The Economic Crisis Leads to Pet Abandonment

May 1, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Stephanie Collins

From the start of the economic crisis, one household member has suffered more than any other: the family pet. Pet abandonment has become a significant issue over the past few years, leading to larger problems such as animal shelter overcrowding, which often causes an increase in euthanasia.

During the year 2010 alone, Senior Animal Cruelty Investigator for the City of Dallas, Domanick Munoz, received 2,800 calls for animal cruelty complaints, and 20 percent of those calls were related to abandonment. Munoz noted that these staggering numbers do not include pets abandoned in a way that was not categorized as “cruel.” Many pet owners not included in this statistic acknowledged that they must surrender their pets to animal shelters once they could no longer care for them, and did not leave them unattended or unable to feed themselves.

According to Munoz, cases of animal abandonment are always categorized as either animal cruelty related or non-cruelty related. For abandonment to be considered cruelty, the animal has to have been left alone without a way to get food or water, and without anyone to care for it, according to Munoz.

There is no official count for the number of non-cruelly surrendered pets for the city, “but the number is huge,” said Munoz, who added that the Dallas Animal Services shelter receives newly abandoned pets daily.

The amount of abandoned pets in Dallas reflects the recent economic hard times, according to Munoz. “The economy really hurt us. Because of the amount of foreclosures and people losing their jobs, they basically vacated their homes and left their animals behind,” said Munoz.

Abandonment does not only mean that a pet loses its comfortable home, however. It can also endanger its life. Because of the high volume of abandoned pets, Dallas animal shelters are overwhelmed and overcrowded, according to Munoz. “Overcrowding has increased our euthanasia rate. We are not able to house all of the animals so we have to put them to sleep if we can’t give them away to rescue groups,” said Munoz.

Munoz said that Dallas residents have seemed more inclined to adopt animals from shelters after the past year’s high rate of abandonment. Munoz attributed this willingness to the city’s heavy campaigning for adoption, in addition to a city ordinance passed during the last year which mandates that all pets be spayed or neutered to prevent unwanted puppies and kittens who may end up in shelters.

“There are too many animals in shelters right now. It is very important that people understand that shelter animals should be their first choice,” said Operation Kindness Volunteer of 7 years, Nancy Burger.

Operation Kindness is a no-kill animal shelter, which rescues animals that have been abandoned or that are at risk of being put to sleep at other shelters, and puts them up for adoption.

“Hardly a day goes by that our director of animal care doesn’t get a call from a shelter saying there are some really good dogs on the list to be put down,” said Burger. Organizations like Operation Kindness rescue these animals and give them a second chance to be adopted.

Due to economic hard times, and a preference for purebred animals, however, not enough people are adopting pets to keep up with the number of those abandoned.

According to Burger, there currently are approximately 9 million pets up for adoption in the United States, and less than one million will be adopted.

Pet owner Nicolle Keogh adopted her dog, a beagle named Charlie, when he was two years old. “I get sad every time I think about what would have happened if I had walked out of the shelter without adopting Charlie. Who knows where he would be now,” said Keogh, who added, “He is just as cute as any purebred dog.”

According to Burger, people looking for a new pet are often lured into stores supplied by puppy mills because they think the pets are cuter. Not only does supporting a puppy mill not help the problem of overcrowding in animal shelters, it is also inhumane.

A puppy mill, according to Burger, is a breeder who keeps dogs “in small cages and breeds them over and over,” often in an attempt to achieve the “cutest” color and size of dog. Large chain pet stores such as Petland have been accused of supporting puppy mills, according to Burger, while animal shelters treat pets humanely and care for them until the right person is able to adopt them.

SHIFT Magazine: The Art of the Culinary Cocktail

April 22, 2011 by · Comments Off 


by Stephanie Collins

Quiet and precise, Jason Kosmas outlines the various philosophies and ideologies behind his craft. He uses metaphors and stories, comparing himself to a musician and then an artist. The way a musician interacts with his music, he says, is the way he interacts with his bar.

“It’s just like how a musician gets sick of playing his most popular songs at concerts. I get sick of serving the same drink over and over. Some people want to be surprised, though, which I think is where a new level of trust comes in,” says Kosmas.

Kosmas’ new-age bartending style is based on the oldest techniques in bar history. He makes “culinary cocktails,” using fresh ingredients, not mixes or powders, to create many of his drinks, and he thinks of unique drinks weekly to serve at his current workplace, Bolsa, in Oak Cliff.

He calls his drink-making style “contemporizing classic cocktails” with a culinary twist. The simplest example of this, he says, is his twist on the classic drink the “South Side,” which is a blend of vodka, lemon juice, triple sec, and soda water. After updating the drink by replacing the lemon juice with lemon-flavored vodka, he called it a “West Side.”

Kosmas takes bartending to an intellectual level. He studies all aspects of the profession, from knowing and understanding classic drink recipes, to creating new ones, to interacting with and relating to bar customers.

“Bartenders broker the deal. I know a lot of bartenders who can make a great mix, but they are bad at relating,” said Kosmas. To him, a true bartender is a chameleon, void of an ego. “The customer projects their expectations onto the bartender. Maybe they want you to be humble, maybe they want you to be arrogant. What you’re selling, really, is possibilities.”

A native of New Jersey, Kosmas attended Rutgers’ fine arts program for two and a half years before deciding to drop out and move to New York City in the late 90’s. He got a job working at Pravda, the city’s “hottest bar” at the time. It was one of the first vodka martini bars and was set up by bar master Dale DeGroff, from whom Kosmas learned the craft of bartending.

“He was probably one of the most influential people for me. Working with him, it became clear that what I was doing could become a career,” said Kosmas.

“I think I was successful in instilling a sense of perfection and a pride in craft,” said DeGroff.

During his time at Pravda, Kosmas worked closely with fellow bartender Dushan Zaric, with whom he would go on to open a couple of restaurants and publish two books. According to DeGroff, the chemistry started when the two worked together flavoring vodkas in-house at Pravda. They created well over 100 flavors of vodka using fresh ingredients from the kitchen such as herbs and fruits.

Kosmas and Zaric opened their own restaurant, “Employees Only,” in New York City, employing the “elevated style” of culinary cocktail making they had learned about at Pravda.

“Jay and me were the perfect bartending team, and we could run any bar or any crowd. It was always a fun thing layered with small rivers of booze that we consumed during our shifts,” said Zaric.

According to Zaric, Kosmas always attracted the “All American Jane” category of women, who fell for him due to his being “politically correct and always taking the moral high ground,” while Zaric did the opposite. With their contrasting personalities behind the bar, they ran a balanced and successful business. “It was beautiful because it was always spontaneous, and never contrived,” said Zaric.

The business partners published two books together, “You Didn’t Hear it From Us,” a dating guide for women from the perspective of a bartender, and “Speakeasy,” a culinary-style cocktail recipe book.

The 36-year-old Kosmas, who has dark brown hair and sports a 20s era handlebar mustache, has a cerebral vibe, but is a natural-born people person. Many of his coworkers stop by to enjoy some banter, a laugh, or just say hello.

“It’s hard for me to say whether his success should be attributed to his experience or his natural disposition, but I have come to realize it is no coincidence he always finds his way to the top,” said Kosmas’s current coworker, Eddie Campbell, who found him to be an approachable genius after studying his work.

“I would start complimenting Jason and his style of bartending, and got a quick lesson in how genuine and humble he is,” said Campbell.

Kosmas moved to Dallas in 2009 in search of a more family-friendly city to accommodate his children and to be closer to his wife’s family. Not to mention to partake in the vibrant culinary scene of what he calls “the biggest restaurant city in the country.” He describes his personal bartending philosophy as knowing that “people want something different to happen to them than what happens in their everyday life” when they come to a bar.

“A birthday, for example, is supposed to be something really special. It only happens once a year. But we get about three birthdays a night. For us, a birthday is the most un-special thing that could happen,” said Kosmas, who noted that this is where the situational aspect of bartending comes into play. After bartending for almost 16 years, he knows that people want to feel special, and that’s what he delivers.

But Kosmas delivers something else as well: creativity. Because he grew up around food, due to both his Greek culture and the restaurant that his father and grandfather owned, Kosmas always had a love for the culinary arts. “The process of creating a drink is fun because you see it in your mind first, and then you bring it into the world,” said Kosmas, who is inspired to create new drinks based on seasonal flavors, unexpected taste combinations, new spirits on the market, and sometimes even customers.

In addition to working at Bolsa, Kosmas is a cocktail consultant hired to design cocktail menus for restaurants, and to train the restaurants’ bar staff. He has worked on the cocktail menus of over 15 restaurants, making everything from Asian-inspired cocktails for Thai restaurants to drinks containing pearl dust and silver flakes for the launch of a new vodka.

Kosmas plans to move from Bolsa to the Marquee Club, a new restaurant set to open in Highland Park Village this year, where he will be the executive beverage manager. “Not that there are any other beverage managers,” said Kosmas.

The Kosmas philosophy of bartending emphasizes knowledge and creativity, but to him, the customer is the real deciding factor when it comes to his success. Customer Andrew Shaddock said simply, “I used to just have a beer. Then, I tried one of Jason’s drinks, and it’s impossible to go back.”

McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy, Discusses Domestic Oil Production at SABEW

April 8, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Stephanie Collins

Contrary to popular belief, numerous oil reserves exist in the United States and can support much of the country’s natural gas needs.
This was the message shared by Aubrey McClendon, Chief Executive Officer of Chesapeake Energy, at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers Conference Friday afternoon.
Chesapeake Energy is responsible for 95 percent of all oil wells drilled in the United States. These oil reserves, which exist beneath American soil, are twice as large as those in Saudi Arabia, according to McClendon.
With rapidly rising gas prices and ongoing foreign policy issues concerning importing oil from foreign countries, McClendon said the company will take advantage of American oil reserves and hopes to increase oil production within the country by 50 percent in the next five years.
McClendon said that increasing oil production in the United States could go a long way toward reducing U.S. intervention in the internal politics of other countries for the sake of oil.

“Today, that’s how we are making our foreign policy decisions,” said McClendon.
McClendon said that in time the company will find oil in lots of places that it is not found today.

“The American public needs to understand how vast the resources and possibilities are,” said McClendon.
Domestic oil production would also significantly lower gas prices. According to McClendon, Americans paying $4 per gallon of gas is not sustainable.

“The good thing about something being unsustainable is that it is unsustainable,” said McClendon, who added that soaring gas prices will lead to a natural shift to domestic oil production.

According to McClendon, Chesapeake Energy has directly and indirectly supported 4 million jobs in the United States within the last year alone. The company also accounted for $600 billion of economic activity during that year.
Natural gas is used to heat over 70 percent of American homes, and is responsible for 30 percent of electricity, according to McClendon, making it a very valuable commodity in American society.
Despite all of the benefits of domestic oil production, McClendon mentioned the dangers that go along with the industry. McClendon said that Americans should focus on the advantages of the industry rather than allowing the drawbacks to overshadow the growth the company has brought and could bring in the future to the economy.
“I can’t change the fact that this is an industry that uses a lot of big equipment that has humans right next to it,” said McClendon.
Of the lecture, Steve Radwell of Fidelity Investments in New York City said, “It was a frank discussion of the risks and benefits of oil drilling.”
McClendon also mentioned that there would be more news from the company concerning a “big move forward” in the industry Monday.

Campus EMTs and LGBT Senate Seat in Question

March 28, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By: Stephanie Collins

The student senate held its second ever Town Hall meeting, which is intended to allow students to voice their opinions and closely interact with student senators, Thursday.

Although this kind of meeting was used by SMU student senators long ago to directly address the needs of students, it has not been used in the past 10 or 15 years, according to first year Dedman I Senator Parminder Deo.

“This is a much more open, casual setting,” said Deo.

The meeting, which was held in the Umphrey Lee dining room, focused on the recently discussed issue of adding an LGBT seat to the student senate, as well as an initiative to create a student-run emergency medical system program on campus.

Student Zac Friske presented the idea of a student EMS system, a proposal the student senate has been working on for over a year.

Because of SMU’s location, both the Highland Park and University Park fire stations respond to emergencies on the campus. According to Friske, however, there has been concern that emergency response teams are not always able to make it to campus within the promised five-minute window.

Because a heart attack, for example, requires emergency attention within three minutes, Friske said, it is essential that emergency response teams are more available to the SMU campus.

The student EMS system would be a volunteer organization of SMU students or members of the surrounding community who are EMT trained and would be able to provide emergency assistance immediately from on-campus locations.

“We want it to be open to every major, not just pre-med students,” said Friske, who said that any student could be trained and volunteer for the program.

The cost of EMT training, however, is around $1,000. Although EMT certification would last up to 10 years, the price may be steep for students looking to volunteer.

“We are working on finding a way to lower the cost. We want it to be open for everyone,” said Friske.

The other major topic discussed at the meeting was the question of whether or not to form an LGBT seat for the student senate.

Dedman II Senator Harvey Luna discussed the issue, who said that if the seat is created, only students who identify themselves as members of the LGBT community will be able to vote for the senator who takes the position. This does not include students who have been trained by SMU’s Allies program.

According to Luna, the LGBT community specifically has needs that should be addressed on campus, which is why a student senate position would be beneficial.

The next Student Senate Town Hall meeting will be held Wednesday, March 30 at 4 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg commons.

To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate?: The Benefits of a Flu Shot

October 13, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

By Stephanie Collins

As flu season approaches, students should know how to protect themselves from the flu and what to do if they catch it.

According to Patrick Hite, executive director of SMU’s Memorial Health Center, flu season typically starts in late October and lingers on until March or April. The good news for students is that the health center is offering flu vaccines for the prevention of the disease.

This year, the flu shot protects against the “A” and “B” flu strains, as well as H1N1 or “swine flu.”

“I would highly recommend that all students get a flu shot,” said Hite, who noted that almost 200 students received flu shots from the health center just last week.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a flu vaccine can reduce a healthy adult’s chances of getting the flu by 70 to 90 percent.

The vaccines are delivered to the health center in limited quantities, and students should check their SMU e-mail to stay up to date on flu shot clinics, or stop by the health center to see if any flu shots are available.

“As long as we have them we’ll go ahead and give them out,” said Hite.

According to Hite, you cannot contract the flu by getting the vaccine because the flu virus in the vaccine is dead.

Hite said students who decide against getting vaccinated should take common sense precautions to avoid the flu. These include getting enough sleep and exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and, most importantly, washing your hands.

Students should also be advised to keep a safe distance from those who have the flu. Although the germs cannot travel very far, Hite said, one can catch the flu from being in close proximity with someone who has it.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, precautions need to be taken because the flu can be contagious before any symptoms appear in the carrier. A person is also contagious for 5 to 7 days after experiencing symptoms.

A trip to the health center is in order if you experience body aches, fatigue, and a general feeling of being under the weather, as these are symptoms of the flu.

A doctor at the health center may order an anti-viral, like Tamiflu, for students who do have the flu, according to Hite. They can also provide students with over-the-counter medicines and cough drops to help ease the symptoms.

Students who have the flu should cough or sneeze into their elbow to avoid spreading the virus around campus.

So far, the health center has seen only one case of the flu this semester, but that number is expected to increase as we head into the winter months.

Project Green Summit at SMU

September 29, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Stephanie Collins

A panel of Dallas-based executives gathered in Hughes-Trigg Tuesday evening to discuss what their businesses are doing to be environmentally friendly as part of WFAA’s Project Green Summit.

The panel featured Mark Harland, marketing manager for Chevrolet’s south central region; Sue Bauman, who oversees DART’s marketing and communications; Carl Edlund, director of the Multimedia Planning and Permitting Division with the Environmental Protection Agency; Kathy Doyle Thomas, executive vice president of Half Price Books; and Jennifer Cohen, executive director for the North Texas Clean Air Coalition.

Dr. Bonnie Jacobs, an associate professor at SMU, led the discussion. First, each representative was given the opportunity to share how their organization has progressed environmentally and how “green” they really are.

Bauman mentioned that DART plans to open the longest rail line in the United States this December, which will run between Dallas, Denton, Fort Worth, and Plano. This, the company hopes, will encourage more people to use transit as opposed to traveling to these places by car. Residents of the Metroplex should use their car “when they need to,” according to Bauman, but encourages everyone to take advantage of the DART’s convenience, especially when traveling between cities.

Harland, the panel’s representative for Chevrolet, discussed the Chevy Volt, which is the company’s first electric car. Hard economic times pushed the company to create such a car, according to Harland, in order to provide customers with something affordable and practical. The car costs around $30,000 and owners never have to spend money on gas.

Harland acknowledged that Texans still love and need their trucks, which are not compatible with the electric technology used in the Volt. “That’s good for me,” he said, noting that it helps his business to sell these trucks. However, he said that the 2011 Heavy Duty, a Chevrolet pickup truck, runs on biodiesel fuel, and he thinks that many more trucks will operate this way in the future.

The members of the panel who represented environmental companies spoke about what services they offer to businesses and organizations in the area, and what kind of an impact those changes are making. Edlund from the EPA gave an example of an experiment Walmart in McKinney, which hopes to create no waste by reusing things.

Cohen, who represented the Clean Air Coalition, added that her organization provides companies with the tools that they need to reduce air pollution and a negative impact on air cleanliness. These changes that businesses make and the steps that they take to become more environmentally friendly through the help of the Clean Air Coalition are actually very inexpensive, and can even help businesses save money, according to Cohen.

Half Price Books representative Thomas said that the company now has gift cards made out of recycled material, and charging stations for electric cards in their parking lots. That movement to go green was “spearheaded at the top,” according to Thomas, “but it really takes the entire business working together.” Thomas said this is how green initiatives were incorporated into multiple levels and aspects of the Half Price Books company, from gift cards to parking lots.

Today, 40 percent of Dallas’s energy is green energy, most of which comes from wind power, according to Edlund.

“It used to be that the air was there to blow things into, the water was there to dump things into, and the land was to get rid of the old stuff,” Edlund said.

Now, many businesses are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious and giving up their old ways. “Frankly, it’s quite exciting,” Edlund said.

Cohen added that her kids are the ones who remind her frequently to turn off lights and recycle, which she feels is an indicator of how socially responsible the next generation will be.

The summit, according to WFAA Art Director Monica Helberg, was given to “promote the movement of green,” and included an array of environmental agencies who set up tables to educate attendees about their businesses and products.

Mathematics in the Real World

September 24, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Stephanie Collins

Professor of Mathematics at the University of California Los Angeles, Andrea Bertozzi, spoke about applications of mathematics in the real world as a part of SMU’s Allman Family Lecture series Wednesday evening.

Bertozzi, who holds a Ph.D. in mathematics, earned all of her degrees from Princeton University, and now teaches and conducts research at UCLA. Her lecture, titled “Mathematics in Everyday Life,” included information about her research and how it applies to current events and issues.

The research serves as an example of how mathematics can “connect to real world problems,” according to Bertozzi, including the problems in recent headlines, such as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

After displaying several images of beaches affected by the spill, Bertozzi said her research sought to discover methods of preparing a beach for an oil spill that might prevent excess damage and make the spill easier to clean, as well as methods of cleaning an existing oil spill.

Bertozzi conducted experiments which included specific concentrations of sand combined with certain amounts of oil to determine how the two materials interact. Silicon oil was used in the experiments instead of crude oil for health and safety reasons. “It’s a little toxic,” said Bertozzi, with a hint of sarcasm.

The experiments resulted in the discovery of how sand mixed with oil behaves at varying concentrations.

“We’re not at the point where we can tell the oil clean-up people what to do yet,” said Bertozzi, adding that the discovery was valuable because it is important to understand such interactions before moving forward in the research process.

Bertozzi also uses math to research and analyze crime. Her work on predicting and analyzing criminal behavior earned a spot on the cover of Science Magazine. Bertozzi later found out that she had unknowingly been in a competition for the cover with her sister, a chemist at Berkeley, who had submitted her own research as a cover story for the publication.

The equations that Bertozzi and colleagues developed to analyze criminal activity work by assigning a value to each home in a neighborhood based on how “attractive” it might be to a burglar.

“You might think, ‘attractive – that’s good!’” said Bertozzi. “But it’s what is attractive to burglars. Not good.”

The equations allow a person to systematically evaluate which houses might be targeted for burglary. After a house in the neighborhood is burglarized, according to Bertozzi, attractiveness values for the surrounding houses are affected.

These equations led to a computer program, which gives a user visual data of criminal “hot spots” in a city or area. The software can then predict what will happen if police are sent to the area. In some cases, crime is only dispersed by a police presence. In others, the crime is suppressed entirely. According to Bertozzi, the software can help predict, through the use of Bifurcation Theory, what the outcome will be in any given situation.

The software is now used by the Los Angeles Police Department. “One thing we discovered about working on crime is that the base line is pretty low,” said Bertozzi. She noted that there is a lot of room for improvement in software pertaining to crime.

Bertozzi’s lecture concluded with a presentation of her research regarding swarming in biology.

Swarming examples that were presented included flocks of birds, schools of fish and herds of wildebeests. The intricate formations of these swarms are scientific and can be predicted and recreated through the use of mathematics, according to Bertozzi.

“Each fish does not wake up and say ‘I’m going to swim in a mill pattern because it’s going to get on the cover of Science,’” said Bertozzi.

Rather, a sophisticated equation involving energy and drag can recreate these formations on a computer screen.

The purpose of understanding these swarms is to understand how to construct what Bertozzi calls, “unmanned vehicles,” which are cars or robots operated with sensors and computer commands as opposed to human direction.

The audience at the lecture, which was free to the public, included SMU undergraduate and graduate students, professors, high school students from the area, and members of the Dallas community.

Andres Ruzo, a second-year graduate student, thought the lecture was “very animated and engaging.”

“I thought this was going to be a typical math talk,” said Ruzo, “but she did a great job of making it interesting. I thought she was really impressive.”