Tag Archives: texas a&m university

Why I don’t donate money anymore—Part 1


I was born and raised in Kingsville, Texas….

Deep South Texas.

A bastion of Republican citizens.

Still is.

Great Nation of TexasI was arch-conservative until 1993 when I escaped the Great Nation of Texas and, after 22 days on the road looking for a place to live in one of those 49 foreign states, wound up in San Diego.

I had been politically active since 1972, my junior year in high school. I even donated a few dollars of my allowance savings to the campaign fund for Richard Nixon. I kept volunteering time and donating money through 2002, Republican candidates through April 1993 and Democrats from 1993 to 2002.

So what happened in April 1993 and in 2002?

In April 1993, after arriving in San Diego and deciding to stay, I starting working for Democrat candidates donating money and volunteering my time to make calls and work on campaigns. I still was a registered Republican, thinking that I would try to work within the Republican system to change it. That never worked. It wasn’t until 2013 that I finally switched my registration from Republican to Democrat.

Texas A&M UniversityWhat happened in 2002 started in Spring 1976 when I was a junior at Texas A&M University.

One of my required courses was Economics 301. My professor was Dr. Phil Gramm. (Google or Wikipedia him for more detailed information than what I will provide in my measly little blog post here.) He was a tenured professor making around $75,000 per year.

Gramm resigned his tenured professorship at Texas A&M University and went into politics. He lost his first election in 1976 when he ran as a Democrat against popular U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, also a Democrat. He decided to start smaller, and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978, as a Democrat, being re-elected in 1980 and 1982. He was what now is called a DINO, a Democrat In Name Only. The American Conservative Union (ACU) gave Gramm a score of 89 for his first four years in office. That’s extraordinary for a Democrat. Usually the ACU score for Democrats is well below 50%, and during any year averages about 10%, with most of them getting a well-deserved score of 0%. For comparison, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, often gets a 100% rating.

Due to differences with the Democratic leadership in the House, Gramm resigned from Congress on January 5, 1983. He then ran as a Republican in the Texas special election to fill his vacated seat. He won. Gramm became the first Republican to represent the Texas 6th District since its creation in 1846.

In 1984, Gramm was elected U.S. Senator from Texas, as a Republican, and served in that position from January 3, 1985 to November 30, 2002, being re-elected twice.

When Gramm retired, newspapers throughout the world announced that he had $64 million in his campaign war chest. He got to keep that money. Did not have to turn it over to the State of Texas or the U.S. government. Did not have to return—indeed, DID NOT return—any of it to those who had donated to his campaigns throughout the years, or to his constituents as a “Thank you for your support all these years!”

One person who donated consistently to his campaigns was yours truly. I got not a single cent back. It was that $64 million that resulted in me having never ever ever contributed another cent to a political campaign. I have volunteered my time, but not a single politician at any level is getting a penny of my hard-earned cash.

You can easily see the benefits of running for election, raising lots of money, and losing. You have to lose or retire, though. Another caveat is that the money has to be for a specific campaign. If you were a Senator but ran for President (Bernie Sanders, 2016), you had a presidential campaign war chest. If you lost the presidential campaign, the money in the presidential campaign war chest is yours to keep. The money in the senatorial campaign war chest had to remain there because you still were a Senator. All you have to do to verify this is look at Sanders’ tax returns since he released them in his latest campaign for president.

If Gramm had continued as a tenured professor at Texas A&M University through age 65, his salary with no raises would have been $2,126,300. As it was, he retired from politics at age 60 with $64,000,000, an annual salary of about $150,000, and great health benefits. Now you know why even rich people (Darrell Issa, net worth over $250 million) go into politics. They don’t give a crap about you and me. They are in it for the easy money and the power that comes with money.

Yet people continue to ask how Congresspersons and Senators become millionaires on their measly six-figure salaries….

Part 2 tomorrow.

Fight organized crime

No need to wait for the weather to change

Lake Cuyamaca, CaliforniaLake Cuyamaca, California

I have been retired three times in my life: 1983, 1993, and 2017. None of them have stuck.

In 1983 I was living in Houston, Texas, and playing the “Keep up with the Joneses” game. Suddenly, though, everyone started getting engaged, getting married, and having children. None of those were for me. I knew quite well that I was gay and that getting engaged and married to someone of the same gender probably wasn’t going to happen in my lifetime. And children! Ha! I was one of Utah’s greatest juvenile delinquents. I was pretty sure that if I had children, one of them would be the next great serial killer…. You know, karma.

So I moved out of Houston, 90 miles northwest to College Station, a place with which I was familiar since it was the home to Texas A&M University, my alma mater. I wanted something different, but not too different.

I stayed out of the work force from April 1, 1983, to February 29, 1984. On March 1, 1984, I took a job as a life insurance sales rep with Fidelity Union Life Insurance. I enjoyed it, even earning Sales Rep of the Month for three of the six months I was there. I quit because there were no benefits…. no health insurance, no sick days, no vacation days, no pension, not even any life insurance!

I went to work for Texas A&M University in the Department of Chemistry, the College of Science, the University Press, and the TAMU NMR Newsletter. Each entity paid 25% of my salary, and since none of them had to absorb a full salary, I was rolling in money. Had any one of them been required to pay a full salary, I probably would have made about 25% of what I was making. And the benefits! Mama Mia! That was when I understood why people wanted to work for the government.

Sadly, the person who had hired me and put me in those four positions took early retirement and moved to Palo Alo, California, where he was a Distinguished Professor at Stanford University. He gave me the same positions at Stanford, and I worked there from June 1, 1986, to September 30, 1986. I got homesick for Texas.

I had a side business in College Station—Just Your Type—that I had been running since 1973 when I was a freshman at Texas A&M. My wise old grandmother had helped me start it in 1966. I decided to go full-time with it and turned it into a thriving typing, word processing, desktop publishing, and editing business. Over the years, I had several customers who now are quite well-known: Chuck Knoblauch, Robert Earl Keen, and Lyle Lovett come immediately to mind.

One of my weekly customers was on the 7-year plan, and when he finally graduated, his dad set him up in a competing business on the north side of College Station whereas I was on the south side. Each year he would come by and offer to buy my company. Each year I declined his offer.

Finally, on April 15, 1993, he and I were standing in line together at the Bank of A&M and talking. He asked me if this would be the year I would sell to him. I told him to come by and we’d talk about it. He was impressed with my (anal) record keeping and accepted my selling price.

I took off.

Unfortunately, I didn’t tell anyone that I was taking off. I just left. I actually left with the intent of committing suicide. I was tired of living life as a closeted gay man but didn’t know what else to do. That suicide journey was a failure, and I wound up in San Diego. Again I retired, and succeeded at staying out of the work force for 11 months. I got bored doing nothing each day.

On February 14, 1994, Valentine’s Day, I was at Ocean Beach with friends. We were swimming, sailing, and surfing. Suddenly, one guy asked if we wanted to go skiing. Sure! It starts with an S, too, so no problem. Turns out that he was talking about snow skiing, not water skiing.

Everyone went home, changed into snow clothes, got their skis and such, and we headed to Big Bear, California, about 90 miles northeast of San Diego. That was when I understood why so many people want to live in California, especially California. One can go to the beach in the morning on a warm Valentine’s Day, eat lunch, and then go snow skiing in the afternoon just 90 miles away. What more could one want in life?

I’m a fan of snow as long as I can go play in it and then come home to my non-white winter landscaping. Every time it snows in the mountains, I head to Julian to take snow pictures. Such was the case the last two days in November this year when it snowed heavily in Julian. I went to document the event.

Lake Cuyamaca in the picture at the top of this post is a great rest stop after getting through the first half of the winding mountain roads. Here are some other pictures from November 30:

Crowds were out in force, most from the city, just like me.
Lake Cuyamaca State Park, California

Lake Cuyamaca State Park, California

I had never seen so many snow people!
Lake Cuyamaca State Park, California

On the western side of the mountains, where the snow had melted, I found a flock of wild turkeys celebrating their success at surviving another Thanksgiving.
Turkeys in Julian, California

In Southern California, there’s no need to wait for the weather to change.

SNIPPETS (11/22/2019)



How come WordPress does not yet have an icon for changing text size? I still have to go into the HTML code and change the text size manually. Every other program I use has an easy way to change text size….


When I was a sophomore at Texas A&M University in 1974, I was enthralled by the Nixon impeachment. The only other impeached president was Andrew Johnson in 1868. It had been over 100 years.

Although Nixon resigned rather than being impeached, I found the workings of the United States government under its Constitution to be fascinating. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that, within a mere 45 years, two more presidents, Clinton and the current president would be impeached.

Granted, the current president, whose name I have not uttered since November 9, 2016—I call him Twitler because he likes to destroy people using Twitter; Hitler on Twitter—has not yet been impeached, but considering all I have read and heard about the impeachment hearings, I believe he will be impeached before Christmas Day. It might even be faster because the people in charge of impeaching him—the House of Representatives—have to get home for Christmas. Actually, when I think about that, impeachment might happen before Thanksgiving!

Of course, impeachment simply means that the Grand Jury—the House of Representatives in this case—believes there is enough evidence to impeach (indict) him. The trial occurs in the Senate, and at this point I cannot see Twitler being convicted.


I legally changed my name in 2004, dropping my last name and taking my middle name as my last name. I’m about convinced to change my name again, this time to Doctor Doctor so that I’ll know that Robert Palmer really is singing about me.

Previously, the only group to ever sing about me was the Bee Gees with “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”:

Did you hear it? Right at the 1:43 mark: “I can still feel the breeze that russels through the trees.”


Over on Facebook there’s a meme trending that has a woman screaming at a white cat. I find the cat’s response each time to be quite funny, so I decided to make a contribution:

White cat meme


Since I’m now making a concerted effort to do things with my photography using three business names—Russel Ray Photos, Photographic Art, and Double R Creations—I’m being more active on Instagram and with my Russel Ray Photos page on Facebook. You can follow me on those two platforms.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/russel_ray_photos/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/russelrayphotos/

I’m very political, but not on Instagram or that Facebook page. I do have a personal Facebook page where I am very political. ALL. DAY. LONG.


I should have another calendar at my Etsy shop by the end of 11/22/2019, this one on birds. This picture of a peacock and a white-faced whistling duck will be my cover photo:

2020 Birds calendar, front cover

I put that picture on Facebook and those commenting were only too ready to provide captions. Two of my favorites:

    • Misplaced flirting
    • “Can’t whistle? Not interested.”

I have so many great bird pictures that I’m pretty sure I’m going to do at least two bird calendars. Possibly even three.


The rainy season arrived on 11/19/2019. So far there has been 5.25 inches of rain in three days. When I went to the garage yesterday morning in the wind & rain, a rabbit took off in front of me. It was slipping and sliding as it tried desperately to get away from me as quickly as possible. Poor thing. I looked at where it had been and found a big pile of poop. Upon closer examination, turns out it’s not poop. Just the ugliest mushrooms ever have I seen.

Ugly mushrooms


I like to go into the gardens right after it’s rained and take macro pictures of raindrops on plants. Key phrase in that sentence is AFTER IT’S RAINED.

The rain just won’t stop, and I’m not willing to trod around in the water and mud with my expensive Canon 760d and expensive macro lens. So here’s one of my favorite macro raindrops on cactus photos. Taken on 3/23/2018 at 7:55 a.m., so it must have rained the previous day and/or night.

Raindrops on cactus macro picture

As I was focusing on that picture, I initially had wanted every to be in focus, but then I saw that first rain drop twinkling at me (just barely visible at WordPress resolutions), so I decided to focus on it and let everything else be a little less sharp.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a calendar featuring macro pictures.


Another bird from my 2020 Birds calendar. Who knew that some birds were flashers?

Great blue heron flashing


The resolution of the following picture isn’t good enough for my calendar at 12″x8″, but at a smaller size it’s fine.


Once again, Facebook users came through with captions:

    • And the great bird said, “Come unto me. Kneel, all ye who gaze upon my face.”
    • “Common, ladies. Look at this plumage! This wing span! Let’s do this!”


After I graduated from high school in May 1973, I quit celebrating holidays. I never liked them, finding them too artificial. With that said, though, Thanksgiving (when we celebrate the beginning of one of the great genocides in human history) is next week. I do believe I shall have some turkey wine for Thanksgiving this year.

Turkey wine and feeling fine


My retirement years are allowing me to catch up on movies and television shows that I have missed since 1973. For both my train friends and my history friends, I can highly recommend the TV series, “Hell On Wheels.” It’s about the building of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. People and events are historical facts with only the unknown added or minute details changed. A very intriguing series. Available on Netflix.

Hell On Wheels

The Ocean Institute at Dana Point, California

Out & About       Halls of History

On September 6, 2019, I was in Dana Point, California, for the 35th Annual Tall Ships & Ocean Festival hosted by the Ocean Institute.

Surprising to me, although I had been to Dana Point, it was on a technicality: I had driven through it on Pacific Coast Highway. I never had stopped to go exploring. This time, I did. There is lots to do in Dana Point, but I do admit I was more interested in the harbor and the Ocean Institute. In the picture below, at the bottom center, several masts from tall ships are visible. That’s the Ocean Institute, at the bottom of the cliff.

Dana Point, California, harbor

The front of the Ocean Institute was undergoing repairs and renovations, so I chose not to take a picture of all the fencing. I suspect you’ve seen fencing before. It’s usually not pretty. It wasn’t. Here’s a picture of the landlocked back side, though:

Ocean Institute at Dana Point, California

Although it is the landlocked side, it is the side that faces the Pacific Ocean, which is why there are so many trails through the vegetation there. People want to see the mighty Pacific, and it’s no wonder with views like this:

The Ocean Institute is located at 24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, California. Its mission statement:

Using the ocean as our classroom, we inspire children to learn.

The Ocean Institute was founded in 1977 and educates over 100,000 children, teachers, parents, and visitors each year through over 60 programs on marine science, maritime history, and outdoor education. It occupies 2.4 acres  and also is adjacent to a State Marine Conservation Area.

“Immersion-based field trips” sponsored by the Ocean Institute range from one-hour science labs to multi-day programs at sea and at the Lazy W Ranch in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. Programs are designed to maximize immersion, spark curiosity, and inspire a commitment to learning.

There are state-of-the-art teaching labs, including the awesome Maddie James Seaside Learning Center, and two historic tall ships, the Pilgrim and the Spirit of Dana Point. I got to take a 3-hour ride in the Pacific Ocean on the Spirit of Dana Point on September 6.

Passengers on the Spirit of Dana Point

The Pilgrim is a full-size replica of a hide brig, i.e., a brig participating in the California cattle hide trade for her Boston owners, Bryant & Sturgis. The original Pilgrim was built in Boston in 1825 and sank in a fire at sea in 1856. It weighed 180 tons and was 86½ feet long.

The replica was built in 1945 in Denmark, originally as a three-masted schooner. It was converted to its present rigging in 1975 in Lisbon, Portugal. Its deck is 98 feet long with a beam of 24.6 feet, a mainmast height of 98 feet, and a net tonnage of 64. In September 1981 it became part of the Ocean Institute.

Full size replica of Pilgrim, Ocean Institute, Dana Point, California

If you’re a film buff, the Pilgrim might look familiar to you since it was used in the 1997 film, Amistad. If you’re a history buff, Amistad should be on your list of films to watch. I have not seen it and did not know about it until this blog post, which was another surprise because it was directed by Steven Spielberg (one of my favorite directors) and starred Morgan Freeman (one of my favorite actors), Anthony Hopkins (who can forget Silence of the Lambs), and Matthew McConaughey.

As an aside since I’m a graduate of Texas A&M University, Matthew McConaughey now is a Professor of Practice in the Department of Radio-Television-Film in the Moody College of Communication at my arch rival, the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated in 1993.

Amistad is a historical drama film based on the true story of the events in 1839 aboard the slave ship La Amistad, during which Mende tribesmen abducted for the slave trade managed to gain control of their captors’ ship off the coast of Cuba, and the international legal battle that followed their capture by the Washington, a U.S. revenue cutter. The case was ultimately resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1841.

The screenplay was based on the book Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy by historian Howard Jones. The case, United States v. The Amistad (1839) is quite interesting, perhaps the most important decision regarding slavery before the Dred Scot decision in 1857.

The movie is not available on Hulu or Netflix, but I did find it on YouTube for $2.99. As soon as I finish Altered Carbon, I’ll be watching Amistad.

The Ocean Institute also owns an oceanographic research vessel, the Sea Explorer.

Sea Explorer of the Ocean Institute

My Photoshop eye was quick to see that with just a few minutes of work, I could rename the Sea Explorer:

Sex Explorer

Double R Creations & Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos

SNIPPETS (8-20-18)



A short video starring the furry felines at the Friends of Cats from my 2½ hours volunteering on August 19, 2018.


I will be volunteering at Friends of Cats for 2½ hours each day, Sunday through Thursday. Yesterday I spent most of my time letting the FIV cats know that they have not been forgotten. They really enjoyed having me with them. Except this one. I wasn’t fooled. I saw him watching me.

Cat eye


I have a Bachelor of Science in Forest Management from Texas A&M University. So I do, uh, kinda like trees. However, treeless mountains also can be quite beautiful, like these over near Death Valley National Monument in California.

Treeless mountains


Now, along with alternative facts and fake news, we have Rudy Giuliani telling us that “Truth isn’t truth.” Zoey the Cool Cat agrees, I think. Maybe not. Maybe she’s just being sarcastic.

Truth isn't truth!


While volunteering at Friends of Cats for National Clear the Shelters Day on Saturday, I met my first heterochromia cat. Previously all I had seen were pictures. Now I have my own picture.

White cat with heterochromia

Heterochromia can occur in humans and dogs as well as cats. With cats, it occurs mostly in white cats. One eye almost always is blue in humans, dogs, and cats.


When I came home Saturday after 8 hours volunteering for Friends of Cats, I went to hug Zoey the Cool Cat. She smelled me and gave me a look that said, “Dude! You’ve been cheating on me!” A video of many of the little furry ones that I had the pleasure to cheat with on my first day of volunteering


While I was roaming the country a few weeks ago, I made it a point to visit all the great railroad spots, such as the historic California railroad yards in Barstow and Yermo. Here’s a video of a Union Pacific freight train heading west into the Barstow yard. From there it will go either to San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego.


This little guy’s name is Chuckie. He lives at the Friends of Cats shelter in El Cajon, California. He is a finicky eater, preferring only whole chicken from Costco.



Got the official diagnosis Saturday on Zoey the Cool Cat’s blood, poop, and pee analysis. She’s diabetic, although not severe enough to require daily insulin shots. The vet wants to give her a significant change of diet.

Zoey the Cool Cat book


It is often said that you don’t choose a cat, a cat chooses you. I saw that on Saturday while volunteering all day at Friends of Cats shelter in El Cajon, California. It was very moving.

A teen boy came in with his mom. They sat on the floor and were petting cats. A black cat (yeah black cats!) named Ace, a “problem cat” that had been in the shelter for several years, came up to him, flopped on the floor, and proceeded to let the boy rub his tummy and head, and even pick him up. Ace wanted to snuggle and generally told this boy that he was the one. The boy took him home.

Staff was astounded because Ace had never done such before.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Mall walking

Out & About

During my first year at Texas A&M University I lived on campus. Sadly, the two dorms I lived in, Moore Hall and Puryear Hall, were destroyed several years ago in the name of progress, i.e., bigger, more beautiful, more progressive dorms.

During my second year, I moved off campus into an apartment that was, at the time, way out in the boondocks. Fortunately, my bicycle found a back roads shortcut to campus.

I lived out in the boondocks for my remaining years of college. After graduation I spent five years in Houston before moving back to College Station where I bought a duplex in the same boondocks. However, that area was no longer the boondocks. With several new apartment complexes, sorority row with 12 sorority houses, and the new Post Oak Mall, it was pretty much the center of non-campus activity.

Post Oak Mall stores didn’t open until 10:00 a.m. but the mall itself was open at 7:00 a.m. for the Post Oak Mall Walkers, of which I was one, probably the youngest one.

I still like to walk malls, but I do it more now to get pictures rather than simply exercise.

Recently I walked one of San Diego’s largest and more beautiful malls. It was 8:00 a.m., and here are a few of the pictures I got:

University Towne Center, La Jolla, California

University Towne Center, La Jolla, California

University Towne Center, La Jolla, California

University Towne Center, La Jolla, California

University Towne Center, La Jolla, California

University Towne Center, La Jolla, California

University Towne Center, La Jolla, California

University Towne Center, La Jolla, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The mall in question was Westfield UTC in La Jolla. Those of us who have been here more than a few years still call it University Towne Center. It’s a great place to shop, a great place to eat, and, if you enjoy putting on ice skates and falling on your butt many times, a great place to go ice skating….

University Towne Center La Jolla

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Music on Mondays (4-13-15)—You poor little fool

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

One of my favorite television programs when I was in grade school was The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, on the air from 1952 to 1966.

As music became an integral part of my life with violin, piano, and voice, Ozzie & Harriet’s son, Rick, became part of my life.

Before I ever discovered Ricky Nelson, though, he already had two #1 hit singles, “Poor Little Fool” from 1958, and “Travelin’ Man” from 1961.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The period before I discovered him in 1972 resulted in eighteen Top 10 hits! I discovered him when “Garden Party” peaked at #6 in 1972.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In 1985, the Texas A&M football team had won the Southwest Conference Championship and was to meet Auburn University in the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1986, in Dallas.

I had many friends living in the Dallas area, and one of them got us tickets to a New Year’s Eve concert, billed as a New Year’s Eve Extravaganza with Ricky Nelson. Sadly, Nelson’s private jet crashed in De Kalb, Texas, northeast of Dallas, and about two miles short of the landing strip. The crash happened at 5:14 p.m. Dallas time; I was at a bar celebrating when the news began circulating around 9:00 p.m. that Ricky Nelson was dead. There was no extravaganza that night.

Up until 1993 I still had the obviously unused ticket to the concert but I think it got left behind in Texas when I came to San Diego. It probably got thrown away. Too bad because it would probably be worth quite a bit of money!

Of course, I have to mention that Texas A&M won the Cotton Bowl Classic on January 1, 1986, beating an Auburn team that featured Heisman Trophy-winning running back Bo Jackson. Final score was 36-16.

Fightin' Texas Aggie Band from Texas A&M University

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift? Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage? Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

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I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

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


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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It’s a weather phenomenon, not a people one

Did you know?

Texas A&M UniversityWhen I came to San Diego in April 1993, I heard talk about the “marine layer.” Since my dad was in the Air Force, and I graduated from Texas A&M University with its 2,500-member-strong Corps of Cadets, I thought “Marine” instead of “marine.”

The marine layer is a weather phenomenon, not a people one. It’s a thick layer of clouds that rolls in off the Pacific Ocean as the sun goes down, often staying until noon the next day, depending on when Mr. Sun wants to heat up the air to get rid of it.

Here are two pictures of the marine layer rolling in over SeaWorld:

A morning marine layer rolling in over SeaWorld San Diego

A morning marine layer rolling in over SeaWorld San Diego

When the marine layer gets really low, as it is in those two pictures, you’ll find that the air is damp and you can’t see more than several feet in front of you. In my home state of Texas, we called it fog.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Thank you!


Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Alpha Phi OmegaMany decades ago I was heavily involved with Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity (APO). I had started my involvement as a junior at Texas A&M University. When friends asked me what the difference was between a service fraternity and a social fraternity, I responded,

A service fraternity spends 75% of its time doing volunteer work to help the campus, the community, and the country. The other 25% is spent drinking. A social fraternity spends 75% of its time drinking. The other 25% is spent doing volunteer work to help the campus, the community, and the country.

Always got a chuckle, if not outright laughter.

After college graduation, the extent of my involvement affected both my personal and business lives. Everything in my world came crashing down in 1982 and 1983, and that crash led to my lost decade of 1983-1993.

I quit my job because my boss was a jerk. In hindsight, he wasn’t a jerk. I simply wasn’t interested in my job in any sense other than that it paid my bills and let me play APO. He sensed that. However, I quit my job without having another job lined up.

At the same time, the rent on my apartment jumped $150 a month, to an even $1 a square foot. I had to look at either buying some property in Houston, or moving back to College Station (90 miles northwest of Houston) into property that I already owned but was renting to sorority girls from Delta Delta Delta.

I moved….

Still without having a job….

Also during this time, I was the Chairman for APO’s Section 42, which covered East Texas and comprised 15 or so chapters. It was a one-year position, so I would have to run for re-election to match my predecessors, which I wanted to do.

As I started contemplating running for re-election, students throughout the section told me that I was the best chairman they had ever seen, having shown up at their events more than any other chairman. Everyone encouraged me to run for re-election, and I did.

I lost.

I know why.

Since everyone wanted me to run, I thought they would vote for me. What I forgot to do was to ask them to vote for me and to thank them for their support. I still make the mistake of not asking for what I want or need, and not thanking people enough.

So here’s a great big

Thank you!

to all my friends, family, and business associates for being a part of my life. That includes my many blogging friends for you are a significant part of my family. I love y’all!

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