Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dog Food

Dog food isn't the most interesting subject in the world. It comes in bags. It crunches. Dogs eat it. That's about all there is to it. If you don't have a dog skip this post. There isn't anything here for you.

We had always fed our dogs kibble with the occasional table scrap. First it was the Alpo/Purina level. At our vet's advice we switched to the Iams/Eukanuba/Solid Gold tier. We had heard all the advertising copy about how dog food was "nutritionally balanced" and better for canines than human consumable food. But we were always a little skeptical. Dogs have spent the last fifty thousand years hanging around us because we provide garbage. In the wild their cousins mostly eat small rodents, carrion, some wild fruits and vegetables and the occasional larger game. Rice, corn and wheat are not exactly high on the list. And in the entire history of domestication no farmer has rushed out to shoot dogs that were eating his grain field.

Some time back our dogs were having training and discipline issues. So we called up Auntie Tracy and Aunti Sally to come and educate us. Part of the program was nutrition. They asked what we fed the dogs. We showed them the kibble and sheepishly allowed as how the pooches got our leftovers and table scraps. Nope, no chocolate, grapes or macadamia nuts. We already know those were toxic.

The table scraps were the only thing they were happy about. We got a lecture they could probably give in their sleep about the history of commercial dog food, what goes into it and what dogs should eat. The Aunties recommended Flint River. We tried it. The dogs ate it. But they'll also eat rotten mice, things they drag out of the garbage can and Kitty Roca fresh from the litter box. And it was very expensive. The trainer suggested a more natural diet. The vet wasn't thrilled. She said that she "wasn't sure" about feeding dogs anything but "scientifically designed" food.

We tried giving them ground turkey backs and necks from the yuppie grocery store down the way. At "Suffering Jesus, that's more expensive than what we eat!" a pound it wasn't going to last long.

The real revolution happened when Fubon Market opened up. Pork spleen and chicken feet aren't our cuppa. But they are cheap, and the dogs loved them. We started buying most of our own food in bulk from United Grocers/Cash & Carry and found boxes of turkey tails for about thirty cents a pound. Just thaw and toss. The dogs crunched them right up. Supplement once a week or so with vegetables that are past their peak ground up with organ meat.

Our experience has been wonderful. The dogs' coats got shinier. They had more energy. Their teeth haven't needed to be cleaned since. Sev stopped having accidents in the house and wasn't greasy anymore. The only downside is that they'll sometimes revert to subordinate dog behavior and take the meat out of sight to eat. When we took them out we discovered that they were using a lot more of the food. A lot less was left on the lawn, and most of that was bone meal. And all of this for less than a third of the price of the factory food.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Random Pieces of News

I. Support the Troops

In yet another example of how rhetoric clashes with actions, some in the VA have decided to discourage its caregivers from diagnosing PTSD. CREW and obtained an email from Norma Perez, PTSD Program coordinator at the Olin Teage Veteran's Center suggesting:

The military has always had trouble believing in PTSD. It's expensive. It doesn't quite fit the image of the heroic soldier. It's difficult to deal with. It's not something you can see. But since the Rand Corporation estimates that about 300,000 could be diagnosed with the condition, along with 320,000 with Traumatic Brain Injury, it's a serious problem for the military and the Veterans Administration. What takes this week into the Idiot Zone is the Army's decision on where to house Fort Benning's PTSD patients. They are right next to the firing range. There might be a better way of ensuring flashbacks. I can't think of one.

The Secretary of Defense is doing the right thing in his attempts to destigmatize PTSD and encourage members of the Armed Forces to seek treatment. He has criticized the Army for being slow to recognize the health threat it poses. That excellent message is being undercut within the government. VA Secretary Peake and Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) who describe it and traumatic brain injury as "akin to what anyone who played football in their youth might have suffered, Peake told Guinn."

II Food For Your Inner Frog

Insects are easy to grow. Fed properly they are clean, easy to digest and excellent sources of cheap protein. Humans in 113 countries eat a recorded 1700 six legged species from wikkity grubs in Australia to Mormon crickets in Utah, cane grubs in West Africa and giant butterfly larvae in Taiwan. The Torah forbids insects other than the locust, the grasshopper, the cricket and the "black headed beetle", but considering how many forbidden things people of various religions eat voluntarily and how many unconsciously that's hardly a concern. It's really more a problem of marketing and image than anything else.

This article in the Daily Mail provides some mainstream support for serving them in the West. Works for this Amphibian-American. Compared to the way hogs and chickens are raised and processed grasshopper looks pretty good. I suppose it would be easier if people could invert their stomachs to clean out the chitin. If there's commercial potential some bright engineer somewhere will come up with a solution.

III Next Up: People Eating in Restaurants and Drinking in Bars

A three year investigation has revealed "rampant" prostitution in Seattle-area strip clubs. Next up: Fish swim. Birds fly. Rain is wet.

IV Warrior Posture for Warriors

Researchers working for the Indian Army have concluded that yoga is good for soldiers.

after three months new soldiers of the Bengal Engineering Group, who did 50 minutes of yoga a day combined with 40 minutes of traditional exercise, had steadier hands, stronger grips and leaner muscles than peers who underwent a gruelling 90-minute military work-out instead, according to a study.


"The yoga group showed an improvement in skilled activities requiring co-ordination and concentration, as well as muscular strength and endurance."

That shouldn't surprise anyone. Yoga has a long and well-documented connection with fighting arts. There were different yogas for different jobs including priests and scholars, peasants and soldiers. Each was designed to meet the physical and mental needs of that way of life. For a very good modern example consider Scott Sonnon's Prasara Flow Book and Video material.

V Poetic Justice, Or Maybe Tiel Can Get a Homeland Security Grant

A group of about fifty vandals broke into Robert Frost's House for a keg party. They ended up doing about $10,000 in damage - that's almost $100 Canadian these days. The two dozen who were caught have to do the usual community service and restitution. The one who bought the beer is spending a few days in jail. The judge added another piece to the sentence. They have started mandatory classes on the Frost and his work.

I don't know how much they'll get out of it. But it seems like a good idea. A few of them might learn something.

VI Raising the Titanic: The Secret History

The Intelligence community gets involved in a lot of research from social science and art to physics and cartography. Sometimes it's the results that are interesting. Better specialized semiconductor technology will come back to them like bread on the waters. Sometimes just having a hand in cutting edge developments in culture and politics keeps them up to date on the people who will shape opinion in years to come.

Sometimes the cover story is almost as interesting as the real project. According to articles in National Geographic and ABC News the 1985 discovery of the RMS Titanic was a byproduct and a blind. Robert Ballard developed the submersible technology for the exploration that led to the location of the wreckage. But he was under contract to the Navy which had funded development for a completely different purpose. They needed to find out what had happened to two lost nuclear submarines, the USS Thresher and USS Scorpion. Ballard was permitted to look for the Titanic only after he had completed his primary mission.

Update: Now that's the story of how the Titanic was found. If you want the real story you gotta go here to read and hear Jamie Brockett give you the real dope in The Legend or the USS Titanic. Yes sir, 497 and a half feet of Mexican rope