What’s CRISPR is it a GMO?

Genetic modification is easy. Perhaps you’ve done it yourself. Are you a gardener? Do you save seeds? If you chose seeds only from the best plants you are modifying the genetics of succeeding generations. This sort of selective breeding has been going on for centuries. It takes generations, but over time plants and animals can be radically changed. Those changes, if they are hereditary, occur in the genes.

Oh, that hardly counts, you might be thinking. It’s slow and is a natural process. I’ll grant you slow, but not natural. Look at teacup puppies and black roses. Think about racing horses whose legs are so thin they break. Natural selection favors those who survive. Artificial selection ignores survivability, in favor of traits that please humans.


Still, that’s generally not what people mean when they talk of GMOs. In popular usage GMO stands for organisms whose genetics have been modified through introduction of genes from a different species. In this sense wolf – dog hybrids are GMOs. But that still isn’t what people usually mean. Rather they mean laboratory introduced genetics.

For example, a gene from a specific species of fish might be added to a tomato plant to make the tomato more cold tolerant. This raises images of fishy tomatoes, but lets think about what a gene is, starting with DNA.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a long thin molecule shaped in the famous double helix. The helix is made of base pairs of nucleotides held together by hydrogen atoms. The order of those pairs determines how they interact with surrounding molecules. A certain sequence will make a particular type of protein which in turn interacts with certain molecules to create a specific effect.


A segment of base pairs with a specific purpose is a gene. That’s all it is. It can be a section of DNA with a few base pairs up to hundreds of pairs. It’s as if a long piece of string was divided into different colors. Each color segment has a purpose. If you can figure out what the purpose is, you can, in theory, manipulate it.

You will not find a “cold tolerant gene.” What you will find is a section of base pairs which interact with other molecules to create a specific protein. That protein in turn interacts with other molecules in some way which results in greater tolerance for cold. Perhaps it helps in the creation of fat. Or maybe it strengthens cell walls to protect against freezing. In any event, it all starts with the gene and it’s ability to create a specific protein.

The scientist will pluck a specific segment from the fish DNA and introduce it into the tomato. Rather than having a tomato with little fish swimming inside it, you have a tomato with the ability to create a new protein.

GMOs have been around for decades and the research has shown no indication of any related health problems. However, politically and economically I worry about monopolies by giant companies who patent food (look into Monsanto, for instance). But that’s a topic for another post.

This brings us to the newest tool in the GMO business called CRISPR. CRISPR is a revolutionary method which allows for specific gene targeting. Previously, creating GMOs was a comparatively clumsy process. For example, a harmless bacteria might be altered with the addition of a chosen gene, then that bacteria would infect the plant, carrying with it the new gene.

CRISPR makes it possible to literally cut and paste specific genes. A section of DNA can be cut out and / or replaced with a new section. The technique is comparatively easy and cheap. Although it’s only been around for a few years, CRISPR is already being widely used. It is popular for traditional GMOs and as well as in industry, but increasingly CRISPR is being used on people. China was the first, beginning with non-viable human embryos. More recently studies have begun on cancer patients. Although it is too early to know what the results will be, this clearly marks a change in our ability to manipulate our own genetics.

On the one hand, it could be possible to cure genetic diseases, on the other hand, it’s equally possible to create “designer babies.” The question is: are we as a species wise enough to take evolution into our own hands?


Thanks for reading,
June 12, 2018

If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy this selection:

Polar Vortex
Introducing the Glorious, Golden, Phi
fresh air anyone?
An Introduction to Clouds
Crate Training your Dog



More Chickens


Chickens are wonderful animals. I don’t know why. They wander around muttering and scratching in the grass looking for bugs. They usually flock together but sometimes someone (usually Big Red, top of the pecking order) heads off on her own.DSC_0065

I used to let them out to wander the property. But, I have a puppy now.DSC_4400

So they stay in.


I decided to clip their wings to keep them in their coop area. It seemed the safest thing to do. I was afraid it would be hard, but it is much easier than trimming Beatle’s toenails.

The hardest part was catching the birds (that and remembering who I had done.) All you do is spread out their wing and trim the flight feathers. The chickens don’t seem to care (or notice for that matter once the indignity of being held is over) and now I can watch them worry free.

Chicken sunbathing, ah, nice stretch.

Happy chickens. Happy me. (Disappointed Beatle).




If you enjoyed this post check out:

Beautiful Storm

How Do You Know? A Look at Knowledge

Freezing Frogs: Survival of the Coldest


Crate Training your Dog

When I was a kid, in the 60’s, we got a puppy and did what everyone at the time did. We taught her to sit, and, training complete, threw her outside. She came in again when she was old enough not to mess in the house, but she mostly lived outside. Of course, we kids mostly lived outside as well, in that semi-feral way rural kids sometimes do. We played in the stream and cornfields and our various dogs joined us or not as they pleased. It was idyllic for all – except those who got hit by a car or got lost or got into fights with other dogs.… But we all knew bad things happened and, after all, they were just dogs. (Don’t judge too harshly, remember, this was also in the days before cars had seat belts. It was different then.)



Today the idea of treating a dog like that horrifies me (as does the image of three rambunctious girls crawling around the back of the VW bug as my mother yelled at us to settle down so she could drive).

When I got a puppy a few months ago I made sure I had a crate, a collar, leash & chew toys. She got her shots, and her vaccines and I enrolled in puppy classes (and I drove home wearing my seat belt).

2018-02-03 12.05.16

How times change. For one thing, Beadle is not going to wander the world (or the house for that matter) while I’m working. And that brings me at long, rambling, last, to crate training.

A crate can be a dog’s safe place, or it can be the nightmare spot where she is locked away for hours.

2017-11-24 11.26.28

You have to work to make it a safe place, especially if she will be locked in it for hours.

First – don’t leave her in the crate too long. If she has to pee or poop in it, not only will it distress her (dogs don’t like to soil the nest), but it will make house training difficult if not impossible later on. Second, make sure the crate is big enough for her to turn around comfortably and is in a quiet spot with plenty of fresh air and water.

Introduce your dog to the crate slowly by playing games. Toss a treat in, then call your pup back to you for another treat. In and right back out. Do this several times, then close the door behind her, open it immediately and call her out. Do that several times. Repeat as often as you can during the day (½ a dozen times, say).

As she gets comfortable in the crate increase the time the door is closed. Close it and toss in treats for a few seconds then let her out. You can also hide treats in the crate so when she goes in randomly she will find something.

When she can be in the crate happily slowly increase the time. Make sure not to let her out when she cries. Wait for her to be quiet. At first you may need to wait until she stops just long enough to catch her breath for the next howl. Quick, jump in and open the door. Do this as a training session. Be deliberate about it – and consistent. Whatever you do make sure you don’t come to her after she has been crying for ten minutes (or 2 hours). You have just taught her that persistence works.

Of course, you also need to be sure she isn’t crying for a reason. If she cries in the night she may need to go out. If she sounds hysterical or is in a panic you should go to her. It’s a hard call sometimes to know the difference between a temper tantrum and a panic attack. Usually it is a temper tantrum, but if she is panicking in her crate you need to start training all over again.


If you can figure out why she panicked that’s great, but you may not be able to. Was it a scary noise? Is she too hot or cold? Was she just alone too long?  Hopefully, you can find and remedy the cause. However, regardless of the reason, once she has the negative association with the crate you need to start over with your training, going more slowly than before. Use super positive treats, play with her in the crate, give her a massage, whatever works. Slowly, slowly, work your way to closing the door and to longer stays.

Puppies take a lot of time (Beadle wants all of it)! But, it is worth the time and effort to make the crate a safe space. I’m writing this in my room with Beadle in her crate beside me. She was wandering around getting into trouble and I kept getting distracted. So, I chased her around for a while (“stop teasing the cat”, “put that sock down”, “get out of the trash”).

Then I had a brilliant thought! Her crate, just what I’m writing about! (I can be a bit slow sometimes).  I said: “Beadle, go to bed.” She trotted into her crate, whined once in a half hearted way (just for show) and lay down. Ahh, peace and quiet.

The crate isn’t punishment. I put Beadle in because she was out of control,  but I did it matter-of-factly and I tossed in a treat as she went. It has become her safe place, just as I hoped. She often sleeps in her crate while we are around. Don’t get me wrong, she still has to be dragged into it from time to time, but once in she settles right down (usually). Training her to do so was definitely time well spent!


Thanks for reading,


If you enjoyed this post why not try these:

What is it?
Three things you Must Have Before Getting a Puppy
A Pair of (unrelated) Poems


Where April Went. A Story of Writing Block

I didn’t write for a month. I’ve been lamenting my writing block, trying to figure out how to break through. I decided to examine it more closely.

I sat down in my favorite chair with coffee close to hand. Then Beadle started bothering the cat, so I told her to get down, and removed the cat to a higher perch. I settled back down and picked up my pen. Beadle pranced over to the couch and started chewing. I put down the pen.


That was 20 minutes ago and we’re back from a short walk. It would have been longer but Beadle found something nasty to eat and by the time I convinced her to drop it (i.e. pried her jaws open) my hands were so slimy I was disgusted and came home.


I washed my hands and picked up my pen. Beadle settled down with her squeaky toy. I wrote a sentence (squeak, squeak). Beadle dropped her toy and scratched her ear, tags jangled. I sighed and tried to remember the end of the sentence.

I think I figured out where April went.

Beadle went to the window to bark at a robin. I resisted screaming. Instead, I put Beadle in her crate. She curled up quietly with her bone.

Bye bye writing block.


Thanks for reading,

If you enjoyed this you might also like:

New Puppy!
puppy play
Cat Show


A Pair of (unrelated) Poems
An Introduction to Clouds


Miscellaneous Fact (You Should Know)
Fun Games with Electricity

Freezing Frogs: Survival of the Coldest


Some families collect travel magnets or beer steins. My family collects “signs of spring,” evidence that winter has come to an end. One of my favorite signs is the call of Spring Peeper frogs. In March or April their loud peeps are a promise of warmer weather. This raises the question: How do frogs, with their fragile skin, survive freezing weather?


It turns out there are several methods. Aquatic frogs hibernate at the bottom of a pond. Some terrestrial frogs in warmer climates dig below the frost line to hibernate. But others, like the Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) and the Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica) simply freeze in place. Literally.

Spring Peeper

In the fall Peepers and other “freeze tolerant” frogs nestle into leaf mold. As ice crystals touch their skin the skin begins to freeze. This triggers the frog’s liver to make glucose (sugars).

As the frog gets colder the ice on its skin draws water from inside the cells of the internal organs. If this were to continue the cells would become completely dehydrated, in which case they would collapse and die (taking the frog with them).

Fortunately for frogs, ice formation triggers the release of glucose into the bloodstream where it flows into the cells that were previously filled with water. The cells become filled with a thick syrup of glucose which prevents both freezing and dehydration within the cells. So, the water only freezes in the frog’s body cavity and between the skin and muscle. In other words, the water freezes safely in the areas between the cells rather than inside them.

As the frog continues to freeze its lungs stop pumping, its heart stops beating and blood ceases to flow. The frog is essentially dead. Only it isn’t. It’s frozen. Wood Frogs (the most widely studied) are able to survive with up to 65-70% of their body frozen solid.


Compare this to humans. When we get frost bite ice sucks water out of our cells. Without glucose to give the cells structure they simply collapse and die. Once dead they can’t be revived. If enough cells die you can too (so don’t forget your hat!)

With these frogs, their glucose filled cells are severely dehydrated, but not enough to collapse completely, allowing the cells (and the frog) to survive. It isn’t quite as simple as this, since urea (a waste product in the frog’s urine) and several specialized proteins, also act as an antifreeze outside the cells, but these processes are less well understood.

When the weather warms the frog begins defrosting. Over the course of a day, it slowly recovers its heartbeat and begins to breath. Eventually it’s muscles thaw out and it can move normally.

Frogs are able to go through this freeze – thaw cycle throughout the winter without any ill effects, sometimes staying frozen for a month or more between thaws. Some scientists speculate that the thawing part of the cycle allows for the production of more glucose and so is necessary for survival.


Eventually the weather warms enough for the frogs to thaw completely and hop away. They begin their mating calls, that wonderful cacophony of peeps and croaks that reminds the rest of us that spring has arrived.

Clever creatures!

Thanks for reading,

March 27, 2018

great video below:


If you enjoyed this post you might like these as well.

Miscellaneous Fact (You Should Know)
Northern Harrier
First frosty morning
World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice

or you might prefer these:

What is Math?
Three things you Must Have Before Getting a Puppy
A Pair of (unrelated) Poems

puppy play

Beadle is now 12 weeks old and I’ve gone from hating puppies to thinking they’re kind of cute. In other words, she is now sleeping through the night.

In the past month she has gone through many changes (the most important to my mind being that increased bladder control). She has gone from 13 to 20 pounds, adult fur is starting to replace her puppy fluff, she is becoming more coordinated and – praise the lord – she is howling less.

I still need to keep a constant eye on her. She is having fewer accidents in the house (I’m learning), but her chewing is increasing. We have been boarding a lovely Cattle Dog and the two of them have been keeping each other entertained and more or less out of trouble (and sometimes into double trouble).


Dixie is 11 months old and larger than Beadle, but is a bit timid. Beadle would love to be all over her all the time, but Dixie lets her know when she has had enough. Dixie’s visit was great timing for Beadle.

It is essential for young dogs to have positive interactions with other dogs (and with humans) between the ages of 2-12 weeks. This is their main socialization period and what they learn here will stay with them throughout their life. Watching Beadle and Dixie play together I could see them switching from chaser to “chasee.” Sometimes one would be the aggressor and sometimes the other.

If either one got too aggressive the other would give a “correction.” Dixie would give a fierce growl with her lips pulled back, and perhaps charge Beadle. Beadle was less subtle and would charge first, flashing her teeth. Neither one ever offered to go further. I did separate them occasionally – if there was a toy involved or if they were in a corner or some place they couldn’t easily move apart.

It’s easy to tell play from correction if you know what to look for. In the first photo Dixie is smiling, her mouth and eyes are relaxed, her ears are forward but not rigid.


In the second photo Dixie’s lips are pulled back, her head is down and she is slightly crouched. You can also see that Beadle is getting the message. Her ears look concerned,  and she is hunched away from Dixie. DSC_1070


We tend to think dogs are born knowing how to communicate with each other. In a way that is true, but they need to learn to be polite just like kids do. When Beadle gets overstimulated she looses control and gets too rough. My response is to put her in her crate for a time out. Dixie’s response is to tell her to back off.  In either case before long everyone is playing happily together again.


Who doesn’t love a happy dog!

Thanks for reading,

March 14, 2018


Please enjoy the following post as well:

New Puppy!
Three things you Must Have Before Getting a Puppy
Puppy Socialization

Introducing the Glorious, Golden, Phi

Polar Vortex


I’m sick of winter.

It’s the right time of year for that statement. It’s early March and I’m ready for signs of spring. Unfortunately, we’re expecting up to a foot of snow tomorrow. It’s the right time of year for that as well.

I want green, but it looks like I’ll have to wait. So, I thought I’d write about the Polar Vortex. If the weather is going to be nasty, might as well know something about it.


The first thing to know is that weather (remember the difference between weather and climate) is created by air movement. Air moves around due to changes in temperature and pressure. The sun is hotter at the equator than at the poles. That temperature gradient alone would tend to move air in a North – South direction, but because of the earth’s rotation the air is also pushed in an East – West direction. This, along with the temperature difference between land and ocean, changes in terrain and a myriad of other factors causes air to flow in all directions in vaguely typical patterns. The jet streams, for example are generalized air flow patterns, so are the polar vortices.

sunlit cloud
this isn’t a polar vortex, just a cloud hit by late afternoon sun

A Polar Vortex is an area of low pressure centered over each Pole. The vortices are always there, but they strengthen and weaken depending on the temperate differences between the cold, dry polar air and the warm, moist air coming from the Gulf jet stream. The Polar Vortices are stronger in the winter and weaker in the summer. Whatever the season, the vortex is banded with a rapidly moving jet stream. When the vortex is strong the jet stream remains tightly bound around the pole, but when the difference in the temperature between interacting air masses is great, the jet stream can dip South (North in the case of the Antarctic) bringing the cold polar air with it.

Since the strength of the vortex is temperature dependent it is inevitable that climate change will have an impact. This year we had several weeks of temperatures well below zero. It hit 30 below at one point. I think that’s the coldest I’ve ever experienced. While no specific weather event is “caused” by climate change I think it’s safe to say our winters are altering.

Now I’m going to go out and walk along the edge of the field where the snow has melted. Today I’ll pretend it’s spring.


I’ll get my snowshoes back out tomorrow.


Thanks for reading,

March 6, 2018


Here are a few other offerings for you to peruse if you so choose:

Climate vs Weather: A Response to Willful Ignorance.
World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice
Sunny Ice

New Puppy!
Three things you Must Have Before Getting a Puppy

What is Math?
The Law Against Clean Houses
A Question of Time

A Poem on the Anniversary of My Mother’s Death



Finding something green
in my mother’s kitchen
is easy. Look on the counter top.
It’ll be there. But wait,
I haven’t shown you around. Enter here
from the hall by the front door. Notice
the slate floor, three skylights ranging
overhead. We’ll go past the circular
stairway made of stone like an ancient
castle. Another time, we’ll run
up and down those stairs, one hand
on the cool wall, up toward the light
of the sky, or down into the basement dusk
where a lone bulb lights our way.

Next time we’ll go into the livingroom,
look out the wall of windows
across the river to the cornfield, or sit
in the worn easy chair, facing
the huge fireplace set
into a wall of stone.
We’ll admire the mantle, a boulder
so huge it took four workers to hold
while it was levered and braced into place.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Today
we’re in the kitchen, seeing the outside
of the staircase, the back
of the stone wall. The rocks give texture
and shadow, windows overhead give light.
Here, as we enter the kitchen is the old
cook stove with it’s pipe rising.
If it were winter, a loaf of bread
might be warming there,
on that shelf by the firebox.

However, it’s summer now, so my mother is not
kneading dough on the counter top, flour
spread to all corners, her recipe box open,
one card leaning against the flour bin.
That is a winter scene. Today this end
of the counter is bare, wiped clean.

Notice the deep rose of the Formica, the sink
toward the far end. See the eggshell tiles
on the wall between counter top and cabinet
bottom. Notice the painted scenes randomly
interspersed. Here a woman is milking
a cow in a meadow, there a donkey
snoozes in the sun, its ears laid back
in rest. Further down a man in a straw hat
walks away from a sheath of wheat. Hours
my mother spent choosing and arranging
tiles, until the pattern was just so.

The tiles end here beneath the cabinets
with their stained wood finish. And now
we’ve reached the stove
taking up most of the wall at the far end.
It’s a long kitchen but narrow.
The yellow wall above the cabinets
helps lighten the room, ease
the foreboding stone of the opposite wall.
If you need more room turn here
by the stove and walk
into the livingroom, past the refrigerator
and freezer. Through them really,
as they face each other like sentinels
from their built-in cubbies on either side
of the doorway.

Please, before you go, say hello
to my mother.
We are, after all, here looking for green
and there it is, in her hands. Lettuce
this time. A big leafy head, fresh cut
from the garden, bright green and crinkly
edged. If she could see us she’d exclaim:
“Look, isn’t it beautiful. Have a taste.
I just picked it.”

Of course she can’t see us
for we live in different times
now. She having stopped too soon
while we must continue on our travels.
So we must be content to watch
as she washes each leaf separately
under the faucet and places it
on a towel to dry. Her hands
are rough and fresh as the lettuce.
The sun has darkened her skin, her face
is beginning to wrinkle around the eyes,
just a little, to match the gray
which has appeared so recently on her brow.
But it’s her eyes, such a surprisingly
clear blue, which hold her pleasure
in this simple task of washing
each leaf of green so recently
cut from her garden.

Here we will leave her,
in her kitchen, as she remembers
the feel of dirt crumbling
in her hands, anticipating the cool crunch
of fresh lettuce. We’ll leave quietly
so as not to break the spell. We’ll try
to return, gently as possible, to the present,
this impossible present, where only our memory
can find her.


morning glory

Thanks for reading,

February 2018

If you enjoyed this you might also like:

A Pair of (unrelated) Poems
Sunny Ice
What is it?

or perhaps you would prefer

The Law Against Clean Houses
Northern Harrier

or even:

Fun Games with Electricity
Climate vs Weather: A Response to Willful Ignorance.

What is Math?

What is math?

It appears that no one is quite sure. You could say it is the study of numbers, but that leaves out geometry, probability, the study of sets, and much more. Mathematics goes far beyond numbers. Many definitions of mathematics don’t even mention numbers. Wikipedia says math “…is the study of such topics as quantity, structure, space and change.”

Bertrand Russell, on the other hand, being a mathematician himself, said that mathematics is: “The subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true.” (Russell, Bertrand (1901), “Recent Work on the Principles of Mathematics”, International Monthly, 4.)


In other words, no one knows what math is, but they recognize it when they see it.

I would add that mathematics is the study of patterns and it is the language of science. It is a particular way of describing and understanding the natural world.

puppy explores egg carton
first there is counting


Now lets talk about maps (don’t worry, this isn’t a complete non sequitur). A map is a description of reality. A road map it is a description of roads, intersections, towns. A topographical map describes the height of the land, a survey map gives boundaries, etc. In each case it isn’t the real thing, but you can use it to navigate the real world.


East Montpelier, VT 05651 - Google Maps

I like to hike so I’ve learned to read topographical maps. I can sit in the comfort of my living room and see that the Flume Trail has a long steep section that I should avoid if the weather is bad. If you think about it, that’s quite an achievement. Lines on a 2 dimensional surface give me true information (if the map was well made) about the actual landscape.

BA 6

Math can be thought of as a type of map. It uses “mathematical objects” instead of lines on a map. A mathematical object is anything that has been defined in such a way that it can be used in mathematical processes (rather circular definition, but there you have it). This includes numbers, lines, sets, matrices, etc. Where I can read a road map to get from point a to point b, a mathematician can read a formula and see a circle, or the speed of light, or how to construct a better widget.

For example, you can map out shapes using geometry. The State House dome is x circumference. Your door frame is a rectangular opening size y, so to replace the door your dog ran through you need a door to fit size y..


Geometry is relatively easy to imagine as a map since it deals with shapes, but equations can be thought of as maps as well. “Three for a dollar” is an equation written out with words. It maps out how many for how much. Odd looking equations also have real world applications. F=ma is Newton’s Second Law of Motion. In English it says that the force (F) which is acting on an object is equivalent to the mass (m) of that object multiplied by its acceleration (a).

Roughly speaking you can use that equation to discover how hard your dog hit the door by multiplying her weight by how fast she was moving. Actually, that description would make a physicist cringe, first because size does not equal mass, second, because acceleration isn’t the same as speed.

Technically, acceleration refers to change in momentum, and mass refers to the amount of matter in a given object regardless of forces working on it – gravity for example. However, here you only need a rough approximation of the force so we’ll avoid those technicalities. Once you know the force of her run you can determine just how thick your door needs to be to prevent a repeat performance.

Imagine, f=ma just mapped out your door needs. Who wouldda thunk it?

This shows how math can be used to describe and model physical reality. However, math goes a step further than a standard map. Math predicts. It’s as if your road map could continue on into unexplored areas.



For reasons no one understands, mathematics can be used to predict how physical reality works. This leads to a great debate over whether math is invented or discovered. Why is it possible to use the rules of mathematics to predict the existence of a physical object (such as various sub-atomic particles)? Its an interesting question (at least to me and many other math affectionatos), but regardless of why it works, there is no doubt that mathematics lead to real results.

What surprised me when I first looked into math is how dynamic it is. We (meaning non-mathematicians) tend to think of math as fixed. We know all there is to know and we are simply learning new uses for what we know.

Actually, that is far from the truth. Mathematical knowledge builds upon itself the same as any other scientific discipline. I had fun looking up current mathematical topics with names like: fibered simple knots, modularity of K3 surfaces and algebraic topology. I saw a prize won for “deep work on the global Gan-Gross-Prasad conjecture and their discovery of geometric interpretations for the higher derivatives of L-function in the function field case.” (http://math.mit.edu/index.php).

Henry Cohen received the 2018 Levi L. Conant Prize from the American Mathematical Society for his paper: “A Conceptual Breakthrough in Sphere Packing” (Feb 2017, Notices of the AMS). In his remarks upon accepting the award he said:” “The /E/_8 and Leech lattices are fascinating objects, and I hope readers will grow to love them as much as I do.” http://math.mit.edu/index.php

Uh huh. No wonder we’re afraid of math.

Screenshot 2017-05-31 16.49.03

Like I said math is a different language. But that doesn’t mean we can’t understand the reasoning behind it, at least in areas which effect our lives. I have written about how compound interest works and I would say that probability and statistics are equally important areas to understand. I will write about them at a later date. Stay tuned….

Thanks for reading,

Feb 19, 2018

If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy:

Puppies and Taxes
Is Math Broken? The Problem of Infinity.
What you should know about money.
Introducing the Glorious, Golden, Phi
If this was not your cup of tea perhaps you would prefer these:

Killer Cats
Northern Harrier
New Puppy!
If you are terribly picky, or enjoying yourself so much you can’t bear to stop, how about these posts:

Much Ado about Nothing
Climate vs Weather: A Response to Willful Ignorance.
Sunny Ice

Three things you Must Have Before Getting a Puppy

I promised last time that I would write about what you need before you bring home a puppy. You will need three things. You will need all three of these or you and your puppy will be miserable.

1) Patience

2016-09-24 17.48.59-2  pup playing on couch  Nik digging
Puppies are usually ignorant. An older pup might have learned the wrong tricks. If you get a pup at 8-10 weeks old she likely won’t know anything. (Don’t get one any younger, they need to be with their mother and sibs for at least 2 months). In either case, whatever you do you are teaching your pup something. If she grabs your pant leg and you pull away, that is a fun game, so she will do it again. If she grabs your pants and you trade her for a pull toy and play tug of war with her she will be more likely to go for the toy next time. Actually, she will need to grab your pants dozens of times and each time have it traded for something more fun, before she learns anything. That’s the real problem.

It’s fine when you’re playing with her, but when you are tired and grumpy you are still teaching her how to react when she grabs your pants (or chews the couch, or shreds your library book, or pees on your computer or, or,…). Even though you won’t want to be, you are “on” all the time. That brings me to

2) Time

DSC_0301  DSC_0257 DSC_0185
Puppies have a lot of energy. It comes in bursts. They seem to have two speeds. Full speed ahead and full stop.


Each pup is different, of course, but they all need exercise. If you can leave them at puppy day care or have a dog walker that’s great. But they will still need time with you. You may be tired and hungry when you get home from work, but your pup will (hopefully) be thrilled to see you and want to play.

Plan on walking your pup a lot. Betel is young enough that a short walk down the driveway is enough – as long as we go out every couple hours. I work at home, so my schedule has become erratic. She’s too young for a long walk (although that is changing daily), but she needs lots of exercise already and will need more and more as she gets older.

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I use walks for training time. We are playing together anyway, so I play games involving coming when she’s called, trading a stick for my pant leg (see above), sitting on command, etc. I make it fun and we continue for a bit when we get inside so she doesn’t mind coming back in. It also exercises her mind at the same time.

3) Ability to live sleep deprived
The last of your three great needs is the ability to give up some sleep for several weeks to a month or more. A young puppy will not be physically able to go the night without peeing. If she sleeps in a crate you have to get up to let her out. You really don’t want her to learn to pee in her crate (unless you don’t mind having a dog that you can’t housebreak). It’s unfair to her and you will regret it down the line.

Most puppies don’t like being alone. They have (hopefully) been living with mother and siblings and it is an adjustment. Expect some howling and barking.

DSC_0595  This has been a difficult one for Betel. She had 9 siblings so it must seem awfully quiet. At first, as soon as I left the room she began howling. I waited until she was quiet – if I went right back in I’m just training her that howling gets attention. I only reward her for silence. If she cried at the sight of me I’d turn my back on her or leave. At first she only had to be quiet for a few seconds (literally) before I would go in and reward her for silence. Then we worked up to a few minutes. Now I can leave her for several hours. She cries a bit, but then settles down.

It took 10 days. we’re still working on nighttime. She is now sleeping until nearly 5:00.

Time, patience, and ability to function without sleep. Do you have all those? Does everyone in your household have those? It only takes one person letting the pup on the couch to undo all your careful couch training. If you do then rush out and get a puppy. They are, quite often, loads of fun.

That’s it for today. Now, I’m going to see if I can get a quick nap in before I go to work.


Thanks for reading

Feb 16, 2018

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