Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Plan

By Jack Handey

The plan isn’t foolproof. For it to work, certain things must happen:
  • The door to the vault must have accidentally been left open by the cleaning woman.

  • The guard must bend over to tie his shoes and somehow he gets all the shoelaces tied together. He can’t get them apart, so he takes out his gun and shoots all his bullets at the knot. But he misses. Then he just lies down on the floor and goes to sleep.

  • Most of the customers in the bank must happen to be wearing Nixon masks, so when we come in wearing our Nixon masks it doesn’t alarm anyone.

  • There must be an empty parking space right out in front. If it has a meter, there must be time left on it, because our outfits don’t have pockets for change.

  • The monkeys must grab the bags of money and not just shriek and go running all over the place, like they did in the practice run.

  • The security cameras must be the early, old-timey kind that don’t actually take pictures.

  • When the big clock in the lobby strikes two, everyone must stop and stare at it for at least ten minutes.

  • The bank alarm must have mistakenly been set to “Quiet.” Or “Ebb tide.”

  • The gold bars must be made out of a lighter kind of gold that’s just as valuable but easier to carry.

  • If somebody runs out of the bank and yells, “Help! The bank is being robbed!,” he must be a neighborhood crazy person who people just laugh at.

  • If the police come, they don’t notice that the historical mural on the wall is actually us, holding still.

  • The bank’s lost-and-found department must have a gun that fires a suction cup with a wire attached to it. Also a chainsaw and a hang glider.

  • When we spray the lobby with knockout gas, for some reason the gas doesn’t work on us.

  • After the suction cup is stuck to the ceiling, it must hold long enough for Leon to pull himself up the wire while carrying the bags of money, the gold bars, and the hang glider. When he reaches the ceiling, he must be able to cut through it with the chainsaw and climb out.

  • Any fingerprints we leave must be erased by the monkeys.

  • Once on the roof, Leon must be able to hold on to the hang glider with one hand and the money and the gold bars with the other and launch himself off the roof. Then glide the twenty miles to the rendezvous point.

  • When we exit the bank, there must be a parade going by, so our getaway car, which is decorated to look like a float, can blend right in.

  • During the parade, our car must not win a prize for best float, because then we’ll have to have our picture taken with the award.

  • At the rendezvous point, there must be an empty parking space with a meter that takes hundred-dollar bills.

  • The robbery is blamed on the monkeys.

Cubicle View

In this country, there are millions of people who spend their day at work in drab cubicles. I am one of those. Very few of us, however, have the pleasure of enjoying a view such as the one that I have from the windows next to me.

I work in a very new building which sits right on the edge of the bay. The group I work in is fortunate enough to be on the third (top) floor, right in front of a row of large floor-to-ceiling windows.

This is not something I take for granted. Every day that I come in to work, I marvel at the amazing sights that I have before me. There are tons of water birds everywhere, and even seals and otters, which I've spotted several times from my desk but have been unable to get a good picture of.

Even when the weather turns dark and cold, the view is magnificent. I took this shot yesterday, three feet from my desk. One day soon, I'll post a panoramic shot, as this one is just a small part of the total view that I have.

Lucky me.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

One Wish

I’ve spent quite a lot of time pondering this, as I’m sure many of you have as well at one time or another. If I could have one wish, one impossible request fulfilled, what would it be? Massive wealth? World peace? Super-human strength? X-ray vision? The ability to become invisible at will? Or to fly? Or stop time?

Stopping time is a big one for me. What would it be like to be woken by my alarm on a Monday morning, only to stop time, lay my head back down on my pillow and sleep deeply until I awoke again of my own accord? The power to stop time, it seems to me, would offer endless benefits. Also a lot of scary possibilities, when you really start thinking about the details, but how many of us often wish there were more hours in each day? Stopping time, in order to complete a task, or catch a nap, would surely be a wonderful thing.

But stopping time would be my second choice. The decision I come to time and time again is that if I could have that one wish granted, it would be the ability to communicate with animals, in such a way that we could have a two-way dialogue. In reality, this could prove to be bothersome, as others have humorously pointed out. There’s a commercial where a man is in the kitchen with his talking dog, and the dog just keeps saying over and over “Sausages!! Sausages! Sausages!!!!” And I’m reminded of one of Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts:

“If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason."

And I know that quote is about trees, not animals, but the point is the same. But since this is a fantasy, and not reality, I would be able to have a conversation with any animal. If I saw a deer about to run across a busy road, I could say “Hey, wait a minute, let me explain cars to you.” The deer would thank me and scamper back up the hillside. When taking one of my cats to the vet, I could explain to them what was going to happen, and they wouldn’t be so scared. When my cats were hungry, I could say “Okay, let me just finish this one thing real quick, and then I’ll feed you.” Or years ago, when I was mowing the lawn and suddenly saw a snake slithering away in front of me, the snake would have understood my scream of terror, and I would have understood his, and we both could have had a good laugh about it. Maybe even become friends.

I could go on and on with all of the benefits as I see them, but I think you all get the point, and there’s no need to drag this on.

So, this would be my one wish. To talk with animals.

What would you wish for?

The area I live in

I absolutely love where I live. I've lived here my entire life, and as much as I've traveled, I've yet to find a place I'd rather stay. I took this shot a few months ago or so. I did tweak it just a bit in photoshop, but mostly just upped the contrast a bit to darken the mountains and make the sun's rays pop a bit more. The original doesn't look very different from this one.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


The office where I work looks out over the bay, and we have a couple of small lagoons next to the building as well. I took this shot at one of the lagoons using a basic point & shoot 7mp Canon digital Elph. The camera itself has been a little disappointing, even for a point & shoot, but I didn't have to do any touching up of this photo.


I took this picture of the crow, then added the text in Illustrator. I love that you can see the light reflecting on the crow's eye (click on the picture to see it in larger size).

A raisin in the sun

2 seconds to take the picture, 30 minutes to remove all of the dust and litter fragments in photoshop.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Science proves animals have feelings, continues to experiment on them anyway

LONDON (Reuters) – Dogs can sniff out unfair situations and show a simple emotion similar to envy or jealousy, Austrian researchers reported Monday.

Dogs sulked and refused to "shake" paws if other dogs got treats for tricks and they did not, said Friederike Range, an animal psychologist at the University of Vienna, who led the study into canine emotions.

"It is a more complex feeling or emotion than what we would normally attribute to animals," said Range.

The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also showed dogs licked and scratched themselves and acted stressed when they were denied rewards given to other dogs.

Other studies have shown monkeys often express resentful behavior when a partner receives a greater reward for performing an identical task, staging strikes or ignoring what they view as inferior compensation.

It turns out dogs are able to show a similar, if less sensitive, response, said Range in a telephone interview.

In a series of experiments using different breeds of dogs, the researchers looked at how two animals sitting next to each other reacted to unequal rewards after handing a paw to a researcher.

Dogs not given a treat licked their mouths, yawned, scratched and showed other signs of stress and stopped performing the task, Range said.

To show this was not just because the animals were not getting food, the researchers then tested the dogs alone and found that in this situation the envious canines cooperated longer before stopping.

"It is really about the unequal distribution of the reward," Range said. "If it was only about frustration they would stop at the same time."

Original article found here.

Also, please keep in mind that while these tests/experiments seem very painless and mild for the dogs, once the tests are done, the dogs go back in their small cages, where they are treated as test subjects, not animals with feelings. Scientists working with animals must check their humanity at the door.

What really irks me

You know what really irks me is when people say "There are two types of people in this world...", because hello, there are way more than just two types of people in this world. What about the Jews? We're sick of being left out of everything.* So from now on, let it be known that there are three types of people in this world - the first two types, and Jews. And also Asians.

*The lone exception to this is Mel Gibson. Mel, please stop including us, as you're just not being helpful.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Where the hell is Matt?

So, this guy Matt had this very simple idea that originally was just sort of for his own amusement, but it turned into something much more.

Matt turned a simple, goofy dance into a way to bring people together. He's traveled the world, and has danced with people from all walks of life.

This video reminds us of that which we too easily forget: that while there are millions of differences between the various peoples of the world, in our hearts and souls we are all the same. We want to have food, and water, and shelter. We want to love, and feel loved. We want to be happy, and we want to laugh. It's when we get caught up in the details that we lose our way. It's when we let our walls down that we truly connect with each other.

Matt, wherever you may be, thank you for reminding me to let my walls down.

(you can click on Matt's name to go to his website to see more videos, and I would recommend doing so in order to view the video in a sharper, larger size.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

The only argument that matters

There is a lot of debate on the value of experimenting on animals for human gains. If you look, you can find hundreds of papers explaining why we must continue to experiment on animals and the medical and scientific advances we make as a result. Alternatively, you can find just as many papers, many by doctors and scientists, stating the ineffectiveness of animal experimentation, to the point of actually being harmful to humans, not just ineffective. The doctors and scientists that speak out against the use of animals point to the numerous alternatives that have been created in order to bypass the use of unwilling participants.

For me, none of those arguments matter in this debate. As far as I’m concerned, it is not a matter of whether or not we gain from these experiments, but whether or not we have the right to perform these experiments.

I’m constantly surprised by the otherwise thoughtful, caring and intelligent people who seem to be okay with the animal experimentation that currently is conducted all over the world. When they learn of my opposition to vivisection, they offer a sort of apologetic smile and remind me that as humans, we have benefited greatly from these experiments. Of course, not one of them could probably cite even one animal experiment that we’ve benefited from, but again, that’s a separate issue, and is not a part of my opposition. I’ve listened to scientists who used to be in support of animal experiments, who have since abandoned those methods and now speak out against them as needless, cruel to animals, and harmful to humans.

The fact is, roughly 8% of medications that are tested on animals are brought to market, and of those, roughly half are later recalled due to human death or severe side effects. Which means that approximately 96% of those experiments are performed with no gain to humans at all.

But again, this is not part of my argument against animal testing, because even if it were a proven method that produced 100% useable results for humans, I would still be against it.

Why? Because we do not have the right to use any living beings in experiments against their will. Period. I state this, not as my opinion, but as fact. Just because something is legal (slavery, discrimination against women and minorities, etc) does not make it morally or ethically correct. We have worked hard as a people to do away with racism and sexism (with still much work to do in those areas), and yet largely ignored by the masses is the ongoing problem of speciesism.

We feel justified in using animals for experiments because we view them as “less than us”. They do not have the level of intelligence that we as humans have, nor the ability to reason like us. And for some reason these facts make us feel better about conducting these unusually cruel and inhumane tortures on those lesser beings.

But if it’s lack of intelligence and ability to reason as we do that makes a prime subject for experimentation, what about the use of mentally handicapped people? As humans, there could be no better test subjects for determining the safety or effectiveness of drugs and other products meant for human consumption that are currently tested on animals.

If we are to be honest, wouldn’t we all feel a lot better about that medicine we’re taking or that product we’re using if it was deemed safe for human use after having been tested on humans, rather than rats, or primates?

If it’s a matter of which beings deserve freedom, what about using inmates for experiments? Our government has done this in the past (and not just to inmates, but to military personnel, as well as minorities) so we can all agree that it’s at least possible.

Most of us would never stand for that kind of treatment of other humans, however, no matter their intelligence level or their right to personal freedoms. How could we, with clear conscious, sew the eyes shut on a mentally handicapped person in order to perform an experiment on sight depravation? We couldn’t. What about impregnating a female inmate, forcing her to ingest nicotine, and then cutting the baby out of her womb in order to test the effects of smoking on an unborn baby? Never. The mere suggestion seems ridiculous, and if it were brought to the table in a serious manner, it would be met with angry opposition to the point of full-scale riots and violence.

And yet still, most people see nothing wrong with doing these things to animals, against their will.

So really, the question becomes not one of benefits, but of humanity. We rail against discriminations and abuses of groups of people, all the while we are subjecting free-willed beings to the most horrific and painful experiments imaginable. Hitler’s own Dr. Mengele, the man who spent so much time experimenting on the Jews, would be proud.

Most of you, I’m assuming, would be unable to conduct these experiments on animals yourselves, being unable to stomach the visuals – the primate who screams in agony and struggles against his restraints as parts of his skull are removed, or his eyes are sewn shut; the cat who is so tightly clamped down with metal head restraints that it is unable to move at all while large devices are attached to it’s exposed brain; the dog who is forcefully overfed to the point of death, laying listless and bloody. Those that survive another day of experiments are brought back to their small wire cages, where they will cower in fear at the slightest sounds, whimpering, licking their wounds that will never heal, and in many cases, inflicting new wounds on themselves as they thrash about trying to free themselves from this life that they’ve been forced into, even if their only escape is death. Self-mutilation, especially in primates, has been documented by these labs over and over and over.

We are right to recoil in horror from these sights, but we must not ignore the fact that this goes on, every single day, all over the world.

All animals are born with free will. Even the animal who is born and raised in a laboratory will long to be free, to act according to it’s natural instincts. To build a home. To meet a mate. To start and raise a family. It is not within our rights to remove these animals from their habitats, from their families, from the life that they would lead, simply to use them and discard them as we see fit, so that old men can get erect, or so that we can continue to prove that smoking is dangerous to everyone’s health.

The argument of whether or not animal experiments benefit us is not important. The only argument that matters is, DO WE HAVE THE RIGHT?

Can any of you provide an argument for why we should continue to mutilate animals in these ways, in the face of real alternatives, and knowing the horrors that animals face in labs?

More importantly, will any of you speak up to help end it, or will you be silent partners with the vivisectors? The choice is yours. Which, incidentally, is one more thing that separates us from the animals in the labs – they have no choice.

"Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is ‘Because the animals are like us.’ Ask the experimenters why it is morally OK to experiment on animals, and the answer is: ‘Because the animals are not like us.’ Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction." -- Professor Charles R. Magel (1980)