Giving déjà vu a second look

I could swear I've seen this study somewhere before ...

Psychologists from Leeds' memory group are working with sufferers of chronic déjà vu on the world's first study of the condition.

(link) [EurekAlert! - Breaking News]

00:00 /Humor | 0 comments | permanent link

Unusual January Weather

It's almost official: central Indiana has had the warmest January since record keeping began. I found NOAA's statement here, but have reproduced it below, as I doubt it'll be available on the 'Net for any length of time:

1040 PM EST SAT JAN 28 2006





Not only has it been exceptionally warm, it's also been very, very wet as well. I can't recall the last day without at least a shower or a mist. We've had several rounds of thunderstorms, too. I'm afraid it's going to fool the plants if it keep up much longer - and that would be a bad thing to have the grasses start a growth spurt only to get clobbered by a below zero snap in late February.

00:00 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link

Don't drink to this latest cancer finding

Here we go again ... anybody want to take a bet on the likelihood of a total advertising ban for booze by mid-century?

Along with smoking and chronic infections, alcohol consumption is an important cause of several types of cancer, researchers said on Monday.

(link) []

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Seeing Fakes, Angry Traders Confront EBay

It seems to me that these complainers have a point. The closest physical analogy to eBay is what we call in Indiana an "antiques mall" or "flea market". This is a larger building, leased by a service company and subdivided into booth space, which is then rented to various small vendors. If a vendor is selling knockoffs, and buyers complain to the market management, the vendor usually finds himself in the parking lot in short order. It's considered to be accessory to fraud if the market manager or auctioneer knowingly allows the sale of items he suspects may be fraudulent - and complaints from customers certainly have the effect of passing knowledge!

Of course, in eBay's case, it's a lot harder for market managers to inspect the goods themselves - but does the mere difficulty of this (which is built into their business model) exempt them from laws and regulations that apply to similar institutions in the "brick and mortar" world?

The heart of eBay's business model is being challenged by users who have discovered knockoff products being sold on the site.

(link) [New York Times]

00:00 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

Is democracy empowering Islamists?

Has anyone else noticed the hypocrisy in all of the hand wringing and gnashing of teeth over the recent Hamas victory in Palestinian elections? By all accounts the elections were both free and fair, and the avowed goal of the Bush Administration is to spread democracy.

We've apparently achieved that goal in the territory of the Palestinian Authority. But the bad guys won! So we must cut off support immediately - never mind that the choice was between two opposing factions of suicide-bombing militants, with one being slightly more corrupt than the other.

In a democracy you always have the chance for the people to choose the "wrong" side. Do we forget that Nazis won elections in Weimar Germany? Democracy in and of itself is no panacea, especially in areas and cultures with no experience of it, and whose historical background includes no tradition of democratic action at all.

Here's a prediction: Afghanistan will do better than Iraq (or other areas of the Arab world) in this respect because at least the Afghans have the institution of the Loya Jirga, or Grand Council, which seems similar in structure to the witan that served the Anglo-Saxons kings of England and eventually evolved/morphed into Parliament. The Arab world has no such traditions. And if free and fair elections were to be held today in most Arab countries the Islamists would win handily.

The Palestinian vote was a win for democracy - but also for a radical group the US rejects.

(link) [Christian Science Monitor | Top Stories]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

As offshoring evolves, Indian firms even hire Americans

A good overview of the outsourcing morass: note that the ideal American candidate being hired by these Indian companies "has an undergrad degree in engineering and computer science and an M.B.A."

Note also that:

"They are certainly trying to move up the chain," says Ron Hira, a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology and coauthor of Outsourcing America. "Higher-level consulting services are very relationship based, so it makes sense that they're hiring more Americans."

They're not hiring American workers, they're hiring American salesmen.

It doesn't take an economics degree to conclude that one of the main U.S. exports of the 21st century is likely to be jobs. And by many accounts, India is at the head of the receiving line. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates recently announced that the software giant will nearly double its workforce in India, to 7,000, and invest $1.7 billion there. IBM has added at least 10,000 Indian workers this year and could employ more than 50,000 Indians by the end of 2006. Accenture, EDS, and other consulting firms are following close behind. By 2015, 3.3 million jobs will have been sent overseas, according to Forrester Research. As the offshoring trend matures, U.S. firms will contract out increasing amounts of white-collar work like accounting, drug research, technical R&D, and even cartoon animation.

(link) [U.S. News & World Report]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Religious Groups Get Chunk of AIDS Money

It just warms my heathen heart to know that my tax dollars are being sent to groups like this, some run by folks who've never had sex, to treat a sexually transmitted disease.

If you're still looking for proof that "government" is just another way to say "thieves and idiots", look no further.

AP - President Bush's $15 billion effort to fight AIDS has handed out nearly a quarter of its grants to religious groups, and aggressively is pursuing new church partners that often emphasize disease prevention through abstinence and fidelity over condom use.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

NAIS Featured on Radio Show

From Sugar Mountain Farm comes this news about a radio show today from MetroFarm covering NAIS. See the links for all the details.

Coincidentally (or not) I was talking about this very topic yesterday with Miller's Meats out in Waynetown, Indiana, when I picked up some beef for delivery. And he asked the same question that Walter asks: Cui bono? And came up the pretty much the same answer: the taxing authorities, who are bound and determined to clamp down on unreported meat sales. He knew it had nothing whatsoever to do with food safety or animal health issues. And I must say it was reasonably encouraging to find another local farmer who actually gets it.

00:00 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Bush to Propose Trimming Army Reserve

Is our President nuts? Has he not read the reports of understaffing in the Armed Forces? Or is this just a ploy, since it reduces authorized levels to current levels, to make it look like we're meeting recruiting goals?

We've got Iran and North Korea rattling nuclear sabers - now it not the time to cut back on troop strength or weapons research!

AP - President Bush will use his new budget to propose cutting the size of the Army Reserve to its lowest level in three decades and stripping up to $4 billion from two fighter aircraft programs.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Pharmacists Sue Over Birth Control Policy

Let me see if I understand this as a generic principle of law. Suppose that I hire a new employee for a farm store, and that employee happens to have deep moral and religious convictions against homosexuality. And when an obviously gay couple (say, two guys, holding hands) come into the store and and try to purchase eggs, this employee refuses to serve them, citing his religious convictions against keeping perverts alive.

And I can't fire him?

What about a liberal department store employee who refuses to sell guns? Is every silly peccadillo of every American to be suffered and tolerated in the name of "conscience"?

If these pharmacists are allowed to get away with this, will it not lead to outright discrimination against Catholic pharmacists? If I were the manager of a Walgreens hiring more help under this scenario, which potential employee would I be more likely to choose: one with an "I'm Pro-Life and I Vote" bumper sticker or one with a sign that says "Tree-Hugging Dirt Worshipper"?

Laws requiring stores to sell certain products are just as onerous - should all news stands be required to carry Hustler? Should any farm dealing with livestock be forced to sell guns?

Next time I hear some conservative commentator rant about how liberals are destroying American small business I think I'm gonna gag. For while many liberals do indeed seem to be hell-bent on choking the life out of us little guys, they've got plenty of help from the right. Government, of any stripe, is the problem, not the solution. And government is coming at us from left and right. The rallying cry of small businesses should be, as it has classically been, "Laissez-faire!" - Leave Us Alone!

AP - Four pharmacists who refused to sign a pledge promising to dispense the morning-after birth-control pill sued Walgreen drug stores Friday, alleging they were illegally fired.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

00:00 /Politics | 1 comment | permanent link

Mexican migrants to get US maps

I'm only surprised that a bus ticket doesn't come along with the package ...

Mexicans wanting to cross illegally into the US will be able to get maps showing roads and water tanks.

(link) [BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

In Africa, Islam and Christianity are growing - and blending

I find this rather concerning - should the two great monotheist faiths manage to join forces (by blending theologies) the sheer size of the resultant mass would be sure to spell trouble for heathens, pagans, atheists, freethinkers and dare I say it, remaining orthodox Christians and Muslims. It could be "Inquisition Meets Jihad" - and if that doesn't scare you, you've been living under a rock for the last six years.

Whether this overlap will spread or remain uniquely African is still up for debate.

(link) [Christian Science Monitor | Top Stories]

00:00 /Asatru | 4 comments | permanent link

The Demise of the Milkman

Milk ManThe milkman returned for almost a year - but he's gone back to the Fifties now. Hammerstead Farms is discontinuing our dairy home delivery service. I'm afraid that any action I take to try and alleviate the current situation and continue our operations would merely prolong the agony - and I hate long goodbyes.

There are a couple of reasons behind this, although the most immediate problem is one of supply. When I arrived at the dairy for my pickup last Tuesday, there was no whole milk. The week before that there was no strawberry yogurt and precious little chocolate milk.

As a result, the route has been running at a serious loss for the past three weeks - and this week was a near total loss. Whole Creamline milk makes up the bulk of my sales - and nearly everyone who gets other dairy products also gets at least one milk, so there was little point in spending the gas to run the route.

I don't have a cold room for long term milk storage on the farm - all I have is a small powered cooler, which is mostly used to hold eggs. I had one bottle of whole milk and two plain yogurts in stock from last weeks pickup, and the milk had been delivered to a local customer near Jamestown on Monday evening. I went ahead and delivered the two yogurts to my customer who lived very close to the dairy in Indianapolis, and headed for home, delivering eggs only in Lebanon along the way.

Trader's Point Creamery is growing by leaps and bounds - so much so that they can't really keep up with demand. A store could always say "Well, if you don't have any milk today, just redeliver tomorrow when you've got some." I can't do that. It's very difficult for me to arrange my schedule to accommodate their production: I can't call and reschedule my deliveries every week, nor could I ask you to just leave a cooler and a check on your porch every day in the (sometimes vain) expectation that product would magically appear sometime during the week.

The other reason is a business classic: rising costs and declining sales. My weekly route sales have dropped by nearly a third since September. Coincidentally (or not) that happened to be the same time when energy costs went through the roof, and gas briefly hit $3/gal.

I tried to cover that with the fuel surcharge, and while it helped, the number of customers dropping delivery because of it (or their own increased energy costs) was high. I stopped my east side route when the number of customers dropped below 5.

Of the customers that remained, many cut back on their orders - again, and this is just conjecture, I suspect it had a lot to do with being able to afford both top quality (and expensive) milk and gasoline to get to work to be able to buy any food at all. "Let's see here, do I want a quart of milk for $3 or a gallon of gas? Let me think ..."

I was encountering the increased energy costs myself: as mentioned previously, my propane bill has skyrocketed this winter, as has electricity. And it goes down the line: I supplement my free range layers in the winter with bagged feed. That price has gone up over a dollar a bag since September. And of course the dairy was encountering increased energy costs and passing them on as well, necessitating the recent price increase.

Bottom line: a business exists only to serve product to it's customers, and when it doesn't have enough product or enough customers to turn a profit, it goes away. For us, in the case of the milk delivery service, it was some of both.

Our beef sales have been disappointing as well: I still have three quarters of the cow we slaughtered three weeks ago available. That's the first time in three years that I've still had beef after announcing it's availability. Previously I had sold out in less than a week. Based on that, I only have freezer space for two quarters, which means that I'll have to purchase another freezer. That was one costly cow!

Topping everything off, the USDA processing plant that we had used for our chickens has been closed. And while we could still process chickens ourselves, without the USDA sticker we're constrained by law to selling only 1000 of them in an one year - last year we did almost double that number. This coming year looks bad for broiler sales.

In short, it's been a grim winter. Decisions had to be made, and they were. We'll be continuing with egg delivery in Boone County - our original product in our original delivery area. I have control of the layers, and am not dependent on anyone else's production schedule to meet my needs. Since I'm not selling milk any longer, we can sell the reefer truck, which is a considerable capital cost, not to mention insurance and gasoline for it. I can deliver eggs out of coolers in the bed of my S10 just fine.

Our beef herd is going to decrease in size as well: I've already got two heifers and a steer sold as breeding stock (well, not the steer!), and we'll be going down to a maximum of three head as rapidly as we can get there. This will allow us to retain our self-sufficiency in meat and still have a single steer to sell every year.

We'll also be increasing the presence of our petting zoo and draft goats - we will be appearing at the Earth Day Celebration and Kewaukee Trail Dedication in Thorntown this year as a paid "gig", and hope to conclude a deal with Indy Parks and the local YMCA day camp program as well.

I'll pick up some more programming contracts, do a few web pages, get even more deeply involved with Odin Lives! radio. We'll survive - we always have. But it's still depressing ...

I just try to keep reminding myself that it could be worse, and that was pretty easy to do this morning. When I went out to open up the barns I found Yeti, now our only barn cat, asleep on Elmer's grave. It could be a lot worse.

00:00 /Home | 2 comments | permanent link

Tough Test

It may be in 'Humor' as an amusement, but this is an interesting (and tough) test. If you get correct answers for 19 or more of the 33 entries, you're a "genius". I got my 19, but damned if I could get to 20!

00:00 /Humor | 2 comments | permanent link

Coulter Jokes About Poisoning Justice

There is a famous exchange between Winston Churchill and Lady Astor (the first woman ever to sit in the House of Commons) when they were both staying at Blenheim Castle. They'd been at each other's throats all weekend (as well as in Parliament) when Lady Astor supposedly said, "Sir, if I were your wife I'd put poison in your coffee." To which Mr. Churchill replied, "Madam, if I were your husband I'd drink it."

'Nuff said.

AP - Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, speaking at a traditionally black college, joked that Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link