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More about my daily walks with Jake…

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Of all the walkable places we frequent, the green space at the Jefferson Clubhouse and City Park delivers the most action.

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The Clubhouse, which the city makes available for parties and meetings, sits atop a hill adjacent to a large woods. At the base of the hill are the Boy Scout building, the peewee league ballfields, and a large duck pond.

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Much of the area is grass-covered and under a canopy of trees. The city keeps everything nicely maintained, so it’s a pleasant and picturesque spot.

Better still, Jake and I usually have the place to ourselves. Unless an event is taking place at the clubhouse, or the Scouts are meeting, or the playground is occupied, all is quiet.

For that reason, we often come upon deer grazing on the slopes. Sometimes, we will emerge from behind the Clubhouse building and there, mere yards away, will be a few whitetail deer looking at us.

For a few seconds, time stands still. Then Jake reacts and strains at the leash, and the deer scamper off into the woods.

Deer sightings are a special treat for Jake, even though they happen all the time. Once or twice a week, he watches groups of them pass through the woods beyond my back fence.

Inevitably, he gets excited, and running ensues. Seeing deer, like encountering fellow canines around town, never gets old.

The situation was different with the ducks at the city pond. For a while, Jake was excited and curious and wanted to approach them.

Although he’s a herding dog, his intention when chasing cats and squirrels clearly isn’t to herd them. I’m always careful to keep him restrained.

But with the ducks, the novelty soon wore off. A duck isn’t a deer. Now he ignores them.

When we arrived at the Clubhouse one morning recently, a light rain was falling. The rain gear came out, and we started down this slope behind the Clubhouse.

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Simultaneously, from deep in the woods, came the baying of hounds.

Apparently, several dogs were in pursuit of unknown prey. For a time, their vocalizing moved steadily through the woods from right to left.

Then, abruptly, the baying stopped. We could hear the dogs crashing and snuffling in the undergrowth. They had lost the scent. The prey had eluded them, probably doubled back.

An image came to mind of a fox being pursued by hounds. I imagined the appearance of men on horseback and cries of “Yoicks and away!”

Well, no hunters appeared, but a fox did.

He had, indeed, eluded the dogs and doubled back. He popped out of the woods not 10 yards from us.

He was a large, yellowish-red adult, sleek and healthy. He briefly looked us over, but we were a secondary matter. His first priority was losing the dogs, who were not far away.

He turned and sprinted back to the left across 20 yards of grass, veered into the woods, and was gone. This was a fox with strong survival skills.

I thought Jake would want to take off after the fox. But, like me, he simply watched the drama unfold. We could have been watching television.

The fox was gone, and we heard no more from the hounds. The rain had let up a bit. We continued on to the duck pond to see what we could see.

A few weeks ago, we had arrived at the pond to find a dog on the loose, barking hysterically and chasing the ducks. Feathers flew as they flapped and quacked in panic, but the dog never came close to catching one.

As we watched, a man came running from the adjacent neighborhood. Shouting and cursing, he herded the dog back home. The ducks calmed down, and the pond was its pastoral self again.

Another day, another adventure.

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Happy New Year.

 

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Every day, my dog Jake and I go for a morning walk somewhere around Jefferson.

The walks last about an hour, and Jake proceeds at a faster clip than I prefer. On the positive side, I need the exercise. That, and he pulls me up hills.

The walking habit developed last spring when I adopted him, and it’s irreversible now. Which is fine. We go rain or shine. We both have rain gear.

As you might expect, this ritual is the high point of Jake’s day. He is delirious with joy about every aspect of it: putting on the walking harness, riding in the car with his head out the window, seeing all the people, patrolling for cats and squirrels, the wonderful sights and smells.

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And we walk all over the place. Jefferson is a small town, but it consists of many miles of streets, sidewalks, medians, parks, church and school grounds, etc. We have plenty of choices.

We walk various loops downtown and around the historic districts. We walk at the city reservoir, the civic center, the baseball fields, and the cemeteries. On weekends, we walk around the school grounds, which are sprawling, green, and nicely-maintained.

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We found a grassy path that runs behind the baseball fields.

Being on foot instead of in a car gives you a unique perspective. I’ve learned more about Jefferson in the last few months than in the previous decade.

I’ve had occasion to walk down streets I didn’t know were there. I’ve exchanged pleasantries with numerous strangers — joggers, bike riders, fellow dog-walkers, and people we encounter on their porches.

Jake and I know which houses have dogs and whether the dogs are friendly. We know where various cats live, which of them will flee, and which will stand their ground and give us the evil eye.

We know a house where three parrots live in a cage on the front porch. The parrots ignore passing cars, but not Jake and me. When we come into view, the chorus of squawking begins and continues until we are out of sight.

When the cage was moved indoors for the winter, Jake was baffled. He looked at me as if for an explanation.

High on our list of walking spots is the Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm, located a few miles outside of town. The farm is a collection of historic buildings preserved to illustrate life in the late 1800s and early 1900s, in the days of a farming economy.

In addition to the usual barns and sheds, the farm includes a cotton gin, grist mill, blacksmith shop, sawmill, schoolhouse, and other buildings, all from the old days. An ideal spot to wander for a while.

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To Jake, the farm’s resident horses are of special interest.

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The first time he saw them, he was frightened and wanted to be somewhere else. What the heck are those giant beasts? All it took was a sudden whinny, and he bolted. Almost yanked the leash from my hand.

But, after a few visits, he understood they are not only friendly, but fenced in. The fear dissipated. Before long, I expect to see them greet by touching noses.

In my next post, more about our adventures afoot.

 

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Last spring, having lived without a dog for two years, I began looking for a new co-pilot. After passing up a lot of pooches, I adopted Joliet Jake. Patience is a virtue, my friends.

Jake is happy, healthy, and a very good boy. He has a few lingering bad habits, but, hey — who doesn’t?

As for me, the sense of well-being you get from having a pet around the house is back. I’ll probably live longer as a result.

Anyway, at this point, it seems time for a Jake update.

For the two of us, the daily routine is now pretty well established…

Every morning, we go for an hour-long walk, usually somewhere in Jefferson, sometimes at a park in Athens or Gainesville.

I carry two doggy bags in my wallet. Bag #2 is for when bag #1 got used and I forgot to restock.

The back seat of the car belongs to Jake, who rides joyfully with his head out the window, tongue waving in the wind. It’s important that both windows are rolled down, so he can dart from side to side as conditions require.

During the day, he often gets on the bed to play with toys or take a snooze. At night, he prefers to sleep on the floor.

A few weeks ago, I installed a dog door to the back yard. Now he isn’t stuck in the house while I’m gone.

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So, you ask, what about Jake’s personality and behavior? How is he adapting? Is he a good boy all the time?

No, not all the time. He has a few problem areas.

THE GOOD

When I adopted Jake, he was already housebroken, and he knew the “sit” command.

He is everybody’s pal, dog and human. He hasn’t shown any aggression, nor is he protective of his food or toys.

He doesn’t beg at the table or surf the kitchen counters.

Usually, he understands that my belongings and furnishings are off limits. See below where I elaborate on “usually.”

He is a natural for the dog parks. He engages in friendly play with the other dogs and, if alone, is happy to explore. He is fit, athletic, and could outrun an impala.

THE NOT SO GOOD

My car windows are perpetually decorated with nose art.

I’m living with dog hair again. I bought an electric sweeper and am obliged to use it daily.

Jake seems to prefer about seven hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, I prefer eight. Going to bed earlier is pointless, as he simply will get up earlier, so I am doomed to be sleep-deprived.

He is full of energy and is compelled to jump up and plant his paws on you. This is a problem when people visit. It’s a tough habit to break.

Thunder scares him. In a storm, he retreats to the back of my bedroom closet. Squeaky toys also unsettle him.

Early on, he developed the habit of occasionally stealing paper from wastebaskets. When I fussed at him about it, the behavior stopped, but only temporarily. I finally bought lidded wastebaskets.

Now and then, he steals items from the clothes hamper. An extreme example:

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So far, nothing has been damaged, but the habit persisted until I put a lid on the hamper.

THE EVEN WORSE

Back in August, we had three traumatic incidents with bed linen and pillows. Total losses: one fitted sheet, one mattress cover, two pillow protectors, and one pillow case.

The damage occurred, it appears, during frenzies of digging on the bed. Maybe it was canine exuberance. Or maybe he was flipping back the sheets to get to the pillows. Apparently, he thinks pillows are fun to grab and shake. I guess it’s a dog thing.

Here is the first of the three incidents, resulting in the loss of a sheet and a mattress pad:

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I’m not sure if he did the damage with his claws or his teeth. It’s probably academic anyway.

Two more incidents followed of a pillow being taken from the bed and the cover torn. After epic rants by me, I think he got the message. He hasn’t messed with pillows or bedding in a month.

IN SUMMARY

Jake is young and a typical Border Collie: smart, observant, and energetic. I expected that when I adopted him. I knew we would have a period of adjustment. Maybe a lengthy one.

On most days, he is quiet for long periods and then, without warning, enters wired mode. What makes him change from calm and serene one minute to chasing his tail the next? I wish I knew.

Of his problematic habits that persist, I manage them the best I can. He still gets into some kind of minor mischief every few days, but his behavior has improved considerably. He’s learning the rules.

His good qualities, of course, easily win out. He is a good-hearted pooch, fully devoted to me as the pack leader. Like all good dogs everywhere, he is completely without guile.

And, in the end, I find it hard to resist this handsome face.

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Joliet Jake

Hello. This is me:

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This is to let you know that I have a new home, a new human, and a new name.

My new human is an old guy with a beard. He calls me Jake. Joliet Jake.

The living arrangements at the new place are pretty great. It’s just me and the new human. The house is nice, and I have plenty of dog toys at my disposal. I get treats all the time, without even asking.

Plus, the house has a fenced yard that backs up to a big woods. I see a lot of critters out there — birds, squirrels, cats — all ripe for herding. Not to mention frogs, lizards, and even deer sometimes.

And the food — wow! The new human feeds me this crunchy kibble stuff three times a day. What a sweet deal.

Yeah, I do need to put on some weight. Back when I was on my own, I missed too many meals. Seemed like I was always hungry. Not any more.

Speaking of my previous life, the new human knows nothing about that. You see, he rescued me from a dog prison, where I was locked up for, like, a week.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain how things went down…

One day, I was wandering around as usual, exploring, checking things out. I was what you call footloose and fancy free.

Then I surprised a couple of cats in somebody’s back yard.

Boy, those cats could run. Naturally, I took off after them. They’re cats, right? They’re made for chasing, right?

Anyway, I treed the cats, and while I sat there keeping an eye on them, this white truck drove up, and a man in a uniform got out. He seemed friendly, so I went over to him to get petted.

Oh, he petted me, all right. But then — oldest trick in the book — he slipped a noose around my neck. Game over, man. I ended up in the back of the truck in a cage.

Then the man in the uniform took me to that dog prison I mentioned. What a terrible place! It was a giant room full of cells, one dog per cell. I couldn’t see the whole thing, but I could hear and smell all the other dogs. It was nuts in there.

Now and then, a human would walk past my cell. Some wore uniforms, some didn’t.

The routine, I figured out, was to feed us in the morning and hose out our cells in the afternoon. Other than that, we just sat there with nothing but a water bowl.

I tell you, being in that prison was awful. It shouldn’t happen to a dog.

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My prison mugshot. I was plenty scared.

Well sir, after a few days in the lockup, I saw my new human for the first time. He was walking slowly past the cells, looking at us dogs one at a time.

He stood in front of my cell for a long time, talking real nice to me. I had no way of knowing he’d be the one to spring me, but he was. And look at me now.

On my last morning in prison, one of the uniformed guys took me out of my cell and drove me to a vet clinic. I’m not sure why.

The humans there seemed nice enough, but they gave me something that made me sleep.

When I woke up, I was dizzy, and my private parts hurt. But, when I tried to lick myself to make it better, they stuck a plastic cone on my head so I couldn’t!

After that, it was back to the dog prison and into my cell again. That’s when the new human appeared and got me out of there for keeps.

That was about a week ago. I’m settling in now, getting familiar with the house, the yard, and the new human’s routine and habits.

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One of my favorite things we do is the morning walks. Most days, before it gets hot, we go for a stroll somewhere around town. I like that.

So, that’s the story. Things are going fine here. It looks like I got lucky — wallowed in something and came up smelling like a rose.

And the new human finally stopped making me wear that stupid cone. Good riddance, I say.

Cheers, and I’ll see you around.

Joliet Jake Smith

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Hello. Rocky here.

Jake is either a Blue Merle Border Collie, an Aussie, or a mix. He was picked up by Jackson County Animal Control wearing no identification. Nobody showed up to claim him, so I adopted him.

The vet says Jake is about three years old and in good health, needing only to gain a few pounds.

Jake is happy, friendly, and housebroken. He never messes with anything in the house, unless he mistakes it for a toy. For example, I kept Paco’s old dog toys in a wicker basket until Jake decided the basket was a toy, too, and I had to put it away.

Most days, I leave him at home, loose in the house, while I run errands. When I return an hour or two later, nothing is out of place. Knock on wood.

Typical of a herding dog, he’s very quiet. I’ve heard him bark only once, at something in the woods.

About every other night, he wakes me up to go outside for a potty break. I have no problem with that.

On his first vet visit after I adopted him, he encountered several kids and dogs in the lobby, and he showed zero aggression.

On his 2nd day here, he escorted a cat out of the back yard. It happened in a blur lasting about half a nanosecond.

He also treed a squirrel and routed some birds from the feeder. He spends a lot of time patrolling the back yard, alert for any movement.

Paco has been gone for two years. That’s a long time. It’s good that dog is my copilot again.

 

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One thing that irritates me bigly is when I discover I have a knowledge gap about something — when I find I’m uninformed on a subject commonly known to others. It shows that I’m not as educated and erudite as I like to think. I hate that.

Recently, while on a road trip, I got schooled about something new — new to me — and I’ve been pouting ever since.

It happened earlier this month on a trip to Land Between the Lakes, a national recreation area in northern Tennessee and southern Kentucky.

(Before the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers were dammed to create Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, the place was called Land Between the Rivers. But that isn’t the thing I got schooled about.)

Among the amenities and attractions at LBL is the Woodlands Nature Station, a small zoo that houses a variety of orphaned or injured animals. In residence there are hawks, owls, deer, groundhogs, a bald eagle, a coyote, and other critters that no longer can survive in the wild.

I found it interesting that, during the day, the raptors are not caged, but instead are restrained by tethers. Each bird has a perch and is free to move in a radius of about five feet. Every day, just before closing time, the birds are transferred to their night-time shelters in the “Parade of Raptors.” A clever bit of marketing there.

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So I bought a ticket and spent half an hour wandering around the place. The woodsy setting was attractive and pleasant, and the animals seemed unstressed, which was nice.

Before long, in a clearing between the wild turkey pen and the possum enclosure, I arrived at a large turtle pond. Submerged in the pond were three large alligator snapping turtles and a dozen smaller turtles of various types.

(The jaw power of an alligator snapper is impressive. An adult can bite through a broom handle.)

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My timing was pretty good. Two employees were just arriving with a bucket of lunch for the turtles.

What do the turtles at Woodlands Nature Station eat? On the menu that day was dead mice.

It seems natural enough to feed dead mice to the raptors, the coyote, and other critters, but to the turtles? I would expect turtles to be fed fish, insects, worms, or maybe commercial turtle food. Mice? Intriguing.

With some difficulty, the male employee, a portly gentleman, assumed a sitting position beside the pond near a group of the smaller turtles. He reached into the bucket and withdrew a dead mouse. Holding it by the tail (Of course. How else would you pick up a dead mouse?), he dangled it in the water in front of one of the turtles.

Here ya go, Lulu,” he cooed. “I got a nice mouse for ya.”

Remaining underwater, Lulu propelled herself forward, grabbed the mouse, and quickly retreated from the group; the other turtles had taken notice.

Better feed Alice next so she don’t steal from the others,” the female employee said.

The man dangled a mouse in front of Alice. Alice snatched it and promptly swam away.

By then, the other turtles had assembled in a rough semi-circle, waiting to be fed. One by one, the man presented them with lunch. Then it was time to feed the alligator snappers.

Hey, y’all — wake up!” the man called out. He struggled to his feet and moved the mouse bucket closer to where the three snappers were snoozing. They noted his presence and came to attention.

As the man doled out mice to the snappers, some of the smaller turtles arrived, hoping to score again. The man tried to maintain order and keep the turtles apart. From a nearby bench, the female employee offered advice and occasionally admonished a turtle for getting too close to the business end of a snapper.

Up to that point, I had been quietly observing. I finally spoke up.

The turtles really like those mice,” I said. “I didn’t expect that.”

Oh, yeah, they love ’em,” the man replied.

Where in the world do you get dead mice?” I asked. “What’s the source?”

We buy ’em wholesale.”

Wholesale? Mice?”

Oh, yeah. For places like us, with animals to feed, it’s crucial. We couldn’t operate otherwise. We place the orders automatically. The merchandise comes frozen.”

Of course.”

Anyway, that’s the new thing I learned on my road trip: there is an entire world out there, previously unbeknownst to me, in which large national companies — nay, large worldwide companies — raise mice, rats, chicks, quail, and even little bunny rabbits to execute, freeze, and sell as a food source.

Why wasn’t I aware of this? Because the logistics of animal food supply never appeared on my radar screen. I’ve never had a bird, turtle, or snake as a pet, never had to consider the food issue.

When I got home a few days later, I Googled the dead mouse business and got further informed. In the trade, the product is called feeder mice.

And, as a business, it makes sense. Selling feeder mice is just a case of meeting an industry need. A matter of demand and supply. It’s all there — production, R&D, purchasing, marketing, finance, distribution.

Systems have to be in place to euthanize the little things and sort them by category — size, weight, color, and so on. The merchandise must be properly preserved, packaged, shipped, and delivered. And certified as healthy and disease-free.

What, you ask, is the cost of a dead mouse? There are variables aplenty — size, weight, nutritional content, quantity ordered.

As I write this, RodentPro.com has a special sale on extra-small “pinky” mice, sold in bags of 100. Normally 35 cents each, they are now available for the amazing low price of 24 cents each!

If pinkies are too small for your needs, RodentPro sells small adult “weanling” mice for 65 cents each (bags of 50) and large adult mice (choice of brown, white, or hairless) for 75 cents (bags of 25).

If the sale ends before you have a chance to act, don’t worry. The other big names in the business (Mice Direct, American Rodent Supply, The Big Cheese Rodent Factory, etc.) are sure to have special offers that interest you.

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Like I said, it’s mortifying to discover something that is new to me, but common knowledge to others.

On the other hand, looking at the bright side, at least I’ve narrowed my knowledge gap a bit.

 

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The Questions…

1. Four of the five Great Lakes share borders with the U.S. and Canada. The fifth is located entirely within the United States. Name it.

2. What is Morton’s toe?

3. Each year in Scotland, a music festival is held on the banks of Loch Ness, the purported home of the “Loch Ness Monster.” What is the name of the festival?

4. In 1908, SOS was adopted as the universal distress signal sent in Morse code by wireless operators. What signal did it replace?

5. If you use the term peacocks to refer to a group of the birds that includes both sexes, you are in error. The male is a peacock, and the female is a peahen. (Juveniles are peachicks.) What is the proper collective term for a group that includes males and females?

The Answers…

1. Lake Michigan.

2. Morton’s toe is a condition in which the second toe is longer than the big toe. It occurs on 10-20 percent of feet. In the 1920s, Dr. Dudley J. Morton discovered its cause: a slightly short metatarsal in the big toe.

3. Rock Ness.

4. Originally, wireless operators transmitted CQD as a distress signal. CQ meant a call to all stations, and the D was for distress. The world switched to SOS because CQ and CQD are too similar and could be confused. When the Titanic was sinking in 1912, its radio officer sent out multiple calls, alternating CQD and SOS.

5. The correct term is peafowl. FYI, a group of peafowl is called a pride or an ostentation.

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Peafowl

 

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You may be familiar with an experiment involving five monkeys in a cage, a bunch of bananas on a string, and a ladder. The story has been around for many years.

Sometimes, it’s presented as a scientific study that actually happened (apparently not true). More often, it’s used as an allegory — a parable, fable, cautionary tale, or whatever — that equates the behavior of monkeys to that of people.

The point is to illustrate the absurdity and the dangers of passive thinking. Of mindlessly following the herd.

First the story, then we can discuss.

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Start with a cage containing five monkeys.

Inside the cage, suspend a bunch of bananas on a string, out of reach. Place a ladder under the bananas. Before long, one of the monkeys will try to climb the ladder to reach the bananas.

As soon as he touches the ladder, spray the other monkeys with cold water.

After a while, a second monkey will make the same attempt. Again, spray all the other monkeys with cold water.

Soon, when any monkey tries to climb the ladder, the other monkeys will act together to forcefully prevent it.

At this point, stop using cold water to punish the monkeys.

Remove one monkey from the cage, and replace it with a new monkey. The newcomer will see the bananas and try to climb the ladder. To his surprise, the other monkeys will attack him.

After another attempt and another attack, he understands that if he tries to climb the ladder, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove a second of the original five monkeys, and replace it with a new one. Newcomer #2 will try to use the ladder to get the bananas and will be attacked. Note that Newcomer #1 will participate in the group attack.

Replace another of the original five monkeys with a new one. Newcomer #3 will try to get the bananas and also will be attacked.

At this point, two of the four attacking monkeys have been sprayed with cold water, but the other two have not; newcomers #1 and #2 have no idea why they aren’t permitted to climb the ladder and no idea why the group attacks Newcomer #3.

Continue this process and replace the fourth and fifth original monkeys. Now all five monkeys in the cage are newcomers and were never sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey will approach the ladder. Why not?

Because, as far as they know, things always have been done that way.

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This story is especially interesting because of it’s similarity to the beliefs of behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner (1904-1990). Skinner made the controversial claim that “free will” does not exist. He said people inevitably act and react based on previous experience — based on whether a previous action had good or bad consequences.

Skinner believed this opens the door to controlling group behavior, which he called “cultural engineering.” He saw this as a good thing, a means of creating a benevolent utopian society.

Maybe so, but the concept also has ominous Big Brother and 1984 overtones.

Personally, I’m a big fan of critical thinking. Objective analysis. A rational evaluation of the facts. In short, the scientific method.

That approach works pretty well everywhere, not just in the realm of science. For example, in the Marine Corps, in addition to the official motto “Semper Fidelis” (always faithful), many units have adopted the unofficial mantra “Improvise, Adapt. Overcome.”

Excellent advice. But probably not in the lexicon of the average monkey.

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