Archive for the ‘economic reality’ Category

Book Review: Start Something That Mattes, by Blake Mycoskie

October 12, 2017

Blake Mycoskie, is the founder of TOMS shoes.  The company motto is, “for every pair we sell, we donate a pair.”  This is a very  quick read, very well edited, about how he started TOMS, and  how other people started businesses to make the world a better place.  I thought the book would be  hokey, but it isn’t.  Thing is, starting a business is really not as easy as chronicled.  Mycoskie had been a serial entrepreneur, and he had the capital to experiment when he started TOMS.  He acknowledges that he got lucky very fast, and his family was very supportive.

He doesn’t say how long it took for him to develop a working prototype, but he does say he had capital to live on while he was working on getting his shoes developed and manufactured.

I found this book very uplifting, but  I am not sure what value it would be  for the  entrepreneur who doesn’t have access to capital,or who has never even drafted a business plan.  I am really amazed at how many people  make a good pitch on  social funding sites like Indigogo or GoFundMe.  I have been supporting Prosper for over 10 years, where you can ask for a loan for any reason.

If you have an idea for a business,  you can look up  business plan outlines on the internet, and  find a business in your industry where you can  possibly intern, but be realistic and know the amount of money you will need to keep afloat until you break even.  I  want to open a resale store, but I estimate, with rent and overhead, I would need at least $30,000 and at least a year before breaking even.  Is that doable?  Mot for me…. unless I was given rent for free.

One of my favorite TV shows is “Shark Tank,”  where  entrepreneurs make a pitch  for funding and technical assistance to  ‘venture capitalists’ to grow their businesses. The Capitalists ask tough questions, and won’t fund an idea just because it is  ‘good’.  If you really think yo have a money making idea, write it down and  put down on paper  how much it will cost  to  either  manufacture your product or provide your service.

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A Bully is Obsessed With Me Because I Refused to Make Him Money

August 11, 2017

I am starting this blog post with a story many of us have heard about.  Mike “Lock her up!” Flynn, ranting about Hilary Clinton,  a Trump toadie, spread the Alex Jones rumor that Cosmic Pizza in Washington, DC—a family owned business…was a headquarters for Hilary Clinton’s pedophile ring.  Laughable? A guy went  in there with a rifle and shot the place up. Almost ruined a family business.  Not illegal.  I am sure the  business owner has a lawyer, but you have to wonder how often an asshole sets out to destroy a business  just because he can.

I am finding more and more dog groomers report being bullied by men. Same story I am going to report. they post fake reviews, they call and harass businesses…or make  fake appointments.  it’s not illegal to be an asshole.

I  started blogging about 10 years ago because I had a lot to say about a variety of subjects, but mostly… to expound on my experiences with dogs.  Due to a  bad economy, as well as a bullying boss , I was adrift for a couple of years. Yet…I never went into debt.  I  paid my mortgage—was able ultimately to REFINANCE my  mortgage, and look forward to retiring in about  two years.  From grooming dogs.

The bullying boss was never fired, but when the company (12 kennels is a company) was sold, he was demoted to kennel staff & moved to another location,  However…between (among) him, some people he had contact with (a guy with a dick & balls will always have more credibility than a woman), and a guy I refused to work for….as well as  people who say they love dogs—but have never actually trained a dog,  learned anything about animal husbandry, and  other dynamics  with integrity, problems remain.

This is the blog I posted: https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/are-you-looking-for-a-dog-grooming-job-in-chicago/     I interviewed  with Dan London, who told me his  dog experience came from walking dogs in a kennel.  He apparently either inherited money or got a structured settlement, and opened  a grooming shop…sort of. He paid to have bath tubs installed, had a portable grooming table, and  a ‘force’ dog dryer, but  not enough professional equipment. At the time–this was around 2008 or so, I had  several clients with long haired dogs which I groomed every week or every 2 weeks.  I knew I would have to move equipment in.  He  said he and his partner wanted to hire me…but they would set the prices. I told him that wouldn’t work.  My prices are my prices,.  He asked why, and I said, “You just don’t have enough dog experience.”

Again…what he had was bullying & internet experience.   I was looking for part time work, and  I inadvertently responded to a blind ad he ran. I learned not to do that, but he called and harassed all the groomers I worked for and posted fake Yelp! reviews.  My very favorite?  “I was being given a tour of (x shop) & I saw ROBYN MICHAELS beat a dog that urinated on her table.”

Of course, that never  happened.  I worked for  Pardise4Paws for  about two years.  Where I work in a kennel, I don’t have a phone.  That’s just how it is. You leave a message I will call you back.   Early on, Dan London  harassed them, and Saq Nadeem told me he was ignoring him.  I said, “No, please, get all the contact information you can.” But he didn’t.  Dan London would disappear, then get nuts again. He’d post all over the country on Craigslist that I had a puppy mill, that I took dogs from animal shelters to resell,  that I harassed people rehoming dogs (only the puppy mills—you can tell who they are) but worse  I abused dogs and  he told people to call Paradise4Paws and have them fire me.  I didn’t know this was going on. He could have harassed me directly, but  chose to not, and  one day, after the first of the year, Saq fired me because the manager wanted to. He didn’t know why, but she told me she was getting death threats.  Over not being able to sell your puppies? Because someone told you  I was a dog abuser?

These people are all over the country, and if they see it in the internet—it must be true.Why do they do it? Small dicks.  Because they can. They obviously get a vicarious thrill upsetting…women.  this is akin to domestic abuse..but if you can’t locate the abuser, yu can’t do anything.

At some point, this moron will slip up, and I will get a phone #, but as for now, this  is a guy, and this is what guys do.

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.

When a Rescue isn’t Honest About a Dog…we all Lose

May 11, 2017

A few years ago, I worked at a very unusual kennel.  At least it was, for the time.  The owner, who, due to a consulting career and great network, got the capital for his concept.  It was a 24 hour kennel. Thus, if you got back from being over seas at 2:00 a.m., you could go fetch your dog on the way home from the airport.  All his kennels would be in close proximity to  airports.  But that is neither here nor there.  The other part of this plan was that it was totally indoors, and dogs would be guaranteed at least 6 hours a day out of their suites.  So, they  ‘exercised’ in packs.  The theory was that the space was roomy enough that nobody got territorial.  It generally worked. When it didn’t, it  created a lot of extra work for employees, and some  injuries of both dogs and people.

Only the manager  had hands on dog experience, but she had never worked in a kennel or trained a dog.  This is a problem, these days—-when  people with money want to be in a dog business, but  have never actually communicated with dogs, and have no animal husbandry experience. They have a fantasy idea of how dogs are with each other.

Due to how busy this business was, and just the statistical odds, we were getting  a per centage of dogs that were nonsocial, and had to be kept separate from other dogs, as well as  dogs with clear neurological problems.  One of the managers wanted to consult an animal behaviorist.  My experience with dogs was not good enough, as I was just a dog groomer.  But the manager, who had been a Vet Tech, told her that an animal behaviorist wasn’t going to fix a brain tumor or whatever  was triggering these dogs, and we were in danger.  Yet, the owner was reluctant to turn away any dogs.

It came to pass that we got a dog in, a  Coonhound mix, who clearly wasn’t all there.  We could not get her attention. All she did was pace.  The manager  put her in an office with a glass door, nearer to where we were working, to see if  we could get her calm.  She was across a hallway  from  where I was grooming dogs…but it didn’t appear to me, although we could see each other, that she was paying attention to me.

She came and went several time over a few months (her owner traveled).  One day, I went into a pack of about 20 dogs (in an exercise area) to get a dog to groom.  The Coonhound came right up to me, jumped up, and bit me in the shoulder. Blood actually spurted out!  It didn’t hurt, but it was a bad bite, and I was really shocked.

I went to  the office to tell the managers what happened.  One of them wanted to call the owner.  “Isn’t he on his honeymoon?”  I asked.  He was.  I said, “Don’t  screw up his honeymoon.  He’s going to have to  make a decision when he gets back.”

& the owner did.  He made the right decision, and euthanized the dog.  No training was going to get her out of a neurological problem.  The manager asked me how I felt about that.  “It’s unfortunate, but we can’t save them all. The statistical odds are that some dogs just can’t be pets.”  I told her. “I’m glad you understand that,” she responded.  “I went to a seminar on evaluating dogs in shelters, and  the  person giving it said that when we aren’t truthful about a dog’s temperament, and a child is bitten, not only will this family never trust a rescue, but they may never get another dog,” she went on.  “Or, even worse, they’ll go to a pet store and get a puppy mill dog, ” I  said.

I bring all this up because I work at a commercial boarding kennel, and we make room for rescues who need space for  dogs in their programs.  I see what the rescues do.  Good intentions are not enough.  We have several dogs from a Greyhound Rescue. All the Greyhounds are used to being in kennels, and  very quiet and very friendly. Every weekend they go to an adoption event.  The Pit Bulls? No.  I have no problem with Pit Bulls as a breed. We have  quite a few who come for daycare, and they are  fine with other dogs.  I also volunteer for a  nonprofit that  places dog that are in the court system, due to  owners  being dog fighters, or just every day abuse and neglect, and most of those dogs are fine….but…there are so many Pit Bulls (lots of  low income ‘backyard breeders’).   Many are sold  barely weaned…so they are never socialized to even their litter mates, let alone other dogs, that  we have way too many that will never be good pets—& their group sponsors are in denial about this. They don’t want them killed,but they don’t want these dogs in their homes, either…so they languish…warehoused…in our boarding kennel.  Virtually all are  emotionally stressed from being in an animal shelter, and then, from their  perspective, they are moved to another animal shelter—our kennel, where there is just as much stress of  dogs running by, barking, all the smells, as  there were from the place they came from.  One dog spent 16 years in our kennel.  16 years, because my boss  agreed to keep her. Every time Gracie was out of her  kennel, she was muzzled. Finally, she got too old to attack other dogs.

We currently have 4 that will NEVER be pets.   2 were tied to our doors.  One has neurological problems, and has been in the kennel  a year. She is not spayed, she bites, and because one of the office staff ‘loves’ her (but not enough to take her home), my boss won’t euthanize her.  One  was a puppy…and still is. The rescue  posts her as housebroken.  What a joke!  2 were taken from OPEN ADMISSIONS SHELTERS.  1 is so reactive,  for the  hour or 2 she is out of her crate, she has to be in a kennel run, and  has a barrier in front of her crate so  she can’t  get frantic seeing other dogs. She was posted as  dog friendly on the rescue’s website. When I complained, they took the post down…but nobody has come by to work with her.  Same with the male, and now he will bite anyone. They want to raise $4000 to send him to a ‘special dog rehabilitator’ in another state.

This is not rescue. This is a bunch of psychologically  messed up people hoping for miracles.  I have had many experiences like this in my  40+ year grooming career. A client brings a dog for grooming, and it is a biter and I can’t get near the dog, and the EXCUSE is that the dog was abused.   Dogs are very resilient, and  that is not why they are biting.  Maybe the dog was abused, but that isn’t  my issue:  my issue is that the dog is dangerous, no matter how ‘cute’ it looks, and the neighborhood children (let alone your own!) are in danger.  When I was very  young and inexperienced with dogs, I  thought  this was very sad.  Now, as a more mature person with lots of dog experienced, I am angered by the many people in denial.  If we want our communities to be safe, we can’t be ‘no-kill’.  If you want to be ‘no-kill’ YOU take these dangerous dogs into your own home.  Get liability insurance.  Start desensitizing the dog to whatever is stressing the dog enough to bite. Put yourself at risk.  keep working on the dog until he dies.  Good luck.  Just  don’t  flim flam  us about what a good pet this dog IS.

Hong Kong: A Great Trip for a Single Woman, but not as Quaint as I Expected

March 3, 2017
Hong Long is a 'high density city. I don't think you are allowed to put ip a building that is under 50 stories.

Hong Long is a ‘high density city. I don’t think you are allowed to put up a building that is under 50 stories.

I was in Hong Kong recently.  It was on my bucket list.  I didn’t have  a lot of vacation time (as I want to take another trip this year), and several people suggested that  five days in HK would be more than enough time.

I got a round trip airfare for under $600 from Chicago.  How did I do that?  If you make  one stop, it reduces the fee by a lot.  Going, my stop was Vancouver (I only had about an hour between planes). Returning, it was in Toronto.

Several websites had suggested getting an ‘Octopus’ card at the airport.  The initial fee is high (HK $50 for the card, and  a minimum of $100 for use), but not only is it good for the airport bus to wherever you want to go, it’s also good for city buses,  the MTR,and the express train back to the airport…& they refund your balance at the end!  It’s great!

Lodging was under $50 per night including tax.  I used Booking.com , Tripadvisor, and Trivago to do the research.

ChunKing Mansion is NOT a mansion. it is a large building with many small hotels.

ChunKing Mansion is NOT a mansion. it is a large building with many small hotels.

ChunKing Mansion is NOT a mansion.   I stayed at the Everest in Chunking Mansions.  This is an excellent location, right on Nathan Rd, across the street from the Peninsula, an iconic hotel. Very spartan lodgings, a towel was included, and toilet paper, but no soap! It was perfect for one, but would have been cramped for two, and the bathroom was very small.  Had I not traveled in Africa, I might have been shocked at how spartan it was, but you  aren’t planning on spending that much time in your room, are you?  It’s just to sleep, drop your stuff, and shower, right?  I probably should have checked out more places in Chunking Mansion, as it is a large building divided into several sections (and it is not a ‘mansion’, but  a complex of dorm like rooms),  but…although my room was very clean, it was not cleaned the whole time of my stay, and the building is sort of ‘earthy’.  That is,  a bunch of  Asian men from India & Pakistan (they seem to be an interesting mix of Sikhs, Hindus, and Moslems)  sublease the ‘hotels’, and on the first floor, they run  little kiosks  and  food stalls.  This would be a very interesting  study  for  an urban anthropologist, as they are  on the edge of a section of  HK where the subcontinentals live.

The whole area is considered Kowloon, but it is the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR stop.  Right outside the door.

Tsui Tsim Tsai MTR entrance...ther are about 6 for this 1 stop!

Tsui Tsim Tsai MTR entrance…ther are about 6 for this 1 stop!

Extremely convenient…if the  actual train wasn’t  about 1/2 mile away underground!  Actually, the MTR system is very clean, people are around who speak English and are very helpful, but it would probably take about a week to learn the system. Just as in the USA, where one subway stop has multiple  entrances and exits, it’s the same with the Metro Transit Railway of HK.

So, what did I  do on this trip?  I got on the Big Bus, which allows you to hop on & off, to see the main attractions.  I  heartily recommend it, because it goes to just about everywhere, or close by.  They have several routes, and if you buy a 48 hour pass,  it gets you ‘express’ into some attractions.  I took it around for a look/see first, then again to where I wanted to stop.  My first stop was the town of Stanley.

I was disappointed.  Most of what you want to see is along the water, and it’s a row of small shops selling mostly touristy types of things (although there was a dog groomer down there).  There are also several restaurants.  The thing is, where the bus lets you off is a modern mall, with a McDonald’s and an H & M, and I was picturing something more quaint and rural.  It’s picturesque, very hilly (HK is the land of escalators), but not what I expected.  Same with Aberdeen, which many guidebooks describe as a quaint fishing village,  and suggest stopping for a fish lunch—which I was looking forward to.  Maybe 20 year s ago.  It is a harbor filled with small fishing boats, and  these days, women give tourists rides in the boats…but HK come right up to the harbor.

Everyone  says you have to go to Central for the elevators on the sidewalks.  Well, that would be fine if you had something to do in this section of town.  If you don’t, it’s like being in a crowded outdoor mall.

View from Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

View from Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

My last  tourist site of the day was the tram to Victoria Peak. I was really looking forward to this:  going up to the  top and watching the lights at sunset come on in the city. I live in Chicago, and I have brought many people to the top of the Hancock Center to watch sunset over the city, and sometimes, fireworks.  So, that was the plan.  But this  actually  is what happened:  even with express passes, it took us 45 minutes to get on the tram.  It was really crowded.  Someone told me it was because of Chinese New Year, but whatever.  I know some people waited in line over an hour just for tickets, and had to wait much longer to get on.  So, it’s 3 minutes to the top, and at the top….is a mall.  I kid you not. Right when you get out, there are all these  vendors of touristy things, and they follow you around, because it looks like  one big store….but it is actually about  eight vendors!   You walk around, and it struck me there was a Swatch Watch store at the top, and two ice cream places…and a Starbuck’s.  I was expecting a park.  It was about 3:00 or so, and I saw all these people waiting in line to get back on the tram to go down.  The last Big Bus  leaves at 6:30, so if you missed that, you’d have to get on the MTR…not a far walk, but….I decided to walk down the peak.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but you spiral down, of course, about  3 miles. I wanted to catch a bus, but I got about 1/4 the way down, and  I notices there was a traffic jam going up the peak, and no traffic coming down. About 1/2 way down, I met a Chinese man (Mr. Hu) who was walking down the peak…he was going to the MTR, but  didn’t want to take a cab, and he pointed out to me that nothing was coming down (and also, there was a hospital near the top, so there might have been an accident), and so, we walked and walked.  Finally, we got close to Central, and he flagged a cab to take us to the MTR. The cabbie  tried to take us on a circuitous route (Mr. Hu thought it was because we were speaking English), but  he went with me on the MTR all the way back to  Tsim Sha Tsui, which was very kind of him.  It wasn’t really that long a MTR ride, but I got to see how vast the underground was. Very bright, very clean.

Ocean Park

Ocean Park

The next day, I took the Big Bus and got off at Ocean Park.  Ocean Park is sort of like Sea World and an amusement park. They do some research there,  and  promote environmental education and recycling, and there are a few rides.  I was going to go to Disneyland, but all the  guide sites  said Ocean Park was iconic & not to be missed.  I had to wait in line  about 45 minutes for a ticket to get in. The park is divided into  two sections because of geography  You can take a skyway ride to the section of the park you are not in. There are several other rides, including a roller coaster, which is described as a ‘mine train’ but isn’t.  There is a small  zoo, with both  red pandas and a giant panda, and a  display about how goldfish breeding has evolved.  I can see how a family could spend the day there.  I spend about  three hours.  Of course, there is a huge gift shop, but it sells the usual souvenir stuff:  T-shirts, water globes,  key chains,and stuffed animals.  They really missed the boat:  no dog squeaky toys or chopsticks,

Water between 'Central' and 'Kowloon"

Water between ‘Central’ and ‘Kowloon”

Day  three, in the morning, I wanted to go to the HK Art Museum, but it was closed for renovation.  The cultural center  didn’t have anything going on. Both of these are along the promenade.  So, I decided on a  tour of Kowloon, and took the Big Bus first to the Jade Market, and later, to the  Ladies market.

I felt both were disappointing.  The Jade market is under a big tent, and there  has to be  over 100 vendors.  Many have  small antiques and other jewelry.  If you don’t really know jade, you don’t know if you are looking at plastic or glass.  Bargaining is suggested, but so many young  people come from the rest of southeast Asia, and are willing to over pay, so I didn’t buy anything.

Same with the Ladies market.  Most guidebooks  describe  the ladies’ market as selling toys, clothing, sportswear….but  the irony is…you can get most of the stuff more cheaply in the USA….especially if you live in a ‘major market ‘ (or a community with a large Chinatown).  In fact, the Fodor’s guidebook suggested a  store called ‘Me and George’ for vintage clothing.  I actually found the store, but  it was mostly men’s stuff just crammed in, with  one rack of women’s blouses that were way out of style, and a rack of skirts.  It was a big disappointment.  I probably spent about  two hours at the Ladies Market, and I bought 2 sets of chopsticks.

In the evening, I was interested in taking a dinner cruise during the light show, but the people at the tourist office told me I would have to take a cab to another pier, and the  fee for a dinner cruise was in the $80 range.    Not worth it.  Several online sites suggested a place called Mak’s  for noodles, and there was  a Mak’s in the Ocean Pier Mall.

I have to say  a bit about this mall. First of all, I  missed seeing Mak’s several times, even though it was on the main floor, because they have  one small sign and they are behind  the ‘Greyhound Cafe’ (not sure why it is named that).  People come to HK to shop, and the whole first floor of this mall, aside from a few upscale restaurants, was boutiques offering baby clothes:  Baby Dior, Baby Channel. Stuff, you know, like Beyonce and the Khardasians would buy…not normal people.

Second floor was adult designer stuff…including Stella MacCartney.   & more jewelry. Really really expensive stuff.  Third floor was all electronics.  It just boggled my mind.

In any case, I had dinner at Mak’s, which was just noodles with a wonton…for $13.  Not bad, but really, not worth going our of your way for.

Day four, I took a day cruise,where you can see all the tall buildings along the harbor.  That was nice.  In the afternoon, I shopped  a little west of where I was staying.  The prices were a bit lower, but I saw nothing I had to have.  The guide books suggested  the bird market and the Goldfish markets, but I would have had to do more walking, and seeing animals just to see them isn’t my thing.  I wanted to go to the tea museum, but several people told me it was very small, and  due to construction  in the area, could have been difficult to get to.  So, in the evening, I went to the Promenade along the  harbor, where  some awful musicians played until the official music and ‘light show’ started.

The light show….I was expecting fireworks after all, this is China), but what is was was a few green lasers.  What was really interesting is that all the buildings in Central facing the promenade are all lit up.  That was sort of cool.

Clan housing in a more rural part of Hong Kong

Clan housing in a more rural part of Hong Kong

On Day five, I took a totally different tour  to the area known as ‘new territories’, with a guide and several other people. Apparently, when the British came to HK, they needed some land designated for  agriculture, and  made a deal with the clans in this very rural area  to allow them to keep their land, but not sell it for development.  So, they are allowed to build three story buildings.  They had to live in the buildings, and, traditionally, their children would live in that upper two floors….but real estate  appreciated so much in value that, although  one family member still has to live in the building, most are rented out, and it is the only low density housing (if you can call it that) in the region.  Indeed, I don’t think I saw a building under 50 stories, and most were over 100.  Also, the guide told us that most of it was public housing, and most apartments are about 400 square meters.  Very small. But also,  most  people don’t have children…it’s too expensive.

Other impressions of Hong Kong?  Yes, people come to shop, and I was shocked by the number of designer watch stores.   Tag Heur, Phillipe Pateke, Swatch, Rolex…Rolex stores across from each other!  People still seem to think a wrist watch is status.  I can’t believe that  so many people buy watches that it pays to have so many.   And…jewelry  stores.  In the windows, many (there is a chain that is on every block, and I am not exaggerating), they have  solid gold ‘character’ tchotchkes. Ugly, but  people collect these things…and remember, gold is portable.  Also, in HK, there  is Watson’s, sort of a drugstore with a wider variety of non-prescription drugs than our American stores (I went in for Nyquil, got Melatonin), and several stores specializing in cosmetics.  I also  stopped at several groceries, some offering good deals.

It was very crowded where I was. A zillion tourists, mostly from South Korea, Japan, the Mainland,  Malaysia,  New Zealand and Australia.  Every young person was either glued to a cell phone,presumably following a tour, or taking a selfie with a selfie stick. I have never seen so many.  Nobody watches where they are going.

I am glad I went, but now that I’ve seen it, on to another adventure.

Move on? Resist? What’s the Plan? 2017

February 24, 2017
Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, in 1992,  the country was  undergoing a big shift. There had been a president, who had named himself  life president, and had served, at that time, 26 years:  Hastings ‘Kamuzu’ Banda.  He was s dictator:   he terrorized the country.  He was supported by the Europeans & the USA because he was NOT a communist, and  he  supported apartheid in South Africa. About the only good thing he did for the Malawians was build a  decent road infrastructure.  The school and health care systems were virtually nonexistent.  It was a country run by elites. who went for medical care out of the country.  Malawi was socially stratified:  if you had a decent job and were literate, most likely you employed an illiterate servant to clean your house & probably cook for you. There was no way to improve your lot unless you were (or are) particularly ingenious.

Of course, I worked with elites.  They  two I worked with were honest, and had integrity.  Things were the way they were.  Pick your battles. but I explained to them that  democracy did not bring good government, but representational government.

And here we are, over 30 years later, and our  representational electorate has elected  a guy who lied, who had no plan, who  disrespects women, minorities, the handicapped…. people who are not white Europeans.  It will be interesting to see how  his Orthodox Jewish son-in-law works with the white supremacist  Bannon, who is a close advisor.  Really interesting….but I think they are sell-outs. I have some friends who I really lost respect for.  It’s one thing to think your friends are  uninformed—but to see they voted for the white guy because they believed ‘fake news’ (what we used to call lies….as ‘toxic assets’ were liabilities) and just didn’t like  or trust Hillary.   Was it because she was a woman?  Doesn’t matter—she actually got the popular vote. She won!  But due to the political mumbo jumbo of the electoral college, these former friends who voted for Trump think—really, that HE won!  It’s like saying 5-3=10!  So this is the new reality.

I fear for the environment.  Even the Clean Air & Clean Water acts were signed by Nixon—a Republican.  It is proven that when you offer free birth control and family planning information—the unplanned birth rate goers down, and the community prospers….but our rulers  really have a mindset that women should be punished for having sex—the punishment being raising  children, and this will lead to a surplus in labor.  Our economy can no longer absorb uneducated people—as it can’t absorb the educated ones! What other explanation can you  come up with for  defunding  Planned Parenthood or making abortion illegal?  It’s not like the people who make these laws are fostering or adopting orphans or kids in the child care system.

I also think  the Democratic Congress made the banking industry more accountable. Trump thinks it is too much regulation.  Education would  fix this, as kids would understand more, but with DeVos, they have demonstrated that  making sure kids learn math & science is not a priority.  it’s up to us…in the states…to work this out.

So, as a result of all this, I am much more in touch with my elected officials.  I let them know how I feel about everything.

But  are there  citizen movements emerging to develop strategies to  change it all back….or…?

While   I have big issues with the Affordable Care Act, the problem is with insurance companies, and it is time for Single Payer.  If Trump wasn’t flitting off to Florida every week, there’d be plenty  of money  for  people of all ages to buy into Medicare. You wouldn’t have to—you could still pay for private insurance if you really believe you’d get a better deal….but, having had to  deal with  health insurance a lot recently (Bursitis, and I was bitten by a dog), I can tell you, the government couldn’t make a bigger mess out of what things should cost & how hospitals get paid than the insurance companies have!

If we are going to ‘resist’ and make things better, we must educate ourselves, so we have talking points.  I want everyone who wants to make a difference get  4 books and read them.

  1.  The First is, “Lies My Teacher Told me, ” by James Loewen  You really have to understand American History, first, or you will be ‘condemned to repeat it.  It’s outrageous, what we learned in school and  what we think is real;

2. “Charlie Wilson’s War,”  by  George Crile.  Aaron Sorkin made a pretty funny movie by manipulating facts.  All of what Charlie did, and why,  is sort of ‘funny’ in an ironic way.  It’s important to understands what he did and who influenced him, as he changed history.  You will learn  that he actually armed what became the Taliban, ISIS, and all the others who hate  freedom;

3.  You ought to read a book on economic history.  “The Big Short,” by Michael Lewis, again, was a funny movie.  Not so funny  is that is our history, and he documents it and writes about it in a way you can understand.  Bottom line:  because we are  an innumerate nation, and so few of our schools teach  people real math and budgeting, our neighbors trusted the banks—even thought the numbers were right in front of them. We all lost, big time.

If this seems too convoluted, get a copy of Robert Reich’s book, “Aftershock.”  We could have saved ourselves, but Hillary didn’t make it engaging enough (that, and the Russians and FBI director Comey put the final nails in her coffin);

4.  Finally, how do we actually  get the hearts & minds?  You have to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point.”  We’re not going anywhere in a hurry unless we know the dynamics of social change.  In simple language,  this book tells us how it’s done.

It’s Not Obamacare…it’s the Entire Health Care Industry.

November 11, 2016

This may seem amusing to those who have health insurance that somebody else pays for…but it’s not so funny.

This started in April 2016.

I was having  pain in my hip that I thought might be arthritis (it turned out to be sciatica), and also …a rash—like heat rash, that I could not get rid of.  I also had ‘trigger finger.’

I made an appointment with a doctor in my health plan…but not only did it turn out that she was no longer at the clinic, they called me two days before to cancel the appointment because my insurance would not cover it.  Never mind that I planned to pay for it out of my Health Savings Account.

So, I called the insurance company, and thy told me I was entitled to a Women’s Wellness Exam. This would cover  a PAP smear, a full body skin cancer check, and a scheduling  for a mammogram. The insurance would pay. So, I made another appointment with a  clinic picked  gynecologist.

She was an hour late, so she didn’t do the skin cancer check (so would not look at the rash), and could not address the pain in my hip, but she did take a PAP smear & scheduled me for the mammogram. I specifically asked her if I needed any paperwork.  She told me, “No, just go to Mount Sinai Hospital. You are in the system.”

This turned out to not  be true. I was in the system, but they still wanted paperwork, Thankfully, I had the clinic card in my wallet , and called them to FAX the paperwork.

Now, although I was in the system scheduled for the mammogram, I then had to go to Mount Sinai intake and have my contact info entered  again. Even though the  clerk had all my info in front of her, she managed to spell both my first & last names WRONG:  Robin Micheals—but I did not  see this until I was actually in the x-ray room.

It took over a month to get the mammogram, so I had to schedule a different visit at a different clinic with a general practitioner to look at my rash &  address the pain in my hip….and my finger.  I don’t doubt the doctor is a decent doctor, but the pills he prescribed  for the sciatica did not help at all, and the ointment he prescribed (yes—at $26 a tube) me  did not work, either.  He did tell me that if the problems did not go away in 2 weeks, to call him.  He referred me to another doctor  for the ‘trigger finger’, who gave me a shot, and told me it would only last 3—6 months.

Well, due to his being on vacation and  my taking a different job, a month went by.  I decided to see a chiropractor who was highly recommended by  neighbors who had had sciatica treated.  She really is good….but her treatments didn’t hold.

I did called the general practitioner about the rash, but could not talk to him directly. The clinic insisted I make an appointment to see him to get a referral to a dermatologist.  I haven’t been billed yet, but I went in, and he told me to wait and left the room.  About 1/2 hour later, he came back & told me that the clinic had to find a doctor who would accept my insurance plan.  I laughed.  I said, “This is ridiculous.  I have a $6000 deductible, I’ll pay for it out of  my Health Savings Account.”  He rolled his eyes and wrote down the name of a dermatologist.  A few days later, I got a letter with the name of a dermatologist in my plan.  I called, and could not get an appointment for 8 weeks!  Not until after….Thanksgiving!

I mentioned this to a friend, and she said, “I had that—just get some Desitin.” Which I did. It took about two weeks to work.  I will cancel the dermatology appointment.

Meanwhile…I got a letter from Mount Sinai.  My mammogram was inconclusive. They tell me to call my doctor and have her reschedule another mammogram.  You see, I can’t do this myself, for some reason. So, I call that clinic…& they want me to schedule an appointment (and pay for it—or charge health insurance) just for her to make another appointment!

But wait—there’s more!  So the chiropractor suggests I  get an MRI to find out why the adjustments she’s making are not holding.  She tells me  that the cash rate will be $350—400.  That is no problem…but when I call  and ask if I can submit it  to insurance—they may pay (and—how can you reach your deductible if you don’t submit)…ah, no.  Because…they may charge the insurance company $1500, and if THEY DON’T PAY, I have to. That is the difference.

Now, why would an insurance company be charged  double or triple?  Well, that’s how it works.  When you add a step, you add ‘overhead’—and people on a payroll pushing papers, and filing, and a guy at the top who makes $28,000,000 a year.  This is how we create jobs.  They all have a vested interest, which is why they continue to pay our politicians to not have single payer, and allow this  waste.

As I write this, Trump has won the presidency.  He may replace the Affordable Care Act, but the health insurance industry has too much invested in Congress to  allow any changes. We are not going to get anything like single payer  for at least  four years.

I was telling a colleague about this, and she said, “It doesn’t seem like this should be legal.”  Well, anything that is not specifically illegal is legal.  It’s what makes America great.

Career Goals? or Maybe Bucket List

July 1, 2016
Fahs and me completing his Rally Novice title. Gosh, I love doing things with my dogs!

Dash and me completing his Rally Novice title. Gosh, I love doing things with my dogs!

A prospective  employer asked, after I had told him I had titled  dogs in obedience, rally, lure coursing and conformation, had published in the  pet industry,and  won and placed in grooming contests…what my career goals are.

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and lived overseas…in  Africa.   I, with  a few others, got  household recycling instituted in Chicago.  I’ve sold my art.  I would like to continue to compete in rally and obedience…and lure coursing if I acquire a young enough dog. Frankly, I’ve met my career goals.  I keep thinking of selling the house (due to property taxes) and buying a small kennel. Again, it is a ‘quality of life’ issue.

I currently work  for a business where the people are nice, for the  most part, but the set up for grooming is less than ideal.  I can live with that, but there are some irritants that cause me to keep my eyes open for a better situation.  The commute, while not terrible, is long.  One of the employees  does little things  to sabotage my work and make my day longer. They  continue to  put stressed out boarding dogs in my work area, and we have a very high ‘no-show’ rate  for grooming.  I don’t really have an ally or advocate at work.

I love  the job tasks of grooming dogs, but I am getting too old to put up with  confusion and pettiness.

I don’t know if this is a career goal, but if I had a husband to  keep me  in the manner to which I would like to become accustomed, I’d go to the American Whippet Club and Saluki Club of America  specialties every year.  So many great dog activities, and fellow dog lovers.

I’d travel more.  I haven’t really been to Europe yet (except for stop overs),  or Costa Rico  or Panama, and I still have a lot to see in southeast Asia.

I’d volunteer more with  few groups I support.  I’d continue to work with dogs.  I’d get together with friends more.  There’s not much different I would do.

“Keeping Our Boat Afloat”—or the end of the Purebred Dog Fancy

June 24, 2016
My Saluki as a young dog.Sold as a pet, he finished his AKC championship in fewer than 10 shows.

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

Two Northern Illinois Kennel Clubs are  sponsoring a  round table discussion about how to keep the sport of  showing dogs (I believe this would include performance) active and viable.  The session will be held Saturday, July16, after Best in Show  at Blackhawk KC.

I will not attend, because I don’t have  a dog to show. Actually, I have  one dog in Rally (and one of the clubs has no performance events), but I am glad others are as concerned as I am.

Purebred dogs are in trouble. Even discounting the physiological problems of the  brachycephalic dogs,  many breeds do not have viable gene pools.

I was going to start this rant another way, but two occurences shocked me into having to address perceptions.

I compete in Rally, with  a purebred dog.  I noticed that mixed breed dogs are listed in the catalogs as “ALL AMERICAN DOG”.  Does that mean that the Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Boston Terriers, Coonhounds, and Alaskan Malamutes are NOT “ALL AMERICAN DOGS”?  Why aren’t mixed breed dog listed as either ‘mixed breed’ or ‘unknown’? What genius thought up this slap in the face to the fancy?

I often respond to posts  on Craigslist from people looking for specific breeds (I also flag sellers…no animal sales or breeding are allowed on Craigslist—it is to rehome older pets, but this is a great example of ‘the law of the commons’ and people having no integrity).  A girl was looking for an Australian Shepherd.  I responded that, since no animal sales or breeding are allowed on CL, that she should contact  the Australian Shepherd Club of America, and be put in touch with hobby breeders.  I also told her that, since ethical hobby breeders take their dogs back (and no puppy sales are allowed on CL), that the only responses she’d get would be from commercial breeders or scammers. She responded to ME that U didn’t know what I was talking about, that she had done plenty of research, and would not buy from a breeder because they only breed for money.  I  responded that she was mistaken, that hobby breeders breed for the betterment of the breed and  do genetic testing, and where did she think purebred dogs come from, if not breeders?  She told me she knew what she was doing & to mind my own business.

So…my fellow dog purebred dog fanciers….so much for the AKC marketing, “Buy from a breeder,” as this has clearly backfired.  The  conventional wisdom is that we inbreed dogs for looks, and don’t care about soundness (yet, the designer dog breeders and their “F1 crosses” seems to make a lot of sense to those buyers who believe that crossing  two breeds eliminates genetic defects).

I have been ‘active’ in the fancy, on and off, since the late 1960s.  My  first  ‘show dog’ was an Afghan, or, rather, I should say he had a great pedigree, but  he wasn’t really show quality, and, as my parents weren’t really interested, nobody mentored me.  I went to the New York School of Dog Grooming, rather than college, because I knew I wanted to work with dogs.  I was taught by Don Doessel, who actually got Louis  and Seme Auslander started in Miniature Schnauzer.  I was later mentored by a dog groomer who learned to groom Bedlingtons from  Charlie Praeger, and Airedales from Mareth Kipp.  I have worked on and off for Dale Miller (Barclay Square Miniature Schnauzers), and  for Jocelyn Slatin (Jamboree Airedales and Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers).  I was a member of the Afghan Hound Club of Greater Chicago in the 1970s, and really promoted the idea of rescue and breeders taking responsibility for all the dogs they breed, but I was ridiculed, so I dropped my membership.  It was all for the best.  Having Afghan Hounds, I realized there were very few good pet homes for long haired dogs, and I wasn’t going to be wealthy enough to have enough property or time to support a breeding habit.  & who wanted to associate with people who felt that once they sold a dog, their responsibility ended?  I know that  the ‘culture’ varies from breed to breed….but this is how puppy mills get dogs of your breeding:  buyer can’t  keep dog, you don’t take dog back, commercial breeder (Hunte Corp?) gets dog, & the rest is history….

It  just got to the point that I knew, if I wanted to retire with any level or  economic security, I could not afford to campaign a dog.  Where did I get my wacky ideas? From the breeders I worked for. In fact, Fred Alderman, of Dynasty Afghan Hounds, had a rule: If  you had never owned an Afghan  and wanted one of his dog, you had to spend a day grooming with him.  He didn’t  want to sell you a dog & later hear you didn’t know how much time it would take, or the equipment you would need, or how often it needed to be done.  If—after a day of grooming, you didn’t want an Afghan…no harm, no foul.  Yet, how many   ‘ethical hobby breeders’ even  tell a pet buyer what kind of brush to buy?  Or say anything about obedience training being a must?

I’ve helped a few breeders grade puppies, and judged a couple of matches, but the AKC  has no use for me. They’d  rather support a puppy mill breeder as a judge than a non-breeder who knows the standards and can interpret them.  Why?  You know why:  the  whole thing is about registering puppies.

&–what is a puppy mill?  There is a lot of disagreement on this, but—-to me—it is the breeder  breeding dogs without a thought to bettering the breed.  It doesn’t matter if they have one bitch or  1,000.  If you are not breeding for the betterment of the breed, you are part of the pet surplus problem.

I ultimately did  go to college, and I ended up with a master’s in public policy.  BFD.  I’ve also titled dogs in conformation (a Saluki whom the breeder didn’t think was show quality finished in  fewer than 10 shows), obedience (an Afghan  and a Whippet both nationally ranked), rally, and  lure coursing.  I, too, am THE FANCY.

Why is the fancy in trouble?

  1.  There is no longer a middle class.    When I started  showing dogs, as a teenager, ‘land rents ‘ were much lower.  Housing, for middle class people, was 20—25% of their take home pay.  Now, 35% is considered average.  Don’t get me started on  health care or energy costs.  You need an expendable income to be ‘in dogs’, so  how many people can afford to keep even  four breedable bitches?  & you notice, their children are not  becoming breeders;
  2. There is a huge disconnect between  fanciers and veterinarians.  Yes, some fanciers are veterinarians, but, as a dog groomer, I have worked for several animal hospitals where not  one veterinarian was a fancier. They  disrespected the fact that  many  dogs had grain sensitivities—and it is now a major segment of the pet industry.   that was us!  Us dog lovers, talking to each other at  conformation classes and shows!  We developed grain-free & specialty  dog foods—not veterinarians! They  don’t  suggest pet owners  check for  discoverable  genetic problems  before breeding their dogs, and they are the reason  people switched from dog collars to harnesses and flexis (god forbid they’d suggest—-training).  One practice I worked for  actively partnered with puppy mill outlets.  So—-why  do fanciers continue to  support veterinarians who don’t understand or respect them?
  3.   Our marketing is for shit.  Due to our integrity, we’ve supported research into genetic defects.  This is not purebred dogs—this is DOMESTIC dogs.  Yet, veterinarians will not disabuse  pet owners of the idea that  designer dogs are not HYBRIDS.  Now, for every purebred Poodle I groom, I groom over 100 designer dogs:  Doodles, Shipoos, Maltapoos, Cavashons, Bernadoodles…and Pomskys.  Pomskys!  Why not a Keeshond or Norwegian Elkhound?  & people are paying more for the mixed breeds than they would a purebred.  I  was attending   a specialty show of a breed, and at the same location. I walked into another  specialty  of another breed, just  to watch…and several people asked me what I was doing there or if I was lost!  This  was a breed I had considered owning, no more!  Also, th public doesn’t understand that most of our dogs are house pets!
  4.  We have allowed naive  ‘humane activists’ to  own and define the rhetoric. Open admissions shelters would not have to be high-kill if the ‘No-kill’ were honest.  & when you buy dogs from commercial breeders, it is not rescue.  I consider myself a humane activist, but I do not support rescues that disrespect hobby breeders.  Our dogs are not the ones that end up in animal shelters….but the only way to  prove this is to push for—on a state level–mandatory chipping of dogs & cats with the breeder’s contact info.    This could easily be done by contacting anyone who posts puppies or kittens for sale on Craigslist, EBay, or any media.  & it can be done by encouraging people to become volunteer humane inspectors.  When  the do-gooders who support  shelter pets  shout, “Adopt, don’t shop!”  they are letting all the backyard breeders off the hook—and they are the ones causing the pet surplus.  You can find them on Craigslist any day.
  5.   We do a poor job of policing ourselves.  We  all know of hobby breeders whose yards are a mess, who  don’t sell pups with contracts or  explain what grooming tools or methods are needed for the puppies they sell…and who won’t take a dog they bred back.  Remember, the Obamas got  their  two Porties who had been returned to their breeders.  When they got Porties, for once, we didn’t see a flood of Porties hitting the market. Why?  the PWD  breeders saw what happened to  other breeds, and closely hold them….and  follow through. They also explain this to pet buyers.  The culture varies from breed to breed.  I am a Saluki and Whippet fancier, and  all  our breeders (who are not mentally deranged) take their dogs back—no matter how old.  Yet, I’ve been told, that for every Shiba Inu or  Basenji that is AKC registered, statistically, one goes into rescue.

So, what can we do to save the fancy?

  1.  Everyone has to be on the same page.  You have to have all your puppies on contract to be   co-owned until neutered or titled, and you  better be sure you have  the funds to  enforce a legal contract.  & if you can’t  find good homes, and know you can be selling to renters, or  people who really don’t have the time or funds to take care of a dog (or who you know plan to give your puppies as gifts), YOU are the problem.
  2.   Dog show entry fees are outrageously expensive. There was a time that I’d enter  both conformation and obedience.  Not any more.  &—the biggest insult—that Rally is considered an ‘overlay’ event with a totally different entry fee—is offensive.  Because other clubs do  it is  a terrible reason—and this is what is preventing people from  showing their dogs (even if they did have some extra cash).
  3.   Your club must sponsor events to get the public involved.  Ask a local pet shop manager if you can set up a table on weekends and do  information on various breeds and activities.  This is  how you can inform regular folks  about  what  ethical breeders do.  See the following suggestion—-pet  fanciers of your breeds  are the best marketing.
  4.   Show some respect for people like me—who are not breeders—but fanciers and pet buyers!  The Greater Chicago Whippet Club is now made up almost entirely of pet owners not showing dogs!  That’s right!  Sure, some people still race, and lure course, but of our paid up members,  I’ve been told only  one is a breeder.  Yet, we know  we have to support  hobby breeders.  In fact, the American Whippet Club events  always  attract a lot of pet owners.  We have  agility, obedience, rally, classes for spayed/neutered dogs, a parade of rescues as well as champions, and  do major  fund raising for our national networked rescue efforts.
  5. Your matches should be sweepstakes.  In fact, what’s up with an entry fee being $27, but someone offering $10 for Winner’s dog or bitch? What kind of sense does that make?   Here’s an idea:  encourage  exhibitors to bring items for a bazaar.  For every class win, give a  ticket, for Winners  and Best of Breed, etc, give more tickets, and allow people to choose their own prizes to commemorate the win!
  6. It’s time to demand that  dogs be genetically tested before they are bred. To not test, and then state you have never had a problem, is disingenuous.
  7.  The AKC needs to be confronted on how they spend out money. Who cares if those puppy mill dogs go to another registry? So what? They are not a part of our gene pools!  To stop printing the Gazette, and go in favor of licensing products (harnesses—really?  Only sled dogs and guide dogs should wear harnesses!)  Yet,  not  branding of martingales—the best collar for most pet dogs…what’s up with that? Do they even know anything about safe dog handling? It’s really a slap in the face to us all.  The AKC would not even need to change anything. All they would have to do  is do what it says on their  registration papers:  no 3rd party selling.  I can’t think of any greater disrespect to the fancy than this.  I saw in a dog magazine that someone thought the AKC should get all  money collected for entrance fees & dole it out to us. Really? The foxes guarding the henhouse haven’t done enough damage?  I have to wonder if these old white men are all just field trial people who don’t have a personal relationship with any dog!  But what are our delegates doing in New York?
  8. . I suggest every fancier get a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point” which is a great treatment of how ideas become conventional wisdom.

Book Review: Charlie Wilson’s War, by George Crile.

June 3, 2016

The movie (created by people I would call the ‘dream team’:   director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts), came out in 2007… about 9 years ago.  This is the Wikipedia link to the review:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Wilson%27s_War

I came across the book (which I didn’t know existed) while traveling.  Crile was an amazing writer.  This is an absurd, almost unbelievable story. It’s actually a story about how ‘democracy’ works.

Do you remember where you were in the late 1980s?  I was in undergraduate school, working part-time grooming dogs,  and modeling for artists.  I had had a roommate who had volunteered with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.  Related to that, I had an FBI file.  That’s another story, which I blogged about previously: https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/how-i-got-my-fbi-file/ .

The reason  my roommate volunteered to work for the Sandinistas was because of our ‘covert’ was in Nicaragua.  President Reagan wanted to  help the ‘contras’—a really ragtag group of’ anti-communists’ with no real strategy to govern the country, fight communism.  Unfortunately for them, in spite of  Reagan and the CIA pouring money into training and paying soldiers, they  really weren’t getting support of the Nicaraguans.   They did not exist at all, but were a contrivance.  Apparently, not only were there  several other political parties besides the  Sandinistas, the Nicaraguans did not fear communism or socialism the way we Americans had been led to.

This only matters because the war was not ‘covert’:  the news media knew of it, as did many Americans, who  pressured Congress to cut off funding.  We all knew Reagan was not a deep thinker, and he allowed key players  in the Republican Party to set policy.  What this has to do with the story of Charlie Wilson, and the war in Afghanistan (also covert—and a secret to us), is that, at one point,  Oliver North/the Reagan Administration asked the CIA and the Appropriations committee to hide money for the Contras in funds earmarked for the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.  :”Wait!” you  shout.  “The mujahedeen?  Aren’t they the people  waging  jihad against us now?  Haven’t they been since…?”  Yep, You got it.

The movie  was written  as a comedy.  Charlie Wilson was a playboy congressman from Texas, whose constituents didn’t ask much from him.  Having served in the navy, and grown up during the cold war, he was  strongly anti-communist.  On the advice of a vivacious socialite, Joanne Herring, who had met the  president of Pakistan ( Zia ul-Haq…who had his predecessor assassinate…), Charlie, who sat on the Appropriations Committee in  the House of Representatives,  got money  appropriated for arms for people in  Afghanistan fighting Russians/Soviets.  The Russians were in Afghanistan to prop up a  socialist government.  As we believed at the time—and it could have possibly been true—according to the domino theory:  if the USSR got a foothold in  south Asia, they could dominate the world.  The reality was—and is—that Afghanistan —as a country—is a contrivance.  It is a geographic parcel of land within a border.  It will probably never be a country with a viable economy.  It is a failed state without ever really being a state.

Who writes our history?  Is it what we get in primary school history books?  Is it journalists who write news  reports and turn them into books?  No matter. At the time the CIA was  buying and providing arms for the Afghan rebels, I was a student working part time.  What I DO remember is that very suddenly, the Soviet Union fell into chaos, and the Berlin wall came down.  I don’t think many Americans understood why this happened.  All we really knew of the Soviet Union was that it was a dictatorship with no press freedom, and only of consequence to us insofar as their influence on other countries.  Crile  gives us a better understanding  of what really happened.

We have to  understand what we  did in the rest of the world.  While the do-gooders took to the Afghanis, who were not united in any way, and have proven to not be unitable, what the do-gooders did—with out tax money, was ignore their human rights record, ignore how they treated  each other—let alone women, and gave them the power to  terrorize us after they finished with the Russians.  As I write this, in early 2016, we have Syrian refugees fleeing the middle East, and a bunch of right-wing politicians calling them all terrorists…meanwhile ignoring the fact that  they supported the cause of all this.

Worse, the front-runner, Hillary Clinton,  the former Secretary of State, continued to allow the Pakistanis to hold us hostage, along with President Obama, so we could kill off Osama bin Ladin and temporarily slow down jihad leaders.  We are not going to stop how foreign aid is doled out unless we  organize for a radical shift in leadership (which is another reason I support Bernie Sanders). The   countries receiving it hire lobbyists, and the  companies manufacturing weapons also have a huge stake in  continuing the status quo.