Monday, January 16, 2017

Trouble at the Karlstrom

I live in a subsidized housing property, which is in itself not bad most of the time. Lately things are changing for the worse though.

The new manager for the building is a bit of a slumlord, as he has reduced what the maintenance are allowed to repair. For this reason my apartment has been flooded four times, the source being above my apartment.

Each time the maintenance says they "think" they fixed the problem, yet it keeps happening. The business that operates the building, I call them a business because that's how they now operate, is Compass Housing Alliance.

Recently many of the staff there retired, and the replacements for them keep getting less compitent. Now they offer more to the homeless people who use the shelters than they do to those of us who pay rent.

I would normally not care so much, except that I was blamed for the damage caused by the flooding. For this reason I am sending them this letter:

I know you care more about your homeless than those of us who pay rent, however I find you in violation of the lease at this time. The plumbing problem has not been resolved after three complaints; which has resulted in damage to me, my property, and my companion animals. Over $100 of medical supplies have been ruined by this issue now. My male companion animal continues to perceive the encroaching water as a threat and thus sprays that area routinely forcing me to spend $30 a month in cleaning supplies to remove the odor, and when the human has incontinence issues it is difficult to train a cat not to do that. This is now the fourth occurrence of the issue. If this forces me to move apartments Compass Housing Alliance will be responsible for all fees and costs during the transition as well as any costs related to emotional stress, cleaning, and medical supplies lost.

I'm very patient and extremely easy to negotiate with, however this issue has also resulted in the manager threatening to evict me in a way that he can profit. His actions may force me to utilize the legal system, I would prefer to discuss this with his employers and come to a compromise that will not harm anyone who is in need. In short, resolving this matter without a lawsuit would be my preference, however since Compass has eliminated communication channels I may be forced to have my lawyer contact those in charge through the courts.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Shelter Shock for Cats

Many would not think it, but I have experienced shelter shock myself, and I usually deal with cats who suffer from it as well. Shelter shock is relatively undefined but it is a reality many people and discarded pets face. The hard truth is that we become accustomed to the shelter being more comfortable than a real home, in fact, the shelter becomes what we consider a real home.

The reason is because of why we're there in the first place, life dealt us a bad hand and people around us discarded us without any emotion. Often we come from abusive places, where we are hurt by those we love everyday. The shelter becomes the safer place, the place where we feel the least pain and fear.

Dogs are quicker to overcome this, humans vary a lot, but our feline family take much more time. Cats are, by their nature, habitual animals. They prefer rituals and repetition, change causes them a lot of distress.

So when a cat is frequently removed from an environment they have become accustomed to, then tossed into a new one, then returned to the safer environment, they become suspicious of environments that are not the safe one. The safest environment in most cases is the shelter, their needs are met and most people are not abusive to them.

This is how they are seeing things when they come into your home for the first time. Often they say to keep them in a single room for several days to adjust, but what are they adjusting to?

Here's a guide that will help them adjust faster, and some recommendations on how to make the even longer period of earning their trust easier on you. Many of the problems you will face could also be seen when there is no shelter shock, but dealing with these problems will ease the effects of shelter shock so I'm listing them as well.

Scent:

They need to learn the scents of their new home. Felines are very sensitive to odors, everything from perfume to soap will decide how they see you. So watch how they react to your presence, and which parts of your body they seem to prefer.

Chances are they are pleased with the scents most prominent to those body parts. Then try to get some of those scents onto your hands, play around with different combinations until you notice them taking more interest in your hands.

After a while you'll notice they rub their chins on you a lot, that means they are trying to mix their scents with you. This is a great sign, it essentially means that they feel welcome.

It's also good to note that rubbing their chin with a scent can help them overcome any anxiety associated with that scent, useful for introducing cats to other cats or dogs. Get the scent of one on your hand then rub the chin of the other, this will mix the foreign scent with a scent the cat instinctively loves.

Urine - Spraying:

Many cats will "spray" urine on certain areas of their residence. This isn't always the case, but if it does happen do not punish them, at least not in the traditional sense. You will have to find other methods of dealing with it until they trust you, after they trust you then ignoring them is the proper punishment.

Spraying is done when they feel threatened, frightened, or they're trying to say hello. It's like claiming the territory but more complicated. The urine spray is more of a communication method, not truly a sign of dominance. You need to show them "we don't talk like that around here," but that will only work after they trust you.

Until they trust you using citrus perfumes in areas they try to spray in will deter them. Try to get them to spray in a single place that you can either leave alone or clean up easily. A bathtub is a good place, give them one thing in the bathtub that they can spray and wash it when the odor gets too strong for you.

After not receiving any replies to the spraying, they should stop eventually.

Urine - Accidents:


The other type of urination is the accident, often they look guilty when this is the case because they don't really want to do this at all. The reasons for this happening can be numerous, your first step is to have a vet check them out. When they feel pain in the litter box, they'll seek another location to urinate.

If it's medical, having multiple litter boxes with different types of litter in each will usually fix the problem. If it's habitual, then try different types of litter, they will have a preference. Some cats actually prefer soil to litter, or even newspaper, finding what they like is the key to helping them adjust to a new situation.

Violent Behavior:


This is probably the most common problem caused by shelter shock, they don't want to leave the shelter so they do what they can to get back. This often means attacking and hurting the ones who took them away from their "safe place." This is also the hardest for most people to deal with, and one that I've almost mastered.

Violent behaviors are learned, they are then reinforced as a method of getting what they want when they are returned to the shelters for it. The things you need is a lot of topical antibiotics, and patience. Yes, the way to overcome this is to not return them, not strike back, and just mend your own wounds.

Cats are not psychotic by nature, they form bonds just like humans, love just like humans, and feel empathy just like humans. It may be difficult to see past the fury of claws, teeth, and glaring eyes, but that poor cat has not been shown love by a human outside of the shelter for a long time. Keep the vulnerable away from them during the time it takes for them to realize that you will love them back.

After a while, they will stop, curious as to why you haven't struck back and why they are still there. Eventually they will venture to you, to test the waters, to see if you will give them affection instead. This is when you shower them with affection and love.

After that, you can slowly introduce them to other loving humans, letting them see that not all humans are outside of the shelters are bad. Once they trust you, they will be your best friend and a defender of the family.

-=****=-

So this leads us to the basic steps you should follow when you get them home, in spite of what shelters will tell you. Shelters give quick and dirty steps that are simple but won't actually help with the bonding. So in some places you will notice a conflict.

  1. The room - if they are not violent, introduce them to the house one room at a time. Stay in one room giving them affection for several minutes until they look bored or paw at the door, then move to a new room. This gives them a chance to see their new domain, just be sure they cannot get outside of the house until they are fully adjusted. When they are fully adjusted they'll seek a place to sleep. Keeping them in only on room too long may actually slow their progress.
  2. Let sleeping cats lie - cats need lots of sleep, so disturbing them while they sleep will only increase their stress level. Remember that they have been through a lot of stress and will need a lot more sleep when they are first brought home from a shelter. Giving them peace and quiet, and letting them sleep a lot, will let them know that they can relax.
  3. Reward good behavior - cats don't understand punishment, but they do learn how to get what they want. So giving them treats when they behave well will let them know what you want from them, but punishing them for anything will only teach them to be violent. Also remember that cats love to play, and they are more likely to see any violence as play, and they'll always win.
  4. Give them distance - curiosity is the one thing every cat will have in common, while they prefer routine, they find new things in small doses to be interesting as well. So introduce them to family members little by little, and not all at once. That's how they met most people in the shelter so it will also be familiar to them, the small visits from people instead of overwhelming them with everyone at once. If you're single, then just don't worry if they don't want to spend time with you right away.
  5. Depression is rare - if a cat acts like they don't want anything to do with you, it's probably because they were ripped from someone they were bonded to, or betrayed by someone they loved. This will take a very long time, sometimes years, for them to get over. If you don't have someone there constantly then you should consider getting a second cat or a dog for them to bond with. The bonding will take a while the older the second one is, but it will help them feel more like socializing.
  6. Show and tell - the final step, or bit of advice, it to show the cat that they can trust you. If you have another family member, give them affection when the cat can see, family can be human or other. Petting, gentle kisses, hugs, etc. will show that you are capable of gentleness and so long as they don't see you get violent, they'll eventually realize that you are not a threat. Also, talk to the cat, even though cats don't communicate verbally, they do learn how to understand our speech. So don't be shy about telling them about your day, confiding in a cat shows them that you want to be friends.

I hope this helps people who adopt cats from shelters, we kill too many cats and dogs in those places and they deserve to live as much as we do. So don't be quick to return your new friend to the shelter just because they act a little different when you get them home, give them time and patience and you will have the best friend of your life.

So, until next time, enjoy life, play video games, and show a cat some love.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Libraries Are Irrelevant

Libraries must reinvent themselves to remain relevant, I recommend they become interactive museums of literature. This will maintain their purpose while avoiding the inevitable loss of funds because most people are no longer interested in paper books.

The reasons for the lack of interest reading a book in paper format are actually really good for book sellers. Books are considered a collectable format, and no one wants to ruin them because of that.

I have a small collection of books that I purchased solely for collecting, and I am not alone in this. For this reason I let almost no one handle them, oils from the skin cause them to break down faster as make the ink run.

Much like trading cards, books are now valued based on more than just their content. Even a badly written book can become very valuable if it is obscure and undamaged.

As for readers, they are more interested in digital formats because they can transport them easier, a million books can fit on a modern device. So libraries and book stores can no longer target the literary fan, they must adapt.

Many bookstores now focus on the collector, which is profitable and keeps paper books in circulation. But how libraries remain relevant will require a new innovation from them.

We have museums of art, science, and nature but we lack any museums for literature. In the USA we lack museums in general, a sad state of affairs.

So turning the libraries into interactive literary museums would solve many of our biggest problems. The problem with encouraging reading has not helped people become more literate.

Also, by encouraging reading we have seen a huge decline in writers, not the number of writers but the quality. Most people who blog often rely on bland current event stories, rarely offering the reader much more that dry facts and figures.

Most blogs are actually plagiarized, something which bothers me. The lack of original works is hurting everyone, as people no longer read articles or stories in depth.

Even I have taken to the simple blog format because it is the only one which people are willing to read, short simple stories. Grammar is also severely lacking now for the same reasons.

So consider this for the libraries: offer a showcases of great works brought to life in exhibits that allow the fans to interact with the characters and writers. Artificial intelligence is not yet perfect, but it could create simulated people for this purpose offering real people to experience the worlds created by authors in a whole new dimension.

This will encourage them to download copies of the books to actually read them, as well as encourage modern writers to offer fans more to read. It will make the libraries relevant again and encourage more funding for them.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Don't Ask Transgender

So I encountered a bigot who tried to mask his ignorance in what he perceived as an innocent question. It was far from innocent nor was it appropriate.

The question was "were you one of those guys who became a woman?" Now this is really a sign of bigotry, and it's obvious to anyone with a brain.

The first problem is that it is based on the lie that being transgender is a choice, which ultimately makes gender itself a choice ironically. This is far from the facts, we know there is a genetic difference in transgender people.

The difference in genders is not binary, as we once thought. So this means multiple genders are actually possible in our genes.

Thus it is an outright lie to say that transgender is a choice of any sort. The second problem is the wording, using informal and unscientific terminology betrays a lack of intelligence and compassion.

The man obviously did not care about hurting anyone's feelings on the matter, he was actively attempting to illicit a specific reaction. The outcome was, luckily, a reaction which caused him harm from a third party instead.

There is only one instance in which such a thing is even considered a valid inquiry. It must be approached with respect and tact or the questioning party can expect negative repercussions.

That instance is when sexual activity may be imminent and one cares which genitalia is currently present. Beyond that reason, there is no excuse for anyone with any empathy or compassion to ever ask such a question, even if worded politely.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Double Standard of Old

Growing older appears to cause us to develop a double standard. When we're young we appreciate music of our generation, we consider that to be the best music of all time.

This applies to everything about the era we grow up in, which forms a confirmation bias as we try to resist the changes of the future. But these changes are inevitable, and a very good thing which we must learn to embrace.

This anecdote should illustrate the double standard we develop as we get older, many people in my generation complain about how "fake" music is today. Often they are complaining about the fact that it's now mostly digital, which allows for musicians to play entire orchestras without having to recruit a hundred instrumentalists.

In some genres, the older instruments are preferable, due to the fact that it's not the music that's on display but how well the music is played. However, most music is about one thing, lyrics.

Without the instruments, a song must appeal to the modern youth, and thus the lyrics should be relevant to them. This is how we define each generation, by their experiences and accomplishments.

When I was young, everyone said that Nirvana was a horrible band, and to be fair Kurt couldn't actually sing. But my generation still thinks Nirvana was impressive because of the lyrics.

They hold meaning to my generation as they describe what life was like back then. But today, most people think Nirvana is not a great band again. Yet my generation insists that music today is horrible in spite of the fact that we idolized a lot of bands which had no actual singers.

A closer look at a band which almost everyone in my era claims were masters of music reveals something quite disturbing. Nothing Pink Floyd, regaled as one of the best bands ever, is their own work.

Pink Floyd's lyrics were all taken from other sources, often from older bands. The music itself was the typical Fruityloops mixture of pieces composed by much older musicians long since dead.

But this does not discredit them, they took things that were relevant at that time and marketed them to a generation which needed it. That is the true art of music, bringing relevance to the generation which it represents.

Today many of the instruments have been replaced with digital duplicates, or even synthesized sounds, and many sets of lyrics have become repetitive. This is the world we created for this generation, and they are crying out in their music.

Life today is very repetitive, kids today have less to struggle with so they grow bored. The response should be to offer them better educational opportunities, instead we just gripe about the music.

Kids in this age are bombarded with terabytes of useless information, and they are not taught how to test it. This shows up in their music again, as many lyrics seem aimless, badly written poetry, displaying a lack of discernment.

So the next time you decide to cry out "music today sucks," try thinking of how to make their lives better so they can become more creative, and have more reason for it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Authority in Science

The notion of authority differs depending on the situation, for example religious authority just means people agree with you. In science, authority is earned, through hard work and demonstrable results.

In other words, to be a scientific authority you don't even need a formal education or title, you just have to demonstrate knowledge in your particular field. To demonstrate this knowledge, your findings must be submitted for scrutiny, or you have to illustrate a thorough understanding of the subject matter.

Once you have demonstrated that you know what you're talking about, you then have to provide demonstrable results. This means you either develop a new tool, or improve our understanding of the topic with empirical evidence.

No matter the path you take, you have to show your work, this is the key to empiricism. You must illustrate your claims in a way that everyone else can verify them.

If they cannot be verified then your claims are meaningless, no matter how popular they are. So when we cite an authority in science, we are talking about someone who has consistently presented empirical evidence.

The use of authority is fallacious if the citation is from someone who has never demonstrated any comprehension of the subject, or if the citation actually opposes the claim it was used to support. But here's the catch, in science no amount of authority can ever replace empirical evidence.

So the reason creationism fails in all scientific arenas is because it lacks any empirical evidence and no one seems willing to present any.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Doctrine of Atheist

I often see christians attempt to paint atheist people as some dark, evil, monster. They do this to convince the foolish folks to avoid listening to us, as well as to keep most atheist people in the closet.

The fact is, atheist is a compound word from an old language, the parts mean only one simple thing: lack of belief in a god. First the prefix of "a-" means without, or lacking, it in no way means opponent or antagonist.

This is easy to confuse naive people with because of the prefix "anti-", which actually means opponent or antagonist. They are not synonyms anymore than red is a synonym of orange.

The root word of "theist" only implies the belief in a god, and nothing more. Though religion is inherent in such beliefs, they are not intrinsically bound.

There are many atheist religions in the world, they are still all crazy, but they have no beliefs in a god of any type. But let's pretend that atheist is a religion, or even just a doctrine.

Based on what every atheist I know has said, these would be our tenets, our doctrine:

* Question everything.
* Accept facts and reality even when it's not pleasant.
* Don't believe in a god just because someone threatens you with eternal torture.
* Don't abuse anyone, there is no excuse for it.
* Don't rape, murder, or steal because there is no reason to do that.
* Society is a necessary tool for survival, so everyone has to live by the same rules.
* Nothing is sacred, as long as you don't harm someone else.
* Life is precious, so kill only when there is no other option.
* Do not worry about your past, learn from your mistakes then move on into the future.
* ALWAYS IMPROVE YOURSELF IN EVERY WAY YOU KNOW HOW.