Hmmm Can You Analyze Love Too Much?

Somebody posted this on Facebook, and I had a good chuckle, and decided that it needed to go up here because putting brain structures and hormones in a love song was the funniest geeky idea I’d seen in a while. I’m pretty happy with myself, I only had to look up a couple word spellings so I could put the lyrics down. I love being able to check the Youtube captions to see if I can trust them. No, Youtube, dopamine is not doctor.

Enjoy, and I hope the warm fuzzies still feel as warm and fuzzy, even if they’re made of oxytocin.

When you looked in my direction, I thought my heart might explode (my heart was racing and I thought it might explode)
Because my sympathetic nervous system caused Norepinephrine to stimulate my sinoatrial node.
When you looked in my direction, when you first looked in my eyes (when you looked into my eyes),
My stress response diverted bloodflow from my stomach and intestines, and it felt like butterflies.
I knew I wanted to marry ya, as my ventral tegmental area sent signals to my nucleus accumbens,
and oh, oh, oh my lord, the anticipation of reward, that do do dopamine starts pumpin’

I know oxytocin is the potion of devotion, gimme that dose of dopamine, hold the serotonin.
still goin’, growin’, stronger all the time.
I love you, and I’m never gonna change my mind.

When you first smiled at me, I did foolish things (really really really really stupid things),
because my judgment was impaired, by a reduction in activity in my amygdala and the frontal cortex of my brain.
When you first smiled at me, I began to fall (one smile and I began to fall)
and so did my serotonin levels, producing anxiety, I couldn’t eat or sleep at all.
Then a year or two went by, with serotonin on the rise, til I was feeling comfortable and calm.
Now every single time we touch, I get that oxytocin rush, our bond has never been so strong

I know oxytocin is the potion of devotion, dialback that dopamine, here comes serotonin.
Still goin’, growin’, stronger all the time.
I love you, and I’m never gonna change my mind

Lady, we’ve been together for a while now and things are starting to mellow out. But that’s ok because we can still get those sparks of dopamine back by experiencing new things together.

[key change]
Oxytocin is the potion of devotion, a little bit of dopamine, a lot of serotonin.
Still goin’, growin’, stronger all the time.
I love you, and I’m never gonna change my, never gonna change my, never gonna change my mind.

Spirit Airlines: Less Hamsters, Oh No!

I don’t have a lot of words. I am really trying to think of a circumstance where I could see where this woman was coming from, but it’s not working. I’m really really trying.

Belen Aldecosea had to fly home, and she wanted to fly with Spirit Airlines. In the recent past, because of anxiety over a medical diagnosis, she decided she needed an emotional support animal, and chose a hamster. She even got a note from a doctor saying this hampster, Pebbles, was her emotional support hamster. As I said in this other post about emotional support animals on planes, emotional support animals aren’t trained and don’t do anything for the owners except give them a warm, fuzzy feeling by being there. She probably could have gotten the same effect by buying a plush toy.

Apparently she called ahead to check that she could bring Pebbles on as an emotional support animal, and was given the incorrect information that this was possible. When she arrived at the airport and started the process of checking in, she was told that this was not going to happen. Then, according to her, she was told that she could either release Pebbles into the wild or flush her down the toilet. After a lot of “agonizing”, she flushed her.

I don’t even know where to begin here. This feels like that story where the woman put her guide dog in a cabby’s trunk, only way worse. At least that poor guide dog lived. I would hope that, God Forbid if somebody told me that Tans couldn’t get on the plane and actually physically prevented us from boarding, that I would possess greater problem-solving skills than this. I would hope that I would choose not to go on that flight so I could work something out. I would make some calls. I would figure something else out that wouldn’t result in an outcome so final for Shmans. It’s not like anyone had a gun to her head or anything.

Her lawyer is trying to say that this isn’t her fault because she’s only 21 so didn’t know what to do. I remember being 21, and although I was just learning about advocating for myself, I’m pretty sure I would have done something other than this. At the very least, I might have called my folks and got some more ideas. I would have never tried to take psych rat Hope on a plane, but if I did, I can’t even begin to picture a scenario where I would flush her if I was told she couldn’t fly. Maybe I would have called a vet to figure out how to board her somewhere. Maybe I would have asked for help finding some other officials in the airport to get more ideas.

This line kills me every time I read it.

“She (Pebbles) was so loving. It was like she knew I needed somebody,”

And that was how she repaid the poor thing.

She has a new hamster. God help Pebbles 2.0.

I guess I had more words than I thought.

Delta And United Could Be Rolling Out Kind Of Bad Service Animal Policies

I have been meaning to write about this for a while, but I was hoping to disentangle everything and be able to have a very coherent response with a clear way forward. But that isn’t happening, and it still needs to be written about.

Back in mid January, Delta Airlines decided it had had enough of the disservice animal problem, or the problem of people bringing animals onto planes, saying they were for service and support, and then the animals freaking out because they were not trained, having accidents on the plane, injuring flight crews and passengers or being a general nuisance and hazard. They decided to tighten up their policies in the hopes that they would be able to filter out the ones abusing the system. United Airlines has decided to tighten things up as well, but they went about it slightly differently. Both policies are to go into effect March 1. Here’s an article about both airlines. Also, here’s Delta’s policy (.pdf format) and United’s policy.

First of all, I totally understand why they need to try and make sure animals that aren’t trained to be good public citizens don’t make it onto planes. They could hurt people and other service dogs because they are not well-socialized, and a plane is a rather confined space. Once you’re flying, it’s kind of hard to open the door and kick out the bad one. So, I applaud them for wanting to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, at least Delta went about it all wrong. I’m still holding out hope for United, although upon a quick read, I’m afraid there’s a lot of wiggle room.

From what I understand, Delta’s new policy requires that every time someone flies with a service animal, 48 hours before their flight, they have to submit a special form with paperwork from their vet certifying that their animal is up to date on its vaccinations and is healthy. They also can only go to a specific counter so their animal can be visually inspected by an employee. United’s policy is better, but still has some problems. It seems that anyone whose service animal is doing a task to mitigate a physical disability doesn’t need to do more than what we already have to do to travel. For example, if I’m traveling to Hawaii, I have to satisfy the requirements of Hawaii. But I don’t have to give all this extra notice and go to special counters. But, they have lumped psychiatric service animals in with emotional support animals, which is not cool. Psychiatric service animals are still service animals. They have been trained to do tasks like giving a person with PTSD space between them and a crowd, or looking around corners etc. Emotional support animals give their owner that warm fuzzy snuggly feeling when they give them a pet petty pet pet. Who knows if they have been trained to deal with anything unusual, which…flying several thousand feet above the earth is pretty unusual. Who knows if they’re used to sharing small spaces with other people and service animals. To be completely clear, I’m not being a discriminating arsehole and saying that certain disabilities are less worthy of having a service animal. All I care about is the rigor of the training that the animal goes through. Nine times out of 10, the people bringing emotional support animals either don’t need them and are just trying to get Foofoo on the plane instead of putting her in cargo, or they have no idea what puppy raisers and trainers go through to ready their dogs for public access, and that is the problem.

To get back to Delta’s policy, the reason theirs is problematic, above and beyond what I just said, is that they are putting unnecessary restrictions on people who have legitimate service animals as well, some of whom already can’t drive so are down one transportation option. The 48-hour notice requirement basically makes it impossible to make an emergency trip, use Delta as an unplanned connecting flight if another one gets canceled, or use Delta if traveling very frequently. In addition, I fail to see how these requirements actually help Delta do more than cover their butts. How are they going to validate that the animal will be good? The only way they’ll find out is when we board. So, they are making it harder for people who already have barriers, and for no benefit. For example, I now would have to make my vet fill out a form, or complete a potentially inaccessible form and navigate a website whose accessibility may change without notice just before I travel. I probably will have to pay to have my vet fill out their special form. People who want to bring Fluff-Muffin won’t find these steps to be overly problematic. They don’t have to worry about inaccessible websites or limited transportation options.

And don’t even get me started on the whole requirements of going to a special counter for a visual inspection. I have had my dog referred to as an emotional support dog. My black lab whose mouth isn’t moving has been blamed for the barking of a yappy chihuahua-sized dog several feet away. These people have no idea what they are inspecting. It also excludes people from using kiosks or curb-side check-in. They might find these to be better options, and again, it is of no benefit. At the end of it all, the person is standing in front of someone who has had very little training to make them qualified to make a determination that this dog is healthy and socialized. It penalizes people who are already limited in their options, and the owners of emotional support animals will only be mildly inconvenienced.

I have 0 problem bringing my dog’s health records, but I should be able to bring a certificate that the vet already drafts up, which we can receive at the point of last vaccination. I should not have to make a special trip to the vet to fill out some proprietary form, and every airline will have its own form. I also don’t even mind signing something quickly upon checkin that says something to the effect of “My dog will not crap on the plane floor, run rampant through the plane or gnaw on my fellow passengers or flight crew.” It’s annoying, more annoying than having health records on hand, but if I can do it quickly, I don’t mind. I have no doubt that my dog will be fine. When I was in Vegas, I had to sign such a form at the hotel. They didn’t charge me pet fees, but they wanted me to assure that I would not leave her loose in the room and she wouldn’t leave any undesirable presents for housekeeping. Fine. Whatever the process, it needs to be as streamlined as possible and can’t leave room for misinformed people to make decisions that could prevent a person with a legitimate service animal from traveling.

From what I have read, the whole problem could be taken care of by tweaking the Air Carrier Access Act a wee smidge to tighten up on what is a service animal so we don’t get any more support peacocks et al, as well as making clear procedures on how to deal with an animal, service, support or whatever, that has become a danger, and we wouldn’t have to deal with all these different airlines and their different policies.

The fact is Delta started the ball rolling and now we have to get the ball rolling the right way, or flying is really going to suck for anyone with a service animal. Here is a post that states it well and has links on where to make complaints and make our voices heard. The links are in the comments of the post.

Now that I have written all of this down, maybe I can put together something resembling a useful and reasonable complaint.

Downward-Facing…Down boy! Down!

So I have talked about going to yoga, and of course Shmans is there. Thankfully, she lays very still beside me. Occasionally, when I have had to reach an arm out close to her, she has given me a quick lick, but that’s about it. Sometimes she lets out a deep sigh along with us, which is amusing. Now, imagine going to puppy yoga,where the puppies are basically playing with you as you try to do yoga. Imagine a dog running off with your socks. Imagine getting a giant snuggle while trying to do a pose. It would be pretty funny, and a rather huge test of your ability to concentrate. I would totally be the worst yoga student ever.

Don’t tell Shmans that these puppies get to play around during yoga. She might get some ideas!

I Don’t Know About That!

A little while ago, I wondered if my grandma could benefit from one of those Amazon Echo things. I thought maybe it could call people since she says she can’t see the numbers on the phone and doesn’t know how to do it another way, check the weather, read the news, play music, etc. But I came to realize there was way too much setup, and after talking to lots of people, it became clear that she likely wouldn’t really get the idea of talking to a box and giving it commands.

Yeah, after watching that video, maybe I’ll just try and get her a phone with lots of speed dial options on it and teach her how to dial by feel, make sure she has a radio and leave it at that.

Music Does Soothe The Anxious Canine!

Tansy has taught us that music can be exciting and soothing, although lately, she has been less excited by her old favourites. Is that a thing of the past? But, if she has to be left alone, Easy 101 still keeps her very calm.

Now, a guy has developed music for stressed dogs, and you know what? It kind of sounds like something that might play on an easy-listening station.

I let the sample song in the story play, and I didn’t notice any effect, but Tansy was already seeming pretty chill, so maybe I should try it when I’m doing laundry.

You can read the full story of this awesome project and learn more about why Shmans loves Easy 101.

An Update On The Other Nephews

So, I posted a pretty big description of the one mephew in the holiday wrap-up. I went to see the two other ones about a month ago, and have been wanting to write things down ever since. Soon I’m going to have to come up with nicknames for these little grabbers so everyone can tell them apart.

I talked about the other nephew chucking stuff and then, thanks to me, going “oops!” Well, my sister’s little guy does things in reverse. Before he throws something, he says something that sounds like “Sukie jukie!” The sukie part sounds like sushi, and the jukie part sounds like Jupitor. Yes, he made up his own code word for “I’m going to chuck this!” We have no idea where he got it from. He doesn’t go to daycare yet, so it’s not from there. But it definitely means “get ready, this is so going airborn.” Sometimes, when he knows he shouldn’t throw something, he gets this mischievous grin on his face while he’s saying it. There’s a whole logic to it, because when Tans was eating and some food flew over the edge of the dish, he said “Sukie Doggie!” Which I think meant “That dog is throwing her food around!”

He has been a little slower to walk, mostly because he’s a very caughtious little guy. But when I saw him last, he was grabbing our fingers and going “Walk!” and walking around with us. At one point, he even grabbed my finger when I was with Tansy and got me to walk with him. Maybe, just maybe, Tansy is getting less scary to him.

He is really trying to speak, and it’s adorable. He points at anything he wants to have more of, and says “Open!” Either that, or he makes the sign for “more.” His favourite number is 2, and I don’t think he quite knows what it means, but most times, 2 is the right answer. “How many eyes do I have?” “2!” And how many ears do I have?” “2!” “And how many noses do I have?” “2!'” Um, uh-oh.

Most of us have funny names. I am “Carrot” to him. That makes sense. My mom is “Nanna.” That makes sense. My brother gets referred to as “Holy Moly” which makes sense if you know that the last time he saw him, he said “Holy moly!” to him a lot. But for reasons we don’t know, He calls my dad “Ducky!” He knows that the rest of us, when talking to him about my dad, call him Grandpa,” but he is “Ducky!” We will even say “Where is Grandpa?” and he will point at him and say “Ducky!” The things kids will come up with.

He is really listening, and to more than just the words we say directly to him. When we went to see him, my parents and I stayed in a hotel room so we wouldn’t be crashing at either my brother’s or sister’s place. After we left, my sister said that she heard him saying “Nana, Ducky, Carrot, hotel.” again and again. Yup, the boy is a sponge.

I knew that he loved to sing and dance, but we got to watch him do it, while I learned that I know precious little about the songs that play on “Thomas the Tank Engine.” He had this little book that had the words to the songs, with buttons that would play the various tunes. I don’t know how some of the songs worked at all. The words didn’t seem to fit into the melodies! But my mom started getting into one of the songs, and he responded. Next thing we knew, he was sort of singing along and wiggling back and forth in time to the music. I think we sang those songs for a good 45 minutes. My sister called it the song circle.

The older nephew, the one that’s almost 3, believe it or not, is full of crazy energy. It was hard to get him to sit down and eat his friggin dinner! If you let him, he would eat on the move!

Steve found out about this series of books by Chris Ferrie that are all about scientific concepts for babies. We both agreed that that was meant for my brother to read to this little guy. So, I went a little nuts and bought him 3 books from the series: one about quantum physics, one about Newtonian physics, and one about rocket science. Apparently, so far, the quantum physics one has been a hit! My brother says he gets asked to read it again and again and again. He even sent me a recording of him reading it, and the little guy getting all into it. He really loves “the green guys!” Those would be the electrons, apparently.

It’s funny to watch him play with the toys intended for my sister’s kid who is about a year and a half. Even though he’s much older, he can still find them fun to play with.

And now, for the biggest news. On Tuesday, I got another nephew. The little guy who is all into Quantum Physics has a little brother. I really have to come up with nicknames for the nephews or this is going to get super confusing and hard to follow. I don’t think the older one knows what the heck all of this means, even though we’ve been trying to prepare him by reading books about little brothers and little sisters and all that stuff. I thought it was funny that when they got out the smaller baby seat, the little guy tried to climb into it. No, you’re too big for that now. He must have been wondering if he got to choose which seat he should ride in.

You can tell he sort of gets what’s going on, because when he was at daycare, he started running around going “I’m a big brother!” along with his best buddy who also recently became a big brother. Man, he’s adorable.

I think that’s about it. The next time I will have updates, there will be a new little baby to write about.

If It’s Gotta Be Eaten, It’s Gotta Be Pied!

I just did laundry today and used Tide pods to do it. As I dropped the slippery pods into the laundry, all I could think was ‘Why on earth would people try to eat them?’ I’m not talking about little kids finding one and going “ooo!” I’m not even talking about kids being fed laundry pods by uninformed grandmas. I’m talking about teenagers who are old enough to no better chomping down on the things just to see if they can do it.

Yes, I know, I’ve been under a rock with the rest of the media and apparently this has been going on for a little while, but still. What’s wrong with people?

Now that that’s out of the way, we can have some fun. There’s a pizza place in Brooklyn that decided to make fun of this odd phenomenon by making pod-like calzones that can be eaten.

Brooklyn pizza maker Sean Berthiaume says the idea for “pied pods” came to him in a dream. 
The colourful calzone concoctions are made to look like Tide laundry detergent pods, but the blue and orange swirls are made from cheese dyed with food colouring.

Freaking awesome. At least something funny can come out of this steaming pile of stupid.

Timeless: A Potential New App To Help People With Dementia

I saw this article the other day, and it made me so happy. Emma Yang is going to do amazing things with her skills, of that I am sure. Maybe she could unite with Shubham Banerjee and do some amazing things.

She saw her grandmother struggling with the effects of Alzheimer’s, and at 14, built an app to help others with the disease. This app sounds super cool. It’s kind of like Seeing AI for folks with Alzheimer’s.

In her app under development, called Timeless, Alzheimer’s patients can scroll through photos of friends and family, and the app will tell them who the person is and how they’re related to the patient using facial recognition tech. If a patient doesn’t recognize someone in the same room, they can take a picture and the tech will also try to automatically identify them.
“I saw a lot of things about how AI and facial recognition were really evolving and being applied in more and more areas, especially healthcare,” she says. She partnered with mentors at the tech company Kairos, which makes the facial recognition software that is now used by the app, and learned to code for the iPhone for the first time.
The app also includes a simple reminder screen that lists appointments for the day, along with a simple contacts screen that shows photos of family members along with names. If a patient tries to call a contact repeatedly–something that can sometimes happen because of the disease–the app will flash a quick reminder: “Are you sure you want to call? You just called less than five minutes ago.” A “me” page shows the patient’s own name, age, phone number, and address.
A caregiver maintains some of the other parts of the app, including putting events on the daily calendar, and inviting friends and family to send an initial set of photos that the facial recognition algorithm can use to learn to identify them.

Isn’t that the best thing in the history of ever? And she’s 14!

If you are as moved as I was, contribute to her campaign. This sort of thinking needs to be encouraged.

Good luck, and keep using your coding power for good.

There Was A Prof Named Edward Heddican, Teaching Cheques He Will Not Get Again,, Acted Up And They Suspended Him, Career of Edward Heddican Is At An End

Just in case you don’t get the reference.

I know this happened the week before last. I wanted to write about it last weekend but I ran out of time.

The story goes that University of Guelph professor Edward Hedican was filling in for another prof, and got irritated with a student. Obviously I didn’t see it, but several students on Facebook said that he told the student he was annoying, questioned if he was even enrolled in the class, and referred to an assistant who was with him as his handler, telling the assistant to control him. That’s pretty unprofessional behaviour for a professor at the best of times, but it gets really bad when the student has severe anxiety, hence the reason for the presence of an assistant.

I can’t even say the professor was unaware of the anxiety issues, since apparently, during one of the times the professor asked him what he was doing, the student said he had severe anxiety, and the prof just kept on ridiculing him like he was dealing with a heckler at a comedy club. And after all of this, and despite his union discouraging him from making comments to the press, he said the following:

“There was no physical contact here, there’s no sexual interaction, there’s a verbal altercation that happened in class. And I’ll just leave it at that,” he said.

Hmmm, I think I wouldn’t have even gone that far. Nobody else mentioned any physical or sexual misconduct. He also said there were two sides to every story, and then proceeded to not give his. If you can’t comment, don’t even start.

And allow me to get down to the big reason I wanted to write about this incident. Mr. Heddican obviously has no idea how devastating mere words can be when they are used to humiliate in front of hundreds of people simply because the person holding the power feels like doing it. It’s especially difficult when the thing being used for ridicule is a disability with which someone is trying to deal. Maybe the student had just been recently diagnosed with it and was still trying to figure out coping strategies.

What if I had been in Mr. Heddican’s class and something about my assistive technology had annoyed him. Maybe my notetaking device had beeped unexpectedly. Maybe the sound of me typing would have been a distraction to him. Maybe he didn’t like my dog. Would he decide I should be centred out for his amusement? Would it have required physical or sexual impropriety for it to have been misconduct?

I had something happen to me years ago that wasn’t even close to what Mr. Heddican did, and apparently, by the way my hands are shaking as I write, it still bothers me. I was in a class where the professor loved to put up graphs and charts and pictures, and then just say “You can see from the graph how the crime rates have fallen,” or whatever. He didn’t take the few extra seconds to say “The graph illustrates that there was a steep drop in crime rate after a neighbourhood watch was put in place…” for example. I approached the prof in private and asked him if he could either make the slides available to me, or just verbally describe things a bit so I could be in on the lesson. He said he would try. But the next class, as he put another graph up on the projector, he actually said something to the effect of “I’m sorry, Carin, but a picture is worth a thousand words…” and put the graph up without even trying to describe it. He centred me out in front of a giant class full of students, by name, mentioned my blindness, and then decided to say I wasn’t worth the time to make the lesson inclusive. I wasn’t worth it. I think I turned 40 shades of red. I wish I could say I called in people from the Centre for Students with Disabilities and we had a big meeting about this, but I didn’t. I was in my first year. I shrank back in my chair and wanted to disappear. That was nothing compared to this tirade.

It’s especially difficult for someone with an invisible disability when someone decides to pick on them because of it. A lot of people don’t believe invisible disabilities are a thing. People think of disabilities as blind, deaf, using crutches or a wheelchair. If they can’t see it, it can’t be that bad. So disclosing this sort of thing is something the person does with people with whom they are comfortable, and Mr. Heddican made him do it in front of a giant class. That could have been forgiven since it was given as the answer to a question, but Heddican kept going!

I can understand why Mr. Heddican might be wondering what the hell’s up with the gum, but I’m sure he could have handled it much more tactfully. He’s supposed to be the mature one, after all. Even if he asked what was up with the gum, as soon as the kid said he had anxiety, he could have tried to go on as normal and then talked to him afterwards.

Finally, I’m not one to pick on a specific word used to describe someone or something, but that whole “handler” bit just illustrates Heddican’s attitudes towards anyone who might need extra assistance. It, and that no comment comment he left speaks volumes about his character, in my opinion.

I’m glad he was only substituting, and is now on leave. I can’t imagine the dread that student would have been feeling if he knew he had to walk into another class taught by him.