Archive for the 'Blogging' Category

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

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

It’s Carnival Time! #ADBC and PFAM

Martha at Believe in Who You Are is the host of the October edition of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. Even though she is between dogs right now, she has taken up the challenge and come up with a great theme: Moments. Please visit her Call for Entries for topic ideas, guidelines, the deadline, etc. Thank you, Martha!

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.

Is this the Moment for you to get involved?

Lately it has struck me how many people follow assistance dog blogs (mine or others) who are not assistance dog partners. I know a lot of wonderful dog trainers and lovers of dogs who follow After Gadget here or on Facebook. When I learned of the topic for the next ADBC, I thought, “Anyone can write on this!” I mean, I know some of you who train assistance dogs or who train pet dogs but read about service dogs on lists or blogs or Facebook must have moments you want to share — don’t you? Moments where you read something about assistance dogs or training that made you stop and think? Moments where you read an idea relating to a service dog issue and you realized it could apply to your pet dog or you? Moments that moved, inspired, or irked you?

Why not join the carnival? Come on over, the moment’s right!

And speaking of getting more people involved in the ADBC, I’ve decided to introduce the hashtag #ADBC on Twitter so that people who are tweeting about the Carnival can more easily spread the word. So please, if you write a post for the ADBC or you read a post about it you like, retweet and add the hashtag #ADBC. I am very fond of everyone who participates regularly (or sporadically) and always look forward to their take on the new topic. At the same time, I think it would be fun to expand our family and get new people reading and posting every quarter. Thank you for your help! (By the way, my handle is @aftergadget.)

Green and white rectangular badge. On top, "Patients" is written in all capital letters, in Times New Roman font in white on a kelly-green background. Below, on a white background, "for a moment" is written in green, slanted up from lower left to upper right, in a more casual, slightly scrawled font.

Meanwhile, another blog carnival is taking place now. The monthly Patients for a Moment (PFAM) blog carnival is being hosted today by Selena of Oh My Aches & Pains! She has done an amazing job of putting together a really big and fantastic(ally frightening!) carnival of The Fright Files: Stories of Medical Mistakes. Don’t miss it!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Mr. Barnum, SD/SDiT

What Would YOU Like to Know about Assistance Dogs?

After I published this post for Blogging Against Disableism Day, I received a note from Sarah Levis inviting me to guest post on her blog, Girl with the Cane. I wasn’t sure what I should write about, other than “service dogs,” so we decided to put the question to you, dear reader.

What would you like to know from me about raising, training, or partnering with service dogs?

I’ll take any question, no matter how detailed or general, public or private. Why owner train instead of use a program? Differences between clicker training and previous methods I’ve used? If I have human helpers, why do I need a dog? What is my preference for how others behave around my dogs? Why bouviers and not Labradors? Why did I switch from adopting adults to raising a puppy? What’s the most embarrassing/exciting/shocking thing my service dog ever did? What do members of the public do that annoys me the most? How did I know I wanted a service dog? And all those questions I can’t even guess at. . . .

Barnum's head and shoulder's, very shaggy, his snout totally white with snow, his head cocked to the side in a very adorable, questioning way

So, you have a question?

Nothing is off-limits! If you have ever wanted to ask something but thought you shouldn’t because it was too personal or offensive or silly or “ignorant” or you “should” already know the answer, etc., be silent no more. This is your opportunity!

I’ll accept questions for the next two weeks. Please post them as comments to this post here (or, if you’d like your question to be anonymous, at today’s Girl with a Cane post on this topic). After Sarah and I collect all the questions from both blogs, I’ll attempt* to answer them all, and Sarah will post those answers at Girl with a Cane. (I’ll put a link up so you’ll find out when that post is up.)

I’m very curious to know what you’re curious about!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SD/SDiT

*I say “attempt” because I might receive a question that I can’t answer. For example, if I’m asked what it was like for me to have a guide dog or train at a service dog school, I won’t be able to answer those questions directly because I haven’t had those experiences. But I might ask one of my friends who has such experiences if they would be willing to answer. If I can’t give a complete answer to a question, to quote Albus Dumbledore, “I shall not, of course, lie.”

7th ADBC Up!

The latest edition of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is up at plays with puppies. It features two new bloggers (both partner-trainers) and some very emotional and honest posts.

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.

Effects on others

Kudos and thanks to Patti B for making it happen, and thanks to the other bloggers who participated. Please check it out and leave some comment love for the participating bloggers!

The summer ADBC will be hosted by Torie at The Average Blog by an Average Blogger. To read more about the ADBC, including previous issues, upcoming editions, and whatever else you might want to know, visit the ADBC homepage.

– Sharon and Barnum, SD/SDiT

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival #7: Shorter, Clearer Call for Entries

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.

Relationships with Others

Patti at plays with puppies has posted a very clear, accessible, updated call for posts for the upcoming Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. I hope you will submit something! It can be something new you’ve written especially for this issue, or it can be a previous post that fits the theme, which is

“How has a working dog in your life IMPACTED other people and/or the relationships in your life?”

To read further details, such as the deadline (about two weeks from now) and how to submit your entry, read the call for entries.

If you don’t have a blog of your own, or if you want to post something anonymously (this can be a touchy subject), Patti has kindly offered to allow people to post your piece on plays with puppies. Email Patti at pattibrehler[at]cavtel[dot]net.

Patti wants to be buried with posts! Please help her dream come true!

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

Taking Blogging Hiatus

Dear readers,

I’ve decided to take a hiatus from blogging. I don’t have a length of time in mind or any hard-and-fast rules about this at all. There are many topics I want to blog about right now: Lyme disease treatment in dogs, ticks and Lyme prevention in general, grief, the overlap between NVC and clicker, disability rights issues, and of course, training Barnum.

However, it’s hard to do things and blog. Right now it’s more important to me to train Barnum than to blog about training him. We are doing Leading the Dance right now, and it’s largely because I didn’t attend to behavior problems that started out as tiny and have now become habits. He needs a lot more foundation work and consistency. That takes a lot of energy for me, both in terms of training sessions, as well as all-day, every-day attention to detail in his behavior.

There are also a slew of things I can or need to do in the summer that can’t happen in the winter — like going anywhere for public access training or taking walks — as well as a lot of house-care stuff that I’ve been too sick to do since I’ve lived in my current home. Spring/summer has come early to New England, and I’d like to take advantage of this to get my house in order, both literally and figuratively.

I plan to continue to participate in the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. (If you haven’t already, check out the call for submissions for the April issue at plays with puppies.) I hope, if I have time and energy, to finish and post some of the many posts that are halfway written, and maybe to post if something momentous occurs.

I also hope to write for Ability Maine, as much as I’m able. We’re working on getting a blog set up for that so people can comment on the articles. I’ll try to post a link here when I have new material up at AM, and hopefully some of you will join me there. Right now, there are two excellent articles up (yeah, I’m not ashamed to say it); one by Mike Reynolds and the other, an interview I did with medical investigative reporter, Arnold Mann.

We’ll be back!

– Sharon and Barnum

A Plagiarised Writer’s Response to #PIPA & #SOPA During the #Blackout

Cross-posted at Bed, Body & Beyond and Occupy at Home

If you go to Wikipedia today, you will find it blacked out — along with many other websites, blogs, twitter accounts, and more. However, on the Wiki page, along with the blackout is a way to contact your representative to tell them why you oppose PIPA/SOPA (or to learn more information about these bills, if you’re not familiar with them).

I encourage you to make your voice heard. Here is what I wrote to my representative and senators. Feel free to use whatever is relevant or useful to you:

As a writer who has had my work stolen — shadow companies were selling my articles under their own copyright on Amazon, as well as websites that have stolen my blog content and reprinted it without permission on advertisement-filled pages — I am very sympathetic to the aims and goals of SOPA and PIPA. In fact, multiple articles were stolen and sold on Amazon from a feminist newspaper I was in by this one company, and the editors and publishers of the magazine had tremendous difficulty getting Amazon to stop selling this stolen work.

I wonder how many of my other stories have, or will be, stolen — particularly because one of the genres I write in is erotica, and that seems to be an especially popular genre to steal and publish under another name. I work very hard on my stories. It’s no small feat, because I am severely disabled, and each time I write, it exhausts and sickens me. But I continue because it’s my passion and my joy and my job in this life.

I use the internet for everything — work, social interaction, news, research for work, research on my medical conditions and connections to others with my illnesses, personal study, and more — everything, really. I am bedbound due to chronic illness so it’s my connection to the world outside my bedroom. The idea of what PIPA and SOPA could mean for internet freedom and literacy is chilling to me. I am absolutely opposed to SOPA and PIPA, even with my personal experiences of internet piracy.

Megacompanies like Amazon need to be held accountable. They did their best to evade me, making their legal department all-but-unreachable, and then when I threatened them with legal action, they simply took down the pirated article without acknowledging my correspondence or compensating me for my stolen work. The big money-making machines, like Amazon, need to know that the DOJ has them in their sights, that authors need to be respected and protected.

But indiscriminate, sweeping legislation like SOPA or PIPA is not the answer. It throws the baby out with the bath water. It will not stop the internet megacorporations from their sloppy, unethical (and lucrative) practice of ignoring stolen work, but it will seriously damage the free exchange of ideas and information that is the life’s blood of the internet. The people of the internet are united in our opposition to SOPA and PIPA. I ask you to listen to your constituents, not corporate interests.

Thank you for your time, for reading, for listening, for following the will of the people.

P.S. If you have tried to email your representative or senator and gotten an error message where their website is supposed to be, that’s because so many people have registered their opposition to SOPA/PIPA that we’ve crashed their sites! Keep it up! You can still contact them on their Facebook pages or via Twitter.

Waspish Wednesday: New Wrinkle on Captcha Problem

Howdy.

I have posted before about how Captcha interferes with internet access. It seems like almost daily I hear from a friend that she can’t access a website, a forum, or other resource because of Captcha, also known as word verification or image verification. It is a scourge on the landscape! It is an access-blocking nightmare! And it seems to be spreading everywhere you turn.

An example of some Captchas -- making the internet inaccessible to many people! Grr.

It has come to my attention that Blogger has made it harder (but not impossible!) to disengage this “feature” in the comments section of blogs. I discovered this when I went around to the various blogs that participated in the huge and amazing PFAM blog carnival I just hosted at my other blog, Bed, Body & Beyond to thank the bloggers in their comments. Almost everyone who used Blogger had Captcha. I was feeling quite frustrated.

Then I found out from a couple of them that there is a new Blogger and that with new Blogger, you cannot disengage word verification! They had tried but didn’t know what to do next. Augh! In particular, Kelly at Fly with Hope, was gracious and tenacious at informing me of the situation and running down and fixing this problem. Thank you, Kelly!

I tweeted my friends for information on any workarounds, and L-Squared of Dog’s Eye View informed me that there is a way for bloggers to deal with this:

They can report it using the Send Feedback option in the Nav bar & for now they can switch back to “old Blogger” to disable it.

No, it is not an ideal solution, but for those who are willing and able to jump through these hoops, we salute you for helping to make the internet a slightly more accessible place!

Please, website designers and software developers, do not be seduced by the popularity of Captcha. It hurts people. It really does. There is a better way, I promise you.

I am completely exhausted. I’m going to tick check the dog and myself, eat, and go back to sleep.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT

P.S. Barnum is actually starting to be useful on random occasions. Today, one of my slippers was not nearby, and I asked him to retrieve it, and he did it perfectly! Woohoo!


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