Ronald Headley on July 23rd, 2013

Radio Shack is reporting another quarter of losses and that is not surprising.   Has anyone actually been to a Radio Shack store lately?  I know I have not simply because the local Radio Shack stores have become quite frankly lame and boring.   It was not always like that.

For many years (1950s through the 1990s) one of the most anticipated and exciting things was the annual Radio Shack catalog as well as the Radio Shack flyers that they used to mail out or you could pick up at the stores.  The annual catalog had the latest new and cutting edge electronics, communications, stereo, radio and more devices.  The sold parts so one could build just about anything and published books on how to build things.

The Radio Shack annual catalogs were filled with all sorts of really interesting devices.   Things people like me would save money for months to get.  There was a time that visits to the local Radio Shack store was planned so that several hours could be spent there particularly right after the latest annual catalog came out and the newest electronic gadgets were in and available.

Plus Radio Shack had parts, replacement parts for all sorts of electronics, parts so one could build their own devices and books of circuits for all sorts of devices that one could build.

Even with the annoying Radio Shack sales people that it seemed like every single store had it used to be a great experience to go to the Radio Shack store and get the latest annual catalog and then return to view and “play” with the latest in technology and communications.   The sales people would follow you around,  attempting to help you find things on the racks – annoying in that the techie types myself included actually knew the color codes RS used on their parts – the parts came in plastic bags with a “header” – the headers were color coded by type and the part numbers were arranged in order.  You found the color, found the parts needed and checked out.  Often I would have to just tell the sales person I knew what I wanted and also knew where it was located – each and every RS store was set up the same way.  The sales people hovering over you were a pain.

Of course the other annoying thing the RS sales people did was when you had found what you wanted and went to check out they would try to sell you the most recent gadget or device.  Typically one would get maybe $3 to $5 of parts and the sales person would try to sell you something that cost $100 or more.

Even with the annoying sales people the RS store was an amazing place.   Was is the key word here, in recent years RS has cut back on the “interesting” at least to me and other techies items in favor of consumer electronics – and not always the best quality consumer electronics.    The competing consumer electronics stores usually had better quality electronics at lower prices.

I believe that a lot of RS recent losses are due to the changes they have made that actually alienated what used to be their core customers.  Sure often we would go there to get a “few parts” for a project and probably spend $10 or less but we would see something “interesting” at over $100 and come back and end up getting one of those “must have” items.

For those that remember the “old Radio Shack stores and catalogs” and for those that have absolutely no clue what I am talking about here is a link Radio Shack Catalogs that will take you to an archive of the Radio Shack Annual catalogs.  Take a look at the catalogs from the 60s, 70s and 80s and you will get a feel for what this is about.  If you happen to be a geek or techie these old Radio Shack Catalogs will for sure bring back some memories of why a lot of us really liked visiting the local RS store.

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Wanda from Buckeye Border Collie had phoned to arrange a trip up to North Western Ohio to look at some possible dog.  Their rescue process has a lot of steps, there is a very long form which they go over and decide if in fact the candidate is to even be considered.   They ask for references and check with the references and they do a pre-adoption home visit to make certain the prospect home and environment will work.  This process took a couple of months.  The trip to meet with some of the possible dogs may end up with a dog being adopted and it may not.  Good rescue organizations do everything they can to be reasonably certain that dogs and owners are a good match.

I left at noon so I could make the 7PM appointment.  I had reserved a room at a nearby pet friendly hotel (in this case it was a Holiday Inn Express — I had never stayed at one of these before)  I got up to Tiffin Ohio where the hotel was at around 6PM checked in and took in my luggage.  A part of the way Buckeye Border Collie does things is for the candidate to look at dogs and if there is a possible match to take the dog to a hotel, spend the night and then return the next morning to the rescue center.   I was able to take a look at the hotel, the logistics and potential obstacles and could see a couple of challenges, when traveling with dogs I actually prefer the type of hotel that has outside doors.  This one has a front door and lobby and my room was on the second floor which meant dealing with an elevator.  Plus parking is a fair distance from the front door.

I was able to find Wanda’s farm fairly easily and got there right at the 7PM appointment time.  She has a lot of Border Collies, from very young puppies to some that have been in rescue for a long time to some that simply will not ever be able to be relocated.   Some of the dogs are placed in foster homes, some are kept as Buckeye Border Collie Rescue.   The dogs are all crated and crate trained – they work with each dog individually every day from when they first arrive.  They all are seen by a veterinarian, their health is checked and all are spayed / neutered shortly after arriving.  (with puppies this happens when they are the right age)

Quick note on spay / neuter – this is something that really should happen to almost every dog – male or female.  One of the biggest reasons there are so many dogs in shelters and in rescue is far too many people keep their dogs “intact” – plus there are far too many “backyard” breeders and puppy mills.   Spayed / neutered dogs are truly far easier to work with than dogs that are “intact” – far too many people with dogs just do not understand this.

One of the key things I have learned is that working with a Rescue Center has a whole lot of advantages.  The dogs have been around people very skilled and knowledgeable about a specific breed and they know the individual dogs tendencies and behavior.  Plus Rescue dogs at the very least are crate trained and house broken and will have already had some obedience training.  The Rescue organizations know the dogs history.  This is far different than going to a shelter and getting a dog, not there is anything wrong with getting a shelter dog.   It is also far different than getting a puppy from a breeder or from a “pet store” or an “adopt a dog” event.  The greatest advantage with Rescue is the dogs have been worked with, evaluated for personality and checked to be in good health.  All of this by professionals who not only know the breed they work with but also are very skilled at training and working with their dogs.

Wanda has a fenced field away from the house and all the other dogs where one can look at, work with and get to know the prospective dogs.  The first dog she brought out was a 2 year old female who had arrived at her rescue center with a couple of pups.  (Previously on the phone Wanda had told me about several dogs she though might work with me.  Some are pictured on her website and Facebook page.)

The first dog I got to meet was a very nice black and white female – she was very shy and timid – she will make someone a very nice dog but just did not “click” with me.  The second dog she had me meet I had actually met before at the herding clinic.  A small black and white male, pretty high energy, nice guy – did fairly well with basic commands and lease obedience.  Certainly a likely candidate.  The third dog was a puppy under a year old all black and again a very nice “match” for me.

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The forth dog was one Wanda had talked about over the phone, a large (for a Border Collie) Red and White male who was 4 years old and had been at the Rescue Center for quite some time.   This guy was very different than any of the other dogs – from the moment she let him out of his crate he was paying very close attention to me.  Very quiet and calm – I put the leash on him -and walked to the door, he actually stopped and sat down and waited while I got the door open.  Took him out through the garage and over to the open field.  On a hunch once side the field I grabbed one of the tennis balls she had and took his leash off and tossed the ball, he bounded after it and brought it back and actually tossed it back to where I could reach it.  We went through this toss the ball and retrieve the ball a number of times.  This guy obviously loves to play fetch, retrieve and was really listening to what I was saying even having him wait to go after the ball after it was thrown and then get it and bring it back.   After quite a while of playing with the ball put him back on his leash and began to go through some of the basic obedience calls, heel, sit, down, stay – he was paying very close attention – he knows words and does not need any hand signals.

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Went back in the house and Wanda had some work to do at her desk – this guy whose name is Ian calmly laid down on the floor near her desk.  She clipped his nails – she brushed him out and gave him a bath – this guy is extremely well behaved, calm and quiet and really pays attention all the while being extremely good about being a total gentle man.

It was getting late so I his carrier and put it in my car, she got some of his food and a couple of bowls together and so it was time to leave with him and try the hotel.    He went right into the carrier in the back of my car.  Immediately settled down and did not make a sound as I drove to the next town where the hotel was.  I stopped at a drive thru  and got me some supper.  It had been a long time since I had had lunch.

I wondered about the hotel – how to get dog and carrier (a large carrier) through the lobby, and then the elevator and finally into the room.  Turns out this was really easy.   Ian walks well on leash, he stops and sits at doors when told so I was able to get him and the carrier into the hotel.  Even the elevator was no problem at all -we rode up – I got the carrier off and the dog and into the room.  Put him in his carrier in the hotel room and went back out to the car to get his food and a water and food dish as well as my carry out food.   With the dog safely locked in his carrier in the hotel room I did not have to worry about him “rushing out” the door.

Opened his carrier and put down some food and water for him.  In the hotel room he was totally calm – he laid down near the desk and showed no interest at all in the food I had.   I took him out to walk around the hotel lawn – and walked him around outside some.  Then back into the lobby, he does not pull or tug on his leash at all, he will stop, sit and wait at doors, the elevator door both in and out and in front of my room door.  Put him into his carrier  and I went to bed.  He did not make a sound all night.  In the morning I opened the carrier door, put on his leash and took him outside – same thing totally calm, very well behaved, always paying attention to what I am telling him to do and responding to command very quickly.  Brought him back inside and had him stop, sit and wait as I got a cup of coffee and then back to the room and back in his “crate” – I went down and got breakfast to bring back to the room.  I had never been to a Holiday Inn Express before – they have a really good breakfast – even a really neat machine that makes pancakes – —

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Back to the room and let him out of his crate – again the same, he is quiet and very polite, he was content to just lie down beside the table while I had breakfast.  He picked at his food and did drink some water.   Back in the crate and I got my things out and to the car, everything except the crate and the dog.  I was able to get the crate back into the car with him on leash beside me – mainly because he pays attention, and will sit and lie down when told.  Once ready I told him to get into to crate – this means he has to jump onto the cars tail gate and into the crate.

I took a side trip to the Rural King and got a carrier for him  – was glad I did not attempt to purchase a carrier prior to going to Ohio,  Border Collies come in a variety of sizes.

Went on back to Wanda’s farm and back out to the large fenced field.  This guy really like to play with tennis balls.

Wanda spent a couple of hours going over Ian’s diet, health, commands and getting the paper work done.  I left around noon with Ian with me and drove the 5 hours back to my place.  Stopped several times to let him out and each and every time and place he was perfectly behaved – he knows and obeys voice command and really want to please.

Got home and got him in my newly fenced area – got the carrier and other items into the house and set up.   It will be a few days I expect before my indoor only cats – that have never had any close encounters with dogs “speak to me” – I am sure they will get “over it”

Ronald Headley on July 2nd, 2013

Back in May I went up to North Western Ohio to observe a herding clinic that consisted of mostly Border Collies.   I had pretty much decided a few months ago to at least begin to look around and get a dog again for myself.  My life style for a number of years simply would not work with having a dog.  I would go to work early each morning not knowing if I would get home at a reasonable hour time or even back home at all for a couple of days or longer, plus I was living where there were close neighbors, no fences, lots of activity including children near by, all of the wrong things going on to even consider getting a dog.  My life style has changed, I now work from my house which is located in the country, there are no neighbors nearby and I am home most of the time.  Plus a very important thing I have the time to work with and be around a dog.

The first thing to know about dogs is there are far too many dogs that end up in shelters.  Most shelters will keep a dog for a short period of time and many of these dogs end up getting “put down”.  People drop dogs off at shelters, they abandon the dog or let the dog run loose – lots of things happen that end up with lots of dogs placed in shelters.  Most of these sad stories have nothing to do with the dog at all, rather it has to do with people.

People tend to suddenly decide to get a dog without really evaluating and thinking through what they are doing.  People decide to get a puppy, and far too often that decision is spontaneous – maybe they went to a pet fair, a breeder, a shelter or someone they knew was giving away puppies.   People end up with a puppy and have a life style that does not work.   A big, active dog in a small city apartment for example, or people who just tie the dog to a tree all day and go to work or people that put a dog in a small yard are gone all day or several days.   Often people have no idea what that cute puppy will grow up to be.   More often people are not willing or able to invest the time needed and effort needed to help the puppy adjust to their new life and to grow up to be a trusted well behaved part of the family.   There are hundreds of books, articles, videos and other information available about dogs.   Dogs show up on TV shows, movies, You Tube and news stories.  There are even certain breeds that keep coming up in negative news stories.  At the moment the Pit Bulls are getting a lot of negative press and even generating laws banning them.   A few years ago is was German Shepherds and Dobermans that were getting a lot of negative media attention.   Likewise a number of breeds get very positive media attention – point is often people choose a particular breed or not because of  what happens to be popular at the time.  (or not in the case of the so called “bad breeds”)   It is really not about a breed being bad or good, it really is about how different breeds have different characteristics and tendencies – dogs have been bred for thousands of years for specific tendencies.   While almost any dog can be trained to be a “good” citizen each breed has underlying tendencies common to the breed.  It comes down to pet owners – some people will do very poorly with some classes or breeds of dogs and do extremely well with other breeds or classes of dogs.    All dogs require training – at the very least house breaking, home and family training which includes the basic commands.  Just bringing a puppy or dog home and expecting the dog to behave will rarely work.   Letting the dog do what ever they want is never a good idea.   Expecting a dog to just fit into a person life is unrealistic.  The reality is far too many dogs end up with people and living situations that do not work out and the dog ends up in a shelters because the “owner” just cannot deal with them.   That cute puppy will grow to be a dog – from the first day a puppy is brought home there needs to be structure and training – that means that the dog does what the owner wants and not what the dog wants.  Every dog has a distinct personality and much of this is based on class and breed.

There are a number of  “groups” of dogs and specific breeds in each group – each group has different general characteristics and each breed has very specific tendencies.   Some examples of dog groups are Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non Sporting – within each group they are a number of specific breeds and some groups actually have sub groups.  Each group has a set of general characteristics and each breed in the group has been bred for centuries to have some very specific appearances as well as behaviors.

This series of  articles is about a subcategory of the Working Group of dogs – the Subcategory is the “herding” group which often is listed as it own group.   The entire working group of dogs has been bred to work.   They need a “job” to do.  The thing to know is this group is not for everyone.  Typically dogs in this group are big, strong and independent and are unsuitable for the average family.  The entire group requires proper training and handling.

The Herding group are working dogs, they need a job to do, they must have proper training and handling, they have been bred to work on farms and ranches with all sorts of livestock.  They must have a job, they are bred to be quick independent thinkers.  In my case I grew up on a farming ranch and so I have been exposed to and worked with several of the Herding breeds.  Recently I became interested in the Australian Shepherd and the Border Collie.  Both are very high energy breeds, have to have a “job” and must be properly trained.   Unfortunately a lot of these two breeds end up in shelters and rescue groups.   Neither of these two breeds are for everyone and actually in a lot of situations should not be considered by most prospect dog owners.  Herding dogs especially the Border and the Aussie instinctively herd, they instinctively direct the movements of livestock and a part of that instinctive behavior is to come in close and fast to large animals and “nip” the much larger animals legs.  Both the Aussie and Border Collies will attempt to “herd” children and if the children do not move in the direction that the dog wants they will nip children’s lower legs.  They also both are very motion sensitive – that means they will chase cars, bicycles, joggers anything that moves.  Being herders they often will nip whatever they chase.  If placed in an apartment and left alone these breeds get bored and invent things to do such as destroy the coach or chew the legs off from some expensive antique table or chair.  They are very intelligent and often learn to open doors, drawers, and cupboards.

They are highly trainable, you see Borders and Aussies at all sorts of dog events- scoring highly and often winning – herding, agility, fly ball, rallies and of course on farms working with sheep, goats, horses, cattle even chickens and other birds.   People seeing these active intelligent dogs working tend to not know that what they are seeing are dogs doing a “job” and dogs that are very highly trained.   The working and especially the herding dogs quite often are very protective and bonded to their owner and so may not do well at all if they are boarded or turned over to a dog sitter if the owner happens to be away.  The main thing to know is herding dogs need a job, they need to be trained, they need to be worked with several times a day.  As I go on with my experience remember that just because I happen to be working with a Border Collie I do not recommend this breed for everyone, in fact in most cases I would discourage the average pet owner from considering Borders and Aussies.

I have spent a number of months thinking about first getting a dog again.  My life style for the first time in many years is such that I can actually care for, work with and train a dog.  I live in the country and while I do not have livestock I do have the space needed for one of the herders.   My last personal dog a number of years back was a collie, on my parents farm there were always various types of Shepherds and other working class dogs.   After spending some time I decided to take a close look at both Aussies and Borders knowing.

First I went to the herding clinic where their were a number of Borders and a few Aussies being introduced to sheep.  While there I met Wanda from Buckeye Border Collie Rescue and a number of people who had successfully adopted Border Collies from Wanda.   Wanda and her group of people that are involved with rescuing Border Collies put in a lot of time training and evaluating the dogs and in matching dogs to prospective owners.

My next trip was to attend a day of agility trials in Indianapolis – while I had seen agility, I did not know a lot about it.  The dogs go through an obstacle course – there are very specific rules that each dogs follows through the course, this is not “nature” things that dogs do rather agility is the result of very intense and specific training.   This is nothing like confirmation and obedience trials.  Pretty obvious that agility dogs have to start with being good at standard obedience.   To me all dogs need standard obedience training, walk on lease, sit, down, stay and so on are requirements for the success of any dog learning to live with and interact with people.

There were the expected breeds that do well with agility – the same breeds that also tend to do well with obedience trials.  Shelties,   Collies, Borders and Aussies as well as a number of other breeds.  Agility it seems requires very active breeds that are good at learning and paying attention to their “job” and their handler.  It also looks like it is a lot of work for the handler – dog and handler must work very well with each other.

I ended up filling out the pre adoption forms furnished by Buckeye Border Collie Rescue and seriously thinking about if I was really ready to get a dog again and more specifically  one of these very high energy, quick herders.  At this point I was aware of the demands there would be with proper training and care of this breed.

After a few weeks a couple of people came out to my place to look over the house, the yard, the fencing (in my case lack of good fencing) and the interview me.  Adopting a dog through a good rescue organization is pretty complex.  There is a lot of paper work, there are interviews, home inspections and finally getting to meet specific dogs that might work out to be a good match.

All of this had taken several months, I finally got the call to plan to come to North Western Ohio to begin the process of actually meeting some of the possible dogs.  I had looked at my house and its lack of good fences and figured out a simple way of adding some chain link fence and a gate in such a way that a dog let out of the side door would be safely inside a fenced and confined area.  Since what I was at this point focusing on a Border Collie, I had the fence installer put in some six foot fence.  I had already seen at the agility trials that Border Collies had no problem at all in clearing 4 foot barriers.  As it turns out that fence was a very good thing to do.

The next section will be about the trip to Buckeye Border Collie Rescue – which is a five hour drive from here.

 

Ronald Headley on May 2nd, 2013

While I grew up on a farm and we always had dogs that worked with the cattle and hogs,  I had never seen how dogs like Border Collies and Australian Sheep dogs were trained.    I had seen the very complex patterns these dogs can do with sheep, goats and even things like ducks and geese at herding trials.   They are able to keep groups of livestock together, move the group from on part of the field to another,  move the livestock through gates and even get the live stock to load into trailer or go into holding pens.

I had supposed that all of the herding patterns were the result of some very complex and intense training.   Sure I knew that these dogs had been bred for hundreds of years to herd.   I saw that there was to be an Introduction to Herding Clinic up in northern Ohio.  Got up at 4 AM so I could be there at the 9 AM starting time.    Sort of a cold and rainy day but that was OK, the training farm had in indoor training area.  People with Border Collies began to show up.  Something to note a number of these dogs were “rescue dogs”  they had been recused from shelters, some were at foster care,  some had been adopted through the rescue organizations.  Many of these incredible dogs present would have been put down had the rescue groups not stepped in.   Why did they end up in shelters?  Shepherd dogs are very active and energetic and also very intelligent.  They often are not a “good fit” for a lot of people.   There were a number of sad stories about how these dogs ended up in shelters – mostly through no fault of their own but rather the owners not understanding or willing to care for them.

Most of the dogs present had never been exposed to livestock before.  Most were also young 6-7 months to a couple of years old.   As people arrived with their dogs the first thing I noticed was everyone of the Border Collies were friendly both to the other dogs and to the people present.   In the past I had the great opportunity to work with a great trainer in Cleveland Ohio.  All types and sizes of dogs came to her training classes.  The common thing was many dogs barked and lunged at other dogs and sometimes people others were very afraid and shy around other dogs and people so the first thing at every class was to get the dogs settled down.

The Border Collies are not like this at all, they all were quiet and friendly toward the other dogs and the people,   some were pretty shy but seemed to “get over” the experience of new dogs and people very quickly.   They pretty much did not pay a lot of attention to other dogs and people.  All were on leash which is to be expected at any training event.  Really interesting every single dog was “crate” trained.  Even the more timid and shy ones would go into their crate or carrier and simply quietly lay down.   While I have been around and worked with a lot of different breeds of dogs, I had never been around Border Collies or Aussies.  The training facility I worked at was urban and so there were not many “farm” dogs – I had the only “herding” dog – a Tri Color Collie.

There was first of all a class – the dogs had been put in their crates, carriers or cars during the class.  Then people got their dogs and we all went to the indoor training facility.  They brought several sheep into the training area – this was an open area inside a barn – there was a small area for dogs, owners and observers that had a fence and a gate.   While these dogs really had little reaction to other dogs and people just about everyone of them immediately were totally focused on the sheep – really watching them.

This is when the true “magic” started.  The trainer captured and held a sheep (note here these sheep are very used to dogs and dogs working with them.   I doubt that sheep that had never been around dogs would be like these sheep were.  Step one each dog was taken into the training area on leash and brought up to the sheep and allowed to “smell” the sheep’s “back end” – the dogs would take a sniff and then back away.  That is all they needed to recognize what “sheep” were.  Once done – some dogs were very fast at this recognition others took a bit longer and a couple had to be “encouraged” to get in close to the sheep – the dog was led out of the training area back to the waiting area.   One dog at a time was “introduced” to the sheep that the trainer was hold onto.

The next step was amazing.  A dog on leash would be brought back into the training area, the owner would walk the dog all around the area past the sheep.  This would get the sheep out of the corners and away from the walls.  Next the owner would take the leash off and the dog was allowed to simply act.  The dogs would approach the sheep and then drop to a down right where the sheep would begin to be in a single group.  The dogs would get up and move and again drop to a down or run at very high speeds around the “flock” causing them to bunch together.   If you are not familiar with how herding dogs “work” livestock here is a You Tube video (just click the link)

The thing I did not know before going to the herding clinic is these dogs instinctively “know” the stop, down, stalking, and running behaviors  shown  in the video.  This is simply what they have been bred to do.  Training is really about “adjustments” and corrections and getting the dogs to do what the handler want them to do.  The dogs already know how to do all of this.   In the video you can see that the dogs are looking at the sheep – constantly – they are not looking at the handler at all – the whistle signals are just instruction – the dogs already know all of the “moves” – or how to get the sheep to do what the dog want.  The Borders and Aussies are highly “biddable” – they Really want to please their owner.  Herd training is about letting these dogs simply do what they do naturally with the owner guiding them as to what they want done not how to do it.

What I saw at the herding clinic was dogs that had never even seen sheep before that were able to move and group sheep as well as “hold” them in a position.  One dog for exam had be just adopted from rescue and had been with his new owner less than a week.  The owner had no experience with herding – the dog had come from a very difficult shelter and horrific life to rescue and had been with a foster home for only a few weeks.  This one grouped the sheep, held them, moved them – all of the herding things you can see in the video.  He simply “knew” all of this – the trainer was just telling the owner how and where to move – (the owner had had almost no experience or contact with any sort of livestock).

There was of course a range of how well the dogs did in this first session which in many cases was their very first exposure to livestock.   Some  “got it” and knew exactly what to do immediately, some need some encouragement and guidance – all were allowed to “discover” on their own what they were bred to do.

They stopped for lunch, the dogs were placed back in their crates, carriers and cars.   They were given the opportunity “to think about their experience” away from the sheep.  After lunch and a new group of sheep – the owners and dogs were brought back to the observation area and the truly amazing things was almost every dog did a lot better the second time out – plus every dog waiting to go into the training area was closely watching what was going on.  Training these dogs is about letting the dogs simply discovery what they instinctively already know and adding some guidance to fine tune their behavior.

After all of the dogs that were new to working with livestock finished one person who had an Aussie let his dog in with the sheep.  He did not go into the training area at all.   In fact the owner was sort in the back behind people up close to the fence watching.  The owner is very soft spoken I was standing right beside him and could barely hear him as he told the dog what he wanted – soft spoken words only, no hand signals or whistles – this owner kept his hands in his pockets.   The dog some 50 feet away intently watch the sheep and grouped them, moved them, held them, moved them the other direction, brought the sheep up to the fence, took to sheep to the far side, put them into each corner and moved them to other corners and held them.  The dog would separate a single sheep away from the herd and keep it separate and them allow the sheep to get back with the herd.  This dog did absolutely everything the owner wanted done only from his very quiet spoken words while the owner was in the back, people were talking to each other, the training area was fairly noisy.  Really amazing to watch.  As it happens this particular Aussie is one of the top competitive herd dogs in the USA.  The reality is this was a herd dog doing his job and what he was bred to do – help the owner work with livestock.

It was an amazing day, and I am really glad I got up at 4AM to take a 5 hour drive to go watch some amazingly talented dogs doing what they were bred to do and some owners learning the basics of letting the dog figure out how to do things when it comes to working with livestock.  Further training is all about training the owners to start to add commands and start to do some guidance and correction to dogs that are born to do this type of work.

The thing to know is Borders and Aussies are very intelligent and instinctive and so are able to figure out on their own how to do things.  They are very high energy animals, while not very large they can be really fast.  Around livestock they intently watch the livestock, they do not look at their owners at all.  This means that hand signals used with a lot of dog training will not work.  These dogs are very sensitive to what their owner want them to do.    This all means that these are not the type of dog to have as a family pet that lays around with nothing to do in the back yard, or will not work out living in a city apartment or being taken on leash to the park.  In other words these are not the perfect dog for everyone.  The sad thing is a number of these dogs end up in shelters because people have not taken the time to understand and work with them.   The good thing is the rescue groups are very careful about placing these dogs with owners that can learn to work with them.   While they naturally and instinctively work with livestock, they can enjoy things like agility courses – the thing to know is the Borders and Aussies need active things to do.

Next time I go to a Intro Herding Clinic I will bring my video camera.  What these dogs do totally based on instinct can be best shown with video.    The way to train and work with these breeds is very different from  “normal” dog training and obedience.

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It is March, the local new feeds and news papers are filled with stories about basketball and of course the “normal” stories about violence and crime.  This is a story that was missing and really needs to be shared.  It is about kids that are not sports stars, probably are not the “popular” kids at the schools and very well could be subject to difficult to deal with pressure from other students probably get a lot of flake and may be subject to bullying.

There was a very brief article in our local Georgetown KY newspaper “The News Graphic” about a competition held at Georgetown College.  This was not one of the dozen of sports competitions that are constantly in the paper, this was a competition involving robots doing very specific and precise tasks.   There were grade school, middle school and high school levels of competition.  These kids are building and programming robots made from the Lego Mindstorms  system.  The local newspaper article appeared three days after the event.  Had I know sooner I would have attended.  I was able to so some internet searches and learned somethings, the most important was that there is a state wide group called STLP (Student Technology Leadership Program) and that they were going to have a state championship competition coming up in a few weeks at Rupp Arena and Heritage Hall in nearby Lexington.   (For those of you not familiar Rupp arena is home to the UK (University of Kentucky) basketball team)

The event was held yesterday 28 March 2013, unfortunately there was now pre -event press coverage that I saw, nor was there any coverage at all in yesterdays Lexington newspaper that I saw.  (I do not read the printed version of newspapers – just the various local and national “internet feeds”.   I went to Rupp early yesterday morning specifically to learn more about the technology (I am a geek, I like technology and enjoy new (to me) gadgets.  What I learned was at least a little about the kids in the STLP programs from all over the state.  A side note here – I have never had children nor have I ever spent much time around children and in fact am barely tolerant of large groups of children.  I am particularly “sensitive” to groups of noisy seemingly out of control  children – you know the type of thing experienced at sporting events.  I actually went to learn what the STLP kids were doing with the Lego Mindstorm  Robots – something that I was only remotely aware of – after hearing about the competition at Georgetown College I was able to find some You Tube videos as well as some articles on the robots, the competition and the kids involved, not much, there just does not seem to be a lot of press coverage.

I got to Rupp early and could see that the parking lot was filled with school buses from all over the state.  Heritage hall was filled with kids and more were arriving, not an environment I would normally place myself in.  The kids were quiet, focused on putting together their booths and displays.   They were setting up computers, laptops, tablets, iMacs, iPads, smart phones, monitors, audio systems as well as digital cameras, video cameras and all sorts of technology.  There were young elementary school age kids through high school kids each wearing tee shirts with their school colors.  The kids were setting this stuff up, sure there were teachers there but the kids themselves were setting up the displays and the equipment.

The very first thing that was clearly apparent was that these kids were “different”, they were intent, focused and each group had created their own displays.   These kids were the “geeks”, “nerds”, “techies”, the kids good at math, science, physics and technology.  It sort of reminded me of the regional “Science Fairs” we had some 50 years ago when I was in high school.

Nor everything worked out of the box and these groups of kids at all levels were helping each other get their displays up and everything working.  They were trouble shooting and problem solving on the fly.    The adult teachers were allowing the kids to problem solve and get things working, not “taking over” and doing it for them as so many adults are prone to do.  These kids were fully capable of fixing things “on the fly” and certainly able to make things work.  Intent, serious kids working together in small groups getting their projects and displays up and working.  Many even at the elementary levels were very complex displays involving multimedia presentations – videos, Power Point, audios, digital photography, digital art done with Photoshop, videos done with Final Cut Pro, Avid, Sony Vegas – Presentations done with iPads and other tablets, lots and lots of computers – very complex video cameras, audios done with some very complex audio editing programs.   The thing to know is this stuff is not at all easy.   I use a lot of the audio, video and multimedia programs myself, have for a long time and it was very apparent that these kids even at elementary school levels were doing things that were far beyond what I am able to do.   I noted a couple of young kids – maybe 5th grade working on a multimedia presentation – updating and modifying a video with new pictures and video clips of their team.  There had Final Cut Pro running on an iMac and Avid studio running on a PC and were sharing clips from the PC over to the iMac – I can tell you this type of thing is really difficult to do especially on “the fly”  The Final Cut Pro program had at least 4 different video tracks and 4 audio tracks plus several effects tracks.

Out in the front lobby were a number of technical and engineering colleges with information about their schools.  There I found some displays of the Lego Mindstorm system doing a number of things.  There was one I found totally fascinating – remember the Rubik’s cube?? Yes that totally irritating cube with three levels of colored squares that you can move around in every plane so that the end result is each of the six sides all have the same color.  It can take me hours so solve that puzzle.  They had a Lego Mindstorm set up to rotate the levels, turn the cube, and again rotate the levels and this robot was actually completing and solving the Rubik’s cube.   There was a young student there maybe 10 or 11 years old at the most who explained to me how this amazing device worked, at the time it was not working correctly – it was not moving the and rotating the cube correctly and so this young fellow was adjusting gears and levers and reassembling the Lego parts while he was telling me how the thing was able to move and rotate  the levels of the Rubik’s Cube to solve the puzzle.  He got it working by himself!!!    He was not using any sort of book, manual, printed directions or asking the adults from UK’s Engineering college how to fix it – it fact I doubt that they could have fixed it.  The Rubik’s Cube machine the young “geek” explained first “reads” where the colors are on each side of the cube, it then calculates what moves need to be done, this is done with a scanner that recognizes color, position and relationship of the cube.  It then moves the rows, rotated the cube and moves more rows and after each series of moves it again scans and goes through more moves.   It only takes a few minutes to correctly solve and complete the Rubik’s cube puzzle and stops. It looks like this:

Lego MINDSTORM solving Rubik's Cube Puzzle

Lego MINDSTORM solving Rubik’s Cube Puzzle

In the same area some high school age kids were setting up a robotics display – very complex – several wheeled robots preformed a number of tasks and several of the tasks involved pneumatic devices others involved electric motors – all of this build from the Lego Mindstorm system.  Motors and gears and levers, compressed air (they inflate plastic balls) with tubes, valves, cylinders, levers – all run from “controllers” that are programmed to do each of the many tasks.

In another are there were kids setting up Lego Mindstorm robots for competition that was to occur later on as well as a “race” track to run some small model cars and some robot “wars” robots where the object is to overpower competing robots (these robots were mad of metal not the plastic Lego pieces.  I did not get to watch any of this competition but did get to watch some of the set up and testing.

The point is there are small groups of students involved in the STLP program from elementary, middle and high schools from all over the state.  These kids already are doing some really amazing things utilizing technology – all types of technology.  These kids are “different” – they are the “geeks”, “nerds” and “techies” from the schools.   They are probably the “outcasts” as viewed by the other students, they are not the sports stars, nor the extroverted “leaders” rather these are the very kids that will be leading technology advancements, they are skilled with computers, very complex computer programs, high levels of math, science, mathematics, physics, mechanics, media and more.  These are the very kids that are much needed to continue to lead the United States with advances in science, technology, mechanics, computer and information systems, engineering and all of the other things that truly makes America great.

This event did not make the newspapers, was not featured on the national news and actually what these kids and the STLP program are doing is pretty much unknown to the general public.  I am hoping that people become more aware of these programs, support and encourage this type of learning and let people know that these “geeky”, “techie”, “nerdy” kids are in fact the future of this country.

If you happen to know or have one of these kids, encourage them to get involved in this type of program.  If this type of program is not available at your local schools become involved with getting the program established.  If you happen to be with the media do something different from the “bad things” going on and do some features on very bright kids doing some amazing technical things while learning to interact with each other, help each other and become highly skilled in wide areas of advancement.  These kids deserve to be able to tell the rest of us who they are and what they are learning and doing.

Here are some links and references:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/StlpKentucky

Kentucky Dept of Education STLP site – http://education.ky.gov/districts/tech/stlp/pages/stlp—what-is-stlp.aspx

The Lego Mindstorm System – http://mindstorms.lego.com/en-us/default.aspx

Finally whether you have kids, grand-kids or not – make certain that you local schools have the resources and teachers to have this type of program.    These kids need access to computers, laptops, video and digital cameras, tablets, the Lego Mindstorm system, good science and physics labs, technology and they also need both the time and the ability to become involved with programs like STLP.

Maybe, just maybe “that kid” who has become introverted, somewhat shy, and is more into staying in their room playing video games very well could become tomorrows innovator of advancements in science, technology, physics, mechanics, robotics, computers, multimedia and things we cannot yet even imagine if given the opportunity to have the “tools”, the interaction, and the incentive to become involved.  These kids are really amazing – it is our responsibility as adults to make certain they get the chance to “shine” in their own way.  It is not on a football field, or basketball court, nor are they going to be the “class president” or even associate with the “popular” kids.    In my case I took some time out of a very busy schedule to talk with a ten year old about how his Lego Mindstorm machine was able to solve the Rubik’s Cube puzzle.   I have gained more than this kid will ever know from the experience.  I was able to watch a small group of kids moving through some very complex and difficult to learn video / audio / multimedia programs as they were “tweaking” their presentation.   These kids are the future of America and quite probably the world.  Support and encourage them in any way you can!!!

 

 

Ronald Headley on January 14th, 2013

this is a test post

It has been a rough couple of days to say the least.  Quick Books Pro would not work – it would not even open.  I was getting error 3371 – could not load license data.  Went to the Intuit site — Intuit and Quick Books Pro are not on my top ten favorite list — more like on my top dislike list.

The fix according to Intuit on line after looking up the error was to download something called Quick Books Repair Utility.  Did that but it would not run it wanted Net 4.0 from Microsoft.  So I downloaded and installed Net 4.0 and tried the QB Repair utility – it still would not work and would only send me to Microsoft the download Net 4.0.

Went to Microsoft’s support site to see what I needed to do to make Net 4.0 work.  Microsoft is a really difficult place to find helpful information.

Finally after several trials with Microsoft Net 4.0 and several more trials with the QB Repair Utility and a number of computer reboots I called Intuit tech support to see if they could fix the problem.

Intuit of course wanted my user name, my account information, my software license key and my software version number.  They looked it up and found I in fact had a registered version of Quick Books Pro and sent me to a tech support person.   I had to give the tech support person all of the same information. My license key, my version number, my user name.   Tech support said that Quick Books Pro 2006 is an out of date version and they do not support this version.  That what I needed to do was purchase the latest version of Quick Books Pro – which is a close to $300 piece of software – however since I had an older version they would give me a special deal of $199.95.

I told the support person I was not interested in upgrading I just wanted to know what to do to get my old version working again.  Again I was told they do not support older version but finally they did send me a link where I would be able to download a copy of the version I have.

Downloaded it and installed it and it had exactly the same error as I had.  A reinstall did not help.  So I went looking again on the Intuit site for help.  Finally went to the Quick Books Pro forums and after several hours finally found a reference to the error I was getting.  The Fix – same as before the Quick Books Repair utility.  That is what I had already tried hours before and knew that it did not work.  Back to the forum and I found a link to a “white paper” on how to fix that error.  The white paper had several things to try.  The first one – did not work.  The second one – find a particular file – the one that contains my license key and delete it and then run Quick Books Pro.  It actually worked the program came up and my pass word worked  – it showed my license key and version number and needed a key.

So I had to call Intuit back again (at this point this was the third time I had called them) to get this key – put that in and Quick Books Pro is now working fine again.

End result?  6 hours yesterday attempting to get the repair utility to work and Net 4.0 — two hours today doing the same thing.  Two hours reinstalling Quick Books Pro after an hour on the phone getting the link as to where to download it.  Then several hours exploring forums and finally tonight I did get it working again.

Why is Quick Book Pro important?   My customer lists, invoices, and other business information are there.  QB is not my main invoicing system but is a critical one.  Did I mention that Intuit is NOT one of my favorite place to get support from??  Did I mention that I do not nor have ever liked Quick Books Pro??  The problem is QB Pro is sort of the standard when it comes to small business accounting and I have been using it since 2006 so a lot of my critical records and information is locked into that program.  You cannot see or get to anything unless Quick Books Pro is working.  If I knew of an accounting program that could read Quick Books Pro files and or import them I would buy it – however I do not know of nor could I find anything that can do that.

So it has been an eventful two days.  All I needed and want to do was look up a customers invoice, and send them a new invoice for some more work done for them   This is something that normally takes about 10 minutes.  In this case it took over 20 hours.

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Ronald Headley on February 20th, 2012

I have a pair of matching LCD monitors that have been “ON” constantly for five years plus.  About a month ago one of them basically quit – it would show power and but not link to the computer.  A week ago the second one failed in the same way.

The first question I had is can you take a LCD monitor apart without causing serious damage?  The answer is yes but you have to be very careful.  There were short connecting wires and plugs that connect the LCD part to the power and signal boards.  There is almost no room to get them unplugged.  I was able to separate the two halves of the monitor – unconnected the wires and cables and open up the metal case that has the power and display board.

I knew that the most common thing to fail are the capacitors on the power board so I ordered all new capacitors (in this case Digi Key) total cost $19.46 plus $5.35 for shipping.   (that was for both monitors)  It used to be that Radio Shack had electrolytic capacitors – not any more.    It used to be that de soldering parts from circuit boards was pretty easy – now with all the tiny surface mount components it had made this type of thing really difficult.  I was able to remove all the old capacitors and put in the new ones.

I then carefully put the first monitor back together – turns out it is more difficult to put the cable connectors back than it was to disconnect them.  Plugged it in and turned it on and IT ACTUALLY WORKED!!!  So I took the second one apart – did the same thing – took out the old capacitors  and put in news ones – put it back together and it also is working.

I was able to fix both monitors for $12 each – so these did not end up in a landfill – at least not yet.  (you cannot just throw monitors in the trash – you have to pay a $10 recycling fee) – there are some very helpful You Tube videos – if you can solder you might just be able to f ix a non functioning LCD monitor.

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Ronald Headley on February 4th, 2012

Normally a computer crash or impending crash can be a major event.  At best recovery is normally something that takes hours if not days.  My main computer.  The one with all my business records, customer lists, email lists, critical emails, photos, tax records……..yeah, “that one” has been working perfectly for the past five years.  Turn it on in the morning – it boots and I begin to get the days work done.  That computer is normally on all day every day 7 days a week, 14 hours or more every day.  This week it did not boot up on the normal first try with power on, push the power switch and not much was happening, the hard drive would start and then quit which is not a good sign.  I was having to power it up at first 3 or 4 times to get it to come on and boot.  Once up and running the computer was running fine all day.

Not coming on with power up is fairly critical with computers and so as soon as I got it to work I backed up all of the data files successfully to an external hard drive.  OK with that type of backup I am actually in a pretty good position in case the hard drive did in fact fail.  If you have a hard drive failure and you have no backups the chances of losing your data can be very high.  Sometimes the data can be recovered by copying files to another computer, or external hard drive or network server, sometime when a hard drive fails the only way to recover data is send the drive to a recovery facility.

Always at least in my experience a hard drive failure means attempting to recover the data and storing the data someplace else.  Then one has to get a new hard drive, install the operating system, get all the drivers to make things work again and then reload all of the programs and finally put the backup data on.  This process takes days and normally while you do get the computer to work again things up getting lost or not working.   Things like browser bookmarks, emails, settings and a lot more end up taking a lot of time to fix.

I know there are ways to take an image of a hard drive and copy that image to a new drive however in my experience this very often does not work.  It the computer will boot at all after attempting to use a cloned image normally thing just do not work or things are missing and you still end up reinstalling programs or fixing the settings.

I did a lot of research and was seeing some good reviews on several new backup programs.  Finally decided to give Acronis True Image Home 2012 a try.  The computer once booted was staying on and working all day.  I had what I knew to be two good data backups so the old way of reinstalling the operating system and then all of the drivers and programs and data was possible.

Went up to Cincinnati to get a new hard drive to replace the one that was failing last evening.  This morning I pulled the failing hard drive and installed the new one.  Inserted the Acronis boot CD that I had made yesterday – connected the failing hard drive to my cables and power supply that allow a hard drive to run outside of a computer and connect via a USB port and turned on the computer.

Something to note – my computer at this point had a blank hard drive – a different brand and size than the original and I did nothing more than install the HD in the rack, connect the cables and connect the original failing hard drive to the computer via a USB port and force the computer to boot from a rescue CD done in the Acronis software menu the day before.

Even through I did have a full backup I decided to try the Acronis Cloning procedure.   Cloning means everything from one hard drive is placed on a new hard drive.  I have tried this sort of thing in the past and it has never worked for me before.  After the computer ran for a couple of hours the Cloning software said it was finished – remove the boot CD and remove the source HD and reboot.

The amazingly good news is the computer did in fact boot, it had a couple of minor errors which were easy to fix and I rebooted it again.  This time it came up fine.  The really good news is the Clone worked,  all of my programs are working, my email is all there, it knows how to connect to the network, run the printers, go to the internet, and it even has all of my browser bookmarks.  In other words my computer with a brand new hard drive looks and works exactly like it did with the failing hard drive.  I ended up being back up and everything working before lunch.

The old hard drive certainly did not have much time left before it failed.  It was so hot after the clone to the new drive that one could barely touch it plus right at the last of the clone you could hear “that terrible sound” which means a hard drive is going to fail permanently.

All I can say is Acronis True Image Home 2012 did exactly what the manufacturer and the reviews said it would.  I was able to back up a failing hard drive and verify the backup.  More importantly this morning I was able to clone the failing HD to a new drive and everything not is working, everything is there.  I have tried to do this a number of times in the past and never had any luck at all before.

I then of course did a full backup using Acronis on the newly installed HD so now I have two back ups – the one done before replacing the failing hard drive and the one on the newly installed and cloned hard drive.  This was just a near hard drive failure with a new replacement hard drive installed.  All of the “hardware”  was the same.  The only thing that was changed was the hard drive.

Acronis has an add on option that can take an image from a failed computer and put that image onto a different computer and make everything work (of course with different hardware one would need to either get or have the drivers) – the main point here is the operating system in this case Microsoft XP Professional actually booted and worked with cloning.

Had I had say a motherboard failure or something that would require using a different computer with the add-on option I would have been able to have everything from the failed computer up and running on a totally different computer.  Acronis also works with laptops.  Have a totally full laptop hard drive – this program can migrate everything to a new larger laptop drive.  What a totally huge time saver.

 

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A number of year ago I got a Mah Jongg set and had always intended to learn to play this “some day” – Along with the set I did get a book and actually tried to understand how to use the set.  The book was pretty confusing to say the least.  I did talk with a couple of people at a coffee shop once who said they would be glad to teach me how to play, but that never worked out while on similar paths we were traveling in different directions and I was never able to connect with these two.

So for years and several moves the Mah Jongg set went with me – I had seen this played in the orient a number of years ago and had even play a “street version” {sort of like Poker} sometimes.  So far as going to the Mah Jongg halls I never had the opportunity.  Anyway a couple of months back I saw a post on Facebook by a person I know and who is local so I actually see them in person quite often that they had just had some people over to learn and to play Mah Jongg.  I asked if I could get invited the next time.  Last Saturday night I got a long-standing wish granted.  I went to their house – there were several other people there.  The experienced players went over how thing work in a practice session and then there were enough people to have two Mah Jongg sets with 4 people per set.

While I am still a very long ways from learning how to play this very old game I was able to begin to understand some of the basics.  I am hoping to be able to continue to learn and hopefully be able to get invited to where others are playing.  I was able to learn some things that I will share.

Mah Jongg is played normally with four players, the game is played with 136 tiles, there are a number of ways or styles that this game is played, even the number of tiles has variances.   I had thought this to be something that was played only in the orient at least that was the only part of the world I had ever seen Mah Jongg halls (sort of like coffee houses – in way except there are a number of tables each with four people and a Mahjong set)  – the Mahjong halls or houses in the orient are closed in so far as they do not allow people to come in just to watch.  I had seen people playing Mahjong in a few big city coffee shops here in the USA – the type where people are playing Chess, and Go and other “intellectual” type of games but Mah Jongg is not very common at least in my experience.  Also sort of like the Chess players the Mahjong players were there to play and really did have an interest in teaching people how this game is played.

First of all the computer games of solitaire Mahjong have almost nothing to do with the four player game that uses real tiles.  In the computer solitaire version all one does is match pairs and they are removed from the “pile”.  The only similarity is the Mahjong tiles used in the computer game are marked the same as the ones in the “real” game.

The most interesting thing is that Mah Jongg (BTW either spelling is correct) has been played in the United States since the 1920s.  There is a really interesting article here on Wikipedia – There are several different ways to play and it appears to be regional – here in the United States there are actually two organizations  Mah Jongg – Worldwide Site and The National Mah Jongg League  –  As i write this the National Mah Jongg site is not working.

The people I met and got to learn some of the basics from are connected to the National Mah Jongg League – this organization has been around here in the USA since the 1920.  The people who play the League’s way each have cards which has a number of way to win or complete a “hand” of Mahjong.  The cards are the same and each player studies their cards attempting to find a “hand” from the list that they might be able to attempt to play out.  Part of this game is skill for certain and part is the luck of the draw.  The League produces a new game card every year and each year the ways to win are changed.  The cards cost $7.00 and buying a card gives one a years membership to the league.

The League’s site has a number of things for sales – the playing card or guide for the year, Mah Jongg sets, and a lot more.  There is also a software simulation ($40) that can be purchased and downloaded – while I have not had the time to really get into the software game play – there are 4 players, 3 are computer generated and yourself.  This seems to be a really good way to learn and practice how to play.

The game on the League’s site is sort of outdated so far as computer games go, however they are working on an updated version.  You cannot play this game on you computer  by itself – you must be online and connected to their site to play.  Getting it downloaded and working is not necessarily easy – it took me several tries to finally get it working and while I am not a computer “gamer” I am very familiar with online software and computer software.

For now I will attempt to learn from the league’s online game.  Mostly because at least with the group that I met up with they use the Leagues rules and standards as well as their annual “game cards” – the online version on the leagues site uses these same “standards”.

The main thing I have learned is attempting to learn Mahjong from a book and having 4 totally inexperienced people attempting to follow the book is not the way to go.  I had tried this approach several years ago with my set.  The way to learn is to find people who are playing and join them live.  The real plus is if one or two of the group take the time to teach new players.  This is a complicated game, and being able to watch people play plus being able to work with people willing to teach how to play is a huge plus.

It looks like once one has learned the basics then working with the online simulation appears to be a good way to continue to learn.  I have looked and am not finding any sort of directory or listing of people or places where one can go to learn or play Mah Jongg – it seems to be just word of mouth.  There are no links that I can find anywhere that lead to instructors, groups, players, places to learn or places to play.

The thing to know is that there are different ways to play and differences in the various Mahjong organizations.  Learning the play here in the US the Leagues way may not be helpful if you happen to end up in the orient at a Mah Jongg hall or house.

In my case I am just grateful to have had the opportunity to finally see how this is played and to have been invited to sit in on a beginners session.  Finally after years of owning a Mah Jongg set I have begun to start to understand how this very old game is played.

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