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Monday, October 31, 2016

Bow's Halloween Costume

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

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

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

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

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

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

This morning, the atmosphere was just right for Halloween.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When will the establishment allow you to see that?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Funding for Project Bow

Books for Children by Aya Katz

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

Sword and Bow in 2002

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

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

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

Other Books published by Inverted-A Press 

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

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

Books for Adults by Aya Katz

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Typical Behavior of a Male Chimpanzee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Displaying Against the Thunder and Clearing the Road

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

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

There are plenty of pollinators still out there.

Both bumblebees and honey bees are out making the rounds.

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

I think they like the smell of ripened fruit.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Choice of Mugs and the Issue of Preference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are several different, but related issues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Rain, Blossoms, Kiwifruit and Persimmons

Today it was dark and gloomy in the pens, because it rained almost all day long, but the monotony of the droning patter of falling rain was broken by the look and feel and color and flavor of unusual fruit.

Bow slept almost all morning, because what else can you do when the world is so dark and wet outside?

It was quite warm out when I went for my walk in the afternoon, but the petals of the latest blossoms on the cherry tree had been stained pink by the bruising they received in the rain,

By the path in the pasture, there were two persimmons so ripe that they had fallen to ground by one of the taller trees.

The smallest and most bountiful persimmon tree had more of its fruit ripe for the picking.

Dripping with rain, the persimmons looked very appetizing.

I picked the ripe ones and brought them home to Bow, so soft to the touch they were almost falling apart.

Bow ate the pulp and gently spit out the seeds into my hand. There were a lot of seeds!

For dessert with dinner tonight, I served Bow one of the four kiwifruit that his friend who brings the bananas gave him last week. They were not ripe then, but they are starting to ripen now.

Bow had never had kiwifruit before, so when he requested it, he called it "something else."

The kiwifruit was so good, Bow almost forgot to use the spoon I provided, but he was very polite and handed me the empty plate and spoon when he was done.

It can be very dark in the pens when the sun is not shining, but life is never dull when there is new and interesting fruit to eat.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Perpetuities in a Nutshell

Bow in the Outer Pen this Morning Enjoying a Persimmon I Picked for Him
At the farthest corner of my land, surrounded by brambles and blackberry thorns, is a tiny persimmon tree that is covered with fruit.

It's the Smallest Persimmon Tree on My Land, But It Bears More Fruit than the Others

It's the smallest persimmon tree on my land, but it bears much more fruit than the others. The other trees usually lose all their leaves by the time the fruit is ripe, and they stand tall and naked, with only a few orange globes hanging from them, which is why I refer to them as my Halloween Trees.

This image is from a post in 2014
None of these trees were planted by me, and they sprang up on their own, because I did not mow the pasture. The landscape of my land changes every year, I think that change is more natural than everything remaining at a stand still, so I wonder about those who are agitating to try to stop climate change.

A View of My Pasture at Sunset a Couple of Days Ago
If you look at the picture of my pasture at sunset, neither the fruiting mulberry in the foreground nor the cedars and pines in the background were there when I bought the property -- and they were not planted by me.

The Weigela Blossoms day before yesterday
It has been unseasonably warm lately, and not only the service berry and the cherry and the apple tree have been blossoming, but on the Weigela bush the fruit and the brand new blossoms are growing side by side.

What if it really is getting warmer here, and what if it has something to do with "global warming"? Does that mean we can do anything about it, or that -- even if we could -- we should?

If change is the natural state of things, should we try to artificially stop the change, preventing bigger harvests and easier living conditions in temperate areas? Why?

I know of people who want to freeze everything, keeping it all the same, because, after all, people and animals depend on the status quo. When a large business goes belly up, they try to keep it afloat at the public's expense, for the sake of the workers and of the economy. But the workers and the economy would be just fine, if you just left everything alone to decay and die and be reborn in the natural course of life. There are business cycles. There are climate cycles, There are winners and losers every time something changes. If you try to help the losers at the expense of the winners, you will eventually bring everybody down.

Take the current state of the Congo. Not very safe for either humans or other great apes. So what do conservationists do? They try to send money to the Congo to help to keep everything the same. Meanwhile they try to destroy the ability of private apes in the United States to keep eking out a living in a new environment. But the greatest hope for non-human apes to survive is among humans in the United States. 

And then there are the researchers who actually believe that some rich donor is going to provide them with funding for their project in perpetuity. But every single time, the particular business that this donor depends on falls on hard times, and there goes their revenue in perpetuity. No business can last forever. The economic climate is constantly changing. It's natural.

When I was taking Trusts &Estates in law school, I happened on a tiny book called Perpetuities in a Nutshell.  For me, it was just a study aid, but it was a good one, and the title was so catchy that it stuck with me.

Here is what I can tell you about perpetuities in a nutshell: Nothing lasts forever. Things change constantly. If you take advantage of those changes that work in your favor, then you can always find a way to survive and sometimes even to thrive.

This means that instead on insisting on having the fruit you have always had under the circumstances that it has always ripened, you look around and see what fruit happens to be ripe for the picking right now.

The Ripe Persimmon

One of the persimmons on the tiny tree was already ripe, so I picked it and brought it home to Bow. I have been told that persimmons should not be eaten until after the first frost, but in that case, why do they ripen without a frost? Surely in some areas it never freezes.

Bow was not particularly hungry. It was not long after breakfast. But he accepted the persimmon from me and ate of it delicately.

What if the warming trend in Missouri continues, making the outdoors safe for chimpanzees here year round? Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing for chimpanzee conservation in the US? Why would you want to reverse this trend for the sake of other animals elsewhere on the globe? If everything had always stayed the same throughout our own history, would any humans have ever left Africa? Do you want to reverse that trend, too? It just does not make any sense. 

Progressives accuse conservatives of wanting to "halt progress." But isn't that exactly what progressive conservationists are trying to do to climate change on this planet -- halt progress? There is really no telling where nature is going with this. It is unlikely that we can stop it, But we can help ourselves and the animals we love by adapting to the change. The entire history of life on this planet is a history of natural migration and natural adaptation. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Is it Spring Again, yet?

We each have an internal timetable that may or may not match objective reality. Cicero warns us that we have to act our age, or we will appear foolish. For every thing there is a season, the Old Testament intones. But what if you don't feel like the season you are allotted?

Yesterday was the first of October. The air was a bit chilly in the morning when I went for a walk. But I was amazed by the blossoms that greeted me! The honeysuckle flowers were not that surprising.
Honeysuckle on the First of October

 They had not bloomed that day, and soon they would be gone.  After all, two days earlier there were still plenty of yellow butterflies fluttering about.

But the lily white blossoms that I spotted in the serviceberry bush were brand new!

Serviceberry blossoms on the first of October

How did they suddenly decide to bloom forth when the weather turned cooler?

A closer look at the serviceberry blooming

And then I saw the cherry blossoms trembling in the cold breeze! So much bigger and more splendid than the serviceberry blooms, they seemed to proclaim that spring had finally sprung!

These fresh, newly opened blossoms had sprung forth on only one spot on the otherwise bare tree.

Cherry Blossoms on the First of October

What did they know that everyone else did not know? Were they answering a call of nature at odds with the nip of frost in the air?

Not to be outdone, the tiny, baby apple tree that we planted only last fall was suddenly showing a big pink blossom. This tree has yet to give fruit, and I don't believe it even bloomed this spring.

What makes flowers burst forth out of season?

 Is it foolish to want to give fruit when everything else is preparing for a long winter?

Blackberry blossom trying to bring forth fruit on the first of October

 Or do each of us  live by a different timetable, so that those who did not bloom in the spring get a second chance in the fall?