After Gadget has moved to SharonWachsler.com

Howdy.

If you subscribe to After Gadget by email you should already have had your subscription transferred to my new blog at SharonWachsler.com. If you follow this blog by other means (RSS, for example), I hope you’ll follow/subscribe at my new blog since I don’t plan to post new content here anymore.

So far there’s one new post up, and I anticipate getting a couple more posts up in the next few days for Blogging Against Disablism Day (BADD), the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (the deadline has been extended! Rejoice!), and a possible book contract announcement!…

UPDATE: New posts are going up all the time at sharonwachsler.com. I don’t anticipate posting any new material here, although I will keep all After Gadget pages and posts up as archives. If you’d like to support my work, please spread the word about my new site! Thank you!

We’re Ba-ack . . . and We’ve Moved!

Hi everyone.

Barnum and I are still around. I’m still having issues with my hands and wrists, but it’s not as severe as it was, thanks to ice, rest, and a change of medication.  In case you’re curious, I have tenosynivitis, which is basically tendonitis of the wrists, and some tendonitis in my hands, too. I’m doing things like icing three or four times a day, researching wrist braces that I can tolerate (most are made with neoprene, which is super toxic and not an option for me due to my MCS), and trying to mouse and type less. It seems to have been caused by a combination of the Lyme drug I was using, Rifampin, damaging my tendons, along with my constant computer use and my various other inflammatory diseases. My OT said it was “the perfect storm.” Terrific.

I’ve tried various software and hardware solutions:

  • I’ve got a more ergonomic keyboard now and am still trying to find a “pointing device” (mouse, touchpad, etc.) that doesn’t injure me more.
  • I got speech-recognition software (Dragon Naturally Speaking), which works pretty well for things like emails when my voice is also working well, which is about half the time. The other half of the time, when the dysphonia kicks in, Dragon is completely useless. And using it for editing and blogging is mostly an exercise in frustration.

So Far, Barnum hasn’t been much help with this new disability. The main things I’ve had to change our how a transfer out of bed and how I type, and Barnum can’t help with either of those. In fact, Barnum has been living up to his full Bouvier des Flandres potential as a service/hindrance dog: he broke my computer.

I have an all-in-one computer, which is basically like a screen with no tower. The CD/DVD disc tray slides out of the side. The computer lives on my overbed table, and I live in bed. And Barnum spends a lot of his time on my bed because otherwise we wouldn’t get to interact much!

One day, I’d taken out a disc and was about to put in another one, and Barnum glimpsed Something Very Exciting out the window and whipped his big, hard, heavy Bouvier head around, smacking my disc drive as he went. The disc drive cracked and a piece fell off. Barnum, of course, didn’t even notice that he’d hit anything.

I got the drive replaced, but even though that was a hardware issue, not a software issue, ever since then my computer has been extra glitchy. Let this be a lesson to you. (I don’t know what the lesson is, except maybe, “Never ever wever bever leave your disc drive open, especially if you have a big, enthusiastic, klutzy dog in the vicinity.” Yeah, I’m gonna go with that as the lesson.)

Anynoodle, it especially sucked because I COULD NOT USE MY HANDS and I didn’t yet have my speech software, so I was extremely bored because now I couldn’t watch DVDs, which — aside from listening to books on tape — was about the only form of entertainment or activity available to me. And what is the thing that has been the most buggy ever since I got the drive replaced? The media player. Le sigh.

I’ll post in the future (at my new blog) about the training we’ve been doing. The tedious training has been extinguishing barking out the window which is a behavior that I created and reinforced for a long time before I realized I was the cause. Facepalm, indeed.

The more fun behaviors, on those rare days I’m up to doing them, are working on calm behavior for hind toenail trimming, which involves clicking him for tail position (which I’m using as an indicator of his level of arousal) and teaching Barnum to carry a bag and deposit it in a box near the kitchen. Once this behavior is solid, I can have him deliver dishes and things I’m done with to my PCAs, even when they’re not here. It will be quite a while before that’s a finished behavior. I hope to blog about these training issues in the coming weeks . . . but not here!

Which leads me to my Very Exciting News:

My brand new website is up! Yeehaw!

Do you want a tour?!

You do? (I’m just pretending you said yes.)

GREAT! Follow me. . . .

This is the foyer. Some people call it the “home page,” but I think foyer sounds better (especially if you pronounce it the French way — foy-`yay!) — or the vestibulary, if you prefer.

As you can probably tell, the walls (and ceilings and floors) have just been cleaned and painted (all nontoxic virtual paint, of course), so I hope you don’t mind taking off your shoes. And your dogs’ shoes. Thanks.

OK, we’ll start our tour with the south wing of the house. First stop is the writing parlor. all furniture hasn’t been moved in yet. We’ll get there. But adjoining the writing parlor is. . . .

The literary salon! Where discussions about being a writer with a disability or writing about disability take place. And you’ll notice just off to the side, this room leads to an even larger room which is . . .

Yes, I know it’s empty now. There are just some packing crates and suchlike. BUT, this is the nursery of my mind. This room — Crip Erotica: The Book! – is the one I am the most excited about! I have been dreaming of building this room for years, and I already have a lot of the plans drawn up. I am really looking forward to using this website is to nurture, support, and grow what will be born in this room.* But it takes a village, to uh, you know, create a crip smut collection. I don’t know which village that would be, but I’m hoping to start finding the villagers soon. (More on that later.)

Moving to the next room is the disability erotica I’ve already published. This is cozy, don’t you think? There’s art on the walls. Has a more lived-in feel. I’ve been hanging out in this room for over ten years! It’s helped give me the confidence to build the “nursery” mentioned above.

Now, if we’ll take a stroll across hall we can enter the north wing of the house, where you can see the Activisting center. My longtime readers will find posts you remember about disability rights, access, environmental health issues, service dog awareness, and other assorted (no, not sordid — that’s the south wing) posts.

And I’ll still be blogging about lots of the stuff you’re used to. For example, I’m writing a couple of posts now for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. I’m going to try to get those of you who are WordPress subscribers to After Gadget transferred over as subscribers to SharonWachsler.com. I hope the rest of you will subscribe to the new website/blog, too. (Pretty please?)

See you all at the new pad (I hope)!

Peace.

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, Disc Drive Destroyer

Call for Entries is Up for April #ADBC

The call for submissions for the Eleventh Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is up! This round is being hosted by FridaWrites.

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival graphic. A square graphic, with a lavender background. A leggy purple dog of unidentifiable breed, with floppy ears and a curly tail, in silhouette, is in the center. Words are in dark blue, a font that looks like it's dancing a bit.

ADBC #11

The theme she’s chosen is “Resources and Tools.” I like it! I already know what I want to write about. Plus, FridaWrites is offering a couple of nifty dog gear items as a giveaway, inspired by the topic.

For the deadline and other pertinent details, check out the call for entries. If you’re new to this and wondering what the heck an Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is, check out the ADBC home page.

OK, bloggers, start writing! And the rest of you, will you please help spread the word? Thank you!

- Sharon and Barnum, SD

Blogging Break Due to RSI

You’ve probably noticed I haven’t been blogging much lately. Now I’m also barely emailing, tweeting, or otherwise using the computer when not absolutely necessary.

I’ve developed pain and swelling in all the joints of my arms, especially my right hand and wrist. Just a couple of minutes mousing or typing — even with an improved ergonomic set-up — immediately flares my symptoms.

As I rely on the computer for communicating when my voice doesn’t work — I’ve been using it as an assistive communication device for years with my PCAs — as well as for all my work, information, recreation, and most of my social life, it’s really important to me not to lose access to the computer completely. Also, now that I’m having RSI symptoms even when I haven’t touched the mouse or keyboard for hours, I’m quite scared about developing a new disability and set of limitations.

I’m making an appointment with a hand specialist and have ordered a new mouse and keyboard. Meanwhile, I plan to rest my hands as much as I can stand without going out of my mind from boredom and computer withdrawal.

Other things are in the works, which I hope to get to when my upper extremities are doing better. I have even penned my first blog post by hand (a book review for my other blog), which I hope someone else will be typing for me.

Ciao for now, brown cows.
-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SD/hindrance dog

Default Zen Remediation Week 2 (in pictures)

We’re progressing with Zen training even though I have not managed to do a solid training session every day. We do at least a bit every day, though. We’ve probably used another 300 treats or so out of our 1,000.

How I’ve been starting it is when my PCA brings me a meal, I usually still need to cue Zen (either “Leave It” if I’m verbal or “Eh!” if I’m not) and then after one or maybe two cues, we move to the food and my eating being the cue.

Barnum will now look up with anticipation for a training session when he hears me chewing. This would seem to be counterproductive, and I admit that I feel on the knife edge of creating a behavior chain, so I’m trying to head that off at the pass. I can pretty quickly now get him from sniffing at me or the food to backing up and ending up on his mat across the room.

I’ve reduced the number of repetitions — lowered rate of reinforcement in going for longer durations — and this means that sometimes he gets up from the mat and comes over. I’ve decided that if he wants to get on the bed to look out the window while I’m eating, that’s fine. Anything that maintains “ignoring food” as the goal behavior is OK. But if he comes back on the bed, looks out the window for a while, and then sniffs my food, he gets (as Sue Ailsby puts it), The Big Prize! Which is that he gets to go and lie in his crate for a couple of minutes and then be released. (No treat.)

Here are some pictures from a session a three days ago. This was after we had taken a break from formal sessions for a few days.

Sharon sits in bed with a plate of food on a tray in her lap. Barnum stands next to the bed, looking intently at Sharon's plate.

Beginning of Zen training session with lunch as the cue for “back off.”

Same image as above except Barnum's legs are blurred as he backs up away from the bed.

Barnum backs up after not getting clicked for staying put.

Same picture as above except Barnum has backed up so he's almost out of the frame.

Barnum backs up more.

Barnum stands on a blue and white rag rug next to the wall on the left side of the room. The bed is not visible except as a shadow on the floor on the right edge of the picture.

A couple more backward steps takes Barnum to his mat.

Same view as previous picture, except this time Barnum is lying on the rag rug, his head up and looking toward the bed, which just has a little corner visible on the right edge of the picture.

Next rep Barnum lies down on his mat.

Same picture as above except Barnum's head is resting on his front paws.

While not actually relaxed, Barnum is offering a more relaxed pose (and he sighed after putting his head down, earning a click).

Peace,

Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SD

P.S. I’m keeping my blogging to a minimum and trying to do less typing in general, including alt tags for the pictures, because I’m having repetitive strain issues with my hands. That’s scary because I spend all my time on the computer!

Default Zen Remediation

Or, “100 Treats Down, 900 to Go”

My current favorite dog blog is my friend Eileen’s blog (fittingly named Eileenanddogs). It’s unlike any other dog behavior or training blog I’ve read because

  1. Eileen is, like me, a training enthusiast (reads a lot, learns a lot from great trainers online, watches videos, trains her own dogs) but not a professional trainer, and
  2. she often blogs about her mistakes, including videos of her training mistakes, which is incredibly instructive AND validating, because we all make those mistakes! Well, I certainly do.

Today she posted about an idea she got from another dog blogger to train one behavior with 1,000 treats:

I love this because I tend to be a little unfocused in training and pass out treats for good behaviors, cute behaviors, behaviors I vaguely like, etc. . . . What if every trainer took 1,000 treats, really concentrated, and spent them wisely on one behavior?

Immediately I thought of the behavior I have been puzzling about how to fix lately: Zen. The frustrating thing is that Barnum can do a terrific zen (leave it) when he knows we’re training, and he will go into “training mode” after one or two repetitions, even if I use “real-world conditions,” like my dinner plate that has leftover food on it. But it doesn’t stick to the next real-world situation.

But then I thought, “What if I put all my training energy — small as it is — into Zen? And what if I required a form of Zen whenever we did any work or training for which he is getting reinforced?

So, I counted the treats I’d just gathered for the day, and added another bag for good measure. It added up to about 100. (There’s no way I’ll actually be able to keep an exact count; my memory and my math are not that good. But it’ll be close enough.)

I started with Zen from the beginning of the Training Levels and worked up super-fast. Then, I did treat-bag Zen and treat-hand Zen: No mugging the treat bag or treat hand anymore! If he was clicked for any behavior (whether Zen or something else), if he dove at my hand or the treat bag, I’d just wait (close my hand, close the bag) and treat only once he backed off. After ten repetitions of this, he seemed to get this for most of the rest of the day.

My big goal is to have Barnum stay well away whenever anyone is eating or there is any food in the room. He does sometimes go into his crate without cueing when one of my meals shows up, but just as often he doesn’t. He might hang around and ignore my food, but he also might hang around and get “nosey,” sniffing after things.

Today, when my food arrived, I cued Zen, and started with just having him move his nose back. I continued with uncued Zen, clicking for him being farther away. By partway through lunch (the first meal I tried this with), he was off the bed, across the room, lying against the wall. YAY!

We managed to replicate that, with only one or two lapses, for dinner, too.

I don’t know why it’s always such a surprise when I set out with a sensible training plan, stick to it, and discover that it works. It’s like this whole clicker training thing to which I’ve devoted a huge chunk of my life over the past dozen years actually is based on something logical, or something.

I wish I had a picture of Barnum at the beginning of lunch versus the end of lunch! Let’s see if I remember to keep it up tomorrow. (That’s part of the reason for posting about it; I tend to remember and keep up with things better if I write about them and share them with others.)

My end goal is the for the arrival of yummy-smelling food to be the cue for Barnum to go to his crate. Or if he doesn’t want to go into his crate, to go several feet away and stay away unless called.

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SD

#ADBC Raffle Winners!

Howdy!

Yesterday, I assigned a number to all the bloggers who contributed a post to the 10th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. (I just gave out numbers from one through thirteen based on what order they posted their blog entry in the comments and edited the comments to include that number.)

Then, last night, I asked Random.org random sequence generator to put the numbers 1 through 13 into random order to choose our winners. Here’s the result:

At the top, in large letters, it says RANDOM.org. Below that in purple is "Random Sequence Generator." Below that it says, "Here is your sequence," and below that is a column of numbers in this order: 13, 9, 8, 2, 12, 7, 10, 6, 3, 1, 5, 4, 11. Below that it says, "Timestamp: 2013-01031 09:21:06 UTC"

Click to embiggen.

The screen shot above is my proof that the giveaway was not rigged. Heh heh heh.

Here’s the order with the names added:

  1. Frida Writes (13)
  2. Martha (9)
  3. Ms. Pawpower (8)
  4. Starre (2)
  5. Sharon (12)
  6. Ro (7)
  7. KHills (10)
  8. Brooke (6)
  9. Flo (3)
  10. Cyndy (1)
  11. L-Squared (5)
  12. Karyn (4)
  13. Patti (11)

Here are the items for raffle:

  • Natural & Unscented Personal Care Travel Kit & Eco Tote (US & Canada) Claimed by Ro!
  • Natural & Fragrance-Free Body Care Bag (US & Canada) Claimed by Starre!
  • Staples Easy Button (US & Canada) Claimed by PawPower!
  • Deer antler dog chew (US & Canada)  Claimed by Martha!
  • A pair of Bark’n Boots (International)  Claimed by Frida Writes!
  • A dog bow tie (continental US only) Claimed by Sharon!
  • I Love My Service Dog cap (International)

To get more details about what each prize includes, plus links and photos, please see the #ADBC 10 Swag post. Since there are seven prizes, we can have seven winners! Here’s how we’ll do it….

The first place winner, Frida Writes, gets first pick. (Congratulations!) Please comment below about which item you want, and the person who donated it will get in touch for your mailing address. Then the second place winner, Martha, gets her pick, and so on. This will be easiest if each winner puts their pick in the comment section below so that everyone can follow along in order. If commenting here is a PITA for you, please tweet me at @aftergadget with your preference.

Note: Some items have geographic restrictions on shipping, so if you live outside the continental United States, please pick accordingly. Also, if you don’t want any of the prizes available to you, please let me know so the next person in the sequence can be given the option.

Happy raffling!

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SD


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