Woman accused of teaching bird expletives aimed at her ex-hubby

An alleged cussing cockatoo is at the center of a heated neighborly dispute in which a Rhode Island woman is accused of training her bird to spew nasty expletives at her ex-husband and his girlfriend.

The foul-mouthed bird’s banter has become so bad the neighbors say they are leaving their waterfront home…

Lynne Taylor is due back in Warwick Municipal Court next week to fight allegations she violated a city animal noise ordinance when, according to Kathleen Melker and boyfriend Craig Fontaine, she taught the bird to continually hurl curse words at them.

The dispute has largely become a symbolic battle — the ordinance carries just a $15 fine.

Judges in superior and family courts have handed out restraining orders to people on both sides, even banning Melker’s cat, Pharaoh, from stepping onto Taylor’s property, said her lawyer, Stephen Peltier…

The statute reads if an individual is annoyed, that becomes a public nuisance. That is broad — based on case law,” Peltier said of the ordinance, adding his client denies teaching Willy such language…

Melker…says the dispute has forced her and Fontaine to put his $332,000 home on the market. “We’re done,” she said. “We have no quality of life.”

I have no idea how this former-couple ended up living next to each other. Certainly, you might presume a certain amount of risk comes with the context.

Trying to ban a cat from going where it wishes – outdoors – leaves me unimpressed with the judge, too.

Happy cows, healthy milk, humane dairying

Bob Bansen and his girls

This, miraculously, is a happy column about food! It’s about a farmer who names all his 230 milk cows, along with his 200 heifers and calves, and loves them like children.

Let me introduce Bob Bansen, a high school buddy of mine who is a third-generation dairyman raising Jersey cows on lovely green pastures here in Oregon beside the Yamhill River. Bob, 53, a lanky, self-deprecating man with an easy laugh, is an example of a farmer who has figured out how to make a good living running a farm that is efficient but also has soul.

As long as I’ve known him, Bob has had names for every one of his “girls,” as he calls his cows. Walk through the pasture with him, and he’ll introduce you to them.

“I spend every day with these girls,” Bob explained. “I know most of my cows both by the head and by the udder. You learn to recognize them from both directions…”

For Bob, a crucial step came when he switched to organic production eight years ago. A Stanford study has cast doubt on whether organic food is more nutritious, but it affirms that organic food does contain fewer pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Bob’s big worry in switching to organic production was whether cows would stay healthy without routine use of antibiotics because pharmaceutical salesmen were always pushing them as essential. Indeed, about 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States go to farm animals — leading to the risk of more antibiotic-resistant microbes, which already cause infections that kill some 100,000 Americans annually.

Bob nervously began to experiment by withholding antibiotics. To his astonishment, the cows didn’t get infections; on the contrary, their health improved. He realized that by inserting antibiotics, he may have been introducing pathogens into the udder. As long as cows are kept clean and are given pasture rather than cooped up in filthy barns, there’s no need to shower them with antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, he says.

Bob frowned. “For productivity, it’s important to have happy cows,” he said. “If a cow is at her maximum health and her maximum contentedness, she’s profitable. I don’t even really manage my farm so much from a fiscal standpoint as from a cow standpoint, because I know that, if I take care of those cows, the bottom line will take care of itself…”

“I feel good about it,” he said simply. “They support me as much as I support them, so it’s easy to get attached to them. I want to work hard for them because they’ve taken good care of me.”

As Nicholas Kristof says at the end of this Op-Ed piece, “the next time you drink an Organic Valley glass of milk, it may have come from one of Bob’s cows. If so, you can bet it was a happy cow. And it has a name.”

That’s fine by me.

Wells Fargo sends contractor to trash wrong home – twice!

Better Days

A retired bricklayer, Alvin Tjosaas, 77, was the caretaker of his late parents’ two-bedroom home in Twentynine Palms, about 200 miles east of his home in Woodland Hills, north of Los Angeles. He is a part owner of the home with his sisters.

Alvin Tjosaas visited the home every four to five months, he said, for maintenance and to work on hobbies in the garage…

But on June 1, a neighbor in Twentynine Palms called the Tjosaas family, asking if they had authorized people to clear out their home.

“We assumed it was a break-in and, really, it was a break-in,” Tjosaas said. “They weren’t legally supposed to be there.”

Tom Goyda, vice president of corporate communications for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, told ABC News the company had foreclosed appropriately on another property near the Tjosaas house and the error was made when a contractor mistakenly went to the Tjosaas house instead of the correct house.

Continue reading

Thinking about holiday season gifts, yet – for small children?

We don’t think it can ever be too early to release your inner geek, and while this wooden tablet computer won’t run Android (or anything for that matter), it could help your toddler understand the technology they are growing up surrounded by.

Tinker Tablet is the brainchild of a group of fathers and self-confessed nerds who questioned how to introduce their kids to technology. After looking at basic wooden puzzles which teach children about things like farmyard animals and basic shapes, they decided the same approach could be used to explain how devices like tablet computers and mobile phones work.

The result is a wooden puzzle which consists of parts including a camera, memory, CPU, Wi-Fi and battery which fit onto an equally wooden circuit board. This completed puzzle then slots into a tablet computer case to show children from 3 to 6 years old that our devices are made up of smaller parts … even the guys behind the toy accept it may be a little early to expect kids to understand the intricate workings of a CPU.

The front “touch-screen” panel of the tablet is a magnetic dry-erase screen, which kids can draw on and attach application magnets to. To further illustrate the fact devices are built from technical components, the camera, memory, CPU and Wi-Fi blocks also fit inside the battery block, which when flipped over looks like a touch-screen phone…

“We all have grappled with how to introduce our children to the technologies that are becoming more prevalent in their lives,” Tinkermite Co-Founder Nick Peters told Gizmag. “The different components of the Tinker Tablet will help kids incorporate technical realism into their imaginative play. The puzzle will help them to develop their spatial problem solving skills. The magnetic, writable surface will become a quiet travel companion where imagination can run rampant.”

Sounds like a neat idea to me. If I knew someone with an age-appropriate child this would be something fun to give that child.

My only caution is to be prepared as soon as possible after the gifting – to fork over the real deal. At least something capable of streaming or playing cartoons, animated content.

Feed the hunger to learn.

Mitt Romney’s fair share – a question of ethics and leadership

Romney’s favorite flag

Mitt Romney’s income taxes have become a major issue in the American presidential campaign. Is this just petty politics, or does it really matter? In fact, it does matter – and not just for Americans.

A major theme of the underlying political debate in the United States is the role of the state and the need for collective action. The private sector, while central in a modern economy, cannot ensure its success alone. For example, the financial crisis that began in 2008 demonstrated the need for adequate regulation.

Moreover, beyond effective regulation (including ensuring a level playing field for competition), modern economies are founded on technological innovation, which in turn presupposes basic research funded by government. This is an example of a public good – things from which we all benefit, but that would be undersupplied (or not supplied at all) were we to rely on the private sector.

Conservative politicians in the US underestimate the importance of publicly provided education, technology, and infrastructure. Economies in which government provides these public goods perform far better than those in which it does not.

But public goods must be paid for, and it is imperative that everyone pays their fair share. While there may be disagreement about what that entails, those at the top of the income distribution who pay 15% of their reported income (money accruing in tax shelters in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens may not be reported to US authorities) clearly are not paying their fair share.

There is an old adage that a fish rots from the head. If presidents and those around them do not pay their fair share of taxes, how can we expect that anyone else will? And if no one does, how can we expect to finance the public goods that we need?

RTFA for more detail and insight.

Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is a Professor at Columbia University. He’s innovated studies of taxation, development, trade, and technical change. He was Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank.

India bats a century in space missions

India’s national space organisation has marked its 100th mission by successfully launching two new satellites which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has lauded as a “spectacular success”.

Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) celebrated the launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C21 on Sunday as it blasted into the sky carrying a French observation satellite and a Japanese microsatellite…

Singh congratulated the team at the ISRO at Sriharikota hailing the achievement as “a milestone in our nation’s space capabilities”.

India is justly proud of its space scientists, who have overcome immense odds to set up world class facilities and develop advanced technologies. We owe a great deal to pioneers like Dr Vikram Sarabhai and Prof Satish Dhawan,” Singh said…

“I would also like to congratulate European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) Astrium of France and Osaka Institute of Technology of Japan for the successful launch of their satellites,” Singh said.

Bravo! There’s a special tightrope of contradiction for developing nations to walk when they choose to spend funds on projects which don’t seem to directly benefit the whole population of their nation.

Poisonally, I think it’s worth it as essential inspiration to the tens of thousands of Indian citizens who decide each year to join studies in science and maths. A goodly portion of India’s future lies in technology and science and being able to fill those needs with your own citizens is a special feature.