18 October 2007

Picking on other people's blogs

One of the Blogs of the Month is a delightful blog called "Bonobo Handshake". It is an Australian woman working with Bonobo's in the Congo. The blog is lovely, the Bonobos so really cute and funny. It is a life's work worth supporting and following.

That these people are doing a great job with animals that are or may be soon endangered is not in doubt. Their love for the animals is obvious. Their training and intelligence will most likely save these animals from extinction, all of which is to be mightily applauded.


These are animals, not proto-humans. No matter how close their genetic make-up is to humans, no matter what they do like using tools and having sex for no real reason other than the pleasure of it. If the were proto-humans they would not be bonobos. The would have "evolved" into humans not bonobos. Whatever they do, while smart, will not develop into humankind. No matter how hard we wish for it. Not even in several million years.

Using human anologies for their care may not be the best thing for them, either.

Still, I am not a scientist, so what would I know?

07 October 2007

Animal uses in Organic Systems

I have been gardening lately. We use a bit of Permaculture, some Bio-dynamics and potter with what we like. We have 6 and 1/2 acres here, which was not cared for all that much prior to our moving here, although you can see at some stage someone started to make some lovely gardens.

I don't use chemicals at all on my gardens, with the proviso that the manure that comes from the horse, probably has some chemicals. This is because the grains used to form her feedstuffs were probably sprayed at some stage. But we don't add to this.

We have added tons of manure to our gardens, we had two horses here for over three years, and even now, her ladyship has about six to nine per day. I will not go into the digestive processes of horses here.

Now there are some advocates within the organics "movement" who do not feel that companion animals and horses are useful animals. Okay you mostly do not eat your cats and dogs, nor do we traditionally eat horses. In many places in the world they do, and with relish.

However, I think these animals are as useful as any dual purpose cow or chicken any day. I do not feel cows nor chickens are very useful as watch animals yet cats, dogs and horses are excellent early warning systems. They have exceptional hearing and sense of smell. They also have quite obvious body languages if you care to take the time to learn these for your particular animals.

Horse manure in the quantities even one horse produces it in is a valuable organic resource. Horses are also capable of providing traction - useful for larger scale organisations. Horses, being single hoofed animals are also very good for treading organic waste, such as pulled weeds, partially composted leaves etc, into the soil - both when it is wet and when it is dry.

I guess this would be also applicable to donkeys.

Horses also reproduce themselves and can provide milk if required. Their milk is quite sweet although not as nourishing to humans as cows milk is. Tartars make it into yoghurt, cheese and ferment it as well.

I am also of the opinion that dog, cat and horse fur (hair) can be used in weaving and felted cloth. All animals develop a thick warm winter coat of considerable length and as it sheds can be collected and incorporated into threads. Main and tail hair is quite strong and can be used to enhance rope fibres and some other uses that nylon can be put to.

Cats and smaller dogs are excellent mousers. They can also be encouraged to eliminate feral birds, for example, sparrows. If you go to all the trouble to grow food and then put it buy, you do not want your storage area raided by foraging rodents. Mouse traps are not all that useful with large numbers of mice. The smaller and medium dogs can be effective rabbit hunters. You can either use the rabbit bodies for feed - yourself or your animals - or dispose of the corpses. Rabbits are not a welcome animal anywhere because of the environmental damage they do. Most dogs love to hunt.

Dogs of any size can be effective deterrents for intruders. They do not necessarily have to attack people, but appearing quite ferocious can be very helpful. A really determined bad person isn't going to let a dog of any kind impede whatever bad they are going to do, but a novice or nuisance person can be deterred by a ferocious appearing dog.

Dogs are also useful for getting their owners out doing exercise.

So people who do not think these types of animals have a place in organic systems really should think again about their usefulness. Just because we choose not to eat them as well.

Chances are.....interesting

25 August 2007

A dose of the 'Flu

I have not written for quite a while because I like to have some serious thoughts on a matter before writing it here. I need to have some time to do that, and time is at a premium for me at the moment.

But the issue of influenza has raised its head, and some of the devastating effects that it is having. There is a human version that has killed eight people that I am aware of, and there is the horse kind that is impacting Thoroughbred breeding and now maybe even the races.

My first thought when I heard of children in Australia dying of influenza is that there was something a little wrong. This strain of the 'flu must be of a much different type to usual. But no, it is a variation on the influenza virus.

Now to my knowledge, influenza is curable. There is a product out that you take for about three days and it is gone. It is an Australian invention and is available here through doctors and pharmacies. So I really would like to know why people in Australia are dying of influenza? It really does not make any sense whatsoever.

Then there are the horses in Quarantine. They are shuttle stallions. They have come from overseas. Equine influenza was not known in Australia. Our horses have been spared this horrible disease. I don't think the cure available for humans is adapted to horses, although if my mare caught it, I would certainly try to use it on her. She does not need to be sick.

I know it only lasts for about 10 day, but it considerably weakens the animal for quite a while afterwards. The shuttle stallions who have it will still be required to meet their breeding commitments once they leave quarantine. Being Thoroughbreds, they are required to breed naturally. Therefore I have to wonder if this is going to shorten their lives in any way. I know all care is given to these magnificent animals but as so often happens to them, the financial value of their breeding capabilities far outweighs their actual physical and psychological value.

It also seems to me rather nasty that the people who benefit from these stallions and their breeding are not putting some of the money those horses are bringing in to them into more veterinary research into diseases like this. It is their own industry they are allowing to be devastated. An industry which brings in billions of dollars and employs thousands of people. The people can at least do something about poor working conditions, the horses cannot.

It seems to me also, that there is much stupidity in the husbandry of animals these day. Birds are killed if they have bird 'flu, even though it doesn't kill the birds and is not interspecies transferrable. Sheep and cows are killed if they have foot and mouth disease, even though there is a vaccine against it. The disease, likewise, does not kill the animal nor is it interspecies transferrable. So what is the mad need to slaughter all these creatures so needlessly? Is it just the inconvenience? Greed and stupidity is what it is. What is the difficulty in vaccinating sheep and cows against foot and mouth disease?

Certainly mad cow disease (BSE) should be eliminated in this way, but surely a humane method could be found to put the animals down. What is the difficulty there? Just poor and stupid husbandry methods. It is about time Departments of Agriculture, particularly in Western countries, realised that death and destruction in these manners is not going to solve the problem, but more humane and caring methods of husbandry are. I am not advocating against quarantines, or any such thing, but I am advocating to someone using their brains.

Alien thoughts, I know ...

25 May 2007

Animal Rights -vs- Animal Welfare

I have been looking at animal rights issues for quite a few years now, and I have come to the conclusion that people who want to give animals rights are either very naive or do not have much real contact with animals.

Animals have been an interest of mine all of my life and I have an obsession with horses. I have spent over seven years with the mare I currently have and I spent four years with her son from choosing his sire and going through the pregnancy with the mare and his birth. I have had numerous cats and a few dogs. We currently have a koala living in a tree above our house. We do not interact very much with the koala. I do not consider myself an expert by any means, rather a student of animals. They have such a wonderful and varied life that I find them endlessly fascinating.

I have read much about other animals, including chimpanzees, gorillas, dolphins and other "intelligent" species. I have looked up information on the internet and read articles from various journals as well. I feel I am fairly well informed about other animals than the ones in my life.

No matter what any "scientist" says, I truly believe animals form "bonds" with the people they live with. My horses were born in domestication and accept humans as being part of their herd. My mare watches over my grandsons as though she was an aunt to them. She worries when they play roughly and I have seen her attempt to interfer in their games when they have become violent with each other. She can come and go as she pleases, and her first preference is to stand at our back door with her head in the house watching what we are doing and looking around. Part of it is curiousity at human activity, part of it is a desire for company, but there is something more to it, because if the door is closed, she will attempt to open it.

She likes it when we brush her and fuss over her mane as much as we fuss over our own hair. The way I can tell she enjoys it is that her bottom lip drops down, very similarly to when her son used to groom her with his teeth. She makes what we have learnt are "friendly" noises at us and very much tries to interact with us. She gets no other reward than these interactions.
She has other body language that she knows we react to that she uses to "communicate" with us.

As I said, she is free to come and go as she pleases. She could quite easilyt "go bush" as we live next door to a large tract of bushland. There is water there in a creek, and plenty of foodstuff that horses like, so it is not as though she is "forced" to live with us. She chooses to do this. She knows it is all there. She is actually quite concerned about going there. Admittedly there are native animals there that she is not sure about.

But once, when I tried to put my hand near her udder, she kicked me. It hurt and I was quite upset by this, but I never hit her or did anything else to repay her for doing this. I walked away. I knew that she did not want me to touch her in that area of her body. I did not read other body language I know now she would have been giving off before she resorted to kick me. She did not see what she had done was "wrong". The only perception that I had of it being "wrong" was that she kicked me. But she is a horse and that is what horses do when another horse does something to them that they don't want to happen to them. That is her understanding. She is a horse and always will be. I relate to her as an animal, not as a furry fourlegged human. She is an entity in her own right, I believe she has a level of self awareness from various interactions I have had with her. But she is a horse and always will be.

If I was interacting with any other animal, I would also learn to read its body language and the other noises that those animals make to interact with me. It is just what a considerate interactor does. But no matter what animal I interact with, I am aware that it can not be anything else than what it is. It can only act within the ways that it is born to act in. It is not a behaviour or instinct, per se, because human interaction always seems to bring changes to an animal.

For example, I have noticed that horses that are bonded to humans as little foals, are usually smarter than horses that have not bonded with humans, and much smarter than horses that have had any sort of human interaction. There is something that occurs that makes these horses smarter than their other counterparts. Maybe because they are less fearful and more curious. My mare's family has been recorded as domesticated for over 20 generations. That is how far her pedigree traces back. There would be no way of knowing how long the family was domesticated before that.

The people who advocate animal rights really do not understand the concept of what an animal really is. But the first thing is that it is NOT a furry, four legged human of some sort. They are individual entities, but not human. They do not have a concept of "right" or "wrong", they can have a concept of not doing what they are not supposed to do. But that is a human boundary put onto them. If an animal kills another animal it is what the animal is supposed to do. Whether the other animal is a human is not a consideration to the animal at the time of the killing. The animal has no concept of differential of species as we do. It is just a difference from them. I.e. to a horse another creature is just a non horse. They don't even think in terms of words or labels as we do. To assign them "rights" as humans understand "rights" is not realistic. The animal/s concerned just would not understand. To be able to have a "right" the animal must understand the concepts of "right" and "wrong" and they just do not have this concept. Even higher primates really do not understand this concept, although I believe they could probably be taught the concept. However, that would entail training ALL that species or it would be lost on the ones that are not taught. That is not realistic either. It is changing the animals from what they are to what we want them to be. That makes the concept artificial and not really worth considering them as animals. But as what would they then be considered?
Furthermore, there are then the consequences to be considered if a so trained animal does "wrong". How do you explain this to an animal? It is not an animal's way of doing things and interacting with other members of its group, it is an artificial imposition, imposed by humans. It isn't something animals would even choose for themselves, were they capable of understanding.

My mare would not want to go away from us because to her, we are members of her herd. I could not even sell this mare, even though because she is a Thoroughbred and one of her foals won races and has made her valuable. In consideration of her, I would not do this. She would not understand, she would be upset and very distressed. She had bonded with her son so that even though he no longer drank milk from her, they were companions. She was very upset and distressed when he died. Where would she go? This has been her home for so long.

Domesticated animals would not be able to fend for themselves in the wild. It is because interaction with people, even from a distance changes them. They get fed, they get water, they get treatment if they are sick or hurt. Or they get euthanased. They are not left to suffer as they would in the wild. It isn't so much that they "expect" this, it just is.

There are those who object to eating animals. That is their choice. But what else would those animals do? In a few years a good many of them would be extinct. Is that what is really wanted? Mass extinctions.

It sure bears thinking about. It sure bears talking about.

22 May 2007

Debating the Issues

It never ceases to appall me the inability of people to have a rational debate without resorting to name calling and personal attacks. I had always thought that the idea of debate was to discuss issues, not people. We try to make it a free world, which means not everyone has an obligations to see things from your point of view.

I think this is especially important for people who claim the status of being an "expert" in any given field, whether it is science, religion, philosophy, politics or whatever. If you take it upon yourself to take a particular stance for or against something, then take it with the level of professionalism that you chosen area deserves.

If, for example, you are a scientist debating a creationist, then you make yourself and your "science" look incredibly pathetic in calling the creationist names, and belittling the person. You may be right, but on the other hand, since we are striving for a free world, they have the right not to agree with you. This is true whether you like it or not. Whether you regard that person as stupid, ignorant or whatever, it is not up to you to take it upon yourself to pass judgement by name calling and belittling. It doesn't help your cause, and usually alienates those outside of the discussion who are "listening in".

If you sincerely feel that you cannot debate issues without personal attacks etc., then you would be best not to get into the debate in the first place, no matter how many good points you believe you can make. Maybe do this, start a blog. But still do it without naming individuals or personal attacks.

21 May 2007

Psyco-twaddle, the "Zone" and other ways to filch money

Are we really this gullible?

I read on the internet every day, I have items turn up in the mail, I hear people talking about it all the time. Motivation, self improvement, self help, improve your brainpower, improve your health, and live longer! But first you have to pay a big sum of money to learn the secrets.

Back in the 1980's I was in Amway, I was encouraged to buy a tape of the week and a book of the month. These were motivational material "designed" to help me "grow" my business. What they were really helping to grow were the bank accounts of the people who put them out and distributed them. I will not go into Amway bashing here, it isn't the purpose of this post. I will discuss Multi Level Marketing in another post on another day.

I would listen to these tapes, read their books and I went to a few seminars and meetings. I talked to anyone who would listen, and many people who wouldn't listen. I was not really a successful distributor. In their language I was a "loser" and a "quitter". Tough for me.

I have tapes from other organisations, including a set from Earl Nightingale. I will say Earl Nightingales tapes were not bad, they weren't trying to drum you into doing stuff that was hard and there were some good, meaningful stories on the tapes. I still have these, although I doubt if they work anymore. I didn't enjoy them enough to update to CD's.

Some of the other stuff I have is crap. One set of six tapes takes three double sided tapes just to get to the point of explaining what "the zone" is and how to get to it. I have to say I was quite disappointed to learn this. When you part with good money and believe that you have actually got something that is worthwhile, only to discover it isn't really all that worth while. Back then it cost me about $AU100. It was a pretty big sum for me then to part with all at once. I thought I had just over reacted, but listening to the tapes a couple more times left my first feelings only reinforced. I purchased quite a few books as well.

The authors have made a wad load of money from their books, and maybe they sincerely believe what they write will make a difference. But to find the same standard formulas over and over, with nothing all that original offered is pretty disappointing.

Lately I have been bombarded with another offer, this time over $600, to learn the same stuff.
I have had testimonies from users about how it has changed their lives, I have had page after page explaining to me why it is a good deal to put out this much money to buy these CD's. Okay, I admit it was my own fault, I enquired. They even offered to sell me some "damaged" CD's for a cheaper price. Look, guys, it is a pretty decent offer, but it isn't new and it isn't original. You are only recycling the same old twaddle you just want more money for it. Good luck if you suck in other fools, you are not sucking me in.

And if that is all the Lama's from Tibet can offer you, you aren't trying hard enough.

Next time you are made an offer that is so good, just remember this little rant and thank them kindly for thinking of you and don't part with your hard earned money. There are better deals out there.

19 May 2007

It is the 19 th of May 2007

My alien thoughts for today are that there is alot of confusion in the world.

I read all the time, books, the internet, downloads, magazines and newspapers, anything that is printed. Reading teaches me things, and as time goes by, I form opinions and gather ideas. When I gather ideas, I like to share them. My ideas are probably not particularly original, but they are mine. So I guess these pages are to be a sharing of my ideas and opinions.

Religion is something we either discuss to overkill or pretend there isn't anything there. We deem ourselves as believers or not. There are so many different ideas about religion, which is the right one, which group within the religion is the truest and we even think that perhaps we have found something special just for us. And this is true even if we claim not to have any religious leanings at all. In ourselves, we know we are right.

But an intelligent person will always ask questions - why is this so? Sometimes we get an answer, often we do not, but the questionee may not be prepared to admit that. So our search continues. I would like to narrow this idea down a little. I will tell you what I think about things and see if it helps you or see if your opinion is sufficient enough that you would discuss it. Talk about it. Even if you believe that in every fibre of your body I am wrong, talk about it. Because in talking about it, you are thinking about it, and in thinking about it you are forming your own ideas and opinions and therefore working towards whatever spiritual quest you are seeking.

So my first blog is going to be about Christianity, Aliens and UFO's.

Aliens are probably one of my favourite things. My most favourite, of course, is my horses, but when I am not with them and thinking about my artworks (both topics of other blogs), I like aliens. There are so many different kinds. However, I will make this caveat. I do not believe in aliens per se. I do not think they exist, or at least not in the forms we usually imagine thanks to Science Fiction writers and Hollywood. But the imagination these days is permeated with various kinds of aliens, from the wacky population in MIB and MIIB (yeah, Wil Smith), the sombre ones from Star Trek (I have a soft spot for Cardassians) and Star Wars (yeah Yoda), and of course, who did not love ET? My gosh was that little fellow not just the cutest thing? Those are only Hollywood aliens.

They shape our imagination, get us stretching. But usually they have pretty humanised natures and a good many of them are "humanoid" in shape and looks.

Then there are the aliens of the conspiracy theories. The Greys. The goodies and the baddies. There is one conspiracy theory that goes along the lines of the leaders of the free and not so free world being shape shifting reptiles. My gosh, what an imagination. The conspiracy theories have been great fund raisers for their originators and copiers. I think there is nothing like a good conspiracy theory to fire up the imagination.

But pretty well all of them are pretty human natured as well. There isn't anything really grossly alien about them. None of this "It's life, Jim, but not as we know it", stuff, not really. Anything too alien would be too creepy.

What about the Aliens from the "Alien" movies. Yuk, big ugly things that they were, or the ones poor old Riddick had to fight off in "Pitch Black". Those are good baddies. Nothing like a decent baddie, hey?

I go from the Science Fiction genre to science itself. The Search for Extra Terrestial Intelligence. (aka SETI). Wow, these people are true believers. Not only that, apparently you can let them use your computer down time in the search too. I don't know if that is still current, but what an idea. Helping these good scientists further the cause of mankind.

But alas, I do not think aliens are really going to come here. We are a bit of a back water in the galaxy (Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) and I seriously doubt we would be all that interesting to a life form that was capable of travelling the galaxy it a hotted up rocketship. There are just so many more things out there: the Crab nebula, all those new and baby star systems, what about the stars going supernova? What is here that is even slightly comparable to those things? We haven't even got "warp capability". We don't look like we are about to get it any time soon, either.

Oh, yes, I was bought up believing that by now we would be traversing the stars like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon et al. I went into every competition to win a trip to the moon, to Mars to the next galaxy and what have we here? If I make an extreme fortune, maybe, just maybe I could get Richard Branson to let me go up in his rocket to the edge of the atmosphere. I could go to the Shuttle place in the USA and get a simulator ride in a fake shuttle. Wow.

Talk about a big disappointment. I mean really big.

So I think it is a moot point when people want to know if the sacrifice of Jesus would or wouldn't count for aliens on other planets. I think this, because seriously, dudes, I don't reckon there are any inhabited or inhabitable planets out there.

I know the arguments that they are discovering planets all the time, but face it, what are the odds? The right distance from a "friendly" "M" class Sun, the right size, a moon to create tides, a convenient comet from within this solar system to crash and start life (this is what some people believe started life on earth). Or a convenient rock from Mars with the right bacteria that wasn't killed in the vacuum of space nor fried on the way down through the atmosphere - oh that's right, the bacteria conveniently created the atmosphere, by breathing. Well, even that is pretty much a long way from happening, too. There are those who say that the moon itself was created by some impact that flung the land from the Pacific Basin "out there", mind you, just the right distance.

And I thought the creators of aliens had good imaginations!

The exact conditions for the creation of life. I have faced up to the fact that the most you are likely to find on other planets might be some sort of beetle. Cockroaches, lady bugs, that sort of thing. I don't see them evolving into much. Look at the beetle life on earth. There are far more beetles than there are people, and there are subspecies of beetles as well. If there were to be conditions suitable for any type of life, that would probably be about it. Beetles.

There is of course a whole genre of SF writers out there who agree with me, and therefore, have mankind populating the planets. They use Terraforming. Rather like their speeded up cloning. They terraform the planets, put down colonies of settlers and then write about the heroic adventures either of the transporter troups (yeah, fun job that is) or they write about the settlers (wow, pioneers!). Who is going to volunteer to be a settler on an alien world? Once you have travelled in space, you are not going to want to settle down and be a sturdy settler, you are going to want to keep travelling in space and want to find out more about what is out there. Adventures abound! Settler mentality is not a reality. Hmmm. That sounds almost like a slogan.

I will discuss my thoughts on Intelligent design and creation and evolution in another blog.

I just think that realistically, there are no aliens, fun and all as they might be. If there is life on other planets, it is not something as developed as we are. We cannot even begin to imagine the resources required to make such a long, arduous trek across the galaxy just to sit and watch and play games with humanity.

But just in case, I will remind you that Jesus said, "I am the truth, the light and the way. No one comes to the Father, but by me". So I think those are the final words for this day.