Oh sure, tell me another one.
Here's a guess, maybe high gas prices won't be making the top headlines for long:In the past year, two New Jersey laboratories have been unable to account for plague-infested mice and vials of deadly anthrax spores, and top state officials are scrambling to devise better ways to safeguard deadly material.
In both cases, authorities say they think the items in question weren't actually lost, but were simply unaccounted for due to clerical errors.
They can't say for sure - and that has a Rutgers microbiologist predicting more trouble if such substances aren't kept at a central location.
"The fact that they don't know the answer means they're not running a properly secured facility," professor Richard Ebright said of both cases. "The odds are that it was an accounting error, but it is very possible that one of the persons with access to the lab has removed that material."
Last week, state health officials said they could not account for two vials of anthrax bacteria once thought to have been stored at a government laboratory in Trenton. In September, a Newark health research lab lost track of three mice infected with the bacteria responsible for bubonic plague.
The mice were never located, and officials said the rodents might have been stolen, eaten by other lab animals or just misplaced in a paperwork error.
Three contributions came in almost simultaneously!
KL sent $25, PV sent $35, DG sent $35.
Becky and I are helping out mummy and dad at the moment. As soon as we're finished with this project, we're building the chicken tractor
and stuffing it full of Australorps
! I think these donations will cover the costs associated with this critical project.
(The chicken tractor is one of the wonders of the world, if you ask me.)
Becky and I spend very little money, so your contributions go a long way with us. Know that we appreciate your support, as much as we need it. Many thanks to all of you guys!
I apologize for not providing pure, distilled Apocalyptic fare for your reading pleasure these days.
But who's got time for doom and gloom when the Broadwood Dog Trials are happening?!
We got a call yesterday morning from an 'Auntie' (Hi Linda!) who knows about cool stuff going on in the wop wops. She gave us the approximate location of a farm that was about 10 kilometers from nowhere along an unpaved road. That was where we would find the dog trials.
Becky and I finished our breakfast and took off!
I'm learning that there are different degrees of the wop wops. (The wop wops, in case you're wondering, refers to VERY rural areas of New Zealand.) I used to think that the property that Becky and I bought was in the wop wops. This farm was substantially more isolated than our place.
After a slow drive along a narrow and somewhat dangerous goat track, we saw some vehicles parked in a cow paddock. There were roughly as many dogs as people roaming about. Obviously, we knew we had found the spot.
If you ever get a chance to attend a dog trials event, make sure you bring a few things: gumboots, a bottle of whiskey (or the plonk of your choice) and your appetite. Oh yeah, bring your binoculars if you want to see the dogs when they're working at distance. I don't know how far these dogs get from their owners, but they were easily several hundred meters out.
The events I saw went something like this:
Near the gathered crowd and a judge's box, the competitors (owner and dog) get ready to go. Far away, up a steep hill, three sheep are released into a starting position and kept there by a different dog. This dog is not competing; it's just keeping the sheep stationary for the moment.
Someone yells something out of the judge's box and it's on. The owner launches the dog! And I mean launches
. The competing dog goes tearassing up the side of that hill like it was fired out of a cannon. The owner, through a combination of verbal commands, and sometimes whistles, guides the dog as it sprints at maximum speed.
Part of the trial involves guiding the dog in a manner that conceals its approach from the sheep. The owner has to send the dog up the hill, but on the down slope of a ridge, out of view of the sheep. Cunning, aye!
As the competing dog approaches, the dog watching the sheep is called away. The competing dog is then commanded into position about 20 or so meters up the hill from the sheep. I was told that the sheep will come to understand that there really is no escape from that dog, and they will be easier to control if the dog is held off a bit to begin with.
After about five minutes, the owner will start issuing commands to the dog that causes it to gradually herd the sheep down the hill. This takes several minutes. They seemed to want to keep the sheep moving at a slow to medium pace.
The goal is to get the sheep into a area that has been marked out near the judges. In a later event that day, the sheep were herded down a hill and then across a paddock and into a pen.
Everything is timed. I was told that each trial is actually judged on dozens of different aspects.
Here are a few random observations from this event out in the beautiful nether realms of Broadwood (Waiotehue, to be exact):
There is no hi-tech replacement for a well-trained dog.
These Kiwis don't have much use for computers/hi-tech nonsense, in general. I heard one guy say that he might know someone who owns a computer.
Most people at the event seemed to know each other. The sense of community was palpable. For example, one of the people involved with this event married Becky and I back in March. Auntie Linda invited us. And there were several other connections between Becky's relatives and people at this event; cousins, aunts, uncles and friends.
Many of the men wore large knives on their hips. Some of the sheathes contained a sharpening steel as well. These are the honest to God, no sh*t bushmen of legend. And those knives were used that day...
When I first glanced at the BBQ, I thought the guys were preparing T-bone steaks. Nope. Those were MASSIVE lamb chops. I said that I'd never seen lamb chops that size. (Kiwis must love a clueless American around once in a while.) The gigantic lamb chops were explained to me like this, "We're going to be eating a couple of big, old, dried out ewes." Sure enough, the meat was a bit tough, full of fat...and tasty. (This was a vegetarian's worst nightmare. I actually wondered how far one would have to travel from that event to find a vegetarian.) I ate about a pound of chops, with hangied
potatoes, and could barely walk afterwards.
I think a fun time was had by all!
Here are a few pics:Related: New Zealand Sheep Dog Trials Association