Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day!

So today is my *4th* Mother's Day. Whoah.

It's so mind-boggling, I'm still kind of reeling from it. Being a mom is so great! Yes, there are all those tantrums and whiney moments, but 9 times out of 10, it's good stuff. It is just a treat to watch the formation of this special little creature.

If you're not a Mom today, why don't you take the chance to reach out to the kids in this world? It might be a pain in the butt to add a volunteering gig to your schedule, but even a one-time stint at your local children's museum or hospital can put a little spark in your life.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


I am reading an amazing book: "Apes, Language, & the Human Mind," by Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, et al. It is the story of Sues' work with a bonobo named Kanzi. Kanzi's mother was in a language study at a Language Research Center in Atlanta, and because of Kanzi's early exposure to humans and the English language, Kanzi has picked up an amazing ability to communicate. He has a grasp of complex grammatical structures that is superior to many 2-year-olds, and his abilities keep growing. He does not have the brain power of a human adult--for one, he doesn't have a strong short-term memory (at least linguistically). But he can communicate and interact with humans as well as a young child.

Kanzi is more able than most bonobos because of his early-childhood experiences. He was raised in a very rich environment where he was given a lot of language stimuli & great impetus to use it. Reading about his life, I can not help thinking of the chimpanzees at our zoo, who live in a concrete bunker and whose "enrichment activities" are mostly about finding food that's been strung from the ceilings or placed in a box. Of course, it's better than the old way of just locking the poor creatures in a spartan cage. But it's a far cry from the kind of place that could really stimulate them.

What if all the zoo monkeys got to live in a space like Kanzi's? What if, instead of being on display for our entertainment, the apes were allowed--in some safe, appropriate way--to interract with humans? What if they were given a chance to learn English? What could possibly be so wrong about allowing animals to be ambassadors and not statuary?