Starsight’s Weblog

March 3, 2009

Square Root Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — by starsight @ 3:36 pm



Hyacinth

Originally uploaded by nodigio

For those mathematical friends of mine, today is a Square Root Day (3/3/09). Savor it because the next one won’t be until 4/4/16.

Have Square Root Cookies and drink Square Root Beer to celebrate.

January 23, 2009

Guts

Filed under: Uncategorized — by starsight @ 7:15 pm



Bride with Gift

Originally uploaded by nodigio

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/22/AR2009012203929.html?hpid=topnews

The military’s Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, facility, where the rights of habeas corpus and due process had been denied detainees, will close, and the CIA is now prohibited from maintaining its own overseas prisons. And in a broad swipe at the Bush administration’s lawyers, Obama nullified every legal order and opinion on interrogations issued by any lawyer in the executive branch after Sept. 11, 2001.

And about time. I wish Bush had had the guts to do this. But he felt secrecy and torture and performing occult illegal acts were perfectly fine, that they “saved” us, when really, all they did was taint us. That taint permeated society and we hated it. It wasn’t American, that taint that Bush tarred us with. It was composed of pain and fear and things hiding in the dark, only partly glimpsed and partly heard, and the power of suggestion made it worse than it would be under the glaring light of knowledge. He kept us ignorant and tried to keep us shackled at home so the “experts” could handle it. And the “experts” handled it by shooting pets, breaking into the wrong houses, terrorizing innocent citizens, and spreading a culture of suspicion and dread.

Americans are busybodies by nature. We like poking and prying into the lives of our neighbors and co-workers and friends. In good times, this prying helps us out, it’s talanoa. We learn about one another’s needs and desires and in learning reach out to fulfill those needs and dreams and desires. In dark times, we poke and pry and seek out anything that could be used against our neighbors and co-workers and friends and we report it to the authorities so they don’t look too closely at us. Even the most innocent among us can be proven guilty of some crime under that type of scrutiny. This is gossip at its most evil. That was the direction Bush was leading us towards by modeling behavior that said “secrecy is good”, “torture is necessary”, and “privacy is bad.”

At this time, this is mostly a symbolic act. It will take time to replace suspicious sneakiness leading to secretive incarcerations ad torture with our more usual good-natured inquisitiveness leading to generous outpourings of help and well-intentioned advice. Yes, we were naïve, but our national strength lay in that naiveté. We have never been a people who could condone torture, hounding innocents, killing children and women, secretly imprisoning anyone. That’s just not American.

You can’t have a “war” on terror because terrorists aren’t so easy to identify, and when you give in to terrorists, you become perceived a weak and thus a better target for even more terrorism. It wasn’t Bush and his policies that kept the terrorists away from American soil after 9/11 – it was the American spirit, the rebels among us who would willingly sacrifice themselves to keep a terrorist from achieving his goal, and who would go all vigilante on any real terrorists we found. The way to prevent terrorism is to arm everyone with knowledge and provide them with the skills to carry through when they needed to act – and then let the world know we haven’t disarmed ourselves and made of ourselves weak, ignorant, and frightened targets.

What we need is transparency in government, openness in information, and a media that isn’t afraid to spend the few extra minutes to get the facts instead of acting as if rumors were real. We don’t mind waiting a bit longer to get the real information, and the media won’t have egg on its face when they have to correct their earlier errors caused by haste. Investigative reporters should take pride in truly investigating all the facts before they release their stories. We’ll wait.

What we need are people willing to act when time is urgent. Responding to disasters can’t wait 2 or 3 days, we need people who are living in the middle of the disaster to be prepared, and we need our government to acknowledge that we just might know what we’re doing so we don’t sit passively waiting for promised help that doesn’t arrive in a timely way while locals are being held outside the disaster area with supplies, food, and help. That Citizens Corp idea needs to be ramped up and presented in the high schools and colleges. No, I’m wrong. It should start in kindergarten, with the simple concepts and acts and work its way up. We’ve seen how capable children can be if we just let them – the 4 year old who called 911, the 6 year old who rescued a drowning sibling. We should let our children be as capable as they can be. Protect them, teach them, sure, but give them the skills and the ability to think and act on their own, stepping in only when they are in over their level.

It will take time for us to regain that confidence and to rebuild the skills we were told not to use by our government, but we’ll get there so long as our government doesn’t start telling us to “let the experts handle it” and to “go shopping” as the response to disasters and wars.

A citizenry that isn’t afraid to act, that communicates with one another, is a citizenry that is as safe from terrorism as it’s possible to ever be.

Blogging for Choice

Filed under: Uncategorized — by starsight @ 1:53 am

Last year, when I wrote this, things had gotten worse since the previous year. This past year has been even worse for women and children. In the news, we still read stories of women “being raped”, not of “men raping women”, and watched court cases of rape victims being further victimized. We’ve seen the Department of Health and Human Services pass a regulation that allows any employee in the health care industry decline to services based on the employee’s morals, and screw the patient. This has resulted in a nurse-practitioner “accidentally” removing IUDs from patients. We’ve seen more women and children becoming homeless because they weren’t allowed a choice that could have prevented the whole problem. We have people actively and vociferously advocating having babies – in spite of the fact that we are breeding ourselves out of resources.

More and more, we need to take control of our reproduction, to stem the constant increase in our population. We need to consider the welfare of those who are already born and living in this world. We need to care for those who are alive now, and in need now.

I believe life, and the life of the soul, begins at conception. I do not believe sentience begins at conception. That is something that develops when the vessel it is meant to inhabit matures enough to nourish the seed of sentience and nurture it to fruition. Life is sacred. All life is sacred. I am morally opposed to the malicious taking of any life, but I believe life that already exists independently takes precedence over a potential life. Choice must be moral, ethical, and legal. Let me explain.

I choose life for myself and the children I bore, because I am inherently selfish and fluffy. I choose for no other woman because I am an American. It is the precise separation of religion and law that allows disparate faiths to thrive alongside one another, including disparities within religions, such as Catholics and Methodists. The American attitude of freedom of religion and the separation of church and state has ensured our safety in the practice of our beliefs, and our rights are not dependent upon the morality of the privileged few, but rather on higher ideals of justice, equality, and freedom.

I am pro-choice because it is the only moral choice to make when it involves other people.

Without choice, there can be no morality at all. There can only be slavery.

Consider. A woman who becomes pregnant has not just her unborn child to consider, but also any other children she may currently have, her own body, and other people dependent upon her. She is the custodian for all of them. She must be allowed the freedom to choose to add this unborn child to the family or to abort it for the greater good of those already born. If we take away that choice, then the unborn baby may be saved but at the cost of a far greater evil to the woman and to those already born.

Is it better to allow a woman her choice, knowing she may choose to abort in some cases, or do we remove that choice and most assuredly commit evil in every single case?

Life must be protected. There is no doubt about that. As a woman, it is my duty to protect the life of my unborn child, not the government’s, not some preacher’s, certainly not yours. It is also my duty to protect the lives of other children I may already have, and those living children take precedence over an unformed and unborn potentiality. It is my duty as a woman to protect the people already living in my care, and I must consider so very many things.

The welfare of the developing embryo is, like the embryo’s own tissues, too caught up in the mother’s own existence to be considered separately. The distinction between mother and child occurs gradually. In the beginning, when there is no distinction, when the embryo is incapable of independent viability, it is and must be entirely and completely the mother’s decision on how to safeguard all the lives within her care, from her own and the already-born to the unborn within her. The mother can, should, indeed, must, protect herself first, because she must be healthy and able to care for those dependent upon her. Then she must protect the already born who are in her care – whether those are older children of hers, her elderly parents or grandparents, cousins, kin, mates, mates’ kin, co-workers, neighbors. She has a large group of people to consider, not just the one unborn potential of a child.

Life must be protected, and the question becomes, whose life?

The pro-life argument is not one of law or physical technicalities, but of the spirit. It is not life with which they are concerned, but the soul. Let me address this from my own Numenist perspective.

To have any integrity of the human soul at all, we must be allowed to know, and knowing, to choose our path. To remove a person’s right to choose is tantamount to gainsaying the spiritual concept of free will. Free will is an important part of Numenism. Those who would prevent a woman from making a choice to bear or abort the unborn embryo may think they are stopping a terrible crime, but what they are actually doing is harming everyone – everyone connected with the woman, everyone in that woman’s neighborhood, society, culture, and religion, and they are harming themselves more than all of these others. They are stifling spiritual growth, playing god in an unhealthy way, and abusing the intelligence granted us.

It is fine to be pro-life. If you can change someone’s mind with love, compassionate words, and physical support, so much the better. Offer the mother all the help she needs, during her pregnancy, during the childbirth, and most importantly – after the child is born.

It is not acceptable on a spiritual level to force someone to make choices they would not make because you feel it is the right thing for them to do. Removing choice from someone removes their humanity, their adulthood, their hard-won maturity. It makes of them slaves. Slaves have no choice in what they do – it is all controlled by someone else. Spiritual slavery is as terrible as physical slavery. I, personally, think spiritual slavery is more terrible than physical slavery, for physical slavery has avenues of escape, even if that escape is death. Spiritual slavery offers no escape, for even death doesn’t guarantee freedom.

This isn’t about “killing babies”, it is about the freedom of the human soul. It is about being allowed to choose our destinies. It is about being allowed to have respect for our own reproductive lives, and it is about having no shame when we protect ourselves by doing what we must.

I could never ask a woman to risk her life for a pregnancy she did not want. I could never ask a woman to shoulder a lifetime responsibility she does not feel she can bear with grace. I could never force a woman to abort who desperately wanted the baby she carries. I could never presume to make a life-altering decision for anyone not myself. I didn’t even have my son circumcised so he could make that decision for himself when he was old enough. How could I have the utter arrogance to decide if a woman would bear child or not?

I believe that abortion is the taking of a life, but it is not murder. There is no negative stigma on a woman choosing to preserve the emotional, physical, and mental well being of her life and the lives of those already dependent upon her. Abortion is a method of self-defense and protection for her and her world. To label a woman who has had to choose an abortion with the same name as the people who deliberately drown their children or shoot them or starve them is a disservice to the soul of society. And when we burden society’s soul with too many negatives, it responds in harmful ways. Those already born become less valuable, more disposable. People who know their lives are not valued in turn place little value on other people, and violence, greed, and callousness become common.

The reality of abortion is not black or white. It is not good or evil. It is human struggle, filled with blood and grief and fear and pain and humiliation. Nobody plans to get pregnant just so they can have an abortion. Abortion is not used as a primary method of birth control, not by any sane, valued being. Birth control methods fail, and abortion is a back-up for that. Men take advantage of women via rape, and abortion is there to help protect the woman from one major consequence of the man’s violent act. A pregnancy can go horribly wrong and the body needs help to be purged of the unviable flesh. A health emergency arises and the health and well being of the mother supercede those of the embryo. Only the woman can determine if she is capable of caring for the child that will come from a pregnancy, to accept the risks, and to bear the consequences afterwards.

And that brings us to what our society would consider the dark side of abortion and what I consider the bright side of it. Relief. Abortion is a safety valve for families. The choice to abort or not allows the woman and her family freedom and safety. It is a considered action that dignifies the value of human life and the human soul by considering all parts of the equation and not just the one unknown cipher. Like any act of great human consequence, there are times when abortion is the right and only thing to do, and times when it is a terrible mistake. The pregnant woman is the only one who can make that decision, and once made, we, as a society, cannot ethically and morally judge her choice, not and remain a moral and ethical society.

Who are we to second-guess her choice, a choice that is never as simple or easy as it sounds?

We have the wealth, the technology, and the ability to make every child born a wanted child, to prevent unwanted pregnancies, to safely abort dangerous or unwanted pregnancies, to provide support while any children are entirely dependent upon the mother, to make families stronger and safer.

But we don’t.

As a society, we Americans devalue the mother, we force women into untenable positions to assuage the vocal demands of a small group of control freaks, we force children into untenable lives of poverty and violence, we make all of society colder, meaner, and more selfish, and we do this by preventing women from being honored; block them from making the hard choices they must make. Abortion is not easy. It is as life-altering a decision as giving birth, and there’s not a woman who has had an abortion who doesn’t regret the need for that decision. They may not regret the decision itself, they may rejoice that they could have that choice, but they will always regret the need that forced the decision upon them.

This isn’t even addressing the primary reason for allowing women to make the choice to carry or abort the pregnancy – the spiritual growth that such decisions will bring. By abrogating the woman’s right to choose, we stunt her spiritual growth. We enslave her soul and the souls of all her children and dependents. Through that, we demean society’s soul.

Perhaps there are those who want women to remain spiritually small and weak; they are themselves small-spirited.

There are those who will cry out, “But what about the father’s right to choose?”

And to them I answer: The father’s right to choose takes place before the act of coition. There are pregnancy preventions he can take – spermicidals, condoms, even reversible vasectomies. If he chooses not to take them, and squirts his sperm into a woman anyway, then he hands over the decision for what happens next to the woman. It is her body, her life, her family, her community, her spiritual well-being that informs her decision. She may choose to allow him a part in her decision, but it is ultimately and completely her decision, and it will remain hers until we develop something along the lines of the Bujoldian uterine replicators. When we have artificial wombs that put no woman’s life at risk to carry a baby to term, that involve no woman’s emotions, bodies, or families; then men can decide to take custody of the embryo, grow it in the artificial womb, and raise it.

When women can walk away from the pregnancy as easily as men can, then men can decide.

So, if men want to make that decision, to take the lifetime responsibility of growing and rearing a child, they should hustle and develop working artificial wombs as soon as they can. Until then, they need to take responsibility for their fertility, either through using condoms and a spermicide, through abstinence, through vasectomy, through the male birth control pill, through self-control. And they must always, always be aware that birth control does indeed fail, that surgical sterilization isn’t always 100%, and that, like most humans, women make mistakes, are forgetful, may have an idiosyncratic reaction to birth control, and sometimes, sometimes, in spite of all the effort to the contrary, pregnancy occurs.

Abortion is a safety valve for those instances. For men as well as women.

Abortion is never an easy choice. No matter what the media tries to make us believe, abortion is a dreadful burden, a life-altering choice that haunts the women who must choose it for the rest of their lives. If a woman is impregnated by a man – through failed birth control, through lies, through rape, through changed circumstances – she has very few options. Every one of those options has a strong potential to be detrimental to her health, her spirit, her mental well-being, her finances – and the health, well-being, and futures of those already alive and in her care.

If a woman lives where she can still choose abortion, she has to undergo a risky surgical procedure to free herself of the unwanted pregnancy – a man walks away without having to undergo any kind of surgical procedure or alteration to his body.

If, for religious or ethical reasons or, increasingly often, for lack of adequate medical care in her community, she has to carry the unwanted pregnancy to term, she risks a host of ailments, up to and including death. A man gets to walk away without any kind of damage to his body and certainly without any fear of dying for the pregnancy.

If a woman chooses to place the child for adoption, she can’t do so without the father’s permission – permission he can deny just to punish her – and it is a punishment to both the mother and the poor unwanted child, to have to work and spend money to feed, house, clothe, and educate that unwanted child, frequently without any support whatsoever from the father – who gets to walk away without losing a penny or a moment’s sleep over the lives he’s just destroyed. Even if a court of law determines he should pay child support, all he has to do is walk away.

A woman who walks away from her baby is prosecuted for child abandonment at best, and child abuse at worst.

If the couple are married when the child is conceived and born, if the man decides he no longer wants to be responsible for the child he helped bring into the world, all he has to do is nothing. He can leave all the care and work of raising the child to the woman. No one condemns him for it. No one demands he pay for the life he helped create. No one blames him if he denies the child is his. After all, short of DNA testing, there’s no proof, not like there is when a woman gives birth. Maternity is rarely in doubt.

So many men have taken the option to just walk away, it’s a wonder women haven’t risen up and reacted with far greater anger and made far stronger demands. It’s a wonder women even consider giving men any choice at all. That women do give most men a say in the decision says a lot about the women’s ethics, morals, and concerns.

Men make their decision to impregnate women the moment they allow their unprotected sperm to come into contact with a fertile egg. If men failed to use birth control themselves, then they are as liable for the unwanted child as the women they impregnate.

The burden of birth control is not and should not be entirely upon the woman.

Me, I’d like to see every child born be a wanted child – planned and anticipated and hoped for. That means everyone has to own up to their part in the procreation process – from erection to living child, and take responsibility for the results of their choices.

That means we need a wide variety of choices, from better birth control for both genders to better behavior from men and women to better health care. We need health care professionals who care about the health, welfare, and spiritual needs of the patient; not ones who can refuse care whenever they choose. We need artificial wombs so women can walk away from a pregnancy as easily as men do. We need better methods of adoption and fosterage. We need more humane peer pressure.

We need to allow women the freedom to choose and the access to knowledgeable and skilled physicians to help them in their choice.

And men? If you want to have a choice in the continuance of a pregnancy – get busy developing artificial wombs. When you build those wombs, then you can choose.

January 12, 2009

Magic

Filed under: Uncategorized — by starsight @ 7:12 pm



Keegan Talking

Originally uploaded by nodigio

John Michael Greer A Magical Education http://www.necronomi.com/projects/manifesto/

I read Mr. Greer’s Manifesto on magical education, and while I find much of merit in it, after all, we Numenists have been teaching and requiring a grounding in philosophy, logic, mythology, science, and other languages for decades; I find that he skirts the most important questions of all – why study or practice magic, and what can you really do with magic. He tucks partial answers about “why” here and there; that we study and learn magic so we can “bend the universe of human experience to your will more effectively than others” but he never describes why we would want to do that or what it means to be able to do that. The closest he comes to that is when he says “magic can be used for many things other than acting out a social role” and when he says magic is used to “make any circumstances the right circumstances for the lightning to strike.” Perhaps he’s being deliberately vague.

That’s not the Numenous Way. We don’t drop teasers – poetic or otherwise – and then move on to other matters. We expect those who seek to be more than a Celebrant to ponder their reasons for learning magic and we will spend what time is necessary working with a priest or minister in training to reach those answers. We don’t go any further until the student understands why they are doing this.

There’s more to “why” than “bend the universe to your will” and I think far too many teachers of magic – good ones and bad ones – rarely go beyond this. Much more time needs to be dedicated to the “why” than many traditions offer. Knowing “why” before you start to learn magic can help you learn and use magic easier and better than if you go into it with just vague notions of controlling the universe.

As for what you can do with magic – this question needs to be answered forthrightly and up front so students can find within themselves the answers to “why”. Before we learn to drive a car, we know “why” we want to do that – so we can get to work, earn money, visit friends, travel, or shop – when we want or need to and not at the whim and availability of others. We learn to play a guitar for many reasons – we like music, we like how the guitar sounds, we like the admiration we will get from friends who listen to us, or we can earn money from playing the guitar if we’re really good. We know before we learn to drive or play a guitar what the final outcome is, and we know (sometimes vaguely) how to get there. Magic is no different. To learn magic, we have to know what we can expect from it, what the final outcomes are, and (at least vaguely) what to do to get there. When we know that, we can reason through to why we want to do this.

What can magic do?

To reach the answer to this we must first answer “What is magic?”

Magic, in its broadest definition, is the ability to “bend the universe”. Even people who don’t actively learn magic use magic randomly and without control, creating static and patterns that are unpredictable, changing the world around them. We are all constantly bending the universe. A mage or magic user is someone who knows this, has a few reliable techniques to purposely bend the universe, can predict to some degree what those changes will do, and has a reason for doing so other than ego. Therefore, a good working definition of magic (for Numenists, anyway), is “A collection of reliable techniques that allow a trained mage to make informed changes to the universe.”

A recent example of magic in use is the 2008 Presidential campaign. Both sides wielded magic, one more effectively than the other because they had a greater understanding of patterns and the zeitgeist and began working much earlier towards the goal of becoming president. Any time a person or group of people attempt to make societal changes, they are working magic. The better magic users are the ones who apply solid magical techniques to the process and achieve the results for which they aimed.

Under the Numenist definition of magic, the magic isn’t spectacular, speedy, or special. It’s actually quite ordinary. Look at the recent Presidential campaign and you can’t point to a single “oogity-boogity” act, yet, magic still happened. A collection of people started the presidential race, and through the use of self-control, knowledge, practice, and well-placed words and actions either dropped out of the race or progressed forward until we had a clear winner. But it wasn’t fast, it wasn’t spectacular. It took a lot of research, study, and hard work to make it happen. It took years of dedicated training to reach the point of even being able to run for President. Some people stumble through achieving their goals, and even stumble and bumble along and become President through what appear to be a series of happenstances. This is what we consider uncontrolled magic – the person becomes President but can’t clearly mark how it happened. Successful people who shrug and say they just had good luck are using uncontrolled magic. Most successful people can tell you precisely how they became successful – the things they studied, the techniques they learned or created, the knowledge they acquired to help them achieve their goals, the constant awareness of ksana – the right moment and the ability to bring their training and knowledge to bear in the ksana to make the change. The Obama/McCain Presidential race is going to become one of our better training tools for teaching magic because the techniques and trigger points are very clear.

Real magic works. It works very, very well. Using magic takes a lot of study, practice, and hard work and it never stops. Real magic is available to all of us if we are willing to do the work. Magic is an inherent attribute of Dea Nutrix (God, the gods, the Creator, the generative force, whatever you care to call it or personify it as). Since we believe we are all part of Dea Nutrix (individuated, corporeal beings, but nonetheless part), magic is therefore an inherent part of us and we all use it in the same way we breathe or our heart beats. All we need to do is learn how to use it effectively to become mages.

Now that we’ve defined magic and discussed some of the reasons why we would want to use magic (I’m sure you can find many more reasons than the few we explored here), we can speak of what magic does.

If you followed the Obama/McCain Presidential campaign, you saw a lot of magic in action – and the end result was that one of the candidates became president. Not all of us want to become President of the United States of America, but that’s definitely one use of magic. Other uses are to buy a house, get a job, get healthy, help friends, become successful (whatever your definition of success is), live an abundant life, develop your connections with divinity, create new things, learn new things, meet interesting people, and be happy. Magic is ordinary. Magic is common. Magic is about the small, trivial things and the big awesome things. Magic is everything.

Now. Learning magic is a whole other ballgame. We can muddle through life and occasionally have flashes of awareness of using magic (some call it being “in the zone”), or we can learn some solid techniques that allow us to actually experience and control magic, to set seeds that will grow and ripen into the results we want, to bend that universe to our will to greater or lesser degree, according to our desires, training, and strength.

There is no oogity-boogity stuff about it. I will second Mr. Greer by saying fictional magic systems are just that – fictional. They don’t work in this world, no matter how much we want them to. We aren’t Deryni, or Terukkan, or Gandalf, or Elven, or Fae. We’re humans. And we have our own magic, human magic, that works when we wield it as humans. Personally, I see no reason why we should seek magic from fiction when what we have works so well for us.

I agree with Mr. Greer that mastering the human system of magic is time consuming and sometimes tedious. It involves real, dedicated work. And yes, it does indeed take 8 – 10 years of regular and thoughtful practice to get a good grounding in magic working. It’s not mastery, at 10 years, but it’s certainly a good start. I’ve consciously been working magic for more than 40 years. I’m decent enough at it, but the more I learn, the more there is to learn. It’s a lifetime study and you can always improve.

Numenism requires our co-religionists who wish to become priests or ministers to have a well-rounded education. It doesn’t have to be a formal education, but it does have to be solid. Students must be literate in at least 2 languages (my own students must be literate in at least 2 verbal and one non-verbal language), intimately familiar with the scientific method, deeply and widely read on a variety of topics outside of fiction, familiar with folklore, myths, and fairytales of at least 3 different cultures, knowledgeable about the history of their country and at least 2 other countries, familiar with current affairs, capable of critical thinking, familiar with chemistry, botany, astronomy, mathematics, comparative religion, psychology and symbology, first aid and human biology, occult history, memory enhancement, and applied philosophy (ontology, epistemology, ethics, logic). More is better. All knowledge is worth having and we encourage our co-religionists to learn as much as possible and to think about it and apply what they learn.

Like Mr. Greer (and most other teachers of magical systems) we require our members to keep a journal. The journal is an important tool and anyone who wants to shirk this isn’t really willing to learn magic. We don’t require that it be handwritten, although that is by far the simplest and most reliable method. It can be a spoken record, typed, kept in a word processor, or even tallied in knotted ropes. As long as you are capable of accessing it reliably and studying past entries, what works for you works for us. Me, I still keep a magical journal. I seem to go through 2 or even 3 journals a year. I don’t have any particular type of journal I consistently use. I’ve used Blue Books (those who have attended college know what I mean), spiral bound notebooks, pages stapled together, blank bound books (not my favorite), loose leaf binders, composition books, and even 3×5 index cards, napkins, and paper menus. Recent ones have been transcribed into Word files and saved in several locations online, on disk, and in hard copy. Whatever method works for you is what works.

What isn’t acceptable is trying to keep all of this in your memory. We encourage and teach memory enhancement skills as part of our magical training, and we know from experience that human memory can be faulty until it is well-trained – and even then, it can experience lapses. Injuries can deprive you of your memory, as can illnesses, medications, and misuse of controlled substances. Keep a record, and you’ll have a tool you can use to regain damaged memories and restore your reduced abilities.

Therefore, a magical journal is essential to becoming a trained magic user.

Mr. Greer’s article has a sample one day journal entry. That’s really about as skimpy an entry as you can have and still have an entry that is useful to you. You aren’t going to be graded on the journal; it’s your tool for improving your magical abilities.

Now, you’re probably wondering what those magical abilities are. Forget shooting flames out of your fingertips (unless you develop a micro flameshooter you can strap on – a distinct possibility and really awesome to think about), twitching your nose and having the room right itself, saying a spell and watching the broom sweep your floor, setting Deryni style wards, or walking through Witch World style gates. Those aren’t part of human magic.

What is human magic is the ability to collect information, spot trends and patterns, and then formulate and execute plans for enhancing or disrupting those patterns, thus affecting things and changing the universe. What is human magic is the ability to imagine and extrapolate into the future what will happen – and you don’t need yarrow stalks, Tarot cards, or dice. What is human magic is the ability to shape sounds – through music or words – that can have a profound effect on other humans, animals, plants, and objects. What is human magic is the ability to discern trigger points in patterns of activity – and the complementary ability to use that knowledge to tweak it through words or deeds to make it change, to tilt it in a manner you choose. What is human magic is the ability to create something new that never existed before. What is human is the ability to imagine a 4th or 10th way to accomplish something – and then to do it. What is human magic is the ability to transcend limits, overcome obstacles, and forge new paths to reach desired goals. What is human magic is the ability to adapt, learn, and grow. What is human magic is the ability to record the past and to build on it, taking it further than our ancestors ever thought possible. What is human magic is the ability to empathize with others, to match resonances, and to experience life as another experiences it – whether that other is another human being, an animal, a plant a piece of metal, or a rock. Human magic is awesome.

We have so much magic in us that the flashy fantasy magic is best relegated to the minds of scientists, who will, using human magic, create tools and devices that will give us the flashy stuff.

We who are striving to be mages are beyond mere fictional magic; we are the path makers, the keepers, the creators, the dreamers, the workers. We are humans, wielding human magic skillfully, reliably, and effectively. It takes years of study, of practice, and of hard work to be competent in human magic, but that magic is accessible to all of us.

November 19, 2008

Thoughts

Filed under: Uncategorized — by starsight @ 7:00 pm



Yellow Gerbera Daisy

Originally uploaded by nodigio

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/18/AR2008111803487.html?hpid=moreheadlines

Among the many things we hired Obama to do is to stop his administration from wrongfully labeling lawful citizens as terrorists. Under the Bush Administration, once a person was given a label as “terrorist”, “threat”, “anarchist”, “animal rights activist” or “extremist”, that person and all the people with similar names would be flagged. They would face additional harassment when attempting to travel by air, would be on surveillance lists, and would face extra government discrimination and possibly even job discrimination – and would have no clue why they were being treated that way.

I seriously want these “little lists” eliminated. Gone. Wiped irretrievably from every computer system, removed and burned from every paper back up, microfiche films recycled unrecoverably, and each and every permutation of these lists utterly, utterly gone from police stations, government offices, air ports, sea ports, fire stations, private home computers, and any other place they may be residing.

Should there be a need for these lists, I want them made with stronger regulations on who actually makes the list. The lists should be short. No one should be placed on the list without incontrovertible evidence that they actually are terrorists, not just that they wrote some grade school paper about people shooting one another or were walking their dog in the same park where a protest rally was held. Getting on the list should have about the same odds for the average American as winning a 7 digit lottery.

This wholesale assumption of darkest guilt needs to stop. Eight more weeks of lawful American citizens being treated as terrorists are more than long enough. I hope it will be stopped once Obama assumes office. I hope it will be quick.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/169805
“WASHINGTON) The health insurance industry says it will support a national health care overhaul that requires them to accept all customers regardless of pre-existing medical conditions.
In return, the industry said Wednesday, it wants Congress to require that everyone buy coverage.”
I do not want to live anywhere I cannot opt out of paying for services I don’t use. I pay the liability insurance on vehicles because I don’t currently have the savings to pay in case of an accident, but I have the option to either have a savings/trust for accident coverage or purchase insurance. I’m not forced to have insurance. I do not want to be forced to have health insurance I cannot opt out of. I am paying for health insurance right now, but I can opt out of it by changing jobs. If the insurance industry gets their way, I won’t be able to opt out of health insurance coverage no matter where I work or whether I work or not.

I don’t like that.

October 29, 2008

Education

Filed under: Uncategorized — by starsight @ 7:55 pm



Redistribution of Wealth

Originally uploaded by nodigio

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/28/AR2008102803689.html?hpid=sec-education

¼ of high school students drop out and never complete high school. This says an awful lot about school and how it’s not meeting the needs of the students. It’s not shameful for a student to drop out so much as it’s shameful for a school to have a high drop-out rate. There are many reasons a student would drop out – the school isn’t challenging, it isn’t teaching them what they need to know, it’s wasting their time, they’re frustrated (either by school work or by non-school situations), they don’t feel safe in school, or any of a variety of other reasons.

The NCLB is demanding that high schools track drop-outs the same way they track graduates and transfers, and that they meet higher graduation rates so the majority of their students graduate in 4 years (exceptions are made for ESL and disabled students) – without offering any guidelines on how they can do so.

There are possible punitive actions to be taken against schools that don’t graduate a high percentage of their students, though, such as paying to tutor failing students or replacing principals. I don’t think the schools will suffer as much under these rules as the students, and I believe the drop-out rate may increase.

There are ways to improve graduation rates without punishing the schools or the students. It would mean a radical way of looking at schools and at the needs of the students.

Right now, schools have become fixated on churning out students to push them into colleges. The whole goal of the modern high school seems to be to get as many students as possible into a college, whether that’s the right career track for them or not.

When schools were created, the goal was to educate people – to stretch their minds and to give them tools to improve themselves. The earliest public schools concentrated on teaching students to be good citizens and good fighters (the Spartan schools of ancient Greece, for example). The best education was private, and even there, the students frequently learned only what their parents considered essential for the careers chosen for them. The basic skills were reading, writing, music, some basic math, and, for boys, fighting and swimming. Classes were held at the discretion of the teacher and there was no regulation, yet students learned, and often learned well.

Eventually schooling became public, and only those subjects the government felt essential were taught to everybody: basic reading, writing, and math, music, and fighting. The basic reading material was the Laws of the Twelve Tablets, so students would learn the laws very young. Students who would become tax collectors learned more math, students who would become lawyers learned history and law. The wealthy always had the option to teach their children more and better, and many did – philosophy, languages, mythology, religion, history, oratory, rhetoric, logic, and poetry.

Roman fortunes declined when the education of its citizens declined – widespread poverty, illiteracy, higher taxes, and more foreigners employed in government offices. Education became the province of the wealthy – the church and the nobles.

When America was created, education again flourished for all income levels. It was important that we have educated workers who could think and create, so children were given the solid basics: reading, writing, math. Culture, law, history, and literature were included in the reading and writing skills and not taught separately at first.

Until recently, and by “recently”, I mean the last 50 years, teaching students the essentials (which have remained unchanged for millennia) was the primary goal of public schools: reading, writing, basic math. Now, even though teaching the basics is always trotted out as essential, the methods that successfully taught generations of children was abandoned to try to coax children to learn via “feel good” strategies instead of the benefits a good education would provide. Our schools teach “fuzzy” and “soft “ math and “empowerment” grammar, and it’s so far removed from our daily lives it’s no wonder our students drop out in increasingly higher numbers. Education is no longer relevant to life.

So, I propose that we restore those elements of education that succeeded for centuries and redesign how we implement education, what its goals are and how we can provide an education that is meaningful to our children so they can grow into productive adults – the ultimate goal of education is to be productive, to increase one’s net worth and to gain a higher level of wealth and social prestige.

It’s not elitist to pursue knowledge – education is practical, useful, earthy, and common. It is elitist to make the pursuit of knowledge a difficult act. Right now, education, under the guise of “making it accessible” has instead made it so divorced from reality that knowledge itself has become elitist. That’s what we need to change.

I propose that we scrap the educational system we have now (not the people involved in it because we will still need teachers, although we will no doubt lose those who can’t or won’t adapt) and replace it with something that has relevance in today’s society.

First: Pre School: There’s a reason children weren’t given formal education before the age of 5 or 6 – their minds and bodies are often not ready for structured education. This doesn’t mean they aren’t learning. It means their learning is through observation and emulation – they copy what they see the adults around them doing and mimic it as best they can in their play. When all they see their parents do is leave them all day, come home to watch TV and eat, or to shop and eat out – that’s what they learn being an adult is. They extrapolate that parents shop, eat, and watch TV when they mysteriously disappear each day. Children from birth to about 5 or 6 need to be with people who are doing recognizable work – cooking, baking, laundry, lawn care, weeding, carpentry, sewing, painting, reading, writing, debating one another, training animals, teaching, inventing, and so on. They need either cast-off tools and supplies or scaled down tools and supplies so they can mimic the adults in their play. They can’t internalize what they never experience. These pre-school years are important for children to learn their world around them, and they can’t do that if they are kept isolated from the world, hidden from work and daily life, and tucked into sanitized pre-schools where they learn to fill out worksheets and sit still.

Right now, when adults do take their children places with them, they expect the children to sit still and be quiet or they totally ignore them and the children then get into mischief. It doesn’t work that way. The children need to actively be mimicking the adults – sitting at a table talking when the adults talk, making things, doing things. They need toys that look like adult equipment, and they need time to play with those toys. In ancient days, these toys were carved animals, soldiers, mini-weapons, dolls, and smaller pots and pans. Nowadays, those toys can still be carved animals, blocks, dolls, cars, toy phones, toy laptops (or working ones designed for young hands), and other similar things. They have to see adults using the adult versions so they can mimic on their toy versions.

These young children need to explore and sample as much as possible. That is best done by parents in groups or by appointed caregivers who take the children to various places to see and mimic a wide variety of careers and skills. The worst thing for them is to be isolated away from the daily lives of their families.

Around age 5 or 6 or even 7, they are ready to learn in a more formal way, but only half days are needed for this. Most people learn best in the mornings, so Primary School should be conducted in the mornings – the children learn the basics of reading, writing, and math, and they should also learn music and dance (dance taking the place of fighting). Their reading material should be relevant to their future – for us I think learning the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are essential and they aren’t too young to learn them and to learn about our major Supreme Court decisions, such as Brown v Board of Education, Argersinger v Hamlin, Griswold v Connecticut, or Stone v Graham. They can enact little plays about the Supreme Court decisions and those games may find themselves to be more palatable to parents than children who play cops and robbers for lack of any other game materials. They can also learn history in their reading and writing along with the sociology of other cultures. Math skills can be served by allowing children to grow gardens to learn geometry and calculus and set up markets to sell their produce to learn accounting and cook the produce to learn fractions and quantities. Applied math is the best math to teach children at this age.

Once they’ve mastered the basic skills, they enter the next level of school. Here, they are exposed to a much wider range of knowledge. Under supervision and with guidance from teachers and mentors, the students explore advanced areas of study, new and related areas, and sample a variety of vocational occupations and degree programs. This could be could be considered an apprenticeship to their future. They delve deeper into sciences, math, art, philosophy, history, politics, law, and craftsmanship occupations such as plumbing, business administration, carpentry, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, architecture, journalism, salesmanship, psychology, sociology, and more.

At the end of this level of schooling, students can be tested to see where their aptitude lies – in combination with their personal preferences, these test scores can help them decide the direction they will be taking their lives. They’ll know if they want to be a biologist or a doctor or a paleontologist, or an auto mechanic, or a CEO, or a bridge engineer. This will help them determine if they will attend a college preparatory school or a vo-tech or apprenticeship program. They can change their minds at any time. A student studying to be an auto mechanic may decide they want to become a bridge engineer instead. If they pass the tests, they can switch career tracks. Maybe someone who was planning on being a neurosurgeon decides they love accounting better. This level of schooling is for them to refine their career choices. Once they graduate from here, they either enter the field for which they apprenticed and start earning a living or they enter advanced training for their chosen career. For some, this will be college, for others, specialized schools.

At any time after they graduate, they can always choose another career field or re-enter advanced schooling. We live such long lives now that it’s possible for us to have 2 or even 3 entirely different career fields, so whatever we choose to be as young adults may morph into something different as mature adults, and yet something else as senior adults.

This is merely an overview, of course, but I think we need to tie education back to real life, to help the students connect what happens in the classroom with their futures and their lives. So many students drop out of high school because they don’t see the relevance of it to them. They don’t want to go to college, they want to get on with their lives. And there’s room in America for people to be secretaries as well as CEOs, for the hair stylists and the neurosurgeons, for the artist and the engineer.

We do a disservice to our children to try to force them all into a college track. The pre-school and primary school years are the only schooling years that should be the same all across the nation. The intermediate schooling should be a combination of class and field work so the students get as broad an exposure to different career fields as possible. At the high school level, they start specializing and may even start their careers early if they show aptitude for it. There is no reason to force them to stay in a classroom situation if they’ve already grown beyond it. Let their job performance reviews be their school grades, with their employer standing as their mentor/teacher until the student reaches their adult majority.

I think such an educational course will do much towards reducing school boredom and drop-out rates and make for happier and wealthier citizens. We’ll still have problems. Poverty, ill health, crime, abusive parents, drugs, disasters, and temptations will always be there, but if the students know they have some control early on (starting in intermediate school), some of these problems will recede and others become meaningless. Instead of telling our children they can grow up to be whatever they want to be, we will be showing them how to grow up to be what they are capable of being. From there, they can teach themselves what they want to be.

October 1, 2008

Stand Down, Soldier

Filed under: Uncategorized — by starsight @ 12:51 pm



Iraq Armor

Originally uploaded by nodigio

This is America.

We do not need to have our military deployed on our soil as if we were the enemy.

Today marks the first day since the Civil War that America has a standing army, prepared to engage in acts of war, deployed on American soil for the purpose of quelling civil unrest and crowd control. Oh – and to take the place of our National Guard, who were sent to foreign countries to engage in battle.

This isn’t splashed all over the news and media in 40 foot fonts of outrage.

It makes me wonder – why?

August 30, 2008

Fall Housecleaning

Filed under: Uncategorized — by starsight @ 9:40 pm

I have saved up enough money to do essential house repairs like getting it re-wired and finishing off the plumbing I started 8 years and $4,000.00 ago.

Since I began saving to do these repairs, my children have grown up, left home, come back, left again, and one has returned for, apparently, the long haul.  The other has decided I am a free storage unit and shipping receiver while he’s in Iraq.  And with my Mother dying and me storing all of her former belongings that didn’t sell in the estate sale (or that I wanted to keep), my small 900 sf house is packed.

I made my daughter (whose roosting with me) rent a storage unit so we can haul all of this stuff out of here to give us a chance to clean up the whole house and let the contractors in for the repair work.

Once that’s done, we can judiciously bring all of the things back into the house and put them in some sort of order.

To effect this, first we must haul everything out.  My daughter sleeps until 4:00 p.m. – and no, she doesn’t work at night and is in bed well before 2:00 a.m., so one could reasonably expect her to get up to do housework at some reasonable hour like noon.  But no – she has to sleep 14 hours before she even bestirs herself.  With rain predicted for this evening, how much work do you think we’ll actually get done?

While she slept I:  bought her a laundry basket so all her (presumably clean) clothes can be picked up off the floor of 4 rooms, bought a new trash can, bought a dolly to haul the stuff out with, washed dishes, picked up 3 large contractor sized bags of her trash, fed and walked dogs, did some grocery shopping, mowed front and back, edged the front, read and responded to all my email, wrote 2 chapters on my next book, cooked lunch, organized my spice cabinet, let the dogs out to sun for a while, harvested the tomatoes, squash, peppers, onions, potatoes, lettuces, radishes, spinach, beets, strawberries, raspberries, chives, parsley, dill, sage, rosemary, carrots, peas, and cucumbers, put up the veggies, pickled the cukes, beets, and peppers, ran the anti-virus scan on the computer, ordered the updates for Ubuntu, packed up 10 boxes of books, sorted some of the boxes out in the library, cleaned out my car, and baked a strawberry pie.

She is just now looking for something to wear.

Gahhhh!

August 23, 2008

Woman’s Right to be Childless in Jeopardy

Filed under: Uncategorized — by starsight @ 2:07 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This is the email (and the gist of the letters) I sent in response to: http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2008pres/08/20080821reg.pdf

What’s missing in this regulation?

Oh, right – the patient – who has no choice about what sort of doctor to see for certain types of medical procedures, while doctors have lots of choices about what their medical specialties will be.

The patient doesn’t get to have a choice. For many women, we already have to travel long distances to get to any doctor who can or will perform necessary female medical procedures. In some cases, women have to travel out of state to get to the nearest doctor to help them – and, oh yeah – some states have made it a criminal offense for women to cross state lines for that kind of essential medical care.

Yes, sure, a woman could go to another provider – but only if she can find a doctor in her state that provides the health care she needs. We’re not talking just abortion here. You’ve stretched it to cover sterilization, too, but I bet you only mean only female sterilization. I haven’t seen word one about vasectomies and doctors protesting performing vasectomies. And female sterilization can be stretched to include birth control, because sterilization is the ultimate birth control.

Abortion is a legal medical procedure. We worked really hard to make it legal back in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. OB-GYNs know when they start their training and education for obstetric and gynecological care that they will be performing every health care procedure regarding women’s health – and that includes D&Cs, abortions, sterilizations, birth control, hysterectomies, mastectomies, cesareans, and more. It’s not like they get blind-sided by these procedures after they become OB-GYNs. Pre-med and medical school students know – before they ever specialize in OB-GYN – what’s involved. If it bothers their conscience to perform the requirements of the job, they need to change specialties, not put a patient’s life in jeopardy.

Micheal Leavitt said: ”It is very closely focused on abortion and physician’s conscience” – completely disregarding the conscience and needs of the patient. This regulation is completely contemptuous of a woman’s conscience and her health care needs.

Women have very strong consciences. If we didn’t, a good many of us would walk away from our children when things got tough, really tough. That so few women abandon their children is proof right there, loud and clear, that women have highly developed consciences. When a woman chooses to have an abortion, she’s already given it a great deal of thought – long before she was impregnated by some man, long before she was even capable of being impregnated – and she’ll think about it and ponder the moral and spiritual and ethical issues surrounding it long after she’s past menopause and incapable of childbearing. It consumes us in the most unexpected moments and it’s never far from our thoughts. Anything can trigger it – from a cute little homeless kitten to our best friend’s new baby to our own menstrual cycle.

No woman makes an uninformed choice or a casual choice to abort or keep a baby, or to choose to be sterilized. Her decision hinges on so many factors men can’t even comprehend because they never will be in a position where they have to make that decision. Men may want to make that decision, may assume the right to make that decision, may even think it is their privilege to make that decision, but they will never, ever be in a place where they have to make that decision and live with it for the rest of their lives. Men do not have to bear any of the consequences of their choice.

They may claim they do, but honestly, as long as they can just walk away from a pregnant woman, can kill a pregnant woman just because they don’t want the child she carries (which I personally find more horrific than an abortion), can beat and abuse and neglect a pregnant woman just because they want to, they will never understand why women must be allowed to make this choice – morally, ethically, spiritually, and physically.

When given the choice, most women will choose to birth the child a man impregnated her with.

What it comes down to in this regulation is that men don’t want women to choose to not be mothers.

If that weren’t so, then sterilization wouldn’t even be mentioned here.

There are no provisions in this regulation for assisting women who have been denied essential women’s health care. None. The patient is a complete non-entity here. We are their patients, who have a right to expect safe and expert medical care from the people we pay to provide that care – and as the employer of these doctors, I insist that we receive complete quality care. It’s our conscience, our health, our bodies, our lives you’re playing with here. I protest the anti-woman attitude espoused by forcing women to live without essential health care because it all comes down to this final fact:

This regulation takes away a woman’s right to be childless.

Please, don’t allow this regulation to come into force as written.

The email address is: consciencecomment@hhs.gov – put “Provider Conscience Regulation” in the subject line, if you wish to make a comment. And while you’re at it, email or write your state legislators and anyone else you think can influence this.

August 7, 2008

Living with a Hearing Ear Dog

Filed under: Uncategorized — by starsight @ 6:46 pm



Itzl Telling me the Phone is Ringing

Originally uploaded by nodigio

Hearing dogs are different from other service dogs because they don’t need to be sturdy and large. They won’t be called upon to walk people through crowds and across streets, or to help brace someone unsteady on their feet, or pull wheelchairs. They don’t have to open refrigerators or doors, switch on lights, or retrieve dropped items.

Their temperament, too, is different. Most service dogs have to learn to ignore distractions and sounds that don’t apply to their specific tasks. Sirens, alarms, honking horns, people talking, bells, light sabers, ringing phones – these only matter to most service dogs when their handler tells them to respond to them. These service dogs have to be emotionally stable, steady, and laid back. Alert and intelligent, certainly, but not hyperactive or needy.

Hearing dogs, on the other hand, need to be alert to sounds, even, and perhaps especially, unfamiliar sounds. Their training involves learning to identify sounds and learning how to alert their handler to those sounds. They need to be hyper, and attentive, and even a bit neurotic. They need to be supremely confident, friendly, and slightly aggressive. Some emotional instability is acceptable in them, and so are some psychological problems like separation anxiety and neediness, as long as the handler is seen by the dog as the pack leader and the handler remains in control. Almost any dog breed can be trained to be a hearing dog, but the small dogs seem best – schipperkes, shelties, beagles, corgis, Papillions, Pomeranians, Maltese, yorkies, miniature poodles, and Chihuahuas.

Most service dog trainers prefer to work with bigger dogs, and the most popular breeds for service dogs are labs, golden retrievers, standard poodles, bouvier, spinoni, and German shepherds. These are big, mild-mannered dogs with a high degree of working intelligence. They learn quickly, they are very obedient, and they are able to screen out distractions, being emotionally stable dogs.

Hearing dogs need a high adaptive intelligence, able to extrapolate and solve problems. They need to be alert to all kinds of distractions. The miniature poodle and Papillion are the best hearing dog breeds, followed closely by schipperkes, corgis, Pomeranians, Maltese, and yorkies. These are all breeds that are hyper-alert, and have reputations for being neurotic, yappy, and high strung. Those very qualities are what helps make them such good hearing dogs.

On intelligence scales, poodles and Papillions are very high, needing a maximum of 5 repeats to understand and learn a new command, and obeying it about 95% of the time. Chihuahuas are rated very low, presumably needing 40-80 repeats before learning a new command and then only obeying 30% of the time. They aren’t among the “dumbest” dogs – needing 80 or more repeats of a command and then only obeying about 25% of the time, but they are rated pretty low. Even the “dumbest” dogs can be trained – it just takes a lot more effort and a lot more patience because it takes so long for the payoff. Plus, I’m not too comfortable with whole breeds of dogs being classed as “dumb” when individual dogs within the breed (or entire families of dogs in the breed) are exceptions.

Chihuahuas as a breed may be very low on the intelligence list, but there are individual Chihuahuas that make outstanding hearing dogs because they tend to bond tightly with their handler and are exceedingly eager to obey. Chihuahuas are far more intelligent than many people credit them with being. Their little walnut sized brains can accomplish a lot, given the dedication and patience to train them.

I have a Chihuahua as a hearing dog. Chihuahuas are considered high-strung, nervous, and aggressive yappy little dogs – and this is true of many Chihuahuas. Personally, I think it’s because they aren’t well trained and their special needs aren’t considered. People try to treat them like bigger dogs, and that won’t work. They are high-strung and nervous – and their aggression arises from being afraid. But well-trained and protected, their special needs catered to, a Chihuahua makes an excellent hearing dog.

The good thing about hearing impaired people is that we are usually physically fit, so we can take care of the physical and psychological needs of our hearing dog while our dog provides the hearing assistance we need. Other types of service dogs need to be psychologically stable and in minimal need of pampering.

The qualities to look for in a hearing dog are: hyper-alertness, curiosity, adaptability, friendliness, and being people-oriented rather than dog-oriented. They have to be aware of and alert on sounds. They have to be curious enough to go investigate the sounds. It’s OK if some sounds scare them as long as they then creep out to investigate the sound. Dogs that are terrified of sounds make very bad hearing dogs. Hearing dogs have to be trained pretty much from puppyhood. It’s a rare adult dog that makes a good hearing dog.

The reason for this is that small dogs need to be socialized intensively as puppies, and they need to feel safe in that socialization. They need to be oriented to people and taught from a very young age that all Good Things come from people. They need to learn very young that people will protect them from the scary stuff – and when you’re teeny, everything’s scary. People aren’t very good at training small dogs because they don’t give the little dogs the safety they need. They’re all “aaaww, he’s so cute!” and they want to pet the little dog even when the dog and handler warn them the dog is stressed and needs space. Little dogs have to learn how to deal with people getting in their faces all the time, and trying to pick them up and squeeze them. It’s tough, being small and cute among big, scary, people who won’t respect your space. Big dogs don’t have to worry about their space being violated in the way little dogs do. It’s a completely different set of coping skills little dogs need to learn.

Chihuahuas generally are indifferent to other dogs except Chihuahuas. They are much more people focused and will bond strongly with their owner. Trained right, they aren’t recklessly fearless, but they are bold and curious, which is exactly what a hearing dog needs to be. They are determined to take care of their owner, and if the owner establishes themselves as the pack leader, it makes the Chihuahua calmer and less stressed – which in turn reduces the yappiness and destructive neurotic behaviors. A calm, stress-free Chihuahua learns faster and better. Small dogs need to depend upon their owner to protect them from the scary things, and to remember that they are small and need special accommodations – ramps to give them access to things, elevated car seats in cars so they aren’t tossed around the big seats and can see outside, shade, rest, and water on demand, and small dogs tire quickly. They recover quickly, but they need frequent rest breaks. They need a harness for the leash to hook to because their necks are too fragile for the forces a human can put on a collar alone. In crowds, they need to be elevated so they can see – and protected from trampling feet. They need their owners to pay attention to them because they communicate almost constantly with their owner. Touch is more important to small dogs than big dogs so they need to be touched a lot – sitting in your lap, sitting right beside you so they’re touching you, up in a sling or pouch where they can see your face. Remember, your face is incredibly high above a small dog: it’s as if you were trying to see the face of someone who towered 66 feet above you. Much of your body language is invisible to them unless you reduce it down and place it on a level where they can see it. That’s why it makes sense to train small dogs on raised platforms like table tops, counters, or desks. Once they learn their behavior, you can test them on the floor, but you still have to give them hand signals down where they can see them, which means bending down to their level or lifting them to yours.

Itzl and I have spent three years partnering together as a hearing team. On an intelligence scale, I think he rates up there with Papillions. It usually only takes 5 repeats before he recognizes a new sound; and only a little longer if I don’t have a hearing person with me to help him identify the sound. He has several alerts he uses and knows which one to deploy depending upon his situation.

Loose in the house, he will come get me and headbutt or leap onto me then run to the sound. If I follow him right away, all is well. If I don’t, he gets more insistent and forceful each time he has to alert. Outdoors, he will come to me and point in the general direction of the sound. This is where laser pointers come in handy – I can point it to various things in that direction until he gets a bit excited, and then can guess what sound set him to alert. Usually, it’s someone’s car alarm.

In crowded situations, I wear him on a pouch on my neck. His alerts then are still physical, but subdued. He’ll “chuff” – rapidly inflate and deflate his chest and “point” to the sound he wants me to notice, usually with his ears. Again, a laser pointer is often useful in locating the source of the sound.

At work, he will pace on my desk, getting up, staring at the source of the sound, lying down and chuffing. If I ignore him, he’ll headbutt my cheek, or grab a finger and tug.

If he’s in my lap, he’ll chuff and point.

He alerts on the following sounds: fire alarms, smoke alarms, ambulance sirens, police sirens, fire engine sirens, tornado sirens, lightning sirens, doorbells, the timer on the stove and microwave, car alarms, pagers and cell phones, light sabers, bicycle bells, car horns, and anyone who says my name or his.

He does not respond to “Ma’am”, “hey you”, “you there”, or “yo, lady!” Maybe he thinks it’s rude to address me that way. In any case, he’s stubborn, too, and refuses to learn to alert on those words.

He responds aggressively to dogs who jump on me or who bark (by aggressively, I mean he stares at them and rumbles – just short of a growl), people who shout at me and grab me at the same time, people or animals who make hostile moves towards either of us, and to people who snap their fingers or wear pirate hats. Since he was trained to growl “arrrr” at people in pirate hats, I fully take the blame for that bit of aggression.

He’s not aggressive, but he does rumble around people whose body chemistry is out of balance. It can be as simple as hunger or as complex as a medical condition that’s not fully under control – like seizure disorders, blood pressure, or even sunburns. He’s not discriminatory about it and can’t seem to refine his detecting skills, so he doesn’t get to be a medical alert dog. He will rumble at these people, but will let them pet him without any sign of stress or aggression other than rumbling.

He also “purrs”. He grew up with cats, so when he’s happy, he rumbles. It’s hard to tell the difference between his different rumbles if you don’t know him, but I do know him. He rumbles when he’s unsure of someone (usually a dog), when he meets someone whose body chemistry is out of balance, and when he’s happy.

He’s cautious around other dogs until he knows them, then he gets along fine with them – unless he gets mad at them for bad behavior. He will remember he dislikes a specific dog for years, but he doesn’t apply that dislike to all dogs of the same breed. He’s the same way about people. If a person angers or – worse – offends him, he will dislike that person forever.

There’s a dog near where I work that is a boisterous, yappy, exuberant dog – not mean, but she jumps on people and barks in their faces. Her owner thinks it’s “cute”. She’s a big dog, probably around 50 or 60 pounds, so you always have to brace when she races up to greet you. Itzl detests her intensely because she offends his sense of decorum. He will pull away from her and if she gets too bouncy, will start rumbling and pull as far away as he can. As soon as she settles down, so does he.

As for people, he usually forgives them if they misbehave, but he punishes them first. If they misbehave in my office at work, he will first stare at them with his head down. If they don’t behave right away, he will raise a paw and maybe take a step towards them. If they still ignore him, he will go to the far end of my desk and turn his back on them, occasionally glancing over his shoulder to see if they’ve noticed their punishment. Most of them don’t notice they are being punished right then, but if they return to my office later and don’t apologize, he will get up and go to the far end of my desk and studiously ignore them again. He will keep this up until they apologize. It has to be a verbal apology and has to include the word “sorry” in it.

There’s only one person he detests with a passion, and that person thinks it’s funny. He offended Itzl to the very depths of his little doggie soul by grabbing Itzl and blowing a raspberry right beneath his tail. Up until that moment, Itzl liked him and would be happy to see him. From that moment on, it was “Die, worthless scum!” Itzl only needs to hear him to suddenly transform from a sweet little dog to Cujo Incarnate. Since we only see him once a year at an arts festival, it’s not a big issue. But – when Itzl hears him anywhere on the grounds (and Itzl has big, sensitive ears), he used to leap from my arms or out of his dawgie bag or jerk the leash out of my hands and take off after him – and there would be no obstacle too great to stop him. As soon as he located this poor man, he’d set up a ferocious barking and block him from going anywhere. I have managed to temper his reaction down to a full teeth-showing growl while he stays with me. He no longer runs off and barks at him. In another year or two, I may have him down to a mere indifferent rumble. But I doubt Itzl will ever accept his apology.

As with any living animal, he has his quirks and he has his moments when he flat out doesn’t want to work. He also has sneaky moments when he pretends he did something he was supposed to, and when he doesn’t alert me like he should.

For instance, our city sets off the tornado alarm at noon every day. Itzl stopped alerting me on that siren because he learned nothing ever happens from it. I had to re-teach him to alert on it by paying close attention to the time, having a hearing friend IM me when the siren started, and then giving him the alert command and step down, just as we do when he’s trained to a new sound. But still, if I’m not paying attention to the time, he’ll sometimes skip alerting on that particular siren. He does alert on it when it sounds at any time other than noon, but I’ve recently learned he only alerts on it the first time it goes off in a day, and not subsequent sirens. So, if it sounds for a tornado, and stops, then 5 minutes later, 10 minutes later, an hour later, sounds again, he only alerts on the first siren. With tornado season coming up again, I’ll be able to re-train him on that with a hearing friend.

He isn’t a food–oriented dog. That made training him challenging until I realized he preferred cuddles and praise to food for doing a good job. When he’s feeling insecure, he’ll sometimes alert on a sound that isn’t there, just to get cuddles and praise. Unless someone who hears is with me, I have no way of knowing when he alerts on a real sound or just wants cuddles and praise. I don’t consider this a major issue. If he was a food-oriented dog and was cadging extra treats with false alarms, I’d be much more concerned. I’ve heard of dogs who alert on phone rings and doorbells for extra treats, and the handler is puzzled at the number of prank calls and doorbell ringing.

Sometimes, I think he gives false alerts just because he thinks it’s funny. He’ll alert as if someone called my name, and when I look around for them, I can’t find them. I don’t cuddle or praise him if I can’t find the source of the sound, just give him his step down word (for us, that’s “Thank you, Itzl”). He always looks so smug and I swear he’s laughing at me when he gives a false alert. I think he does it so I’ll turn around and let him look around more. Or if we’re in a lecture or panel, and he gets bored, he’ll give alerts in the hope I will take the hint and go do something more interesting. I neither praise him nor give him the step down word for those. Instead, I give him the command to sit or lie down. He’ll do it, but not happily. Sometimes, I’ll give in and play with him, letting him chew on a small toy or chase my fingers because I know he’s bored and there’s nothing for him to do. In that regard, he’s very like a toddler.

This is where hearing impaired people are disadvantaged in keeping up the training of their dogs, and sometimes in training the dogs at all. If we can’t hear the sound, we can’t easily teach the dog to alert on it, and we can’t tell when the dog gives us a false alert. A hearing family member or friend is very useful in these cases.

He hates noisy venues with a passion. Whenever I have to do something that involves large crowds with lots of noise – like the big New Year’s Eve party downtown, loud parties at conventions or even at friends’ houses, bars, pep rallies, or concerts – he does his best to convince me I don’t want to be there. I usually keep him in his dawgie bag when we’re in large crowds because he is small (7 inches at the shoulder and only 4 pounds) and the people usually aren’t paying attention to what is at their feet. He’s fast, but not fast enough to dodge hundreds of stomping feet. So he stays up high and safe in his dawgie bag. That doesn’t make him like noisy places any better.

I know why he hates the noise – it obstructs his hearing. He takes his job very seriously, and he does not approve of anything that prevents him from carrying out his duties as he thinks it should be done. He’s very anal that way.

When I attend noisy events, he will start by hunkering down in his dawgie bag and tucking his ears in – just to let me know he’s refusing to work. If I stay anyway, he’ll come out and start chuffing – not at any particular noise, just generally chuffing to get my attention to try to make me leave. If I keep staying, he’ll turn around in his dawgie bag and stare at me. The next step is to stand up in his bag, place his paws on my shoulders and block my view with his head – all while staring at me. If that doesn’t work, he’ll start moaning and pawing at his ears. If I stay until I decide to leave (or the event is over), when we leave, he’ll give me the cold shoulder for a couple of days. He’ll do his job, but he wants me to clearly know that he is a superior being, who will work under the most adverse conditions, and will never, ever shirk his duties, because he has pride and honor. He won’t look at me until he forgives me. He’ll sit as far from me as he can. At night, he’ll drag his little bed to the foot of the bed and sleep there instead of at the head of the bed. He won’t sit in my lap, but he will deign to ride in the dawgie bag because that’s his job and he’ll always do his job no matter how hard I make it for him or how wrong I am.

If I apologize to him and cook his meals and hand feed them to him, he will get over it faster. He doesn’t cold shoulder me as long as he used to, not after last year, when he was in the middle of one of his “I don’t love you” moments and I had to leave him overnight while I sat vigil at my mother’s deathbed. Since my mother is allergic to dog dander, I couldn’t bring him with me. Usually, I made arrangements to bring him to the hospital and leave him at the nursing station with a volunteer or a friend, but this one time, it was late at night and no time to make arrangements. Retelling it sounds rather insensitive, but after Mother was declared dead and the essential arrangements had been made, I went back to get Itzl. I’d been gone 18 hours – the longest we’d ever been separated since we were partnered. When I saw him again, he’d completely forgotten he was mad at me and it was months before he tried to snub me again.

The last time he was mad at me was at SoonerCon, when I went to the SinnerCon part of the convention. It was loud in there and not just from the crowd of people. They had the volume cranked up so high the walls trembled and the air vibrated. Since I didn’t stay long, he didn’t get too mad at me and forgave me practically as soon as we were down the hall and away from the noise.

I didn’t go anywhere noisy at Conestoga.

The next potential for “noisy” is FenCon next October because the company picnic is a tame affair and so are the Labor Day events, Founder’s Day, Oktoberfest, and the fall equinox parties. In spite of the oompah bands, Oktoberfest is not noisy, and no more crowded than MedFaire. Being outdoors makes the difference I think, because the sounds have room to expand and he can hear all the sounds without getting echoes and vibrations that disorient him.

Probably the hardest part of having a very small dog as a service dog is people.

People don’t initially believe he’s a service dog. It truly doesn’t matter how many patches and IDs and special tags we put on him, they dismiss him as a pet. As a hearing dog, he wears an orange collar and harness (American Kennel Club now makes them in his size – he wears a 6″ collar). He has a collar tag identifying him as a service dog, a photo ID card identifying him as a hearing dog, assorted vests (not all of them are orange) with patches identifying him as a service or hearing dog, business cards identifying him as a hearing dog (and me as his partner/handler), and his dawgie bags (none of which are currently orange) all bear patches identifying him as a service/hearing dog. That’s still not enough for a surprisingly large number of people. Places that are negative about us entering their premises are rare, and if they refuse access, I usually go someplace else. I’m not big on pushing it because while I’m hearing impaired, I’m not totally deaf. I could get by without Itzl; it’s just that people may perceive me as rude without him there telling me they’re talking to me, and if a siren or alarm were to trigger, I might never know it if I don’t see someone else responding to it. He’s useful and gives me the security to go places by myself.

Even when people do believe he’s a service dog, they violate his space and try to pet him or move in ways he perceives as threatening. He’s been trained not to be aggressive, so he doesn’t bite, snap, or bark (although I might – I’m not near as well trained as he is), but he will yip, duck, and rumble when he feels threatened by people. If I can stop the person from making a threatening move (and moving fast towards him, especially if the hands are above his head, holding something, or come from behind him on the sides, is a threatening move), he will allow them to pet him. Heck, I might even allow them to pet him.

Again, unlike most other types of service dogs, petting or playing with a hearing dog usually doesn’t interfere with their job duties. Itzl will alert even in the midst of being petted and admired. If he’s playing fetch, and hears a sound he needs to alert me about, he’ll stop his play to come tell me I need to hear something. He’ll even wake from a sound sleep to alert me. All he needs to do is keep his ears open and to be able to reach me, and he can do his job. Eating, being petted, playing, even when he’s out peeing, he’ll stop to alert me. Pooping is pretty much the only activity he won’t stop doing to come and alert me, and he’ll still come tell me I need to hear something after he’s done pooping. He’s always on duty, even when he doesn’t look like it.

Several months ago, we had a small scare with his health – his back legs suddenly became paralyzed. Turns out it was just indigestion. He’s so small his gassiness pressed on his spine and numbed his legs. A little bit of Pepcid AC took care of it. But even while he was panicked about not being able to walk, he was still alerting me to the alarms and beeps in the vet’s office. He’s always on duty.

Small dogs are very determined to do the job right, and they are convinced no one else can do it as well as they can. They are very jealous of their duties, too.

See, I don’t have just the one dog. I also have my son’s dogs living with me while he’s deployed to Iraq (and after his deployment while he’s stationed in Germany and however long after that it takes him to get settled somewhere where he can have his dogs back), and the little Chihuahua Itzl rescued from the streets last September. The big dogs out back are not a concern for Itzl, he knows one of them is gunshy and terrified of loud noises. But the little Chihuahua he rescued is picking up on his duties and doing her best to emulate him. She lacks the right temperament to be a hearing dog – crowds stress her out, breaking routine stresses her out, travel stresses her out, and when she gets stressed, she forgets to alert. She’s fine at home. There, she’ll happily alert on the stove timer, the doorbell, the tornado sirens, the smoke alarm, and any strange noises. Take her away from the house, and she freaks. Itzl vies with her to alert me at home. They’ll both come running to me together to alert me on a sound. Sometimes, they’ll alert just on the hint of a possible noise, just so the other one won’t alert me first. They both get cuddles and praise when they do that and apparently they both think I have only a limited number of cuddles and they each want more than their fair share.

Jealous.

But Itzl, because he’s had the training and the socialization and has the right temperament, gets to wear the patches and tags and clothes and have the ID that grants him access to wherever I go so he can do his job.

Itzl and I have been partnered for so long and we bonded so well that my reactions to his alerts are so seamless I can pass for fully hearing. That, too, causes problems with people not believing he’s a service dog. I don’t look handicapped, I don’t act handicapped with him, therefore I’m not handicapped, he’s not a service dog, and we can’t enter the premises. Most of the time, they feel obligated to interrogate me even after seeing his ID. That’s why I buy packets of the ADA laws and regulations about service dogs.

Medical alert dogs, social dogs, minister dogs, class dogs, autism dogs, companion dogs for panic disorder, PTSD, and depression, and hearing dogs all share the same problems – the owner/handler doesn’t look handicapped and the dog may not be a standard breed recognized as a service dog (labs, golden retrievers, german shepherds). Mobility and seeing eye dogs are the ones who are granted access without any hassles at all. The rest of us have to prove our dogs have access. Imagine, if we have problems, just how much harder it is for those who don’t have service dogs, but service animals, like monkeys, macaws, cats, ferrets, miniature horses, goats, or other animals.

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