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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Cult of Newer is Better

Photo: wallpapers.fansshare.com

Some days I feel old. I know I'm not, really, but things can change rapidly. Some things that went away come back again. It feels like I'm constantly dealing with some update or another with my electronics. You know, the ever-shifting landscape of the average, first-world Joe's life. I'm not that old, but in many ways the world is a completely different place from the one I grew up in and was prepared for.

Okay, let me be clear; I am very much like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory. I don't handle change well, I love my routines, I'm socially awkward and I have a 'spot'. While I look forward to happy changes, the unhappy ones (or even the neutral ones) are generally devastating and send me reeling for some time.  Hell, even happy changes that I've sought out and pursued can take a long time to assimilate and accept. Having said that, I think I do okay. I like new information, I love to learn new things and I love to study the hell out of the things that interest me. New information is brain-fodder; it keeps the flames of intellect extra flamey (which is sorely needed) and sometimes new IS better. Having said that, I know all too well how fads and trends come and go, so I try to apply common sense and a bit of objectivity to all new endeavors. I think the older you get, the more this approach makes sense. Unfortunately, you can't really apply this to electronics.

One example of things that have changed a lot for the better is dog training. There was the popularity of the Koehler method, then we had The Woodhouse Way, and of course, we cannot forget the Monks of New Skete. Each one of these systems had strong advocates (some still do), a closed-minded adherence to method over all and almost a cult following (sound familiar?). Each was based on experience and learning theory. Things changed for dogs when John Fisher came along. To this day, if I could be said to have a dog-training guru, it would be this fellow. He was the first one who said "Hey, wouldn't this work better if we tried to understand what motivates dogs and tried to understand them a little better?" The first dog-training book I ever bought was "Think Dog" and it was awesome :-) He introduced the reader to pack theory, the idea of positively-motivated behavior change, how food/nutrition can influence dog behavior (he advocated Eucanuba), and how a dog's behavior could be positively influenced by the right combination of Bach flower remedies. And he was the SHIZIT. I'm not saying that with sarcasm either (in spite of the fact that most of what's on the aforementioned list is largely irrelevant now), he really was the best. I even still have a set of Throwing disks. When Mech recanted everything we knew about pack theory, Mr. Fisher didn't just go away with his tail between his legs. He did what no well-known dog trainer has ever done before or since: He admitted he was wrong, dug into the research some more, and came away smarter and better for it (and WE benefited greatly for it too, as did our dogs). These days, the owner gets blamed, the dog gets blamed, EVERYTHING but the method gets blamed. 'Cause, science (and everybody knows we've never applied science to animal behavior until just now, of course). Speaking of, I think it would be interesting to do a study to determine how many systems involving living creatures of ANY kind are actually infallible. I'm guessing not many. It's a sad commentary on egotism, but highlights what a special sort of man John Fisher was. Mr. Fisher was more interested in the dog in front of him than in promoting a specific protocol, and for that he will always have my respect (even though he passed away some time ago). Most importantly, he changed the system for the better, and then he changed it again. I'm noticing a cultish sort of trend occurring around training theory again, but I've been around long enough to understand how this works.

Speaking of things coming around again...so, rope halters for horses! Yup, they made the rounds in the 70's. I even remember seeing the ads in the old magazines. They were touted as being "the cool and lightweight alternative". They fell out of favor because they were kind of dangerous and irritating to the horse's face. Now they're back, and they have knots. We put them on, connect a heavy rope, and then SHAKE the rope to get the horse to...I'm not sure what. Then we call it natural.  This is one of those things that falls into the category of "things Kristel doesn't know enough about to speak from an educated viewpoint", so I can only opine based on observation. Is Natural Horsemanship a humane alternative to 'cowboy breaking'? To tying a horse to a sturdy post and flogging it until it gives in? Saddling it up and riding it until it stops fighting? Ah, yeah. I think that goes without saying. But as an alternative to a centuries-old system that always put the feelings of the horse first, always left the horse's temperament and personality intact and never put the horse at risk of physical or psychological damage? Not so much. There are hacks in all systems, and lots of different ways to get the job done. I guess my point here was "Hey, rope halters are back? Didn't we already decide we didn't like those? Maybe we forgot. Part of getting old is that we forget a lot of things, then somebody repackages it and markets it as something new and we get all excited again. C'est la vie.

What set off this mini-tantrum? You're going to laugh. Seriously. It's simple: My computer updated itself. It does it a lot, it does so without my permission, and every time it does it I just want it to go back to the way it was. Sometimes, new is better. I know this, as highlighted above. Sometimes, it's complicated as hell, and new for the sake of new is crazy-making. Sure, I took a computer course in college. It was MS Dos. How many of you even know what means? I don't know what that means. My I-pod is now obsolete and I can't play Dragonvale anymore. Do you know how upsetting that is? No, you probably don't. You probably have new ipods, or ipads, or you don't give a rat's furry bottom about dragons. I miss my dragons. The solution is to get a new device (which is totally what they intend!!!) but then I have to learn how to use it. It reminds me of the time I found my mother sitting on her couch in a quiet house, staring at a basket full of remote controls that was sitting in her lap. When i asked her what was wrong (she looked mildly distraught), her response was "I just want to watch channel 3, and I don't know how". I know how you feel, Mom. I'm right there with you. I know the demoralizing pain of having to ask my child to sort out my electronics. It shouldn't have to be that way. As fun, innovating and interesting as new information and new things can be, they are much easier to take when I seek them out. They are far less appreciated when they are thrust upon me.

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