Milkageddon

Churns

The European Milk Quota system ends today.

First introduced in April 1984 under the European Union Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) the Milk Quota has stabilised (or some say stagnated) dairy produce production for 30 years.  This has helped to protect dairy farming incomes, especially for smaller producers.  The measure was to protect the small farmer.

The big dairy companies all over Europe have been gearing up for the explosion in production that is in the offing.  They will be driving sales of dairy products into non-traditional markets.  Have you ever noticed that Chinese and South-Eastern Asian cuisine uses no milk, cream, cheese or butter?  Watch that space!

To win the international game the Irish Dairies need to ramp up production as fast, or faster than their counterparts in countries like Denmark, Poland, UK and France.

In the last year and more, the savvy and efficient Dairy farmer has been gearing up for the end of the quota in a number of ways.

Herd management for instance;  calves are allowed to feed from the cows, production milking is restricted to one milking per day, excess heifers are kept calf-less for longer to keep them dry.  Over quota milk has often ended up in slurry pits.

In the last week every storage container has been filled to bursting point to hold as much production as possible for midnight on 31st March.

In terms of farm management, the larger farmers have been assembling larger dairy platforms accessible to their milking facility, by buying and renting any land adjacent to their parlour.  At the same time they are developing winter feed stocks by acquisition of suitable hay and silage production acreage.

Within the dairy itself they have been investing in new – high intensity – milking equipment.  Automated feeding and milking systems.  Computer databases of the herd, recording age, weight, production, feed regimen, medical history, pedigree, behaviour etc.

The dairy farm of today is a high intensity industrial plant.

It is a long way from the 40 acre mixed farmer who kept a half dozen cows and delivered a couple of churns to the creamery every other day.

But when you have thousands of acres of countryside managed by a handful of industrial farmers, what do you lose?  Community?  Poverty?  A vibrant countryside population?  A low income trap?  Truth is, we will see a lot more cows and a lot less people.  That can make cheap milk a very expensive commodity.

The Sands of Dee: by Charles Kingsley

“O Mary, go and call the cattle home,

And call the cattle home,

And call the cattle home

Across the sands of Dee”;

The western wind was wild and dank with foam,

And all alone went she.

The western tide crept up along the sand,

And o’er and o’er the sand,

And round and round the sand,

As far as eye could see.

The rolling mist came down and hid the land:

And never home came she.

“Oh! is it weed, or fish, or floating hair–

A tress of golden hair,

A drownèd maiden’s hair

Above the nets at sea?

Was never salmon yet that shone so fair

Among the stakes on Dee.”

They rowed her in across the rolling foam,

The cruel crawling foam,

The cruel hungry foam,

To her grave beside the sea:

But still the boatmen hear her call the cattle home

Across the sands of Dee.

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Typhoid Mary

Vertical-Wash-Hands-Sign-S-4868

On this day 100 years ago the US health authorities placed Mary Mallon in quarantine where she remained for the rest of her life.  The case was a notable one in the quest to stop the spread of infectious diseases.

Mallon was the first ever identified asymptomatic carrier of a disease.  She was infected with typhoid, carried it, spread it, but did not suffer any symptoms herself.

An Irish woman, she emigrated to the USA at age 15 from County Tyrone.  She worked as a cook.  By her own admission her hygiene left a lot to be desired.  She could see no reason for washing hands.

Every time there was an outbreak of typhoid in a house where she worked she would move to another job, and leave no forwarding address.  When she found that the authorities were tracking her she began to use aliases.  It is known that she infected over 50 people, three of whom died.  But she may have been responsible for many more infections and deaths, because the authorities were unable to trace all her movements.

She refused to cooperate with authorities, and always maintained that she did not carry the disease.  The case established a rigorous methodology, developed by George Soper, for tracking disease spread vectors.  It also laid groundwork and legal precedent for dealing with a disease carrier who is hostile to public health initiatives.

Mary became a minor celebrity and lived out the final three decades of her life in quarantine.  The term “typhoid Mary” is now used to describe a carrier (knowing or unknowing) of a disease.

The Dog of Time; by Brenda Iijima

The dog of time pitchfork canter laced with mercury after-crave
any semblance to human is speculative, we’ve unburdened the
mass, the massive body signage, bondage, turf implant
unwiring programs and last resort paradigms
indicated by the spikes in goneness unknowable
flash how it feels to be a terminator
to be livestock replenished
caretaking around the pain
dogs of the animal in motion in deliberation
carrying on over cloud cover
as the twilight descends the animal is secreted
ocean compression and endless body spills
the edges are dissolved
animal highlight
animal awareness
animal forever
the light is diminished
water spills over and the heat is a harbinger
and who is subject to this authority
rescue and an epistemological critique
and cross a proscribed threshold where the forest once was
now an emergency living space

Hey Lard Ass!

OBESE-MAN

I lost a few pounds over the last few weeks and was very proud of myself.  Then I checked out my weight on one of those online BMI calculators and I got this nasty message:

Your BMI is 25.4. This BMI indicates you are overweight. There is an increased risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers with a BMI in this range. Losing weight is beneficial and can be achieved through healthy eating and being active daily. It is a good idea to set a realistic target of amount of weight you would like to lose over a number of weeks. If you are muscular as a result of a lot of sport you don’t need to lose weight.

OK, that sounded like there was hope for me at the end.  Am I muscular from playing a lot of sport?  Is gardening a sport?  Does golf count?

So I looked further into these BMI thingy’s.  On a US medical website I learned that my weight is actually in the “Normal” range.

BMI

Normal hell!  Look at that statistic at the end.  My weight is in the 32nd percentile for my age and height, IN AMERICA.

For those who don’t dabble in statistics allow me to explain.  If I live in the USA 68% of my peers are heavier than I am.  That makes me feel positively skinny.  And there is the worry.

When the societal norm is obesity, overweight seems slim.

Truth is, I am overweight.  I have to lose a few more pounds.  In Ireland I “feel” fat.  That puts positive pressure on me to watch my weight.  If I lived in the USA I would not have that positive pressure.  I would probably be half a stone heavier.  I would probably suffer from high blood pressure.  Chances are I would be taking drugs to control my blood pressure.

There is a lesson here for overweight people.  If you really want to lose weight, move to a land of slim people.

According to Suzie Orbach “Fat is a feminist issue”.  Suzie was instrumental in developing the psychology that led to the fabulous Dove advertising campaigns.  Fat is an issue that defines how many women see themselves, it affects their self-confidence, and how they interact with the world.

There is a growing movement amongst young (at heart) women who reject being thin in favour of being fit.  Advertisers are no longer afraid to show women sweating when they work out.  Cross-fit gyms have embraced this new culture by removing mirrors from their gyms.  It’s about the work, the discipline, the muscular integrity.  It is about looking good because you worked to look good.  It is about looking good to feel good about yourself, not to be an accessory to a man.

But there’s more.  In the USA in the 20th century one of the key photo opportunities used by US electoral candidates was the shot of them emerging from church/temple on the Sabbath with the family.  This said everything about strong morality, ethics, conservatism, family values, hetrosexuality, Mom, apple pie and the USA, without ever having to say a word to the waiting press.  Today the goalposts have shifted.  The modern electoral candidate must demonstrate personal strength of character by displaying a fit body.  The president of the USA cannot be a fat guy.  Fat people can’t control their own appetites.  What hope do they have of controlling the nation?

In modern society to be fit to rule you must be fit to run for office, and to do that you must be fit to run down the road.

Old Time

sunrise_at_the_keep

In the Irish countryside we have “Old time” and “New time”.  For the rest of the world that translates into GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) and BST (British Summer Time).

We are currently in the limbo period between the Arrival of Spring and the Clock moving forward by one hour.  For us early rising commuters we have bright sunny mornings and I get to see the Sunrise a lot.  It’s important to enjoy this period before we are thrown into dark risings once again next week.

On the up-side I will make some time next week to do a little gardening in the evenings when I come home from work.  There is not a lot you can do productively with early morning light, unless you are a farmer.  Late evening light is much more useful.

We now think of time as being consistent across all areas, but this was not always so.  The first people to adopt standardized time were Sailors.  Calculation of longitude involved measuring longitude against a fixed time.  The Royal Navy, who had Harrison’s Chronometer, adopted GMT because the ships on the Thames could set their clocks by observing the ball drop on the roof of the Royal Observatory.

The adoption of GMT as the standard for “Railway Time” in the 1840’s probably had a greater impact on standardizing time in Britain than the Navy convention did.  Rail networks need standardized times for obvious reasons such as printing timetables and avoiding collisions.

In Ireland the replacement of Dublin Mean Time with GMT only happened 99 years ago, in 1916.

The Sun Rising: John Donne

Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on
us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late schoolboys, and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of
time.

Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long:
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me
Whether both the’Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear: ‘All here in one bed lay.’

She’is all states, and all princes I,
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compar’d to this,
All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, sun, art half as happy’as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere.

Work Experience

Starwars

I have four consecutive “bring your daughter to work days” starting today.  Should be interesting.

The original “Take our daughters to work day” initiative was started in 1992 by Marie Wilson and Gloria Steinem for the Ms. Foundation for Women.  It was a feminist led initiative to break down career barriers for girls.  Of course it rapidly evolved, in our over PC world, into “Take our children to work day” entirely defeating the original purpose of the initiative.

In Ireland we have introduced a year into the secondary school curriculum which is called “Transition Year”.  It is a year that is not driven by exam results.  It is a time for teenagers to explore some of the subjects and activities that are sidelined in a goal oriented, exam driven education culture.  It includes modules on volunteering in the community, participation in arts and expanding the mind in a non-linear fashion.

One aspect of the year is to help students understand their own interests, to help them choose a career direction for their Final (Leaving Certificate) exam.  This process involves time spent in the workplace, experiencing the realities of the work environment.

As a College lecturer I experienced the far end of this process.  I could see in my students how the Transition year equips them with a maturity and confidence in their choices.  They are less likely to choose a University course and then run into a dead end.  They have a clearer idea of their final outcome.

They emerge from the year with a better idea of the fullness of life experience.  This helps them avoid the trap of becoming workplace automatons,  modern day wage-slaves for unfeeling global corporations.  They are less likely to fall for corporate brainwashing.  You know the stuff.

  • We value loyalty – but not when we are downsizing.
  • We value flexibility in the workplace – when we need you to do unpaid overtime, but not when your mother is sick.
  • We value ambition – but we won’t actually promote you or pay you extra money, unless you get a job elsewhere, and we have to counteroffer.
  • We want you to speak your mind – as long as you are parroting the corporate mantra.
  • We want you to have a spouse and family – and a heavy mortgage that creates a fear that keeps you in the office until 8pm every night.
  • We want to build a family, a community, and if you don’t attend the company barbecue you are labelled “Not a team player”.

The Sleep-Walkers; by Khalil Gibran
In the town where I was born lived a woman and her daughter, who
walked in their sleep.

One night, while silence enfolded the world, the woman and her
daughter, walking, yet asleep, met in their mist-veiled garden.

And the mother spoke, and she said: ‘At last, at last, my enemy!
You by whom my youth was destroyed–who have built up your life
upon the ruins of mine! Would I could kill you!’

And the daughter spoke, and she said: ‘O hateful woman, selfish
and old! Who stand between my freer self and me! Who would have
my life an echo of your own faded life! Would you were dead!’

At that moment a cock crew, and both women awoke. The mother said
gently, ‘Is that you, darling?’ And the daughter answered gently,
‘Yes, dear.’

Ancient Egyptian Powertools

Egyptian-Power-Tools

The picture above, an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph, clearly shows two workmen using power tools.  There is some debate as to the power source they are using.  Some people think that the cables attached to the tools are electrical, whereas others suggest they could be hydraulic or pneumatic hoses.

This graphic exposes one of the major problems faced by archaeologists.  That of context.  In some situations a picture paints a thousand words, and we can understand what is going on by looking at the picture.  In others, because we do not understand the nuances of context and culture, we struggle to understand what is going on.

This opens the door for the lunatic fringe.  The people who do not believe that ancients had the ability to design and construct the great monuments of Bronze Age civilizations.  Those who read books such as “Chariots of the Gods” and believe the theories about aliens landing on earth, creating runways in the deserts of Peru and building Pyramids in Egypt, Sumer, Mexico and Cambodia all at the same time.

When we see a graphic such as that above, it is our natural instinct to try to make sense of it.  We try to contextualise it in terms of what we see about us every day.  You see workmen in the street using jack hammers to open the road, and you think “wow!  That is exactly what this looks like.”

Maybe those things on their heads are an early form of hard hat.  Perhaps the original painted stone would show they are wearing high-visibility safety vests.  Now if we could just explain why that dog-faced guy is attacking them with the knife!  Is he a mugger?

One of the most important qualities of a good archaeologist is the ability to deal with uncertainty.  The ability to contain the natural human desire to complete puzzles.  To resist the temptation to explain what is going on.  To say “we don’t have enough evidence or understanding to build a theory”.

In this sense the work of an archaeologist is very similar to the work of a detective.  A policeman may know with a certainty who is guilty of a crime.  But he has to rein in his certainty and emotions.  He has to ask “do I have enough evidence to prove this in a court of law, absent of doubt?”  The archaeologist has to do this for another time, another culture, in the absence of witnesses, using only the barest scraps of evidence.

So, if they aren’t power tools.  What are they?  Why is one slightly different to the other, the one on the left has a supporting brace on the second disk, and the top disk is not joined directly to the body housing.  Why are the snakes different?  Is dog face holding a knife?  Could it be a quill, or a reed?

Here I give you a poem to rival some of the greats.
I think this ‘very descriptive’ poem could contend with William McGonagall and would be a worthy winner of the annual Alfred Joyce Kilmer memorial contest in Columbia University.

Ancient Egypt: by Meriam Joseph

Ancient Egypt, ancient time,
Everyone wore robe and not a tie,
They invented a calendar much like the ones today,
They believed in animal gods until today.

The Nile flooded its banks every July,
The black mud there was really fertile,
They planted the seeds every November,
March is the month for every harvester.

There were many skilled artists and craft persons in Egypt,
They decorated the palaces and all the temples,
Weavers wove cloth for dresses and bedding,
Ship builders built sailboats and barges for travelling.

Egyptians pictured their Gods and Goddesses,
Everyone wore linen dresses,
Some were men and some were like animals,
Many were half humans and half-animals.

Well, ancient Egypt had lots of surprises.

Templar Burning

DeMolay

From the Archives of the Royal French Bulletin, Paris  March 18th, 1314 AD (Translation by the Author)

The atmosphere was fantastic down here in front of Notre Dame for the main event today.  Not just one, two or three, but a full four senior officers of the Knights Templar went out in flames today.

Leading the Templar team was none other than Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master himself.  De Molay was ably supported by the Master of Normandy, Geoffroi de Charney and the Master of Aquitaine, Godefroi de Gonneville.  Also on the podium today was none other than the Templar Visitor of France, Hughes de Peraud.

Informed pundits have suggested that King Philippe manufactured charges against the Templar Order to evade the enormous debt owed by him to the order.  Not a debt of gratitude, but a debt of money.  Considerable sums of money lost to Edward I of England and also lost in the Flanders debacle.  The pride of French nobility was lost in the Battle of the Golden Spurs, and Philippe is feeling the pinch at the loss of so much tax revenue.

There were celebrations in the streets in 1306 when our “Philip the Fair” threw the Jews out of France.  Perhaps we should have looked beyond our religious bias and glanced at the loan books.  The Jewish elders are waving mortgage slips around in Rome, Avignon and the other courts of Europe in a quest for payment.

One year later we heard of the dreadful sexual and heretical acts of the Templar Order.  We all love a good conspiracy theory, but isn’t it more than coincidental that they also held a large wad of debt against Philippe?  The same Philippe who appropriated the lands and commandaries of the order, and is selling them to the highest bidder.

Today, on the scaffold, after seven years jail time the Templars were to burn for acts to which they confessed.  In an unscheduled move De Molay and Geoffroi de Charney called a last minute press conference.  In their statement they claimed they had been guilty, they said, not of the crimes imputed to them, but of basely betraying their Order to save their own lives.

The assembled cardinals called for a ruling from the TV referee:  the Prevot of Paris.  But they were saved the embarrassment of a last minute reversal of the penalty when the news reached Philippe. He pulled out an obscure ruling that a relapsed heretic is to be burned without a hearing!

So the executioners got straight to work.  By sunset  a pile of lumber was erected on Ile des Juifs, where more than one Jew has roasted over a slow flame in the past.  The gathered crowd were able to warm themselves in the heat from the flames as de Molay and de Charney were slowly burned to death.

In another departure from the expected script, they refused all offers of pardon for retraction.  They bore their torment with a composure which saw them acclaimed as martyrs by the people.  There was a scramble at the end of the event for relics which were plucked from the smoldering ashes of the bonfire.

Following the burning we received this comment from Guillaume de Granmercy, CEO of “Debt Resolutions Ltd” who provide debt resolution negotiation services to lenders and their clients.  “We have had considerable success using conciliation and arbitration approaches to debt resolution.  We believe that our approach could have resolved Philippe’s issues without needing to resort to banishment, imprisonment and burning the bondholders”