Friday, February 24, 2006


Who uses it: Animal trainers
What it means: An action that accompanies and eventually substitutes for a treat, as positive reinforcement for training. In clicker training, the clicker is the bridge; dogs learn to associate the clicker with a treat, so the trainer can eventually use only the clicker, without the treat. Dolphin trainers use whistles as a bridge.
How you can use it: Next time you applaud someone instead of throwing money.

Dizzy and I are in Mechanicsville, Virginia today, visiting my sister Peggy and her menagerie: my nephews Matthew and Henry, niece Meg, their dog Ella, and their three cats, Agatha, Oliver and Charlie. The cats lie low when Dizzy visits; he's not reliable around them.

Henry woke up this morning singing the only song he knows, which is the alphabet song. He understands about letters, but seems to think of the ABCs as a song with verses, which means that sometimes "L-M-N-O-P" comes before "H-I-J-K." Over breakfast, Matthew and Henry introduced me to all their engines by name (they are obsessed with the world of Thomas the Tank Engine).

Between driving and work this week, I've started four books, but only finished one. Next week's list will be longer.

What I Read This Week

Christine Wicker, Not in Kansas Anymore: A Curious Tale of How Magic is Transforming America. Christine Wicker, a religion reporter, spent a year exploring America's magical subcultures. She trained in hoodoo, partied with vampires, and attended a witches' gathering in Salem. The year tempered her skepticism -- though it didn't eliminate it altogether -- but it also made her appreciate the value of seeing connections and causation in an otherwise arbitrary universe. My own brand of Catholicism has a strong mystical streak -- for instance, I believe that St. Anthony helps me find lost things -- and I found this book enchanting, in more ways than one.

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