Designer pets: Ethic or not?

I am looking forward to hearing and reading the next debate on genetically engineering aka manipulation, with animal protection activists foaming over the concept of ‘designer pets’.

Personally I must admit that I don’t fancy this concept either. I guess people would be better off if available grants are used to find cures to diseases going rampant, rather than creating animals for the rich and famous.
Because let’s face it, who is going to spend $22,000 on a designer cat? But hey, the positive aspect is that some cat or dog expensive breeds might get a more realistic, down to earth price.

A California based biotech company, named Lifestyle Pets has created a hybrid exotic breed of domestic cat that resembles a mini leopard.
Introducing the Ashera cat.
According to the info from their website

The Ashera is the world’s rarest and most exotic breed of domestic cat.
Developed by blending two exotic feline bloodlines with a domestic breed of cat, the distinctive result is the Ashera.
Featuring leopard-like spots and contrasting stripes, the Ashera can reach a weight of thirty pounds (14 kg). Lifestyle Pets developed the Ashera by way of a proprietary blend of the exotic bloodlines of the African Serval and Asian Leopard Cat subsequently bred with a domestic cat. Genetic monitoring is used to standardize breeding and ensure that the defining features of the Ashera remain exceptionally consistent.
Ashera cats are highly intelligent, very affectionate and have great temperaments, requiring the same care as any ordinary cat. Fully socialized, the Ashera gets along well with children and other pets and takes well to being walked on a leash.
New for 2008: The Ashera GD, an hypoallergenic version of the Ashera.
Priced at $22,000 for the standard Ashera and $28,000 US for the GD version”

The company has a large distribution network covering the whole world.
Most of the 100 Ashera cats sold this year by the company have been to customers in Russia and China.
The Ashera is just one of the lucrative breed of designer cats.
Other hybrid varieties include the Toyger, which is a cross of a Bengal and a domestic cat, the Chausie , a mix of jungle and domestic cats, the Savannah , which resulted from breeding an African Serval and a house cat, the Pixie Bobs and the Safari Cat, a hybrid of South American Geoffroys cat.

Chausie Cat

Lifestyle Pets accepted that Savannah and Ashera might look pretty much alike, but they have different characteristics. From what I have read it looks like savannah cats are bred more naturally so to speak. Which makes me wonder what type of procedure Lifestyle Pets used? Some sort of in vitro fertilization (IVF)? They needed a prototype to work with.

Checking the Toyger website I noticed a long list of breeders, most of them in the United States, so I presume that they are not doing IVF due to the difficulty of the procedure, but rather follow regular breeding techniques. Although from their website : the kittens are leaving the breeding premises spayed or neutered.

In 2009 Lifestyle Pets is planning to offer dogs as well. The Jabari GD is a true hypoallergenic small dog priced at $15,000 US.

Curious as a cat, I looked for the etymology and this is what I found:
Ashera = Canaanite fertility goddess or meta-virus brought to earth naturally or by aliens in the science fiction book ‘Snow Crash’ by Neal Stephenson
Jabari = the brave one, fearless… kind of funny because the dog is small and white

Final thought: maybe we should give the go-ahead to human cloning and develop hybrids with an IQ in three digits. So far the vast majority of the Earth population is way below the 100 mark.

Toys recall due to lead content : November 2007

Children’s umbrella with a yellow duck-shaped handle.
Description: Yellow Duck Handle Kids Umbrella, style # 79WWM
Hazard: Health Canada’s testing demonstrates that the yellow colour used on the product contains lead in excess of the allowable level per the Canadian Hazardous Products Act.
Sold at: Wal-Mart Canada Inc. from January 2005, through October 15, 2007.
Manufactured in : China
Distributed by: A.C.I. Accessory Concepts Inc. of Oakville, Ontario.
Piggy Bank
The recall involves a Frog shaped wooden painted piggy bank.
Hazard: Surface paints on the product contain excessive levels of lead.
Sold at: San Francisco and San Diego stores across Canada from 2003 until May, 2007.
Manufactured by: Xiamen Shangfa of Xiamen, China
Imported by: San Francisco Gifts Ltd. of Edmonton, Alberta

Elite Operations Toys
Description: 3 pack Combatant Squad (Sku 577286 UPC 803516930355); Command Patrol Center (Sku 661317 UPC 803516939136); and Barracuda Helicopter with 2 figures (Sku 661287 UPC 803516939136). the Elite Operations Troop Carrier (Sku 577251; UPC 803516930478) and the Elite Operations Rapid Response Vehicle (Sku 615889; UPC 803516939150)
Hazard: Surface coatings on the toys contain excessive levels of lead, violating the federal lead paint standard.
Sold at: Toys “R” Us stores nationwide and from July 2007 through October 2007 for between $10 and $30. No other Elite Operations brand military play sets are included in this recall
Manufacturer: Toy World Group Ltd/Chun Tat Toys Factory Limited, of Guangdong, China

Curious George Plush Dolls
Description: Curious George 12-inch plush dolls with a plastic face.
The dolls are dressed to represent five various themes: birthday, fireman, sweet dreams, tool time and tool time with a soft face.
The plush dolls were sold with a Curious George storybook or activity book. The following product and SKU numbers are printed on the packaging.
Birthday 90253/ 8-83199-90253-5
Fireman 90246/ 8-83199-90246-7
Sweet Dreams 90247/ 8-83199-90247-4
Tool Time 90251/ 8-83199-90251-1
Tool Time (soft face) 90251/ 8-83199-90251-1
Hazard: Surface paint on the toy’s plastic face and construction hat contain excessive levels of lead, which violates the federal lead paint standard.
Sold at: Toy and discount department stores nationwide from December 2005 through August 2007 for about $15.
Manufacturer: Marvel Toys, of New York, N.Y. (Manufactured in China)
Importer: Grand Toys Ltd., Dorval, Quebec

“Robot 2000” collectable tin robot
Description: The “Robot 2000” is a battery-operated, tin robot standing 12” tall. It has a red light on the head and chest panels that open.
Hazard: Surface paints on the robot contain excessive levels of lead, which violates the federal lead paint standard.
Sold at: Specialty toy stores and gift shops nationwide from October 2006 through September 2007 for about $25.
Manufactured in: China, imported by Schylling Associates Inc., of Rowley, Mass.

Winnie-the-Pooh Spinning Top
Description: the spinning top is primarily metal and has wooden handles. The top is printed with Winnie-the-Pooh characters. Tops with plastic handles are not included in this recall.
Hazard: Surface paint on the wooden handle of the top contains excessive levels of lead, violating the federal lead paint standard.
Sold at: Specialty toy stores and gift shops nationwide from April 2003 through November 2003 for about $12.
Manufactured in: China, imported by Schylling Associates Inc., of Rowley, Mass.

Duck Family Collectable Wind-Up Toy
Description: Duck Family consists of a large wind-up duck, which pulls three little ducks. They are made of tin and are primarily yellow in color.
Hazard: Surface paints on the ducks contain excessive levels of lead, which violates the federal lead paint standard.
Sold at: Specialty toy stores and gift shops nationwide from January 2007 through August 2007 for about $8.
Manufactured in: China, imported by Schylling Associates Inc., of Rowley, Mass.

Dizzy Ducks Music Box
Description: The Dizzy Ducks Music Box is a wind-up music box with ducks that spin as music plays.
Hazard: Surface paints on the wooden base of the music box contain excessive levels of lead, which violates the federal lead paint standard.
Sold at: Specialty toy stores and gift shops nationwide from March 2007 through October 2007 for about $12.
Manufactured in: China, imported by Schylling Associates Inc., of Rowley, Mass.

What your doctor did not tell you about scabies

This is a typical scenario for a doctor’s appointment for your kid: because the doctor works regular hours, like everybody else, you have to take time off from work. Like 3-4 hours. Why? Because your appointment will never ever be as scheduled. The receptionist will schedule patients every 10 or 15 minutes, meaning that if somebody is in talkative mood it creates a ripple effect.
OK, now finally you are in the consultation room, with your already restless kid.
The doctor rushes in, lifts his shirt, takes a quick look and evaluates. The diagnosis follows: scabies. You feel like the whole hell broke loose. What?! My kid? Scabies in Canada?
Yes, yes, it’s not limited to some God-forgotten-land-before-time.
Next: prescription time. You get the pesticide permethrin and recommendation to wash/disinfect everything touched by your uber contagious kid.
And that’s it; you are rushed out of the room. See you, bye.
Desperate as you are, grab the kid, run to the pharmacy, fork in $50 and get the medication.
I forgot to mention that at this point if you are as stupid as I was, you go to the daycare and tell them that the kid got scabies. The result: he can’t stay there until after the treatment. So instead of 3-4 hours off, you end up with the whole day. And the following one.
After a week he is still scratching his torso, where the bumps are.
Now you are getting depressed and start searching the net.
And you find out that there are less invasive methods for dealing with these horrible mites.
Like sulphur ointment. 10% sulphur mixed in petroleum jelly.
Back to the doctor you have to plead your case for getting the prescription. Then you have to find the only pharmacy that is doing compounding. Finally you came back home happy, holding the precious stinky ointment. Full of enthusiasm you start rubbing it into your kid’s skin.

What the doctor forgot to mention? That you are not allowed to wash it for three days!!!!
So, about a week of treatment down the drain, because my kid took his regular bath every evening.
Only when I noticed that there was no improvement I restarted searching the net.
For the past three nights I applied the sulphur ointment by the book, only to see more bumps then before, spread now on the back as well.
Panic full blast.
I woke up this morning at 4 AM worried sick. Thanks to Wikipedia, this is what I found out, included in the same ‘What the doctor did not tell you’ category:

“Expect increased itching and red bumps for the first week after taking any medication for scabies. The dead mites remain in the skin for 30 days. They are removed with the body’s natural shedding process. During those 30 days expect new bumps and itching.”

Very important:
“Preventing Reinfection
All family and close contacts should be treated at the same time, even if asymptomatic. After treatment has been applied or taken, (or directly before treatment if you are careful and wear gloves) cleaning of environment should occur. A person can easily be reinfected with scabies.
Without a host, scabies mites can on average survive up to 48-72 hours away from human skin. As in cases of Crusted Scabies, they can survive much longer, up to 7 days. Therefore it is recommended, after treatment, to wash all material (such as clothes, bedding, and towels) that has been in contact with all infested persons in the last three days.
All household members should be treated at the same time and cleaning must be thorough and simultaneous. Either isolate long enough for the mites to die in a plastic bag for at least 1 week, or clean or freeze overnight.
· Vacuuming floors, carpets, and rugs.
· Disinfecting floor and bathroom surfaces by mopping (this only needs to be done after the first treatment).
· Daily washing of recently worn clothes, towels and bedding in hot water and drying in a hot dryer.
· Hot drying pillows for 30 minutes.
· Overnight freezing, in a plastic bag: stuffed animals, brushes, combs, shoes, coats, gloves, hats, robes, wetsuits, etc.
· Quarantine in a plastic bag for two weeks: things that cannot be washed, hot dried, frozen or drycleaned.
· Drycleaning: things that cannot be washed, hot dried or frozen or quarantined”

What have we not done so far?– Treat ourselved because none of us has any symptoms
– Althought I washed everything on sanitasion cycle, I hot dried only the bedding

Next steps:
– I ordered neem and oregano oil from the net; as soon as I get them I will prepare an ointment
– I ordered sulphur soap and we will start using it as soon as I get it
– If after one week there is no improvement on my son, I will get back to the pesticide option
– Use antihistaminics or anti pruric oils to ease the itching
– Think positive crap: one day all this ordeal is finished; take one day at the time; baby steps, etc.

Conclusions:– Educate yourself before going to the doctor
– Ask as many questions as you can come up with and don’t leave the doctor’s office until you have a clear understanding of the treatment and all the options
– Don’t bother buying sulphur from the net because you need a colloidal mill to mix it with petroleum jelly
– Calamine lotion works only so much on itching; the positive side is that it dries out the skin and mites hate that
– Investigate the naturistic approach because mites can and probably would reinfect, so it’s better to have something handy to act in a timely manner: sulphur soap, neem and oregano oil, propolis tincture.

Christmas shopping on a budget

Christmas is around the corner, so is the lay off-time-of-the-year. Contrary to what you read in the paper, Canadian economy it’s not booming, it’s taking a beeline to the rock bottom.
Therefore, when your kids start talking about what Santa is going to bring them, instead of pulling your hair out, think a new strategy: second-hand or discount buying.
So what if a toy or a book is not new? You compensate with a nice and shiny wrapping and a bigger ribbon.
Seriously speaking, there are many things around that don’t have to be new to enjoy them.

DVD and CD
Yeap, I am an old dinosaur and still purchase DVDs and CDs, vs. copying them from the net. Nowadays I am digging into the boxes of ‘hot deals’ at Wal-Mart or Superstore or any other store that may be offering still in-box (as in new) DVDs and CDs at low prices.
Or I check the online sellers. With online retailers the problem is that even if the discs are cheap, being used, the shipping and handling is more expensive than normal and what you save on the disc’s cost you spend on shipping. It happened to me when I checked Amazon market place. So you have to do your homework and compare. Don’t forget the duty you have to pay if the content of your package is more expensive than 20 USD.
Another source might be Rogers video or Blockbuster video rental stores. It’s worth trying anyway.

Normally you read a book once, maybe twice if you really like it or you suffer from some sort of brain fart and can’t remember the action, so when you reread it it’s like new to you (been there, done that)
Library sales, online retailers (like abebooks, check:, Amazon market place, Value Village, anything may be a source of cheap books.

With kids you never know what might be a success toy story. My son enjoyed a toy purchased for $1.99 at Ikea and did not play much with a big, remote-controlled, expensive car. On top of that they get bored pretty fast and most of the toys will end up at the bottom of the toy box in no time.
A good quality second-hand toy will work just as fine as any new one.

Software and console games
If you have the patience to wait a few months after the release of the newest gizmo or game, you will get it cheaper for sure. Another benefit: whatever bug the device, software had, it would be fixed by then. Now, if your kid goes to school and all his peers boast about the newest Xbox they got, he may feel really unhappy with his outdated version. Again, put in balance what is important and act accordingly.
You have to be careful as well because some manufacturers restrict the number of computers the software may be installed, which can make the transfer to the new owner more difficult.
We got our BMW X3, ex-leased, for a good discount. If you are in the market for a new car, at least new for you, an ex-lease is a viable option. Of course you have to do your homework and check the depreciation value. Be realistic and don’t expect a Hyundai to perform as well in time as a BMW, Porsche or Mercedes.
Don’t expect that the dealer will voluntarily disclose every weak point the car has and have a good, objective mechanic verifying your car.

It’s the time of the year when Canadians are not getting too much sunshine. Seasonal depression is in full blast and everybody dreams about that perfect vacation on a hot, white, sunny beach.
Numerous families are contemplating purchasing a timeshare as well. Like in the car’s case, you have to do your homework and check resale values on line. Take with a grain of salt what the agent may tell you about the expected depreciation. Most of the timeshare will loose value in time, as high as 70% of the original cost. Exception may be some high-end properties in exclusive resort.

My tip for not going over board with Christmas shopping: CASH.
I promise you will think twice before throwing lots of stuff in you buggy.

10 Breast Cancer Myths Debunked

Rumours I have heard over the years surrounding breast cancer: using anti perspirants, hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills or wearing underwire bras.
I have even read some studies showing that examining your breasts and getting mammograms are useless.

How to separate facts from fictions? What is true today, might be proved wrong tomorrow. Sticking to the ‘true-today’ category, here are some breast cancer myths debunked:

Myth 1Having a risk factor for breast cancer means you’ll develop the disease
According to some studies, there are various factors that may increase your risk of developing breast cancer including: smoking, drinking (more than five alcoholic drinks per week year after year), getting your first menstrual period before age 12, continuing to have periods after age 55, and not having your first full-term until after age 30.

I have a dear friend who developed breast cancer and: she had the first full-term pregnancy before she turned 30, did not smoke or drink and ,I think, she did not have her period before age 12.

Even an inherited genetic abnormality in your family doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get breast cancer. In fact only about 10 per cent of all cases of breast cancer are due to inherited genetic abnormality.
Myth 2: If there is no breast cancer in your family, then you’re not at risk for the disease.
Every woman is at risk for breast cancer. So are some men. About 85 percent of women who develop the disease don’t have a family history.
Myth 3: Breast cancer is passed only from your mother, not your father
We now know that breast cancer genes can be inherited from your dad’s side of the family. So ask relatives about cases on both sides and in both men and women. About 2,000 cases of male breast cancer are diagnosed in the US each year. In fact, male breast cancer is most closely associated with a BRCA2 abnormality. So if there’s a man in the family who’s had breast cancer, be sure to tell your doctor.
Myth 4: No matter what your risk factors are, you really don’t have to worry about breast cancer until you’re through menopause.The odds of getting the disease do increase as you age. But breast cancer can occur at any age. That’s why all women need to be vigilant. Though experts recommend yearly mammograms starting at age 40, your doctor may suggest that you start even earlier if you have a family history of breast cancer at a young age.
Mammography isn’t the ideal screening test for women younger than 40 because it can’t “see through” their dense breast tissue. So your doctor may also recommend ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Myth 5:  Wearing a bra or using antiperspirants and deodorants increases your risk of breast cancer.These are rumors that never seem to quit. It’s not true that wearing a bra, especially underwire bras, traps toxins by limiting lymph and bloodflow in your breasts, increasing risk. There’s also no proof that antiperspirants and deodorants cause cancer by keeping the body from sweating out the cancer-causing substances that build up in the breasts, or because they contain harmful chemicals that are absorbed through the skin.
Myth 6: If you have small breasts, you’re much less likely to get breast cancer.Size doesn’t matter. Anyone with breasts can get it.
Myth 7:: Research shows that using hormone therapy (HT) ” even for a short period of time — causes breast cancer.
A major study found that HT combining estrogen and progestin increased risks of invasive breast cancer slightly. Another study also showed that combination therapy boosts breast cancer risk somewhat, however, it was able to offer some reassurance: This risk appeared to return to normal within a year or so after women stopped using the therapy. It’s important to note that no studies have found a boost in breast cancer risk for women using estrogen-only therapy.
Hormone therapy is prescribed solely for women who have had hysterectomies, because estrogen taken alone can cause cancer in the lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer).
So, if you take estrogen-only you are not going to develop breast cancer, but you are possibly developing endometrial cancer. With HT you are safe from the endometrial cancer point of view, but you might be developing breast cancer.
Myth 8: Eating high-fat foods and dairy products boosts your risk.
A number of studies have found that women who live in countries where diets tend to be lower in fat have a lower risk of breast cancer, but probably there may be other reasons: they exercise more, eat less, weigh less, smoke less, or have a different genetic profile or environmental interaction that makes them less susceptible.
One thing that seems to stand true: Postmenopausal obesity is a risk factor that does put people at risk for breast and other cancers.
As for dairy products, the study results are mixed. Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study, a large-scale study of 120,000 women, recently found that premenopausal women who ate a lot of dairy products, especially low-fat and fat-free ones, ran a lower risk of breast cancer. The study found no link between dairy product consumption and breast cancer risk in women who are past menopause.
Myth 9:  Mammograms can prevent breast cancer.
The truth: While mammograms can detect breast cancer, they can’t prevent it.
Myth 10: Some studies actually show mammograms are worthless.
Two studies, including a review study done by Danish scientists, did suggest that getting a regular mammogram didn’t lower a woman’s risk of dying of breast cancer. But several other studies, including one done by the US Preventive Services Task Force, totally disagree. You can maximize the benefit of mammography screening by seeking out the best facilities and staff in your area, like radiologists who read more than 300 mammograms a month.