Archive for January, 2013

What do you mean my ANYTIME minutes have expired

January 31, 2013

This is not just about phone service—it’s about technology being, ah, not so great.

There was a time  that I thought the idea of mobile phones was neat.  I have to admit, they are very handy in an emergency.  However, I was forced by an employer to get a mobile phone.  I was going  into clients homes,  and  had to  be able to contact my boss, who was also on the move.

I didn’t know how to choose, so I asked a bunch of people what kind of phone,  and a bunch suggested Virgin Mobile.  It’s a pay-a-you-go -plan.

Funny thing is…they give you bonus minutes, and then don’t let you use them.  So, I had to call Virgin Mobile to ask them why they weren’t rolling over my anytime minutes. confusion ensued. Finally, not admitting a problem with their software, they gave me 3 months of free service so I could use up my minutes.

I wanted to pay a credit card bill out of my back account, so I logged in. Nothing. Thinking I made a mistake, I logged in again…and again….nothing was happening.  My saved  accounts were gone!   So, I called the bank.  I got the voice mail system, so I pressed 0 to speak to a live person and…got cut off.  Tried twice more, several different phone numbers for the bank. Nothing. so I emailed them. They called back within 10 minutes.
They had UPGRADED  their system, & now, nothing worked…& I had to rebuild the account.

Several years ago, my identity was stolen.  I know  all my info was sold by a bank I had refinanced with, because the idiot who sold my  identity was using my legal name (which I use only on my mortgage & passport).  Most sickening, besides my social security number, she had my mother’s maiden name.  I found all this out because a collection agency started calling me about my past due Verizon account, & I didn’t even have a cell phone.

She had opened a Verizon Wireless account somewhere in St. Louis (but later, in Los Angeles).   I could not get  Verizon to talk to me, because the collection agency that wanted over $600 wouldn’t give me the telephone number  on the account!
So, I called the Illinois State’s Attorney—& THEY got someone from Verizon on the phone, who apologized profusely, & swore she would  call off the collection agency and report the account as fraudulent to the 3 credit bureaus.

I believe she contacted Trans Union, but , because I  am refinancing, I got Experion’s credit report. Not only were the Verizon  account & the 2 fake addresses still on my credit report, but a gas company which slammed me &  has a collection agency that also wants several hundred  dollars on my credit report.
Seems that it’s so easy to  do this. The collection agencies work for the creditors, not for the public.

I am sure everyone in America has been through this—where you spend more time on the phone or emailing  to correct bogus charges or  to get what you are entitled to, than you do in productive work…& that said, I am going  on vacation for 2 weeks.

Options for getting a dog—why not a shelter or rescue dog?

January 25, 2013

My old dear dog died several  weeks back, and I am looking for a new dog.  I checked PETFINDER, and area shelters, but they don’t have what I am looking for.  I am taking my time, but I had the following experience…

There are bad dogs.

I am sure all dog groomers can relate to this. A new client with a Lhasa Apso came into  the shop where I worked.  Owner had gotten the dog from a local animal shelter  several years back, and had been continually unhappy with the groomers she encountered.  She had also met the previous owners of the dog. They had surrendered the dog because she was a biter.

Now, mind you, according to this owner, this dog had never bitten anyone. When I went to  touch the side of the dog, just to feel the coat, the dog snapped at me, & it was very clear that the only reason that this dog had not bitten anyone yet is because they had gotten out of the way in time.

We can  go into all sort of irrelevant detail. Owner claims the dog was stressed at every shop because of the  noise, the amount of activity, having to be there so long….& she wanted to try a quiet place.  Her veterinarian (another one who didn’t want to alienate a client & tell her she had to train the dog) suggested  the shop where I worked.

Of course, I asked her if she brushed the dog once a week.  & the answer was,

“Ah, no…” & had she ever taken this dog  through obedience classes? “Well, that’s not the problem…”

So, I said, “You are going to have to get out the gloves, &  brush this dog.”


“Yeah—because this dog doesn’t like anyone being in charge of her, & she is going to bite you, and you are going to have to ignore  the bad behavior & continue to brush her.   If you can’t brush her, I can’t brush her.”

What made it worse, was the  owner of the shop I worked in, was making excuses for the dog’s bad behavior:  “”She just needs training…she might have been abused…”

The fact of the matter is—this is the dog’s temperament, and  while  it can possibly be turned around, unless everyone in the household worked with this dog,  the chances are slim to none that this dog will ever be a non-biter…and you are playing the statistical odds.

Do you know why all the books on  choosing a puppy stress  some of the things you should look for  in a pup?  That the dog come up to you, likes being held, does not seem nervous?  Because those are good indications that the dog’s natural temperament is  pack oriented. But more—the reason dog breeders who care about their dogs ( and many animal shelters as well) use the Vollhard Temperament tests,  is to determine  not just how trainable  a dog is, but  how to match the dog with the human personality who will  follow through on training &  being in control of the dog. Some dogs are not suited to being pets. They were never bred to be pets,  but some shelters never euthanize a physically healthy dog.
They can’t all be pets—and some breeds, due to their genetic temperaments, make worse pets than others, and if not  behavior shaped right from the start, will  be dangerous dogs.

The irony is that most large dogs—like Mastiffs, Great Pyrenees,  Saint Bernards, are of the  go along/get along types, and the smaller dogs—particularly the toy breeds, are  more dominate because they have  to be to protect themselves.

Every  true dog lover who knows dogs, knows that you do not tolerate behavior in a small dog that you would not allow in a large dog, but the  fact is that Americans tolerate, and even encourage, dangerous dog behavior.

They deny that the pet owner breeding his pet cocker spaniel is a breeder just like the person who has kennel runs  set up outside her house, and ignore that the  mother dog might be shy, or aggressive, or out of control, and NOT SO SWEET, and her puppies are bound to have the same temperaments.

I chose to own Afghan Hounds and Salukis, and they can be  very neurotic and emotional. It is so important to begin training—what we now know as behavior shaping— as soon as the pups are weaned, and  follow through.

In my area of metropolitan Chicago, some of the shelters are starting to do temperament testing, and try to do a good job of matching, but people aren’t always honest.The bad Lhasa came from a NO-KILL shelter  & would not be euthanized because of her temperament. Most likely the  family who adopted her  agreed to  start working with a dog trainer, and they didn’t follow through (and the shelter never followed up).

I am now looking for a new dog to be the companion of  the  13-year-old dog I have.  Bebop is very picky about his friends. He ignores the dogs at the dog park, and would be too rough with a little dog.  He has a thing about Arctic breeds and any dog with a mane.  As I didn’t get him I until he was 4 years old, and he came from a rescue, I don’t know what he experienced before me. All I know is he prefers to be with other sighthounds…as would I.

There are no Whippets in rescue in the midwest as I  write. The 2 Salukis in rescue in the midwest need a 6 foot fence, and all I have is a 4 foot.   There are no Ibizen or Scottish Deerhounds in rescue.  I have considered a retired racing greyhound, but most are too  large for me, and they tend to get into trouble in the house.  No matter.  By asking around, I found someone  who knew someone who took back a Whippet she had sold that wasn’t wanted by the buyer.  Most likely a bad -match.   That’s what good breeders do: They take dogs back so they don’t end up in shelters.

What I learned from this experience ( and doing a bit of research) is that there are very few purebred dogs in shelters  except for those bred by irresponsible backyard breeders!  Of course,  over half are Pit Bulls. That’s a given. The  ‘working class’ idiots who breed them for fun and profit have never been to a shelter, and really truly believe  it’s not the dogs they breed in shelters—those are what other people breed.  Lots of Chihuahuas and  toy breed ‘designer dog’ mixes.  & these are not the tiny show Chihuahuas. These are dogs double or triple the size, but had AKC papers that said ‘Chihuahua’.  and Shar Peis, and Huskies that got loose, and Merle colored Great Danes.  No Gordon Setters. No Briards, no Wire Fox Terriers, No English Cockers.  Seems that some of the hobby breeders are not just putting neutering contracts on dogs, but  making it very clear that if the buyer can not keep the dog for any reason, to bring it back.

My heart goes out to all those dogs languishing in shelters. Were I working steadily and ensured employment with health insurance, I would pick up 1 or  2 (especially the old, black dogs that nobody chooses), but I am not,  and I have to look at this horrible situation this way:  the people who bred these dogs don’t care about them.
They don’t stay in touch with their puppy buyers, and don’t think they should be responsible for them. Their attitude is that if we want to care, WE should adopt them and take care of them.

I don’t want these idiots choosing a dog for me.  What I want is for the rest of us dog lovers to do  is make it the conventional wisdom to demand these backyard breeders be responsible for the dog they bred that ended up in shelters.

How?  We have to get to veterinarians, for the most part. but we also have to get to our elected officials.

Book Reviews: Sellivision, by Augusten Burroughs, & Girls of Riyadh, byn Rajaa Alsanea

January 17, 2013

2 very different books, both novels.  One, Sellevision, about what I think of as about a uniquely American experience. The other, Girls of Riyadh an interesting take on life in Saudi Arabia as lived  by well educated, upper middle class young women.

Sellevision is funny. Well crafted. Fast paced.

If you’ve read Running With Scissors, you know Augusten Burroughs can write. This  is his first novel, and while it was published in 2000, it still reads as fresh.

The main characters work for a home shopping channel, and each has his pathos and quirks.    A bit of irony. They are well drawn, and  you can picture the scene playing out in your head.  I am surprised that  nobody has made a movie out of this.

What else can I say?  Even if you didn’t like Running With Scissors, or his other 2 books, Dry  and Magical Thinking, if you are up for a good story, this is it.  I read it in  about 4 hours, and laughed out loud.

What keeps us in America  separated from the rest of the world is our xenophobia, which means  ‘fear of strangers’: thinking of others as odd, & not sharing our values and feelings.  I have found my own neighbors to be at odds with many of my values, more so than  people in other countries.

I also have to admit, the title of this book didn’t readily appeal to me, and I was going to   give it to a group that provides  books to women in prison, unread. I have to say straight away, I am not a lover of ‘chick lit’.  There is some that is very well written, but it’s brain candy, and life, to me is too short.  I got this book at a book swap, and I have to  recommend it as a good read.

Apparently, Alsanea originally wrote it in Arabic, and with some help, translated it into English.  She did a wonderful job.

It is about several upper middle class young women, and what their lives are like.

She chronicles the lives of several friends  who  all have similar backgrounds, who met  either via school or their parents’ friends, and  their  love lives.  Several are paired into arranged marriages, which they hope will turn into love.  One meets a man she  resists, but falls in love with due to his attentions. One meets a schoolmate, and the  affection and shared interests turn into love.

She alludes to the telling of each girl’s drama as  blog posts, which she then wrote at the book.    Yes, this is a quite modern tale.  I don’t want to compare this to Sex in the City (in Arabia), because the women depicted are not  career women on the make.  They want to fit into their communities.  I recommend it to anyone curious about young women in the Middle
East.  Keep in mind, however, the lives of these characters are  far from typical. they are all  upper middle class.

Why I am not in Mourning

January 11, 2013

Bop & Daz 010 (Small)Anyone who has been through a lingering illness with a loved one  can probably relate.  You start mourning when you  start experiencing the decline, and know the inevitable outcome,   that’s when it starts.  Yet, you know you have to be strong and live through it.

My old dog died last week. I euthanized him because he was in pain.  He was 15, and had been going downhill. He was a walking skeleton as he had lost what little body mass he had.  People would comment about him on the street:  “Is he sick?” “Why don’t you feed him?”  ‘You are abusing that dog!”  Oh yeah.   And I’d explain that he was 15 years old…and he was fine.

He was fine because  he was still interested in life.  He loved going for a walk and sniffing around and seeing the sites (he was a Saluki…a sighthound) no matter what the weather.  He enjoyed treats.  He  just wanted to be around his people (not a cuddler….a Saluki).

Since about the age of 13, he had been going down hill, losing muscle mass, sleeping more, and being very very picky about his food, but the last  about three months were the worst…for me. He was interested in life, but his body was failing.

Temple Grandin , the famous animal physiologist (for whom the book, “
An Anthropologist on Mars” was named) wrote that  animals feel pain, but it just doesn’t bother them that much (up to a point).  Dazzle clearly had trouble  getting up and down—hips and knees, but I knew my dog.

In fact,  when  people ask how they can tell  IT’S TIME, I have told them:

  1. When the dog constantly ends up walking into a corner & just standing there;
  2. When he stops eating;
  3. When he shows signs of pain.

& that was it.  Dazzle  went for a walk after leaping down the stairs for the umpteenth time, was limping, but came up the stairs and ate dinner. Then, he fell.  He had been falling, and sometimes, he had trouble getting up on a slick floor, but after I got him up, the last time,  he could no longer support his own weight.  I helped him to lay down  on his bed, but when I got him up to go out to urinate, he screamed out in pain, and  I had to hold him up.  There would be no going back.

Yes, heartbreaking that a dog so interested in life could have his body fail him.  But it was not a shock.  We all want our dogs to die at home, in their sleep. We have the capacity  to not let them suffer.  & that is why I am not in mourning.  I miss him terribly. He was the best dog ever, but we had a good life together, and the way to honor that is to get myself together and either get another dog or help animals in distress.

Start the year off right—support education of girls

January 3, 2013

I first because interested in development issues, and why  some countries are so poor, when I  took my first strip to Africa in the 1980’s.

Now, the issues is confused (I won’t say complicated) because you can’t just invest in education, as Julius Nyerere did in Tanzania.  You really have to invest in infrastructure for economic development, too.

I noticed the contrast between Tanzania & Kenya.  Years later, I witnessed the contrast between Thailand and Cambodia.

But I don’t want to make this too complicated.  I support several groups that  educate orphans in Africa, and there are a few I do not support.  However, it’s up to YOU to decide who is effective, and who is not.

Women’s Global Education Fund.  Google them. This was started by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Senegal & Kenya, and wanted to provide further educational opportunities  to girls who completed primary school.  The   American supporters are mostly in the metro Chicago Area, and hold a could of fund raisers every year. They do a great job, & provide scholarships to several girls every year.l  I like them, but they are  actually barely making a dent int he problem….unless they  would insist the girls return to their communities and educate more girls. They are not at that point yet.

Zambian Children’s Fund. Google them.  This  orphanage and school is in Lusaka Zambia and was started by an American woman, Kathe Padilla, who had visited there.  She pretty much single-handedly  got land, built a school and small home, and got  Americans to support the project.  But she also recognized that  the project had to be supported by the local community, so she worked to get their support, and after about 10 years, managed to get a local board to sustain the project, which also turned in to a vocational school and several income generating projects.  I’ve been sending them kids clothing, books, and  first aid supplies for years, and am happy to see them  thriving.

Malawi Children’s Village, in Mangochi, Malawi .Google them:  this project was started by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers a little over 20 years ago, initially envisioned as an orphanage. However, the people in the local community wanted to keep their extended families together, & asked for help with a school and water wells.  Because of this local community support, they  have a library, a vocational school, and every child who advances a grade in school has his or her school fees paid.  We will see in the next several years what the economic impact on the region actually is.

Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy in South Africa. Google it. It’s a paradox, really.  Oprah grew up poor, had a child as a teenager (it died), furthered her education  and was in the right place at the right time. I know she genuinely wants to give back, but now that she’s an elite, her thinking has become slightly clouded.
She picks and chooses the girls who attend this  school, thereby creating a class of elites. I doubt any of the girls who graduate will be as altruistic, but time will tell.

Link Community Development.  This is a nonprofit that started in Scotland.  The Sottish, via the African Inland Church, have always supported education in Africa.  However , he problem remains that  educational policy in most of Africa is very  bad.  It actually prevents leaders from emerging unless they have political connections. Link actually addresses issues of curriculum…in Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Malawi. I can’t imagine a less sexy but more important aspect of education than curriculum development. It’s just going to take a very long time to collect the data on the impact they  are making.  The problem with LINK, is that  they are not addressing  the problem of who co0ntrols the  educational system in each country, and the issues of  social status, and who is allowed to advance in school, what ethnic groups keep their children out of Western education.  Who makes sure the curriculum is not biased towards a Eurocentric/developed world view of what is important? Elizabeth Marshal Thomas addressed this very issue in her ethnography. Warrior Herdsmen, published in 1965.  Curriculum doesn’t matter at all if traditional people who can support themselves don’t trust what is offered, or find it irrelevant.

Now, you can send money and you can go visit  some of the schools and projects, but first…do you know how science and math are being taught in YOUR local school?  In Chicago, we have several charter schools and technical (Chicago Public Schools) that address math, science, and computer skills. We have The Young Women’s leadership Charter School,  in Chicago.  I suspect it isn’t an urgent issue to many of us if we don’t have kids in schools, but think:  if kids don’t learn life skills, they becomes thugs and a drain on society.  it is also statistically proven that when you educate girls, they have a profound impact on their communities…much greater than men have, because women do educate kids. Think about it.