My Probably One And Only Attempt at Something Like Fanfiction

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2014 Paris smiling at tennis

I’m a fan of BBC Sherlock, and of the actor Benedict Cumberbatch. If you haven’t seen him in anything, he’s worth checking out. Really an excellent actor.

I’m posting the following on my Tumblr page, but am also putting it here, because I like it, & want to have a record of it outside of Tumblr. It’s a response, basically, to some very weird and often downright creepy ‘fan’ rumors that are being spread about him and his new wife. Believe me, if you haven’t seen them, you don’t want to. They’re vile. This isn’t. Note: it’s written in Tumblr ‘style’, at least one that’s common among the people I follow there, to give it a realistic feel.

Here goes:

“I’ve been bugged by the haters’ ‘theories’ – i.e. highly imaginative, highly unlikely, scenarios – I wish they’d just get honest about the fact that they’re writing fiction. It’d be a better way to get it out of their systems.

“So I have a confession: after seeing more of it than I should have, I was really tempted to submit something to them, but was afraid some of them might believe it was true. And it would’ve been a cruel joke, so I’m glad I have enough restraint that I didn’t do it that way. My idea tickles me, though, so I wanted to share it as the fiction it is. Here goes. Hope you enjoy it. You can tell it’s fiction because there’s too much detail lol. I like to think that it’s not really badly written?

“‘My brother’s in military intelligence. He’s friends with a woman, a co-worker of his, who used to work at Area 51. If you’ve ever heard about it, you’ll know that it’s long been rumored to be the site of space alien-related research and archives. Anyway, this woman had seen both Benedict & Sophie there, during the couple of years she (the co-worker) was stationed there. They were both born here (on Earth, I mean), but they’re both genetically not of this world. In fact, though they can pass for human, they aren’t, and their species actually can’t even reproduce with us.

“‘Essentially, they’re deep-cover observers and advisors, along with a few thousand others of their species who are permanent residents here. So the point is, it’s a factor in their marriage, in the fact that they got married, and the physical resemblance between them is actually a sign of looks that are common to their species.

“‘I was concerned, when I first heard about the alien thing thing from my sib – of course. I mean, it really freaked me out. That was about 10 years ago. (My brother’s a lot older than me.) But he’s met some of them, though not Ben or Sophie, and he says they’re cool and not here to like subjugate humans or anything. One of their transports crash-landed here about 1000 years ago, and they reproduce because they’re lots like us emotionally & socially, & love their families and all that shit, but they make it a point to not increase their numbers. Their own people did finally find them here. It took a while, because when the ship crashed their comms were destroyed, & they were in deep sleep for several years, and it takes about 50 years to get a signal to their home planet, but by then they’d gotten used to Earth and our cultures, and decided to stay because it had become ‘home’ to them. They think we’re a creepy species, at times, but basically they like us. I don’t blame them, on the creepy part.

“‘I wonder if they ever all get together for cruises or ‘reunions’ or something? Probably not; there’d be so many that it’d be noticeable, and they might get found out by the public at large. Then the jig would be up.

“‘So, that’s the actual scoop, and maybe why this couple seems weird to some outside observers. This is all highly-classified and I don’t want to get anybody in trouble, which is why I’m submitting this as an Anon.’ (Of course, in actuality, I’m not Anon at all)

“copyright me, 2015

“(Please reblog rather than re-posting. You can link to this, if you want to on another site. If this gets re-posted & attributed to anyone other than me, or spread as if it weren’t fiction, I will find out and anyone who does it will be in trouble because this original post exists. Just sayin’. It’ll also be on my personal, non-Tumblr blog.)”

2014 Dec what BC learned

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Vow for Peace

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Gaza 2011There are more highly visible crises than usual, this week. Crises on top of the ones we’re used to and forget about. Wars and undeclared wars, and sneaky denied wars against employees. They’re all about hate, and greed. Those things must stop, and if governments won’t listen, we must love each other all the more, and show peace to each other, and to everyone who will see. And we can’t ever, ever let up on our governments or our fellow humans until it changes. I don’t expect to see it in my lifetime. I don’t know if it’s possible with our species. I vow that, as long as I draw breath, I will not give up on peace, or on making my voice heard in its favor.

The Axolotl: Mexican Enigma for a Rainy Saturday

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Axolotl, mutant color, prob. juvenile

This salamander is the inspiration for the Wooper Pokemon.  And that’s all I know about Pokemon.

But If I had a spirit animal, this friendly-alien-looking creature might be it, just for its looks.  It’s the Axolotl, or Mexican Salamander, native to the lake complex formerly near Mexico City.  One lake was drained to prevent flooding.  Of the other, all that remains is a canal system which is now suffering ecological collapse.

These salamanders, unique to the area, were once very common.  They were caught for food, and for use in various remedies, as they’re reputed to have medicinal properties.  The Axolotls seen here have a color mutation.  Usually, they’re brown or black.  They’re also generally not nearly so cute as in the picture above.  The antennae-looking things are external gill stalks.

Axolotls are studied for their ability to regenerate limbs (common among salamanders).  There’s also a fair population of captive ‘pet’ Axolotls, most of which have the color mutations.  They’re an unusual amphibian.  They exhibit neoteny; this is sexual maturity without metamorphosis.  As a result they retain adolescent features and remain water-dwellers.

Axolotls are virtually extinct in the wild, though efforts are being made to change that.  A 2013 search over several months found none in their native habitat.

(Info from Natl. Geographic, Wikipedia, & a documentary on YouTube)

NatGeo  http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians/axolotl/

Wikipedia  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axolotl

“Weird Creatures with Nick Baker: Axolotl”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wcdy9FehaI

On Teaching Your Dog: First Thoughts

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Image

I was a professional dog trainer for years. I concentrated on basic pet obedience and behavior modification, teaching mostly ultra-small classes and doing private work. I’ve never met a dog that I didn’t love, or who couldn’t learn – though some require a lot of positive motivation. (Yes, you sweet big-eyed basset hound, I’m looking at you!)

For many people, an obedience class is a wonderful way to learn. In some cases, it may not be feasible. And if you’ve taught your dogs in the past, you may just need a bit of a brush-up, or a single session to get extra advice.

These days, I advise friends on issues they’re having. I’ve done it by phone and online, as well as in person. I’ve found that phone/internet results can be terrific. It’s all down to good communication.

I recently had another request for advice. In addition to answering privately, I want to share some basics. Here are some things that I like to discuss with new students (the human part of the team, that is).

Dogs are great companions and co-workers, when we teach them what’s appropriate. Most of obedience training is actually our learning how to communicate to get the results we want. Every dog knows how to sit, for example; sitting ‘on command’ and offering us the behavior makes everyone’s life easier. Working with your dog also strengthens the bond between you. We teach dogs using modern, positive behavioral methods. It’s more effective, in addition to being loads more fun for all involved. We teach a dog, in large part, by setting-up the behavior we want, and then rewarding it. There are ‘tricks’ to it, and that’s why there are trainers. Anyone who’s taken an obedience class, or otherwise successfully taught their dog, is a trainer, to my mind. There are a few key things to remember, when you’re teaching your dog, in my opinion. Be patient, be observant, be consistent, and keep your sense of humor. If you’re missing any of those at a given time, wait till you’re feeling more relaxed. There’ll be more about all of this, as we go along.

You don’t have to devote a lot of time to working with your dog. ‘Homework’ averages about 30 minutes a day; you often get the best results by doing a few or several short sessions. At the first sign of fatigue or loss of interest (either yours or the dog’s), end the session. Better yet, stop while you’re both still enjoying it. That way you’ll always be glad to start again the next time. When you’re working on more advanced training, your sessions will be a bit longer, but will always stay in the ‘fun’ category. Most people won’t always have time to keep up with training according to schedule. When that happens, forgive yourself and keep up what you can. You can catch yourself up when your schedule allows.

The Basics of Pet Dog Training

This is a double-entendre. There are the basic commands, or cues. And there are the basics of how we teach. Let’s look at both.

Basic cues are: watch, wait, come, sit, stay, down, loose-leash walking, and heel. All of these, together, contribute to a dog you can take pretty much anywhere. One of them may save your dog’s life, someday. Puppies and some adult dogs also need additional behavior work on issues like jumping-up. This group of cued behaviors can allow you to take your dog nearly anywhere. In addition, it’s integral to your dog learning self-discipline and having a sense of being part of that team I keep mentioning.

You want your dog to learn to respond to these cues the first time you give them, every time, with enthusiasm and reasonable speed. Distractions happen, but consistency is the goal.

What do the cues mean?

Watch: Pay attention! I might ask you to do something at any time.

Wait: This is great for going through doors, gates, etc. As opposed to ‘stay back,’ it means ‘wait your turn; you’re coming too. But I’m going first.’

Come: Be here with me, now. It’s when your dog’s right in front of you that you say ‘good come!’ Coming to you doesn’t do much good if your dog’s not only out of reach, but zooms off again immediately. (see ‘Stay’)

Sit: Plant that bottom firmly on the floor.

Stay: Pretty obvious, this one. We build it into a number of other cues. For instance, ‘come’ is taught with an automatic sit and stay. Taught as an automatic follow-up to sit, and down. I think you get the idea.

Down: Lie down. All the way down.

Loose-leash walking: The cue for this is usually ‘let’s go.’ Obviously, you can personalise the words you use for cues. What this means is walking on leash without pulling. Pulling is bad for your dog’s neck and trachea, and isn’t good teamwork.

Heel: Walk beside me, close. And sit when I stop. This one’s great for going out in public, and can also protect your dog’s safety.

Reminder: all of these cues are taught as fun things. You get terrific results this way.

Watch! An Example of How We Teach a Behavior

This one’s a foundation to everything else you do. It’s all about attention, and if you don’t have your dog’s attention, you can’t count on him/her following a cue.

We start this off in a very low-distraction environment, and increase distractions as your dog gets better at it. If the dog loses concentration, we go back to lower distractions, make sure it’s solid, and then move forward again, gradually. Some trainers use target sticks or clickers to teach this and other cues, but it’s not necessary for most dogs, and handling one more thing can make it more difficult for some of us. Let’s try this without those. You can always add one later, if you have trouble with something or are doing something more advanced and want to use it.

Start off in a quiet room, with something that motivates your dog. A few dogs are so willing to please that all they need is praise and petting. Most will need, initially, treats or a toy to keep their attention. You can start teaching anything using, for instance, treats (with simultaneous praise and petting) and gradually reduce the treats until they’re just an occasional thing.

Let’s say you’re using treats for this. You’ll want a number of very small treats that your dog likes but won’t be fixated about. If your dog likes, for instance, chicken, bacon strips or something, tear them into little pieces ahead of time. Also, you don’t want your dog to be starving, but you won’t get the best results if you practice this right after a meal. If your dog’s bursting with energy, plan on enough playtime before practice that your dog will be calm enough to pay attention.

An easy way to do this exercise is to sit near your dog, treats in hand, and hold one up by your eyes while saying ‘Watch!’ You may prefer to say your dog’s name as the attention cue. Once you have eye contact (or something close to it), immediately give the treat, while saying ‘good watch!’ or ‘good Muffy!’ This speeds your dog’s association with the word, so that learning goes faster. You’ll want to use a calm but happy tone of voice. You can repeated this exercise in rapid succession, for a few minutes. Again, it’s best to stop while it’s going well and you’re both enjoying yourselves. When you’re finished, say ‘all done!’ And you can have a lovely petting session. As you and your dog get better at the exercise, you’ll find you’ll only need the verbal cue, and can cut down on the hand signal and treats, moving to just praise and petting for the desired attention response from your dog. It is useful, though, to have a hand signal for each cue, as well as a word or phrase. In addition, you’ll want to vary the location in which you do the exercise, and your position relative to your dog. This way, the dog will begin to learn to respond in various situations. Take it at your own speed, but your dog may well surprise you with how quickly he/she learns!

If something isn’t working, there’s always a way to tweak it or approach it differently. If you’re having no success at all, stop the exercise and talk to a trainer, or a friend who’s got more experience.

We’ll end here, for now.

If you’ve read this far, thanks! You get a gold star! Constructive feedback is always appreciated!

Beowulf’s Correspondence (Excerpt)

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Dear Beowulf,
How go the campaigns in the far lands? I worry that, in an unmapped area, you may inadvertently fall off the edge of the world. Hence, am sending you a long chain by which you may secure your ship to land. I am certain you will find this useful and that it will not constrain your travels in any way whatsoever.

Grendel’s arm grows more ill-favoured with each passing day.  The stench is lovely and seems to keep the other demons away.

Please send scented unguents.

Oh shit, here comes Grendel’s pox-ridden wench of a mother. She looks pissed.
Please return to the royal court at your earliest convenience.

Fondly,
Hygd

(You get 10 points if you spotted the nod to Catherine Tate!)

 

Perspective: Sometimes It’s Good to Feel Small

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This video is a beautiful time-lapse of Earth, seen from the International Space Station (ISS).

Our world is scary-beautiful.  Sometimes I really don’t pay much attention to it.  I get caught-up in a good book, or a video, etc.  I don’t get outside enough.  I can easily spend all day glued to the computer screen, wearing an old nightie and a bathrobe.  Then I go out, or see something like this.  It helps me remember the important stuff.  People.  Trees.  The sky.  Reality, in judicious doses.

 

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Obligatory Cat Video

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I’ve uploaded exactly one (no vagueness here) video on my YouTube channel.  It’s of my cat, Molly.  I adopted her in January of this year, and she’s a great cat.

My other favorite YouTube cat is Maru, whose human diligently shares lots of fun videos, if you’re into that sort of thing.  And, of course, even if you aren’t.

The Dreaded Writer’s Block: Writer, Write Thyself

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I’ve written quite a lot.  Poetry, awkward fiction, less-awkward early journalistic attempts, as well as corporate training/technical bits and pieces, and just a bit of marketing copy for the hotel industry. I’ve delivered pizzas. I’ve been a dog trainer. I’ve also been unable to get words on a page, for much longer than I’d like.  Enough, already!  I’d like to thank Amanda Palmer, Ksenia Anske and Michael Gruber, among others, for inspiring me to begin, literally, this new chapter in my life.

What can you expect, here?  It’s probably too early to know.  I’ll do my best to entertain you, make you think, inform you.  A major goal is to share my feelings here, as that’s a challenge for me.

Right now my stomach is knotted, my shoulders tense. Will you like me?  I hope so.  Should I care?  About halfway; it depends upon who you are.  I hope we get along and have good conversations.  Constructive Comments, of course, are welcome!

Make yourself at home.  The chairs are comfy, and this isn’t a theatre, so you don’t have to hide those snacks in your purse.  You will  be cleaning-up your own spills, though!