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Tag: control

Malfunction indicators: Despite them, the Acemobile lives on to drive another year


It’s not up there with losing a family member, or a dog, but the the thought of losing a car — inanimate as it may be — can sometimes be a little painful, too.

This year, as the time came up for a state inspection, my red 2005 Jeep Liberty — best known as the Acemobile, and filled with memories from the last 13 years — things were not looking good.

The engine light, aka the check engine light, or the malfunction indicator light, would not go off.

That’s been a problem, off an on, for years now. It comes on. I generally ignore it. It goes away. Fortunately, it never happened at inspection time, but this time it did — and it stayed on.

Decades ago, the check engine light was just that — a warning that you should check the engine. Now though it serves as the beacon for the automobile’s entire computer system, and it could be a sign that virtually anything is wrong.

Absolutely, it is a bit of a scam. The light goes on. You take it in for an expensive diagnostic test, meaning they hook your car’s computer up to yet another computer, and it spits out some vague information about where problem area might be.

As with doctors and their testing machines, guesswork is still involved, and often a long process of eliminating other possibilities. At least with human health problems, though, you can go on with life, coping with your ailment until, just maybe, it gets figured out.

It’s a good thing humans don’t have to pass inspection to hang around, and probably a good thing (given they are not all that reliable) that we don’t have malfunction indicator lights.

In North Carolina, you can’t pass an inspection when your engine light is on. You can unhook a battery cable, which resets the car’s computer and makes the light go off for a while, but that doesn’t fool them. They know when it’s resetting.

Having until the end of September to get the inspection, I took it in at the very beginning of the month. They ran the diagnostic test, found some alleged problems, replaced some parts and a couple of tires, handed me a bill for more than $800 and told me to take it home and drive it until the computer reset.

When the computer reset, the light came back on.

By then I was already worrying about investing too much in an old car that might not even be fixable. Virtually everyone I spoke to about my car trouble said sell it and get a new one.

I couldn’t.

I took it back to the same place and they looked at it again. They believed they pinpointed a problem, but it was not the sort they could address. They thought that, somewhere in the wire that ran from my speed sensor (one of the parts they replaced) to the speedometer, there was a short.

Herein lies one of the ironies, or at least it struck me that way:

You are not required to have a working speedometer to pass inspection in North Carolina. But you are required to have that check engine light off.

So even though my light was on due solely to the speedometer issue, they could not pass it.

At this point, I am thinking a well-placed blow with an ice pick, right into the bulb, might be the answer. Instead, at the suggestion of the mechanic, I took it to another garage that specialized in electrical matters.

I explained to two people there what the first garage thought the problem was and handed over all the paperwork.

The next morning I got a call informing me I needed a new power train control module; the price $1,990. I asked how they knew that. They said because the computer said so. I asked about the faulty wire issue that had been diagnosed earlier. They said all they know is what the computer is saying.

I got a little angry. I tried to understand the situation, but face it: Most of us do not understand what computers are saying, or, even more difficult, what humans are saying that computers are saying.

Again, true of doctors and true of car mechanics.

I asked, again, about the wiring problem that had already been diagnosed, and whether they had ruled that out as an issue. They insisted I needed the module, which had to be paid for by me before they ordered it.

I debated again, but only briefly, getting rid of the car.

And I decided the memories were worth the $3,000 I was about to put into the car with 108,500 miles on it.

For one year, Ace and I lived in the Jeep, more or less, while traveling across America. The Acemobile was my Rocinante, the name John Steinbeck gave his camper during Travels with Charley — taken from the name of the horse Don Quixote rode.

The horse — like him, like Steinbeck, maybe a little like me — was awkward, past his prime, and trying to recapture something he may or may not have had in the first place.

All the many trips I took with my son, Joe, also sprang to mind — from warming breakfast sandwiches on the dashboard defroster on a cold morning fishing trip to meandering through Texas on a ride from Arizona to Alabama, or was it Mississippi?

I lost Ace a couple of years ago. I lost my son a couple of months ago. In recent years, I’ve also lost my mother, my father, and to top it all off, a kidney.

I honestly just couldn’t stand, stomach or tolerate another loss.

So my wallet and I headed down to the second garage to pay for the module. When I walked in they told me that I was right about the wiring issue. I did not need the module after all. They just needed to replace that wire.

The next day I picked it up, paying another $500-something, and took it directly back to the first garage. It passed inspection. I was so grateful that I instructed them to fix two other problems — the hydraulic bars that keep the hood up when opened and the hydraulic bars that keep the back window open.

Maybe I was tired of getting bonked in the head by both. Maybe I was showing my car a little love. Maybe I was learning a lesson about treasuring and caring for what you have.

I picked my car up Wednesday.

When Hurricane Florence comes my way, probably Friday, my car will be parked far away from any trees that might fall on it.

The Acemobile lives!

(Photos by John Woestendiek, from Travels with Ace)

Dog on runway is shot and killed at airport in Canada

greta-manitoba-muttsleashes1

Rather than put an arriving flight at risk, a Canadian airport wildlife control officer shot and killed a dog who had escaped her crate and was lingering on the runway.

The Winnipeg Airports Authority says it is looking over its wildlife policy after the incident last week, which caused one flight to abort its landing.

The dog, named Greta, was en route to a Winnipeg foster home from a northern Manitoba community, flown by Perimeter Aviation and under the care of the Manitoba Mutts.

The dog rescue has been transporting dogs to Winnipeg with Perimeter Aviation for about seven years, said Rebecca Norman, one of the rescue directors, but this was the first time one got loose on the tarmac.

Greta apparently chewed her way through the plastic crate she was held in, according to CBC.

“It was a tough day for everyone,” said Tyler MacAfee, the authority’s director of corporate communications, on Wednesday. “It’s certainly not the outcome anyone wants to see, and it’s a really tough decision for someone to make to use force in that way on an animal … But at the same time it’s that balance of aviation safety.”

With flights landing every few minutes at that time of day, the wildlife control officer made the decision to use lethal force.

“Quite clearly, we didn’t want her to be hit by a plane. That would have been more painful than the way she passed away,” Norman said. “And we also didn’t want … the planes to crash or people to get hurt,” MacAfee said.

Carlos Castillo, vice-president of commercial services for Perimeter Aviation, said it appears the dog chewed through a plastic portion of the kennel during transportation and broke loose as staff opened the plane door.

Workers tried to contain Greta but the dog broke free, Castillo said.

The airport’s wildlife control staff tried to corral the animal into a safe, open area, as is usually done in these cases, MacAfee said, but it evaded attempts and ran across the airfield, near an active runway.

One flight, an inbound plane from Las Vegas, had to abort its landing to avoid the dog, MacAfee said. The wildlife officer managed to get the animal away from the runway but it turned around and returned to the area.

(Photo of Greta, Manitoba Mutts)

Family seeks to halt use of cyanide traps

caseyandcanyon

An Idaho family has launched an online petition aimed at outlawing the government’s use of cyanide traps like the one that sent their son to the hospital and claimed the life of their dog last month.

The devices are used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in remote areas to control predators by exposing them to a blast of cyanide gas.

Canyon Mansfield, 14, was knocked to the ground last month when a cyanide trap, also known as an M-44, spewed cyanide gas into his face and killed his dog, Casey, within seconds.

Although the government has said the devices are only planted with the permission of property owners — and only after neighbors are warned — the Mansfield family says it had no knowledge of the device, installed about 350 yards from their home.

canyonmansfieldSince the March 16 incident, Canyon has experienced headaches, nausea and numbness and has visited a neurologist for testing, his parents say.

The USDA maintains the devices help resolve conflict between wildlife and people in the safest and most humane ways possible, but “the nature of the cyanide bomb is neither safe nor humane,” Canyon’s father, Mark Mansfield, a doctor in Pocatello, wrote in an online
petition.

“Cyanide gas has been used throughout history to murder masses of people,” he said.

The M-44s, also known as “coyote-getters,” are designed to lure animals who smell their bait. When an animal tugs on the device, a spring-loaded metal cylinder fires sodium cyanide powder into its mouth.

Over the years, thousands of non-target animals — wild and domestic — have been mistakenly killed by the lethal devices.

Four conservation and animal-welfare groups announced Tuesday they are suing the Trump administration for “failing to protect endangered species from two deadly pesticides used to kill coyotes and other native carnivores.”

“Cyanide bombs are indiscriminate killers,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“In just the past several weeks they’ve injured a child and killed an endangered wolf and several family dogs. These dangerous pesticides need to be banned, but until then, they shouldn’t be used where they can hurt people or kill family pets and endangered wildlife,” Adkins said.

The government, meanwhile, has called the accidental death of family pets from M-44s a “rare occurrence,” and said Wildlife Services posts signs and issues other warnings to alert pet owners when traps are placed near their homes.

(Photos by the Mansfield family)

Technology run amok … Yuk!

roombapoop

Nature tends to run its own course, just as technology that attempts to control nature tends to run its.

The results, when unforeseen possibilities are thrown into the mix, aren’t always pretty.

The depiction above is by one Jesse Newton, showing what happened on a recent night when nature ran its course, via his dog Evie, and then his trusty Roomba, programmed to clean up all the hair Evie sheds, ran its.

That zig-zagging, curly-cued brown trail recreates the stained path the Roomba left in the Newton’s living room in Arkansas after rolling through a pile of Evie’s poop.

evieEvie is house-broken — programmed, if you will, to take care of those things when the Newton family lets her out each night before bed.

But on this night, somebody forgot to do that.

As everyone slept — Jesse, wife Kelly and son Evan — the robot vacuum did what it is programmed to do every night between midnight and 1:30 a.m.: Roll all across every inch of the living room floor sucking up any debris in its path.

The results were disastrous, Jesse noted in a now-viral Facebook post that warns other Roomba/dog owners of a possibility they might not have envisioned:

“… Poop over every conceivable surface within its reach, resulting in a home that closely resembles a Jackson Pollock poop painting. It will be on your floorboards. It will be on your furniture legs. It will be on your carpets. It will be on your rugs. It will be on your kids’ toy boxes. If it’s near the floor, it will have poop on it. Those awesome wheels, which have a checkered surface for better traction, left 25-foot poop trails all over the house.”

What had happened during the night came to his attention when his young son traipsed through the living room and crawled into bed with him the next morning.

newtonsJesse — and he deserves husband of the year honors for this — let his wife continue sleeping.

He gave his son a bath and put him back to bed, then he spent the next three hours cleaning, including shampooing the carpet.

Kelly Newton says she awoke to the smell of “every cleaning product we own” and knew “something epic had taken place.”

Later, Jesse disassembled the Roomba, cleaning its parts and reassembling it, only to find it didn’t work anymore.

Jesse said he called the store where he had purchased the $400 robot, Hammacher Schlemmer, and it promised to replace it.

I’ve railed before about rushing into new technologies that promise to give us control over nature, wrote a whole book on it, in fact. Those pushing such innovations and rushing them onto the market — most often for the profit they might lead to — often don’t take the time to envision all the little things, and big things, that could go wrong.

That haste can lead to far worse things than a stinky mess and a three-hour clean-up.

We can laugh at this one, as Jesse Newton has admirably managed to do.

But, beneath all the mess, there’s a moral to the story — one that, as we turn to robots for more than vacuuming our floors, we might want to slow down and figure out.

(Photos: Jesse Newton / Facebook)

Would you let a drone walk your dog?

We report often on dog-related technology here on ohmidog! — both that which is budding and that which has found its way to the marketplace — and a good 90 percent of the time we have nothing positive to say about it.

Including this time.

A drone that walks your dog? No. No. And no.

This is just one man’s experiment, but let’s hope it doesn’t catch on.

Here’s the thing about dog-centered technology: It’s usually not centered on dogs at all.

Instead, it is aimed at making the lives of dog owners easier. Generally, it is something that relieves dog owners of responsibility, allowing them to both spend less time with their dog and feel less guilty about it.

Like machines that, on a programmed schedule or through remote operation, can dispense a treat to your dog while you’re away.

Or a machine that will play fetch with your dog while you’re away, or just too tired to go to all that effort.

And all those other contraptions, apps and gizmos that allow you to cut down on face to face time with your dog, thereby eroding the one thing that counts — the bond between the two of you.

Those devices aren’t really making it any easier for you to live your life. Your dog, on the other hand, is.

The video above shows Lucy, a golden retriever from Connecticut, being walked by a drone.

Jeff Myers, the mind behind this video, said he wanted to show it could be done — always a dangerous reason to do something, especially when it’s the sole reason.

Myers lives in New York City, and he borrowed his mother’s dog for the experiment, in which dog is leashed to drone and drone is controlled by an app.

It’s just a concept Myers says.

So too, at one point, was dog cloning. Those concepts — good or bad — have a way of turning into business enterprises once the realization that there could be profits kicks in.

This NPR report about the dog walking drone and other technological developments for dogs, concluded, “The future is here and it’s pretty darn cute.”

Pretty darn cute?

Yeah, right up there with using your car to walk your dog:

A modest proposal: Let’s lose “control”

I have a simple and modest proposal — one that would involve only a name change, a slightly new way of thinking, and maybe some new stationery.

It has long been in the back of my head, but was brought to the forefront by recent cellphone videos gone viral — one (it used to be above but was removed from YouTube) of a dog being dragged through the halls of an animal control department in California; one (below) of a police officer slapping and otherwise berating a homeless man in Florida.

Both are examples of what can go wrong — and often does — when you give one group power over others. Both are about control.

Seeking, seizing and holding “control,” necessary as it sometimes seem in a so-called civilized society, almost always leads to bad things, including most of the dog abuse that occurs in our country. We get a little too caught up in the whole idea of having control — over our fellow man, over other species, over other nations, over nature itself.

Those put in control, as today’s videos show, tend to lose control when they see their control being threatened.

Hence, I propose that we do away with the term “animal control” and rename all those county animal control offices “animal protection” departments — protection being what they are mostly about, or should be mostly about, in the first place.

I’m not suggesting doing away with regulating and enforcing in the dog world — only that those doing it go under a different moniker, which, just maybe, would allow them to be seen by the public, and see themselves, less as heavy-handed dictators, more as noble do-gooders.

And animal control offices do do good. They operate shelters, find dogs new homes, rescue strays from the streets and abusive situations. The new name would put an emphasis on that, and take it away from “control.”

The term “animal control” is archaic — not much better than the even more outdated “dog warden” — yet most counties continue to use it. Employees see it on the sign when they pull into the parking lot, when they walk through the front door, on their memos and their paychecks. It’s a constant reminder, even though most of their duties are aimed at helping dogs, that they are, above all, strict enforcers and inflexible bureaucrats.

A simple name change could help fix that.

I, for instance, would love working as an animal protection officer; I’m not sure I’d want to be an animal control officer — even though most of what they do is about protecting animals. The name change could attract job applicants who see the mission as helping dogs, and possibly help weed out those who see all dogs as nuisances, and control as paramount.

In addition to improving employee self-esteem, it could help change the negative public perceptions that come with being the agency that tickets dog owners for leash-less or unlicensed dogs, euthanizes dogs when their facilities get too crowded, and sends the “dog catcher” out on his daily rounds.

There’s no reason — assuming a stray dog is being captured humanely, and treated humanely in a shelter, and put up for adoption — that the “dog catcher,” traditionally portrayed as a villain, can’t become a dog savior in the public view.

Having “Animal Protection Department” written on the side of the truck, instead of “Animal Control Department,” would go a long way toward that.

A simple shift in emphasis, and in how some agencies present themselves to the public, is all I’m talking about. It wouldn’t be only a matter of spin, though. Being an animal protection department would require actually protecting animals — and seeing that as a primary mission.

It wouldn’t make the world a kinder place overnight, and it wouldn’t keep cranky police officers from slapping homeless people — like I said it’s a modest proposal — but it could be a start, at least in the dog world, to a new way of thinking both about and among the government employees we entrust those duties to (and pay the salaries of).

They would be more about helping and educating, less about controlling.

A handful of agencies have at least worked “animal protection,” or “animal care” into their names, but most can’t quite bring themselves to let go of the term “control.”

Thus you have, for instance, the Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control.

Maybe they think losing “control” would be a sign they are losing control.

The term “control” might be appropriate when it comes to those agencies dealing with things like disease and traffic.

But not for those dealing with our family members.

“Dogs with No Names” provides an insightful look at the plight of reservation dogs

cover

It sometimes seems a new dog book leaps off the presses everday — some not so good, some far too precious, some (though we like goofy) way too goofy, some noble and some ignoble.

Often, the most noble ones are so preachy, pedantic and overwrought they leave you feeling like you’ve spent six hours locked in a room with an evangelist who’s more concerned with lassoing your mind than opening it.

“Dogs With No Names”  is an exception to that — a collection of photos, thoughts and insights gathered by Dr. Judith Samson-French while she was on a mission to sterilize stray and feral dogs on an Indian reservation in Canada.

It has a point, without being preachy; it has heart, without being schmaltzy; it has depth, valuable insights and some awesome photographs; and it looks at the plight some reservation dogs face without being desperate, culturally insensitive or overly judgmental.

Millions of unnamed, unclaimed and often unwanted dogs roam North America’s indian reservations — some feral, some tame, many somewhere in between — doing what they need to do to survive, including repopulating.

Samson-French’s mission was to implant a new type of contraceptive into female dogs on a reservation in Alberta, Canada, but her insights extend far beyond Canada, and far beyond reproduction.

She exposes the adversity, despair and suffering reservation dogs often face, and she looks at ways to compassionately and effectively address the overpopulation problem. She examines the behavior of reservation dogs, and how they’ve evolved to the conditions they live in. And she doesn’t overlook the role humans have played — and could play — in the equation.

The book lives up to its billing as “an intimate look at the relationship between North America’s First Nations communities and dogs: seeing past our prejudices to build bridges and understanding between our often combative cultures.”

Samson-French is a veterinary clinician and surgeon with over 20 years of experience. She owns and operates a veterinary hospital in the Rocky Mountain foothills. A graduate of McGill University (B.Sc.) and the University of Alberta (M.Sc.), she received her doctorate in veterinary medicine from the Ontario Veterinary College.

All of the profits from the sales of Dogs With No Names are donated to the Dogs With No Names project, of which Samson-French is founder.

(Photo: The cover photo of “Dogs with No Names,” courtesy of evocativedogphoto.com)