The Hightower Lowdown

Cows Go High Tech; Sweet Smell of Poison


Cows Go High Tech

Science marches on! And on ... and on ... often trampling common sense, and usually propelled by a government grant.

Applying the die-hard American notion that technology is the answer, no matter what the question, some agricultural researchers at Texas A&M and Southwest Texas State have been messing with a great big chunk of technology called "global positioning systems."

This satellite-based gizmo was developed by the military to keep track of troop movements in war. Now some auto makers are putting the technology in their cars -- if you get lost, just hit a button, for your little satellite buddy in the sky always knows right where you are. The Wall Street Journal reports that this gave the ag researchers a sudden thought: Why not use the global positioning system to keep track of grazing cows?

Grazing cows? Most cows are fenced off in a pasture, and what little movement they do is at a mighty slow pace. Well, say the researchers, the satellite system could tell them precisely where in the pasture the cows graze. So, these scientists have been strapping $5,000 satellite receivers around the necks of assorted cows and monitoring each cow's position every 20 minutes, also noting whether said cows are standing up or laying down.

Already, say the researchers triumphantly, they've learned that the grazing cows avoid an area in one pasture where the grass was growing among sharp rocks!

One can only assume that the rocks were sharper than these researchers. Asked how the cows reacted to this high tech intrusion into their grazing habits, the lead researcher said:

"They just shake their heads."


Sweet Smell of Poison

Lily Tomlin says: "I worry that the man who

invented Muzak might be thinking of inventing something else." I thought of her concern when I learned that a Canadian organization has come up with an innovation that turns an already-bad idea into something truly awful. The bad idea is the widespread dousing of lawns with steady doses of toxic pesticides.

These spritzings can contain chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, and other deadly problems, and it's doubly bad to put these toxins on a yard where children and pets romp and roll around. More pesticides are applied to yards each year than are put on the vast farmlands of North America, and sensible people everywhere are urging the use of nontoxic alternatives to reduce and even eliminate this massive poisoning. Yet, here comes the Professional Lawn Care Association of Ontario with a new product that tries to mask the fact that so much poison is being spread. Their "innovation" is to put something called "Masker-Aid Odour Concentrate" into their toxic mix. It's an artificial fragrance that tries to cover up the noxious smell of pesticides.

The industry refers to it as an "odor counteractant," but parents are referring to it as an abomination. Not only does this stuff mask the presence of dangerous chemicals, but it could actually attract children into a sprayed yard because the two fragrances used are -- get this! -- bubble gum and cherry! So you'd have a contaminated yard that smells like bubble gum or candy -- what child wouldn't want to roll around in that? Unfortunately, Canada's regulatory agency is about as clueless and toothless as ours is.

When asked to stop this candy-coating of poison, the agency said it saw no difference between this and adding a lemon scent to bleach.


Going Out in Style

Time for another trip into the Far, Far, Far-Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise. Today, Spaceship Hightower transports you to a place that prepares you for the world beyond -- or at least prepares your body for its eternal rest. Some people simply get buried, some are cremated and have their ashes creatively spread ... but some go to Summum, a Salt Lake City religious group that can really do you up right.

Associated Press reports that Summum is the one place on earth where you can be mummified. For a fee, of course.

This is not your old Egyptian mummy, but an updated, high tech process that the Summum folks have patented after having practiced on several cadavers. The corpse is cleaned and drained, soaked in a vat of "secret formula" preservation fluid for up to six months, covered with lanolin, and wrapped with gauze. Next, the corpse gets a dozen coats of polyurethane rubber, after which it is wrapped in layers of fiberglass bandages, which set the body in position for eternity.

We're not through. The mummified body is then placed in a bronze container called a mummiform -- much like those found in the ancient pyramids. The container finally is sealed with resin and can be topped off with a paint job or gold leaf. It's then yours to be put in a mausoleum, made into a coffee table, or whatever.

Mummification is not for everyone, though, for it's a pricey proposition. First, you have to get the corpse to Salt Lake City -- about a $5,000 trip. The process itself costs some $12,000, and your standard bronze mummiform goes for $36,000. Tack on gold-leafing, mausoleum space, and ... well, if you have to ask, you can't afford it.

Already, though, 137 people have ponied up the cash to go out in style when they die -- mummy style. (If you don't have the money for mummification, Summum will do your cat for $9,000.)

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