Grain-free Dog Food and Local Shopping

IMG_8049Visiting the western Chicago suburb of Naperville, I was surprised to see so many people walking around the downtown outdoor shopping area on a chilly, dreary Sunday afternoon. Has not online shopping disrupted in-person shopping nearly to the point of oblivion? Happily not!

We stumbled upon a small pet store with a cordial and well-educated staff. Very unlike when shopping at a certain major chain pet store — which I almost dread going into after repeated inexplicably mediocre customer service — here we learned more details about the reasoning behind grain-free dog food.

“Dogs can’t digest grain very well,” the employee said. “But the grain still as an effect on them. Eating too much grain can result in increased shedding, dry skin, diarrhea, and discharges through their eyes.”

All of the food they sold at the store was grain-free. What about the treats?

“Most of our treats are grain-free also, but a small amount of grain in treat is okay, since treats aren’t the main source of food.”

What about Samantha the border collie’s favorite treat, of fresh made whole wheat biscuits baked with butter? No comment, apparently… But now that we’ve learned, through helpful staff at a locally-owned brick-and-mortar store, the downside to grain in a dog’s diet, Samantha will be eating increasingly grain-free.

[The store does offer online shopping as well.]

Weeding the Worst Library Books

Got Books?The New Yorker has an article this week on Weeding the Worst Library Books. Have you ever been perusing the shelves of your local municipal public library and wondered why they keep such old, weird, pointless, and/or useless books sitting around? “Weeding” is the delicate art practiced by librarians whereby books are selected to be discarded in order to make room for new books to arrive. Apparently this is best done only a few books at a time, rather than forty thousand books all at once, as attempted by former Berkeley library director Jeff Scott.

The library’s director, Jeff Scott, announced that his staff had “deaccessioned” texts that weren’t regularly checked out. But the protesters who gathered on the library’s front steps to decry what became known as “Librarygate” preferred a different term: “purged.” “Put a tourniquet on the hemorrhage,” one of the protesters’ signs declared. “Don’t pulp our fiction,” another read. … A thousand people signed a petition demanding that Scott step down—and, in the end, he did.

What kinds of books get weeded out, exactly, and why? The article introduces us to librarians Mary Kelly and Holly Hibner, who maintain a weblog about library books likely to be on their way out the door. Some books are highly desirable to be on the shelves, but get worn out from years of use. These may well be discarded only to be replaced with a fresh copy.

Many more books are shown the door by virtue of their antiquated content: books about applying for jobs in the 1970s, or projecting what things might be like if we could ever launch a spacecraft off the planet. Other books perplex and mystify today’s readers who wonder why the book ever existed in the first place, such as an illustrated children’s guide to Wax In Our World.

I feel that I understand, though, the bitter reaction toward book weeding. I only have so much space on my own home library shelves, and sometimes I feel wistfully compelled to clear out some older books to make room for newer. Even when the practical utility of the old books is obviously minimal (e.g., discarding a first edition of The Java Language Specification while keeping the third edition), a mixture of emotional attachment and vague concern that a legitimate use case might arise makes weeding challenging.

Browsing Mary and Holly’s blog about discarded library books is encouraging, though! If you fancy the idea of writing a book, but aren’t sure that you have any ideas that would be worth putting into book form, there are almost certainly numerous examples of worse book ideas already out there…

Josh Renaud on Electric Dreams

Friend and former classmate Josh Renaud was recently interviewed on sundry topics related to Atari computers and electronic bulletin board systems. I never got into the BBS scene much myself, but Josh’s enthusiasm nevertheless conjures up feelings of nostalgia for the exciting early days of personal computing.

A much enjoyable and educational interview, well worth a listen!

Compulsory Mechanical Licensing

783843-R1-020-8A_008I’m at the tail end of producing a music album for a client, and have been sailing the seas of mechanical licenses. Briefly, for the uninitiated, in order to use someone else’s composition on your album, you need to secure a mechanical license. This is frequently done by working with an organization like the Harry Fox Agency, which represents many different music publishers, or going directly to a particular music publisher. But what happens when the copyright holder of a song isn’t represented by a music publisher?

This happened on one of the songs for my current project. Or more precisely, the song had been co-written by two composers, one of which had his copyright represented by a music publisher, and the other of which did not. So going through the Harry Fox Agency or through the publisher, I was only able to license 50% of the song.

U.S. copyright law makes provision for a so-called compulsory license, in which case, just so long as you file the initial paperwork before publishing your recording, you can simply notify a copyright holder that you will be engaging in a compulsory license, and then follow up by sending them a check for the royalty payment, based on the number of copies to be published and the current government-established statutory rate. Not as easy as working with a publisher or with Harry Fox, but certainly doable — albeit with a catch. U.S. Copyright Office Circular 73 explains that you must also:

Make … a monthly statement of account, to the copyright owner or authorized agent of the owner on or before the 20th day of each month for every phonorecord made and distributed in accordance with the license.

and:

File with the copyright owner or authorized agent of the owner a detailed annual statement of account, certified by a certified public accountant.

The circular does not suggest any end to this, implying that monthly statements and annual accountant-certified reports must be mailed to the copyright holder indefinitely, even if no further royalties were owed. I don’t want to deal with this myself, nor do I want to burden my client with needing to deal with this.

I must not be alone in preferring to avoid directly engaging in compulsory mechanical licensing, as there are companies set up that will do this for you. One such company is Easy Song Licensing in Minneapolis, a music recording company who saw a need to help others with compulsory licensing. After spending hours across about a week trying to figure out to whom I owed a royalty payment and how to get it to them, I gladly paid ESL’s modest fee to handle the compulsory licensing paperwork for me, wishing only that I had done so earlier!

Bark Busters Progress

In March we met with a local Bark Busters trainer to get assistance working with Samantha the Border Collie. Despite previously earning status as an AKC Star Puppy, as a three-year-old dog her obedience had been deteriorating and her demeanor around people she wasn’t familiar with was unacceptable. She would frequently refuse to come back inside the house after playing outside off leash, she would growl and bark at guests, and she was generally assuming a role of command both within our family and wherever she went.

Past dogs in my life were much more naturally submissive (for the most part) to their human caretakers, and we needed some help learning how to get Samantha under control.

Our Bark Busters trainer showed us that we had to take on the role of pack leader for Samantha, including responding to her not as we would respond to other people, but as a lead dog would respond to other dogs. We learned how to growl at Samantha, and, if that doesn’t get her attention, to growl and clap our hands simultaneously, or even to growl and throw to the ground a “Bark Busters pillow”, filled with metal bolts that clank together making a sound unpleasant to dogs’ ears. All of this is meant to simulate a dog pack leader growling and, if needed, snapping at other dogs, to deter unacceptable behavior and to signal that there’s no reason to get upset right now.

Of course, not every response should be negative. On the positive side, praising the dog for a successfully following commands and for behaving appropriately should be boisterously happy, as should calling for the dog to come. Other commands (sit, stay, etc.) should be given firmly and directly, neither too happy nor too dour.

We learned that we must enforce ourselves as the leaders of the family, even in seemingly minor things. We go through the door first. We go up and down the stairs first. We say when it’s time to play and when it’s not. On walks, stay in front, not behind. Over time, the dog will learn that its owners are in the lead, in charge, in control, and that she doesn’t have to be.

All of these things intertwine together to promote obedient behavior in the dog, and to diminish anxiety wrought by the dog feeling that she’s responsible for the household — a job that is really too big and overwhelming for her.

Putting what we’ve learned into practice, the results have been immediate and astonishing. Samantha’s behavior has improved many times over, going from being a dog that would only listen to us if it suited her mood, to a dog who seems eager to please, and truly apologetic if she lets us down. We’ve not brought her into contact with unfamiliar house guests yet, though her behavior around the Bark Busters trainer has gone from antagonistic to playful. We are hopeful to see similar changes around other visitors.

Shortly after we first started noticing issues with Samantha, I bought a Bark Busters book, which I wrote a mediocre review of on Amazon. I stand by that review of the book, because I found it confusing and poorly written. But, with the assistance of an in-person Bark Busters trainer, I have been extremely impressed with their methodology.