Friday, January 30, 2009

It's gonna be a while...


I've been pretty concerned about the economy for a while now, and I have to admit that it was looking bleak. That is, until I saw this headline this morning:

Exxon Mobile Sets Record with $45.2 Billion Profit

After reading that, I felt a lot better.

I mean, if the economy was so bad, they wouldn't be setting records for annual profits, would they? And the whole thing is sort of a win-win situation, because not only did they break the previous record set in 2007 of $40.6 billion in profits, but the record they broke was their own! Hooray for Exxon! And now that I think about it, it's actually a win-win-win, because we as the consumers get to share in the glory, because we helped them set these records! Hooray for us!

I remember when gas prices were so high just a few months ago, and none of us could really figure out why, and we were angry. But now I see that we were just being foolish and short-sighted. We had to pay higher prices so Exxon could accomplish this amazing feat! You have to hand it to Exxon, they know exactly what they're doing. How silly I feel for ever questioning them.

So now it's 2009, and I know what we have to do. We have to beat that record again! Together, we can do this. And I think the war in Iraq was started just for this reason, so you know it's got to be really important.

We have to reject low prices at the pump. Luckily, OPEC, the big oil cartel (which I think is different than a drug cartel, but I'm not sure how) is doing what they can to help us all accomplish this. They're cutting production so that the prices will go higher again, and Exxon can have a chance at breaking more records that they've set! Hooray for OPEC!

I know that everyone really likes those car magnets and stickers that are shaped like ribbons that say "Support the Troops", but I think we need to change that to say "Support the Oil Companies", because they're involved in this war too, maybe more than anyone else, and they're not getting nearly the credit they deserve.

For those of you who have lost your homes or your jobs, I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that it was not for nothing. If you still had an address, I'm sure Exxon would send you a thank you card.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Name That Cow

I was cruising the headlines last night, and I came across this story, about how cows seem to respond positively to individual attention, like calling them each by name, etc. It's pretty interesting stuff, though the only surprising thing is how long it's taken science to realize this. Here's the article, which I found on

Cows with Names Make More Milk

Researchers in the UK say cows with names make 3.4 percent more milk in a year than cows that just feel, well, like cows.

There seems to be more than just names involved, however.

The study, involving 516 dairy farmers and published online Tuesday by the journal Anthrozoos, found that "on farms where each cow was called by her name the overall milk yield was higher than on farms where the cattle were herded as a group," write researchers Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University.

Nobody likes to be herded. Even a cow, one might presume. Indeed, the findings in fact point to an overall personal touch that – just a guess here – might say as much about the farmers as it does about the cows.

"Just as people respond better to the personal touch, cows also feel happier and more relaxed if they are given a bit more one-to-one attention," Douglas said. "By placing more importance on the individual, such as calling a cow by her name or interacting with the animal more as it grows up, we can not only improve the animal's welfare and her perception of humans, but also increase milk production."

Happy cows. Okay. Well, if you are a farmer (especially one with a small farm that struggles to be profitable by milking only a handful of cows) you probably would not argue with success. Cows, after all (and in case you're thinking of judging them as dumb animals) are known to have a magnetic sixth sense and are not as prone to cow-tipping as you might have heard. Who knows what else they are capable of?

Dairy farmer Dennis Gibb, who co-owns Eachwick Red House Farm outside Newcastle with his brother Richard, says he believes treating every cow as an individual is vitally important. "They aren't just our livelihood – they're part of the family," Gibb said in a statement released by the university. "We love our cows here at Eachwick and every one of them has a name. Collectively we refer to them as 'our ladies' but we know every one of them and each one has her own personality."


The findings:

46 percent said the cows on their farm were called by name.

66 percent said they "knew all the cows in the herd."

48 percent said positive human contact was more likely to produce cows with a good milking temperament.

Less than 10 percent said that a fear of humans resulted in a poor milking temperament.

"our data suggests that on the whole UK dairy farmers regard their cows as intelligent beings capable of experiencing a range of emotions," Douglas said. "Placing more importance on knowing the individual animals and calling them by name can – at no extra cost to the farmer – also significantly increase milk production."

So, of course I have something to say about this article, but first I need to point something out that most people rarely think about, and some of you maybe don't even realize: cows do not produce milk constantly, for no reason. Just like in humans, milk production begins during pregnancy, and is produced solely to nourish their young. If you're drinking cow's milk and you're not a young cow, you're basically an accessory to the theft of a Mother's milk, produced for it's baby.

I'm really happy to see that science and farmers agree that cows have feelings. What troubles me is to hear these guys talk about their cows as if they love them, as if they're "family", wh
en what they do to the dairy cows is they forcibly impregnate them, then take their babies away as soon as they're born, because they can't have the baby cows taking milk that we've designated for human consumption.

So you get a Mother cow who, it is agreed, has feelings, who gets her newborn baby taken from her, which has to be at least a little traumatic to an animal with feelings. And then you have a newborn calf, brand new to the world, also with feelings, who gets taken from it's only source of comfort and love before it's even had a chance to get to know it's Mom.

The male calves, of course, will become veal in a short time (and thankfully it is a short time, as the baby cows are kept in tiny cages where they have no room to move or turn around at all, preventing them from forming correctly, but making for the most tender meat). How a farmer (who seems to agree
that cows have feelings) can do this is beyond me. if we could understand the cows, in terms of what they're thinking or feeling, I have to believe that we would immediately stop eating them and using them for their milk. But, since the cows haven't said "stop" yet in terms we understand, we just keep enslaving them.

So while here in California we get inundated with advertising campaigns telling us that the California cows are happy, the only truly happy cows are the ones not being used for meat, milk, leather or service of some sort. Which means that happy cows might not even exist, save for those lucky few that have made it to some sort of sanctuary.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Real : Surreal

This past weekend I spent some time playing with Photoshop and a program called Photomatix, as well as an additional plug-in tool that works inside of Photoshop. My Photoshop skills are lacking, in spite of my profession. I'm much better with Illustrator, but I'm working on developing my talents with various programs, and right now I'm having a lot of fun experimenting.

The first image below is a picture I took at work with my sub-par Canon SD1000 "point & pray & click" camera.
The image below that is what I came up with after running it through several different filters and tools. Also, I added a crow that I had found in a picture that someone else had taken, both because I love crows, and because I thought it gave the image that much more of a surreal feeling. Clearly I wasn't going for realism here. Oh, and I also flipped the image, as it just seemed to flow better with the "action" going left to right. And while I don't think that this little exercise demonstrates any greatness from an artistic or technical level (I imagine most "real" artists would rip this apart in seconds with a large list of mistakes and flaws), I like it personally. It's the look I was striving for, and it makes me happy. So I'm sharing it with you.

A ridiculous notion by any other name...

I had first seen this story a few days ago, but came across it again this morning:

Goat detained over armed robbery
LAGOS (Reuters) – Police in Nigeria are holding a goat on suspicion of attempted armed robbery.

Vigilantes took the black and white beast to the police saying it was an armed robber who had used black magic to transform himself into a goat to escape arrest after trying to steal a Mazda 323.

"The group of vigilante men came to report that while they were on patrol they saw some hoodlums attempting to rob a car. They pursued them. However one of them escaped while the other turned into a goat," Kwara state police spokesman Tunde Mohammed told Reuters by telephone.

"We cannot confirm the story, but the goat is in our custody. We cannot base our information on something mystical. It is something that has to be proved scientifically, that a human being turned into a goat," he said.

Belief in witchcraft is widespread in parts of Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation. Residents came to the police station to see the goat, photographed in one national newspaper on its knees next to a pile of straw.

I thought this story was both funny and ridiculous, but then I remembered how many people in this country still believe that a supreme being (which I think is just like a regular being, but with all of the toppings) created the universe some 6,000 - 10,000 years ago, and then I realized that this story isn't as funny or ridiculous any more.

Then I also thought about how this goat will probably end up being killed, and I wondered if the people would be surprised or disappointed when the goat didn't turn back into a man after being killed, or while in the process of dying. They'll probably just say "Demons are so unpredictable", and they'll go on their merry way. People are resilient that way. Also, people are dumb.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Dumbest Thing I've Read Today

In glancing over the morning headlines on Yahoo, I came across this little gem, displayed proudly in the top headlines for the morning:

Obama's success hinges on more than race

Reading further, this is the opening paragraph:

History surely will remember President Barack Obama as the first black to sit in the White House. But success in his term will depend on his accomplishments rather than on the color of his skin.

I can't decide if this writer is ignorant, racist, or just trying to cater to those sections of the population. It's a wonderful thing that this country finally found itself able and willing to put a black man in the highest office in the country, but did any of us think that Obama's success might rest just on the color of his skin?

And now, since I'm already criticizing the author, did we really need him to point out that history will "surely" (as if there's a chance it won't) remember Obama as the "first black" to sit in the white house? Isn't that a given? Is it even worth mentioning at this point?

And since I'm already getting really picky with the details now, and while it may be grammatically correct as is, couldn't the author have referred to Obama as a black man, rather than just as a black? I mean, the man is more than just a color. And if you need proof of that, you can refer back to the beginning of that last sentence, where I clearly pointed out that Obama is a man (thus proving that he is not just a color). The whole article seems to center around the fact that Obama is black, and while that certainly seems true, it also seems a little late in the game to be talking about it like this, like maybe none of us had considered for a moment who we were voting into office.

And lastly, I need to point out that the author is listed as "DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent", and I have to say that if the word "Special" in his title refers to his eligibility for the olympics of the same name, he has my deepest apologies, as I never would intentionally tease the 'literally retarded', just the literary retarded.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Secret Lives of Kingpins

Here, we see a young Tony Montana, cocaine kingpin (cleverly disguised in a shirt that he borrowed), just seconds before he approached the three men in the background. Swiftly raising his gun, Tony yelled out three quick shots - "Bang bang bang!!".

The men, denying they had been shot, even after Tony told them he had shot them and they were now supposed to be dead, did not press charges. A miffed Tony Montana told them they were not only not his best friends, but they would not be allowed to come to his birthday party.

Weeks later, Tony would come across them again and cut them into pieces with a chainsaw.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Secret Lives of Super Heroes

As a young boy, Peter Parker did not have any real friends to speak of. He also had not yet honed his skills as a super hero. Standing still for hours, young Peter would wait for a crime to happen in front of him which he could then stop. This picture was taken just shortly before he was mugged by a 5th grader and relieved of his lunch money.