked me about them.  I told her they were not nice.  The fact is, some of the boys were worse,.  Really hurtful.  However…  I did have a few friends, and a loyal dog, and plenty to keep me occupied.  My family was causing me more stress than school was.  Just  adolescence.  Actually, it wasn’t until I was in my 50’s that I learned I has Asperger’s Syndrome.  Made perfect sense.

When we went to high school, due to the affluence and population density of the area,  and the fact that about 6 or 7 primary schools fed into the high school,  we were a much large  mix of students.   By that time,  there were so many different cliques  because of interests, there was no dominant group.  The jocks/cool girls only mattered to themselves, really.

I am sure that in small towns, it is different, and that is what Jodi Picoult writes in this book. She really gets it.

For those who think that writing a story  is just sitting down to write, or plotting an outline, I’d encourage you to read this book.  I’d also encourage  people living in small towns, with  1 elementary school, 1 high school, and a tradition of  jocks and their hangers on being important, to ask that this book be  assigned  to the freshman English classes.  Friday Night Lights might make for good TV, but believe me, these people are often full of themselves, &  …not nice.

It is a sad story with  enough  embellishments to the plot and realistic dialogue to make it compelling.  An outcast,  partly because of his personality( he fits the Asperger’s profile in the book, but Picoult never mentions this), and partly because of an older brother being thought of as perfect (who is, in fact, part of the problem), takes a lot of abuse until his abusers really drive him over the edge.  This is not about excuses.  It is about  how  people  become part of a group—or not.

I am childless.  The big reason I am childless  is because I did not see any joy in raising children from my parents’ own example.  We were a burden.  I don’t know what they expected.  In fact, I don’t really know what anyone expects when they have children. People to support them in their old age?  Is that the traditional model?  Is it people to nurture, and have fun with?

Well, no matter.  The book was published in 2007, and  I believe it will be relevant for a very long time. If your school doesn’t want to recommend the book, buy it for your teenager and  read it with him or here. Really.

We all are inclusive or exclusive for many reasons, but being abusive to gain a sense of superiority is immature.  Sometimes, I think out American foreign policy is based on this premise, and it’s wrong.