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Updated: 08/22/06

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What's on the nightstand

by Neal Stephenson



Wednesday, 23 August, 2006

We get mail! FOUR YEARS AGO I wrote about cow waterbeds. Yesterday, I got an e-mail:

I just stumbled across this article and you are misleading people about what these waterbeds are for.

They are for cows with injuries and maladies--I know, I shot the photos.

Next time, check your sources for the facts.

Don Ryan

Whoa. This brings up a whole slew of questions in my mind. First, who knew anyone actually reads this blog? Well, aside from Mom, of course.

Second, if anyone (other than Mom, of course) reads this blog, who knew that they would actually rely on anything I wrote? [The power of the press, people.]

Third, how does one stumble upon my website when looking for cow waterbed articles? I mean, seriously, I couldn't Google this to save my life. Scary.

I was all set to print a retraction of my apparently misleading story. Wouldn't want any innocents out there basing their cow waterbed purchases on my erroneous reporting, after all. When I clicked on the link to the Yahoo story on which it was based, their article had vanished into the ether. However, intrepid reporter that I am, I found a CNN story that included much of the original report, and I provide it here for your information:

What makes a Holstein cow udderly happy? Dairy farmer Arie Jongeneel hopes the answer is a waterbed. The Oregon farmer began bedding his milk cows on the soft, undulating beds in January in an effort to boost dairy production. His experiment was so successful that he is ordering 80 more beds for his stable of more than 1,500 cows. "If it's better for the cows it will increase milk production, there's no doubt about that," Jongeneel said. The waterbeds are meant to conform to the bovine's bulky figure, cradling the cows as they shift their weight and protecting their joints.

Of the waterbed experiment, Jongeneel has said, "The cows liked it right away ... They laid right down and were comfortable."

I responded to Mr. Ryan and gave him the link. I politely suggested that he might want to take the issue up with Mr. Jongeneel, since he's the one that seems to think that he is using the waterbeds for comfort, not injuries. But I for one am standing by my story, so no retraction will be forthcoming.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of cows, here's a website devoted to amusing cow stories. Right up my alley. I liked this one in particular, since it involves two of my favorite subjects: cows and animal rights groups.

Cows become billboards in Switzerland

Cows have been turned into walking advertising hoardings in Switzerland.

Company logos and slogans are being painted on to cow's bodies before the animals are released back in to Swiss pastures as part of a brand name marketing campaign.

Frank Baumann, who is head of the Cow Placard Company, says he hopes the idea will "help boost the rural economy."

The company is offering advertisers the chance to have a logo or slogan painted onto the cow's side using car paints.

But the move has been criticised by animal rights groups who say Baumann is simply looking for the publicity and not supporting agriculture as he claims.

The cost of a cow placard depends on the size and duration of the ad, but it tends to be around $250.

Outstanding, says I. Can you imagine, driving along when suddenly a whole herd of IBM Logo cows appear in a pasture next to the road?

[But I don't think Intel's Inside.]

And since cow stories always come in threes . . . here's another one:

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Cows have regional accents, a group of British farmers claims, and phonetics experts say the idea is not as far-fetched as it sounds.

Lloyd Green, from southwest England, was one of a group of farmers who first noticed the phenomenon.

"I spend a lot of time with my Friesians and they definitely 'moo' with a Somerset drawl," he said, referring to the breed of dairy cow he owns.

I shudder to think what cows would sound like here in Philly.

[Yo! Moo!]

True to form, when I got home last night, Yellow Bear had moved. Quite energetic for a stuffed bear, he is. The only problem was trying to take the picture, since Suki kept head butting the camera as I was trying to take the shot.

[She's a pill.]


[Only 7,188 more needed for our Wine Cellar Wall.]

Quote du jour:

"Erratum. In my article on the Price of Milk,
'Horses' should have read 'Cows' throughout."

J. B. Morton

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