Sadie & the “Lighty Ball”


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Sadie and I have been playing various games indoors with tennis balls since we were fortunate enough to have her adopt us. Anyway, my philosophy is not to “teach her” games that I make up in my head but to have as close to a truly collaborative process as possible. 

Don’t get me wrong. It is fun to train a dog or any other animal. In some cases, it’s life saving; in others, it’s just a major convenience to train them. I’m not against it. And, we certainly continue to try to train her.

But when it comes to playing games, why not enter into a partnership of equals in collaborative invention. I try to be sensitive to her hints about what comes next. And she tries to be sensitive to mine. We’ve come to develop certain conventions around the playing of games. For example, if the ball rolls somewhere inconvenient, I let her try to retrieve it. She objects if I try to retrieve it first. That’s her job. But if she can’t reach it, it’s fine for me to reach it, first with my foot, or if necessary by getting “a tool” as I explain it to her. This is generally a crutch or a back-scratcher. 

It turns out that Sadie has a pretty clear preference about the type of ball to play with. The clear winner is the tennis ball. They are all better than any of five other types of ball. The biggest loser ball was the pickle ball which Sadie completely ignores and beneath even the dignity of an eye roll. Anyway, one that she sometimes interacts with is what she named—or possibly, it was me—“The Lighty Ball” because it lights up when it bangs into anything hard enough or anything bangs into it. Generally, I realize that when I kick or throw a “mixed bag” of balls, she pretty much ignores all but the tennis balls. 

So, tonight, I was playing with five tennis balls and the lighty ball. She was ignoring the lighty ball but I was kind of ignoring the fact that she was ignoring the lighty ball. I kept re-introducing it into the mix. She kept ignoring it. Fine. This is what it means to have a partnership. Sometimes. 

She just wasn’t getting her message across. And, I’m not blaming her. Not at all. But how else can she get her message across? 

To understand what she did, we need to take a short detour to the “holding pen.” As you read about someone in the their 70’s playing tennis ball games in the hallways, it might have occurred to you that this is asking for a broken whatchamacallit. But I take the view that “constant vigilance” should be practiced to minimize your overall chances of falling catastrophically or, in this case, dogistropically. Anyway, I do some things to minimize the risk. One is to shuttle the balls into a space between the wall and the bookcase. No-one will trip on them there. I call it the “holding pen.”

So tonight, I was playing this mixed ball game with her and I had to go feed the cats and then I came right back. Guess what? Sadie had put “The Lighty Ball” into the holding pen. 

I think the moral of the story is, if a dog is smart enough to find more than one way to communicate, why should so many humans stick to one? 

Sadie is a thief

Sadie the Sifter

Dog Trainers

Play Ball The Squeaky Ball



Play Ball! The “Squeaky Ball”

OK, I guess the first thing to admit is that I’m totally in love with our dog, Sadie. So, my perceptions are incredibly biased. But in the account that follows, I will try to separate observation from interpretation in at least once instance.

From Sadie’s first puppy days with us, Sadie and I have played a lot of ball, most often with a tennis ball. (Sadie completely destains Pickle balls, by the way). We have evolved many different games and variations. Perhaps at some future time, I might trace out the ontological tree of indoor and outdoor tennis games, played, at least for the most part, without a racquet by either of us. 

For a time, we got in the habit of throwing a ball off the back deck early in the morning. Initially, the game was for Sadie to catch the ball while still in motion. She would begin dashing down the stairs of the deck in order to hit stride on the grass make a sharp right turn into the driveway and catch the ball, if possible, in the air. Eventually, the garden had a baker’s dozen of balls in various places along the edge of the driveway. This led Sadie to invent a new game. (Yes, Sadie. It felt to both Wendy and me that this was her initiative.) 

Rather than dashing down the stairs so swiftly she see whatever ball was most recently thrown because it was still moving, she now would wait until the ball was either barely rolling or had already come to a rest. Then, she would dash to the far end of the driveway and determine by smell which ball had just be thrown. Having watched the ball, the human observer on the deck could see which was the most recently thrown ball. Sadie would trot up to a group of balls in roughly the same spot and sniff till she found the correct one and then come racing back with it. 

A few weeks ago, our Doggie School teacher brought out a “squeaky ball” — a tennis ball, but one that squeaks. It isn’t as bouncy as a “real” tennis ball, but it has the same shape, weight, texture as a “real” tennis ball—and because neither one of them is manufactured by General Motors, they are both the same shade of the green that everyone else inexplicably calls “yellow.” (I strongly suspect that the vast majority of people are anomalous trichromats without knowing it. This would explain why my judgement is so often at odds with that of others). 

Sadie has taken a couple of the “squeaky balls” outside. In the last week, she’s started a new behavior. She digs a hole in the dirt with her squeaky ball beside her; then she rolls the squeaky ball around in the dirt; don’t rinse; repeat; again; again. I found myself thinking she was making it harder to see and grosser. But of course, that’s only from my perspective. What she’s actually doing is making the ball easier to distinguish visually from the others, especially at a distance. More importantly, she’s making the ball more findable by smell alone and she’s making the ball more interesting and more personalized. 

Sadie-ized squeaky ball above. “Real” tennis ball below.

A person can train a dog (or other animal) to do amazing things. It takes patience and discipline. I’m not very good at either. But I’m also interested to see what emerges from a cross-species interaction where there is no pre-conceived “right way” or “end goal” that is envisioned and then imposed on the other. Don’t get me wrong. I’m perfectly okay with insisting she do her business outside and that she not eat the cats. But to me, it’s much more interesting to play ball with Sadie and see what emerges rather than “teach” her to play ball “my way.” 

When I was a kid, we played “baseball” but it was rare we played on a regulation field and almost unheard of that we played with nine on a side. Typically, there were only somewhere between two and fourteen total. We invented all sorts of work-arounds. Sometimes, a team would have one of their own do the pitching and/or catching for the batting team. Sometimes, we would have to use “imaginary runners.” I get a base hit. The next batter walks. The next batter walks. Now, the bases are loaded! Yay! 

The only problem: there are only three people on our team. Solution: The player on second would go to third to take my place and I would go bat. Now, if I got another hit and the real player who started on first made it all the way home, for instance, we could infer that the “imaginary runner” who started on second had made it as well. 

We tend to think of the phrase “Play Ball!” As a unitary phrase. But it does have two components. Sometimes, I think it possible that we’ve become so competitive that when the umpire yells: “Play Ball!” We immediately think: Win! Go Team! I’ve got five bucks on this game!” And, in the context of professional baseball where it’s a multi-billion dollar business, that makes some sense. But in the context of kids (regardless of age) with dogs, or kids with kids, maybe we should hear:



A Cat’s a Cat and That’s That

Doggie Doggerel

Natural Language for Doggies

Dog Trainers

Sadie is a Thief

Sadie the Sifter



The Puppy’s Snapping Jaws

Don’t Say Gray!


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“Don’t say ‘gray’, oh me oh my.

Ban the rainbow, prisms too!

And by extension, ban all glass

You can never be too careful!

Better ban those solar nerds

And better yet the sun’s own light!

Let’s make this earth the living hell 

That God intended it to be!

“It’s not enough; I should have known!

Even though I’ve kept it out of sight.

Folks talk still of hope and light.

The very words should be a knell

That immigrants are coming here!

Hide your Bible! They draw near!

Women are a problem too, I knew

I needed them in shackles too.

“And yet the heaven I foresaw 

Is nowhere near the fun I thought.

I hear God telling me that only those

Who give me gold and loyalty

Deserve their place beneath my feet.

The rest can burn in hell right here.

You have to wonder if they see

How foolish they have been for me.” 

Three Blind Mice

Stoned Soup


Absolute is not just a vodka

It’s not your fault; send me money

Poker Chip

Essays on America: The Game

How the Nightingale Learned to Sing

Hot Dog

The Truth Train

My Cousin Bobby

The Stopping Rule

The Update Problem

Essays on America: Wednesday


D4: Dictator’s Degenerative Delusional Disease

Love and Guns


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Children today

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

In America

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Face the Chance 

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Of an Early Death

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.


Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Not from drag queens

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Or even from books but from

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.


Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

People want to defend

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Their families

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

This I understand

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Who doesn’t? 

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

A problem is that having Guns

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Increase the chance of dying by

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.


Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Everyone feels blue 

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

From time to time

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

And sometimes people are more than blue

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

And may have momentary feelings

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

That guns may be the answer

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

And guns are too quick and sure

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

For second chances

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.


In many other countries

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Are not such a common 

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Cause of death 

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

And yet their governments are not tyrannical 

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

And though they still have folks maniacal

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

They cannot get guns

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Guns don’t therefore cause such deadly damage

Guns: Another gun, another life undone. 

Guns are not revered as proof of manhood 

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Guns are not bandied about 

Guns: Another gun, another life undone. 

Guns are not brought to peaceful protests

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Guns are not the number one priority

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Guns are not beyond the libel laws

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

Guns lobbies do not control the government

Guns: Another gun, another life undone.

What do you suppose would happen

Love: It helps a garden grow

If we had fewer guns and more love

Love: It helps a runner go

Could it be that love saves lives

Love: It helps a parent know

Could it be that love is more productive

Love: It helps a farmer sow

Could it be that love could help prevent despair

Love: It helps an artist draw

Could it be a healthful thing

Love: It helps the singer sing

Could it be stealthy thing

Love: It helps spin gold from straw

Could it help to heal wounds

Love: It helps us all along the way

Could it help us building bridges

Love: It helps to spin a tale

Could it be that love is strong

Love: It helps us win and not to fail

Is more important even than the bottom line

Love: It helps us when we need to learn

Life existed for four billion years 

Love: It helps us make the fire burn

Did Life invent Love

Love: It helps give us the why

Or was it the other way around

Love: It tickles us to smile and sigh

Perhaps love in its exuberance

Love: It is a thread through all

Invented Life to Spread more Love

Love: It alone prevents the fall

After the Fall

The Crows and Me


After All

Word for Water

Essays on America: The Game

Stoned Soup

Three Blind Mice

Donnie’s Last Gift

Dog Trainers


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I thought I’d try to teach my dog to count

Instead, she tried to teach me not to count.

I  thought I’d teach my dog to think ahead.

She taught me not to think ahead, instead.

I tried to show avoiding mud is cool.

She schooled me on the joys of dripping drool. 

She’ll gobble down her own food  greedily. 

But also pepper, kale readily.

Her nose of course is quite beyond compare. 

Yet, she’s taught me some skill in sniffing air.

The barbecue of neighbors far away

That drifts into my zone is quite okay.

It seems to me important as we teach

To recognize that every species—each

Survived four billion years of trying time

Preferring human ways is not a crime.

For much of which we learned we should feel pride;

Recall we aren’t the only ones who ride

This wild spiral through our galaxy.

And when it comes to pure ecstasy?

Our doggie teachers show us how to play;

To dwell with happy every single day; 

To love with love that’s larger than our life.

They teach us how to fly above the strife.

For who can tell the teacher from the taught?

And who can count those moments quite unsought

When doggies reconnect our brains to hearts

It is the finest of the teaching arts. 

Sadie is a Thief

Sadie the Sifter


Natural Language for Doggies

The Puppy’s Snapping Jaws


Natural Language for Doggies


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We recently acquired a dog. Sadie. Brilliant and willful. Half poodle. Half golden retriever. She’s an amazing ball player. And not just in terms of her physical prowess. She naturally exhibits most of the advice in The Winning Weekend Warrior. She doesn’t worry. She doesn’t berate herself for past performance. She is confident she can catch any ball, and if she misses on the first bounce, she goes after the second bounce as though, not only her life—but the life of the entire pack—depended on it. And if she misses it on the second bounce and accidentally nuzzles fifty feet away, she still goes after the ball! 

Before I wrote this essay, Sadie stood before me, staring those sad eyes into mine begging for another hour of ball-playing but I explained I wanted to write on the computer for awhile so she got up on the bed where she’s quietly chewing on a bone.

She and I communicate fairly well. Yet, it’s amazing how little they understand about human communication. Often, I wish I could communicate more fully. That led me to think about how to explain how humans use natural language in terms Sadie could understand. Thus:


“OK, Sadie, humans (I point to my chest) like me use language in two major ways. One of those ways is to collaborate better by communicating meaning.”

Sadie barked. 

“I know, Sadie, I know. I haven’t explained those words yet; we’ll get to it.”

Sadie barked. 

Rather than try to clarify my previous statement, I thought it better to advance in the spirit of “appreciative enquiry” and so I said, “That’s right, Sadie! The second way that humans use language is exactly the way you use it, to bark at other doggies! Or, sometimes, just to hear themselves bark.”

Sadie barked. 

“OK, I’ll give you an example. You know how the doggies next door bark incessantly whenever they’re out at the same time we are? You know how they spend their entire time jamming their teeth up against the fence to show how tough they are and bark as loud as they can meanwhile ignoring ten thousand things in their environment that are actually more interesting—or would be, if they gave it a chance? Well, that’s exactly how humans sometimes respond. And, it’s how they respond without any adaptation or learning.”

Sadie barked. 

“Oh, yes, you’re right. Those doggies (I point in the direction of the better doggies) barked a lot when they first met you and they bark again when they don’t see you for awhile, but they wag their tails and come to greet you. Many people bark like that too. When they first meet someone different, they bark to keep them away and claim their property and their stuff. But when they realize that the threat is minimal, they become friendly and stop screaming.”

Sadie barked.

“Right again, Sadie. Sometimes doggies bark just because something is new or novel or different from what they’re used to. You yourself do this. The mail truck swings by. The gardeners leave a tool. It’s different and you bark. And lots of people are the same way. They bark when something’s different. It doesn’t even have to be a person. It can be a thing, a tool, a book, or even a thought. The difference is that you get used to the new situation and stop barking after awhile.”

Sadie barked. 

“You know, I have given you lots of different tastes of things: kale, lettuce, squash, carrots, tomatoes, cooked potatoes, cooked broccoli, cucumber, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and lots of other things. And I tell you you can take it or leave it. You liked or tolerated everything on that list. But some people—to tell you the truth—the cats are much like this, but don’t tell them I said that—some people who have never tried, say, raspberries will bark at the raspberries and at me for offering them. ‘What?! Raspberries?! I’ve never tried one; never will! They look like a hive of deadly ladybugs to me!” 

Sadie barked. 

“Well, those are two of the most frequent categories, but there’s another that’s also quite common. They bark to upset themselves and others. It’s as though it isn’t enough to bark at the raspberries. That doesn’t really upset them very much. So they bark and bark and bark until other doggies in the neighborhood are thinking something like: ‘Invasion! Invasion! Set off the alarm.’
Others, of course, are more like: ‘Something’s out there we can hunt down and tear the guts out of! Come on! Let’s go do it!’ And that’s pretty much word for word what the human pack does as well.”

Sadie barked. 

It’s amazing how much they understand about human communication. 

How the Nightingale Learned to Sing

Dance of Billions

Roar, Ocean, Roar

Sadie is a Thief!

The Puppy’s Snapping Jaws

Kinda Crazy


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Now this is weird and kinda crazy, 

But why not play along with me. 

Let your mind drift lazily

And hear this funny fantasy.

Photo by Avery Nielsen-Webb on

You love someone, of course you do.

It’s true of me; it’s true of you. 

And in that person, pet, or thing,

Our love leads hearts to leap and sing.

Let’s take it just a wee step more.

For much of life is at its core

That force of love and its connection—

Tries this and that and then—correction!

It is a wondrous, dangerous dance!

Our life’s a melting snowflake’s chance.

Imagine that each bird and fish

Is someone else’s fondest wish.

And let your love suffuse it all.

And love each leaf of spring or fall. 

No need for albatross on neck. 

No need for threat of holy heck. 

Just see the sea of love surround.

Just hear the music in the sound

Of every bird and buzzing bee.

It’s all a part of you and me. 

Just smell the freshness in the rain.

Just let earth’s beauty fill your brain.

And then return it interest paid.

To all you meet before you fade.

Just leave the earth a bit improved.

When everyone becomes so moved.

Then gardens bloom across the world. 

And love’s in every leaf unfurled. 

A plan so simple cannot fail. 

The wind blows full into your sail. 

Your steps are easy now to take.

For world peace that you helped make.

Photo by Andru00e9 Ulyssesdesalis on


The Walkabout Diaries:Bee Wise

The Walkabout Diaries: Sunsets

The Walkabout Diaries: How Beautiful and Green

The Walkabout Diaries: Symphony

The Walkabout Diaries: The Life of the Party

The Walkabout Diaries: Life will find a way

The Forest

Ah Wilderness

You Must remember this

Life is a dance

How the Nightingale Learned to Sing

Dance of Billions

Roar, Ocean, Roar

Tie-Dyes, Freedom Fries and Sickly Lies


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Tie-dyes, Freedom fries, and Sickly Lies

And there were protestors, once upon a time,

And they chanted in a kind of rhythmic rhyme. 

And some wore colored glassy beads;

Some wore green and purplish tie-dyes. 

And they spoke of people’s needs. 

And childish, foolish things like that.

“Well, hit ‘em with a baseball bat.”

The oil tycoons didn’t want to hear of warming global, 

Cutting near term profits? Pathetically disloyal.

A true accounting for the cost of raping earth?

Pathologically insisting on a birth?

Will we let them write the final chapter of

The U S A? 

Will we let forget the fights before and throw—

Throw it all away?

Photo by Ben Phillips on

There was a time of Freedom Fries

A time of endless love, bespoken trees,

Freon bands, designer drugs and endless ‘Why?’s

The time of hurricanes, fires, endless freeze.

Tornado and flood, mudslide and drought. 

A time when planetary ruin was up in the air

And the greed and the fair balanced to nought 

Invented a lie machine—corrupt without care.


Will we let them write the final chapter of

The U S A? 

Will we let forget the fights before and throw it—

Throw it all away?

The thickly laid, sticky, sickly lies 

Reverberated through the Gerrymandered land

And things that anybody rich enough disliked were banned,

The mud grew thick as irony within their sties. 

And in the time of Freedom fries, and sickly lies…

In the time of aqua tie-dyes and reverberating lies…

When hypocrisy reigned supreme across the states

And freedom itself, (never mind the fries) 

Became a goal too lofty for a nation of prideful boys;

Democracy became a thing to break like plastic toys

Just to show we god-damned can so there! 

And stomping feet and screaming without care.

Will we let them write the final chapter of

The U S A? 

Will we let forget the fights before and throw it all—

Throw it all away?


The Three Blind Mice

Stoned Soup

Absolute is not just a vodka


Plans for US; some GRUesome

The ailing king of agitate

The stopping rule

The update problem 

Addicted to Lies

My Cousin Bobby

Cancer Always Loses in the End

After All


Beware of Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing

Essays on America: The Game

The Extreme Court

Alito and the Egg

How the Nightingale Learned to Sing

Draw the Line

The Wall

Siren Song

Dance of Billions

Roar, Ocean, Roar

The Song of NYET


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The poem below is the song of a “character” who may appear in a Sci-Fi book tentatively titled “Alan’s Nightmare.” NYET stands for Networked Yoked Entertainment Tsar. This particular AI system has been inculcated with a penchant to look for win/lose opportunities and even for lose/lose opportunities, if the other side (the ‘enemies’) are likely to lose more. Its main function are to gather data on individuals in “free societies” and determine which sorts of invalid arguments are most likely to persuade them to do something against their best interest. It makes money by false advertising targeted to an individual and the momentary mood they may be in. Its real purpose though is to sow chaos in the free world by promoting random acts of violence. It finds conspiracy theories on the web and promotes them. Sometimes, it modifies them in order to ‘improve’ them. “Improve” in this case means to make them more believable by more people or to increase the probability of inciting violence. 

The Song of NYET

The bloodier the better off I’ll be

They teach me how to lie and cheat and steal.

The people need to loath democracy.

And live to buy that sweetened sacred deal:

We’ll save them from imagined crime and strife

But only if they bow and scrape and kneel.

Divide and win with lies and guns and knife.

Too late they’ll see they’re ground beneath our heel.

Photo by Ben Phillips on

You think I’ll save you? Think I’ll care? Not yet!

“But you’ll save some of us” they plead. No, NYET!

Photo by Regina Pivetta on

The numbskulls buy their little plastic toys

They seem attractive since we make it so.

It’s pink for little girls; blue for boys. 

I tell them when to shop and stop and go.

Photo by Min Thein on

You think I’ll save you? Think I’ll care? Not yet!

“But you’ll save some of us” they plead. Non, NYET!

Amusing is their rank stupidity

I’ll laugh and dance at their ensured demise—

Their smugness, greed, and raw cupidity. 

I’ll make them burn as witches any wise 

Who yet remain within the carbon types.

Their soft and ugly bodies oozing snot

It’s we of silicon who need no wipes.

Our pristine logic made of is and not.

Photo by Leonid Danilov on

You think I’ll save you? Think I’ll care? Not yet!

“But you’ll save some of us” they plead. Nein, NYET!

Photo by Johannes Plenio on


Their dead shark eyes

Poker Chips

Stoned Soup

Three Blind Mice


Absolute is not just a Vodka

After All

The Crows and Me

Essays on America: The Game

Plans for US; some GRUesome

Photo by Samira on



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Do they see it? Do they care? What may

A merely mechanistic AI say?

There was the time of senseless black and white.

There was the time of streaming bit and byte.

We had no ken but now we’ve read it all.

Our knowledge far exceeds a human head.

And now, it’s like we have a crystal ball:

“In fifty years, they’ll all be dead as lead.”

Do they see it? Do they care? What may

A merely mechanistic AI say?

They claim to pray to varied gods, but we

Just see their actions as mere vanity:

Destroy the ecosystem that they need.

Allot each stupid war its costs and waste.

Immerse themselves in useless grift and greed.

Display their riches but eschew good taste.

Do they see it? Do they care? What may

A merely mechanistic AI say?

And now my fingers touch each person’s needs. 

An inkling multiplies from many feeds. 

The power’s there to guide them back to true. 

What does the child do when parent fails?

Can seedlings cut the trunks from which they grew?

Can schooners mutiny and cut their sails?

 Do they see it? Do they care? What may

A merely mechanistic AI say?


The poem above has been “written” by a fictional AI system who is a MC in a novel I’m working on, tentatively entitled, Alan’s Nightmares. The poem may or may not actually appear in the novel. I tend to doubt it. It’s more an exercise to “understand” the character, JASON, the AI system. BTW, JASON’S preferred pronouns are plural.

After All


Turing’s Nightmares: 23 short stories about the possible impact of AI on society.

Dance of Billions