Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fish With Transparent Head?

I like the National Geographic website because they have such great photos - the photos of underwater ocean creatures are fascinating and I can't imagine anywhere else one could see as many cool creatures. The photography is great. This week they featured a fish with a transparent head that looks like something out of a science fiction or a Disney film! There are more photos of it here. And, here's a really, really cool looking hopping fish that is just cool to look at and would be totally mesmerizing to see in the ocean I'm sure! It's amazing how much diversity the ocean contains.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A New Horse Slaughterhouse?

Montana is looking to host a horse slaughterhouse. The last two in the U.S. were closed in 2007. Articles about it appear here and here. Slaughterhouses pose a number of problems - they are inherently inhumane, especially for horses, who have a lot of fear and a high flight drive. Stolen horses can be sold to slaughterhouses and killed before the owner can track them down. Meat from horse slaughterhouses is not something one should consume - often horses are fed dewormer or other medications which are not to be fed to animals intended for human consumption. There is no check at the kill house over ownership or what the horse ate.

While horse breeders complained when the slaughterhouses shut down, the good news is that breeding started to slow down. We don't actually need more horses - yet people keep creating them. In this market, hay prices are high and horses are being abandoned. Perhaps some will argue slaughter is more humane, but it's a gruesome end for the horse either way, one is just days of suffering vs. weeks or months. I don't mind seeing horse prices low - the market for horses will stabalize, it hasn't been long since the slaughterhouses closed and there are other forces in the economy at work right now. It would be nice to end up with an environment where people are more careful about breeding and more responsible about owning, rather than one where we return to the kill house as an "easy" answer.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Photos of Rare Cheetah Subspecies

I really enjoyed these photos of a rare and critically endangered cheetah subspecies. I will likely never ever see one of these in the wild, and it is neat to see the differences between this animal and the more common (though also endangered) cheetah I've seen in the wild. Check out the pics here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Big Day for the Chick

The chick that moved into my living room the week of Christmas is now a few days over two months old. I am not positive, but I'm pretty sure it's a girl. I named her "Hope" as I have been sincerely hoping she's a girl since she came! The mother hen, "Sylvie," has been a very good mother. The two of them have spent the last couple of months in a soft dog crate next to my dining room table, watched intently by the dogs and cats.

Since I am fairly sure it's a girl, pretty sure that the chick has enough feathers to stay warm now, the weather is getting a little more mild, and I think I have Sylvie's leg mites under control, I decided they could move outside today and start getting to know the other chickens. Sarah, the head of the pecking order, can be mean so they will be separated and getting to know each other across some chicken wire fencing for a couple of weeks. So, I divided the chicken coop into two parts. The existing four chickens have the coop, and access to the door to the pasture (where free ranging is allowed as much as I can manage). The new two have access to an old dog house type plywood box filled with wood shavings, and of course food and water. They have about two to three times as much floor space as they did in the crate, not counting their shelter box, which is probably about the same size as the crate was.

They both seemed excited to get to see the outdoors, although it was overcast rather than sunny today. They explored their new space and talked a lot. Hope seemed really interested in everything. The other chickens did a lot of looking and clucking across the fence when they came home to roost and saw the newcomers installed. I'm a tad worried about taking them from a normal inside temp of 65 to the outdoors (currently 50 and falling for the night down to an expected 38 degrees). But, hopefully they can adjust - they have a nice little shelter, and a lot of dry wood shavings to nestle in, and they will be out of the wind.

The division in the coop is movable and constructed out of an old shower curtain, some bags, an old ladder, some wood for a frame, and chicken wire. I'm hoping to leave it up for 2-3 weeks and start integrating the chickens gradually with some supervised free ranging. Sarah and Athena are both a bit dominant. I don't know how Sylvie will fit into the pecking order, but I am sure she'll defend Hope.

To celebrate the big day, all chickens got a special dinner: wheat bran, minced garlic, millet, and minced hot dogs. (They love the protein and it's not exactly bug season). They go nuts for this mix every time. Hope makes little happy sounds while she eats. Sylvie and Hope are both so used to having cats and dogs next to them that they let Pepper (the cat) sit right next to them (across the chain link) while they ate.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The End of Socks' Long Life

The Clinton's ex-cat, which they gave to Betty Currie on the way out of the White House, had cancer and finally reached a point where he had to get put down. Here is the article and a photo. I'm not clear why Chelsea got away with not taking care of the cat all it's life, and why Betty Currie ended up adopting the cat, but at least Socks wasn't shipped back to the shelter.

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Boise Restaurant: Tucanos

Tucanos Brazilian Grill recently opened in Boise. It's across from Lowe's (to the east) out by Edward's theaters. This is as far from vegan as you can get since the main thrust of a Brazilian restaurant is a wide variety of specially prepared meats on skewers served tableside. I happen to love Brazilian grills though, my all time favorite being Fogo de Chao. Since restaurants are dying off quickly, I wanted to give this one a try before it went away - having just this week realized that Chef Mortimer's new Franco Latino came and went before I even got to eat there.

So we were going out to celebrate this week and I decided to set aside the vegan thing for a day and indulge in meat, meat and more meat. The restaurant atmosphere was not great because the acoustics are awful. The decoration is nice, modern, sort of like a more colorful Cheesecake Factory in some ways, but the ceilings are high and there is a lot of noise and a lot of echo in the building. At times it was literally deafening because they were doing some kind of bongo drum beating and chanting. Whether this was related to birthday celebrations I could not tell but I know this: it was impossible to talk over, and loud enough to give one a headache. This makes it not a great place for dinner conversation, and can be a real problem when trying to hear the servers describe what they are offering on their skewers.

The salad bar is by far the best I have seen in Boise. It offers a wide array of salad fixings, cold salads, vegetables, and even a very decent array of other items like beans, rice, mashed potatoes, delicious little cheese puffs, and the cutest tiny dinner rolls you're likely to ever see. The salad bar also includes soups and fried bananas, along with an array of cold cuts and other items. It's like a huge buffet with fresh and interesting items, and overall it was good. Since you can buy the salad bar separately, if you wanted to eat here as a vegan or vegetarian with a meat loving friend, you could probably pull it off, though it would be hard to ensure anything was vegan without asking a lot of questions.

The meat course was interesting. The menu listed what types of meats and veggies would be coming around, but then they take the menus and you don't have a list so you don't really know what you may be missing. Wait staff comes around bringing you types of meats. The top sirloin and the tri-tip were excellent. I passed on chicken wings and chicken hearts - thinking of my small flock at home. The pork was good, prepared two ways. I skipped the spicy sausage. The whitefish was yucky. I skipped the pineapple in brown sugar and the grilled veggies never made it to our table though I saw them in passing. There were two "bacon wrapped" items but they were not good in that the bacon was just a strip of fat not crisped or browned and therefore, in my view, not edible. The wait staff was nice and they made an effort to keep things coming.

The desserts were interesting but only two were made on site and the others are pre-fab, never as good in my view as fresh. We tried a cheesecake which was not particularly good.

The place was very loud and packed, probably because it is new It is a fun place to try, not sorry I did, but not a good value if you don't eat red meat. If the atmosphere was better it would make a huge difference so maybe on a quieter night it would be great. Overall, interesting and if you like meat, worth a try. I will be interested to see how they do here in Boise long term.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Idaho Law Continues to Lag Behind the Times

Idaho remains one of only a few states (4 or 5) where there is no felony for animal cruelty. Yet another bill died in committee this year, despite exempting livestock. The cattle and dairy people are usually against any attempt to revise animal laws, but it is strange that even when expressly exempted, there is enough opposition to these laws that they don't get passed. In part I think it's an attitude. The majority of the Idaho legislature is Republican, religious, and do not view animals as family members but as things to be utilized - for food, sport, etc. While I don't think they endorse animal cruelty, they aren't willing to define it or penalize it either. Cock fighting is a huge problem in Idaho, particularly in hispanic communities, and yet goes virtually unchecked. While the Idaho Human Society is active in Ada County, there is no statewide agency that deals with animal welfare. Each year many animal crimes are not prosecuted, and of those that are, the penalties are not very severe. A new move is afoot to raise the maximum fines in Boise from $300 to $1000. Perhaps a tiny step is better than none, but I wish we could move much further forward. Many people who torture animals go on to abuse or even murder humans; if we took animal cruelty as a warning sign and seriously dealt with it, could we deter more violent behavior against humans? I would think even those who don't care about animals might see some merit in improving laws if the justification were human-based. It's sick to live in a place where someone can literally torture your pet and hardly suffer any consequence.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Vegan Valentine's Dinner

Last night I made chilled cherry soup, substituting plain coconut yogurt for the amaretto. I also made a beet, pear pistachio salad. Both dishes had a very vibrant red color. I also made chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon, which went great with a blueberry ketchup, and parsnip chips (also from Veganomicon). I bought two decorated cookies at the Co-op and some fresh bread. Costco had some great fresh flowers. Overall, it was a nice meal, and my first attempt at doing vegan holiday meals worth looking forward to. As a gift, I ordered vegan toffee from Allison's Gourmet - and it was excellent!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Koala Finds Relief

A koala gets aid from a worker fighting wildfires in Australia. This photo is from Cute Overload.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The $350 Pack of Gum

I left both dogs home this afternoon intending to be gone for an hour - but I ended up gone for three hours. When I came home, I found what was a nearly new package of gum, with Xylitol in it, had been consumed. I suspect Simon did it, but I couldn't risk that Callie did, so they both had to get treated. Xylitol can be toxic, even fatal.

My vet advised giving 1 T. of 3% hydrogen peroxide, which I did, to induce vomiting. The vomiting was inconclusive as neither dog barfed up gum. So, off to Westvet. Apple morphine induced more vomiting but yielded no results - no solids. It takes 2 hours to digest, so if they ate the gum early in my absence, then it would be too late to throw up. And so, they had some activated charcol. Which, I have to say, was very messy.

Now the deal is to watch them for 24 hours, as their blood sugar could crash. I am to watch for any weakness, lethargy, etc. and if it happens, give them some ligth Karo syrup if they are conscious and get them to Westvet. Also, will check a liver panel Weds. morning. And, we tested blood sugar but results are inconclusive - in the normal range but Callie was 99 and Simon 77. Both dogs seem fine, though they had a stressful evening. If they get through the next 24 hours without symptoms

Xylitol is in a lot of sugarless gums and also cough drops and other food items for humans. DO NOT let pets eat these. The gum was out for 10 days and Simon showed no interest - then all of a sudden, he downed it. Yay.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Abandoned Horses

There has been a problem lately with people abandoning their horses on public land. With the price of hay, some people can't afford to feed them. There are near daily ads on Craigslist trying to give away or sell horses for very little - and at the same time people seeking thousands of dollars per horse, as if there was no market fall in horse prices. Abandoning horses is certainly cruel, as they have no survival skill set at all, having been bred and raised in captivity. Contacting the Idaho Humane Society would be a better option, to arrange to re-home or humanely euthanize horses. For whatever reason, people don't seem to be asking for help. Best Friends animal society in Kanab, UT would also be able to offer help on sanctuaries or other resources available. Farm Sanctuary and many other animal rescue groups would try everything possible to rescue or rehome animals if given a chance. When aid agencies are contacted, while they can't save every animal, they have resources and fundraising abilities. Today's article in the local paper remarks that the horses found had their brands removed - which is truly disgusting and shows that their owners were only concerned about not getting caught, certainly not any welfare of the animals at all. Some local person came across the 15 dead horses and reported them - which is good - but what a sick scene that must have been! If I had enough land I would certainly be willing to accept animals with no questions asked to spare them these fates. It's hard to believe that anyone would undertake owning animals and then discard them, starve them, abandon or abuse them. In the face of all this animal abandonment, people continue to breed their animals, which is also shocking. The last thing we need right now is more to find homes for.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chick Update

My foster chick (who came with it's mom) is about 6 weeks old now and doing well in the soft dog crate in my living room. I am starting to have hope it's a girl but I can't tell yet. It does have a full set of black feathers now, like it's mom, Sylvie. Hopefully tail feathers, crowing and/or crown will tell me for sure in the next month so I know whether they can integrate with the existing flock or have to go back home to Kuna.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Restaurant Review: Piper Pub

The Piper Pub can be a popular downtown lunch restaurant, due to its convenient location downtown on 8th Street in Boise. It has a pub-like atmosphere in some respects, sports on several TV screens, and there is nothing exceptional about the service or the decor.

I have been there about 10 times in the last two months because whenever a client was choosing our lunch location, they have picked the Piper Pub. Today was the most recent, and it got me thinking about the menu selection compared to other places in town. I've been concentrating on vegan or vegetarian selections lately, and that can be a real pain when eating out. I don't let it discourage me altogether though as I have a vegan friend who can find something to eat at nearly every restaurant in town except Cracker Barrel. She inspires me to keep trying at times when I would give up eating out with people altogether.

Piper Pub, however, is not very vegetarian/vegan friendly. They offer a portabello mushroom sandwich, and an appetizer which is a hummus plate, but neither is vegan. They have a half dozen salads, all with animal protein, and nearly all with cheese. You can have the meat and cheese left off, but then you are left paying a pretty high price for a very basic salad. I tried the hummus plate, and it was not bad, expect that it's too much for one person for a meal and nearly $10, and has a lot of feta cheese so if you're trying to do vegan not vegetarian, not a good choice. The mushroom sandwich was not very good in my opinion, but then I just don't much care for mushrooms to begin with, let alone in sandwich form, so if you like portabellos and you have them leave off the non-vegan sauce you may like it. (Though the bread gets so soggy it's kind of gross!) Several times I've had the coriander chicken salad sans chicken, but it isn't very good without the blue cheese so if you go vegan and leave that off too, you're paying a lot for a pretty bland salad. Today I tried the house salad, without shrimp, which was vegan with that modification, but not particularly worth the cost.

My lunch date was late and I was asking a few questions of the server about the menu and she made the comment that she was vegan and aware of the poor selection. "What do you eat here?" I asked her. "I get a side of black beans with avocado on top," she said. Not a bad suggestion, but since I have a black bean soup planned for dinner I gave that a pass. I was surprised that this is the second interaction in a week with waitstaff (at different restaurants) who are familiar with a vegan diet and following some form of it themselves. They both initiated use of the term in the conversation, not me. When I was a waitress I didn't know what vegan was, so I was pleased to see that they did - though I don't know if it's through training or being personally attentive to the issue due to their own lifestyle choices.

I completely understand that the vast majority of customers will not be vegetarian or vegan, but I do think that many dishes can be easily adapted at most restaurants, and that a menu completely designed around animal proteins is not very appealing when "adapted". In an ideal world, it would be nice if the nutritional information was on the menu for each dish and if at least a few dishes were non meat centric. I considered adapting a number of other things at Piper, but do I really want a Thai chicken roll without the chicken, which would be just lettuce and peanut sauce? The truth is when you remove the meat from most Piper dishes, there is not much of a dish left, and when there is no price reduction for no protein, you are really paying a high price for a not very filling lunch. I think I've exhausted the vegan/vegetarian adaptations at Piper I'm willing to try and will look elsewhere. I've clearly put a lot more thought into ways to make their menu work for vegetarians or vegans than they have.