Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Raw Milk is a Raw Deal

As this article states, there is a very heated debate on the merits of raw versus pasteurized dairy products. We all know that milk is one of the healthiest, most complete foods out there (though a good argument could be made for the egg as well).

The gist of the debate centers around the thought that pastuerized milk is less wholesome than raw milk. Many think that the pastuerization process destroys many of the nutrients in milk. With the rise of the internet and the missinformation that is easily disseminated through it, sites abound to encourage you onto this new/old nutritional bandwagon.

As with all good conspiracy theories and "cult mentality" encouragements, there is some truth in the claims made by raw milk advocates. Citing old scientific articles on the husbandry of dairy cattle and the evils of "factory farming," raw milk advocates will have you believe that pasteurization was developed purely to cover-up the mistakes and mishandling of milk products from unfeeling capitalists who want to destroy the family farm.

Let's look at milk: it is a natural blending of protein, calcium and other nutrients that provides everything a body needs, especially a mammalian one. True, it has been consumed  safely for years prior to pasteurization and even refrigeration, but the reason for that wasn't because it was a healthier product. 

The reason for that is because more people lived on the farm or within an easy buggy ride of one. As industry was revolutionized, cities grew and town mice and country mice moved farther away from each other. There was a need to develop ways to feed people. Refrigeration and pastuerization were two of the inventions that made city-life possible, and allowed people who lived far away from the farm to have wholesome food. Many of the people who died from unpastuerized milk in days gone by were children, and statistics on those deaths are shady at best.

And, as untasteful as it may be to most of us, the rise of the factory farm has lead to consistent, cheap, wholesome food that can feed more people. And then there is the "organic food" craze. Both of these are topics that I'll need to cover some other time.

But is raw milk good for you? According to the Food and Drug Administration, raw milk contains many bacterial species including Brucella species (which can cause severe disease and even abortion), Campylobacter jejuni (a leading cause of diarrhea), Coxiella Burnetii (Q fever), Escherichia coli (another cause of diarrhea as well as a myriad of other diseases), enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus (diarrhea and septicemia), Listeria monocytogenes (leads to death in up to 25% of people infected with it), Mycobacterium bovis (causes tuberculosis in cattle, and may cause it in some people), Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the mycobacterium that causes TB in humans), Salmonella species (diarrhea and speticemia), Yersinia enterocolitica (diarrhea, septicemia, severe abdominal pain), and on and on. Pasteurization kills all of these.

If I need to list more reasons not to consume raw milk, you are a much braver soul than I.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Working Dog

I like this business plan!

Dog in a BP shirt greets customers at Clearwater store

The sequence of events happens dozens of times every day at the BP gas station/convenience store at U.S. 19 at Nursery Road. An unsuspecting customer pulls up to the drive-through window. But instead of a store clerk, up pops two paws, deep brown eyes and the tongue-flapping grin of a happy chocolate Labrador retriever named Cody. Kids in the back seats of minivans often squeal with joy. Even the usually stony faces of gruff construction worker-types can't help but crack a smile under the dog's unpretentious greeting.

"He hears the bell and goes running. When he pops up, that sets it off," said Karim Mansour, the store's and dog's owner. "Uncontrollable giggling."

The only thing that tops Cody's enthusiasm for a customer, is a customer who has a dog with him.

It all started one day five months ago when Mansour decided to bring his dog to work. He didn't think much of it at the time — he just wanted to have his best friend with him while he worked the sometimes slow, and occasionally, dangerous, early morning shift. The dog was given free rein of the store, and as a joke, Mansour put a shirt with a BP logo on the dog, and gave him a name tag.

"While he's here, he's an employee. My rule is, 'all employees need to wear the shirt,' " Mansour said.
Without trying, Cody, always eager to greet any friendly stranger, quickly became a celebrity among store regulars.

"The first time I saw him, he had his tail just waggin' and waggin'," said Richard Mealey, who comes in a few times a week. "I love dogs. He's great."

But the best part might be the double-takes the dog elicits at the drive-through window.

"Oh, he's adorable," said customer Candy Thompson when greeted at the window by Cody. "Oh, he's such a big lover."

Photo shoots with cell phone cameras from the drive-through window are commonplace.

But the BP station is also like most other convenience stores — a sometimes strange melting pot of people from every class and creed, who at any given time could be going through some rough emotion. For those customers, Cody is the solution. He can do what the normal gas station clerk usually cannot.

"Convenience stores are so unpredictable. People come in drunk, stoned, angry, you name it," Mansour said. "He calms them down. Animals have the ability to soothe the human soul."

Earlier this year, a woman who had been fighting with her husband came into the station.

"She came in all sorts of bawling and crying," Mansour said.

Cody, sensing something wasn't right, went to the woman. She put her face next to his, and sat on the floor with him. After several minutes talking to Cody, the woman pulled herself together.

"By the time she was done petting him, she'd stopped crying and seemed a lot better. 'Finally,' she must have thought, 'someone who listens and doesn't talk back,' " Mansour said.

Ironically, Mansour acquired the Cody three years ago when an acquaintance, who was going through a divorce, could no longer take care of him.

Since Cody's following has grown, Mansour said, he has also seen a slight uptick in customer retention — a boon, considering his business has seen a slump in recent months.

"That Hess down the street is a superstore. It wipes me down. But people might come the extra half mile or so to get the more personal service — or just to see the dog, he said.

"In a dog-eat-dog world, when our economy sucks and business is hard, you've got to find a way to stand out."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Alien Life on Earth

Click here to view a neat slideshow of some cool and creepy deep sea creatures.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Follow your nose to the Rhinos

Dogs to sniff out the state of Vietnam's critically endangered rhinos

Posted on 20 November 2009
Simon Mahood, member of the WWF rhino project in Vietnam, with dog 'Chevy', who is trained  to detect dung of the rare Javan rhino in the forests of Vietnam.
Simon Mahood, member of the WWF rhino project in Vietnam, with dog 'Chevy', who is trained to detect dung of the rare Javan rhino in the forests of Vietnam.

Vietnam – Highly trained detection dogs are being used help to determine the population status of the Javan rhino in Vietnam, in an attempt to save one of the world’s rarest mammals from extinction.

WWF researchers have teamed up with national park rangers using two detection dogs from the United States to determine the population status of the Javan rhinos in the forests of southern Vietnam, home to one of the world’s last two remaining populations of the species.

Javan rhino (rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) were thought to be extinct on mainland Southeast Asia until hunters in Vietnam killed an individual in 1988. It is believed less than ten remain, but no conclusive survey has ever been conducted to verify this.

“The Javan rhino is possibly the rarest large mammal on Earth,” said Sarah Brook, leader of the WWF rhino project in Vietnam. “This field survey aims to reveal the secrets of Vietnam’s little known Javan rhino population in an effort to save it from extinction.”

Samples of the dung will be sent to Queen’s University in Canada where DNA analysis will detect the sex and number of animals. The Zoological Society of London will carry out a hormone analysis to show the animal’s breeding capability.

After just five days of surveying the area, seven rhino dung samples have been found. These specimens have given the project team confidence that they will be able to gather all the necessary scientific information. The results of these analyses will used to formulate an urgent rhino conservation plan.

“The rhino is not only a rare animal unique to this country, but protecting the rhino is a flagship for conservation efforts in Vietnam,” said Hien Tran Minh, Country Director for WWF Vietnam. “If we lose the rhino the future does not look good for Vietnam’s other rare and endemic species.”

The Javan rhino is a highly valued commodity in the illegal wildlife trade, with the rhino horn, skin and faeces used for medicinal purposes. Habitat encroachment from agricultural expansion and planned hydropower development also pose increasing threats to this small population.

To improve protection for rhinos and other wildlife threatened by poachers, WWF in collaboration with the Asian Rhino project is supporting local communities to join the Forest Protection Department and national parks staff.

‘Rhinomania’, a blog written by the WWF team, will keep the public up to date on the rhino survey as well as on life in the national park.  Article

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cloudy with a chance of Pandas

San Diego's newest Panda cub has been named "Yun Zi" which means "son of cloud." Makes sense given that the cub's mom is Bai Yun which means "white cloud." Article here with video

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Also Available in Hardcover

This little guy was helping his owner, the owner of Murder By the Book in Houston, as she was stocking shelves.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans and their dogs!

Thanks to my brother for sending these on. What fun! Doesn't it make all of you cat people want to get a dog? ;)

First of all, some Yorkies going what we very technically call "cracker dog" when their soldier gets home from a month long training stint:

And here are some Beagles, making some of the most awful happy noises you have ever heard:

And here is a Golden mix who is doing her best to melt into her soldier:

And, lastly, some Dachshunds going nuts:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Breeder's Cup Classic

For those of you who may have missed the Breeder's Cup Classic yesterday, here it is. What an amazing race!

Make sure to watch Zenyata, the undefeated mare who was going to run in this final race of her career against a tough field. She is in the 4 post hole with the yellow blanket and 2 white stockings on her back legs.

Horse of the Year!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Behold the Puggle!

We all know that baby animals are invariably cute. Well, not this one...... This is a puggle, the term used for a baby echidna. Echidna are one of the most odd and interesting creatures out there. Here are some more pictures!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

'Ware the fermented apples!

A hedgehog in England was found to be severely inebriated after gorged itself on fermented apples. Read more about it at this link. I'm not sure what the best part of the story is: that the hedgehog is going to be fine, or that they have a veterinary hospital specifically for hedgehogs called "The Prickly Ball Hedgehog Hospital." That is great!