9 Year Old Skies

A while ago my sister asked me about stars, because my niece asked my sister.  I’m a huge astronomy buff (my dog, Arcturus Vega, is named for two stars and my puppy is also destined for a star name, already selected) and I promised I’d write about stars.  So, Camille and Zoe, this is for you.

What is a star?

A star, loosely defined, is a sphere of plasma which is held together by its own gravity.  It used to be that we believed the plasma had to be hot and luminous, but recent discoveries of a star as cold as ice put a bit of a wrench in that assembly.

Plasma is not a separate type of matter, like wood or water or lead, but a state of matter.  We recognize four states of matter: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma.  Plasma is weird stuff.  It has no real shape of its own, but takes the shape of whatever container it’s in like a liquid does.  It’s intensely reactive to electromagnetism, like metal.  It’s sort of fluid, sort of gaseous, and sort of solid.  It flows like a liquid but flows so slowly that it behaves in the short term more like a solid.  Stellar matter is so dense and thick that it takes light generated in the core of a star millions, even billions, of years to escape depending on the star’s size.

On top of this, stars are what we consider to be the basic fundamental components of galaxies.  So they’re kind of a big deal.

Our star, the sun, is called Sol.

Where do stars come from?

Stars form in nebulae, (singular nebula, large interstellar clouds of gas and dust) from gas that essentially collapsed under the force of its own gravity, triggering nuclear fusion and thereby creating a star.

It’s much simpler than it sounds.

Gravity is basically matter attracting matter the way fabric stores draw quilters.  It’s a fairly weak force, but when you’re talking about clouds of dust and gas that stretch for hundreds to millions of light years (which is what a nebula is)… that’s a lot of matter and a lot of attractive force, though it’s diffuse at first.  It would only take a little bit of that gas and dust clumping together to start attracting more and more dust and gas into a relatively small area at an increased rate.  At some point there would be enough force and pressure in the center of the clump that hydrogen would fuse at the atomic level into helium, which would release a massive amount of energy and would start a chain fusion reaction.

And thus you have a screaming, chaotic newborn star.  From there it will grow up to become a great number of different types of stars.

What kinds of stars are there?

Most stars are dwarf stars.  Some scientists estimate that 75% of stars in our galaxy are red or brown dwarves.  These stars are small, 50% the size of Sol at the largest (dwarf stars that large are very rare), cool and dim, emitting as little as 1/10,000th the light of Sol.  Brown dwarves aren’t even large enough to have gravity sufficient for nuclear fusion, so they’re a little more like Jupiter than a star the way we usually think about them.

There are stars like our sun.  These stars make up (if I remember correctly) 10-12% of stars in the Milky Way and are technically classified as yellow dwarves.  Yellow dwarves are called main sequence stars, meaning they are on the smaller side and are powered by nuclear fusion in their core.  They’re mature, luminous, and will stay in their mature state for about 5 billion years and live for 10-15 billion years.

There are blue giants and blue supergiants.  These are massive stars, usually the size of our entire solar system, that burn hot and fast.  They’re bright, anywhere from 40 to 1.4 million times as bright as the sun.  Where Sol will live for about 10 billion years, the average blue giant or supergiant will live anywhere from 100 to 500 million years.  These are the stars responsible for most of the heavy metals that exist because they’re the ones large enough to go out in the biggest blaze of glory in the universe, a supernova.

Last but not least are red giants and red super-giants.  These are old, old stars who are dim and getting ready to expel their outer layers like a snake shedding its skin, or else they already have.  They’re dying, gasping for life, bloated and burning the last vestiges of their nuclear fuel before their cores collapse into supernovae or white or black dwarves.

What do stars do?

Stars do all kinds of cool stuff.

Our sun is a star, as you know, and without it life on Earth as we know it wouldn’t be possible.  Plants rely on solar radiation, otherwise known as sunlight, to make their food through a process known as photosynthesis.  Herbivores eat the plants, carnivores eat the herbivores, and that way the sun’s energy is cycled and recycled through the air and the land on Earth.

Solar radiation is responsible for all the weather on Earth.  Uneven heating between water and land causes air currents to swirl around the planet in an attempt to even out the temperature over the entire globe.  Too little sunlight and all the water on Earth would freeze solid and we’d all die.  Too much sunlight and all the water on Earth would boil away and we’d all die.

Probably the coolest thing stars do is manufacture heavy metals in their core.  Every metal in the universe heavier than hydrogen was made in the core of a star, and expelled into interstellar space when that star died.  Without stars there would be no gold for jewelry, no iron or aluminum to make our cars, and no calcium to make our bones.

How does that work?  Well, consider that hydrogen is the simplest, lightest thing in the universe and its atomic number is one.  So when you start learning basic math, you learn that one plus one equals… two.  When you combine one hydrogen with another hydrogen, both with a number of one, you get two.  And two is helium.  Mix hydrogen and helium, two plus one, and you get three, which is lithium.  Combine two helium, two plus two, gets you four and four is beryllium.  You can keep mixing and matching larger numbers all the way up to the top of the ladder.  Mix to make 26 and you’ll make iron.  47 is silver.  79 makes gold.

The higher the number, the heavier the stuff and the older the star.  Stars burn through their hydrogen first, because it’s light and plentiful and fuses easily, and then move on to making heavier things.

So how do stars die?

There are a few ways a star can die, but star death mostly falls into two categories so I’ll just touch on those.  Some stars go out with a whimper and some go out with a bang.

Most stars start dying the same way.  As they start fusing heavier and heavier metals, they start to bloat like a balloon.  After a while they blow their outer layers off into space while the remaining core continues to swell.   Heavier elements take more energy to fuse and give off less plentiful energy, in large part because they’re simply less plentiful, so eventually fusion grinds to a halt.

Once that stage is reached, the star does one of two things.

Stars around the size of Sol and smaller go out with a whimper.  As the energy from fusion in the center of the star runs out, the balance between it and gravity is upset.  Gravity yanks the stellar matter back in on itself, like an over-stretched rubber band.  What you’re left with is a white dwarf or a black dwarf.   White and black dwarves are essentially the corpses of larger stars.  A black dwarf isn’t luminous at all, and a white dwarf is dead but some remaining traces of light created by its predecessor’s nuclear fusion is still escaping the body of the star.

Some stars go out with a bang, and what a bang it is.  In these cases the sheer size of the star means it has enough gravity to create a supernova when the core of the star collapses.  A supernova is the most energetic thing in the entire universe, and often lets off what’s called a gamma ray burst.  A single gamma ray burst creates more energy in its very short life (a few minutes to a few hours) than the rest of the galaxy creates in its entire lifespan of billions and trillions of years.  If a gamma ray burst were ever to hit Earth we’d all die before we knew what happened and life would probably never return to our planet.  After a supernova the remnant usually turns into either a neutron star or a black hole.

A neutron star is a creepy, undead thing.  It’s a zombie star.  Neutron stars are dense.  Crazy dense.  The amount of matter from a neutron star that would fill a teaspoon would weigh as much as the entire island of Manhattan.  They spin rapidly, sometimes millions of rotations a second, and lash their surroundings with radio waves, deadly radiation, and other unpleasant business.

The only thing worse to be standing by than a neutron star is a black hole.  A black hole is a single point so dense that its gravitation is so strong not even light can escape, and this is what becomes of the cores of some supermassive stars.  They’re terrifying and I won’t go into a great amount of detail here about what they are and what they do but suffice it to say there’s no escape from spaghettification if you’re caught too close to a black hole.

So!  That’s a brief look into how stars work.

Heals All Wounds

So. Let’s talk about time. And let’s also hope I don’t bugger this up too badly because I’m not the least bit qualified, here.

Being that I’m not wholly sure how to introduce that to make it sound interesting, you’ll just have to bear with me because this is fascinating, mind bending stuff. Space and time seem pretty boring and absolute on the surface. Space is space, it’s a physical entity that we can measure and move through in any number of directions at any number of speeds and it’s largely unchanging. The distance from Red Deer to Los Angeles doesn’t change, nor does the distance from Earth to Mars (mostly).

Time is a little different in that time has one direction and one speed. It goes “forward”, and it goes really, really fast. We can also measure time, in seconds and minutes and hours and days and on and on, and we have a pretty good handle on how fast time moves.

Measuring the speed of time is where things get a little complicated and mind-bendy. You see, space and time are both what we call dimensions. Without getting too technical, dimensions are fundamental aspects of the universe that basically make everything work.

Within Newtonian classical mechanics time is taken to be constant and unchanging, experienced the same way by everyone and everything. Same for space. That idea holds up very well under everyday circumstances and lines up really well with ‘common sense’ among people.

Along came Albert Einstein, who introduced the Special Theory of Relativity in 1905 when people were starting to figure out that something was a bit wonky with Newton’s original theories. What we came to find out with this new, improved idea was that space and time are one, like intertwining threads that make up your shirt or your pillow or your Grandmother’s curtains.

So what does this change? As far as day to day experience goes, absolutely nothing. Newtonian classical mechanics hold true in that regard but when asking questions larger than ‘What happens if I stand on one train and you stand on another and, while the trains are racing toward one another at different speeds, we each time the trip?’ it starts to show signs of stress.

The really mind-bending, boggling, utterly amazing thing about the newer theory of relativity is that it gave us the idea that time passes differently for different people/things.

Stay with me, here.

The intertwined dimension of space and time is called, aptly, spacetime. We move through spacetime at the speed of light, says the theory of relativity.

Okay, so time is the speed of light, right?

… sort of.

You see, we move through space AND time at a combined velocity equal to the speed of light. So the more quickly you move through space, the more slowly you move through time. The inverse is also true. The more slowly you move through time, the more quickly you move through space.

So as I’m sitting here drinking my coconut green tea, watching my dog nap and writing about space and time, the very time I’m writing about is going a little bit faster for me than it is for the masochist I just watched run past on the sidewalk outside.

But that’s okay, because the faster you go the more your mass increases.

Neither of those realities have any impact on day to day life. Going for a jog won’t even slow time by a millisecond, and the amount of mass you’d gain while jogging isn’t even a milligram.

The speed of the rotation of the Earth changes depending on where you are on the planet, but for the northern latitudes around North America and Europe it’s about 1287kph. It’s faster at the equator, slower at the poles.

Isn't she beautiful?

Our blue marble.

On top of spinning recklessly like an out of control top, we also orbit the sun at 108,000kph.

Solar SystemOur solar system orbits the galactic core at 900,000kph and our galaxy moves through space at a speed I can’t even think about.

Pretty similar to our own Milky Way, but smaller.

Barred spiral galaxy NGC1300. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

In one hour alone we move 1,009,827 kilometres without even getting out of bed. That’s a pretty big number and you can bet your last dollar that it makes a difference on how time passes for us Earthlings.

Of course, as I said earlier, the closer you get to the speed of light the more your mass increases which creates an interesting problem. In order to move physical mass at the speed of light, you need ever increasing amounts of energy to reach that speed in the first place. That leaves us a little bit restricted as to how far and how fast we can travel.

Light moves at the speed of light because light is pure energy and has no mass. Thus time doesn’t pass for light because it moves through space at the speed of…

Light.

The World I Know

This is Tikka.  Tikka came to live with me when she was four months old.  Tikka was fearful and reactive, but I don’t want to talk about that.  I want people to meet the Tikka I knew.

Tikka

This is the puppy I brought home with me on March 23, 2012.

How could you not love that face?Tikka was… amazing.  I spent months just getting to know her, and during those months she grew into a gangly teenager.

Teenage TikkaShe continued to grow from there.  And she was wonderful.  She was always so eager to learn, and eager to work and engage.  She loved to go for walks, but what she loved most of all was to play fetch.  She’d chase a ball for as long as I’d throw it, and always brought it right back and let it go with a single ‘drop it’.

Prettier than the flowersTikka was smart.  Really, really smart.  I bought all sorts of brain toys and puzzles to keep her entertained, but she always figured them out in no time.  And more often than not figured out how to get them open so she didn’t have to waste time on silly shenanigans.

20131118_110710(1)She was goofy.

20131104_220948She was snuggly.

Cuddle bugShe loved hanging out with her baby brother Vega.

Best buddiesThey loved to play tug together.

Best game ever!They loved to go for walks together.

Winter WalkAnd by god did Tikka love to run.

Hay field rompWe explored on the long line.

Michener ParkWe went for long walks on empty country roads.

photoWe learned tricks, like how to take a bow.

Take a bowWe did charity walks to support animal rescue.

Tails on the TrailsWe hung out at home.

My constant companion

Her recall was perfect.  So were her sit, her wait/stay, and her down.

Sit!

I’m miss her face.  I wish more people could have known the Tikka I knew.

Zombie dog

Wind Chill

It’s freezing cold here right now, to the tune of -34C with wind chill.  Being a lady who enjoys autumn and winter more than summer, I tend to be outside doing things more often during the cold months than the hot ones.

I turn into a bit of a delicate flower when the infernal daystar blasts too much of its radiation at me during the day.  It burns!

One thing that I do like about being out in the summer, though, is the decided lack of gear one needs to wear.  My summer uniform is a pair of capri pants and a tank top, and that’s awesome.  I wish I could dress like that in the winter, but alas I like my digits and limbs where they are and would prefer to keep them.  In winter, especially on days like this, there’s a lot more dressing up involved.  Hoodie, scarf, little gloves, big mittens, and finally a windproof jacket, windproof insulated pants, and boots all rated for -40C temperatures.

All of that sounds pretty simple, right?  It’s cold outside, you wear a coat right?  It sure should be that simple.

Here’s the thing.  I’m a big girl.  I wear plus sizes.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find plus size winter wear?  Especially on the rural plains of Alberta, Canada?  You can usually manage to get a jacket, but good luck finding pants.  You can find useless stylish jackets pretty easily, it’s true, but finding anything that’s windproof, will keep you warm when it’s any colder than -10, and you can actually zip up is a trick.  May the flying spaghetti monster help you if you need a new coat in, say, January or February because anyone who carries plus sizes, including plus size specialty shops, only carry one or two of each size and most of those go at the start of the season.

I guess fat girls just don't get to go outside when it's cold.

I guess fat girls just don’t get to go outside when it’s cold.

This bothers me immensely, for reasons I’m sure are obvious.  I’m active, I walk, I work, I play with my dogs, but because I happen to be all of those things and fat at the same time I can’t seem to get winter gear.  Obviously fat girls are lazy, right?  They don’t go outside anyway, so why bother making anything to fit them?

Obesity and body condition have been reduced in our collective cultural eye to a simple mathematical equation.  Intake – output = weight gain or weight loss.  If you eat more than you burn, you gain weight.  Causes of obesity are so much more complex than that it isn’t even something I’m going to touch on here but if you really believe it’s always that simple, or even that simple the majority of the time, I strongly suggest you do more research.  Dieting is a multi billion dollar industry, people are getting filthy rich by exploiting that belief.  But that’s a topic for another article.

I’m sure there are more than a few ignorant twats out there who would, and do, suggest I simply lose weight and my problem is solved.  Get thin, and then there will be all the outerwear in the world to fit my greatly reduced ass.

I’m not entirely sure they’re aware how screwed up that is.

That line of reasoning says that I get to stay inside on cold days until I lose weight.  If I don’t want to stay inside, then I better lose weight so I can go outside.  How is that not remarkably screwed up?  I either reduce myself until I fit a societal ideal, or I have to stay in my house.  I don’t look the way I’m supposed to, so I don’t get to be warm and safe to go outside in the winter.

It’s a bit like deciding that people who have curly hair don’t get to have winter coats, but people with straight hair do.  People with curly hair could easily straighten their hair and have winter clothes, but why should they have to?

Like, really.  I want to get outside and do stuff.  I don’t plan on losing a bunch of weight just for the privilege of doing that.  If you want my money… work with me.

Snips and Snails and Puppy-dog Nails

There’s been a sound in my house for the last while that makes me completely nuts.  I’m sure everyone has one or two sounds that drive them to the brink of insanity.  Mine had been heard far too often recently.

The sound of dogs’ nails on the hardwood floor.  Walking, clicking, running, playing auuuuuuggh.

The problem with that noise is there’s another thing in this house that makes me completely crazy, and that’s clipping the dogs’ nails.  So it’s a battle between which makes me crazier, the nails clicking on the hardwood or the thought of clipping canine toenails.

And then there’s the Vega dog.

Look at those nails!  How embarrassing!

Look at those nails! How embarrassing!

As far as Vega is concerned, getting a paw-dicure is fatal.  The day I adopted him, just a few hours before I picked him up, his foot was caught in a sliding glass door and he had a pretty significant limp.  The following day my mom tripped and ended up stepping on the same foot.  And he screamed, oh my.  He was quite a screamer as a baby puppy.

So he’s a bit touchy about his feet.

On top of that my clippers were broken.  I was told of the wonders of guillotine clippers a few months ago, so I borrowed a pair from a friend.  A plastic pair.  From PetSmart.  $8.  My dogs are 75 and 100lbs.

I’m sure you can imagine how that ended.

Pretty much the way you'd think.

Pretty much the way you’d think.

After those broke I figured the dogs’ nails would just stop growing and all would be fine.  If I had no clippers with which to cut their nails, their nails would clearly stop growing, right?  Then I wouldn’t have to worry about cutting their nails, right?

Right.

Well, that theory didn’t hold up judging by the sound every time a critter with more than two legs walked around in the kitchen or dining room.  I guarantee you I don’t click like that when I walk around.

I decided to give one last stab at finding a groomer to do Vega’s nails but after the mess of inappropriate handling and attitude I got at the last groomer I took him to… I’m not super trusting.  It was almost a relief when the groomer I stopped in at said they couldn’t take him because his immunizations aren’t complete.

What was already shaping up to be an awesome day (note the sarcasm there) rounded itself out with a stop at Wal-Mart, yay!

I dislike Wal-Mart greatly but I needed to pick up a slightly disjointed hodge-podge of unrelated things that would have otherwise required me to visit three or four different stores.  Wal-Mart was near the pet store I was at anyway so Wal-Mart it was.

Sigh.

I figured that while I was in the Supercenter anyway I might as well see if there was a half decent pair of clippers there.  After all, they couldn’t be worse than the $8 pair from PetSmart, right?

Right.

For the first time yesterday an idea worked out.  As I moseyed through the pet aisles I gawked at the ingredients list on bags of treats and quite literally stumbled, over a box sticking off the end of a display, into the grooming section.  It was small but I was suitably impressed, mostly because in that little grooming section I found a pair of all metal guillotine clippers for $4.47. Completely metal!

I could have done a little ragtime song and dance there in the aisle, I was so happy.

A cautious little ragtime song and dance, of course.  I’d seen the ultimate end of cheap clippers before.

Upon returning home with my treasures, I got to work.  Treats in one hand, clippers in the other I got the easy dog out of the way first and then turned my attention to the dog who was the problem.  Once he figured out that he would get a treat after every nail I clipped, he was downright tolerant of the process.  He didn’t enjoy it, certainly, but he tolerated it.

I’m not the least bit ashamed of having blatantly bribed him.

Once it was all done and they were relaxing with homemade bully sticks to chew, I played a video game for a little while and really got to thinking about the whole thing.  Historically, Vega has been a complete terror when it came to doing his nails.  He grabbed my hand in his mouth more than once to warn me off when I tried to do them and would squirm away and make it impossible to do anything other than try to keep his foot in my hand.

But once he knew there was something in it for him, that I would pay him for his patience and tolerance, he was okay with it.  Once I respected him, and respected that this was a big deal to him, he let me do it.

Rather than making an already unpleasant experience for him worse, as the last groomer we went to did, I respected him.  I didn’t drag him around.  I didn’t force him to do anything, I merely let it be known that he would get a treat when, and only when, he let me clip one of his nails.

If I can do that, why can’t a groomer?  That bothers me a lot.  Why in the world are we paying people to treat our dogs like that?  And what in the world makes people who work with dogs think that sort of conduct is okay?  Why is ego so important to us?  The dog needs to do what we want when we want, and if they don’t they’re forced to?  That’s not the attitude I want in anyone who works with my dogs, never mind a groomer with whom I leave my dogs unsupervised.

Be that as it may, however, my boy has short nails and we’ve taken another step toward being able to easily do them at home.

Of Labels and Logical Fallacies

I’ve been active on Facebook for a few years, and I’m sure I could find out how long if I wanted but truth be told I don’t care and it isn’t relevant.  I have only in the last few months, however, discovered Facebook groups.  Most of the ones I’m on are about dog training, it should shock no one to hear.  Actually, I think all of them are about dogs and dog training.

And what a wonderful, bizarre little microcosm they are.  They were really my first big foray into the community aspect of the internet, aside from a few writing communities years ago that I fled like my hair was on fire.

I operate in groups in much the same way I operate in the rest of my life.  I listen much more than I talk, and because it does take me some time to formulate responses to posts I find discussion threads often get away from me while I’m reading and thinking about them.  Typically I want to post on a thread several days after it’s ended because that’s when I have my thoughts sorted out.  So I don’t talk much, but I read a LOT.

But I digress.

There’s a schism in the dog training world, and I don’t know how long it’s been there but it’s been a few years at least.  There’s the force free (or purely positive or r+ or whatever label is used) group and… everyone else, apparently.

Sometimes it's easier to turn your back...Using dog training as my lens, because it’s both important to me and what’s on my mind today, I think there are a few things worth considering.  There’s a lot of discussion around the topic, and a lot worth considering if you’re fortunate enough to have dogs in your life and ESPECIALLY if you’re like me and threw yourself into the deep end of the pool with your very first dog.  There are questions of tools, techniques, timing, ethics, cognition, health, psychology to name a few.  And there are just as many snake oil salesmen in dog training as there are anywhere else, so caveat emptor.  I say this as someone who got screwed by a trainer I trusted, as this person’s client and as their colleague.  Be careful out there.

I don’t think anyone would argue that you need to carefully evaluate what people are telling you, not least because the internet has bred a bunch of self-professed experts whose advice is, at best, simplistic and questionable.  So how do you navigate the quagmire to find the gems?

I’m not here to tell anyone what’s right or what’s wrong, what’s good or bad, or what to look for.  Not this time, anyway.  Figuring out personal ethical boundaries is the domain of the individual, but what I will do is hopefully give a bit of insight into what we’re looking at and maybe what we should be looking for.

In any argument at all, no matter what is being argued, you’re going to find bias.  Bias is natural in humans because we’re cognitive misers.  Our brains are metabolically expensive and we do our level best to keep costs down.  I’ve found two biases and their effects to be most prevalent, and most harmful.

The first of those biases is the ingroup/outgroup bias.  Humans are social creatures, we work together to achieve our goals, and we evolved living in small groups.  It was to our benefit to connect closely with our own group (our ingroup) and exclude people who weren’t part of it (our outgroup), because there were limited resources and we wanted our kids, and ourselves, to make it through the winter without starving to death.  So with that in mind, we tend to preference those people who are part of our ‘group’ and tend to malign those who aren’t.  An excellent example of this phenomenon is shown in the PBS documentary ‘A Class Divided’, which is mentioned in this article.

What stems from the aforementioned bias are two effects, called in-group heterogeneity and out-group homogeneity.  Basically it creates an ‘us vs. them’ mentality that has the effect of us oversimplifying people in our out-groups while appreciating the complexity of members of our in-group.  ‘We’ are all complex and different and magnificent little snowflakes, but ‘they’ are all the same.  This, in turn, is part of what leads to labeling.

Labeling is yet another phenomenon that stems from our miserly ways with our cognitive capacity, and while we can be aware of it I don’t believe there’s ever been evidence of our being able to be rid of it entirely.  Labeling is a useful thing.  We use it to quickly navigate the world around us by making fundamental assumptions based on what we know of everything around us.

But here’s the thing.  Those assumptions can easily be manipulated to create caricatures of complex realities.  We oversimplify the people who aren’t part of our group.  In the case of this example I’m going to use two very broad distinctions and hope I can be forgiven the oversimplification. LIMA (Least Invasive Minimally Aversive) trainers become “shock jockeys” or “yank & crankers”, and Purely Positive trainers become “cookie monsters” or “permissive” simply through their affiliation with one label or another.  This typically happens without knowledge of individuals and these labels are tossed around pretty freely.  They may not have even chosen the affiliation attributed to them!  They’re “different”, they’re “not like us”.  I’ve even seen mockery through the use of quotation marks. (“Balanced” trainers, for example.)

People are reduced to one aspect of their entirety and are, in many cases, dismissed on the same grounds.  This is where the problem comes in.  Through those assumptions and caricatures we see another little monster emerge; ad hominem.  When you’re nothing but a “cookie monster” or a “shock jockey” it’s easy to dismiss what you have to say.  People give a lot of different reasons for this, but at its heart it is what it is.  What someone is saying, their message, is dismissed, ignored, or disregarded based upon a label they carry, and often didn’t ask for or take up themselves I’d wager, or some random irrelevant aspect of their character.  “Well, he/she WOULD say something like that, they’re a shock collar trainer!”  “Well that’s typical of someone who’s purely positive.”  Suddenly we’re free to insult one another, because the person we’re talking to is somehow fundamentally different from us.  They’re vile, they’re horrible, they’re useless.

Yet that doesn’t get us anywhere.  I’d love it if people would examine their biases more clearly and stop assuming so much based on narrow definitions and even more narrow views.  Whether you’re talking about dogs, kids, or fixing cars people are out there doing the best they know and the best they can and deserve credit for that.

Life isn’t black and white.  Learning and communicating don’t happen in four cozy little quadrants and behaviour isn’t simply externally motivated.  Ways to learn and communicate and even just BE are on a continuum, and along that continuum are infinite points.  When you get your head around that, everything changes.  You don’t need to live in a rigid little box to fit in, and you don’t have the right to malign or denigrate people who don’t fit in the box you’ve made for yourself.

You don’t have to agree with or even like all the kids on the playground.  But you don’t get to piss in the sandbox, either.

Food Gratitude

20131230-122237.jpg
I’ve been under the weather for a couple days but have eaten anyway. Paid for it last night, but whatever.

Today I’m grateful for food. Blackberries on goat cheese and orange chunks in pomegranate. Yum yum yum!

Today I’m grateful for snow. I love snow.

I’m grateful for pretty Christmas decorations that make my house look amazing.

And I’m grateful for my sister, who shares my odd sense of humour and joins me in laughing at the ridiculous.