Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Poor marketing decision made by Hill's Pet Nutrition

I really try not to talk about work on this blog, but today is a bit of an exception.  An issue completely blew up in the lab animal community this past week and is still ongoing.  I'm part of a few laboratory animal medicine listservs and this is literally the only thing people have talked about for the past 9 days.

It appears that Hill's Pet Nutrition may have internally hired a former ALF/PETA/HSUS employee and/or their marketing team is doing their best to push Hills out of laboratory animal care (definitely not confirmed, this is only my opinion).  Hill's is now requiring facilities to sign a "welfare commitment" with inappropriate stipulations in order to continue purchasing food for their laboratory animals.

A colleague of mine stated the current situation best: "I was shocked to discover that Hill's will no longer sell feed to research institutions unless they sign a letter saying the institution will abide by their 'commitment to animal welfare'. Apparently, this commitment precludes doing any research that may be invasive or end in euthanasia. Most research institutions will not be able to make such a pledge, regardless of 100% OLAW-assurance, AAALAC-accreditation, USDA-registration, and regardless of their own deep commitment to animal welfare."

Hill's may have the luxury of being able to make high-and-mighty statements about non-invasive procedures due to just researching pet food, but they certainly haven't gotten to where they are today without modern uses of laboratory animals, which includes invasive procedures and humane euthanasia.  Denying the history of your company is terrible PR.  Labs that work in high-containment emerging infectious disease certainly do not have the luxury of signing such a ridiculous policy.

Full policy from Hill's can be found here:

Hopefully this matter will be clarified/fixed soon and research with laboratory animals can continue as normal.  It would certainly be a shame to see Hill's Pet Nutrition permanently leave the laboratory animal community.

Monday, July 14, 2014

I Died Today by Duke Roberts

Sorry that this blog has been quiet lately, as well as a bit somber.  Life has been quite busy and crazy, in both good ways and bad.  The past two months have been some of the most fun, but also some of the hardest.  Hopefully I'll get back to regular blogging soon.

In the meantime, if you haven't see this article make the rounds on facebook, you should definitely check it out.  It's about a dog named Duke who died from cancer, and how his family said goodbye.  Such a beautiful photography post, grab the tissues.

I Died Today by Duke Roberts

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What If You Treated Everyone Like They Might Die Tomorrow?

I came across this Huffington Post article on my FB news feed last week or so, "What If You Treated Everyone Like They Might Die Tomorrow?"  and I reposted it at the time, but I want to talk a bit more about it today.  This is sort of an Australia story but not really.

During my time in Geelong I was actively involved with a running group (one story about them here).  The crew is a real blast, and two members of the group were Phil and Liz.  When I met Liz, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, unfortunately I didn't know when her diagnosis was made but she was being treated at that time.   (Geelong friends, please forgive me if I've misreported what I know about Liz's illness.  I tried not to pry too much)

Phil and Liz have been long-time members of the running group.  I'm not sure exactly when they started but I got the impression it was sometime back in the 80s when the group was new.  The "feel" of the running group is one of family.  Everyone has been friends for years and years - celebrated lots of birthdays, weddings, tragedies... it's all in the family.  I was a little unusual in that I was a bit younger than everyone else, as well as foreign, but everyone was so sweet and welcomed me with open arms.  Moving to a foreign country is rough, and my running "family" made it a bit easier.  One of the members, Kathy, took me out for a full day of fun back in the spring.  Good people.

I recently learned that Liz passed away due to her battle with cancer.  I can only imagine the sadness that her family is experiencing.  Losing someone to cancer is so difficult - feelings of anger, trying to make the most of the time you have left, trying to plan for the future but also doing your best to live in the moment.  Cancer robs you of the chance to "live", and I'm talking about "living life through family and moments of joy" not biologically living.

I enjoyed the short conversations I had with Liz at the runs she felt well enough to attend.  I think the above photo captures her spirit very well even though I only knew her for a short time - so colorful, always a big smile, always something good to share (a story/a grandchild's visit).  The running group has posted some great photos from all the years that Phil and Liz have been running.  I'm happy to see them (and her family) celebrating her life.

You do your damnest in this life - work hard, love those around you, make a future, hope for happiness.  Some of use are lucky enough to live a long life, others' lives are cut short.  But did you live a full life?  Some would argue that if a life is ended early, that they didn't live a full life.  Maybe that's true, but maybe a lot of "living" was done at the end.

So back to this article, I/we need to live as if everyone around us going through cancer.  Technically, we're not all going through cancer, but we're all going through telomere shortening and aging (some of us are aging a bit more naturally than others, haha).

From the article:
"There's apparently a certain grace extended to those who were nearly lost that other, 'luckier,' ones don't receive. I guess almost dying and having an unknown prognosis gives you some sort of pass. Not that I receive perks or free stuff. I'm talking about gentleness of attitude, and mercy."

I'm no saint, but why can't we extend this culture of kindness to everyone?  Why do we have to wait for something bad to happen before we start "living"?  Don't wait to live, start yesterday.  Spend that extra 6 seconds to be kind.

Miss you Liz.  On-on.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Wicked Melbourne adventures

Earlier this month I spent a day and a half in Melbourne enjoying the sights.  I did a bit of geocaching throughout the day, but also did my best to soak in my last days in Australia.  The entire reason I went to Melbourne in the first place was because, on a whim, I bought a ticket to go see Wicked mid-week.  Once I had my ticket, I decided to make it a full day of fun!

Travelling to and within Melbourne is actually pretty easy (now that I've done it a few times).  The hour-long train ride from Geelong to Melbourne is only $7.88, and it's quite comfortable if it's not too busy and there are seats available.  Then once you get into Melbourne, the MiKi cards you use to pay for the train also pay for the metro and trams through a tap-on/tap-off system.  I'll admit I did take the tram a few times, but part of the experience was walking around and enjoying looking at stuff, so often I would skip the tram.

My tickets to see Wicked were for May 14th, and I'm told that the show had just arrived in Melbourne on May 7th, so there were tons of ads all over the place about the show.  Throughout the day I had multiple reminders about how fun my evening was going to be.  It was fun to continually get excited throughout the day as I walked around and saw Wicked posters.

My first little errand - I paid for a passport stamp back in July 2013 when I originally got my Visa, but I never actually got the stamp (logistics didn't work out before I left).  I still had no trouble getting into the country because my visa was digitally linked to my passport, but I had already shelled out the cash and had my receipt, so I figured I would at least get that one thing done.  I had the whole day available to wait in line, but thankfully it only took about 20 minutes.  Success!

Since the show was going to be over late, I booked a room at a hostel in Fitzroy that I stayed at last Christmas when Dad and I visited Melbourne.  It's a cozy old nunnery (called The Nunnery) full of young international travelers.  I shared a room with a young German girl and an older Russian lady.  It was cheap at $35 a night, and worked absolutely perfect for my situation.  The funniest thing about staying there was the signs they had put up about "house rules".  The Nunnery was a convent at one time, but hadn't had nuns in it since the 70s, yet all the signs had references to the nuns.  "Keep quiet for the nuns" haha


With my bag dropped off, I set off to enjoy some scenery.  During the time in which I visited Melbourne, Victoria was enjoying the last few weeks of warm fall weather before it started to get a bit cool (and I say cool, not cold for their winter).  The beautiful Royal Gardens across from The Nunnery had trees that were slowly turning brown.  I remember much more vivid colors (more deep yellows and rusty reds) from enjoying fall in the New England area, but I didn't expect to see fall colors in Australia.  It was a bit odd because it was a really warm day and plenty of flowers were blooming in the garden as well.

Melbornian Autumn
I continued along through the CBD checking out shops here and there and enjoying the architecture.  Melbourne has a really interesting feel to it - there are these massive modern skyscrapers next to old-fashioned brick buildings from the 1860s.  It's highly contrasting but really fun as well.  I love the old storefronts that look like they were old-timey general stores at one time.


My favorite building in Melbourne is in the heart of the CBD.  I have no idea what the building is for, but when the sun hits the colored panes just right - it's so beautiful.  Like walking through a rainbow.

Rainbow trails

My favorite!
Another thing on my list of things to enjoy that day: Affogato.  I found a coffee bar actually named Affogato and got my very own Affogato along with a delicious lunch.  I asked for an Affogato with Frangelico (shot of espresso, scoop of vanilla and shot of Frangelico), but evidently it had been a busy day and they were all out of liquor, so I went without the booze.  Still a very delicious treat on a sunny afternoon in Melb.

I continued strolling through the CBD for the rest of the afternoon.  There was just so much to see and experience!  Beautiful architecture, cute little shops, and I loved the street art!  Every large city has it's fair share of graffiti, but it felt like true street art in Melbourne.

Love the bright color

Street monkeys :)
Later on I found myself in Federation Square, where a display was set up celebrating Wool Week.  They had a few small exhibits set up as well as a corral with lambs and a very famous sheep: Fred.  Evidently he had performed for the royal couple who visited the month before, and #imetfred was trending.  Due to work restrictions, I had to keep a safe distance from the animals, but I still enjoyed watching the kids pet the small lambs.

Famous Fred
Across Federation Square is Flinder's Street Station, a very impressive station with an old-fashioned face.  They had a cool photo next to the wool exhibits showing a bunch of sheep that were run through the square in front of the station back in 1985.  Keep in mind this is a very busy metropolitan intersection, so I'm sure running the sheep through there was no small feat.

Caption reads: "Tim's reputation for breeding sheepdogs is internationally known.  His team of kelpies herded this flock of 1,500 merinos, in orderly commuter fashion, to celebrate 150 years of sheep in Melbourne and the arrival of the Melbourne Show.

Flinder's today
Excitement was building for the show as I enjoyed a tasty dinner at a traditional Japanese restaurant.  Of course I got to the theatre really early - I had my ticket all ready to go but I was just too excited.  The foyer was deliciously green!

I scored a terrific seat when I bought my ticket - very front row all the way to the right.  I'd seen the show once before so I wasn't to worried if only 90% of the show was clear from my seat, but I ended up having only one or two times where my view of the main character was obstructed by a cast member.  The show was absolutely fantastic!!  For some reason I expected the characters to have Aussie accents but they certainly didn't - the American parts were played with an American accent and the few English characters had appropriate English accents.  I sang along (only in my head) to every one of the songs and loved every single second.

When everyone exited the theatre, the CBD surrounding the theatre had been all lit up in green.  I wasn't sure if it was for the show or they normally use green, but it make my walk home to the hostel extra-enjoyable.

All-in-all, a fantastic day.  I had a very comfortable night at The Nunnery and walked to the train station the next morning after a leisurely breakfast.  If you ever get a chance to visit Australia, I highly recommend spending a few days in Melb to take in the sights!!

In front of the Royal Exhibition building

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Vet med t-shirt quilt

While moving out of Kansas, back in Aug 2013, I had to go through all my clothes and figure out what to keep and what to donate (or throw).  I had a ton of tshirts from my Vet Med days, and though some of them were really worn out, I couldn't bear to part with them.  Mom was kind enough to help me make a 2-sided t-shirt quilt!!

I cut out the shirts and sewed the main part together, but Mom helped me do the edging (well, she basically did it).  And now I can enjoy my vet med shirts forever!  Thanks Mom!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Great Ocean Road

Something on every Victorian visitor's list is to visit the Great Ocean Road.  I've been fortunate enough to live 30 minutes away from the beginning.  Two weeks ago, I set out on my last road trip to enjoy the GOR.

All attempts to fully describe the road fall short, but Wikipedia has a good summary:

"The Great Ocean Road is an Australian National Heritage listed 243 kilometres (151 mi) stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford. Built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932 and dedicated to soldiers killed during World War I, the road is the world's largest war memorial. Winding through varying terrain along the coast and providing access to several prominent landmarks, including the Twelve Apostles limestone stack formations, the road is an important tourist attraction in the region."

When Dad visited for Christmas, we did a full day on the Great Ocean Road, with a midday hike in Lorne as well.  The scenery was just so gorgeous throughout the drive.

Visiting the Great Ocean Road with Dad over Christmas
View from the road

Not only was the scenery spectacular, the roads were also really dynamic.  There were some long stretches with tree cover that were very windy.  I couldn't help but think that it would be a perfect spot for motorbiking.  Check out this video I made of the roads:

Driving along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia


If you ever find yourself in Australia, a trip to the Great Ocean Road is certainly warranted.  And later on down the road you can see the Twelve Apostles, of which only 8 are left due to erosion.  Along the drive, be sure enjoy the beautiful beaches!!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Day of Geocaching in Melbourne

I spent an entire day enjoying the sights of Melbourne (detailed story here), and during my walking around and exploring, I found some geocaches!!

For those that aren't familiar with geocaching, it's quite addictive, cheap, easy and a great family activity.  I read a very accurate (albeit unofficial) description on a blog once: "Geocaching is when people use multimillion dollar satellites and expensive personal equipment to find tupperware in the woods."  Truth.

Geocaching is a great way to experience a new area as well as enjoy the outdoors with your family on a mutual quest.  If geocaching is new to you, I highly recommend looking into it here:   I paid $9 for the app on my iPhone and haven't spent a cent since on the hobby!  Adventure awaits!!

(Key:  Cached means cache was found and logged.  DNF means "did not find")

My adventure in Melbourne:

#1 Found: Southern Cross the age of the wave (GC30J6X) - This cache was just outside the Southern Cross train station - a central area of Melbourne. This was a difficult cache to find/retrieve because it was in the middle of one of those metal median pieces in center of the road. It was extremely difficult to try to find the cache without being hit by a car, but also while not drawing too much attention. Sadly it took me nearly 15 minutes to find it, but not after some Indian businessman offered help "Are you ok, lady?" So much for being inconspicuous...

Southern cross station

#2 Found: Carlton Cache Series #2 Mother Ursula's Mission (GC4CKA4) - This cache was in a lovely residential area of Fitzroy. Very quite neighborhood, but unfortunately the large building across the street from the cache was undergoing heavy construction, so lots of people were hanging around available to stare at me. Luckily I was still able to retrieve/log/return the cache without difficulties.

Fitzroy area, but not near the cache

#3 Found: John Woods (GC2V78E) - Another easy one to find but very difficult to extract without drawing attention. Throughout the day it became more and more apparent that metropolitan caching is a whole 'nother ballgame (I'm more used to caching out in the bush/fields). But as luck would have it, I swiped the cache quickly, took a stroll to sign the log and then quickly returned it as stealthily as I could. Very good location right at the Royal Exhibition Building to bring people near the Melbourne Museum.

John Wood cache at the Royal Exhibition Building
John Woods GC2V78E

#4 DNF: The Queen of Harlotry (GC342A7) - This cache was centered around an area of brick cottages in a row of 6 built in the 1850s. The area was referred to as a "Slumdown" and nearby was the domain of Madam Brusels, "the Queen of Harlotry" who ran 8 brothels in the area. I had no luck finding the cache due to high muggle activity, but previous logs were all DNF so I think it might have been muggled. Still, a fun place to visit, both because of the historical significance but also because it's a hotspot for the business folk during the lunch hour.

Lt Lonsdale circa oldtimes

#5 Evans Lane (GC3038R) - This was another great cache due to historical significance. Lots of these little laneways have been around since the 1850s-1860s, and some of the original brick is still visible. I love geocaching for many reasons - both for the excitement of "the find!" but also in that you are brought to secret spots in the city that you would not otherwise visit without seeking out the cache. This particular laneway was covered in really artistic graffiti (not gang graffiti but actual art). After nervously sticking my hand into a dark hole in the brick wall - success! Cached and onto the next one.

By this point in the day (and due to my location), the streets just kept getting busier and busier. I'm used to caching in the country or public parks. These caches have hazards listed like "dangerous animals" "ticks" "tree climbing" "snowshoes" "significant hike" "watch for livestock."  But these Melbourne CBD caches had hazards like "stealth required" "public transport available."  Quite nutty for my experiences.

#6 DNF Melbourne's Lanes #7 Artemis Lane (GC2XK7T) - Again, high muggle presence. There was literally no looking for this cache during this time of day. I have a hard time imaging that this area is ever deserted.

#7 DNF Welcome to Melbourne (GC2GVR5) - High muggle area in Chinatown. And of course I found the spot but couldn't "properly search" due to an Asian man taking his smoke break in the alley. I mean, c'mon.

 Asian man, I need you to finish your smoke
and leave so I can grab the cache!!

#8 Found: Drewery Alley (GC30AK1) "Drewery Alley, along with Drewery Lane and Drewery Place, were named after chemist Thomas Drewery, who was elected a City Councillor for Gipps Ward in 1851" More lovely historic laneways. There was some really cute graffiti in this alley (monkeys below) but it was still kind of a creepy alley. Glad to finally find the cache and leave.

Cute monkey graffiti in the alley

Alley had a super creepy aura

#9 DNF: Men of Harlech (GC10GBZ) Last cache of the day was nearby an old church. I didn't have to worry about muggles because the entire alley was blocked off for constructions. Super disappointed as a last cache, but I was happy to have the 6 finds that I did.

Damn construction

All in all, a good day of caching (and tons of walking) plus a great tour of some of Melbourne's more historic districts. I look forward to getting home and logging more Kansas caches!