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Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving Table 2016: Bow Enjoys a Thanksgiving Feast

What is Bow's favorite thing at Thanksgiving? I have been asked. He has not answered this question definitively, but his three favorites are the bubbly red grape juice, the pumpkin pie and the cranberry sauce. All are fairly sweet, and Bow has a sweet tooth.



Bow was happy to have another visit with his grandma, and he settled down to having her here without displaying or making too much noise. He knows her and recognizes that she is part of his family, and he looks forward to Thanksgiving every year.


This year, I made the pumpkin pie and the cranberry sauce. My mother prepared all the other food.


Here is a video of my mother slicing the yams.


The first thing that Bow asked for was the Welch's sparkling red grape juice.


He took his sweet time drinking it, too.


He wanted to enjoy it down to the very last drop. When he requested it, he called it " שתיה", which is just the Hebrew word for "a drink."


The next thing Bow asked for was the pumpkin pie. He called it עוגה. That's just a general word that covers both cake and pie.


You can hear my mother and me talking in the background, while Bow has his pumpkin pie. After that, I offered him a turkey leg, but he said it was "סתם", meaning nothing special. He wanted the cranberry sauce, instead. He called it "אדום", which means "red".


After that, Bow was full, so he asked to go outside. The rest of the family proceeded with our Thanksgiving feast at a more leisurely pace. A good time was had by all.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Animal Husbandry versus Liberty



Bow enjoying oatmeal made with fresh whole milk

Bow is fit and trim, even though he eats a wide variety of foods. He has plenty of access to fruit, including apples, bananas, strawberries and grapes regularly, and occasionally pears, persimmons, pomegranates, avocado, kiwi, guava, locquat and any other exotic fruit we can get our hands on. But he is not exclusively a frugivore. He eats salad with ranch dressing, eggplant fried in oil or bacon fat, raw tomatoes, fried onions, boiled cauliflower and boiled brussels sprouts, and asparagus, baked potatoes and yams, plus other vegetables that occasionally appear on the menu. But Bow is not a vegetarian. He also likes baked chicken, roast beef, pork chops, Big Macs, chicken nuggets and any other meat dish that he can get his hands on. And Bow has milk with his cereal and in his oatmeal and black sesame porridge, as well as whipped cream with his strawberries and sour cream with his baked potatoes. No, he's not lactose intolerant, and he is not a vegan, and he is not kosher; he has a nice appreciation for many different kinds of food, including oriental dishes like hummus and tahini and Chinese pot stickers and rice. Like me, Bow is an omnivore. He enjoys food, and he has routines and rituals, but he is not stuck in a gastronomic rut. He feels free to explore new foods.




And like me and my daughter, Bow is not overweight. He has a well-defined waistline and is built like the cartoon character, Li'l Abner.


Notice Bow's well-defined waistline
What I have noticed is that when they cross-foster, most people end up with great apes whose weight issues are a little like their own. It is usually because we tend to feed our nonhuman apes the same sorts of things that we eat, and also our attitude toward food is similar. It's a cultural issue.


When Sword Met Bow

Cross-fostered chimpanzees get a lot of their attitude and approach to life from the family they grow up  in or the persons who raise them. For instance, a chimpanzee raised Catholic will take on Catholic ritual, crossing himself and praying before meals. A chimpanzee raised by a Buddhist will often display Buddhist attitudes and behaviors, even to the the point of  looking like the Buddha.


This Statue of the Buddha is an Image of Happiness and Contentment
Is it bad to look so happy and content that you no longer have a visible waistline? It depends very much on the culture you come from, how this is regarded. People are too quick to judge.

What if I told you that a certain great ape, deprived of the company of the humans that he loved, has lost a prodigious amount of weight and is now looking healthy and fit? Let's say he had before been so round about the middle that he was beginning to resemble a statue of the Buddha, but now he is fit and trim and his coat is glossy, and he runs around with his fellow apes outdoors, a perfect specimen of natural health and fitness. Is this good or bad? An improvement or an infringement?

It really depends entirely on your point of view.  But to put this in perspective, let me tell you a part of the story of my latest novel, Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy Way.

When the Red Cross sent the Swiss Consul to visit the internees at the Weihsien Internment Camp for Enemy Aliens run by the Japanese in Shandong Province, China, he had similar improvements in the health of the inmates to report.

Excerpt from Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy Way

When people are placed in an internment camp or a sanctuary, good animal husbandry demands that they be given at least the minimal number of calories per day to live on, but not much more. If these people, when they were free, were accustomed to eating a great deal more than was good for them, then the resultant weight loss can lead to improvement in their overall health. In the same way, lack of access to alcohol and drugs can cause an improvement in the health of those of the internees who were addicts before they entered the camp. The camp has the same effect on the overall health of the inmates that a drug rehab center or a spa can have. But that does not mean that the lack of choice imposed on the inmates is brought about by humanitarian means or that it is in any way humane.



Monday, October 31, 2016

Bow's Halloween Costume

When I first adopted Bow, the woman who brought him to me knew I was going to do ape language research, and she was concerned that maybe I was too serious and would miss all the fun moments that come with raising a baby chimpanzee. I assured her that I would be open to the joys of every single moment, and not just the educational ones.

Bow's nails painted for Halloween
By the same token, there are other people who don't take my research seriously and who think that I just wanted to "play with a chimpanzee". When they voice that opinion, they remind me quite a lot of the clucking married old ladies who expressed the same sort of opinion about my having my daughter on my own. "She just wanted a baby," they said, as if wanting a baby were a terrible reason for having a baby, or as if all the other matrons in the world had a much more serious child rearing goal than mine. I did want a baby. But I didn't "just" want a baby. I gave the matter much more serious thought than most parents.

What they were all really saying was: "You can't just go out and do that on your own, You need government approval." You need a certificate of some sort. For the sake of the child. For the sake of the chimp. For the sake of society.

The truth is that you can't be expected to do a good job raising a child, unless you actually want a child. All those serious, duty-bound matrons who will tell you everything they sacrificed for their children sometimes forget to actually enjoy their children, which can make the children feel like unwanted burdens. Whatever errors I have made along the way, I have always let my kids, both human and chimp, know how lucky I feel to have them in my life. I did not make sacrifices for them. I made sacrifices so I could have them, which is a totally different story. I consider them both to be treasures, not burdens.

Sword had her own Halloween party this year. And Bow and I are also celebrating, in our own way. Yesterday, rather than work on a costume, we painted nails together.



Bow loves to groom and be groomed. Painting nails is a kind of grooming. He enjoys the process. He understands how the nail polish is applied. He just has this uncontrollable urge to put things in his mouth. Other than that, his engagement in the process is complete.

This morning, the atmosphere was just right for Halloween.


Bow went outside into the outer pen, and before lying down on the bench rim, he admired his nails.


Then he came in, and we admired his nails some more.


No, Bow does not have a costume this year, because he does not like to wear clothes. But who needs clothes, when you can completely disguise yourself using a blanket?


Engaging in pretend is important to a child's development. Socializing with a chimpanzee is important to his mental health and development, too. But your motive for doing so can't be entirely out of some kind of altruistic self-sacrifice. That would ruin it for the chimp or for the child. That's why there has to be mutual benefit. It has to be good for both of us. We both have to enjoy the interaction.



Cross-fostering works in that way. I am not the only primatologist who practices it. But if you talk to official primatological organizations  --IPS, ASP -- then they will tell you they are against contact between humans and chimpanzees, and they refuse to accept research based on that kind of contact. This year, at the joint IPS/APS conference in Chicago, they boycotted research that involves cross-fostering. This was not directed exclusively at me. Many established researchers were barred from presenting their work. You won't hear about this in the news. But you can read about it here.

We are all being targeted right now, and I am one of the few who are speaking up. Chimpanzees benefit from human interaction. Even in Africa, it's the people who care about chimpanzees who are crucial to chimpanzee survival. Trying to minimize the importance of contact and relationships with humans does not help anyone.



That's a human being in with those adult chimpanzees in the picture from Liberia. The fact that he happens to be black does not change the situation. If those chimps did not have a relationship of trust with this person, their survival would be in jeopardy.

When will the establishment allow you to see that?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Funding for Project Bow


Books for Children by Aya Katz


It's that time of year again. October is almost over.  After Halloween, there is always Thanksgiving. And after Thanksgiving there is Christmas. And after Christmas, taxes come due. First there are the property taxes. and later there is that whole business of the income tax.

Sword and Bow in 2002

People who make their living in sales find this season to be the busiest one of all. Sometimes they put everything else on hold until it is over, because during this season they can make enough money to finance the whole rest of their year.

At Project Bow, we also hope for that kind of income. And no, we are not a "nonprofit". Why not? Because we want to maintain our first amendment rights to speak out against those who would do us harm. If we were a nonprofit, then there would be many things I would not be allowed to talk about.


Campaigning for a presidential candidate, which is something I have done this year, would not be allowed. But there are many other things that I would  not be able to say and do, including lobbying my local and state and Federal representatives not to pass anti-primate legislation. I would not be allowed to speak out against US Fish & Wildlife and their funding of the Jane Goodall Foundation with our tax money. I would be silenced. And for what, a few measly tax dollars? Why should I sell my soul for that? Why should anyone?



Other Books published by Inverted-A Press 

So when you buy books from Inverted-A, books that I wrote and that will help fund Project Bow, or books that I edited and published but did not write, you are not going to get a tax write off for the purchase. I, in turn, will not be able to take in that income,  tax exempt. I will have to pay the IRS for my right of free speech. It isn't right that they should tax free speech, but I would rather pay the tax than give up my first amendment rights.

Because I am willing to pay those taxes now, I can campaign for a presidential candidate whose platform includes doing away with the IRS, so that not only non-profit organizations but every single citizen can have tax free income. To me, that makes the whole thing worthwhile. If you agree, and you would like to make a contribution to Project Bow, please buy books that I have written and/or published as Christmas presents for friends and family on your list. It isn't tax exempt, but it's worth every penny, because what you are buying is freedom.




Books for Adults by Aya Katz

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Typical Behavior of a Male Chimpanzee



What is typical behavior for a male chimpanzee? Is there a particular way they eat muffins that just gives away their jungle heritage?



I baked lemon poppy seed muffins yesterday. Bow licked the bowl, and he enjoyed the muffins very much.


Is he left-handed? you might be asking yourself. Why is he holding that muffin in his left hand? Keep in mind, he's holding the plate in his right hand, to catch any crumbs that may fall. Bow is a civilized chimpanzee.



Occasionally, Bow takes a break from eating and puts the muffin back down on the plate that he continues to hold up with his right hand.



Is this typical chimpanzee muffin-eating behavior or is this just Bow? I have no idea. My experience is limited to Bow. Some people say that this is a reason to disqualify me as an expert. But there are people who have studied many chimpanzees all their lives in the wild and who could not answer this question, either. They may have watched chimpanzees from sunup to sundown and yet have never seen any of them eat a lemon poppy seed muffin off a blue willow china plate. I just might the world's foremost expert on this phenomenon.

Jane Goodall using her expert status to insult male chimpanzees
Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-chimpanzee-behavior_us_57ddb84fe4b04a1497b4e512
Do male chimpanzees use displays and vocalizations to dominate others? Yes, they do. But is it always used against females in a power struggle? Is it always used against high status females who are members of their social group and inside, rather than outside of their territory and/or enclosure? Absolutely not.


In the video embedded above, I am inside the pen with Bow, while Leo is outside the pen. Bow does not display at me. He displays at Leo, the outsider. And even the display against Leo is more playful than it is meant to actually scare the dog. Because Bow and I are on the same side and belong to the same social group, he behaves in a way that is deferential toward me. And Bow does not always act like a typical chimpanzee. Sometimes his behavior is very human-like, as when he walks upright on two feet.



To equate Donald Trump's behavior with what chimpanzee males typically do is to insult male chimpanzees. In my experience, male chimpanzees are much more gentlemanly than that. But I also think that what Jane Goodall is doing in the image that was provided with the Huffington Post article is crudely disrespectful. She is giving a press conference about chimpanzees, with her back turned to the chimpanzees who are right behind her in an enclosure. I would not be surprised if those chimps jumping at the glass actually did want to harm her. She is showing no respect to their territorial rights.

On top of all this, Goodall seems to be endorsing Hillary Clinton when she fails to mention those behaviors that the Democrat engages in which are similar to the behaviors of chimpanzee females who come to power by forming coalitions with powerful males. It is one thing to note that all human beings have much in common with chimpanzees and that we share many typical behaviors, such as eating nicely off plates, when we are given nice plates to eat off of, and trying to scare our competitors or shooing away strangers who are trespassing on our territory. But when a so-called expert uses her expertise to compare one candidate but not another in a political race to a chimpanzee, and she does it in a way that insults chimpanzees, then she is clearly partisan and not a scientist who is just sharing her professional opinion. She is no more a friend to chimpanzees than Hillary is a friend to women.

I don't like Donald Trump. I also don't like Hillary Clinton. I do like chimpanzees. I would never use the fact that there are some undeniable similarities between humans and chimpanzees in a political fight. Comparing male chimpanzees to Donald Trump is an insult to male chimpanzees.

And in case you think Jane Goodall is completely nonpartisan in her remarks, please remember that US Fish & Wildlife is giving her taxpayer money to fund her anti-chimpanzee ventures. I'm guessing she's hoping a Democrat wins.

Screen shot of Jane Goodall on the US Fish and Wildlife Service Page
Our Government is Funding Her!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Displaying Against the Thunder and Clearing the Road


Almost every picture I take of Bow lately comes out dark. We've had a lot of rainy days, though not that much of  a temperature drop. For October, most days have been very warm and almost summer-like. The fall cherry blossoms are about ready to turn into cherries.

Blossoms to Cherries
Clover and daisies and other flowers are so plentiful and fresh that they attract insects.


There are plenty of pollinators still out there.



Both bumblebees and honey bees are out making the rounds.


As the persimmon fruit ripens, anglewing butterflies are drawn to the tree.



I think they like the smell of ripened fruit.



All is calm and peaceful, warm and idyllic, most of the time. But last night, a terrible thunderstorm woke Bow up from his sleep. Not one to give in easily to fear, even as the lightning and the thunder moved ever closer to us, Bow displayed and vocalized at the heavenly aggressor, Never willing to back out of a fight for the protection of his territory, Bow did his best to defend my property from Thor of the thunder, using words, more than deeds. But when my daughter came home from work that night, she had to park her car in the middle of the internal road to my house, because a fallen limb from one of the poplar trees was blocking the way. "You're going to have to move that out of the way tomorrow morning," she told me. As governor of this territory, apparently that's my job.





When I first went out there this morning to assess the damage, I did not think I would be able to move the limb by myself. It looked too big and solid. But when I tried, it turned out to be much easier than it looked. I pushed, and the limb moved aside.



Sometimes we can be lulled into a sense of learned helplessness just by the enormity of the thing that needs to be done. But when we know that there is no one there to help us, and people are counting on us to do the job, then somehow the job does get done.




I still have acquaintances who bring up roads as an excuse for taxation. "Taxation is theft" is always answered with "But who would build the roads?" I could just imagine all those people quipping: ""But without government, who would clear the roads of fallen trees after a thunderstorm?" 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Choice of Mugs and the Issue of Preference



My friend Michelle would like to give Bow a special mug that he can use for those chilly days when hot chocolate is the drink of choice. Michelle has exquisite taste, and she has picked out eleven beautiful images for Bow to look at so as to better understand his personal preferences.  It's not that she can necessarily get him exactly one of these mugs, but if he tells her which one he likes best, or arranges them in order of preference, then she will habe some idea about Bow's general preferences when it comes to teacups and mugs. So the question is which one does Bow prefer and how on earth am I going to get him to express his preference?
Choice Number 1: B for Bow

He could choose mug with the letter "B" for Bow.


Bow might like this cup with a blue bird in stylized rendition.


Or how about this cup and saucer with the words MORE LOVE ?


This one, which is mostly floral, reminds me of our Blue Willow china set.




Or how about this one with the giant blue polka dots? Or the one with two deer covered in flowers?



I decided to make a video and to number the eleven mugs for ease of choice.




I showed the video to Bow, but he was so much more interested in playing on the keyboard of the laptop than in looking at any of the mugs on the screen.



This brings us to the many ways in which attempts to prove what Bow knows have failed so far. It's not that Bow is not smart, and it's not that he isn't interested in using a computer. It's that he's never interested in using the computer in the way that I want him to and for the purpose of answering the question that is being posed.

There are several different, but related issues:

1) Bow may not have a preference as to his choice of mugs.
2) Even if he does have such a preference, he may not see any immediate benefit to him in expressing that preference.
3) He may not see the question or its answer as having a very high priority on his list of things to do.

You would think that being asked about your preferences would be one of the easiest sorts of tests to take, but even the standard question of "what is your favorite color" may be hard for those people who don't actually have a favorite color or are not sufficiently introspective to determine what that color happens to be. The clip embedded below from Monty Python and the Holy Grail illustrates this point.


Preferences are a tricky issue. Those with strong innate preferences find it impossible to understand people with no strong inner preferences or with only socially mediated preferences. Those who seek to manipulate others by means of rewards or punishments find it confusing that not everybody is equally easy to manipulate. Even on penalty of death, not everybody will answer the "favorite color" question correctly. 

 Intelligence tests assume that the test subject will want to do well on the test. Objective test writers sometimes forget that the subject may know more about the question than they do, and hence that their questions about the air speed of unladen swallows are inadequately phrased.  Tests based on rewards for correct answers assume that the subject will do anything for a reward, even read the mind of the test writer to figure out what answer was meant to be correct. Those who are incapable of being bribed to do that are often presumed to be stupid. Sometimes that is true, but it isn't always true.

Of course, maybe Bow just does not know how to operate a computer. Maybe a computer with reward dispensers could guide him through the process step by step, without his being aware of being manipulated into learning, so intent would he be on getting the reward. That's one plan of action. But what if he doesn't want the reward? Wouldn't we actually need to find out what he wants first, in order to properly bribe him? 

If the reward is a beautiful, artistically crafted mug, my guess is that Bow will not be induced to do anything the teaching program prompted him to do. I'm thinking that maybe his choice of a mug depends almost entirely on what's in the mug, and almost not at all on how the mug looks. But this does not mean that he will do anything, if only the reward is food. 

Bow is a complicated, intelligent being. He may not be an aesthete, but that does not mean he does not have standards of conduct for himself and for others. He may not share with me every preference he has, but it does not mean that he hasn't got any. They just may not be along lines that would make him an easy target for manipulation.

Here is a snippet of  conversation I overheard recently: "They tell you that high school will be hard. That the work will be hard. But it's not the work that is hard. What they don't tell you is that it will be hard to care how well you do. It's just so hard to care..."

Bow cares about a lot of things. But it would be very difficult to tease apart those things that he cares about that would make him want to do well on a test.