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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!

8 comments:

  1. Happy holidays to you, Sword, and Bow! And, as my grandfather used to say: "May the new year not be your last." Hmmm, that actually seems fairly grim written out. You will need to imagine an old man saying that merrily and not with a sinister tone. Anyway, may your world be well...

    Cheers!
    Alan

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  2. Thanks, Alan. We will try to have many more new years. And I hope the same for you!

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  3. Thanks :)

    Project Nim finally arrived at my local public library and I was able to watch it last night. I thought it was good, but extremely upsetting, and this from someone who already knew the story. It left me feeling pretty angry, but thankfully I followed it with an episode of Look Around You (an absolutely brilliant British comedy series) which cured the lump in my throat.

    So, for some reason I started thinking about library use and how intellectual property owners get reimbursed for their works. One thing that isn't clear to me is if the reimbursement is proportional to the number of times the item was borrowed. This perhaps depends on the medium of the property, but suppose you wrote an e-book (which you did, so I suppose I don't have to merely suppose:) and that e-book gets purchased by a library. Would you see a difference in reimbursement based on the popularity of that e-book? I understand that the library would consider purchasing additional copies based on popularity, but that is another issue. Anyway, I almost never buy personal copies of books, DVDs, etc. because I'm a minimalist (although apparently not with words, my apologies) and hate "stuff", if that makes sense. However, sometimes I get the feeling that I'm screwing people over by using the library so much. As an author, what do you think about this?

    Cheers!
    Alan

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  4. Hi, Alan. When you started talking about the Project Nim movie, I had no idea it would end up being a question about ebooks and author rights! I have not seen the movie yet, although Bow and I did see the trailer on YouTube. Do you feel that the movie covered the material fairly?

    I don't have that much experience with ebooks, having just started down that path, but I assume that a library can lend an ebook same as it can lend a hardcopy without paying the author more. Lending, presumably, is not like copying. When the book is lent, you have to wait for it to be returned to use it again. Of course, someone with photographic memory could presumably have a copy of the book in his mind, word for word, and no need ever to see it again in order to re-read. Such people are rare.

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  5. Thanks, Aya.

    Well, one comment I have is that the movie painted a pretty dark picture of Herb Terrance. Some of this is certainly fair since the project was his design, and that design from the start was poor, and its terminus unethical. It would have been interesting to hear the thought process behind some of the more stupefying decisions made during the course of the project, but those details were not in the film. What seemed potentially unfair is his portrayal as someone completely apathetic to the fate of Nim. Of course this could be completely true and maybe I just have a problem believing that someone who spent his life studying primates, and at one point even had faith they could communicate as humans do, wouldn't empathize with them.

    For the most part, the director just lets the characters tell their stories and splices their interviews with video footage, photographs, or newspaper clippings. The movie seemed accurate from what I remember reading about the project, and went through all the main events in Nim's life. It also didn't come off as preachy or having a particular agenda, which is something I like about James Marsh's documentary style. I definitely recommend it, but at the same time it is entirely depressing to see.

    As for the author rights bit, I like to support work of any form that I feel is well done, especially when it has little financial backing. I was essentially commenting that I am conflicted when I "freely" acquire such work at the public library.

    Cheers!
    Alan

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  6. Alan, I'm not sure that Herbert Terrace can be said to have spent his life studying primates. I think most of his research has been with smaller animals like pigeons and mice. Project Nim was his only real foray into working with chimpanzees, although I think there was another chimp early on that he played with and then returned to the Lemmon Farm in a matter of months.

    One of the things that Terrace found it hard to appreciate before Project Nim is that you cannot set up a "fool proof" experiment with a chimpanzee. People take the "cooperation" of smaller animals in forced choice situations for granted. But natural language use is not a forced choice, except on multiple choice exams. It's very hard to get chimpanzee to take a multiple choice exam, because he doesn't have any strong incentive to cooperate, even when offered bribes.

    One of my concerns, every time a movie or book comes out condemning a past ape language experiment, is that there will be more backlash against Project Bow.

    The chimpanzee temperament is one thing, and the chimpanzee intelligence is quite another. I hope that people did not conclude, after watching that movie, that chimpanzees, even when socialized among humans, are "wild animals" who cannot use language. Using language is one thing. Controlling your temper is another. The two should not be confused.

    You do not need to feel bad about borrowing materials from the library. If you do read something that you like in the library, and you want to help the author sell more books, a very simple thing to do is to write a review of the book on Amazon.com and to recommend it to your friends.

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  7. Thanks, Aya, for your response.

    I did not know that Terrace only dabbled with primates. This makes a bit of sense now.

    It is hard to say what people will take away from this movie in terms of a potential backlash against ape language experiments. I think people will certainly come away thinking you can't do what Terrace did, and maybe that will leave a bad taste in people's mouths. However, I would say the scenes with Nim interacting with Bob Ingersoll and his defense of Nim's communication skills will leave people thinking: 1) hey it really might be possible for a chimp to learn language under better circumstances, and 2) violent behavior is certainly possible when interacting with a chimpanzee, but treating him with respect (and perhaps not abandoning him after a few years) can reduce that behavior. Also, because of the way things fell apart mostly after the project was scrapped, people will likely be left with the impression that things would have been better if the project had continued. Of course, that aspect might be tempered from the beginning by the scene showing Nim being removed from the care of his chimpanzee mother--which, I think, most people will find absolutely offensive.

    Anyway, I don't think that this film will cause significant backlash against Project Bow. There might be some who don't understand, or care to educate themselves about, the differences between Project Nim and what you are doing with Bow. Those who do will probably appreciate the commitment you've made and be very interested in what develops in the future. After all, Bow is what, 10 years old? That's about double the span of Project Nim. Perhaps in another decade James Marsh will call you up looking to do a sequel with a happier ending:)

    Cheers!
    Alan

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  8. Thanks, Alan. That is reassuring.

    Bow will turn ten in February. He was five when we entered the pen system. I have learned a lot so far, and it's an ongoing process.

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