Category Archives: Opinion

But I don’t know for sure….

Opinion

Yesterday morning I had the privilege of traipsing around a couple’s private garden.

It was a lot of un, and I got a lot of great pictures.

In addition to a beautiful garden, they had a dog and two cats.

Here is one of the two cats:

IMG_1753 abyssinian cat stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That’s Cleo.

Cleo is an Abyssinian cat, 15½ years old and suffering from renal failure.

To me, Cleo doesn’t look happy. In fact, he looks in pain.

Zoey the Cool CatZoey the Cool Cat (picture ►) is a mere 7½ years old but it’s obvious to me that she has slowed down, and she’s continuing to slow down. She’s not a kitty anymore….

I know we all love our pets, but at what point do we decide that it is time for our pets to leave us, to cross over that rainbow bridge?

My mother-in-law’s boyfriend spent several thousand dollars on treatments for his cats when they got old.

I want to think that I would easily spend thousands of dollars to keep Zoey the Cool Cat with me as long as possible, but I don’t think I could.

Instead, I think I would say my goodbyes to her and, from the vet’s office, go right down to the animal shelter and get another loving feline friend.

There are so many which need loving homes, and at that point I would have a loving home to give.

But I don’t know for sure….

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Chemicals. You can’t get away from them!

Opinion

I thought I would follow up on my Monsanto post of January 14, 2015. It was by far my most controversial post, and a few people decided to unfollow me because of it. One even said in a comment, “I’m saddened and stunned that you have bought into their [Montanto’s] propaganda, so I will take a break from following your blog for awhile.” If I were vindictive, I would have taken a break from following his blog!

If you missed my first Monsanto post, see it here: I’m going with Monsanto on this one, for the moment.

Today’s post was inspired by a conversation with a grade-school friend about the complete and total Blue Bell Ice Cream recall due to listeria contamination. The CEO and President of Blue Bell, Paul Kruse, is an old Texas A&M colleague and Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity Brother. I haven’t spoken to him in 21 years, but 40 years ago, in college, I knew him well.

My grade-school friend, Carol, said on Facebook, “I’m glad they [Blue Bell] are doing the responsible thing by pulling all of their products and trying to figure out the cause for the listeria. I also wish they would pull all of the chemicals out of their recipes so I could buy their ice cream again!”

I responded that there are chemicals in everything. “Not in what I eat!” she exclaimed. That’s where she’s wrong. Grossly wrong. That wrongness comes from either not taking chemistry in high school or college, falling asleep during class, simply not caring or understanding, or listening to Fox (Entertainment) News talking points.

The universe is nothing but a mixture of chemicals. That’s why certain foods are acidic and cause acid reflux, and some foods are basic. As an example, go look at the Wikipedia entry for cucumber, right side. It will show you a list of all the chemicals that make up a cucumber.

As another example, take the common sugar Sucrose. Here’s its chemical makeup:

Sucrose

One great big chemical.

Some will tell me that Sucrose is just a bunch of elements—Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Carbon. That’s true. But many of the elements in and of themselves are bad for people. Arsenic, for example. Chromium. Lead. Mercury. Plutonium. So that argument is moot.

Let’s look at chocolate. Who doesn’t like chocolate? The main ingredient in chocolate is a chemical, theobromine. Looks like this:

Theobromine

Theobromine poisoning can result from the chronic or acute consumption of large quantities of chocolate, especially in the elderly. Theobromine can cause sleeplessness, tremors, restlessness, anxiety, an increased production of urine, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and withdrawal headaches.

Zoey the Cool CatEverything around you is comprised of chemicals. Your desk chair, your desk, windows, curtains, clothes, computer monitor, lightbulbs, even little Zoey the Cool Cat (picture ►).

The fact that the universe is one big mass of chemicals is why I believe there will never be a cure for cancer. Perhaps individual cancers (lung cancer, for example) but not all cancers. There are too many variables involved and we can’t isolate all those variables, especially since each individual body is different, too. That’s why I have O+ blood but someone else has AB-. That’s why people have allergies.

The different mix of chemicals is why we have different foods. It’s only a matter of time before the chemists at Monsanto succeed in creating a cucumber from scratch, using just a bunch of chemicals in a laboratory somewhere.

Monsanto’s problem is not that it wants to feed the world using genetically modified organisms (GMO). Their problem is that they want to rule the world by being the only company that has the food that the world’s population needs to survive. Even that might eventually come to an end—see the packaged and pill foods that the astronauts and fighting military personnel eat.

Meal, Ready To Eat

Meal, Ready To Eat (MRE)

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

While we all might like those fresh vegetables, until humanity learns to masturbate, put a condom on it, or take a pill before or after, we’re heading to oblivion due to lack of food and water, or we’re going to have to accept that in order to feed the world’s population, we are going to be eating GMO’s and MRE’s. We are not going to have the room to grow those organic vegetables. I mean, which is more important? A rich person eating an organic salad, or millions of starving children?

Reminds me of the 1973 Charlton Heston movie, “Soylent Green,” where the woman was eating, spoonful by spoonful, a jar of strawberry jam. Strawberry jam was a luxury for them, a very expensive luxury.

I believe that’s where humanity is heading, and simply being against Monsanto isn’t going to stop it. We need to curb population growth or find new ways to feed, clothe, house, and heal that population.

The current crop of Republicans in the United States, however, don’t want anything to do with curbing population growth, or feeding, clothing, housing, and healing the population. All they care about is that the little embryo makes its way out of the vagina. After that, it’s own its own—no food stamps, no health care, no housing—until it’s of military age. Then they will take it for four years of fighting, fighting which will come sooner rather than later if we don’t try to solve this mess now. But simply being against Monsanto because one is a farmer or enjoys chemicals under the “organic” label is not going to solve the problem.

My wise old grandmotherAs my wise old grandmother (picture ►) used to say, “If you’re going to complain, offer a solution.” Well, my complaint is about humanity’s overpopulating the Earth, and my solution is masturbation, condoms, pills, and GMO’s…..

One final thing that my wise old grandmother said, and which I believe is very relevant to enjoying all that life has to offer:

Too much of anything is bad for you

So enjoy life.

Eat, drink, and be merry.

Just don’t do anything excessively.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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What comes out of the camera is just the basics to start with

Opinion

My wise old grandmotherWhen I was young and living with my wise old grandmother (picture ►), she used to sit at the dining room table during the day creating her scrapbooks and photo albums. Her sons used to chastise her because she would cut up her pictures to create what she wanted. As she used to say: “What comes out of the camera is just the basics to start with.” I can only imagine how much fun she would have in today’s world with Photoshop.

I bought Photoshop when it hit the PC market in the early 1990s. Throughout the years, my photo editing skills have continued to improve. Since I know what I can do with Photoshop, as well as video editing programs, basically I don’t believe anything I see on the Internet. Instead, if I like it, I enjoy it, perhaps even sharing it. But there is so much stuff that I know is fake, most, but not all, of it involving still pictures.

That reminds me of the broadcast from Times Square on December 31, 1999. The broadcast, of course, was live, as had been all the New Year’s Eve broadcasts for as long as I can remember. Not until later, though, was it disclosed that the broadcast wasn’t as live as we thought. Turns out that a big lighting display in Times Square was broadcasting an advertisement by a competitor of the television station that I was watching. I never saw the advertisement because it was being edited out as the video was being broadcast “live.” So even live events might not be the truth!

A couple of years ago I experimented with my own video editing. Watch this one minutes video of a Coaster train in the Miramar area of San Diego and tell me which way the train is traveling.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you think the train is traveling left to right, well, only in the video. In actuality, it was traveling from right to left. I changed it in about five seconds and one click of the mouse using Corel Video Studio Pro.

Here in San Diego, commuter trains are of the push/pull configuration. In other words, sometimes the engine is at the front, pulling the train, and sometimes the engine is at the rear, pushing the train. I have never liked the push configuration; it just looks wrong. So when I discovered the “reverse” function in Video Studio Pro, well, I couldn’t help but click on it. Voilá!

I have had fun with still pictures, too, like this one:

Sandstone arch at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In that one, there actually is only one bridge. The hole looked like an eye, so I thought that two eyes were better than one. Here is the original with just the one eye:

Sandstone arch at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

So remember: Just because you see it on the Internet and it’s been shared by 159,472 people and viewed 9,471,002 times doesn’t mean it’s true. That doesn’t mean you can’t simply enjoy it. As Edgar Degas said a century ago: “Art is not what you see but what you make others see.”

Abraham Lincoln

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May every racist find an Alana Infantino

Opinion

When I tell someone that I’ve been estranged since 1993 from both sides of my family, I often get asked, “Don’t you miss them?”

No, I don’t. Let me tell you why.

Kingsville, TexasBackground information: I was born in Kingsville, Texas, deep in the Deep South. Kingsville is a small farming and ranching community of about 25,000. Back in its heyday it was a major railroad town for Missouri Pacific Railroad, which is why my ancestors located there since they all worked for the railroad.

There was one black student in my high school class. I was one of his few friends, and I often got bullied for it.

Texas A&M UniversityI went off to college at Texas A&M University, pretty much an all-white institution of higher education. Students used to say that the only black people on campus played football or basketball.

Just 50 miles down the road was Prairie View A&M University, a sister institution of higher education but pretty much all-black.

This was in 1973.

The last time I was in Kingsville, Texas, was in 2001. At that time blacks and Hispanics were finally making inroads into politics.

I remember sitting in my uncle’s back yard one day. It was an impromptu family reunion because my brother and sister were in town, and they had not been in Kingsville in 25 years or so.

My wise old grandmotherAlso in the crowd were three cousins and their families, including children, and my wise old grandmother, 91 at the time. That was the last time I saw my wise old grandmother before she died in June 2003.

As the conversation turned to politics, I remembered something my wise old grandmother had told me many years previous: “There are three things you don’t talk about in polite company: religion, sex, and politics.” As soon as my uncle opened his mouth and started spouting racial epithets and ethnic slurs, I knew that my wise old grandmother was right. The conversation turned ugly, in my mind, very quickly, with everyone except me and MWOG jumping in with their own brand of ugliness. It kind of surprised me about my brother and sister because they had lived in New Orleans for 25 years. Hellooooooooooo.

I once was like them. After all, I had grown up with them.

It all started to change for me on April 15, 1993. After writing a check to the IRS to pay my taxes, I loaded my 1989 Mustang GT with 100 CDs, called a friend who lived 100 miles away and told him to come get the dogs, and disappeared. I was on my way to Canada to commit suicide.

Twelve days later I wound up in San Diego. I was out of the work force for 11 months while I worked on sexual orientation issues as I was coming out. Being gay was only part of the problem. As my coming out counselor told me at the time, “You have a lot of black and white videotapes. It’s time to colorize them.”

Eleven months later I put myself back in the work force as a temp because I only wanted to work on T-W-Th to make enough money to pay for food, shelter, and gas for the Mustang to go to the beach.

My first job as a temp was for a guy very much like my granddad. Every other word was a cuss word or a racial slur. I didn’t go back after lunch break. And now you know why I always talk about my wise old grandmother but not my granddad.

My second job started as an interview. I was to meet Alana Infantino, a lady with whom I’m still friends 21 years later. (Hi, Alana!) I didn’t know what kind of name Alana Infantino was, and I sure didn’t realize that the person was a woman. I had been raised to believe that women belong in the home, barefoot and pregnant as my uncle would say.

I liked Alana but had a problem with a woman being my boss. I remembered what my counselor had said, and I took the job, intent on colorizing my old videotapes.

Thirty days later and I was working as a full-time, permanent employee for the company Alana was with. The caveat was that I would be a consultant and would work wherever the company sent me, although San Diego would be my home base and I would get to come home every 2-4 weeks, at company expense.

The first place the company wanted to send me was Detroit. Alana, being the very smart and astute woman that she is, took me out to eat to discuss the opportunity in Detroit. By that time, she knew all about my past, my family, and why I was in San Diego. She told me that day, “Russel, there are females in the office in Detroit. There are black people in the office in Detroit. There are even black females in the office in Detroit. Are you sure you want to tackle those obstacles now.”

I was sure.

It was one of the best things I ever did for myself.

I hope the racists in Sigma Alpha Epsilon, at the University of Oklahoma, and throughout the nation—especially in the Midwest, Deep South, and rural areas where racism still seems to be so pervasive—find their Alana Infantino, and sooner rather than later. Life is so much more pleasant….

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Opinion—People like him are evil

Opinion

I grew up in a family where mom and stepdad were alcoholics.

Although all seven of us kids were the subject of physical and verbal abuse, my oldest stepsister and I bore the brunt of that abuse. That was the main cause of me acting out and becoming one of Utah’s greatest (?) juvenile delinquents.

Once my wise old grandmother adopted me—I was just three months short of age 11—and gave me love & discipline, I recovered.

One thing that my wise old grandmother taught me during the eight years she had me was zero tolerance for abuse, whether that be verbal or physical abuse of people, even adults, or abuse of fauna, flora, or even property.

Early yesterday morning I drove about twenty miles south to visit—and get pictures of!—San Diego Historical Landmark #13. It was pretty cool! Blog post coming soon!

As I walked around SDHL #13, I saw a guy drop an animal over a ballpark fence. At first I thought it was a little fox. Looked like this:

Abandoned dog

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

When I got over to the fence, I realized that it was a dog, a dog very happy to see me. I found a gap between the fence and a gate and got the dog out. Friendliest little thing, but obviously scared, and emaciated…. no collar.

As I was looking around trying to decide what to do, the guy looked back, saw me with the dog, and came back to us. As he got closer to us, the dog took off after him. I made the presumption that the dog belonged to him, but because of the dog’s emaciation—as well as my first thought of abandonment by the guy dropping the dog over the fence—I followed them for a little ways. All seemed to be well, but as I walked back to my car—a good 30 minute walk—I kept thinking about that emaciated dog.

Back at the parking lot, I found some firemen on break and talked to them about the dog. They gave me Animal Control’s number.

I drove my car back to the ballparks where I had seen the dog, parked, and walked to the ballparks. Sure enough, the dog was back in the ballpark, behind the chain link, trying desperately to get out. The guy was nowhere around, so I called Animal Control and reported an abandoned dog, and what had happened. It took them all of 17 minutes to get to the park. They rescued the dog, confirmed that it was in bad shape from lack of food, and took it away.

I am so sorry that I did not take a picture of the guy to give to Animal Control. People like him are evil, should be prosecuted, and then locked away for at least a little while….That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking with it.

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Opinion—I’m going with Monsanto on this one, for the moment

Opinion

Many decades ago I wanted to be a researcher for a forestry company like Weyerhauser. I wanted to find new ways to use what trees provided, to make new products that might help us save some of those beautiful forests. Kind of a conflict of interest, I guess, to work for a forestry company that specialized in clearcutting whole forests but looking for ways to cut (pun intended) the amount of clearcutting….

Texas A&M UniversityWhile working towards a degree in forest management at Texas A&M University, a degree which I never have used (it looks pretty hanging on the wall, though!), I did gain an appreciation for how research is done, and I’m a big proponent of peer-reviewed research published in respectable (i.e., well-established) journals.

Conflict of interest…. Peer-reviewed research….

That brings me to Monsanto and genetically modified organisms (GMO).

According to Wikipedia (and yes, I do like Wikipedia both because I am a volunteer editor there myself and because Wikipedia requires valid sources and citations rather than opinions):

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods and are also widely used in scientific research and to produce goods other than food. The term GMO is very close to the technical legal term, ‘living modified organism,’ defined in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which regulates international trade in living GMOs (specifically, ‘any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology’).”

When I was working towards my Bachelor of Science, in 1975 the world population was a little over four billion. To put that into a time perspective:

AD 1 – 200 million
1000 – 265 million
1955 (when I was born) – 2.756 billion
1975 – 4.068 billion
2000 – 6.070 billion
2015 – 7.324 billion

Friday Flower Fiesta with Topaz GlowMy interest in biotechnology increased significantly in 1984 when Dr. Norman Borlaug (1914-2009), “Father of the Green Revolution,” agreed to teach and do his research at my alma mater, Texas A&M University. Dr. Borlaug had used biotechnology techniques to increase worldwide food production, particularly in Mexico, Pakistan, and India. For his contributions to increasing the world’s food supply, Dr. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. He continued teaching and doing research at Texas A&M right up until his death in 2009 at the age of 95.

Friday Flower Fiesta 12-19-14 Russel Ray PhotosBorlaug’s work to increase crop yields was, in his view, a means to curb deforestation, a view with led to the “Borlaug Hypothesis,” that increasing the productivity of agriculture on the best farmland can help control deforestation by reducing the demand for new farmland.

From Wikipedia:

“Assuming that global food demand is on the rise, restricting crop usage to traditional low-yield methods would also require at least one of the following: the world population to decrease, either voluntarily or as a result of mass starvations; or the conversion of forest land into crop land. It is thus argued that high-yield techniques are ultimately saving ecosystems from destruction.”  (Angelsen, A., and D. Kaimowitz. 2001. “The Role of Agricultural Technologies in Tropical Deforestation.” Agricultural Technologies and Tropical Deforestation at the Wayback Machine (archived September 29, 2005). CABI Publishing, New York.

That’s all well and good, but Borlaug’s work has resulted in a big-time industry in genetically modified organisms, ultimately dumping much of the GMO criticism directly on Dr. Borlaug.

According to Wikipedia:

“Throughout his years of research, Borlaug’s programs often faced opposition by people who consider genetic crossbreeding to be unnatural or to have negative effects. Borlaug’s work has been criticized for bringing large-scale monoculture, input-intensive farming techniques to countries that had previously relied on subsistence farming. These farming techniques reap large profits for U.S. agribusiness and agrochemical corporations such as Monsanto Company and have been criticized for widening social inequality in the countries owing to uneven food distribution while forcing a capitalist agenda of U.S. corporations onto countries that had undergone land reform.

“Other concerns of his critics and critics of biotechnology in general include: that the construction of roads in populated third-world areas could lead to the destruction of wilderness; the crossing of genetic barriers; the inability of crops to fulfill all nutritional requirements; the decreased biodiversity from planting a small number of varieties; the environmental and economic effects of inorganic fertilizer and pesticides; the amount of herbicide sprayed on fields of herbicide-resistant crops.

“Borlaug dismissed most claims of critics, but did take certain concerns seriously. He stated that his work has been “a change in the right direction, but it has not transformed the world into a Utopia”. Of environmental lobbyists he stated, “Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things”.

IMG_8360 faa stampSo we are back to Monsanto. I’m not naïve enough to think that Monsanto doesn’t want money, and they think they have found a way to make significant amounts of it. I’m also not naïve enough to think that companies (and extraordinarily rich people) are going to do the right thing just because. Life doesn’t work that way, which is why governments need to step in to control things.

Unfortunately, governments throughout history have been shown to be corrupt. In the United States today, courtesy of the United States Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision, corporations are people and are free to buy as many politicians and governments as they can afford.

Framed flower orbI’m all for Monsanto making money off of its GMOs, and I’m all for those GMOs being used to solve world food, health, and housing problems. In order for me to have confidence in their work and their research, though, I need to continue to see that work and research published in peer-reviewed publications.

The main reason is that many corporations sponsor academic research, so the academic researcher might have a desire to make the research conform to the needs or wants of the corporation. That’s where the peer review comes in. Well-respected, peer-reviewed publications send research out to other people for review, and the researcher doesn’t have a choice as to which people the publication sends the research to. Sure, the researcher can advocate for specific people, but the publication editors may or may not choose those people.

Photographic Art by Russel Ray PhotosWhen I worked at Texas A&M University from 1983-1987, I worked for the Department of Chemistry, the College of Science, the University Press, and the TAMU NMR Newsletter, all under the tutelage of Dr. Bernard Shapiro, a foremost researcher in the field of nuclear magnetic resonance. Dr. Shapiro often got requests from various publications throughout the world (Science, Magnetic Resonance in Chemistry, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Journal of Chemistry, Journal of Magnetic Resonance, et al.) to review research, and I had the pleasure of compiling his comments and sending them off to the publications.

In conclusion,

  • as long as human population growth increases out of control,
  • as long as men are not willing to put a condom on it,
  • as long as women are not willing to take a pill the day after,
  • as long as Republican politicians continue to try to control a woman’s right to choose,
  • as long as we have selfish people like the Duggars, and
  • as long as we have peer-reviewed research,

I’m going to go with Monsanto on this one so that at least no one has to starve to death.

I will continue to watch the situation, though, and continue to read peer-reviewed research in established publications rather than listen to sound bites or reading sound bite Internet memes.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Keep calm and focus on doohickeys

Opinion

As many people know, I’m trying to re-invent myself at the age of 59. They (and I don’t know who “they” are) say that it’s never too late…. you’re never too old….

It might never be too late, and you might never be too old, but I sure can say that it’s not easy….

I have been considering anything and everything but I pretty sure about two things:

  1. I want to do something constructive.
  2. Online marketing, network marketing, and MLM marketing (which is redundant; that should tell you something right there!) are not constructive.

For those who might not know, MLM is short for “multi-level marketing” which is why MLM marketing is redundant.

MLM was popular when I graduated from college back in 1977. I recognized it for the Ponzi scheme it was, and eventually it was declared illegal. However, MLM was only out of action for a year or so before they found a way around the law: offer something.

With the Internet, especially Facebook, MLM is back, but mostly it goes by the names “online marketing” and “network marketing,” and they offer doohickeys.

doohickeyIn other words, if you want to join my “network marketing team,” it will only cost you $4.99, and for that you get a doohickey. Once you’re a part of a network marketing team, you simply go find people to join YOUR network marketing team for just $4.99 so you can give them a doohickey, too!

So far I have not found a single physical doohickey–no keychains, rings, wristbands, tie clips, shoelaces…. Instead, the doohickey that everyone offers is a PDF file telling you how to develop your network marketing team and how great network marketing is.

Most network marketing teams want anywhere from $1.75—the lowest I found—to $200—which wasn’t the highest. One real estate network marketing team wanted over $14,000 to join their team. For that $14,000, instead of reading a PDF, it looked like you got to participate in an online class and listen to a couple of people tell you how to develop your real estate network marketing team.

The funniest part of all this online marketing, though, is when I run across a guy advertising himself as making over a million dollars a year, yet he’s wearing a torn college t-shirt from 30 years ago, sitting at a broken desk in a small room with makeshift shelves that are collapsing under the weight of a lot of binders.

I did find one guy, though, who participates in network marketing but tells it like it is. Basically:

You only make money on people you bring in
and the people they bring in, referred to as your down line.

In other words, if you don’t continue finding people to pay into the system, and if other people don’t do the same, the system will collapse because it can’t afford to pay out, to pay YOU!

In my view, if anyone wants me to pay them for the opportunity to work, I’m outta there. Even the companies that want me to pay $25 or $50 for credit checks and background checks. Nope. If you or your company can’t afford to spend $25-$50 on a prospective employee, you’re not the person or company I want to work for.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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