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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Playing Tag and Tit for Tat

Yesterday, I started out to clip Bow's nails. but he wanted to play chase, instead. So I decided to film our game of tag, and in the process, I forgot that I was still holding onto the scissors. So it turned out I was running with scissors, something you should never try at home!

I am probably not the best person at interpreting body language, but just as I insisted that Bow learn to spell out what he wants, he has always insisted that I should also try to read his body language. Over the years, even though I may still seem obtuse to Bow, I believe that I have gotten better at reading simple non-verbal cues -- not just Bow's. I have gotten better at paying attention to those things in humans, too.

Bow is a gentle playmate who is perfectly harmless if you respect his personal boundaries -- and if you insist that he respect yours. But most of that is not something we do with language alone. Yes, saying "no" when you don't like something is important, but if you don't back up that "no" with immediate action, then nobody -- least of all Bow --will take it seriously.

This is something that I found really difficult to explain to many interns, and it is one of the reasons I am reluctant to advertise an opening for an intern and caretaker for Bow. People have not been trained in the simple rules of tit-for-tat, and so they expect other countries not to invade them out of the kindness of their hearts, other people not to harass them just because it is not nice, and everybody to act PC -- or else, they will get a lecture ten years later about how they really hurt someone. And if they find that this does not work for them -- which invariably it doesn't -- they hold seminars and workshops on world peace, sexual harassment and anti-bullying.

No bully will ever be stopped unless we stand up to him right then and there, in the moment, and no rape was ever prevented by crying foul long after the statute of limitations has run. I'm sorry, but life does not work that way.

With Bow, as with every other person I know, you have to let him know right away if he's crossed a line. He respects boundaries, but you need to clearly signal where they are. If he does something you don't like, you have to respond strongly, but firmly, neither over-reacting nor just letting it happen. I tried to explain some of this to my interns years ago in this hub:

Right now, in the current political atmosphere, I do not feel I can impose the rules outlined above on anyone who has been socialized to fit in to today's society. Most people have been trained to submit to a violation of their boundaries, and then to complain about it afterwards. This policy leads to an escalation of the initiation of aggression over time throughout the society. When I try to speak out about this, I am shut down on social media.

I think maybe the problem goes all the way back to kindergarten. Everybody knows the Golden Rule, but it is being taught all wrong to American children right now. They are told to treat others in the way they would like to be treated, but they are not told what to do if others do not treat them that way. The tit-for-tat part has been left out. Here's how it was taught to me. When I was going off to kindergarten in Israel, my mother said to me:  "If anybody hits you, Aya,  you hit them right back -- only harder." I didn't particularly want to. I'm not a violent person. But she explained that it wasn't about what I wanted. She said it was my duty as a good person, because it would help other people, too. If everybody lived by this rule, I think it would save us all a lot of trouble.

If you nip aggression in the bud, it does not have to escalate. You have to react in real time to any small breach of your personal boundaries. At the same time, it is more than okay to engage in appropriate play, where you recognize friendly overtures. Bow loves to play tag, and you can watch the video and see the light way in which he does tag me, and you can see from his body language that he knows it's a game.

  Bow is a chimpanzee. He does have aggressive instincts. He's a natural bully, but he is also really easy to manage, and a joy to interact with, if you understand and properly apply tit-for-tat.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Grooming as Peace-Making

Yesterday afternoon,  while I was saying goodbye to Sword, who had come home for a visit for Fall Break, Bow rearranged the potties in his enclosure, putting both of them in the center of the room.

"Put them back where they belong!" I told him.

So then he proceeded to push each of them into the opposite corner from the one where it had been before, as if in an act of oppositional defiance.

I wasn't really angry about that, but I acted as if were very upset about it. "No, that's not where they go! You put them right back where they were!" So he did. (He knew exactly where they were supposed to be.)

After that, he tried to apologize to me, and then he decided to groom me very thoroughly. The noises he was making at the very beginning of the grooming session were part of his apology.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Persimmon for Bow

It is fall. The leaves are changing colors. 

And the persimmons are ripening and falling to the ground.

Many other animals are enjoying the persimmons, but I managed to snag one for Bow.

They say you should wait until after the first big frost to harvest the persimmons, but we have not yet had our first frost, and they are almost all gone. I see their seeds scattered on the road embedded in  animal droppings. And this one was so ripe that it split open and some of the juice dribbled on my hand.

Bow enjoyed the persimmon so much that this is all that was left of it in the end.

I'm glad we did not wait for the first frost. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Where are my Glasses?

It's been a strange weekend. On Saturday night, as I was driving to Licking to check my mail and get groceries, a deer bounded out in front of me on the road. It happened so fast that there was no time to hit the brake or swerve. It was almost as if the deer were on a suicide mission. Luckily, I had not yet speeded up to the full fifty-five miles per hour allowed on that road, and so the damage to my car was minimal. I was able to get to Licking, pick up my mail and drive to the grocery store. It was only when I was putting my groceries away that I noticed I had lost a lot of fluid under the engine, and the car was very overheated, so much so that at first it would not start. I managed to drive it to the mechanic's shop, and I got a ride home with my groceries and mail. So what could have been a big disaster was really minor.

I spent Sunday feeling a little more contemplative than usual.

In addition to the usual pictures of flowers, I started to take a series of selfies.  I wondered what would have happened if I had not made it safely home the previous night, and who would have taken care of my animals. I guess you might say I was really grateful to be alive.

I was also thinking about  what I needed to say about my proposal to change Libertarian Bylaws, and about the odd ways in which my motives for doing so had been questioned. So as I was thinking about how to reply, I also thought that series of self-portraits might be a good way to help represent who I am to those who clearly misunderstand my motives.

And even though I have taken plenty of selfies with my glasses on, I decided to leave my glasses off this time.

I put the glasses down on one of the support beams of the outer pen and proceeded to shoot some pictures of me on the swing. The fact that I had just discovered the timer on my iPhone camera also helped. Bow watched the proceedings sardonically from the sidelines. He knew he was not the star of this photo shoot, and he did not seem to mind.

I went back inside to work on the computer, and it took me a while to realize that I had left my glasses in the outer pen. But when I went out there to get them, they were not on the support beam, where I had left them.

"Where are my glasses?" I said out loud, to no one in particular. Then I looked at Bow. Silently, he handed them to me. 

They were perfectly intact. Whatever he did with them while I was not there, it did not damage the glasses in any way. That's something else to be grateful for.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

What is Conservation? What is Wildlife?

Bow and I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth: the Missouri Ozarks. However, I am not a native of Missouri, and while Bow was born in this state, he is not a wild animal In Missouri, all the chimpanzees are domesticated, and none is subject to the Department of Conservation. But Bow still enjoys reading The Missouri Conservationist and looking at all the big, colorful pictures of Missouri wildlife that can be found within its covers.

"What is that book about?" my reader from Scotland asked when he saw Bow leafing through the Missouri Conservationist.  I answered: "It's not a book. It's a magazine about wildlife and the flora and fauna of Missouri, the state that Bow and I live in. It has pictures of the same kind of deer and the same kind of butterflies that lie just outside our front door." And that is really what it is. This issue featured Monarch butterflies and white tailed deer of the very sort that showed up in the last few entries in this blog.

Deer come almost right up to my front door. I go out to the meadow and each time I meet a different butterfly.

We don't really need to read the Missouri Conservationist to see these sights, but the Missouri Department of Conservation puts out the magazine, and Bow's friend Charla subscribes to it and brings Bow copies to read.

Another friend who saw the video of Bow flipping through the pages of the Missouri Conservationist had this to say: "Sorry Bow, no cute chimps (other than you) in the Ozarks."  But that's not quite factual, so I replied: "There are actually quite a few here in Missouri, but they are, of course, not native wildlife." I meant that because all chimpanzee in the US are domesticated, they would naturally not pose for the Missouri Conservationist, the way the deer and the butterflies do. But my friend said she thought Bow was looking for girlie pictures. Well, that's what we have Harper's Bazaar for. But it's something that I am very thankful for that the Missouri Department of Conservation has shown no interest in our locally born and bred chimpanzees.

The same cannot be said for US Fish & Wildlife, who, by declaring that American domesticated chimpanzees are an endangered species, have opened the door for PETA to harass local breeders into giving up their chimps and sending them to sanctuaries where they will not be allowed to breed, based on the claim that the species is endangered. Attempts to get a declaratory judgment to say the Endangered Species Act does not apply have proved fruitless.

Right at the moment, I am very glad there are no pictures of chimpanzees in the Missouri Conservationist. At least our local government has not yet lost its mind. They know that conservation of Missouri wildlife only applies to Missouri wildlife, not exotics and not domesticated animals.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cream Cheese, Butterflies and Bylaws

Over the weekend, my daughter came home and made some no-bake cheesecake. She even let Bow lick the bowl.

There was just one stipulation, that the bowl not touch the ground. So the little folding table was brought in to Bow's side

There was nothing about not putting his head inside the bowl, though.

It is a funny thing about rules: there are always ways around them, and there are always loopholes.

I was preoccupied with rules that weekend. There was a Bylaws Committee meeting in Kansas City, and I had sent in a proposal for a change in the rules. Of course, I could not go to attend the meeting, but it was going to be streamed on Facebook.  On Thursday the fourteenth, I was uploading a twelve minute explanation of the proposed change, but the internet was very slow that day. In Licking, the local paper's news room had no internet service all day.

It had started out as a foggy morning, but turned into very nice weather later on. Nature is just outside the door, and while things were uploading, I went out into the field, where I came across a very accessible Monarch butterfly.

Because it was still morning, the sun was in the east, casting my shadow on the butterfly as I drew closer.

The entire encounter did  not take long.

I should have been thinking about the Bylaws, but the butterflies in the field distracted me. There was a pipevine swallowtail, too, and it had a damaged wing.

At first I filmed the pipevine swallowtail from a distance, afraid to frighten it away.

But the swallowtail did not show fear when I came closer.

When I had had my fill of butterflies and was on my way back to the house, I noticed there were strange green seeds embedded in my pants.

I went back inside, but the twelve minute talk about the LP Bylaws was still uploading. All afternoon, it was still uploading. After a while I went back outside, and I saw a turtle.

As I came closer, it went back into its shell.

.My friend Pam estimates this turtle, who appears to have suffered a serious injury to its shell, might be over sixty years old. As I was returning to the house from the field, I saw a deer in the front yard.

I thought surely ,my twelve minute video would have uploaded by lunch, but it didn't.  It didn't upload until two pm. Bow had a some pickle ice as a snack about then.

The internet continued slow all that day. Bow's friend Charla came with the bananas, and Bow had a nice time socializing with her. In the evening,  I was able to just catch the sunset after putting Bow to bed

The next day was very exciting. Sword came home for the weekend, and a man came to repair the lights in the pens. Bow was so excited, he is barely visible in this action shot of him flying through the air on his rope while the repairman was on the ladder.

And then there was the preparation by Sword of some thirty-odd no-bake cheesecakes, and Bow licking the bowl, while I remotely listened in on the Bylaws Committee meetings. That was quite a weekend!

 When Sword went back to college, we had leftover cream cheese, so I made blintzes.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Monarch and the Pipevine Swallowtail on a Thistle

There was a time when I suspected I had seen a Monarch butterfly on my property. and it flew circles around me very fast, so it was impossible to take its picture. In those days, all varieties of milkweed were flourishing on my property, and Great Spangled Fritillaries were quite common and accessible. But the Monarch was rare and elusive.

Yesterday, standing out in the field, in an area I like to call the meadow, where a variety of wildflowers bloom, I had no trouble at all spotting and filming and even taking still photos of a Monarch butterfly.

There were no Great Spangled Fritillaries in sight, and also no milkweed. In fact, the milkweed flowers this year were all eaten by deer, so that even when an expert on milkweed asked me to help him by gathering seed, I could not. The flowers were never given a chance to become seedpods. If milkweed is to continue to grow here, it will have to propagate from the root and not from seeds. This is the reality when the deer are this plentiful. But the side benefit is that there is relatively little poison ivy growing in the meadow, because the deer appear to have eaten it down, and they also left generous trails around the flowers, which allow me to walk unmolested among the flowers.

Yesterday, standing in the field and texting to a far away friend in California, I was able to see not only a Monarch, but also a Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly feeding side by side on a thistle plant.

The Pipevine Swallowtail was more flighty than the Monarch.

But when Swallowtail flew off, the friendly Monarch came and joined him, and the two continued feeding close together.

I have held Pipevine Swallowtails in my hand before. This is soon after they emerge as butterflies, when their wings are not yet dry, or after an injury. But when they are in their prime, they flutter so much that it is hard to get a good picture, because they are constantly flapping their wings.

They flap their wings so much even when hovering over a flower, that the closeups are a little blurry.

In any event, if there had been any doubt whatever that there are both Monarchs and Pipevine Swallowtails coexisting in my meadow, then this should set those doubts to rest. But sometimes it's not that no one believes you. Sometimes it's that they just don't care.

When I showed Bow my butterfly pictures yesterday, he quickly scrolled away from them, looking for pictures of himself, instead. In the same way, I don't actually believe any longer that if I could only "prove" that Bow can spell, it would make a big difference. Mankind is so transfixed by its own marvelous image, that most people, and especially those in the scientific community, would not look at proof that takes away from our stunning image.

But just when I thought that nobody was paying any  attention to my butterfly images, I got a comment from Scotland, about the thistle flower. "Wow! I didn't know that Scottish thistle grew in the USA!"

There was in fact another person locally who told me the thistle was an "invasive".  If so, good for it! Here is a song about the thistle that I like to listen to in my spare time.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Asking for a Rabbit

Yesterday after some time in the outer pen, Bow came in and asked for a rabbit . "תני לי ארנב "  "Give me a rabbit." A rabbit?? Usually he asks for a snack or a drink, but this time he wanted a rabbit. I went all over the house looking for one to give him. Finally I found this one, which had been a gift to me from Sword. (Bow has not wanted to play with stuffed animals in years.) I brought it in, explained it was mine, but he could play with it. He sniffed at it and threw it aside. He didn't want "a rabbit", after all. So I told him he had to pose with it, since I had gone to all the trouble to find it for him. And he understood and agreed to pose. Yes, these are posed shots. With Bow's cooperation!

Bow posed for a good long moment, giving me both  a nice en face pose and a profile.

To me, that was a proof of personal growth on Bow's part, in that he was willing to cooperate and hold the stuffed rabbit, even though he had lost interest in it and had no earthly use for it. It was not so much about language use as about cooperation. But then I posted the photos on Project Bow's Facebook page, and I got a lot of engagement. The questions were very interesting to me, for a number of reasons. So I will share some of these here, as well as my answers.

Someone asked whether I was trying to teach Bow the Hebrew word for rabbit. I answered that Bow already knew that. He already is fluent in Hebrew. Then they asked whether I wasn't using those letters on the glass to teach Hebrew. I explained the letters were for Bow to spell with, but he acquired both comprehension and production a long time ago, as well as literacy.

One person asked whether Bow was obsessed with rabbits, the way Koko is with cats. I had to admit that he was not. This was an unusual request on Bow's part. Somebody else asked whether Bow might have seen a wild rabbit and was asking for that. I said it was possible for Bow to see wild rabbits over the fence.  Then the first person asked whether perhaps Bow wanted meat, implying he might want  to eat a rabbit.  I answered that we were having chicken for dinner, and if Bow wanted meat, he knew how to ask for that.

Then somebody else asked a really interesting question: "Can chimps understand that the plush animal represents the real one, and is 'the same thing'?" I answered: "Bow is an enculturated chimpanzee, so what I know about him does not necessarily apply to other chimpanzee individuals. It also varies over the lifespan, as it does with humans. I believe that at this point in Bow's life, he associates photos, drawings and playthings shaped like rabbits with the word for rabbit, as well as live rabbits. He's 15 years old and literate."

All of that got me to thinking about the language-related implications of this incident, and also what I may not have gotten across to our audience very well before. First of all, Bow understood Hebrew and English long before he could read and write in those languages. He had total immersion since he was a month old. Here is a link to an article about that:

So what knowledge does Bow have about rabbits, real, imaginary and plush? When he was a baby, he had a stuffed rabbit.

Bow has seen rabbits outside, and I have also shown him video of rabbits I have seen outside, such as this one:

He has also seen the word for rabbit written and has had storybooks containing that word read to him, including my own In Case There's a Fox.

The word we normally use for rabbit in Hebrew is ארנב. While in many storybooks another word,  שפן is used, on the page shown above, both words appear. You can listen to me reading from the Bilingual Edition of the book to Bow in the video below.

Bow was following along on that page, and at just the right moment he pointed at the word for fox,  שועל just as I was saying it. It was one of those spontaneous events that just happened, and it might not be possible to get him to do it again. You can see that happen at 0:38 of the video above. It was a magical moment!

Of course, "fox"( שועל) is the more salient word in the book. But if Bow was following along closely enough to point to the words at the end of the verse as I said them, he probably was paying attention also when I read the word ארנב (rabbit).

So yes, Bow knows what a real rabbit is, he knows the spoken word for rabbit, and he knows how to spell that word.  And yes, he also knows that rabbits can be eaten, because he has seen our dog Teyman catching and eating them.

But we great apes in the Katz family have never had rabbit meat for dinner, so it is unlikely that Bow wanted to eat a rabbit. He identifies more with the primates in our family than with the canines, so he does not try to imtate the behavior of dogs, even when he understands it.

Are all chimpanzees just like Bow? Do they know what he knows? No. No more so than all human beings are just like me. Most humans do not know what I know. They live different lives, and each one has his own knowledge base, which may or may not overlap with mine.

Not all chimpanzees have the same experience with rabbits, with total immersion in Hebrew, or with literacy and picture books about rabbits. What Bow knows is what Bow has experienced. He knows all of those very different things can be referred to as ארנב because he has seen and heard this done many times before. This is true of all of us. You might as well ask whether every human being knows that rabbits, stuffed animals intended to represent rabbits, pictures and paintings of rabbits and the written word ארנב are associated. They do not all know it. It is not some kind of innate inheritance. Language is learned. Bow knows more about the way to represent the concept of a rabbit in Hebrew than anyone, human or chimp, who does not happen to know Hebrew.

All of the above is so obvious to me, that I sometimes forget that I need to explain it to other people. To me, what was so great was that Bow was willing for a moment to put aside his own desires so as to cooperate with me in taking those posed pictures.

Why is that so important? Because it is Bow's lack of cooperation in doing things just for show that is keeping me from proving what he knows and what he can do.

In a recent conversation with Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, she shared with me that the reason Kanzi was the superstar of all the bonobos she worked with is not that he was smarter than all the others. The others were very smart, too.  It's that Kanzi  was willing to take on the role of showing what he could do for the camera. He was patient. He was willing to do it slowly and more than once, and beyond what was reasonably interesting to him, just so that the humans filming the video could see.  This is something Bow and I need to work on.

Bow is very smart. But he does not like to do things just for show.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

My Partially Empty Nest

In the past couple of weeks, my daughter moved out and into her college dorm, Bow and I witnessed a partial solar eclipse, and many, many wild animals presented themselves to me, as if to make up for the lost companionship. And, of course, Bow is still here.

The eclipse, such as it was, was just a momentary darkness in the pens and an odd kind of light out of doors. You can see what we saw in the video embedded below.

My daughter also witnessed the eclipse in Springfield, two hours away from here. I have visited her there once since she moved into the dorm, but it's a long drive, and I can only go in the evening, because I have to stay with Bow from sunup to nearly sundown. Lawrence has remarried and moved away, so we are currently one chimp sitter short.

So how does it feel to have a partially empty nest? I see a lot of young animals  everywhere I look on my property. This turtle has such big eyes, because it is a juvenile three-toed box turtle, only three or four years old.

This brown thrasher allowed me to get close enough to it to take a picture, because it is a juvenile who has not yet learned to fly properly. I saw it after the mowers had left, and as brown thrashers are ground nesting birds, it seems likely the nest was disturbed.

And, of course, there are always the deer. The twin fawns are the easiest of all the deer to get close to.

It's as if all of nature is trying to make up for my fledgling who has flown away. Of course, I still have one in the nest. Bow looks so peaceful when he's asleep!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Poppy Seed Muffins

Yesterday, I decided to bake some poppy seed muffins.

I let Bow lick the bowl. While the muffins were in the oven,  I looked out the window and I saw some deer.


It was the doe and the twin fawns.  I went outside to see if I could get a better look.

The doe looked at me. One of the twin fawns decided to go into the back pasture, but the other one kept looking at me. Then the doe decided that she would leave, and they all bounded away.

 As a result, the poppy seed muffins were a little overdone. But Bow did not seem to mind. He ate them with great relish.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Saved One

There were two birds, actually.  They must have been sitting side by side on the low hanging branch of the liquidambar tree as I came by with my reel mower. They startled out of their low perch, but they could not fly away very far, because they ran into the glass door to my room, and beside that was our eight foot tall fence.

The first bird did not make it, because just as I was planning to take its picture, Leo caught it in his mouth, and by the time I could get him to release it, its neck was broken. But I was able to save the second bird.

I found it in the middle of the yard, and it flew off to the corner by the fence. So I went and got a towel and used it to pick the bird up, and I carried it out to the front yard, where I released it, and the bird flew off.

We cannot save everybody. That is impossible. But sometimes we can help a little.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Changing Seasons

Go away for less than two weeks, and everything changes. You leave in the height of summer, when the grass is green and flowers are blooming, and you come back to see drought  conditions, with trees shedding their leaves, butterflies on their last wings, deer looking starved and emaciated and blackberries turning into prunes.

People and animals who were alive when we left are now dead.  The landscape is eerily different, and we feel as if we had been through a time warp.

We are back from a trip to visit my mother in Bloomington and to speak at the Missouri Libertarian Party Convention in Jefferson City.

Bow on our return

Lawrence stayed with Bow and took care of our dogs and birds as well. We had to come home immediately after the Missouri Libertarian Convention, because, while we were in Bloomington,  a son of our neighbor friends was killed in a tractor accident, and we wanted to get back in time for the memorial service. But while we were still in Jefferson City, Lawrence texted us some more bad news. Brownie had just died.

The Memorial Picture that Sword posted about Brownie
When we got back, Bow did not say anything to me about Brownie's death. He just set about grooming me very meticulously.

Sword and I had gotten a manicure while away, but Bow thought I needed a new manicure, and a pedicure.

And a facial.

I went outside to mow the backyard the next morning, but a butterfly came and landed on a leaf and stood in my way, so I had to stop.

It was the red spotted purple that we had seen many times before around this time of year.

The dead leaf the butterfly was standing on is one of many leaves that our tulip tree shed during the drought that had fallen on the land while we were away.

The orange spotted purple on a dead tulip leaf
Leo is now our only dog. Here he is, amid a multitude of dead tulip tree leaves.

Leo in the backyard amid dead tulip tree leaves
There had been grass fires while we were away. Not on our property or near it,  but close enough that it impacted people in our community. And unrelated to that, a young man, thirty-one years old, a husband and a father, and a pillar of the community, had been cut down  in his prime in a tractor accident. He was the eldest son of our neighbors and friends, and Sword and I went to the memorial service. The local elementary school gymnasium was packed to overflowing with the hundreds of people who had come to pay their respects. We sat next to Bow's friend Charla at the service.

There were many more people mourning this young man than there had been libertarians at the Missouri Libertarian Party State Convention. He was well loved and will be sorely missed.

I asked Lawrence later whether Bow had said anything about Brownie's death. Lawrence said he had told Bow that Brownie had died, and Bow spelled out "b-a-d". "Bad? What do you mean, Bow?" Lawrence asked. Bow elaborated by spelling out "s-a-d". But soon after that, he asked Lawrence to play chase with him. 

Life goes on.