And vegan it is

After going purely vegetarian last January based on ethical grounds, more than a month ago I took the final step: becoming a vegan.

How much of a vegan?  As Jenny said recently, I’m a radical vegan, one who will no longer eat animal products, purchase clothing made from them, or otherwise partake in any manner of cruelty against sentient life.

I know of exceptions.  I have no qualms with taking antibiotics when necessary, as my recent bout with strep should make clear.  I must drive my car, so I accept that some insect life will be destroyed by that very act.  Ignoring my acute allergy to ants, wasps, and bees would spell certain death for me, so I must act in urgent cases to ensure they don’t post an immediate threat.

However, I no longer can view these living beings as any kind of commodity, as things to meet my needs.

I once made an exception for meals at the family farm, given what I know of the conditions and health of the animals there.  That no longer is the case.

I refrain from being preachy about this issue, refrain from prodding those who know better and those who should know better, because my decision is personal.  We all have our ethics, our morals, our ability to judge right and wrong based on what we know.

What I know is what my heart tells me, that the horrific cruelty inflicted on the beasts we consume portrays us as the heartless monsters we are, a practice I can neither tolerate nor support.  I also know humans measure the worth of a life by means of a superiority complex, a purely subjective can-I-kill-it-before-it-kills-me mentality, one of wanton waste, abject heartlessness, and complete and utter barbarity.  As much as we inflict terror upon our own species, imagine then what we find acceptable when it comes to other life.

But why vegan?  Certainly organic and humane sources of dairy products, eggs, and wool—to name a few items—can be found.

That is a correct statement.  I mentioned before that I knew the life the chickens enjoy at our family farm, and therefore their eggs should be considered both organic and humane, the product of free-range hens who live in luxury and safety, who enjoy being a part of the family rather than a product thereof.

Nevertheless, the emotional journey I began more than a year ago ultimately brought me to a place where I must respect the creatures who share this planet with us.  Cows produce milk to feed their young, just as humans do.  Chickens produce eggs for reproduction, just as humans do.  By what stretch of my own moral fabric can I see a difference in taking from them and taking from us?

A life of harmony, to me at least, seems the best option.  A life of respect for sentient beings no matter what form they take appears the only road I can travel.

Not to put too fine a point on it, in my quest for the really important answers, the search for what our very nature should entail, mercy rose to the top of the list of the least practiced yet most needed approach to making my way through the world.  And that mercy, that humanity, should not be the exclusive purview of interacting with other people.

Nay, poppets, we have failed utterly in that regard.  However, we still seem to believe only amongst ourselves is there the greatest demand for the best of our very nature.

Shameful, that is, and unfathomable.

I see elephants show respect for human dead, yet we show nothing of the sort for their living.  I see coyotes honor the unspoken pact of mutual understanding with regards to those of us who revere their places and lives, yet we encroach on their domain and push them to desperation.  I see kindred spirits in the love of all mothers, yet I cannot count how many newborn seals are murdered in annual hunts…and all in front of the mothers’ eyes.

To add insult to injury, we pick and choose those lives we wish to cherish, and the rest we discard as fodder for human folly.

How many would happily dine on dog or cat?  How many would blink at a meal of shark?  How many would lavishly enjoy a bit of rabbit, a bowl of goldfish, or a plate of tiger?

You see, we base our respect for life on the society in which we are born.  We selectively take offense when one is consumed as opposed to another.  Why?  Because our insult has nothing to do with the life taken and everything to do with personal whim.

I make no such distinction.  To me, all creatures great and small deserve respect.  All life, no matter how insignificant in our culture, deserves the same chance we reserve for our own kind.

I would scarcely tolerate a human woman being used for mass production of milk.  Why then another mother?  Just because she doesn’t look like us?

I would scarcely tolerate human children being used as bait to catch wild animals.  Why then other children used in such a way?  Just because the woeful parents can’t express their anguish and loss in terms we can understand?

In truth, a lack of respect for the living has caused all manner of anguish and suffering for our own peoples.  I see we feel more comfortable visiting that hell upon life so long as it doesn’t speak our language.

For me now, things change.  I simply can’t be a part in this horror any longer.

a.k.a Swan goose

Chinese geese (a.k.a. swan geese; Anser cygnoides) inhabit White Rock Lake throughout the year.  I’ve mentioned them repeatedly.

I even tried once to explain the “swan goose” nickname of this species.  Those images elicited swan-like memories and thoughts, and yet something remained amiss, unfinished even.

Today, however, I captured some photos that offered a new perspective on these large birds.  Upon review, I found myself entranced by their beauty, their stunning grace in the water.

That’s when it all made sense.

Two white Chinese geese (a.k.a. swan geese; Anser cygnoides) and an American coot (Fulica americana) swimming toward me
A white Chinese goose (a.k.a. swan goose; Anser cygnoides) swimming by me
Several white Chinese geese (a.k.a. swan geese; Anser cygnoides) swimming near shore
A white Chinese goose (a.k.a. swan goose; Anser cygnoides) swimming with head bowed and tail up as another goose and an American coot (Fulica americana) swim in the background

[American coots (Fulica americana) can be seen in some of the images; also note I’ve increased the default image size to 1600×1200 when possible; yet another reintroduction via the new camera]


This morning’s walk at White Rock Lake entailed a photographic experiment for me.  With clear skies and bright sunlight, I decided to put the UV and polarization filters on the camera for the entire walk.  Albeit a few images taken in partly to mostly shadowed environments would have been well served without them, mostly the experiment succeeded in teaching me more about these two filters, how to use them together, and what conditions do and don’t warrant them.

While tinkering with the camera before I left, however, I regrettably switched the ISO control back to automatic.  Many photos which otherwise would have been spectacular have been rendered useless because too high an ISO setting resulted in significant image noise.  Some of those will still work when reduced in size, but many had to be deleted.

I’m angry at myself.

I began the day continuing my image migration to Flickr for those posts impacted by this latest Zooomr snafu.  After uploading almost 40 pictures and editing the appropriate posts, I realized I still had to process another 162 photographs and edit another 50 entries.  And all because Zooomr fouled up the latest migration, the same thing they did with the Mark III upgrade six months ago which resulted in an utter disaster followed by a continuing fiasco of broken or missing functionality.

I’m angry at Zooomr.

Chris Clarke has posted some heartfelt and emotionally tumultuous reminiscences about Zeke, his dog who died a year ago.  His beautiful letters remind me of those who have come before, those who have been lost to time, those like Derek and Henry…and a great many others.

I’m angry at death.

I wished nothing more than to make reality by now my move from urban Dallas to rural East Texas, nearer the family farm, surrounded by nature and the pastoral life that beckons to me, far away from city dwelling which now vexes me to the core.  Yet I am only a few steps closer to that relocation because of tighter finances, a shriveling economy that has limited greatly the jobs available, and a crippling lack of minutes for even life’s necessities, let alone wants.

I’m angry at time.

Dreamdarkers has languished in near limbo for months for too tight a work schedule that steals more than it gives.  Setting aside that it pays the bills, more and more this company demands sacrifice after sacrifice while offering nothing in return.  I see people working five or six hours per day on a regular basis, people who undoubtedly make the same or more money as I do, and I wonder how they can do so little while I do so much—all while betraying that which matters to me most.

I’m angry at my job.

I saw an article recently that a major salmon line has collapsed to utter nonexistence.  Numbering only a tiny fraction of what they were last year, let alone a few years ago, and with the number of young at only 5% of what they should be from year to year, king salmon appear to be the latest casualty of overfishing, pollution, diversion of fresh water, and climate change.  To put that list more succinctly, this species has been pushed to the brink of extinction over the course of five years by one thing: people.

I’m angry at humanity.

al-Zill has camped on my patio for the last week.  I finally put a cat carrier on the patio, including a towel inside it, so he’d have a place to sleep and rest away from the unrelenting wind and chilly temperatures of late.  In turn, he’s become my best friend, greeting me almost every time I go outside, crying to me with that raspy voice of his that sounds more like a weeping child than a feline, rubbing against my legs with a wrenching consistency, and otherwise becoming a family member by proxy.  I can’t adopt him, at least not now, and I couldn’t even care for him if something happened.  And it did, for I’ve attempted to care for a major wound on his head which appeared a few weeks ago.  He’s left blood on the towel…if that tells you anything.  I give him food and water, and as much affection as I can, yet my very being tells me I must do more.

I’m angry at my heart.

Our economy has tanked while politicians spend millions on campaigns and billions on unjust wars.  More and more people are jobless, too many die from hunger or disease or violence or any number of anthropogenic means, yet the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, patricians gain more control while plebeians suffer increasing torment, and all the while our elected officials look the other way because the whole process brings them their thirty pieces of silver.

I’m angry at the U.S. government.

Truth be told, I could go on ad nauseam, for every direction I look provides yet another target for my wrath.  The world is going to hell in a handbasket, the environment is falling apart around us, life in all its forms is being pushed to the brink of extinction, litter clogs the streets and creeks, pollution colors the air strange hues of unnatural, ailments never before seen pop up around the globe, the power pendulum continually swings further in favor of those already in power—and those with money, what should be done gets ignored for what must be done to survive day to day, and all the while I suffer in a putrid pool of ire.

I need a stiff drink…

I’ve had it up to here

Zooomr has now taken a major chunk of previously available photos off-line with promises to have them on-line again “within the month.”

What the fuck!?

So begins the mass migration from Zooomr to Flickr.

That’s not something I want to do, mind you, as there are more than 1,600 photos to migrate.  I’ll start with the several months worth that have suddenly gone missing, then I’ll go from there.

Add to that the looming threat of having Microsoft buy Yahoo! and, subsequently, Flickr.  That will mean yet another migration as I want nothing to do with M$.

Still, having a large portion of my photos go off-line for up to a month is even more unacceptable.

Zooomr has really screwed the pooch this time.  Such an abrupt and cataclysmic disruption is unacceptable even if it’s still a beta service, even if it’s free[1], and even if it’s the underdog.

Sorry, Kris.  There are some mistakes which I find foreseeable, preventable, and unforgivable.  This is one of them.

— — — — — — — — — —

[1] Many moons ago when I had the funds, I donated enough money to Zooomr to secure a Flickr Pro account for years to come.  Many years to come, I mean, as in more than five.  I considered that an investment in a service I felt held great promise.  Those funds now seem lost, the investment frustrating at best.  Trust is a tough thing to regain once it’s lost.  Let’s hope Zooomr gets its act together in time to restore that faith.

No more WWW

As of today I’ve dropped the www prefix to this site’s address.

While in most ways this change is aesthetic only, it does have technical ramifications.

Cookies for the old site have become obsolete.  This helps me in two ways.

First: All previous theme switches are now invalid.  Everyone should be looking at the same thing.

Second: All commenters have to reenter their data.

That last one presents the most significant issue to all of you.  If you don’t remember what username and/or e-mail address you were using to comment, the major information needed for you to bypass moderation, send me an e-mail and I’ll tell you.  If that’s too much trouble, just enter what you want to use and I’ll reauthorize that information to comment without a need for me to review and approve what you have to say.

The only other notable effect is that all internal links now appear unread (your browsing history for the site has been invalidated).  That can’t be helped.

Why did I make this change?

I have further plans for subdomains of xenogere, such as my photoblog, xenogere unseen.  Dropping the www appeared an easy way to begin differentiating the sites, both technologically and otherwise.

More importantly, using just the domain name for the blog helps simplify the experience of finding me and accessing the site.

Another piece of the puzzle is that the www was, at best, gratuitous.  It’s never been necessary, but it’s always been more trouble than it was worth.

As for links to, those will continue to work.  I have DNS and address rewrite controls in place to ensure anything using the old style will automatically get redirected over to the new one.