Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   dog behavior template
Friday, July 6 2007
On the walk this morning on the Chamomile Headwaters Trail, I showed Ray the difference between sedges (of which there were many, forming a sort of lawn on the forest floor) and grasses (of which there were few, mostly of solitary species one doesn't find in a lawn). The quickest way to distinguish between a grass and a sedge is to sight down the stem from the top or the bottom. If the stem is triangular and the leaves come out in three planes, each sixty degrees apart, it's a sedge. With a grass they can come out at any angle, though they usually like to form a single flat plane.

While Ray was gone somewhere this afternoon, I went Black Raspberry picking among the canes growing north and south of the house. A few Dewberries were also ripe east of the house and I picked these as well, though their flavor tends to be insipid by comparison ro wild Black Raspberries. As I collected these, I was chewing on seeds from the Garlic Mustard that grows prolifically in some of the unmowed parts of the yard. It's easy to assemble a full teaspoon of the seeds (each black ovoids about one by three millimeters), and they have a bracing mustardly bite. I'm sure they're full of nutrients and antioxidants.
As I gathered the berries and ate the wild mustard, I was re-"reading" parts of Jared Diamond's Collapse on my MP3 player. This meant here was a enough silence between the sounds in my earphones for me to hear a crash up in the laboratory - Libby the Labrador houseguest had gotten to the cat food again, which I'd been keeping on one of the tables. I ran in and ordered Libby out of the laboratory and closed the door, this time determined to open it again (and allow the cats to eat) only when I was actually there at my computer.
This incident reminded me of an aspect of the way my understanding of dogs has changed over time. When I was a kid my parents had a purebred black Labrador named Wilbur who was something of a canine vacuum machine. He'd eat things like apple cores and strawberries with gusto, and anything with nutrient value that landed on the floor immediately vanished, leaving that spot on the floor cleaner than it had been before it had hit. A good pre-wash for dishes was just to let Wilbur lick them, a practice we didn't follow when guests were around. It's natural for a kid to generalize from an intimate experience with a specific representative from a larger class, and so I developed the impression that all dogs are, essentially, food-obsessed gluttons. But later, when I was in my early 20s and my parents adopted Fred the Dog, I wondered at first if he was either ill or had strange psychological hangups. He wouldn't dive into his food immediately, often waiting for a visual cue from me (or whoever was feeding him) that it was okay. Though he liked corn cobs and cabbage hearts, he never developed a fondness for fruit. If one were to give him a plate to lick, he'd usually stop well before it was spotless. Sally and Eleanor are similarly demure in their food habits. It's only Suzy and (particularly) Libby, the first a Labrador hybrid, and the second a likely purebred, that conform perfectly to my deepest-seated template of how a dog should act around food.

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