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Monday, April 30, 2018

The End of April

Friday, April 13, 2018

Intruders on the Property

On April 11, Bow enjoyed the nice weather. He went outside and gave his swing in the outer pen some use.

As the grass has started to grow, I was also out there mowing with my trusty reel mower.

After I finish mowing, the grass does not seem particularly well mown to the average person, but believe me, if I did not mow, it would get impossibly unmanageable.

After mowing, I relaxed a little by the pen, too. And then it was time for lunch. After lunch, I usually take a walk. But as I went out the door, I noticed that we had intruders on the property.

A big red truck was blocking my driveway in as spot I never even allow honored guests to occupy. Its motor was running, and it was very loud, but there was no one in the vehicle. I went all round the truck, trying to figure out why it was there, and where the people were who came in it.

Eventually I located them by the power pole, where they were attempting -- unsuccessfully, I might add -- to change the meter.

The process too a very long time, and we could hear Bow inside vocalizing in frustration. When I checked later, I saw that he had made a mess. However, at the time I felt it was best for me to stand guard over the intruders and to see them safely off when they were down.

I was polite, but I did let them know that the next time they need to work on my property, they should notify me that they are coming. This is, after all, a rural property. I could have had a guard dog loose or I could have been engaged in target practice, and there are any number of hazardous activities they might have stumbled upon that would have been dangerous to them. They can't just assume that it is all right to come here without first giving notice.

I am grateful for the electricity, and I understand that the power company needs access to the meter, but I think there is still some expectation of privacy even when there is an electric pole on my property. If I ever built that island for Bow, I would need to know that power company people would not wander onto the property without permission. Bow is very good natured, but he wants to know who is coming over and when.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Things that Happened Around Easter

The cockatiel eggs did not hatch. One of them even broke, and it did not look as if it had been fertilized. Nevertheless, there were plenty of other kinds of eggs around Easter time.

While the annual Easter egg hunt for Bow had to be cut short due to chain saws in the woods behind our house and later rain, a few days  later, Bow found another egg that he had overlooked on April 1.

It was a nice, sunny day for a change, and Bow enjoyed his find.

After sniffing the candy, he determined it to be good.

While the sunshine lasted. Bow and Leo made the most of it in the back yard.

But the sun-soaked days did not last long.

Soon it was snowing again.

RELATED: An Interview with Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Three Cockatiel Eggs

For a long time, it seemed the cockatiels would end  their season with only a single egg. And they also seemed quite neglectful of that one egg, going off to do other things together, such as eating, grooming and mating. I thought that probably nothing would come of it, but I kept the nest there, and every now and then Queen seemed to have the nesting urge.

Actually, she sat there the longest, looking tired and irritable and a little stricken, when she was trying to lay another egg. I only understood that in retrospect.

It took a very long time for that second egg to finally emerge.

The third egg arrived promptly soon thereafter. It was only just last night.

Both cockatiels are taking turns sitting on the eggs now, with Queen taking her shift in the evening and King coming on duty in the morning, when the coffee is a-brewing. They both look identical to me. The only way I can tell the difference is by the way they behave. Queen is shy and nervous. King is outgoing and talkative. I think he actually takes pride in showing me the eggs, before he gently pushes them into place underneath him with his halfway open beak.


Julia Hanna and I are doing livestreams every Friday night at around 8:00pm Central Standard Time on both our channels. For notifications, please make sure that you are subscribed to my channel. Click on the link below, and if you are not yet subscribed, it will give you a chance to do so.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Parental Controls and a Nesting Box

The next thing I did after Bow discovered rap music was to get him a cheap tablet at Wal*Mart. I wanted it to be something that I could leave with him, and if he did break it, it would not be an economic disaster.

 But I also wanted to make sure he did not do anything too extreme, while surfing the internet, so I set him up with a Google account as my son, allowing me to control it under Family Link. There was just one problem. As a sixteen year old, he was deemed too old for parental controls.

I had to fudge before I was able to finish the process of enrolling Bow in family link. He now has YouTube for Kids on his tablet, and for the time being this satisfies him.

Meanwhile, Queen, the cockatiel, laid another egg. This time the egg was perfect and not cracked. I had set up a basket for a nest before she laid the second egg, but Queen did not choose to lay her egg in the basket.

When I moved the egg to the basket nest, Queen did not choose to follow the egg there.

I read up on it and found that some cockatiels like more shallow nesting boxes, so I used a tea box that I got from Charla with the bananas, and I padded it with newspaper and put it in the corner where Queen had been trying to nest. I put the egg inside the box. Eventually Queen went back to nest on the egg.

Queen is kind of anxious and leaves the nest frequently, especially when I am looking at her, so I am trying to stay away to give her a chance to do her thing. She may be too old to be a mother, but however old she is, she lacks experience and needs some space to try to figure out what to do.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Bow Discovers Rap Music

Yesterday was a big and eventful day. Bow discovered rap music.

It started out like any other day. We have been having icy mornings, with everything covered in sheet of transparent frozen water.

This is not Bow's kind of weather, and no amount of cajoling will get him to leave the warmth of the inner pen.

On days like this, Bow remains in the pen, lying on his blanket and I venture forth to see what is going on outside.

On my way to the front yard I said hello to the two cockatiels and Summer the Quaker parrot. I noticed that the female cockatiel, Queen, was trying to nest, but I did not think much of it. In our backyard, the old mourning dove nest had been covered in ice, like a nest made of diamonds.

In the front yard, every tree and bush and blade of grass was coated with ice.

By noon, however, all that ice was melting and crashing to the ground.

After lunch, I brought the iPhone into the pen with Bow, so he could see what I had seen outside. But he was having none of that. He swiftly located the YouTube app and started surfing for new videos to watch. In no time at all, he had located a rap song and began to groove to it.

It was nothing I had planned on. I was in shock! I could not stop him, and he would not give me back the iPhone until long after the spirit of the song had left him. Luckily, he had a firm grip on the iPhone the whole time he was dancing and swinging on his rope to the beat of the rap song.

Bow is growing up. He needs his own electronic device, I thought, as I was cleaning out the bird cages last night. And then I noticed something unusual in the cockatiel cage. It was an egg. But it was cracked. She must have laid it while on a high perch.

Somehow when I saw her trying to nest, I did not take Queen quite seriously enough. I thought she was just playing at being a mother. I had seen her and King mating the day before, but thought nothing of it. I mean, I considered filming it, but decided that YouTube would not approve, so I didn't. Now I was really sad that she had not had a good enough nest to protect this egg, which was undoubtedly fertilized.

In the two years that I have been taking care of the cockatiels since I took them over from Sword, I have never found an egg in the cage, even though the birds have been active as a couple. I wondered if this was a fluke, or it means that King and Queen are ready to start a family.

Last night I went to Wal*Mart with two things on my shopping list: a tablet for Bow and a nesting box for Queen.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The End of a Paystream

Today is the day YouTube plans to cut me off. No more banana money for Bow.

After over nine years and and 1,968 video uploads, with  44,183  minutes that my videos were watched last month and monthly views of 30,424, I am going to lose my revenue stream for bananas, because I do not have one thousand subscribers. Today is the cutoff date.

They gave me a month, and I spent that month trying to get more subscribers. In the process, I seem to have alienated some of my most loyal viewers -- who are not now and never were subscribers!

Toward the end of last month, I was making around $40.00 per month. It has come down as I added commercials for myself and my channel to try to drum up subscribers. But my viewers are not my fans. They are not my friends. They are just people who like specific videos for reasons of their own. And if YouTube cared about its revenue as much as I care about mine, they would not have made this ridiculous rule about the thousand subscribers -- an impossible goal for someone who has a valuable product to sell, but is not herself popular.

Yes, my friends have subscribed. But I haven't got a thousand friends. And to tell you the truth, my subscribers do not watch my videos all that much. My own mother has better things to do than sit around all day watching my videos. My friends wish me well, but most of them have not seen most of my videos, because they have lives of their own. My real viewers are the nameless, faceless people who put food on our table, but will never, ever subscribe. My thanks go to them, even though I do not know who they are. And I understand why they do not wish to reveal their identity by subscribing.

Maybe someday YouTube will catch on.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Celebrating Bow's Sixteenth Birthday

Bow turned sixteen today. We celebrated quietly, just the two of us.

We did all the usual things that we used to do when I would throw Bow a birthday party every year, minus the guests. This year, Lawrence is not available, anymore,  and Sword is away at college, so Bow and I decided to celebrate alone. In some ways, I think Bow enjoyed this way of celebrating more.

He had less anxiety when the birthday song was sung, and he got the cake all to himself.

Usually, we blow out the candles together through the grille, before Bow selects which piece of cake he wants. But this time, as there were no others, I brought in the cake for him to blow out the candles by himself. Bow, however, did not take time to blow out the candles. He picked up a spoon and proceeded to devour as much as he could with the candles still burning.

I did eat one slice of the cake, one of the two that were dabbed with chocolate. Meanwhile, Bow had the rest all by himself, so I decided to call that lunch. The candles that were still burning did not bother him.

The six went out by itself, but the flame on the one was persistent, so eventually I blew it out.

In addition to the cake, Bow got a present from me, and a card addressed to him arrived in the mail from his friend Charla.

Bow is not very prompt with opening presents and cards. He puts it off and takes his own sweet time. For a long time he sat very still with his back to his present.

He took off the party hat he had on rather quickly, but he let me put it back on him again later and was even willing to pose.

By the time he tore open the card from Charla, Bow was almost too tired to open it fully to hear the beautiful birthday song it played  But once the song began to play, he was moving to the music.

All in all, Bow had a great day. He could not have enjoyed it more if there had been more presents or cards, because he likes to take his time and not be rushed in the enjoyment of his big day.

 Bow went to bed fully satisfied. And now he is sixteen.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Celebrating Valentine's Day

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, and we celebrated accordingly. Some people think that this holiday is only for romantic couples, but we have always celebrated it at my house, in whichever way that suited us. Even though she is away in college, and currently has a boyfriend, my daughter did not forget me on Valentine's Day.

Likewise, I did not forget to celebrate with Bow.

In my house, our favorite flavor of ice cream is coffee. I prepared a treat for two consisting of coffee ice cream, topped with whipped cream and a Dove chocolate piece shaped like a heart.

I went in with both treats, and I told Bow that one of them was for me.

Bow took his treat and ate the chocolate heart on top, and then, seeing that I had left mine on the floor as I went to lock the door, he helped himself to my share, too. I scolded him and took his ice cream for myself, but by then Bow had already managed to eat both chocolate hearts.

Bow is gentle and well mannered, but he is not good at understanding the difference between "mine" and "yours". We often see this as a problem with "sharing" if a human toddler behaves in that way, but the issue is not sharing at all. It is about realizing that once something is given to another person, it's not yours to take. It's a lesson in property rights, not asset allocation.

Once he was finished with his ice cream, Bow handed me back the empty glass goblet.

Later in the afternoon, I had another surprise for Bow: a Valentine's Day Balloon.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Innocence of Academics

People in the ivory tower are sheltered from the everyday concerns of those outside. They are willing to publish their findings without pay, because they are already secure in the funding for their day to day life. People outside the academy need to find ways to make what they do every day provide them with income.

Every day, I work at documenting life with Bow, and I also work at earning money for Project Bow. I post about Bow on this blog, and I also post videos on YouTube. This was yesterday's video:

Videos of grooming do much better than videos about academic papers, such as this one:

They also do much better than videos about the history of Project Bow, such as:

Today, I was contacted by someone from Cornell asking if they could film Bow and me and place the video on their site or on their YouTube Channel. Now, I am familiar with Cornell's channel. Bow and  I watched Anurag Agrawal on that channel. They currently have 98 subscribers! Why on earth should I give them my work product for free? They should be asking me for tips on how to improve their subscription rate.

I, too, need more subscribers for my channel. I will be happy to subscribe to their channel if they subscribe to mine. I will be happy for them to embed my videos on their site, so I can earn more money. I have already embedded one of their videos on my site.

There have been times when people have tried to shame me for wanting to be paid for what I do. But they get paid for what they do. YouTube videos have been paying for Bow's bananas. Until a better deal comes along, I am keeping that revenue to myself. In the meantime, if you have not yet subscribed to my channel, please do. It really does make a difference to Bow and me.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Passing the Turing Test

Bow uses smart technology all the time. He swipes to select photos.

He watches recorded livestreams to see what I and his friend Charla have been up to while away from the pens.

He is a big fan of Lady Gaga, who excites him. But he watches Julie Andrews respectfully and quietly while she delivers a speech on the history of musical theater.

Bow has logged countless hours watching YouTube videos -- countless because they cannot be counted by the internet  bots, since Bow does not have his own account. They cannot tell if I am the one watching or Bow is. Because of this, they totally ignore the chimpanzee demographic when pitching ad space to advertisers. It seems sad that Bow's opinions and preferences should not be tallied along with everyone else's, but then I have to remind myself that there are plenty of humans who watch YouTube and whose opinions also do not count. Not everybody has a YouTube account. Many watch, but not only do they not subscribe -- there's no way that they could subscribe. And YouTube, trying to corner all the big spenders in Gen Z need to know exactly who you are in order to count your vote. Or so they think.

Livestram with Julia

But that's not really how the free market operates. The market does not need to know who paid for the bananas. It just counts how many bananas were sold, and what price they went for. Does it matter if the person watching is not human or not an adult or not a voter?

Back in the day, when I started Project Bow, I was hoping that one day, when Bow was literate and on the internet in total anonymity, he would pass the Turing test. I noted that we as humans had brains that are wired in a variety of different ways, and yet we use the same languages to communicate with one another.

We don't just anthropomorphize chimpanzees when we ascribe to them the thoughts and feelings  we would have had under the same circumstances. We do the same to our fellow man. No two brains are alike. No two have the same wiring diagram for processing language.

When I wrote the article embedded above, I was attending a conference at Dartmouth, and Sword and Bow and I were staying in rented house in Canaan, New Hampshire.

With us was the first Project Bow intern, Samina Farooqi. Since then, Samina has gotten her Ph.D, Sword has graduated from high school and is a freshman in college, and Bow is about to turn sixteen. Bow is a member of Gen Z, computer literate and internet savvy. But his input doesn't count, because he is not a subscriber.

I liked it better when the anonymity of the internet gave everyone a chance at passing the Turing test no matter who they were, how they were wired or whether they had a Google account .

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Out in the Snow

We have been snow bound for several days now. I have gone for a walk each day, but Bow has not wanted to go out.

At first there was not much snow on the ground, but it was nice to take a walk down the path in the snow flurries.

On the second day, there was much more snow on the ground, though by afternoon when I took my walk, it was not snowing any longer.

On the third day, I saw deer bounding over the path. On the fourth day, it was so cold out that I cut my walk very short, and we concentrated on grooming.

 And today, on the fifth day, Bow asked to go outside. I did not know whether to take the request seriously. Sometimes when he is bored, but it is too cold out, he will drag me all the way to the outer door, but never actually go out. But this afternoon he jumped out without hesitation. Naturally, his feet never touched the snow. He landed on the bench.

Bow shook his head at the cold, but did not ask to go back in. Instead, he lay on the rim of the bench's backrest and sunbathed for a good long time, before asking to go back inside.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Place of No Return

Do you remember the scene from Pinocchio where the bad guys are recruiting children to go into their Sanctuary? (Yes, I'm going to call it a sanctuary, because it's a place where children are liberated from adults.)

The real problem with the proposition from the fox and the cat was not just that it was a misrepresentation of Pleasure Island as a Sanctuary free from care. The real problem was that it was a Place of No Return."They never come back ... as boys."

I know of a lot of places with a hard sell, but no right of return. They include sanctuaries for chimpanzees and old folks homes. These places are advertised as Pleasure Island where the isolated chimpanzee or elderly person can find friends of his own age or species, but they don't offer a money back guarantee or a free ticket home if you don't like it there. In fact, many old folks homes expect the elderly to sell their house and give them all the money. They have complicated contracts, so you can't just decide to go there as a vacation and then return home when you have had your fill. I have known a few people who went into those homes. They never come back out alive.

By this, of course, I do not mean that the institutions intentionally kill the elders who enter there. Most die of old age. But once you put yourself there, it is very hard to leave. The same is true for chimpanzee sanctuaries.

Once a chimpanzee enters the sanctuary system, he might be sent to a different sanctuary if the one he is in turns out to be a death trap, but he can never leave the sanctuary system. There is no going home. If I were a chimpanzee, I would be afraid to go there for that reason alone, much less what might happen to me during the first introduction to  other inmates.

"If you really respect Bow, you would leave it up to him to choose," my primatologist friend said to me recently. Really? And if I had a little boy like Pinocchio, I suppose you think I should leave it up to him to accept or reject the offer of the fox and the cat? Because after all, that is the libertarian position, right?

Wrong. Which brings me to the recent issue of age of consent that came up in my libertarian circles. Most of us agree that minors do need to be protected by their parents and should not be allowed to make irrevocable decisions about their lives without the help of a parent while they are yet too immature to be emancipated. Most libertarians, even the radical ones, understand that being a human does not automatically equip one to deal with complex, life altering issues from day one. Literate fifteen-year-olds are in most cases still not ready to sell themselves to the highest bidder.

"But if you believe that Bow can read and write, then why won't you let him decide for himself?" For the same reason I would not let any teen sell himself to a place of no return.

The truth is, if there were a place that Bow could go for a fun vacation, I would probably let him go. I would use that time to take a vacation, myself. But I am not shipping him off to Pleasure Island -- because if it were a good place, they would not have a no return policy.