Phantom Electricity


We have in the past year worked at rearranging the use of electricity in our house. Foremost on the list has been to deny appliances that silently suck up electricity even when they are turned off. Electronics these days are built to maintain a “ready” state so that when turned on they quickly get up and running. The real problem with this is that many of them use considerably more electricity when not being used, than when they are.

Our strategy has been to put most household electronics on a power strip and deny them electricity altogether. Some electronics, you’ll note, work in clusters. For example you might have a television and a CD player that work together. If you leave electricity running to them they’ll use about as much electricity in a year as an inefficient old refrigerator (I ain’t lying!) even if you never turn them on at all. You can make the same argument for your computer and printer.

On our property we have four buildings that have their own metered service. It’s expensive enough for us as the premium for electricity begins with a healthy chunk just for each unique metered service. And, unlike the traditional household we have seven televisions throughout the property, all of which have attendant CD players. We also have five computer stations.

Most sources will tell you that you’ll save about $125 a year if you attend to denying electricity to appliances that consume phantom electricity when not being used. We are saving nearly $800 a year. Though it’s unclear where all of the savings are coming from as we have replaced most of the traditional light bulbs on the property with florescent bulbs; and take other steps to manage the use of electricity.

A Weavers Minuet


The rules of the minuet are quite simple. For 50 seconds the handler will direct the dog through a simple sequence (of 4 obstacles, in this case), and then repeat it until the end of time. When the time whistle sounds the handler will direct his dog to the table. It’s worth noting that in any game with a finite number of possible scores time to the table is the tie-breaker and will determine placement.

The dog earns one book-point for a completed sequence. Any number of obstacles the dog completes that don’t add up to a full book when the whistle blows will be converted to a decimal value. So if the dog earns 7 books and finishes the weave poles at #2 as the whistle blows… his score shall be 7.2 with time as the tie-breaker.

The key thing the handler must know in this game is what to do on error:

  • In the event the dog earns a wrong course the book he was working on is nullified and he must be directed back to obstacle #1.
  • If the dog drops a bar the handler must reset that bar and resume the book he was working on from that jump (note that the wrong course rule is suspended when the dog drops a bar, giving the handler the opportunity to concentrate on the bar without penalizing the dog for offering performance).
  • If the dog pops out of the weave poles they cannot be corrected midway and must be restarted from the beginning. When taking the dog back to correct… watch out for that backweave! That would be a wrong course and will void the current book.

Over the years I have observed that the minuet will expose every flaw in movement and thinking inasmuch as both are repeated. A handler might get away with a thing once; and he might get away with it twice. But he won’t continue to get away with it. The truth will be known.

This particular minuet is not terribly challenging from a handling point of view. It will be mostly a matter of proofing the dog’s understanding of the weave poles. If the dog really doesn’t understand the job of weaving, he will likely earn a rather low score.

Results and Analysis

Just for the record… our top scoring dog on this Minuet was Vickie Davis’ little Beagle Elmer scored 5.1 to lead the Country Dream challenge. My girl Hazard took a second place with 4.2.

Like a lot of games that feature the weave poles, this Minuet serves as a bit of a wake-up call for the handler/dog trainer who hasn’t focused sufficiently on the weave poles during daily proof and practice. This sequence features a virtual threadle between jump #1 and the first set of weave poles at #2.

The second set of weave poles, at #4, features an “entry-side” approach at about a 45° angle. The real question from a handling point of view is what the handler does to sweeten the approach into the poles. On the other hand, if the dog is very well trained to the entry the approach to the weave poles really doesn’t need to be overtly shaped; and so the dog should just be let go to make the entry.

We truly can apply the same logic to the first set of weave poles. Should the handler shape the approach with a calculated RFP… or simply trust the dog to make the very difficult perpendicular entry.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

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