Search This Blog

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bow's New Hammock

Bow received many gifts this Chistmas: from his uncle, a basket full of fruit, including pineapple, tangerines, oranges, mango, kiwi, apples and pears. From his grandmother, he got a share of the assorted chocolates that she sent for us all. From Lawrence, he got a sturdy army shirt. It's all in camouflage and says U.S. Army on it. However, Bow has declined to wear the shirt, preferring to use it more like a blanket to lie on, or a flag to wave during aggressive displays. From me, he got a glitter ball, a new green blanket and a Grand Trunk hammock.

The hammock was intended to replace Bow's old teddy bear on which he goes to sleep every night. Bow is nine years old now and will soon turn ten, so even though the teddy bear is gigantic, it's getting a little small to serve as a mattress. I wanted to replace it with a reasonably priced hammock. The idea is not that Bow can have unlimited access to the hammock, because then he would surely trash it in short order. But at night, when Bow gets very tired, he will not destroy the bear and the blanket I give him to sleep on. That much self control he has, and no more. In the same way, the hammock is something he can have at night unsupervised, but which requires close supervision during the day.

It's very easy to put up the hammock, provided you have something on which to hang the hooks. The first time I put it up though, one side was not secure, and Bow fell to the floor when he attempted to get on. After that, even though I did a better job of securing it, he was very wary. I even showed him that I could lie in the hammock and nothing bad happened, but still he did not trust it to bear his weight.

The first few nights after the 25th, I would put up the hammock in the evening, and I would find Bow sleeping on his green blanket on the floor the next morning. But today we've had a breakthrough. Here is a rather blurry picture of Bow in the hammock early this morning:

It was too dark to get a really good shot, so later on this afternoon I let him have the hammock under supervision, so I could take better pictures.

Of course, when Bow is wide awake and active, he doesn't lie in the hammock, all still and snug. He uses it more as a swing.

Bow is very happy with all his Christmas presents, and he seems ready to face the new year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rooster Attack

This morning Sword came to the pen to ask for some help with one of the chickens, who had somehow gotten herself entangled in a wire. I left Bow to go help, but because I am always concerned that Bow will get into trouble if left alone, I hurried to the chicken coop to try to get the hen freed and did not take all the precautions I should have. I put on the big wading boots, went into the muddy chicken enclosure, closed the door behind me and then hurried into the hen house and knelt by the hen who had managed to get herself shackled by one leg. I was trying to untwist the wire around her "ankle" when suddenly, without warning, something flew at me and I felt myself attacked, scraped, scratched and pecked. I didn't even see my assailant. But no sooner had the attack started, than it stopped, and I found myself with a chicken hanging from my neck like an albatross.

Confused, I went out of the chicken house, and I loosened the chicken which was hanging by one leg from the keychain around my neck. I set it down, thinking maybe it was the hen who had been trapped earlier, and believing that I had freed it.

It wasn't the hen. It was the rooster, who had attacked me, but as soon as he got himself tangled in the keys hanging from my neck, became completely calm and peaceful. When I set him down safely in the yard, he was satisfied and felt no further need to peck me. I went into the house to tend to my wounds, and it was eventually Sword who freed the trapped hen.

I now have a deep scratch on my face and several bloody wounds on my left arm. After I washed and disinfected the wounds, I went back into the pens with Bow. He had not made a mess, and he waited for me before he eventually used the potty. When I brought out my wad of Kleenex to wipe him, he took a tissue in his hand and gently wiped at the bloody wounds on my arm, instead.

Later he spelled: "That was not Bow." I just hope that nobody who sees me like this will think Bow did this to me. Roosters are a lot more dangerous than chimps!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Raindrops and Brown Paper Packages: Bow's not so favorite things

Someone recently asked me what Bow and Lawrence talk about. They talk about whatever comes up. Yesterday, as Lawrence was coming back from lunch, a brown package was delivered by UPS to our doorstep. It was heavy, like a book. Lawrence brought it in and placed it on the coffee table in the living room as he was coming in to take my place with Bow in the pens.

I opened the package. It wasn't something I had ordered, as I always have things delivered to my PO Box. On the inside, it wasn't wrapped like a Christmas present, and there was no indication of who had sent it. It was a book entitled A Foreign Policy of Freedom, and it was by Ron Paul. Some anonymous donor had sent it to me. Maybe it had something to do with my recent post on PubWages.

Around three-thirty, when I was placing the chicken in the oven for dinner, Lawrence popped out from the pens for a moment. "Bow says he wants an apple," he said to me in passing.

"Well, there are plenty of apples," I replied, gesturing in the direction of the dining room table.

Lawrence selected a couple of apples and was going to return to the pens. But he remembered something, so he turned back to me and said: "Oh, and Bow also wanted to know what was in the package."

I smiled. "Tell Bow it was a book by Ron Paul."

"A book by Ron Paul," Lawrence repeated, trying to make sure he wouldn't forget before he got back  to Bow with the apples.

Apparently Bow did not have much to say about the book after that. Lawrence thinks Bow was probably hoping the package was a present for him. Later in the day, Bow became very agitated, and when Lawrence asked him why, he spelled: "I don't like rain." It was not raining at the time. About an hour later, it started to rain. It was quite a downpour, while it lasted.

Today, when I took Bow outside to the outer pen, he was very careful not to step into any of the puddles.  He really does not like rain.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Too Bad The Elephant is Dead

Bow has been enjoying the toy elephant that my mother brought him during her Thanksgiving visit. He chews on it quietly for hours. Little by little it has been dismembered, losing first its tusks, then the trunk, followed by an ear, a part of a leg, and most recently the entire head.

During the past week, Bow would hand me the elephant and suggest with body language that I chase him, holding the elephant in my hand and trying to tag Bow. At first he didn't have a name for it, but then sometime last week he came up with this request: "תפילי אותי" It sounded as if he wanted me to make him fall, from the root נפל.

"You want me to make you fall?" I asked.

He handed me the elephant and repeated the request. Then I understood that he was interpreting the root of the word as פיל, meaning "elephant", and he was actually saying something more like: "Elephant me!" At that time the elephant still had its head, or most of it, and so I started to chase Bow around the pen, touching him with the elephant's broken trunk edge.

Yesterday, when the head came off completely, revealing that the elephant is hollow on the inside, at one point Bow took my hand and spelled: "חבל שהפיל מת" That means "Too bad that the elephant died."

I looked at him. Did he feel no responsibility in this matter? "Well, Bow, why did you kill it?" I asked.

He looked sad. "Bow is bad," he spelled. He managed to look saddened, but unrepentant.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What Bow and I do to earn

The new John Wheatcroft novel, The Portrait of a Lover, is now published and available on Amazon. Who published it? Inverted-A Press. And who is Inverted-A Press? Here's a picture of the staff.
It's not every book that is chimpanzee tested, but here at Inverted-A , we can guarantee it! At least, prior to publication every book has to pass Bow's quality assurance test!
We are hoping to sell a few books in time for Christmas, to pay for our daily bread -- or rather bananas, apples and grapes. No, we don't have federal funding. No, we are not a non-profit. We are not in on any of the usual rackets, and we hope to make some money without taking it away by force from anybody else.

Am I serious about my research with Bow? Yes. Am I serious about my commitment to him? Yes. But do I think that Bow and I have a higher priority than anybody else? No. We don't rate a special tax status, and we don't come before other people. That said, we could certainly use some money.

If you would like to make a contribution to Project Bow this year, you might consider visiting our estore and making a purchase or two. It could be a book you buy for yourself, or one you are buying for a friend. We have books about primatology and about philosophy; we have children's books and literary fiction.

If you buy a book I wrote, then we gain most. If you buy a book I published but did not write, we profit a little less. If you choose a book that we are merely selling, we still get something out of the deal.

Someday, I plan to write a history of Project Bow and what I learned from it. That day has not yet come. In the meanwhile, if you want to get to know us better, you can read between the lines of the books we like to read.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Gift of a Glove

My mother is spending a week with us, so we can celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday together. Bow and my mother have a special relationship, one that has grown over the years. When I first started Project Bow, my mother was not thrilled about it, but as Bow has  matured, while he's alienated a lot of people, surprisingly he has won my mother over.

My mother spoke to us over the phone before her visit this year, and she told Bow she was going to bring him a present when she came. Sure, enough, on the first day of the visit, my mother announced that she had a gift for Bow. At first, Bow did not seem interested, but after a while he took my hand and spelled out, rather primly, that he would like to see the present after all.

My mother brought out a little plastic elephant, and eventually, I passed it along to Bow. He accepted the gift, put it aside, and then proceeded to interact with my mother. In time, he played with the elephant, although the playing mostly consisted of mouthing it. Every once in a while the elephant lost part of its anatomy: the tip of its tail, then each of its tusks, then some part of a foot.

Did Bow enjoy the present? Yes, but he seemed to enjoy more the fact that my mother had given it to him. That was on Tuesday.

The next day at breakfast, my mother had two other gifts for Bow. One was a small piece of chocolate. (She had shared the same kind of chocolate with me and Sword the night before, after Bow went to bed.) The second gift was a small metallic packet of peanuts that she got on the airplane on the way here. Bow had trouble opening the packet, but he appreciated the peanuts very much. He actually went out of his way to say "Thank you, Grandma."

This morning, Thanksgiving Day, my mother came into the pens for breakfast carrying a small cardboard box, and Bow kept looking at it all during breakfast. Finally, after the meal was over, he motioned that he had something to say, then took my hand and spelled: "Why doesn't Grandma give Bow the present?"

My mother had no idea what he was talking about. "What present?" Then we realized that Bow probably thought the package she had carried in with her this morning was a present for him. My mother hastened to explain: "No, Bow this isn't a present. These are just some things I need to help me prepare the turkey."

Bow was reluctant to accept this explanation, but he eventually let the subject go.

All morning long, my mother worked on the Thanksgiving Feast in the kitchen, and Bow was very impatient. (My main culinary contribution of the day was the boiled eggs I prepared in advance to help tide us over.)

When my mother announced that the meal was ready and I started carrying the food in, Bow emitted lots of excited food cries. Nobody appreciates food as much as Bow.

After the meal, when Sword had already left to do her own thing, my mother and I stayed and talked about how tender the turkey had been this year, and my mother, picking up the oven mitt that was lying on the table, said: "This is a really good oven mitt. I would buy one for myself, but I seldom cook anymore."  (It was an oven mitt she had given me a few years back, an 'Ove' Glove. ) And then we talked about a lot of other things, family memories, previous meals, while Bow chewed his cud happily.

After about an hour of this, Bow motioned for me to come in with him, because he had something to say. He took my hand and spelled: "Give Grandma a present."

This surprised me. "You think I should give Grandma a present?"


"What should I give her?"

He spelled in Hebrew:   ".תני לה דוקא כפפה"

The word davka is one that is hard to translate. Bow had said: "Give her davka a glove." Now roughly translated, that means: "It's exactly a glove that you should give her!" or "Of all the things you should give her, a glove is the one." Or "In fact, it's a glove you should give her." There's no such word as davka in English, but that's what it means.

My mother and I exchanged glances. "I think he means the oven mitt, " I said. I pointed at the mitt and asked: "Is this the glove I should give her?"

"Yes," Bow spelled.

I went over to the other side and presented my mother with the glove. "Bow would like you to have this as a present."

"Thank you, Bow," my mother said. "That's so thoughtful of you!"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bow's Isolationism

Yesterday was a busy day. Because I have been experiencing a persistent cough that seems to be more to do with the unusual humidity of this fall weather than with the cold I have long since overcome, I decided to start the morning off with a foray into the world of culinary delights from the mysterious East. Bow and I prepared Ginger Garlic Eggs together and enjoyed the results. Here's the video:

The rest of the day, until about three o'clock, I worked on revising The Portrait of a Lover to meet the author's specifications which he'd made in the notes on the proof. Bow was pretty happy all this time, and he allowed me to work with minimal distraction. 

I did, of course, have to attend to his needs every time he used the potty, and this occasioned interruptions at about thirty minute intervals. But all in all, this was an idyllic situation of two family members coexisting in the same space and each doing their own thing.

As long as he has me all to himself, and he feels I have paid enough attention to him, Bow can be quite pleasant. But when someone else steps into the picture, group dynamics come into effect, and Bow wants to make sure that everybody has a relationship with him, but no two people can relate to each other without placing Bow at the center of the universe. This can have an isolating effect, not just on me, but on Bow himself.

Lawrence was not able to stay on Monday for more than two hours, because he had a project that he was working on and had to finish. So yesterday, on Tuesday, Lawrence came in for an additional two hours, starting at three o'clock. Bow loves Lawrence, and he was happy to see him. He regards Lawrence's time here as only for him, and he gets very upset if I talk to Lawrence beyond a perfunctory hello.

I was in a big hurry, because I was going to pick Sword up from school so that we could go shopping for school clothes at Wal*Mart. (Normally, Sword rides the bus home.) I was on my way out, when Lawrence intercepted me in the kitchen. "Bow says he wants a green apple," he told me. "If he can't have a green apple, he'd like a red apple. But he prefers green. Do you happen to have any green apples?"

"Yes, I do. " The red apples were on the dining room table in a big bowl, but the green apples were hidden  in the refrigerator. I reached into the fruit bin in the refrigerator and handed Lawrence a green apple for Bow. "Thanks," he said, and that was the extent of our conversation. I then rushed off to pick up Sword, since it was almost three-thirty.

When I got back from shopping with Sword, I noticed there was a green apple on the dining room table among all the red apples. So I stopped by the pens to ask Lawrence: "Didn't Bow want the green apple?"

Lawrence shook his head wryly. "He got in trouble. He didn't get the apple. When I got back to give him the apple, he had already dripped on the floor."

"Oh." Bow pees on the floor to express displeasure. We can't seem to wean him of that, no matter how old he gets. But we never give up, either. Dripping on the floor means getting punished.

"Did he tell you why?"

Lawrence smiled. "Oh, yeah. He acted all huffy after I punished him, and it was like I was the one who had done something wrong, so I sat it out while he threw a fit. But eventually he told me: 'Because you stopped to talk.'"

Bow doesn't want Lawrence to talk to me on Bow's time. Even if all we talked about was what kind of apple Bow wanted and how to get it to him, Bow was willing to risk not getting that apple in order to punish us for daring to talk to each other!

Lawrence added: "I told him that was not going to work. He doesn't get to decide that I can't talk to you. He's just going to have to get over that."

Lawrence is right, of course. But in many ways, Bow is winning that battle. When I have a deadline and a job to get done, it's very important for me to have things running smoothly with Bow. If nobody comes by, he and I manage just fine together. But if anyone, even Sword, just pops in to say something, things can get very ugly, and no matter how much Bow ends up losing out on as a result of misbehavior, my work suffers, too.

Guests sense this. They see how nervous I get when they talk to me and not Bow. So they don't come. If they do come, they don't stay long. I haven't figured out a way to combat this insidious policy of Bow's. I can't walk out on him. He can't walk out on me. And there's the devil to pay if anybody else drops in.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bow's Typical Day

The days have been getting shorter. Especially in the pens, it always seems a little dark and gloomy, even with lots of lights on, and even on a day that is not all that cold outside.

We have been going through each day as it comes along, with nothing new or earth shattering to report. We have our usual happy contented moments and also the inevitable drama that Bow demands in order to feel that he is living a full life.

Today we finally received the corrected proof of John Wheatcroft's The Portrait of a Lover. It's a book that I am publishing under the Inverted-A imprint, and it is set for publication in December.

Bow gave the book a once over. Then we went outside. He teased the dogs. He got tired of teasing the dogs, but Teyman was not tired of growling at him, so he teased the dogs some more. Then we had hot chocolate.

It's nothing unusual, but in case you want to see, I made a short video of some of these experiences.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Rest of the Snake Tale

Yesterday I posted prematurely, before all the facts were in. Normally, I don't do any writing on a Monday, because that is my day to be up and about when Lawrence sits with Bow. I have plenty of time to write and edit all during the week, so it would be a waste to spend the few hours I have away from the pens writing. But when Lawrence related the story of the black rat snake to me, and Bow was happy and content, lying around chewing his cud after lunch, I thought I had a few moments to jot down what had happened before Lawrence came back to relieve me after lunch. I was just re-reading my post one more time for typos, when Lawrence came back.

By this time, Teyman, our little rat terrier mix, was yapping away in the yard, and I suspected that she might have finally noticed the snake. Teyman is a hunter. I have seen her kill squirrels and unearth moles, and she is definitely a snake killer. The rat snake had been left unmolested on the other side of the fence, so it was possible that it had made his way into the yard, and now a fierce battle between dog and snake was raging.

I got ready to leave the pens, as Lawrence was back in charge, and Bow, hearing Teyman all excited in the yard, stirred himself from the corner of the pen where he had been lazing, took Lawrence's hand and spelled: "I want to go outside."

Lawrence decided to take this opportunity to pressure Bow into telling him how he had known about the snake. (Bow had refused to say before, but now he needed Lawrence's help to go outside, so Lawrence was using this leverage to get him to talk.) "Okay, Bow, you can go outside, but first, I want you to tell me how you knew there was a snake."

Bow, anxious to get out and see whether Teyman had caught anything, complied. "I saw," he spelled.

"You saw?" Lawrence asked, sounding kind of dubious. Could Bow see through a solid fence? But since no further explanation was forthcoming, he said: "Okay, Bow, let's go outside then."

Bow and Lawrence made their way to the outer pen, and I went through the garage to the backyard, to see what Teyman was up to. There was much excitement among the dogs, and Teyman did have something in her mouth.

"Did she catch the snake?" I asked.

"She caught a snake," Lawrence replied.

I moved in closer, and Teyman, proud of her kill, dropped it at my feet. But no sooner had she done so than Brownie, our chocolate Lab, picked it up again in his mouth, shaking it a few times for good measure, then throwing it up in the air and inviting me to play fetch with it.

The snake was not a big, black rat snake. It wasn't anything at all like the snake Lawrence had reported seeing on the other side of the fence. It was brown and striped and much smaller. Here is a picture.
The snake Teyman killed
Later in the day, Lawrence asked Bow: "Which snake did you see, Bow? The black snake or the brown?"

Bow answered: "Brown."

Now, we don't necessarily have to take Bow's word on it. He has been known to lie. But it does make sense that he saw a snake in the yard, and not on the side of a solid fence.

In real life, sometimes there is more than one snake. Especially during snake season!

Monday, October 10, 2011

What Bow Knows

Today, when I came back from shopping for groceries, Lawrence told me of something that happened while I was away. At one point, sometime between eleven and noon, Bow became very agitated. He kept gesturing toward the southern stretch of backyard fence, and he yelled at Lawrence, as if trying to vocally tell him that something was wrong. He did the same to the dogs. "It was kind of like he was telling the dogs to go out and do something about it, that there was someone or something beyond the fence."

The dogs did not seem aware of anything. They barked back at Bow, interpreting Bow's vocalizations as acts of aggression against them. Bow kept trying to get Lawrence's attention.

Finally, Lawrence asked Bow: "Do you want me to go out there and see who it is?"

Bow said "Yes."

Lawrence went out through the front door and explored the side yard to see what he could see. There didn't seem to be anyone out there, but on his way back he almost stumbled over a big, black rat snake that was lying in his path.

Bow hates snakes. He has always disliked snakes, ever since he was little. This is not something he learned from me, because I'm pretty tolerant toward snakes, compared to most people. But every time Bow sees a snake he gets very upset, and he once lifted an entire bench off the ground and threw it in the direction of a snake that was just outside his outer pens.

Lawrence didn't do anything to the rat snake, as we need the snake's help to get rid of rodents. Rat snakes are not poisonous. There was no reason to be upset that there was a snake near our house. Bow, however, seemed very upset.  But when Lawrence came back in, Bow was calm and happy. Maybe all he needed was for Lawrence to acknowledge that there was indeed a snake out there.

The question is: how did Bow know? The fence is very high, and it's made of wood, and it would be very hard to spot the snake through the tiny cracks between the wood slats. Snakes don't make much noise, so it seems unlikely that Bow heard the snake. And Bow's not telling. He doesn't want to talk about the snake anymore.

Did Bow know there was a snake out there? If he didn't know, what was he so agitated about? If he did know, how did he know? And why won't he tell us?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Drinking Water

Yesterday Bow did not feel well. He suddenly took ill with some kind of stomach virus and refused all food. He accepted water, but promptly threw it up. He spent most of the day sleeping on a big thick quilt, and he didn't even get up to look at guests.

Today Bow is feeling much better. He ate all his breakfast and lunch, made a tear in the quilt and is up to his usual antics. And he's drinking plenty of water to make up for what he lost.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Meditation on Violence

People are really uncomfortable with the subject of violence, to the point where it is almost taboo to point out to them that violence is normal and natural, serves a useful function, and resides in each of us, ready to be put into effect if and when the need arises. When it comes to chimpanzees, people's attitude toward violence colors their view of the species.  I have encountered the following groupings:

1. People who like chimpanzees and therefore think they are non-violent.

2. People who don't like chimpanzees because they know they are violent.

3. People who like chimpanzees and know they are violent, but think that's okay because they are wild animals, and there is a special dispensation for wild animals to be violent.

What I haven't met too many of are people like me, who like chimpanzees, know that violence is a part of their behavioral repertoire and think that's okay. It's also part of my behavioral repertoire and yours and of most human beings.

I've had people tell me that they know that violence in wild chimpanzees has been documented, but they believe that it's only the encroachment of man that drove them to it, and by nature chimpanzees have no violent tendencies. These people belong to group one, and they subscribe to the noble savage view of chimpanzees. They probably think that about aboriginal human beings, too.

I've had people tell me that chimpanzees are dangerous because they kill and maim, and so they should be kept far, far away from us. Some of those people belong to group two and some belong to group three, because those two groups have a lot in common. Let's face it: saying you like chimpanzees but you want them to be kept separate from humans at all times is a lot like saying that you like Finns as long as they stay in Finland among their own kind and far, far away from you.

Do chimpanzees kill and maim? Definitely, but so do humans.

And what about Bow? He can be violent and he can be sweet, and it varies. Sweetness is met with sweetness, and to the extent that the violence cannot be met with violence, it is met with a retreat.
I recognize that I cannot match Bow blow for blow, so I excercise caution and discretion, but it's not because I think it would be bad to do otherwise. I just have to be realistic about my own personal resources.

Recently, in a discussion of violence in the schools, someone said to me that violence in children is always a result of bad parenting. I had to bite my tongue not to give them my full opinion about this. Can violent behavior be one of the results of bad parenting? Sure. But it need not be. That would be like saying that Bow's dominance displays are entirely due to the way he was brought up. I can assure you he never saw a dominance display once the whole time he was growing up. He didn't learn it from me, and he's not doing it because he's bad or because I'm bad. He's doing it because it comes naturally.

I think it comes naturally to a lot of human adolescents, too. Not everyone is equally aggressive, and not everyone uses it to hurt others. Violence, after all, can be channeled into good uses: gangs of teens roaming the streets preserving the law instead of breaking it. But if we tell the young that it's violence that is wrong, instead of unfairness towards others, then we will leave those with aggressive instincts with only one choice: illicit violence.

So what about Bow? Well, just to reassure you that everything is fine, here is a video from today.

As a parent, of course, I don't want my children engaging in violent acts against innocent people. But at the same time, trying to place a complete moratorium on displays of aggression isn't any different from trying to eliminate all displays of affection. Affection and aggression are both natural and necessary. So the issue that I grapple with on a daily basis now is how to allow Bow an appropriate outlet for his more aggressive tendencies. This is probably what many other parents of adolescents are also grappling with.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Video Call With Grandma

Bow is nine and a half years old, and as the year progresses and he comes ever closer to his tenth birthday, his dominance displays are becoming more frequent. Are they a voluntary behavior or a reflex over which he has no control? The answer seems to be something in between. Sometimes he starts down the familiar path, gets rocking back and forth with bristling hairs all standing on end, swaggers around a little, and we wait for the entire thing to go all the way to its climax, but it doesn't. He stops short of hurling himself against the glass or making the characteristic cry that ends the whole thing. We have gotten so used to this pattern repeating itself over and over again, that when it doesn't finish the usual way, we wonder why. Sometimes, we can divert him with a question, a suggestion or an invitation. At other times, the impulse seems to be implacable, and we have to wait until it reaches the natural conclusion.

One time last week, right during dinner, between courses, Bow started to make a few overtures, a little menacing swagger, the hair on end, the back and forth motion, a few initial cries, and then nothing much. "What's taking him so long?" Sword asked. "I wish he would just go ahead and get it over with."

"I think it just petered out," I answered, as even Bow looked confused. "You know how sometimes you think you have to sneeze, and you get all ready to sneeze, and then nothing happens?"

"Oh, yeah."

There are things that trigger it, and other things that can divert him from a full blown dominance display. Strangers in the house, or even just on Skype, bring it on almost invariably. Having a familiar companion who is paying all her attention to him tends to dissipate it.

Today, Bow had a video call with my mother. To him, she is Grandma or סבתא. He has known her all his life. We have never lived in the same house, but she did occasionally change his diaper or bottle feed him in early babyhood, and he hears all our conversations on the phone. She comes to visit every year. She is no stranger. And Bow responds to her differently from the way he would to someone he does not know.

This is not to say that during the call he did not drift into a few dominance display overtures. But it was easy to steer him right back to social, communicative behavior. How did we manage that? "Bow do you want me to turn it off?" Threatened with a lost chance to see Grandma, Bow immediately settled down. A second time: "Bow, do you want Grandma not to come for Thanksgiving?" He calms down at once. And, of course, the third time was when I announced it was time to say goodbye.

Are there triggers in the conversation for the unwanted displays? I think that there are, but it's too small a sampling to be sure. Bow kept pointing at the letters "gimmel" and "c" every so often during the conversation. It's hard to say what he was getting at, but when I saw that he pointed to the "c" and failed to see that he also pointed at the "gimmel", that's when Bow began his first display. He might have been angry about the oversight. Another display followed immediately upon my mother's request that Bow point at the letter "aleph". Bow hates being told what to do.

This is not to suggest that the displays can be avoided altogether. They can be put off, but they will surface no matter what eventually. So it's not anyone's fault.

Watch the video embedded below. See what cooperative and friendly exchanges between Bow and my mother you can identify. See how the displays surface and subside. If you speak Hebrew, you can follow the conversation, but if you don't there's still plenty to notice.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Common Misconceptions about Bow, about Project Bow, about Chimpanzees and about Humans

There are different kinds of people who are interested in Project Bow and in Bow himself. There are those who are drawn in by my scientific claims, but aren't particularly interested in chimpanzees, in psychology, in relationships between and among individuals -- or in people for that matter. They just want to know: can you prove it? By prove it they mean: show that he is writing independently, without confounding factors, without any possibility that Clever Hans is involved, without the slightest doubt from any of the most uninitiated observers that it is all coming from him. The answer is: no, I can't. Then admit it, they say, you have failed! Okay, fine, I've failed.

But they don't stop there. They want to know what I would do differently if I had to do it over again. Would I be more careful to condition Bow not to use our hands? Would I demand that he do everything by himself? Would I refuse to give him food unless he touched the correct lexigram? Would I be really tough about it? Would I resort to behavioral conditioning? The answer is: no. I wanted to know whether Bow could pick up language spontaneously in context. If I had done those things, he would not have. We wouldn't have had a relationship. Any language he learned would have been learned by rote. Any linguistic task he performed would have been a chore done for a reward.So, no, I do not regret taking the path that I took.

Other people, even very friendly people, are oblivious to the fact that he can use language. They just want to know "Is he friendly? What is your routine like? What does he like to eat or to play?" I appreciate their interest, but it makes me wonder if they have been deprived of chimpanzee companionship so much, that just the very fact that he is a chimpanzee fascinates them more than anything else about him. Everybody needs more contact with chimpanzees. I don't blame them for being curious, but I think that because chimpanzees are so embattled in this world, nobody can see them with a clear eye for who they really are.

Chimpanzees are not cute and cuddly more human versions of dogs. They do not obey orders. They don't care if you disapprove of something they do. They will push you around, just to see what you do. They are very interested in who is stronger. They have a morality of tit-for-tat, and they do not turn the other cheek.

Bow is nine and a half years old. He is going through puberty. He is moody and unpredictable, sometimes very playful and nice, and at other times extremely aggressive. I walk a tightrope to keep on top of his current mood. Yesterday he said to me: "Bow's not mad that Mommy is not strong. Bow's glad that Mommy is weak." I didn't know what to make of that.

One woman told me that so long as I did not beat him with a stick, she did not think I was abusive. This statement astounded me on so many levels that I was struck dumb. Do you think that with the disparity in strength and agility between me and him, that I would escape with my life if I tried that? It isn't a question of whether I am being abusive to him. I go in barefooted and barehanded to be with someone who could kill me with only his jaws for a weapon, if he so desired. Does he? No, of course not. But he does sometimes try to gain the upper hand in a game of intimidation, and I have to be very aggressive right back to let him know it's not working. And sometimes I have to step out into the adjoining pen and let him cool off.

What kind of person am I that I can do this? How can I stay with him twelve hours a day when this is the situation? Why is it that I'm not so polite to people who ask such questions? Well, I guess I am not a very nice person.  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It's a reflex, really, and being with Bow all this time has sharpened my reflexes.

Some people think that humans are completely different from chimpanzees, because we are so much more civilized and in our civilization natural consequences have given way to logical consequences. I don't see that. I see a world that is governed entirely by natural consequences. Some of them are pretty grim.

But in the meantime, Bow and I will survive. We will play and talk, and we will reach out to new people and to other chimpanzees world wide. While I can't prove anything directly about Bow's cognition and language ability, there are other indirect ways to gather proof. There is eye tracking, and there is behavioral data from interactions with others, and that is the direction that my research will take in the future.

No one can force Bow to cooperate to prove what he knows. But he may yet give himself away indirectly, just because he does know it. And I think that's worth waiting for!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Thank You From Bow

Yesterday, Rex the Welder came to add support bars to the existing structure of Bow's pens. The pens are plenty strong, but Bow is a growing adolescent who likes to display his strength by hurling himself full force against the walls of the pen. Believe it or not, he has no intention of breaking out, but he can inadvertently damage the structure, and here at Project Bow we take safety very seriously. So yesterday,  Rex the Welder came by to add horizontal support bars, to make an already strong steel structure even stronger. The bars were added to both the internal and external structure of the pens.

Before any work could begin, Bow and Rex spent some time socializing. Bow loves Rex! Rex is a very athletic guy with a nice sense of fun, and so they spent about ten minutes before Rex got to work playing chase and hyperventilating at each other. Bow gave Rex quite a warm up exercise!

When Rex had done, Bow gave all the new bars a good testing out, before he was convinced they would withstand his strength. He even tried to bite them, to see if they were made of wood or metal. 

Today, Bow has been having great fun perching on the support bars, walking on his tiptoes on them like an acrobat, and hurling himself off them. I even tried the bars myself, and we had great fun playing together. Finally, Bow took me to the glass and spelled in Hebrew: "Thank you for giving me something new to play with."

And people think chimpanzees are incapable of gratitude!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Virtual Dominance Displays

Recently Sword celebrated her twelfth birthday, and Bow was not in attendance. He had not been invited to the party. This made him sad, but Lawrence stayed with him all day, and they had a special party of their own. Meanwhile, Sword had her party at Orchard House with her grandmother and me and four of her friends from school, two girls and two boys.

Having been excluded from quite a number of parties myself, I understood how Bow felt when he told Lawrence that he wanted to go to the party, too. But I also understood Sword. Lately, every time she brings home a friend, Bow insists on going into a protracted dominance display for the new person that sometimes does not end until the guest leaves. It's hard enough being a tween and needing your mother's approval for sleepovers. Having to consult with your younger chimpanzee brother is completely intolerable. So I gave my permission for a party that did not include Bow.

You would think that an intelligent nine year old male chimpanzee could foresee that social exclusion would be the unavoidable result of such aggressive tactics on his part, but even if he can foresee this, he has no control over himself. The displays appear to be hard-wired.

What is a dominance display? Well, you could look it up in the wikipedia, or you could watch the video I embedded below to see what it looks like. Every time Bow meets a stranger, he goes into a frenzied display of his strength and prowess calculated to send the stranger cowering for the bushes. He does this even if the stranger is on the other side of the continent in a Skype video call!

Julia Hanna is a talented writer and artist who also contributes to my article directory, PubWages. This Sunday, I interviewed her for my YouTube channel. We thought we would do it in the morning with Bow present, but due to his insistent display, we had to postpone it till the evening, when he was asleep. Notice that Bow was not really being violent. He didn't hurt anyone. He just wanted to scare Julia into submission, and he was quite frustrated when it didn't work, and we kept talking around his display. He was very careful not to hurt me, gently moving me aside so he could hurtle himself at the computer screen. But interestingly enough, he didn't hurt the computer, either. He knew that if he smashed the screen, Julia would disappear, and then who would be there for him to intimidate? As soon as the call was over, he sat down peacefully before the laptop on the floor with a pensive look on his face.

When Bow goes into these displays, it does not mean that he doesn't like the person he is trying to scare. Sometimes he likes them very much and even hopes for a successful relationship. He just wants to make sure that he ends up on top!

You may think that this is a practice that only chimpanzees engage in, but that is not accurate. Other primates have similar behaviors, and I have seen many a dominance display performed by a human lawyer in the course of my law practice.

For Bow's sake, I would like to find some chimpanzees that he can practice his displays on through the safety and comfort of an internet video call. If you know of any chimpanzees who would be willing to reciprocate, please drop me a line!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bow Watches Nim

So, apparently, there's a new movie out about Nim Chimpsky. I myself have not seen it. This sort of thing does not play in our local theatre. But those who have seen it say it is quite shocking. Bow and I, stuck together in our pens, have watched the trailer several times. The first time he watched it, Bow was transfixed, and he stayed perfectly still.

The second time he watched it, he said it was stupid. Lawrence asked him: "Well, what did you think of that video?" Bow replied: "I think it is stupid."

Today, I brought the laptop into the pen for Bow to watch the video embedded in my PubWages editorial. Here is a video of what happened:

As you can see, Bow can be trusted with a laptop under close supervision. But he has his own way of using the equipment.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Moodiness in Adolescent Chimpanzees

Bow is nine years old and counting. Sometimes he is very good and sometimes he is naughty, but lately there's been something else going on. He is moody. He is irritable. He gets upset over absolutely nothing. The other day, I asked him what he wanted to eat first. He said "I want a banana." I went and got him a banana. He became very angry and frustrated and bared his teeth at me and snarled aggressively and vocalized in a high pitched voice. "What's the matter?" I asked. He finally calmed down enough after a few more seconds and took my hand and spelled out on the glass: "No, not a banana! An apple!" Well, I ask you, is that any reason to chew me out? Because he changed his mind?

There have been lots of little incidents like this lately. But this morning he was nice and told me he wanted to sit outside. "Do you want to sit outside alone?" I asked. "No. With Mommy." I asked him if it would be okay if I brought my computer along, and he said yes. So here we sit. The insects are chirping. The swimming pool is filling up, and Bow and I are relaxing. All is right with the world.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Light Reading: How Bow Responds to Different Styles of Writing

Incarceration can be difficult for the soul. Solitary confinement wears us down over time. If you try to imagine what it would be like to be locked up in a cage, without access to other people, maybe you would think first about the loss of conversation, friendship and love. But the truth is that all forms of social contact, even strife, are very much missed. We all have the inborn desire to find worthy adversaries and to fight against our fellow man, in order to test our strength and challenge our mind. If you don't believe this, and you're not into heavy reading, perhaps you should watch Megamind. It illustrates the same principle.

Bow is not in solitary confinement, but he has no access to companions of his own kind, and those of us who spend time with him have to go in one by one, because having more than one person in at a time brings out Bow's innate interest in social hierarchies. He longs to fight against others, and he wants his friends to fight, too, to see just which one ends up on top. If Bow ever did get to meet face to face with another chimpanzee, I doubt very much that friendship would be the first order of business. It would be more like this: a fight to establish supremacy, followed by friendship, if anybody happened to survive.

Are human beings any different? When a prisoner is placed in solitary confinement, of course that is a very big deprivation. But is the loss of human contact to be mourned primarily because of the loss of affectionate companionship, or because it makes hand-to-hand combat a complete impossibility?

Edward Livingston (May 28, 1764 – May 23, 1836) was a famous American jurist who advocated prison reform. One of his ideas was that upon admission to the penitentiary, all prisoners should be placed in solitary confinement until such time as they showed a genuine desire to interact in a positive way with others. Gradually, the privilege to socialize, and even to do productive work, would be restored to the prisoner, but each such privilege would have to be earned. It sounds good on paper, but what if the chief reason an individual regrets a solitary existence is because it deprives him of sparring partners and the chance to engage in a fight to the death? In such a case, how would the reward of companionship not immediately result in a return to violence?

Bow is sometimes restless and bored. When not in an aggressive mood, he broods. With Lawrence, he has a wrestling partner, but I am more given to literary and cerebral pursuits. How do we bridge that gap? Sometimes I share my reading with Bow. Sometimes, he even listens.

Notice that Bow pays the most attention to the verse toward the end of the reading selection. His interest in the prose is less intense.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Different forms of social cooperation: a nod of the head

I've been very busy in the past month or so setting up new websites and pursuing business interests that may seem to have nothing to do with Project Bow. A pesky commenter on one of my sites wanted to know: so have you given up on proving that Bow's communication isn't "Clever Hans"? And when I replied that I had not given up on anything, but was also not pushing Bow to prove anything he doesn't want to prove, she was not satisfied. To her way of thinking, unless I am working on direct proof, then my interactions with Bow are of no consequence, for scientific purposes, which is all she really cares about. On top of that she suggested that I was deluding myself that Bow and I were communicating at all. Who's to say that our day to day conversations are not entirely in my own head, and that Bow is contributing nothing?

That is a valid question, but I also think that if what is going on here is entirely Clever Hans, then even Clever Hans is of scientific interest. Why on earth wouldn't you want to study how non-verbal cues play a role in social cooperation?

Take for example the following video. I needed to explain some things about how to get a Google Adsense account to my new writers on Pubwages. Did Bow have to be a part of that? Well,  no, he didn't. But I am with Bow twelve hours a day, most days, and so the only way I manage to get anything done is to involve him in my daily transactions. Besides, he's much more photogenic than I am.

When you watch the video, notice how at first Bow circles me, then he sits down to listen to what I have to say, then he gets up in the middle because it's not all that interesting, but when I train the camera on him as I am wrapping up my spiel, Bow starts to nod and smile, as if agreeing with me. Did I train him to do that? No. Did I ask him to do any of that? No. He did what he felt like doing, just as when he takes my hand and points to letters, he's also doing what he wants, not what I want. I couldn't for the world force him to say something that he doesn't want to say or do something that he doesn't want to do.

But did Bow really understand what I had to say about getting a Google adsense account? Does he know what adsense is? I doubt that, because he's still struggling with the concept of money. However, there are lots of human beings who also don't understand about adsense. A good friend who watched the video wrote me that she enjoyed it, but she had no idea what I was talking about. Bow, too, seemed to enjoy my presentation, though he had little comprehension of the subject matter. And yet he knew exactly which part of the discourse was the wrap up, and he decided to give his approval at that point.

Is it a pre-verbal skill to be able to pick up the beginning, middle and end of a speech, without knowing exactly what it's about? How many times have you used that same skill when trying to determine when to applaud or agree with your interlocutor, even though you were not closely attending to the meaning of the discourse? What allows us to cooperate in this way? Why are some autistics incredibly dense about picking out this sort of information?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bow's Easter Egg Hunt

The weather has been very strange lately. On Good Friday, after Bow had gone to bed, Sword and I drove to the local feed store to get two baby chicks, and we dropped by WalMart for Easter supplies. But when we had almost finished shopping, alarms went off, and we were ushered with all the other shoppers and employees to stand by the meat wall, because there was a tornado expected. Sword was worried about the two baby chicks left alone in the car, but when they finally released us, everything was fine. Our car and the chicks were undamaged.

Then yesterday afternoon there was a shower of hail, about the size of gumballs that went on for about ten minutes. And it has been raining almost all the time, all weekend long. But this morning, when it was time for our Easter egg hunt, the weather was clear, and things went off without a hitch. Here is some footage of Bow and his eggs.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fifth Spring in the Pens

This is our fifth spring in the pens. Four years, five springs. We have adjusted well to this new lifestyle, and now it doesn't even seem strange. Every spring the dogwood blooms, and Bow and I can see it through the grid of the outer pen.
We might long to step outside, but we never do. The grass grows green, and the flowers bloom even if they are just weeds, and chickens cackle and the wind blows.
Will it ever be possible to make new friends, whether chimpanzees or humans? Only time will tell. But for now, Bow is content with the small circle of friends he already has. "Don't let a new guy come," he tells me.

"Because you like Lawrence?"


So everything remains safe and familiar, and nothing changes, except the seasons.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Card from Grandma

Yesterday Lawrence came in to sit with Bow, and I went to pick up the mail. Among other things, there was an envelope addressed to Bow.

When I came back for lunch, I let Bow open the envelope. Inside was a card.
Bow and I read the card. He examined it from every angle.
Then, when Lawrence came after lunch to relieve me, I showed the card to Lawrence and explained that Bow's grandmother had sent it. I told Lawrence I'd be really happy if Bow could tell him what Bow's grandmother had written to him in Hebrew. (Lawrence does not know Hebrew.)

After I had gone, Lawrence asked Bow what was in the card from grandma. At first, Bow was reluctant to answer. He even tried spelling nonsense words. But eventually, he did tell Lawrence that Grandma had said "hello". 

I was hoping for a verbatim translation, which would have been: "Bow, hello, from Grandma." But the answer he gave is pretty close.

Here is the video of the conversation between Lawrence and Bow:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

There are always bananas

There has not been anything very remarkable to write about concerning Bow. The past week has been uneventful, except that a couple of nice reviews of my books came out. One was of When Sword Met Bow and the other was for Ping and the Snirkelly People.

In our experiments with Bow and filming using computer video capture, Lawrence and I have found that if we put the computer on the other side of the glass, Bow's pointing at letters is easier to see, but if we put the computer on Bow's side of the glass, it is easier to see Bow's expression and to hear what the human with Bow is saying.

The nice thing about this development is that Bow has allowed us to film him with the computer on his side of the glass. He has a lot of self control, and does not destroy the computer.

 Here is a very small bit of footage of Bow enjoying his banana tonight at dinner.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Footage from Wednesday

For whatever reason, today it was easy to upload the footage I described in yesterday's blog. It took less than ten minutes, whereas a snippet of ten seconds had taken an hour before. So here is the footage that Bow reacted so strongly to when Lawrence was viewing it.

The video is of very low quality. The audio is too low. But for whatever it is worth, here it is.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bow's reaction to being filmed

Uploading a video is taking longer and longer these days. For instance, that tiny snippet in yesterday's blog post took well over an hour to upload. There was a companion video that I wanted to upload with it, but I just gave up because it would have taken all day.

Today I have some other things to do on my computer, so I cannot take the time to process videos and upload them. But we did do some filming yesterday, and I want to tell you a little about Bow's reaction.

We used to film every day, but that was when we had interns, and there was a fuctioning video camera, and we had a whole routine for the interns of exactly how to go about reviewing the footage and how to index it. It's been ages since we had interns, and so the routine has changed. We are in survival mode. Bow has to be taken care of every day, and played with, and fed, and all his needs have to be seen to, research or no research. Survival comes first.

Lawrence is Bow's sitter, who comes and plays with him when I have to run errands. He is not an intern, and he doesn't have any research duties. Bow talks to him, because kids usually talk to their sitter. It's a way to communicate, but it's not a "scientific experiment".  I couldn't ask Lawrence to help me document, because there is not time or money enough for that. And our camera has gone dead, on top of everything else.

Anyway, yesterday, just for the fun of it, I showed Lawrence how to film Bow using Bow's computer's built- in webcam. The resolution on it is pretty bad, and the lighting in here is not so good. (We used to bring in extra flood lights when we were filming for real.) But Lawrence was game to try this, and he even decided to see if he could get Bow to ask for his afternoon snack while the camera was running.

Now, Bow likes the camera. He gets very excited when you turn it on. He likes to use it as a mirror, to examine parts of himself that he can't usually see. Lawrence practiced filming Bow, and Bow was fine with that. But I guess he didn't realize that Lawrence had kept the camera on. Lawrence kept trying to hint to Bow that it might be time to ask for a snack, because he wanted to show on film that it was Bow who initiated the conversation.  So there he was, muttering to himself about how nice it would be to have some apples for a snack, and there Bow sat, not taking the hint.

And then I came in for a moment, not knowing that Lawrence was trying to film, and I asked whether Bow had had his afternoon snack yet. (Sword had a friend over, and right after I had to take her to her music lesson.) Lawrence said that it might help if I just brought the apples into the pen. So I did, and then I left, and Bow got excited and asked for a green apple, and then he had the green apple and Lawrence had the yellow apple.

Lawrence kept talking to Bow about why Bow preferred the green apple, when the yellow apple was bigger. By then, Bow had finished his green apple and asked for Lawrence to give him what was left of the yellow apple Lawrence was eating. So Lawrence gave him the apple, and eventually he stopped filming.

 When Lawrence decided to watch the video he had just filmed, Bow went nuts! He started screaming, as if he were trying to articulate words, and he ran around in protest, and he looked really upset.

When I questioned him about this later, Bow said he hadn't realized he was being filmed. It upset him, because he wasn't used to it.

Next time, we'll have to ask for his permission to film!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Capturing footage on the Laptop

We went back to using the old potty, as we had fewer accidents with it. Meanwhile, I've been experimenting with my laptop, to see if I can use it as a video camera, in addition to a source of still shots. Here is a video I shot this morning using video capture.

As I was trying to film, Bow decided that what he wanted to do was to type. I think he likes real keyboards better than touchscreens. If only we could find one that he can't destroy!

Friday, March 25, 2011

New Potty; Fast Food

I've been rather preoccupied with opening a new website for Inverted-A Press, so I have been neglecting this blog. But that doesn't mean that nothing has been going on in Bow's life. For one thing, he has a new potty.

That happened about two Wednesdays ago, I think. Bow is growing, and the small potty that he was using was meant for a two year old. He's nine now. We found this new potty for five dollars. It's meant for adults, and has a much bigger holding capacity. Bow likes it, because he can climb up on the handles and do his business while perched above the target.

Bow knew at once that he wanted this potty, as soon as he saw it. "I want the potty," he told Lawrence. This was good, because without Bow's permission, we couldn't have brought it in. Bow attacks items that are brought into his living space without his okay.

Not only did Bow want the new potty, he knew exactly what it was, and how to use it.

Today, I was watching the latest video uploaded by Reason.TV. It happened to  be about fast food being banned in LA. If you want to watch it, you can see it here.

Bow got very excited during the viewing. I was eager to hear what he had to say. Was he against the ban? Was he for it? But this is all he had to say: "Give me food!"

Those mouth watering hamburgers on the video had made him hungry.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Classifying bananas

Yesterday at dinner, in addition to other choices, Bow had three bananas to choose from. One was very fresh and had completely yellow skin. The other two were a bit over ripe, with brownish mottled discolorations.

When Bow decided that he was done with apples and was ready to start choosing bananas, he told me: "Give me the good banana." Since it was obvious he meant the one that was not overripe, I went ahead and gave it to him. When he was done, he spelled: "Give me the good bad banana."

"What does he mean by that?" Sword asked.

I looked at the remaining two bananas. One was somewhat less ripe than the other. "I think he means this one," I told Sword. "It doesn't have as many brown spots."

When he was done with the second banana, Bow told me he wanted the "bad bad banana." Since there was only one banana left, nobody asked which one he meant.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bow lost a tooth

Today Bow lost another baby tooth. It was his left bottom canine. He showed me that it was loose, and it seemed to be troubling him. I asked him if he wanted me to help him pull it out. He acquiesced, and I had my fingers in his mouth for a really long time, wriggling the tooth back and forth. When it came out, he let me keep it.

In the past, I used to offer Bow a dollar per tooth, but he never spent any of that money. This time I decided to reward his cooperation with candy. I gave him a mint. It's worth a lot less than a dollar to me, and a lot more than a dollar to him. So it seemed like an equitable trade. Here is a picture of the tooth lying on the mousepad of my laptop:
Lawrence will be relieved to know about this. Last week Bow lost his other lower canine in the midst of rough play with Lawrence. Lawrence was afraid he may have unintentionally hurt Bow. I wasn't sure at the time whether it was a baby tooth. But this pretty much clinches it.

Bow was nice and cooperative when I asked him to pose for pictures showing his current lack of lower canines. He knew just what I wanted him to do.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

More Banana

As a chimpanzee entering puberty, Bow has his good days, as well as days when he is not so good. It is not always that anything bad has happened. Sometimes he's just irritable and on edge and nothing satisfies him.

Today has been a day of getting into trouble, but only to a moderate degree. I try to accomplish as much as I can, no matter what mood Bow is in, but the truth is that this morning, after I submitted the latest corrected version of Ping & the Snirkelly People to CreateSpace, and after I had checked on my Facebook and Hubpages news, I was kind of out of things to do. Or rather, even though I have list of things to do, I didn't feel like doing them.

Hubpages has been hit hard by the Google algorithm change, and so my traffic there has diminished considerably. A lot of people blame low quality hubs for the Google backlash, and while everyone is sure their own hubs are wonderful, people are casting aspersions on other hubbers, saying their hubs are too short or not meaningful enough. I'm staying out of that. I have long hubs and short ones. I think each of them is just the right length for what it was supposed to accomplish. About the time of the algorithm change, I published a very long hub about National Anthems. It is over 4000 words, took me over a year to write, and covers some interesting historical facts about specific national anthems, as well as dealing with the whole issue of nationalism. To date, I have had only three hits that came through Google. This is discouraging.

Of course, like most people, I have short hubs, too, that didn't take me long to write and are not all that deep. This morning, I went to look at my We have no bananas today hub. It's very short and rather shallow, but I don't think there's any reason to discard it. I played the embedded song, and went in with Bow. Bow became very animated, put his hands on my waist, and insisted I dance with him. We danced all around the pen.

When the song was over, I went to check my email, but then Bow made raspberry sounds, and I went to ask him what he wanted. "More banana," he spelled.

"Bow, it's not time to eat yet," I said reflexively. Then I looked at him, did a double take and asked: "Do you mean that you want me to play the banana song again?"


So I played it again. And we danced again. Bow definitely prefers that song to the Marseillaise!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bow's Ninth Birthday

Today was Bow's birthday. He is nine years old. He had a party, and balloons, and cake, and presents and guests. It was his choice. I actually wasn't sure whether he wanted to have a party this year. He isn't always that happy when people come over, and he isn't always that nice to guests, so I hesitated. Both Lawrence and I asked him specfically whether he wanted a party, each separately. Bow said he did want a party. He even told me that he wanted presents.

Yesterday afternoon, Bow made specific suggestions for who the guests should be. He had some particular people in mind.  Nothing was settled well in advance, but it was definitely the party that Bow wanted.

He was very excited all day long. He could not wait till the party would start. It was scheduled for three pm. He wanted it to start earlier, and he was impatient, but he waited. When the time arrived, and we had our quorum of two adults, three children, and two teenagers, he was so excited and sang along with the birthday song. However, when an additional guest arrived late, after the cake had been served, and some of the presents distributed, he was not as cordial to the new arrival, making territorial displays. When attending a chimpanzee birthday party, punctuality is a must!

Bow had a great day, but he hasn't opened all his presents yet. He usually draws that out over several days. He certainly enjoyed his balloon, though!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bow Helps Proof "Ping & the Snirkelly People"

Even though there is still snow on the ground, we are no  longer snowed in. Sword went to spend the night at a friend's house, and encouraged by the example of the friend's mother who was able to drive all the way down our driveway, I took the opportunity when Bow went to sleep last night to pick up my mail from the post office box and to restock my store of apples, bananas and grapes. I finally have the proof of Ping & the Snirkelly People.

When I showed it to Bow this morning, he was very interested. He looked at it for a while, then he took me to the glass and spelled: "It's a big book."

"Yes," I said. "It is big. Do you think people will want to buy it?"

"Yes," he spelled. Well, if Bow thinks so, then we might have a chance!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Snowed In, but Still Keeping Ourselves Amused

We've been snowed in now since Tuesday. Lawrence did not come in at all this week. We have plenty of food, though, because Sword and I went to Wal*Mart and stocked up just before the blizzard. For the past couple of days I have been amusing myself by editing a video trailer for my upcoming book, Ping & the Snirkelly People. Between numerous interruptions, Bow let me do this.

Bow seemed uninterested in the snow, and didn't ask to go out at all, until today. In the morning, he went all the way to the door of the outer pen, but then changed his mind and asked to play with his shoe indoors, instead. He especially wanted to play a game of his own invention, where I put on the single shoe and chase him around the pen.

This afternoon, I decided to try to take some pictures of the outer pen with the laptop camera, but the pictures were too flooded with light from the reflected snow.

However, safe and snug inside the inner  pens, Bow got a big kick out of posing.