Stop the USDA Blackout

February 21st, 2017

Why has the USDA website gone dark on important information that is used to save the lives of animals?

Earlier this month, animal inspection reports and enforcement actions were abruptly removed from the USDA website. No warning. Just dark.

Without providing much explanation other than citing a vague privacy concern, the U.S. government has made the USDA website radically less useful to animal welfare advocates, journalists, investigators and concerned citizens. The privacy concern is obviously bunk as the USDA redacts any sensitive information anyhow!


Is the “privacy” of commercial businesses really more important than animal welfare and the free release of information? After all, we the people own this information. These reports are the work of government employees, and we pay their salaries. It’s not classified information, so the mysterious reasons for removing it from the USDA website can’t possibly be honorable.

Information about the inspections of labs, zoos, breeding facilities and factory farms has been available on the website for decades. We don’t know the true reason why it was removed, but we do know why it should be put back.


Why is it important to repost the deleted animal inspection reports and enforcement actions on the USDA website?

Gone is the quick access to information that can be used to help protect animals, and this could embolden animal abusers.

If animal rescue groups don’t know about animals, such as dogs, being released from laboratories, they can’t offer to rescue them and find them homes.

People purchasing dogs from breeders no longer have quick access to inspection reports. Puppy mills must love this.

Animals could potentially die, or endure suffering longer than they otherwise would have suffered. The same information that was for many years freely, quickly available online can now only be obtained via an official request under the Freedom of Information Act. Once the request is made, it can take months to receive the information!


What can you do to end the USDA blackout?

Sign petitions, and hold your government representatives responsible for restoring the reports! Complain, complain, complain to anyone who will listen. Make this a big deal, because it is.

Here are a couple of petitions you can sign to end the USDA Blackout:

ASPCA petition :

Beagle Freedom Project (BFP) official White House petition :

Happy signing and complaining! You’re doing it for the defenseless.

Image credits: Dog drawing from page 276 of “The foxhound of the twentieth century: the breeding and work of the kennels of England” (1914); rabbit drawing from page 439 of “St. Nicholas [serial]” (1873); cat drawing from page 99 of “Our domestic animals, their habits, intelligence and usefulness” (1907).

Feature: Tides, The Science and Spirit of The Ocean

January 27th, 2017

Those wondrous and sometimes frightening tides. Why do they act so? It’s time to take a little mystery away from them, but love them all the same.

What’s the book, and where can you get it?

Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean by Jonathan White will be released from Trinity University Press on February 21, 2017. It’s to be available at bookstores everywhere, if there are still actual physical bookstores in your area, that is! If not, visit the usual suspects online. I received an advance copy of this book at no charge, but I’m only writing this feature because this is a worthwhile book.

Who is the author?

Jonathan White is an active marine conservationist, a sailor, plus a surfer! His has also written Talking on the Water: Conversations about Nature and Creativity. This guy has really spent a lot of time studying tides, but he’s also a good writer, not a boring science guy. No offense to science guys on this planet. We need you more than ever. March on.

A little alert for literary nerds: The foreword is written by Peter Matthiessen, co-founder of The Paris Review.

Why read it?

Tides takes you to the Arctic, China, France, Chile, Scotland, Panama and Italy. On your journeys you’ll learn about tides, yes, but some parts of the book cover a very important topic, one that’s being ignored by many right now – climate change, specifically how the threat of sea level rise is changing the culture in Venice and Panama. Yet, in Chile and Scotland, you’ll learn about a rising alternative energy source: tidal power! It’s not all wind and solar these days.

Go on, flip the switch on your tidal knowledge. You won’t get lost. There are maps and everything.

Shed Some Light on the North Pole with New Book: The Arctic

October 26th, 2016

Let’s be honest: Not many of us know much about the Arctic! It can feel mysterious and far away. This book, The Arctic, changes that, but in a good way.


The Arctic: Reflecting the Landscape, Wildlife, and People of the Far North was written by Sven-Olof Lindblad with Elizabeth Warner. It gives the reader 200 amazing color photographs, along with stories about the land and sea, native peoples and wildlife.

Giant icebergs along the coastline of east Greenland before sunrise.

Giant icebergs along the coastline of east Greenland before sunrise.

Greenland, Disko Bay, Ilulissat, wooden house with large iceberg in background

Greenland, Disko Bay, Ilulissat, wooden house with large iceberg in background

Right now, the Arctic is transforming rapidly. A lot is happening in the North Pole, including the swift melting of ice caps and glaciers, and the disappearance of sea ice. All those things mean rising sea levels. But The Arctic isn’t a book that only focuses on climate change or other issues like mining rights.

Adult Brünnich's Guillemots, Uria lomvia, on ice at Cape Fanshawe, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway

Adult Brünnich’s Guillemots, Uria lomvia, on ice at Cape Fanshawe, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway

So, what is The Arctic all about? It helps you discover the magical Arctic for yourself with incredible images that will make you want to grab the next flight to this wild spot full of natural beauty. It’s a place like you’ve never seen or even imagined. Expect incredible images of animals like the polar bear, walrus and guillemot, along with unbelievable landscape photographs and portraits of Inuit people going about their lives.

CXRCR6 Dogsled guide, dog sledding trip to Ilulissat Fjord, Greenland flag, Greenland, Arctic North America

CXRCR6 Dogsled guide, dog sledding trip to Ilulissat Fjord, Greenland flag, Greenland, Arctic North America

 The Arctic also allows the reader a window into indigenous Inuit communities. Remember: The Arctic has a frozen ocean, but the land is more inhabitable. The Inuit people maintain their traditional way of life inside the stunning, yet harsh Arctic.  

Atlantic Walrus (O. rosmarus rosmarus) and blue ice berg, Franz Josef Land, Russia

Atlantic Walrus (O. rosmarus rosmarus) and blue ice berg, Franz Josef Land, Russia

Do these images inspire you to explore the Arctic in real life?

Practical Info about The Arctic

All images featured in this post are © The Arctic: Reflecting the Landscape, Wildlife, and People of the Far North by Sven-Olof Linblad, Rizzoli New York, 2016.

ASPCA Rescues Pets Affected by Hurricane Matthew Flooding

October 12th, 2016

Hurricane Matthew has left many animals in need, and members of the ASPCA disaster response team are currently assisting with animal rescues and sheltering work in Lumberton, N.C.

The pictures in this post will both break your heart, and warm it at the same time. All images are credited to the ASPCA.


Lumberton is suffering from massive flooding bought on by Hurricane Matthew.


“Local officials estimate hundreds of animals may be affected in Lumberton at this point, and we will assist them with sheltering displaced animals in the community and animal rescue requests,” said Tim Rickey, vice president of the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team.


“For many, pets are members of the family, and we will do everything we can and continue to go out into the field to search for lost pets and hopefully reunite them with their owners,” added Rickey.


The ASPCA is also working in other areas affected by the hurricane. In the last few days, the ASPCA has assisted almost 950 animals through pre-evacuation, field rescue, transport and sheltering needs in Georgia and South Carolina.


You can help by donating to the ASPCA.

All images in this post credited to the ASPCA.

Plastic Straws Are the Enemy?

September 22nd, 2016

There’s a lot of iced coffee being served. And have you ever seen anyone take their own reusable straw to a coffee shop?

It typically doesn’t happen unless said person is also taking along a reusable coffee cup. And I don’t see that often either.

Image by Horia Varlan flickr

Image by Horia Varlan flickr

Is it a big deal? According to a new post at treehugger, How to banish plastic straws from your life forever, yeah, it is.

Did you know that we use 500 million plastic straws daily? That’s just in America. Read more about the numbers at the National Park Service.

Image by Dann Toliver

Image by Dann Toliver

There’s no recycling number on plastic straws either. Most people don’t recycle them. And I have to admit that I still haven’t checked with my local recycling center to see if they’re accepted.

What’s the answer? Check out the treehugger plastic straws resource to learn more about alternatives (reusable straws or even pasta straws), and catch up on the growing movement against plastic straws.

Perhaps giving up the plastic straw will be a New Year’s Resolution. Hmm?

Christmas with Terra Cotta Pots

September 21st, 2016

I didn’t make this Santa and elves, but I did take the image while leaving a restaurant last year.

Also meant to take a picture of a similar terra cotta nutcracker I’d always see on walks, but you get the idea.


While I haven’t laid eyes on terra cotta snowmen, gingerbread men, reindeer or Christmas trees,  I know you can make them too!

The truth: I’ve never made one of these. I’m a lazy admirer of the terra cotta arts. Yet, I’m also a lazy holiday decorator. It has something to do with having two cats who attack anything that can be broken.

If you’d like to tackle the terra cotta arts this year, here’s where you can go for inspiration and directions:

Snowman Candy Jar

Terra Cotta Santa and Terra Cotta Snowman

Terra Cotta Pots Wreath

Flower Pot Reindeer Bell Ornament

Before you get to work, make a pot of hot chocolate, and enjoy. Seriously, make hot chocolate, not hot cocoa. You’re celebrating the holidays, after all.


Image by Jason James flickr

Bonus inspiration: Make non-holiday themed terra cotta projects to give as gifts. Look at what you can make:

Garden Mushrooms



Wind chime

Merry making of stuff.

Five-Second Rule for Dropped Food Debunked by Researchers

September 11th, 2016

Food waste is bad, but if you drop it on the floor, do not eat it anyway.

While we’ve all heard the “five-second rule” repeated as if it’s scientific fact, it may be safer to have a zer0-second rule! Recently, researchers at Rutgers set out to determine if it’s safe to eat dropped food that’s picked up within five seconds.

Photo from flickr internets_dairy

Photo by flickr internets_dairy

It’s Complicated: Surface, Moisture and Time all Matter

If there’s any truth to the five-second rule, it’s that the longer the food is left on the contact surface, the greater the bacteria transfer. However, scientists call the five-second rule a “significant oversimplification” of what occurs when bacteria transfers from a surface to food.

Bacteria Transfer Can Happen in an Instant

Researchers found that while type of surface, moisture and contact time all contribute to contamination of food dropped on surfaces, bacteria can transfer to dropped food “instantaneously.”

Researchers noted that it’s possible for bacteria to begin its transfer to food in less than one second! So, unless you’re some type of superhero, don’t take the chance!

Photo bt flickr Barta IV, Photographer

Photo by flickr Barta IV, Photographer

Where to Find the Research on the Five-Second Rule

Read the published research at Applied and Environmental Microbiology: “Longer Contact Times Increase Cross-Contamination of Enterobacter aerogenes from Surfaces to Food.” Or read the press release: Rutgers Researchers Debunk ‘Five-Second Rule’: Eating Food off the Floor Isn’t Safe.”

Hungry for Food not Dropped on the Floor? Consider a meatless tomato and hummus sandwich. Or feast on creole red bean soup with shrimp.

Make Greener Decisions to Honor Earth Day 2016

April 21st, 2016

Earth Day, April 22, is a time to stop and think. To mark Earth Day, you don’t have to go to any official event, though you can! But what’s really important is that you consider how your decisions affect the earth.

I’ve listed some ideas to help you make more earth-friendly decisions in 2016 and beyond. There’s a bonus fun cat picture if you make it to the end of this post.


Eat fruit instead of packaged snacks.

Apples, bananas, etc. They taste better than you remember! I know it’s tempting to reach for those convenient plastic-wrapped snack bars that likely have chocolate in them. But think about your health. Think about all that packaging. Eat fruit as a side dish, as part of breakfast, or as a afternoon snack.

Image converted using ifftoany

Repair when you can. 

So, sometimes it makes sense to buy a newer, more energy-efficient appliance or car. But, often we rush to buy a whole thing when repairing the old is actually a better choice. And when you see an estate-sale find that needs some love, don’t be afraid to have it fixed. If you don’t have the skills, others do.

Here’s one example: Your recliner is looking so gross. The underlying frame is fine. It still reclines, but the fabric is worn and the padding has shifted in all the wrong places. Do you toss it?

If you’ve invested in a good quality piece of furniture, repair is usually an option. Just get on yelp or call your local fabric store and ask for a recommendation for an upholstery repair person. They do keep such lists…

When you repair, you’re helping a local small business and also saving yourself money. Think about other things you can repair: clothing, shoes, decorative pillows, stuffed animals, window treatments, and lots of other google-worthy things.

When you buy, think into the future. 

eifflel-tower-rainLike, go deep into the future. Will this item fit into your lifestyle in a year? Does buying it prevent you from achieving any long-term goals? Just as you read ingredient labels for food, think carefully about each thing you accumulate, especially if downsizing is anywhere in your future.

Here’s an example. Your dream (long-term goal) is to travel the world for a year. Think carefully about every single item you buy. Is that belonging worth placing in self-storage? Is there another way to solve your problem? Will purchasing it take too many funds away from your savings for travel? Is it something you can borrow or rent instead?

Traveling the world for a year may sound like an extreme example, but the goal is to be honest with yourself. Don’t allow stuff to get in the way of your dreams! Buy only the things you really need, and save your cash for what matters in life. That’s earth-friendly and people-friendly advice.

Recycle. Why aren’t you recycling? Give me a really good reason. I’m waiting. Here’s a cat in a basket image to look at while you try to come up with a good reason not to recycle. He got in there on his own. Don’t worry.

Once you form the recycling habit, it’s so hard to break. That’s good, because that means it’s easy! If you’re not already recycling, start and you’ll be amazed at how your level of trash declines. So, recycling saves you money on trash bags.

Plus, if you have kids, they will admire you for recycling, and for teaching them to recycle.

Have a great Earth Day 2016. Think about it!

Easy, Cheap Solution for Dog Food Mats

January 31st, 2016

After my dog first crossed the threshold into our lives, I bought one of those terrible silicone food mats with a bone design on it. It always had a weird white film, even after you cleaned it. Then, for a while, I just didn’t use a mat, but I was always cleaning up splashed water on the floor.


Use a Simple Everyday Little Rug

So, finally I decided to open up my linen closet and use a cloth mat that I already had but never used. It didn’t have a dog design, but that was OK. It can be machine washed too. If you don’t already have a simple mat like this, you can easily obtain one of these ubiquitous things at a garage sale or the clearance rack at a home store.

Note: This is in an area where I don’t walk. If you’re going to walk around the area where you’re placing your dog’s food and water bowls, you may want a mat with a slip-proof backing.

Reuse Ignored Dog Toys… for Decoration

My brilliant dog improved upon it. She loves to move her toys about the house, but she pretty much always ignored the Nylabone I had given her as a puppy.

A few months ago she decided to move said Nylabone to the mat right beside her water bowl. And she never moved it again. I thought it was cute, and decorative, and I’ve left it there.

So, the moral of this story is that if you have an ignored dog toy, use it to decorate your doggy mat. You don’t have to worry about the dog moving it. Speaking of, here she is in 2014.


Sweet and Simple and Cheap (Not the Dog, Well, Maybe)

The plain rug graced with a dog toy is so much cuter than a loud dog mat with random dog faces or “bow wow” written all over it. Who designs those things? It’s subtle, unlike my dog when she wants a walk. And it didn’t cost me anything. I just used things that were hanging around, waiting to be purposeful.

Oh, and you may be wondering where her food bowl is located. In our house, the two cats gather to be fed near the laundry room where I keep their food. So, this is also where the dog waits to be fed. (She has to do everything they do.) So, I just place her food bowl on an area rug near the laundry room, and the bowl is empty in two minutes! However, she prefers her water bowl in the kitchen.

What do you use under your dog’s bowls?

Your Disposable Cake Dome Isn’t So Useless

January 31st, 2016

I’m a baker, but I know not everyone is. Those plastic cake domes are a thing. Cakes get sold from grocery stores. I get it. But is there something more to the modest plastic cake container?

Perhaps! All cleaned up, could it be used for storage or packaging? One vendor at my local antique mall thought so. Check it out.


I spied this plastic cake dome reuse in September, but it took me this long to share. Forgive.

Why I love this.

What really caught my eye most about this? The wooden Christmas ornaments. Oh, nostalgia. My favorite childhood Christmas ornament was a wooden snowman driving a stagecoach covered in red gingham fabric with a wreath on the side.

Leave the pesky sticker on already.

Here’s another view of this plastic cake container reuse idea. You can see the Kroger sticker still on there! No need to pretend it’s not a cake dome.


Disposable cake dome, thy name is handy!

The vendor was offering this whole cake dome of charming vintage wooden Christmas ornaments for something like $20. I didn’t bite. My two adorable cats make Christmas trees too difficult a task to muster. Bet they would like that bird too.

How should you reuse a plastic cake container?

Whatever you’re nostalgic about and can’t find a proper container to house, think about your humble plastic cake dome. Or, maybe save those domes for an antiques dealer, if you know one. Or.. glue a handle on the top and use the lid to cover food for picnics.

Do you have other reuse ideas for the sweet, the meek plastic cake dome?