Archive for the ‘Aspergers’s Syndrome’ Category

Preface to Polyandress

January 23, 2020

From the Museum of Erotic Art in Barcelona Spain

The BACKYARD BREEDERS are, anyways. People who breed their pets for ‘fun & profit’, who sell to anyone with cash,  and don’t screen buyers to determine if they are ready for the dog they want, and don’t take any responsibility for the animals they breed…are filling our shelters.  The ‘do-gooders’ promoting ‘no-kill’ don’t count them as breeders. They are actually demonizing responsible breeders instead and are letting the bad ones totally off the hook.

They retort that no breeder is responsible. These people who influence ‘conventional wisdom‘ know nothing about animal husbandry, genetics. or animal behavior. Also, they don’t know the facts. They have a cartoonish, anthropomorphic view of animals. They hew a party line.

The facts are that over 90% of dogs in shelters were bred by backyard ‘I’m-not-a-breeder’ breeders, who deny they are breeders because they don’t have five breedable bitches, or they don’t have a kennel building, or they aren’t living off their dogs. In urban areas, most are Pit Bulls, or Pit-x, but some areas have a lot of Chihuahuas, Beagles, or shepherd type farm dogs, We’re not seeing rare breeds in shelters unless a dog has been lost. Let me take that back. Now we are seeing more Cane Corso in my metro area. I guess the foundation breeders didn’t make it clear to buyers that they should not be breeding if they weren’t going to be responsible for what they breed.

No matter. When you own the mommy animal at the time she gives birth, you are THE BREEDER.

They’ve also spread this idea that dogs are just bred for their beauty (conformation) and can’t do what they were bred d to do. That is laughably untrue.

We are ‘the fancy‘. That’s what purebred dog lovers—fanciers—call ourselves.  I’ve worked for hobby breeders for over 50 years. Most I work for are extremely concerned about genetic defects and strive to breed genetically sound dogs that can do what they were originally bred to do, and more. We call obedience, rally, agility, racing, lure coursing, hunting, dock diving, nose work, barn hunt, etc.: performance.

More important, these breeders love their dogs. They network to find homes for older dogs, often support their breed-specific rescue if a dog ends up in a shelter & the breeder can’t be found, and they will take back dogs they’ve sold if the buyer can’t keep the dog. They do not want to lose track of the dogs they’ve bred. This is why you don’t see rare breeds such as Glen of Imaal Terries, Borzoi, Clumber Spaniels,  in shelters. The breeders take them back. They also make clear to buyers why pet dogs should not be bred.

The do-gooders blame the hobby breeders, demonizing them for the situation the backyard breeders have caused.  We are losing breeds. I wonder if Bedlington Terriers or Affenpinschers have viable gene pools.

The reason I am a purebred dog fancier is predictability. A breed is considered a breed by the bona fide registry organization when the fanciers have a breed standard describing the physical dog, and dogs that breed true for three generations. With a degree of statistical certainty (with a standard deviation, I’m sure), you can tell what size, coat type, and temperament a purebred dog will have.

This is not so with mixed breeds/designer dogs. It would be amusing if it wasn’t infuriating how many grooming clients groomers have who bought ‘designer’ Poodle crosses and are disappointed with the size and coat type of the dog. If you would not buy a purebred Poodle, why would you pay more for a Poodle mix? I think the doodle breeders’ marketing must be very good. That and people don’t spend enough time researching a purchase.

Rarely do hobby breeders reach out to the public. They have too much conventional wisdom to dispell in a short amount of time. Veterinarians, who should know better, are not helping, either.

Now, due to ‘the economy’, where land rents might eat up over 50% of a household’s income, coupled with credit card debt and outstanding student loans, few people can even afford to own a dog, let alone breed them.

Ethical breeders are dying of old age. Younger people don’t have the time, money, or interest in breeding quality dogs. A veterinary dental for a dog hovers around $400 in my neck of the woods. The last thing people who have a lot of debt need is a high maintenance breed of dog, but pet buyers are naive and emotional.

When people try to guilt me about being a purebred dog fancier, I remind them that all dogs come from breeders, and I don’t want ignorant, dimwitted backyard breeders choosing the type of dog I should own. Humans ‘invented’ over 400 breeds for various reasons. it’s fine if you want to take any random dog, but we will not make a dent in irresponsible behavior; i.e. backyard breeders, if we ignore that they are the elephant in the room.

OK. So..what does that have to do with erotica? Nothing. But if I made one of the characters a dog fancier, and she explained why integrity is important, and she enjoys having mind-blowing sex…would you read that?

I rest my case.

Dirty Laundry and the Elephant in the Room

June 25, 2017

Is the elephant pink, gray, multi-colored?  Does it matter?  It’s always there.

My father turns 90 in a few weeks.  He’s losing his memory, and having trouble getting around.  His muscles are constricting, but no doctor has sent him for physical therapy. They give him shots.  Since he hasn’t much to do, he calls his children just to talk, but it’s too late for that, and here’s why:

My father was always  a hard worker.  He went to college, and majored in business, and  early on, he had a meat packing plant.  This business was profitable enough when he started, but approaching  20 years in, he had to sort of re-invent the company for a niche market.  This will be relevant when I explain a few things.  He never really was close to any of his relatives. His brother had some sort of learning disability (was it dyslexia?) & so his parents made my father hire his brother.  Not sure what he did in the busisess. Sales? Whatever.  & when my father incorporated the business…for some reason, he gave both my grandfather  and his brother a(my uncle) shares of the business.  My father also hired my grandmother’s youngest brother, who wasn’t retarded, but a bit slow.My father worked all the time, Or rather, he left the house about 4:00a.m. to make sure the plant was open for trucks, He never trusted anyone to open up for him.  What i;timately happened is….his father died, and left his shares to my grandmother & uncle. So ,they had majority shares of my father’s business.  He had also taken on a  partner to generate sales and infuse capital. So all these people had control of the business my father ran.  Not sure how it happened this way, but they did, and  to  get out, he liquidated  and sold th capital equipment to my stepbrother.  He was supposed to  stay on as a consultant, but due to a very bad contract (you’d think he’d blame a lawyer), he was forced out with no consultancy, and, instead, my step brother pays my stepmother.  You can imagine the tension, but the marriage remains intact.  I don’t get it.

Because of my mother reaching out, my father was in touch with relatives, but actually, we spent more time with my mother’s relatives…until she died. Then, those contacts sort of fell apart.  They fell apart for many reasons, but one reason was my mothers kids—me, my 2 sisters, and brother, were ‘odd’.  Now we know my brother and I have Asperger’s, but we were just too much for  my mother’s brothers families.   Bad influences? Whatever.  We siblings are pretty much estranged from our cousins.  It is even more pronounced because my stepmother is strongly bonded to both her and her first husband’s families.  Good for them.  I admire that.

My brother always  had behavior issues that my parents never successfully addressed.  That is, he was always rewarded for his arrogance and  short temper.  He was ‘the boy’ and many relatives also made excuses for this.  These behavior issues turned into addiction.  He’s been in jail several times, and my father has always paid his legal fees.  He allowed 2 houses to go into foreclosure, and my father has bought him his 3rd place to live.  My brother wanted to be a herpetology entrepreneur, but never was disciplined enough to keep sales records and avoid the trap of not being a  self starter. He’d get high  many days.  He has 2 advanced degrees, but had been caught several times stealing drugs.  My father seems to characterize this as my brother  marching to the beat of a different drummer…not being mentally ill and addicted.  He can’t allow my brother to hit bottom, as my brother might die.  so this state of affairs drags on.

Due to this pattern, my father has alienated his daughters. One son is worth 3 girls, and it is pretty obvious.  It’s disappointing, but it is what it is. He has always treated his daughters like  children. He thinks it perfectly  appropriate to show up where you work to just ‘see’.  So, we no longer tell my father where we work.

No matter what you tell my father, he will give you advice, and tell you how to live your life. I used to trust him, but I realized he gave me bad advice for my situation, and I had to figure  things out for myself. Both my father  and mother were disappointed that I learned to groom dogs and didn’t go to college after high school.  I think my father is now proud that I went to college—and graduate school—and never asked for money.

I did ask my father to consider investing with me in a 6 flat about 30 years ago, but he  clearly wasn’t interested. Instead, he invested in a house my niece rehavved and  didn’t break even.

I have blogged before about insurance, and how much my father bought—trusting another  guy his age, never mind that insurance is not transparent, and you  don’t know what you will end up with, A minor thing, but now, in a few years it will be over.  We’ll go through papers and see how much insurance he has, and  if there is any money left over.  Of course, at least we don’t have to support him.  I have a friend whose father was badly injured in an accident, and he became a quadriplegic.  In order to get  any sort of aid, he  and my friend’s mother were divorced.  He might have gotten a settlement, but I remember my friend scrambling to find assisted living for his father because his money was about to run out, None of the siblings would help. That’s the dynamics in families.

I wonder  about families that all get along and support each other. Well, you never know. somethings are never how they  appear, but this family is exactly how  it appears.

The Addiction Epidemic

May 19, 2016

When I was in high school in the late 1960s, we got health education in ….physical education class. Why was  health not taught as part of a science curriculum?  Good question!  In any case,when it came to drugs, we were shown the very popular film, Reefer Madness ,and told marijuana led to  using other drugs.  I guess back in the last century, the science of addiction wasn’t considered so important because….the policy makers  believed their own propaganda:  that only minorities sought, used, and became addicted to drugs.  Back then, alcohol and tobacco weren’t considered drugs.  I think the  conventional wisdom was that if white men partook in something, it was not a problem and should not be labeled a problem.  There were alcoholics…but  their drug was legal.

I am not sure how thinking changed.  It’s being reported now that most people who become addicted to heroin start on prescription pain killers, but NOBODY is  talking about  more oversight  of pharmaceutical manufacturers or even physicians who  over prescribe  these legal medications.  However, now that virtually every family in America is touched by drug addiction in some way—whether it be in the family, or at the workplace, suddenly, there is a call to  address the issue again.  Is it because more white kids are becoming addicts?

As I’ve written before, my own brother, a licensed pharmacist, became a drug addict.  He knew how people became drug addicts, as he had friends who were/are addicts.  Several are in recovery.  Yet, he CHOSE THE  ADDICT LIFESTYLE.

If you think people don’t CHOOSE to become addicts, guess again. Sure, kids get drugs from other kids, skip school, have no  passion for anything but video games. That’s a good start towards addiction.  You see your parents come home, turn on the TV,  start drinking beer.  No hobbies, no interests. That must be the way adults live their lives.  I  still see young kids smoking tobacco.  I can’t imagine why you would start a disgusting, expensive habit, when there  is enough information available  about how it wrecks your health, and it really doesn’t make your life better.  You don’t look mature when you smoke cigarettes, you look stupid….and it’s a legal addiction.

With my brother, it was clearly  other mental issues (Asperger’s), and being treated like the smartest guy in the room by my father.  My brother had an R.Ph. and  DVM degrees. Clearly, he knew more about science than anyone else  we knew.

Problem was, he could not relate to people at all.  He  would not take responsibility for not showing up to work on time, for alienating bosses and clients…and my father kept  rescuing him. This is true of a lot of addicts:  parents and ‘loved ones’—-enablers—-continuing to support the addict’s lifestyle.

So—what’s to be done?  Do we need more ‘treatment’ programs?  Possibly—but the ones  we currently have  available have a horrible success rate.  First thing—you need to want to not just get clean, but radically change your life.  Three months, six months ain’t going to do it. Maybe  two years—in either a foreign country, or where you have to learn an entirely different language to get along. This would require concentration, of course. The program would also need to  insist on at least six hours of physical labor every day.  You’d be so tired, drugs—getting high—would be the last think on your mind.  Face it….some people would rather  sleep  on the street than  even make an effort to respect the people around them.  You relapse once,the next ‘treatment program’ is five years..and keep restricting freedom and spending money until the idiot gets it—we are not going to let you  disrupt all the lives around you.  & Why should our tax dollars help you when there is  not enough money for our public schools and more teachers?  Lots of addicts believe that switching to another,   maintenance drug would be the way to go.  Maybe so, but you still will have to find a purpose for your life—more than hanging around and relaxing.

Make drugs legal. Right now, with drugs being illegal, they are not taxed, and violence is so much part of the culture.  By legalizing drugs and taxing them, we pay for treatment, possibly even maintenance drugs,  and get  those in the informal sector out of the business.  Let them shoot each other over a girl , or a parking space.  Too many economic resources are dedicated to  prisons, lawyers, and psychologists, and they don’t have much  of a success rate , but the do make money,  so cut them out.

Start fining  friends and family who enable the addicted to continue to be addicted. My own father pays my brother’s phone bill. This gives my brother just enough money to keep getting stoned.  He has no incentive at all to stay straight, and  he disrespects not just my father, but everyone.  My father should have to pay a stupid tax.   Although he denies it, he feels my brother is worth keeping alive, in spite of disrespecting  his 3 female siblings.  This helps nobody.

I have traveled in Africa.  While there are alcoholics and  addicts, not nearly on the scale that there are in the developed world. when you have to walk miles to get drinking water, and grow your own food….when you have to put so much energy into just surviving, you don’t have time for self-indulgence.  This how we know this lifestyle works in stopping addiction.  You either work…or you die.


If I won the lottery…

January 15, 2016

Dash&meNov14There was recently a lottery prize that was worth over a billion dollars (or whatever it is after taxes….a lot of zeroes).  I don’t play the lottery.  I am not a gambler. I like to think I take calculated risks.  However, what would I  do if I had the  money  Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have?

1.  Pay off my mortgage and make a few cosmetic repairs to my house. It’s over 100 years old.  It’s not really laid out well, but it is in an excellent location, being steps from public transportation and Lake Michigan;

2. Set up a fund for the youngsters in my extended family to either pay for school or a business venture.  However…not to pay for something  frivolous. They’d have to submit a plan.  You can study philosophy or art history after you can earn a living doing something (more on that later…);

3.Set up a fund to assist OPEN  ADMISSIONS ANIMAL SHELTERS so they could care for all pets, not pick and choose who gets saved. That said, this fund would also fund humane education which would teach people interested about animal behavior and husbandry, pet training and grooming, but also on  affecting social policy, so we  could address the mindset that just because you have  just one dog (or cat, or whatever) to breed, it doesn’t mean you should not be responsible for the offspring.   I’d work to  create a fund to  make it a state law that says that if you advertise baby animals for sale,  humane people visit you to collect a ‘humane fee’, and so we have your contact info  (meanwhile chipping the animals for sale…) …so if the pets you sell  are given up, you either take them back or pay a humane group to take care of your responsibility;

4. Potable water is a huge problem in much of the world.  There are many reasons for this:  population growth, deforestation…and fracking.  I’d not only fund getting the word out, but I’d sink wells or develop rain water catchment systems in areas where the population agreed to make girls education in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) a priority, and fund  that.  Too many resources have gone into boys…and look what a mess men have made of everything;

5.  I’d also fund a ‘No Birth Bonus Scheme’ in  these locations—paying women to not have more than 2 children.  There is NOT enough water to go around.  I’m not talking sterilization or abortion, I’m talking women making a choice  about resources;

6.  I’d put together a venture capital firm to help inventors with prototypes and patents for appropriate technology and pharmaceuticals;

7.  I’d create a fund so my neighbors could make their housing more energy-efficient and get off the grid;

8.  I’d pay a personal trainer to boss me back into shape.  I am actually pretty strong, but you never push yourself as much as a trainer does;

9.  I’d set up a fund for people with autism to take advantage of the new technologies available which make communication easier.

10.  I’d also set up a  fund for kids aging out of the foster care system, for them to get at least associates degrees or start a business. These are the forgotten in our communities…and often, they are destined to be poor, with  compromised social skills.

I am not much for luxury items.  For me, it’s important to have a functional kitchen, and I love my deep bathtub, but jewels and fancy clothes?  Not me.  I have a travel jones.

So, that’s what I’d do with a windfall.  What would YOU do?



The Big Short and Understanding Finance

December 25, 2015

My 2 flat in Rogers Park, Chicago's 49th ward.

My 2 flat in Rogers Park, Chicago’s 49th ward.

It’s Christmas Eve, 2015, and I went  to see “The Big Short.”  Although the movie was not well reviewed (Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune said that  financial markets were too complicated for the average person to understand. Hence, this movie was boring), I found it well scripted, edited, and acted.

Perhaps  it is because I, also, could see how over heated the real estate market was…and I will tell you  how.

In the mid 1980s, seeing that I would never get rich by grooming dogs, no matter how well I  managed my budget, I decided to learn about the mortgage market and selling commercial paper.  That’s right.  I learned that not just banks, but private investors bought mortgages and you really didn’t need years of college education to sell mortgages.  You just had to know the concepts of present value of future cash flow, loan to value—and the formula to  figure out what a cash flow was worth.  That was it.  Simple as that.  Yes, you need a special calculator to  figure this stuff out, but you can easily learn the formula in a few minutes.

I  learned, via audio tapes, that  brokers sliced up payment streams, and sold portions of mortgages.  You didn’t have to buy 240 payments (a 20 year mortgage), but could by payment 12, 18, 32…whatever.  How would you manage to get paid if the mortgage was sold or the mortgagee defaulted?  Ah, there was the rub.

I wondered how this could be legal.  Well, it was legal because it was not ILLEGAL, and frankly, most people who buy bundles don’t look that closely at what they are buying.  I mean, they don’t look at the value of the property the mortgage is on, trusting appraisers.  They don’t look at the credit histories of the borrowers.  The assumption was that someone was  checking out this stuff…but in reality, nobody was. It just seemed to risky for me.  The only way you could  make money was if you were  a lawyer, and even then, it was an iffy investment.

My niece learned the  mortgage business (and was a lawyer), and I called her about a mortgage because I wanted to lower my payments.  She got me a ‘no document’ mortgage, meaning I didn’t have to prove income.  At the time, I was earning under $30,000 a year, but my credit was good, and my  ‘loan to value’ on the house was very good, so it wasn’t a problem.  After a few years, I thought I could do better, and wanted to retire a line of credit which was never very transparent, and I could never get a statement  on how much principle I owed, so I , again, refinanced with a broker who got me  a mortgage based on the LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate—a rather bogus index used in the USA), which was  at 3%, but adjustable. The broker told me  the rate was very stable, and rarely fluctuated more than .25, but that turned out  not to be so, and within  six months the rate climbed from 3% to 5%, and I again refinanced.

I just love HGTV, and I loved the shows about house flipping and people house hunting.  What I was seeing, on those shows, was people were being approved for  mortgages with no or hardly any (2%?) money down, based on their incomes, not expenses, and clearly people were buying much more  home than they could afford.  But it was legal.

I was seeing this with some friends as well. I thought that this could not possibly go on.  People were trusting banks, were carrying too much debt on credit cards, and all that needed to happen was for energy prices to go up or people losing jobs for whatever reason, or becoming over extended (a good one was  investors buying a bunch of property, not keeping the property up, getting rent payments but not paying the mortgages on time because  that’s how  some people manage their finances).

This movie shows that—all of that—really well…and virtually all the practices that led up to this are still legal.   Our Chicago area schools are not really teaching finance, or compound interest, or budgeting…especially not in low-income areas…and we still have people thinking this is  just not an interesting subject.  These are the same people who don’t bother to  check out the political candidates positions online (easy enough to do, but they go for the bloviators), and don’t vote, anyways.  Then, they complain.

I had read excerpts of Michael Lewis’ book, and learned about Michael Burry (excellently portrayed by  Christian Bale).  This movie should be shown  to every highs school student.

Enough Blame to go Around

February 20, 2015

When I was a little kid , I was heavily influenced by  TV.  Especially  Donna Reed, Father Knows Best,  and Leave it to Beaver.  I knew moms stayed home and dads went to work—like my folks did, but I thought the parents on TV were nicer than my parents.   They seemed much less….frazzled.

The fact is, my mother really had too much time on her hands. She went shopping, to the beauty salon, and played mah jongg.  She only spent time with her kids when there was no other alternative.  I didn’t realize this at the time,but I do now.  My father was not engaged at all. He left for work at 4 a.m. to open up the  plant for trucks. He claimed he could not trust anyone else to do it.  I actually think he set a good example for his employees, but we  rarely saw my father when he was awake.

As my mother said, Jewish men don’t fool around, and before I was 12, I  only knew 1 kid with divorced parents. The rest were in traditional  2 parent households.

I have 3 siblings, and we  were never close (even though we are  all only 2 years apart in age—I am just  seven years older than my youngest sister).  My parents were baffled by this, but my mother was actually psychologically abusive. She either didn’t engage with  us,  or was  just  helping us with school work, or  criticizing. That’s what I remember. Rarely did she compliment or encourage.

They were horrified when I decided  not to go to college,  and horrified that I wanted to groom dogs.  I think they were relieved that my  ex-husband took an interest in me, but dismayed he wasn’t Jewish.  I think my mother is rolling in her grave now that our middle sister, Sharyn, has been married  three times (never to a Jew—& in fact, now, to a pseudo Christian with  conspiracy theories about Zionism), and we other  three never had kids—as well as  one cousin marrying Hispanic, & the other, married for over 20 years now, to a Black American.  Plus, another plus a grand cousin married to a Black guy, the irony is…they all raised their kids Jewish. So much for theories.

I wonder how she feels about her son, the excon drug addict with  a terminal degree. As my uncles  joked, my father believed in higher education.  If we all could have only acknowledge mental illness is not a moral failing, but a mystery that is difficult to deal with.

Hey, I admit it. When I was very young— just after I learned to read, I realized I suffered from depression. It was probably stress, but it was only about 10 years ago that I realized (from reading Temple Grandin) and going to Wrong Planet that I have Asperger’s Syndrome.   Yes, friends. That is why I am so wierd.  But I’ve managed to stay off the dole and make a living—not be a burden to society.

I am writing about this now because my niece has announced the date of my grand niece’s Quinceanera.  No ‘Sweet Sixteen’ for  us (we sisters never had this—to my mother’s real disappointment…nor were there Bat or Bar Mitzvahs).  My guy reaction was of bemused irony.  We’re Jewish….but ah, no, Sharyn did not raise Lauren as a Jew.  I think she married Lutheran, and her husband is part Hispanic, and they live in a very mixed Hispanic community.  &  no matter what you say, Lauren, my niece, has learned from all her  mother’s and aunts and uncles bad examples and done ok for herself, more than OK.

So….all us siblings are invited, and Scott & I are not speaking, and Randi and Sharyn are not speaking ans Sharyn and her daughter, Laruen, the  Quinceanera’s mother,are not speaking..  I just assume we can all get along and not make a scene for a party.   This should be interesting…..


So here’s how this all  went down:

The Quinciniera was held at a banquet hall, and my niece arranged a lovely affair.  As i explained to my Japanese roommate, ,a coming-of-age ceremony is a big deal in  lots of cultures.  This is  supposed to be a statement that the honoree is now an adult (though of course, she is not. When you start paying your own living expenses, you are an adult), but it is also an opportunity to throw a big party for your friends and family.  This was an ostentatious display of wealth:  the room, the meal, the open bar, the M & M’s custom designed (and cookies as well),  a slide show of <aya’s life to that poijnt tt went on  a bit too long…. photographer, MC… everything.

Lauren had  requested  we dress in black & white, and  although I had gotten a lovely outfit (because I had misinterpreted the  instructions as  black tie formal),  I found a black skirt and a white shirt, and everyone complied. Only Maya, the Quinceanera, was dressed in a lovely turquoise ball style gown.  Her court  was  four boys in  sharp suits, and the girls were in white satin dresses.

I was told my brother never  RSVP’d, but he showed up there anyways.    He didn’t talk to me.  My sisters were cordial to each other and were able to maintain small talk. My father and step mother  flew in from Florida, and  that night a storm started and they could not get back to Florida for  3 days.  We were at a table with my nephew and his girlfriend, who left  even before dinner, ans  Lauren’s cousins on her father'[s side of the family.  This  was why the event was  so large:  Lauren’s father, Bill was 1 of  five brothers, and they all had kids.   Her husband also has quite a few cousins.

The notable absense, I think, was the  stepsister her fathe had ‘sired’ befor he and Lauren got married.  Sh had become part of the family and was suddenly gone.  Whatever.


Book Review: The Social Lives of Dogs, by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

December 19, 2014

I try to read all the popular stuff on dogs to keep up with what  people at events are talking about.  While I  am not a fan of Cesar Milan,  you could find worse information on dog training… don’t get me started on Barbara Woodhouse..or the Koehler Method.  While these  ‘old timers’ have been discredited, unfortunately, Milan is all over  the place thanks to National Geographic, and  you can find Woodhouse’s No Bad Dogs and the Koehler  book all over  the place.

Lots of people take issue with Marshall Thomas because she is not a ‘professional’ animal behaviorist or fancier, and she allowed her dogs to breed.  Well, I bet we have issues with a lot of people we call friends.  I enjoyed The Hidden Life of Dogs, and I enjoyed this book  as wellI will add that I also enjoyed  The Harmless People, her book on the !Kung of  BotswanaHaving Asperger’s Syndrome, I am endlessly fascinated  about how communities work our social interactions.

Marshall Thomas is a phenomenal writer.  She writes clearly,  and describes what she has witnessed. She really is a pet lover, and while I would take issue in  allowing dogs to  breed indiscriminately in our modern, urban society, she explains dogs relations  to each other, and to humans, and this is what is important.

There are a lot of books written about dog training, and raising a puppy, but there is not  much written about multiple dog/pet households, and how dogs work out hierarchies and interactions.    Many of my clients started with  one pet, then  chose a companion for their first pet.  Sometimes it works out, often it doesn’t. Pets really have to choose their own friends, and pet owners can’t decide who will be dominant.

Marshall Thomas describes how  these particular animals came into her household, and what the social dynamics were among them.  Some  people might think she is anthropomorphic, but if you read and understand what she is saying,  if you are a dog owner, you will recognize what she says is true.

This is NOT a book on dog training. It is about relationships.  However, in her  Appendix, she  addresses control of dogs, and I would suggest this to anyone who  plans to work with dogs.  She is absolutely right.  She also has a separate appendix on keeping parrots.  While the books is really about dogs and their relationships to other sentient beings,  this appendix is also extremely valuable, and I am glad she  put it ion the  book.  So many people who   go for owning exotic dogs also go for  other exotics without thinking of the ramifications.

This book was published in 2000.  There is nothing out there like it.  Her anthropology training helped he  describe what she observed:  dogs being dogs.

When Your Friends Turn out to not be Friends

March 14, 2014

What actually happened here would be very amusing were it not personally offensive, and hadn’t destroyed several friendships.

We accept our friends the way they are.     Or so I thought. the good outweighs the bad. Some consistently make bad decisions, or decision we would not make ourselves, but what we get out of  our interactions with these people usually out weighs what is annoying about them….right?

Back around September, after my roommate had returned from a business trip,  he resumed getting bitten by insects.   He’s always getting bitten.  This had been going on  for weeks, and I felt it was because he had not changed his linens.    I think it’s a ‘guy’ thing.  I blogged about this (Roaches, Bedbugs, Fleas, and Biostatistics….Dec.13, 2013).   I was getting bitten,  but no more than usual.  I suspected possibly fleas, or spider mites.   However, he had  returned days earlier, and decided to capture some specks on his cushion.  He sleeps on the couch ( long story— there is too much stuff on his bed).  He had been doing some research as he had heard that bedbugs were a  epidemic in Chicago. Indeed, living in an inner city neighborhood, with much multi-unit housing, you see furniture put out on the street all the time—sometimes with  signs taped to them:  BEDBUGS.  We live next to a large multi-unit building that I know has an ongoing problem.  Why ongoing?  With that many people, you can’t  make them get rid of ALL UPHOLSTERED FURNITURE.

In any case, roommate captured  these specks with tape.   I put them in a bag, and I gave them to a friend (Elaine) who volunteeers at the Field Museum of Natural History.  They have insect experts there.  Unfortunately, they turned out to be  Bedbug nymphs—immature bed bugs. We never found an adult.

I informed my roommate, who immediately stripped not just the bedding, but the slip covers off the  couch, and threw them in the wash.  Then, we  put everything in the dryer. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.  Washing—even in hot water, kills nothing.  It does not disinfect, and the amount of bleach you’d have to use would tear up the fabric. YOU MUST  PUT THE STUFF IN THE DRYER AT 140 FOR AT LEAST  HALF AN HOUR.

We also steam cleaned the rugs & floors, took down the curtains, and I bombed the room as well—afraid it was also mites. The dogs never scratched.  My other friend, Karen, who owns a 6 flat that did have a bedbug problem, gave me  names of several exterminators, and I did some research on my own.  All the exterminators said they’d do  VISUAL INSPECTION.  No black light (which is what a veterinarian will do when you think a dog might have external parasites).  They all said they would just look at the walls, look at the folds in  the  furniture upholstery, and that’s how they’d determine if we had an infestation.  I did not feel we had an infestation. They also suggested putting all out clothes and all our linens in the dryer for at least 1/2 hour.  We did not have tenants in out lower flat when all this was occurring.  It was empty.

Having had a dog die of lymphoma due to pesticide exposure about 15 years back (sighthounds—-with no body fat—are very susceptible),after spending $3000 on chemo to try to  get him onto remission,  I  wanted to be conservative.  I had no trouble spending $1000 if we had an infestation, but  I didn’t think we had.  I felt we had taken appropriate action. Things were tense for a few weeks. I asked my roommate at least once a week if he was still getting bitten. After 4 weeks, he felt  sure he was not, that his  itching was from old bites.

I get together with Elaine—and Karen—- who has the 6 flat that had an infestation—- about  twice a month—-at Elaine’s apartment.  Karen, was  relentless and obsessive, but  I would not discuss it with her. I felt I had taken  appropriate action.  We were not getting bitten.  It did not affect Karen.  It was my building.

I clean my  apartment once a week, and I was also in the process of rehabbing my kitchen. I had wanted to host Thanksgiving, for all our friends, but the kitchen was not totally finished. Karen  decided SHE wanted to host Thanksgiving…but her motives were selfish:  Not just was my kitchen not finished:  she, apparently, did not feel safe coming to my apartment due to the bed bug issue.  She hosted Thanksgiving—and  my roommate and I were invited— but she wanted us to put our coats & shoes in a bag if we came over to her house. In fact, she told me that many of our mutual friends were not comfortable with me. Yes:  she gossiped about me and the bedbugs.   None of our ‘mutual friends’  asked me  what was really happening.  I have no idea who she  discussed this with. My roommate was insulted and refused her hospitality, and asked me how I could be friends with Karen.

I had often asked myself this:   Karen is manipulative  in so many ways. We had a break years before.  She’d call ME to make plans to get together, & suggest we talk closer to the date…and when I’d call to finalize logistics, she tell me the plans were tentative and she had something else to do. Many times.  I finally  just stopped calling.  She will often just disregard others feelings.

This was not on my mind at all. My other friend,  Elaine will proudly tell you she never bathes, and she doesn’t own a vacuum cleaner.     She has also gotten kicked off medicare several times for not paying  the monthly  bill—but she  won’t allow automatic withdrawal from her account.  Another ‘friend’ has taken the time to get her reinstated several times. You accept your friends the way they are. Why should this bother me as long as I can’t smell her and I don’t have to spend time  fixing her laziness and immaturity?

I went to Viet Nam  on vacation the last  two weeks in February.   My roommate picked me up at the airport. I asked how things were, as  right before I left, the washing machine had broken and I had also needed car repairs.  Just the day-to-day stuff that affects the lives of people living together, and…”While you were gone, Elaine and Karen came over and asked me to schedule the bug sniffing dog, They said they’d pay for it,” roommate told me, matter-of-factly.


Yes.  Apparently,  both Karen and Elaine had been bothered by this lack of financial proof (i.e. a receipt) that we did not have bedbugs, and  hadn’t felt comfortable socializing with me   since  before Thanksgiving, even  though we had gotten together—gone out for brunch, in my car or Karen’s car, and socialized at Elaine’s at least  four times since Thanksgiving. Worse, it came out, Elaine had gotten bitten by something in her apartment. That’s right–the lady who doesn’t bathe. She was so angry with me, and took the sample of whatever bit HER to the museum, but as soon as she was told that what bit her was not bedbugs—-a miracle occurred, and  she stopped getting bitten.  So, they decided—while I was out of the country, to preserver OUR FRIENDSHIP, they would ask my roommate to do this and pay for it.  Generous of then, right?

& guess what? No bedbugs.  I have a receipt (and roommate has a photo of the dog!).  & Karen, who owes money on her credit cards, is,with Elaine, out $175.    Is this about bedbugs?

Karen’s cat died  of old age several weeks ago, and she had told us all she was not sure she wanted another pet.  She  was getting old and didn’t want to clean the litter box.  I understand. When my Saluki died last year, it really made me think about getting another large dog.  So I did not.  Then, suddenly, Karen reports that a friend of hers who volunteers for a  pet rescue brought over a cat (surprise) for her to foster…no warning.  “Did you  ask her how long the average pet stays in foster?”  I asked Karen.  “No—but that’s a good question.”  End of discussion…. except I guess that Karen thinks because she allowed someone else to take advantage of HER, it was ok to make a decision for me.

If I laugh this off—it never ends.   It’s like me saying, “I am sorry I  do not meet your high standards.  Please run my life and fix my life for me. I am immature and irresponsible”.  & in fact, the friend whom I  went to Viet Nam with told me I was too old to look the way I looked, and I needed a makeover.   Never mind her tenants haven’t paid rent in two months, and she’s admitted to over $50,000 in credit card debt.  I need a new hairstyle and better clothes.   Yes—-all these ‘friends’ think they are  telling me I need to change—for my own good—or because  they can they feel they’ve accomplished something.

I feel like  3 people whom I  spent the most time with have died.  I had such a good time with them, but they, apparently were not having such a good time with me all these years:  I  aggravated them by not doing  what they wanted me to do:  getting  my car detailed, my hair cut, getting a different job.  All sorts of things.  Oh, well, I guess that’s life.

Full Employment? Then YOU Hire Him!

February 7, 2014

It’s really a very middle class notion that  we can have full employment and that everyone who wants a job should  have a job.  In my  inner city neighborhood, we have a ‘make work’ scheme where we hire chronically unemployed men to  sweep the streets.  It would be one thing if they were supervised and  sent out to  several different areas, but you often find five or six guys, one with a broom, one pushing a garbage can on wheels, and the others a  group hanging with them.  If we got after the litter bugs, and didn’t allow stores to sell cans, bottles, and candy that can be discarded all over, we wouldn’t have the mess. No matter. The fact is that none of these guys doing this will ever be able to get real jobs.  They just don’t know how to do anything  that would add value to any business, and I bet there are some other issues.

Issues like  either not showing up on time, or on a regular basis, or showing up drunk.  I used to have a small business  where I often  employed just one person to assist me in bathing dogs, cleaning up, and lifting large dogs.    There wasn’t enough work to make it even a full day, so I paid a high hourly wage, and split tips, so whomever I hired got paid  decently for the day even though they usually only had to work  four or five hours.  Usually what would happen is I’d get a student on break for the summer, and when they’d go back to school,  business would slow down, so I could take my time in hiring.

One of my clients  was an independent human resources  consultant, ans she told me how to  screen so I could make sure  I was hiring people who could follow instructions. That helped me weed out a lot of people.  Still, a lot of time was wasted.  I’d explain, on the phone, that this job entailed washing dogs—a lot of physical labor, even getting wet.  Then they would show up dressed for work in an office.  Many would start out, and  then  realize it was too much  physical  work for them.  One guy was really good, but he  kept  not showing up, with no explanation.  After the third time, I had to fire him, and he was baffled.

I know that I am not the ideal employee, but I do understand showing up on time and being ready for work.  Usually, I am the only employee in a place that has the skills to do my job.  It’s a matter of integrity to  be  on time and ready for work, with working tools.  However, the reason I groom dogs, and have stuck with it, is because I  can work without supervision and like the creative aspect of  the  job tasks.  What makes me not so ideal is refusing to take instruction or bullying from ‘supervisors’ who don’t do my job, but want to tell me how to do my job.  People who often break their corporation’s rules, but  want me to take the blame.  People who  think they should decide what my labor is worth, and that I don’t deserve to make more money than they do because they are my bosses.

I have Asperger’s, and at least I know I am the way I am, but many Aspie’s do not.  My brother is an example.  He has an R.Ph. and a DVM.  He is very well educated.  Very intelligent when it comes to science. He has no social skills whatsoever, and, due to the way he was raised—being led to believe he is valuable because  he is a male child, he never learned anything about humility or cooperation.  He became a drug addict,  and either would not take a pharmacy  job or the word got out that he stole drugs.  He wouldn’t take a veterinary job because  they didn’t pay enough.  He decided he would make his living raising snakes,  but if you are not organized,  or your expenses are too high, you can’t make a living raising snakes.  So, he took manual  labor jobs and  started  selling precious metals on the internet to supplement his  snake ‘business’.

At one point, my father asked my brother-in-law to hire my brother.  The brother-in-law, ‘J’ was the manager of a warehouse, and he hired  packers and drivers to deliver ordered parts.  Simple enough.  Well, J hired S and told him  the workday started at  8:00a.m.  S complained that was too early for him, so J made it 8:30, and S still couldn’t manage to show up on time.  I know what that’s like.  I have had jobs where the start time was  impacted by traffic. so, I got up earlier and made a point to come in early even if I couldn’t clock in, but that’s now how my brother rolls.

No phone calls were allowed during work hours except on breaks but that didn’t sit well with S, either.  At one point, he complained that a  Hispanic worker had stolen his wallet out of his car.  Since they had a security camera system,  J reviewed the tapes with S, and indeed, tapes showed someone  going into  S’ car.  “That’s  Diego!  See, I told you!”  S  exclaimed to J.  “No, it isn’t. That’s  YOU going into YOUR OWN CAR!  Don’t you recognize your vest and shirt?”  J  yelled back at S.  What made it worse was that the tapes have a clock on them, & S was implicated  going into his car while not on a break…. but it gets better.  J reviewed all the surveillance tapes, and saw S on a pay phone—also not on  an official break, and saw him take his wallet out of his pants and put it on top of the pay phone!  He called S into his office to show him this tape, and as they were watching, Diego came into J’s office and said, “This is S’ wallet.  I found it on tip of the pay phone.”

J knew he was going to have to fire S, but bent over backwards  to make this work. S still came in over 1/2 hour late every day.  He asks to use J’s company computer, which was against the rules, but didn’t care. Finally, he was going out on a delivery, and he stopped at the end of the driveway to make a call on his cell phone.  He didn’t notice a car behind him, waiting to get out of the driveway.  The guy in the car was patient, but finally, called J from HIS cell phone  and asks J, “Isn’t that your brother-in-law in front of me?”  It was J’s boss. J had no choice but to fire S.

My father had a business, and he wouldn’t have put up with  this.

We don’t want anyone to be homeless, but  should we accommodate people who think they are entitled?  We all end up losing.  These people can’t farm, so they can’t grow their own food. We don’t want to see them sleeping on the street, so we have to take care of them. We pay no matter what.What happens in less developed countries, where the social fabric has been torn, and there  is not enough n resources to take care of these people?  In India,  you see them ‘camped out’ at the gates of the  rich.  In Africa, they get into thievery,pimping, selling drugs or alcohol, smuggling, or poaching.  Most die young, usually by violence, many by poor health.

I don’t know that there is a solution to this, but like I said:  if you think they all  deserve jobs, then YOU hire them. good luck.

My Year in Review (2013)

December 27, 2013

Ch. Scenario's Razzle Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki,  on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right.

Ch. Scenario’s Razzle Dazzle, JC (Dazzle) Saluki, on the left, Bebop Whippet, on the right.

The last few years have been a bit of a struggle money-wise and  balance wise, sometimes.   I am lucky to get to the gym once a week. The trouble is that  my commute, when i do have work,  is generally  in the  neighborhood of 2 hours a day.  I’ll get into that.  Fact of the matter is…I have nothing to complain about.  I have been able to save money, make repairs, and travel.  I attribute being  ok to NOT having to support kids or parents. After months of steady decline,  I euthanized Dazzle, my Saluki, in January.  You think you want your dog  to live to an old age…and you do, but then your dog has trouble on the stairs, and he becomes stressed and frightened, and  he was becoming incontinent, and  he’d  walk the hall, back and forth—-like he was going somewhere and would forget why—like an old person.    He was a few months over  15 years.  Now, Bebop has reached that decline, but  what happened with Dazzle, aside from losing muscle mass and becoming blind and deaf, was one day, we went for a walk,  he seemed fine, no limping, and suddenly he could not stand up;  he could not support his own weight.  I took him that evening to be euthanized.  We went to Blue Pearl, the  emergency animal hospital, and while stressful for me, he seemed  fine.  Several people asked if I couldn’t have rigged up a sling.  Sure, but that would not have improved his quality of life.  It would have been a matter of a week or  2 if he couldn’t get up to get to the water bowl, or eat  if I was not home.  Also, the stairs, winter slick. He was a phenomenal dog—an excellent house dog.  He never did a naughty thing.   He never went in the garbage.  His vice was pulling  embellishments—like beads—off fabric (pillows, shirts), and tearing paper. He loved to tear paper.  As much as I wanted another Saluki,  I am getting up there in years, myself, and to lug a large old dog up two flights of stairs is something to think about.   Also, most in rescue  are not only out of the Midwest, but practically feral (not socialized) and  will jump a  fence under  six feet (I have a four foot one on the north side of the house, about  a forty-foot run).  As there were no  Salukis in the area, and no WRAP (rescue) Whippets, I made a few calls, and was sent to Linda Larsen, who always takes dogs back.  She sold me  two-year-old Dash—who was returned because he chased the cat. I do not doubt it. Housebroken, neutered, all shots, obedience trained…and he’s killed a couple of squirrels and a few mice.  Very sweet dog.  Unfortunately, very submissive and not a ‘dog park’ dog:  if he perceives another dog is  more submissive than he is, he is a bully.  If he perceives another dog to be more submissive than he is, he ‘dogs’ them.  That’s how it is.    Being on the board of my local dog park, it is somewhat ironic, but  one board member doesn’t even own a dog, and another one also has a ‘non-social’ dog.   I got Dash after I returned from Turkey.  Great trip with Gate One travel.  I learned so much and had a wonderful time. Speaking of bullies…..when I closed my grooming business in 2006, I went through a lot of bs looking for a job.  I even blogged about it several times :   and :   I learned the general manager who gave me so much grief was finally demoted two positions.  Not fired, though.   I guess they thought they’d force him to quit, but he is almost my age—where would he get another job with benefits?  I blogged about it: I actually, in about a year’s time, worked for  several abusive bosses who  tricked me and lied to me.   I am naive and just assume everyone has the same view of acting with integrity that I have.    It is legal to  hire you under false pretenses, and  demand you do things you were not hired to do, then challenge you when you  apply for  unemployment and say you were insubordinate.   In any case, because  of this, I spent much of 2009  walking dogs and doing over night pet sitting as I looked for employment where I could make a living wage.   During this time, a tenant died.  He and his partner were  pack rats. Much worse than I am.  The kitchen was so bad I had to  gut it (last updated 15 years before) and  rehab that, as well as update my electrical boxes and rewire the house.  I also  insulated my ceiling (with all the holes, due to running wires, it made sense).  That started  the  rehab and  repairs on the  building.  U  just took money out of savings.  My ‘friends’ wonder why I don’t get my hair or nails done, or dress more fashionably.  It’s all in the house. I  got a job  at a major kennel.  That was in 2009.  The kennel owner  had a great business plan, and several good advisors as well as unlimited capital—or so it seemed.    They actually did the build-out around me.    I never knew where there’d be a new wall or door when I came to work.  Huge place.  I would have loved to  continue working there, but at the start, he only had part-time work for me, so he knew I was looking for other part-time work.  That was  the time I had the unfortunate  experience of  running into Dan London, who owned DOGGIE BATH HOUSE :   Dan did not have enough ‘dog’ experience ( actually, very few pet business owners do these days)  and  he decided that if I wouldn’t work for him, he’d make sure I’d work for nobody.  Since he had my resume  from  my initial interview with him, he started harassing the people he thought I worked for,  and began  posting libelous, negative reviews about them  and me on yelp! and Craigslist.  I blogged about him, too   and Well, he started colluding with  pet brokers who used Craigslist to sell animals (a violation of the posting rules—& this is why the sellers are so aggressive and arrogant—nobody is going to stop them but  people with integrity—flaggers—who  try to get their selling posts eliminated). So… they started posting all over the country, in the pet section and in forums, that I  bought dogs from animal shelters to sell on CL and didn’t like  competition, they posted fake ads that I was giving away Maltese and Golden Retriever puppies (that  sort of backfired on them, as I told every caller that  anytime they saw an ad for a puppy on Craigslist, it was either a scam  or dog broker, and where they could research  getting a healthy, well-bred pup) and  where I worked, and encouraged  people to call my employer and have me fired.  It took them several weeks of harassing my employers, but after  three months, they started threatening the life of my manager. I did not find this out until the owner told me he could no longer have me, but it was the manager’s decision, not his.  She told me about the threats as I was carrying my stuff out.    Now, in fact, the owner had told me he was going to  get law enforcement out after these people, but he never followed through. It was easier to get rid of me.  Craigslist told me that if I got a subpoena, they would tell me who was posting the libelous posts.   Not worth $5000 at this time, I still make a pretty good living.   In early 2010, I got a ‘job offer’ from a kennel owner. The kennel is in the West Loop—-a mile west of the CBD.  You might wonder what kind of kennel could be that close to downtown. This is how it is:  Just west of the  interstate, there is an industrial area.  Most of the  businesses are food processing,and there is also a row of  top restaurants, but there are a lot of warehouses and loft spaces, and within a mile of this particular kennel, there are at least four grooming shops and  5 full service kennels. The reason is–aside from being so close to the Loop— the zoning.  I blogged about this experience, too: I was there  two years (until April), worked with integrity, had a good following, but that wasn’t good enough for this kennel owner. She thought she could do better…and learned that she could not.  I quit because she set up a dangerous situation.  I had been working part time about three miles away, but mostly due to the neighborhood (very low income, mostly Puerto Rican and other islanders) I knew I would never be able to  grow that business due to the location and income mix of the neighborhood.    I  also went back to  some people  who had a shop close to where I live. I had worked for them  before and quit, because  they would not invest in their business. Also, they would not let me pay for  marketing, which was really short-sighted of them  and frustrating to me.   An animal hospital in the Western Suburbs offered me  two days a week, and told me that I would definitely  make at least  $150 a day.  The commute was horrid.  25 miles one way, taking at least an hour.  Two hours a day commuting.  I could start work  what ever time I wanted.  I just  felt that, since they started taking dogs at 7:30 a.m., it was a matter of integrity to get in there and start. Why should dogs have to sit in cages for  three hours?  But that was what the groomer who  needed help   E,  was doing.   She liked to sleep in, and since she had her husband to bathe dogs for her, she really didn’t actually start to groom unto noon. Huh?  Aaaah….yes.  Apparently what happened was  that she was hired as another groomer, as N   could not handle the business.  I could see from N’s records that she  had apparently been a grooming school graduate, and didn’t know how to groom or handle dogs.  She marked about every dog as a biter—and they were not—so that meant she was a rough handler.  But apparently she got injured somehow, & my co-worker—E—stepped up, and since her husband— T—was out of work,  E suggested to the practice manager that they hire him to bathe dogs for her, and she could go from grooming 6 dogs a day to 12.  Not only did they agree  to this (at about $15 an hour—when  industry average for a dog bather in our area is $10), she had carte blanc:   she  could do whatever she wanted and charge whatever she wanted.  It was rough to start.  I was NOT averaging $150 a day—not even on Saturdays, because front office filled E’s days before they gave me a full day.  As ‘luck’ would have it,  E broker her wrist (alcohol was involved) about a month after I started…and  they offered me all the days I wanted.  With  four full days a week (nobody had to wait more than 2 business days for an  appointment)m and a bather I didn’t have to pay for, I was making $300—450 a day, A DAY.   It made the commute worth it.   I raised prices on some dogs, lowered  prices on four. Why lower prices? What E was doing was unethical. She would  charge her drinking buddies $25 for an $80 groom, and make it up on clients that would come in maybe  twice a year.  I told the practice manager, but  they just loved E.  I started getting a following, I didn’t think E would be back until February at the earliest. She could not even lift her purse. She started hanging around, to show them how eager she was to return. She told them  she wanted to come back the week before Thanksgiving.  As they  would not guarantee me even two days a week after that, they started looking for a novice groomer, and found one.  But, while E was hanging out, she started ‘editing’ the card file, and although I had raised prices on about 30% of the dogs, I lowered them on  four dogs, and that made her livid. Meanwhile. my  0ld boss— from the job I quit in April, and started courting me about the time I took this animal hospital job. I told her I had a parking space,they were paying me 55%, and no hassle.  However, I  knew I would not work with E—she  is a shaver. I am a groomer.  So  old boss fixed all the aggravating things that bothered me and caused me to quit, and offered me full time.  Things are not perfect, but I have a better chance of working things out this go around.   As with any job,there  are pluses and minuses. it is hard to  groom dogs for an employer who  doesn’t do this work herself. Always. Experienced groomers will tell you this. My family provides plenty of  fodder to exploit:  and: and Being self-employed, I could not refinance the house.  Even though I could pay it off from savings, the  banks are really short-sighted in their credit policies. As an employee I was finally able to  refinance the house.  As though being at the mercy of an employer makes me more  financially secure.  Since I  owed so little principal and had a great loan to value ( confirmed by the appraisal done  for this  refi), I was able to lower my actual payments by over  $500.  The big  issue is the property taxes are way more than principal or interest.   Whatever…we  (friend is a certified kitchen designer) just  completed my dreamed for kitchen rehab.  We also, as many Chicagoans living in multi-unit housing, had a bout of bed bugs.  My extremely diligent  roommate eliminated them. In reviewing everything, I see I am on track to retire in a few years.  Thankfully,the stock market has been very good, and I have a very good mix of mutual funds.  I am going to Viet Nam in February, and hope  next year to  go  back to the Far East, or back to Africa.  I also signed on for ‘Obamacare’ & cut my health insurance premium in half. I am still a left over hippie do-gooder. When I have the time, I  volunteer as a court advocate for animals in our court system.  Check out  The court system is not like on TV. Defendants are given  continuance after continuance, and although they deny  hurting animals, many of them use the same lawyer—that is more than a coincidence. &, as I have mentioned,  KN is sill with me. Due to the sequester, his contract work has been really cut, but  his  former co-workers  really like him, and of course, he’s good at what he does.  He has a few interesting days in Saudi Arabia after his top secret   waste to energy project got  a big write up in USA Today.