New beginning, new complaining…

It’s been one week since I officially moved in.

During this first week,  I have learned a few things about living in the city.  Every girl I know here are obsessed with Yoga, and every other guy I meet is working for a startup in the basement of somewhere.  SF has no shortage of opinionated people, oddball fusion restaurants that just sounds wrong, and an abundance of those who vocalizes about their particular quasi-socially-responsible-and-organic-everything-i-know-alot-about-random-health-foods-and-do-all-kinds-of-weird-shit lifestyles — all saturated in this overinflated of everythingness culture.  Everything is a little bit more extreme here.

It is true, this city is a beautiful city.  I sometimes forget that people travel from faraway lands to come to this place to experience all the lovely California-ness that San Francisco has to offer and represents, but to me, maybe because I am here day-to-day, I no longer stop to smell the roses.  I had no idea how nice it was to have parking spots in Sacramento, and I had absolutely no idea what a stress it is on every day life here trying to find them.  Speaking of which parking, I got my FIRST ticket the first week here.  And it’s $106 dollars.  FML

My least favorite thing other than parking I found about SF is that all the restaurant reviews on Yelp are bullshit.  I really don’t know who the hell is writing all those 5 star reviews, but 2/4 restaurants I visited that were suppose to be amazeballs were absolute shit.  Everything is more expensive here, and if you want “fair” prices, you better be willing to venture into the ghetto or Chinatown for it, because you’re going to pay a 20-40% premium on everything you buy.

To summarize my first week, I thought I’d share an illustration ↓

Finding parking in San Francisco is like trying to swat a fly with your  bare hands.  You might snag one here and there, but most of the time you arrive a places that you thought was for sure it, but it wasn't a spot.

Finding parking in San Francisco is like trying to swat a fly with your bare hands. You might snag one here and there, but most of the time you arrive a places that you thought was for sure it, but it wasn’t a spot.

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Temporarily semi-unemployed, and moving!

If you call in between jobs and working part-time but not getting paid yet temporarily semi-unemployed, I am your gal. I recently accepted a Creative Director position at a San Francisco start-up, and I am optimistically nervous about moving to the city for it.  Being away from home and the comforts of suburbia life, and grinding it out like the rest of the young and ambitious millennials; it’s one of those things in life that if I don’t do it now, I might not have the opportunity to do it later kind of opportunity.  And since I am a firm believer of grab your opportunity by the balls and see where life takes you kind of person, I am going to do this and see where life takes me.

To me, San Francisco has always been the city that’s a stone throw away, has lots to offer, great food, take your visiting overseas relatives there for a day trip, but the parking really sucks-kind of place. I never really craved the big city experience since I spent the first decade of my life living in China and half of that was spent in Guangzhou, which now has over 14 million people dwelling in the heart the city… and San Francisco has almost a million.  I don’t care for the streets smelling like pee and people everywhere kind of environment, but I do like the conveniences of big cities.  I always liked walking down the street to the corner store to grab something, or always having something to do because as with all big cities, you are never short of entertainment.  Not that Sacramento has shortage of that, but it’s no San Francisco.  On a side note, I just got back from visiting Portland, that is now my official favorite city ever and I want to move there in the near future.

Back to  moving to the big city — OMG, the rent there is SO expensive, it was an eye-opening, life changing experience just going through apartment hunting.  I never really quite understood how anyone can live there and let alone afford it without rent control, or at least make bijillion dollars a year.  I recently found my place of residence but it was not without some serious sacrificing of $$$. I knew I had some standards but they weren’t ridiculous.  But at minimum, I was hoping I could afford something around the $2000/month range that would include me not having to share a bathroom with 4 other people, a window bigger than the size of a pizza box, somewhat centrally located and easily accessible via some sort of transportation, and maybe, just maybe, some kind of parking within a 3 block radius.  Boy, was I wrong.

The place I ended up finding costs me an arm and a leg, but my justification was that if I am going to live there most days out of the week,  I want something that resembles a home, not a dark utility closet in a street corner of a run down building, and I got most of that, except there will always be a few stray crack-heads wandering on the streets next to my building.

I am kind of nervous about adjusting to this new life style — I know I have gotten used to the comforts of suburbia, and it will be an adjustment, I am just not quite sure how I will adjust to it yet.  But I have a feeling, I am going to have a love hate relationship with it already.  And is it just me or does every single big box office movie that would feature a big super-natural disaster/battle scene always features SF being involved one way or another? (Ex: trampled, destroyed, or attacked).   Golden Gate has to be the most-destroyed landmark in film history.

Godzilla

Godzilla the movie

Pacific Rim

pacificrim

Planet of the Apes

planet of the apes

San Andreas

sanandreas

The Core

thecore

Thor, Dark World (future)thor darkworld

X-men

xmen

What life is like being a parent to a 15yr old in your late twenties — pt.1

It’s that time of the year again where I throw my annual Game of Thrones viewing party.  I am quite bummed this year because I normally have a REALLY well thought out menu like weeks in advance. However, with the 15 year old living with me this year for the past 8 months, life has NOT been easy and it’s been a pain in the ass quite frankly.  To explain this phenomenon also known as the Chinese Relative Guilt, I have a 15 year old living with me who is from China, he is my cousin from my mom’s side, and I am his legal guardian/parent while he attends high school and college here.  Was this my choice? Absolutely not.  Who sold my uncle and aunt the idea of shipping their kid here for me to take care while they stay in China? My mother of course, who is ever so enthusiastically campaigning for our entire extended family to move to the United States, particularly California, especially Sacramento, and if the real estate market is favorable and has the supply, definitely buy a house within our gated community. Preferably not on the other side of this circular gate, but within 50 paces. Is my mother here to help me since she was the one who brazenly volunteered me (and my poor boyfriend) the parental duties of a teenager? Nope.  My mom is actually in China at the moment.  And even when she was here, she rarely picked him up from school and never came home until it was the wee hours of the morning. My mother parties with her friends like a twenty something year old would five nights out of the week, and instead of beer pong, they play mahjong instead.  Were my feelings or willingness to take up the task ever questioned or even considered? In true old school Communist fashion, individual opinions doesn’t matter.  The Collective (as in the extended family network of uncles, aunts and what not) has already decided it for me.

Quite frankly, it was the Chinese Relative Guilt that’s what got me into this mess really.  I am too patriotic — as the 15yr old calls it.  I have neither the courage nor the heart to say no to anyone who is in my family because one simply does not question the decision made for you by your elders.  Why not? Some call it filial piety, I call it being a pushover nice person.  Especially if that person was your mom, and she is the matriarch of the entire extended family. For example, when they collectively decided that my old commuter car was too crappy and I didn’t needed a new car, I should buy a new one that gets the best mpg in the market because who knows, I might also have to drive their kid around.  At the end of the day, I do have an option — I can tell them I can’t do this anymore and I want to send their child to Homestay instead, and say fuck it all, but that would just mean I am weak and lazy, and I HATE being associated with the word or thought of being lazy.

However, as you can see in an earlier Instagram post, my faith was sealed the moment the carpool sticker arrived and I was happier than a fat kid at a buffet.

Sleep, what’s that? Staying out late? What’s that?

Moreover, my poor boyfriend is also caught in the web of constant chauffeuring with no end in sight. Have our lives changed? Absolutely.  We attend swim meets instead of going on date nights now. I stay home to cook for a horde famished hyenas (really it’s just 3 people in the house but the 15yr old somehow manages to put away more food than I can keep up cooking) and we don’t go out for fancy dinners anymore.  In fact, I haven’t been to one of those in about 7 months.  I have neither the financial ability nor the patience to take a 15yr old to anywhere that doesn’t serve it all-you-can-eat style.  It is true that all he really needs to survive are some Hot Pockets and steady WiFi, but he isn’t the most difficult nor the easiest teenager to live with.  In fact, he makes it his mission to badger us everyday every other day whether if we have some form of entertainment planned in the upcoming weekend for him. Most of the time, I just laugh at his face and ignore his entitled ass and tell him to go clean the toilets if he wants his ridiculous $80 monthly allowance.  He does clean all of the toilets in the house and he does an okay job on the bowl and the sink, but don’t count on him to get on the floor and wipe the piss off the ground.  I still have to do the mopping.  When I was his age, I’d be lucky if I get $20 bucks from my mom in a year.  But hey, with the inflation and the manual labor that he is somewhat contributing, it’s not that bad I suppose.

Especially when I get to “deduct” random amounts from him whenever he pisses me off or commits an act of stupidity.

This is Andy, the 15yr old at his first American dance, the Homecoming

Here's Andy, my cousin who is here as international student, and I am also his legal guardian. I went with him to buy his dress shirt and sports coat, told him that when it's time to take a girl out for a formal dance, he has to take her wherever she wants to go, pay for the dinner, photos, provide transportation, and get her a corsage. He did most of it correct except for the last part. He told me that she didn't need a corsage so I didn't have to worry about it (so I didn't). 30mins before the dance, he frantically texts me while I was at the grocery store that he didn't know he was suppose to get her a corsage. Good thing I have made it before for my own dances in the past, so I grabbed some bouquets and made his date a bracelet corsage. Turns out she liked it a lot, and my entourage (3 friends visiting from out of town + Tyler) and I tagged along for an impromptu dinner at the same restaurant he and his date were dinning at. I tried my best to embarrass him, by sneaking behind their table multiple times to take paparazzi style photos. Turns out he and his friends didn't find me embarrassing at all… Because as soon as I pull the phone to take photos of them, all the kids in the group date were like owwwww is that an iPhone 6+? Moral of the story is, you can't be embarrassing when they think you're cool.

A post shared by Panda Lau (@3panpans) on

During the winter holidays, my extended family members enjoy tormenting me by shipping all of their Chinese offsprings to my home refugee camp for a week or so of pure torture American holiday experience. 

I told them all to hold on to Tyler in Chinese. Tyler didn't know what was going on haha

A post shared by Panda Lau (@3panpans) on

More will come to me later, but this is my rant for now.

Pityriasis rosea diagnosis and treatments, home remedies, and what finally worked.

*************UPDATE************ 6/24/2015

Went to the Dr again after my second break out. Apparently, this second time around is NOT PR. But instead  chronic hives because of PR, and it is reoccurring because of some allergic reaction.  She prescribed me some really strong Prednisone, I took it and it cleared up all of the itching and hives within 3 days.   My body was completely cleared a week later.

None of that Head and Shoulders showering day in day out, cortisone cream, special oils, tanning bed even came close to this level of effectiveness.

Just letting the internet world know.

 Back to my original blog entry below ↓

*Cue angelic harmony*

Praise baby Jesus, Allah, and Buddah! After 6 weeks of this ridiculous skin condition, it is finally over. First thing I thought was how close I am to the statistics for the average sufferer of such condition. The past two weeks has definitely been a lot more tolerable than the initial weeks. I switched back to using Head & Shoulders shampoo as body wash for the past week and half and it has not made a difference.  But I am glad that I can finally use a regular body wash/soap that’s not an anti-dandruff shampoo, and I no longer have to lather myself in ridiculous creams every evening before bed.

However, the scars… 

I am terribly scarred.  Upon examining my body in a well lit room, I saw the full effect of which PR has wrecked havoc upon my once semi-pristine skin.  I never really appreciated how “scar-less” and normal my skin looked, and now I certainly do wish I have that back again.  I have light brown spots EVERYWHERE from my chest down, and my mid torso looks like someone who just rolled out of bed full of fleas.  It’s horrific. I am grateful that I am no longer itching like a mad woman going through crack withdrawals, but the marks are there to remind me that PR has to be the most stupidest, pointless, random skin condition known to man.

Here’s a recap of what pityriasis rosea is: 

It isn’t contagious

There is no “cause”

The origin of such condition is unknown

There is no cure

It goes away on it’s own.

But not after you’ve suffered a month and half of pure torture from itchiness.

Although I am temporarily marred with brown spots all over me, I am so glad this treacherous disease has finally subsided and will NEVER (knock on wood) come back again.

*************UPDATE************

A month into pityriasis rosea *UPDATE*

Before I begin again about my encounter and subsequent suffering of pityriasis roasea, I must apologize for my last entry and the gnarly photos I posted.  I understand it’s not the most kosher thing to post on the internet right next to a series of blog posts about product/diet reviews, and babies and puppies.  However, since I started my treatment for pityriasis rosea with the variety of unorthodox treatment options found on the internet (e.g. Head & Shoulder as bodywash, tanning beds 3 times a week, etc.), I figure I owe whoever is reading but is also suffering from this dreadful annoyance of a fleeting condition an update about how my progress is coming along.  The few days after I begin using H&S as a body wash, I noticed that my spots weren’t as evident and my yearning to constantly scratch the problem areas were slightly diminishing, but at the same time I was also getting new spots.  It never got to a point to where I was not itching anymore, but I did notice that I was scratching myself less.  

After walking out of the shower one night, I thought to myself, maybe someone at H&S’s marketing department decided to post on one of the forums I happened upon, claiming that by using their product as a body wash, it will help expedite the healing process.  Since there is no way to proof its validity as a form of remedy, it’s actually a pretty genius marketing ploy. 

go6jf

However, what if it was really just some random person who thought it was a novel idea to try something ridiculous — just to see if it actually worked and it just happens to coincide with their progress of PR retreating? And how silly would it be for me to actually believe it (when you’re that desperate, you’re willing to try anything)?! I am pretty sure I am not the only one who went out the next day to purchase a bottle of H&S to try and see if it worked.

I stopped using H&S as a body wash after a week.

So my progress is not getting better, in fact I have new patches growing on the sides of my thighs. And now I am thinking it’s because I stopped using H&S.  For a while, it had seemed like PR had stopped spreading, and I thought hey maybe I should stop using H&S as a body wash.  But a week without using it, and me discovering more patches expanding in my pelvic area, I am thinking maybe I should go back to using it.  I have however, kept up with the tanning, and I am not sure if it’s doing my new patches any good, but it is certainly helping the old ones heal faster.  Needless to say, I am about five weeks in with PR now, and the end of this annoying condition’s is nowhere in sight.  I am still getting new spots, and it’s getting particularly worse in my chest areas.

That’s it for now, I will post another update post when condition changes.

How I am dealing with pityriasis rosea – symptoms, experience, and remedy/solution

Update: 5/10/15 if you’re here to see what ended up working for me, see my latest post on how I finally got rid of this via my doctor my doctor prescribing me Prednisone after all of which the things I tried mentioned in this old post failed. 

Old post:

 I am on a roll here, I haven’t post this much since I first started this blog more than 5 years ago. I first discovered that I had pityriasis rosea about 2 weeks ago.  I started getting these random red itchy bumps all over my pelvic area. I was itching like a mofo and my boyfriend thought it must have been mosquito or flea bites from my dogs. But I had just gotten my fur kids groomed and they were regular on their flea medication, and also they were indoor dogs as they rarely spent more than a couple of hours outdoors so it couldn’t have been them.  I even changed my sheets a couple of times because I thought it was bed bugs, but it didn’t make any sense because my boyfriend had no symptoms of bug bites.  After a week and half of suffering, I finally made a doctor’s appointment and within 24 hours, I was able to see my general doctor for some answers.
The Diagnosis

As soon as I lifted my shirt up, my doctor cracked a smiled and immediately diagnosed me.  Apparently, this is very common, especially amongst women between 10-36yrs of age.  My appointment was so quick, I was dismissed by my doctor within 5 mins of her walking into the exam room, and she practically told me to suck it up for the next 2-8 weeks because it will go away on it’s own.

Needless to say, I was a little pissed about the diagnosis and the lack of treatment.

What is Pityriasis Rosea

Here are a few common things I found out about this disease:

  1. Pityriasis rosea is not contagious – those around you won’t get it, so yes you can go to work and pretend everything is normal.
  2. It is a type of skin condition that no one knows the cause, and you might or might not itch – but if you do, in the words of another anonymous sufferer that shared on another forum, you’ll itch so bad that you’re not sure whether if you “want to slice your skin off or drive into a bus”.  As I am typing this, I am itching.
  3. PR is stress related.  The more stressed you are, the worse the flare up.
  4. Not a lot of research has been conducted on the origin of this skin condition – meaning no one really cared enough to find out what causes it, and how to get rid of it.
  5. An experience that will last on average 6-8 weeks, sometimes longer (rarely shorter), and you might or might not get it again, but most people have immunity towards it after they get it.
  6. Most of the suffers I read online were females – even though statistics say it was split pretty much down the middle between the genders with a little bit more female sufferers.
  7. It’s related to a type of herpes (not the genital kind, don’t worry).
  8. It isn’t caused by the flu shot.

The Experience

Right after my diagnosis, I immediately followed my doctor’s advice and got some hydrocortisone cream, Cetaphil body wash + lotion, and allergy medication like Zyrtec and Benedryl.  A week into using these things, none of them worked.  So I went back to the internet and did some more research.  After a couple hours of reading, I have come to the conclusion that every person’s experience with PR is different, and their remedy/solutions are just as different as their experience.  Nevertheless, I found that most of the people that put forth the effort to share their experiences with PR are those who are suffering the most (i.e. the people that are suffering from some serious itchiness but can’t stop it), and I am one of those.  Here is a photo of the right side of my body around the torso area.  As you can see, these are pretty fresh still (as I am writing this, I am about 3 weeks into PR).

The Remedy/Solution

As with most people who are suffering PR, they want to find out what really helps with the itching, and how to expedite this experience and minimize the suffering.  I for one, have started doing a couple of things base on my research online.  I’ve started TANNING, and it’s funny because I never thought I would go into a tanning bed, EVER.  I am so pale, I have an intense fear of tanning due to the fact that it can 1) cause cancer, 2) expedite the aging process, and most importantly 3) give you wrinkles.  I had to set my fear of tanning aside because apparently, tanning helps a lot with expediting the process of recovery.  I am not sure if its the UVA or UVB rays that would help it, but I am not the first to use tanning as a solution.   To make it easier, I found a place really close to my work, and got their one-month unlimited tanning package. Today was my second session – the first day I did 5 mins on the bed, and today I did 7 mins.  I plan on going back in about 2 days and keep the dosage low at about 5-8mins depending how I am feeling.  So far, I haven’t felt the difference in how I am itching, but I do notice my patches are healing faster – so I think it is doing something for the speed of this experience.

Another thing I read on the internet that had helped a lot of people with PR is the usage of Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength Shampoo as a body wash.  I had originally followed my doctor’s orders with the usage of Dove soap bar and Cetaphil body wash after my diagnosis, but they didn’t work.  So tonight, I decided to try Head & Shoulders.  I pretty much lathered myself from head to toe with this stuff.  Since most people recommended NOT to take hot showers (and I love a hot shower), I couldn’t do cold showers, so I pretty much used the temperature I am use to, but the only difference is crank down the temp as I am about to get out to cool down my body. Right after the shower – I felt very good.  No itching, and I felt very refreshed (it also helped that the shampoo smelled fantastic in comparison to the Cetaphil body wash I was using).  But a couple of hours later, I had a little bit of itch returning.  I also applied the Cortizone lotion all over my body immediately after the shower.  Luckily, my boyfriend had some acetonide cream around (prescription only) and they seem to have some effect on reducing the level of the itchiness.

IMG_5505-0.JPG

The Remedy: Acetonide Cream, Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength, and Cortizone-10 Intense Healing Lotion

IMG_5491.JPG

One of the solutionsI had read on the internet for pityriasis rosea was tanning beds. I went about 5-8mins 4 times a week.

Conclusion

Right now, I am only about three weeks into pityriasis rosea, I have a feeling I still have another week or two to go before my body will start to kick it for good – but I will try to post my progress in a couple of days after using the Head and Shoulders and Cortizone-10 stuff + tanning.

I hope my insight and experience with PR will help others who are also suffering from this same condition.  I would also love for others who are currently experiencing (or experienced) PR to share their experiences here with me and fellow sufferers, especially providing insight and solutions that helped with alleviating their symptoms.

Turn your handwriting into a computer font — the easy way

handwritingfont-01-01

It’s the Tuesday afternoon before my 5 day weekend — I just finished wrapping up this week’s work and I got a couple hours to burn before it’s time for me to leave. To make those remaining hours productive, I’ve decided that I want to 1) turn my own handwriting into a font, 2) do so with these cool calligraphy pens I just recently purchased from Japan Town in San Francisco, and lastly 3) write a blog about it because I haven’t written a blog in forever.

I have always thought that I have pretty decent handwriting – something that I took pride in when sending out handwritten notes and thank you cards.  After using this font generating software, and seeing how all the texts are coming together, my handwriting looks almost foreign to me.  Maybe it’s the way it’s putting all the letters together, but seeing it on the screen made me cringed a little — is that what my handwriting really look like? Versus when I write, my texts would be more fluid.

Truth be told, this is the easy, no-brainer way to turn your own handwriting in to font.  All you have to do is print, write, scan, and upload.  The legit way to do it actually involves using a software dedicated to font creation such as FontLab Studio, and spending hours meticulously combing through every serif, descender, lobe and bowl to make the font flow.

I used the website myscriptfont to create my fonts.  I experimented with a several different pens and writing styles.  My favorite two includes one that uses a calligraphy pen with a slanted tip, and a regular ball-point ink pen.   All you have to do is print out the PDF template, follow the instruction on the template, and scan your handwriting at 300dpi or higher resolution, save it as a JPEG, upload, and you’re done! Here are a couple of my handwriting samples.

Calligraphy pen

Calligraphy pen

ballpoint pen

ballpoint pen

I’ve decided to incorporate one of my handwriting fonts into a sample design project.  As with most handwriting style fonts, I find it the easiest to use it on chalk-style designs, or anything that mimics that style of design.  Nonetheless, my web-generated version looks more like a kid’s handwriting on a good day, and although it’s not remotely close to being a well rounded font for commercial use, this was a really fun experience, and I highly recommend it.  You can use your own handwriting font for custom signatures, labels, invitations, or whatever creative project that requires that extra bespoke touch.

 

JPG JPEG with transparent background – making the impossible, possible

While I was working on a logo today at work for an event, I accidentally discovered something that goes against all logic, and because I am a computer graphic artist, this felt like defying gravity, going against the laws of physic, walking on water… etc.

I had discovered that I could make a JPG image with transparent background.

Check it out below:

summit2015evite

http://www2.benefitsconnect.net/content/images/summit2015evite.jpg

I did this entire process on Photoshop CC and Visual Studios, and couldn’t figure out how I did it.  Since I work at a software company, and half of my coworkers are computer software developers and tech savvy folks — I seeked out their expertise to help me figure out how I did it.   They were able to recreate a transparent jpg and quickly replicated the process by changing the extension of a png to jpg, and to verify the process, you can upload the image to Exif Data Viewer to verify.  So while I was uploading the image, I had changed the extension on accident without consciously knowing what I was doing.

So the moral of the story is, you can make a JPG/JPEG image with a transparent background.  You just have to start it off as a PNG first.

Now I owe my coworker a beer because he figured out how it was done.

A love story between a baby and her Great Pyrenees dogs

Since the birth of my niece, Havanna, I have always try to capture every moment she has with my Great Pyrenees dogs. My two Great Pyrenees dogs are rescues from the Sierra Pacific Great Pyrenees Club.  While I can’t speak for all dogs of this breed — from my personal experience, these dogs make excellent baby sitters and have immense tolerance and kindness towards toddlers and children.   As with all interactions between a pet and young children, I was always there to supervise.  However, should I walk away for a few minutes while my niece is in the room with our dogs, I don’t really fret about it because I know they will never do anything to hurt her.   From what I have seen so far — the bond  between children and dogs seemed very natural and almost innate, and often at times,  she would prefer their company over adults.  However, the only time I see my dogs react is when sudden loud noises occur.  Their sudden movements can sometime knock a barely walking 1-year old child onto the floor very easily.  And because of their size, I still try to keep an eye on them when they’re playing together (even though the only thing I have to worry about between their interaction is if the pyrs would accidentally turn around and knock the wobbly baby off her feet). Although the pyrs can be a little stubborn and independent at times, they are definitely gentle giants… and I hope this video shows just that.

 

And because Great Pyrenees dogs do make excellent companions for young children (with proper training of course), I often refer to them as my giant furry babysitters.

 

 

Excerpts from an article I wrote for Journalism class that changed the way I view the Central Valley dairy industry

As I am digging through old folders, I came across this article that I had written few years ago when I was a student at CSU Fresno.  I had to take an Advanced Journalism class and my teacher then, who was an investigative reporter pushed me to write this article about a local industry.  Although I had mixed feelings about the way he pushed me to take a certain side on the issue about our dairy industry and the usage of rBST, this version I am posting here has been edited to reflect more closely to my perception of the matter.  I hope you’ll enjoy!

 

THE RISE AND FALL OF POSILAC IN CENTRAL VALLEY’S DAIRY BELT

For 14 years, Donny Rollin was just one of the many farmers in the Central Valley dairy belt that used the growth hormone that increased the milk supply at his 2,000-cow dairy in Riverdale.  Rollin’s farm, cleverly called Rollin Valley Farms, is one of the many dairy farms here in the Central Valley. Surrounded by groves of pomegranate trees and 700 acres of Sudan grass, wheat, and alfalfa, Rollin’s farm looks almost picturesque during the springtime. Yet about two years ago, Fed-ex trucks would trundle out to his farm every few weeks and drop off a new supply of the bioengineered hormone rBST, better known as Posilac.  Needles in hand, Rollin and his dairymen would inject a tiny white vial of the clear liquid into his Holsteins.

Today, Rollin no longer uses Posilac.  At the age of 44, he is a third generation dairyman.  Like the other 98% of the family-owned dairies here in California, Rollin and his family live and breathe their dairy business.  Two years ago, when the price of milk dropped due to overproduction, coupled with a growing consumers’ demand for rBST free milk, Rollin stopped using Posilac.  For the past two years, Rollin’s cows are hormone free, and he’s not alone.  In fact, here in the nation’s most productive dairy belt, it is almost impossible to find dairy farmers these days that will admit to still using Posilac.

[…]

The initial research on Posilac told the consumers that by the time the milk has been packaged in milk cartons, these artificial hormones would have already been broken down by the cows themselves; therefore no harm can be done to humans. While the FDA said that there were no significant differences shown between the milk tested from rBST-treated and untreated cows in their 1993 study, the potential side effects of the hormone injections created considerable amount of doubts and criticism.  Animal health activists got involved first, and pretty soon, the everyday milk-chugging consumers were worrying about what’s being passed into their milk. The concerns first began when the side effects started to show up on the cows that were injected with rBST.  With the cow’s utters already full of naturally produced milk, the increase in milk production induced by the hormone led to the overextending of the cow’s utter size, causing utter infections to occur.

Another major cause for concern was mastitis.  Mastitis occurs when the injection area swells up due to tissue infections.  So when the images of the cows’ utters swelling up with mastitis and independent research claims that consumption of rBSt milk can be linked to breast, colon and prostate cancer started to circulate the internet, Posilac suddenly became the drug that tainted the milk industry.  Grocery stores began to take notice of the fact that milk labeled “without rBST” was selling better, went back to their dairy processors and demanded more of it.

To cope with the negative backlash and the threat of decreasing sales, many dairy co-ops and processors demotivate rBST usage by imposing penalty charges on milk that is produced with Posilac injections.  California Dairies Incorporated, the largest dairy co-op in California, charges a 50 cents penalty per 100 pounds of milk for dairies that use rBST injections. To a great number of dairymen here in California, penalty charges such as these are so unattractive; many of them ultimately stopped using Posilac it. However, to the others who found the product useful, one thing that still rings true: “The product was a success, but it was the public perception that made it a failure,” said Gerry Higginbotham, PhD, a researcher and dairy nutritionist who assists with the dairies in Central Valley.
Removing Posilac injections altogether was also another unexpected challenge that many dairymen had to deal with. “There were guys that were using Posilac, and when they stopped all the sudden their production took a big hit and cows would crash.” Rollin explains about some of the devastating effects that he had heard from fellow dairymen. Cows would literally stop producing, or produce at very low levels when the injections stopped. While Rollin’s cows adjusted just fine when he took them off the injections two years ago, how other dairymen were using these injections and what stages they were injecting their cows with Posilac, was the deciding factor on how well the cows would perform after the injections stopped.

When the consumer demands for rBST-free milk began to grow, the dairy industry in the Central Valley was at a tipping point where milk oversupply was met with economic recession.  As a result of bad economy and low milk prices, many dairymen were forced to close down the business that they have had for generations.  “There are a few that have gone out… In Fresno, mostly the smaller guys just couldn’t compete with the high feed price and low milk prices at that time,” Higginbotham said. The combination of high feed cost and low milk price, along with environmental regulations and high cost of operation, it was tough for many of family owned dairies to overcome this giant hurdle. At the same time, a lot of the dairymen who were using Posilac quit using the product as a result. By 2008, Rollin, and many other dairymen in the valley had stopped injecting their cows with Posilac.

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Posilac never made sense to Rick Adams.  Located in Laton, Adam’s family has been in the dairy business since 1936. When the product was first introduced, the salesmen of Posilac went to every dairy farm and gave out free samples for dairymen to try, Adams recalls his first encounter with the product. “Only stuff we ever tried was the samples they sent us,” said Adams.

Recalling the better days when milk prices were high and feed costs were low, it was easier to be in the dairy industry then. But when it comes to milk production, Adam doesn’t believe in pushing his cows at the sacrifice of highest output. Instead of trying to get more milk out of the cow, he feels that the wellbeing of an animal is more important. “I personally don’t like it [Posilac] because it’s just taxing on the cow,” Adams believes, “in fact, some say that we might be extra easy on our cows because we don’t want to push our cows too hard, and we suffer financially because of it.”

Every day, Adams takes great pride in cutting fresh grass for his cows.  With the smell of fresh cut grass in the air, the cows would run towards the manger and enjoy the grass that was just standing in the field ten minutes ago. “They love the smell of it, and it makes them eat better… If we take good care of the cows, they’ll take good care of us, we don’t need to inject them with stuff that they don’t need,” said Adams.

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When it comes to who still uses Posilac, no one will or can tell nowadays. “Almost everybody in the co-op quit… There’s less pressure, and less chances of them actually having health issues,” said Rollin. Rollin is happy with the fact that he no longer has to use injections on his cows, and that his dairy is doing well. Posilac was supposed to be a supplement drug that would “revolutionize” the dairy industry.  Yet nearly $2 billion of loss revenues later, Monsanto quietly sold the disgraced Posilac at a fraction of the cost to the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly’s agricultural division Elanco, for a price tag of $300 million.

Charlie De Groot, another dairyman here in the San Joaquin Valley, feels that Posilac is an efficient tool despite its stigma.  Even though he himself has never used the product, he feels that the consumer’s negative perception is what ultimately made the product unusable.  “I know dairymen who have top notch facilities and treat their cows really good that have used it.  For them, the product is a very useful tool.  It worked for them because of the way they manage their dairy,” said De Groot. De Groot himself however, never thought the product was a good fit for his dairy for many reasons. “It takes a lot of time and resources, ultimately I feel like there’s a lot more other things that are better for the cows than just trying to push more milk out of them by giving them the shot… we didn’t feel it was economical for our dairy to use it,” said De Groot.

De Groot is another third generation dairyman. He manages the family dairy called De Groot and Sons Dairy with his younger brother and father. At a very young age, De Groot already knew that taking over the family business was something that he was destined to do.  Today, in a small part of town called Easton on the outskirts of Fresno, De Groot oversees the family dairy that stretches over 2,000 acres.  Like many other dairymen here in the Central Valley, De Groot doesn’t just raise cows.  He is involved from growing and harvesting the row crops that his cows eat, to perfecting the gene pool for future heifers.  Running a dairy farm isn’t just a job, it’s part of many dairymen’s heritage, with a whole lot of passion mixed in.

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It’s only spring but Rollin’s skin is already ripened by the sun.  As the sun sets, the orange light beaming through the stalls of cattle shelter, Rollin picked up some wheat barley mix with his right hand, sprinkling the feed mix into the dusk wind as it blows from the west.  With machines in the distance humming and the occasional cattle mooing, it has been a long day for him at the farm. Even though he’s tired from the day’s work and can’t wait to get home to his four kids, there is still enough passion left in his eyes for anyone to see that this is what he truly enjoys doing every day.  It’s a passion about doing what’s best for his animals, his business, while preserving that way of life and hoping that his kids would someday continue doing.  Through milking more frequently and better breeding, farmers like Rollin, Adams, and De Groot have each found their working formulas that make their businesses thrive.

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