Saturday, February 24, 2007

Feeding time at the zoo

Few people now remember the enormous debt owed by the free world to the great state of Wisconsin for its crucial role in cold war espionage, not the least because I'm making this up as I go along. Back in the dark days of interrogation, long before the US military had perfected the sophisticated techniques of water-boarding and urinating on detainees, sensory deprivation was very much the in-thing. The trouble was that the KGB was having considerably more success with the technique than our chaps. The boys from Langley, having been raised on a steady diet of Roy Rodgers, comic strips featuring space-aliens and chocolate malt shakes, broke down in no more than a few minutes in a Muscovite bath of tepid water with the lights turned out. The Russian Ambassador to London, meanwhile, was alleged to have remarked over cocktails with then Whitehall columnist Sir Anthony Saxby that Guy Burgess was turned by the mere confiscation of his mascara by an over zealous East German customs official. The Soviets were, however, a completely different kettle-of-fish. Having survived through to their twenties on nothing more than pickled cabbage and the odd sprat from Riga on Stalin's birthday for nourishment, the US take on sensory deprivation was very much like a holiday at Butlin's for the captured comrade (although, ironically, Butlin's was the central theatre of success for concurrent British operations). Even liquidised Wonderbread so excited the communist palate that they were apparently capable of living indefinitely and quite merrily in an otherwise undifferentiated abyss of nothing. If food were withdrawn entirely, however, the captured spy would simply die of malnutrition before he spilled the proverbial beans.

In desperation, Attorney General Robert Kennedy turned to the head of Intelligence Committee for inspiration. As luck would have it, the good Senator Gaylord Nelson was the son of a dairy farmer and maintained excellent relations with his largely agrarian electorate. Within five short weeks, up to six hours of which were dedicated to the actual maturation of the final product, the people of Wisconsin had landed upon the perfect vehicle for getting the largest quantity of cholesterol into the human body with the smallest amount of pleasure. And, by virtue of certain FDA regulations on the subject, they were obliged to call it cheese.

At the opposite end of the stimulative spectrum from the flotation tank and Midwestern dairy produce lies the existence of the chief bunny, whose life is dizzying round of novel sensory experiences, not the least of which include the regular company of giraffes and other denizens of Oregon Zoo and the kaleidoscopic range of smoothies that pass themselves off as baby food, from "chicken dinner with rice," all the way through to "apricot fruit medley," via the more pedestrian fare of sweet potatoes, squash, bananas and apple sauce.

Ah, feeding time. A chip off the old block there - you'll see a very similar glint in my eye when I pass by the cinnamon rolls and danish pastries in the corporate cafe.

Al fresco style at the zoo.

Katrina appears particularly excited by this leaf.

Just to demonstrate that we really were at the zoo.

A tickle on the tummy makes an excellent aperitif, though a poor digestif.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Year End Financial Results

PORTLAND, OR - February 7, 2007 - Tammar Portland, an independently run subsidiary of Tammar Worldwide, today announced financial results for the year ended December 31, 2006.

After seven years of year-on-year growth, 2006 saw revenue decrease by 10% from previously reported earnings. Expenditure exceeded income by some margin, resulting in a net operating loss of substantial proportions. The Board would however like to draw investors attention to renewed capital investment (new deck, garage with working door) and, critically, to the 50% increase in staffing levels over the previous reporting period.

"We have met the challenge of restructuring head-on, whilst unprecedented levels of inward investment represent a major commitment to the long-term future of the organisation," declared R, Tammar Portland's Chief Executive Officer. "As directed by the Board, we increased personnel levels by half at the tail-end of 2Q06; in tandem with this growth, existing staff have been diverted from previous duties to manage an intensive orientation and development programme scheduled for roll-out over the next twenty-five years."

R remained cautiously bullish in the face of criticisms raised by Wall Street over last summer's strategic shift, dismissing the analysts' statements as characteristic of the short-termism endemic to modern trading. "The actions taken by the Board, though initially painful, were vital to ensure the continuance of the Tammar brand into the second half of the twenty-first century.

"I should also like to remind investors that, due to a highly restrictive legislative environment, it is not possible to cut overhead through a reduction in headcount."