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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Home Protection

I typically do not watch the cable news programs or even the local news, due to social media the major current affair events still filter through to my consciousness. The current gun debate has infringed on my awareness. I watched a young stay-at-home mother testify before Congress that she needed a high capacity assault rifle to protect her babies. I have often wondered what Mrs. Rambo was doing while hubby is out blowing up bad guys, and found the testimony enlightening.
With a light personal schedule I turned to the internet to research the claim of home safety based on heavy weaponry. Quickly I discovered that NRA sponsored federal legislation suppresses valid scientific research in America. The NRA influence is confined to the American polity and valid peer reviewed research from Canada, Australia and Europe is available. Statistically, the most likely result of possessing fire arms for protection is the harm to self or a family member.
Continuing this self assigned research project, I look for the most effective home protection method. The top answer is a dog, second is several dogs, and third is an electronic monitoring system.
All bad guys intent on a home invasion need the tactical advantage of surprise, they always ambush from the darkness. It is hard to sneak up on a dog, it is impossible to sneak up on a pack of dogs. Once the element of surprise is lost the entire effort collapses.
A friendly doggy family pet will react strongly and aggressively to a stranger in the night. A barking dog will wake you up, the dog’s bark and behavior will tell you the problem is more than some random cat outside. The bad guys now have to deal with the dog and the element of surprise can shift from them to you. The most common result is that the bad guys decide to select a softer target and leave before you can get the phone out and dial 911.
A personal example of dogs as guardian's of home and hearth, I lived south of San Marcos, Texas, and had five dogs. The Alpha dog was a large German Sheppard that had decided her domain covered several additional lots around my homestead. My neighbor across the street disliked the German Sheppard as this dog enjoyed digging in her flower garden, she complained to me often and I had to repair damage often as I was unable to correct the dog’s behavior. One dark night the entire dog pack goes postal, barking, howling, and growling, while throwing their bodies against fence and gate. I sneak outside to carefully investigate my property, expecting some terrible problem. Finding no issue in my front yard I opened the back gate to check out the backyard, in a flash the dogs were pass me and in full run across the street. Dreading a major misunderstanding I chase after them. Rounding my neighbor’s house and entering her unfenced backyard I see someone treed with my dogs leaping to tear flesh from limb. My first thought was that they had treed my neighbor, and then my neighbor stepped out of her house and told me to leave the dogs alone. I was now starting to catch up with events and noted that the individual cowered in the tree was male and very frightened. My neighbor had already called the county sheriff so we settled to wait. The individual in the tree was not going anywhere soon. When the sheriffs arrive I collared all dogs and returned them to my yard. The sheriff identified the individual in the tree as a “Peeking Tom” and a wanted person. I did not follow the legal case and so do not know what happened to the Peeking Tom, I do know he never returned to our area, and my neighbor forever after treated the German Sheppard kindly and with great favor. The German Sheppard was welcomed to her flower gardens.
I have other experiences of doggy protection and the result is always the same; once the tactical advantage of surprise is lost the bad guys change from sneak attack to full retreat. You do not need a 100 pound German Sheppard for this, a Chihuahua or a Terrier will just as quickly destroy the element of surprise. Although I do like big dogs, that deep bark is quite frightful to a stranger.
With a gun you can accidentally shoot yourself or a family member, with a dog the major danger is tripping over them in the dark. I have never understood why a dog will lay on the floor and allow you to walk into them, they see you, they know you are approaching, and they just lay there in silence. That one I don’t get.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

You want a Frisbee dog

You want a Frisbee dog, you’re seen the way cool YouTube video with a Collie doing flips and grappling a Frisbee out of the air. Now you want your Chow or Pit Bull to catch a Frisbee. First, best of luck buddy, and second, bring a boat load of patience.
A dog has a natural instinct to chase squirrels and rabbits, we wish to mold this behavior to chase a ball or Frisbee. A puppy is easiest to train, roll the ball or Frisbee pass them, at about 3 months of age they will suddenly turn and jump on the ball/Frisbee, now you have them for the rest of their life. They will become devoted to the game and enjoy it without end; they will constantly pester you to play. Enjoy the game with your companion, the flips, leaps and cavorting will emerge from the dog’s natural personality. One note of caution, the dog will become so determined to snag this substitute flying squirrel that they might hurt themselves. I had a Blue Healer that blew out a knee cap catching the Frisbee; after he recuperated I had to keep the Frisbee throws at a low effort.
An adult dog that missed the opportunity to learn ball chasing as a pup will need a two step training process. The “Carry” command and the “Hand” command. I teach these commands to all my dogs as the two commands can be used as a foundation for many complex tricks. The Carry command teaches the dog to carry something, actually anything, in their mouth, while the Hand command teaches the dog to hand you whatever they have in their mouth. Once the command as been firming placed, you can stand back a few feet and say Carry while tossing the Frisbee, the dog will catch the Frisbee, now use the Hand command to have the dog return and give the Frisbee to you. Continue to increase the distance and eventually drop the verbal commands. Now you have a Frisbee dog.  
There are many websites detailing the many methods for instilling these two commands so I will just be general here. I teach the commands while I watch TV or cruise the internet, I use anything available, envelopes, remote control, pack of cigs, pencil, etc. The main point is repetition, since I’m not doing anything worthwhile online this exercise can continue for hours.
The truly major point is the carrot and stick training method, the stick never works while the carrot always works. I have observed dog owners that become flustered with a dog that runs away, when they finally catch the dog or the dog returns, they beat the dog for running away. The dog does not get the lesson. The dog does not remember the running away part, while the dog does remembers the coming back part and the getting beaten part, the last two are close enough in time for the dog to connect them. These dog masters are teaching their dog to not come to them.
I will give the dog a treat for getting close to the desired behavior, positive reinforcement works every time. There is no predicting the results of negative reinforcement, never use it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

New Clothes

The FedEx driver had my package. I signed for delivery, exchanged some pleasant chatter and went inside. Opening the package I find a sack of gray powder and two tissue thin sheets of paper, my new NanoThreads, the best and most advanced clothing available.
After several unsuccessful starts I decide to read the instructions, I have to go online and register the nano chips, that will activate them, and then I have to set the nano chips for my DNA. I prick my finger with the sterilized needle and bury the finger tip in the nano particles, the nano stirs and starts to climb up my arm, slowly covering my entire body. A perfect fit of shirt, pants and shoes, more nano chips roll across my arms to form a jacket. Taking one of the thin sheets I place in on my back, the nano chips flow over it and it disappears, the computer is installed, the other sheet is the battery and is placed over the derriere, this is not my only choice, the instructions allow them to go anywhere the nano chips have access. Everything is at the default factory setting, the colors are earth tones and the style slightly old fashion. The nano chips have formed an ear piece and a stereopticon in my eyebrows, an interface appears before my vision and I hear:
 “All systems integrated and functional”.
The ear piece and stereopticon blend perfectly with my skin and are invisible to causal observation. The nano chips have a prismatic ability and can present any possible color. For an optional style I download an old favorite, it seconds I’m wearing bell bottom jeans, tie dyed T-shirt, beret hat and a motorcycle jacket. Now I feel normal.
I settle down to read the rest of the instructions. The NanoThread is self repairing, has a water proof setting, adjustable to any climate, self cleaning, has a high reflection setting for night safety, a camouflage setting for hunters, corset settings to move fat bellies up, self defense features, it can form a life jacket, the instruction manual is over 200 pages. There is a list of online sites dedicated to NanoThread possibilities, designs and apps, security software, plus some adult only uses.
For years I had resisted this march of technology. Some early events almost stopped it cold, a few teenage boys hacked the system and all women’s clothing would fall off in shopping malls, the early design had to be sequentially used or the pants and shirt would start fighting, and the high density carbon bucky ball battery could short causing terrible burns. Eventually I relented when some government legislation required NanoThreads to enter public areas.
Designated organization had over ride codes that could lock the NanoThreads in place and immobilize a dangerous person, a quick method of stopping a crazed gun man. When the police yelled stop, you stopped.
I had sold my back as a bill board for $5 a month, with a Coke ad running, I set off for Wal-Mart.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A day at the beach

The gulf coast beach is a ever changing ecosystem. The dunes have snakes, varmints and cats, the cats appear to be well suited to beach life and help control the varmints, watching one of the cats hunt can be an all day activity. The cat’s patience is inspiring. It can sit, coiled for a strike, motionless, focused, and almost invisible in the dune’s vegetation. I can almost feel sorry for the field mouse or snake, until I remember the last time mice moved into my house. I had to hunt them down and that is why I find the cat inspiring, I do not have that level of patience or cunning. The mice consistently used better tactical moves than I could counter, in the end I captured the cat and put it in my house, all varmints vacated the premises within 24 hours, and then I rewarded the cat with a great, hot meal and released it back to the wild.
Sitting on the beach house deck and experiencing the surrounding environment is a lazy existence, something that suits me well. The birds and cats and varmints are active and swift, the dunes and gulf water and vegetation are quiescent and sleepy. Everything is in motion, at greatly different speeds, nothing moves in a straight line, nature hates straight lines. The beach is constantly seeking a balance, the water currents pushes sand creating a new sand bar, which changes the current and pushes the sand a new direction, the wind imitates the same action, everything is moving, the balance never balances and nature never stops.
I can’t decide what to watch, any direction I look there is something that can hold my attention. Every moment can be a special moment, at one special moment each day the sun will reflect off the water such that the water sparkles with bright star like flashes out to the horizon, at another moment a pelican flock will cruise the water hunting fish schools, then another moment with sand swirling into miniature tornadoes, and so it goes, all day, all night. I can watch and I can think about what I am seeing, a very satisfactory existence.
Seeing the damage we collectively do to this wonderland is sad, we could be so much kinder to the world we occupy, we could lessen the damage we cause with little effort. The short term chase of profit is weak thinking; a greater profit could be realized with longer term balanced thinking. There is a large body of peer reviewed studies supporting this wisdom, anyone walking the beach sees the problem and understands the solutions. All this shows the imperfection of human organization, our fights to maintain a power elite with the only objective to maintain the power elite, a circular argument with no exit point, a purely human endeavor unmatched by any other natural creation.
I am not dreaming of becoming some native living in the wild. I enjoy AC, I like hot food, and I like watching a gulf storm from a sheltered porch. I do clean up after myself, I remove trash I find from the beach, I use the municipal waste water system and I volunteer to monitor turtle nesting. My individual efforts are not enough, we must have collective action to make a real difference, as a society we have to make the choice and we have to make the effort.
Americans demand our freedom. In this case it is the freedom to trash nature, the freedom to shoot hawks, the freedom to crash four-wheelers through sand dunes, the freedom to not pay for what we take from nature. We use freedom to justify selfish behavior. We define freedom to take what we wish.
In the end nature doesn’t care how we define freedom; nature cares no more about humans than nature cared about dinosaurs. Nature will leave the decisions to us.
Humans are the most creative, adaptable and intelligent animal ever produced on earth, for all our flaws a few will survive and continue, for this reason I have hope.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Not all home repairs are DIY

I’m using this week for DIY (Do It Yourself) repairs at the beach house. The usual stuff, a toilet leak, some burned out light bulbs, a little WD40 for the rusted hinges, a lightning strike. The lightning strike took out the entire home electronics system and all electronic equipment, plus a few wall sockets and two electrical breakers. This is considered an act of God and all warranties are void, the insurance is provided by my checkbook.
I contracted a professional, licensed electrician for the necessary wiring repairs, this guy took three hours to rework, repair and replace a considerable amount of high voltage damage. He was expensive and worth every penny, some home repair is not defined as DIY.
The DTV technician took about 2 hours to replace the dish, cabling, receivers and electronic accessories, another project that I would not consider DIY.
The front door and the two picture windows at each side of the door had to be replaced, interior sheet rock and exterior hardie board installed, this phase required 2 weeks, mostly because the house had to be raise back to the original pier and beam height. Jacking up a beach house is always tricky, another project not recommended for DIY, during the lift one more picture window was blown out, adding to the list of damage. Eventually all the heavy lifting was successfully completed and my checking account had become feather light. A flat, empty wallet places very little strain on the lower back.
Now I am completing the DIY projects, oiling squeaky hinges, replacing light bulbs, fixing the toilet and setting all the clocks.
The joy of home ownership is occasionally hard to see, that maybe due the cold I am suffering, my eyes are watery, my nose stuffed and my body aches. All in all it has been a great couple of weeks, a terrific start for 2013, I eagerly await the rest of the year.
I will return to my Conroe home this weekend and I plan to hide in the bedroom for several days.