My Experience With Merrick Pet Care

We recently adopted two male Cane Corso puppies from the same litter. They are amazing, but if you are a dog lover, your dog is always amazing isn’t it? We named them Tank and Shadow.

Tank and Shadow on adoption day 2017

Tank and Shadow adoption day 2017

We started our new pups on a high-quality puppy kibble from Blue Buffalo called “Blue Wilderness Puppy Food with LifeSource Bits.” We supplemented that with canned food, also from Blue Buffalo. When the local pet stores were out of “Blue Wilderness” by Blue Buffalo, which was the brand we preferred, we tried the “Puppy Plate” puppy food from Merrick Pet Care.

We had already been feeding Brutus (“Roo”), our 16-year old Rottweiler-German Shepherd mix the “Turducken” flavor from Merrick, because he is very finicky and that was about the only food that would not cause him to flip his bowl over in protest. We had been trying the Blue Buffalo stews out of desperation because he wasn’t eating and his health was deteriorating. Those became very expensive to feed to a large breed dog, so we searched for, and found, a high-quality canned food at Sandy Pet Supply, near our home. And thankfully, he really took to it.

Brutus at the Aquarium

Brutus (at 8 weeksold)

Oregon Coast Aquarium in 2001

Shortly after we started feeding Merrick food to our pups, there was a minor issue with a can of food. A can of the “Smothered Comfort Stew” flavor was not up to the usual high standards we had experienced. The stew was more like soup. We sent an email, picture included, detailing the issue. We received a prompt response letter (the next day) with profuse apologies, and a coupon for three free cans of food in the mail 3 days later. Merrick Pet Care really won our business that day.

This is not remotely scientific, and I’m no veterinarian, but nearly every purebred dog that I have known seems to have had food allergies (mostly wheat). That makes sense, since we all know that canines are predators, and selective breeding, while it brings out traits that we desire in the breeds, also tends to bring out genetic anomalies that aren’t desirable.

All Merrick Dog Food is Grain-Free

Merrick dog foods have a lot of other things besides beef, chicken, turkey, and venison. They also have Granny Smith apples, peas, sweet potato, and blueberries, to name a few. And did I mention that they were grain free? Our late, lamented Dogue D’Bordeaux Honey had the worst wheat allergy I had ever seen, and it would manifest itself in all sorts of unpleasant ways. I never want to go through that again with any of my dogs.

More About Merrick:

My family and my dogs are fans of Merrick Pet Care and their canned dog food products. Follow this link to their website if you want to find out more

Blogging, finally.

So I finally decided to quit making excuses, and start blogging. I wrote my first real blog post (jnstead of just reblogging). Gettting that done gave me the confidence to jump in with both feet and upgrade to a Premium WordPress account, with a custom domain.

Now I’ve installed the app in order to post often no matter where Im at. This editor is very easy to use. I may find myself blogging from my smartphone all the time-maybe. Of course, I may now start making excuses to upgrade to that phablet I’ve been wanting. I’ve been quite happy with Samsung GS5 since I acquired it 3 years ago, but it’s getting pretty long in the tooth and I have big thumbs. Anyway, back to WordPress.

I’ve been dabbling in WordPress off and on for the past several years. Initially it was for a Microsoft IIS class in which we installed a blogging platform on a virtual web server we setup on Windows Server 2008.

Lately though, Ive really been looking for a way to ease my transition out of my current blue-collar ccupation, which is looking like it has no future. It also pays a lot more than an entry level IT job, like a pair of golden handcuffs, if you will, so that makes it more challenging if I don’t want to take a very large pay cut

One of the ways I’m going to do that is to learn how to monetize my blog. I’ve already figured out that I’ll need a ton of traffic to have a shot at making any WordAds money. I’ve also read that the advertisers tend to be pretty picky about the types of content they place their ads on. Like I said, its going to be a learning experience, and I may learn that I need to move my domain to a hosting company, build my blog from scratch, and do my own legwork to round up ad revenue.

Whichever way I go, I’ll need to post quality content, and post it often, as well as sharing my blog far and wide if I want to draw readers to it in large enough numbers to make significant income. One way to do that, based on the writing classes I’ve taken, is write whenever I think of something cool, such as a product review or a rant about whatever. Otherwise I’ll never get around to posting anything.

Stay tuned.

Are Trucking Jobs Threatened by Autonomous Vehicles?

I work as a hostler (also known as a switcher or a spotter) for a large, regional LTL (less-than-truckload) carrier. As I was preparing to leave work the other day, I had been talking with some other employees about current working conditions and business levels. The conversation turned to cost-cutting, and without thinking about it, I mentioned the emergence of autonomous vehicles and how my job would probably be gone before I could retire from this occupation in 15 years or so. A couple of the other guys dismissed the idea, saying they doubted it was that close. I replied that I was not as optimistic about my job security as they were. I have read a few scattered articles about Daimler Trucks and the prototypes they have tested, and I follow technology news enough to know that autonomous cars have made great strides in development and cleared some pretty significant hurdles in the way of full-scale road testing in various cities. I decided that the potential impact to not only myself, but the 3.5 million professional truck drivers employed in the United Sates, and millions more around the world, was too great to let the subject go unexplored.

According to data compiled by the American Transportation Research Institute, driver pay and benefits ranges from 38-43 percent of the total operational cost by mile. Those costs are only going up due to a significant shortage of drivers industry-wide, and the resultant increases in compensation offered to attract qualified drivers. The only problem with the increasing pay is that, relative to the cost of living, compensation has actually gone down. From my own experience, I can say with confidence that failure to keep pace with the competition when it comes to pay and benefits leads to painful labor shortages, which create a lot of forced overtime, leading to even more defections by drivers that just get fed up with the excessive overtime. I think we can say that labor costs are an incentive to automate, given the widely reported move to automation by McDonald’s. Of course, it’s not an overstatement to say that the two industries are apple and oranges when it comes to automation.

With many rigs weighing over to 100,000 pounds, safety is another primary concern, both in terms of loss of life and costs to the company. According to data from the NHTSA, large trucks were involved in 3,598 (11.2%) of the 32,166 fatal crashes that occurred on American roads in 2015. According to another report by NHTSA, as a driver’s experience increases, the odds of involvement in a fatal crash gradually go down. Nothing surprising there, but with large waves of retirement expected in the next decades, and growing evidence that younger drivers are not entering the industry in sufficient numbers, the workload on the existing supply of drivers is only going to increase. Tired drivers get in more fatal crashes and make many more non-fatal mistakes.  Repair, maintenance, liability and insurance costs will go up because of it. Even with a driver on-board, autonomous trucks will improve safety by minimizing driver fatigue and mistakes. That looks like another check mark in the automation column.

Another area where companies always look for savings is operational efficiency, in the case of trucking companies, this means moving the customer’s freight as efficiently as possible through the system and in a way that allows them to provide value to those customers. One way to do that is by using the minimum number of man-hours, fuel, and rubber to get the freight from shipper to consignee. LTL freight yards, rail yards, and distribution centers are a more controlled environment than roads and highways. Yard hostlers tend spend a fair amount of time on standby between stretches of high activity. This presents an opportunity to save on fuel and labor costs, as well as reducing the opportunity for injuries to occur. Another area, with far greater potential savings, is over-the-road. The majority of the labor costs of LTL and truckload companies goes to pay the wages/mileage from city to city, on the major highways.

Of course, the challenge is not selling the industry on potential cost savings, since those things sell themselves. The challenge is proving that this technology is ready to put to work. The full adoption of the diverse technologies involved in automation will not happen all at once, but in stages, largely dependent on the particular industry or application involved. Obviously return on investment is key, but the safety of these vehicles is just as important to responsible operators.

Safety is also a major factor for truck manufacturers such as Volvo Group, which has demonstrated heavy-duty vehicles with various levels of autonomy over the past few years, including a self-steering tractor, a driver-less garbage truck and the world’s first fully autonomous mining truck.” – Susan Carpenter, Trucks.com, July 13, 2017

 

The combination of cost savings and safety enhancements, with the added fuel of competition (trucking is a fiercely competitive industry), and added buy-in from companies like Uber, will mean that momentum will continue to increase. Some manufacturers though, such as Daimler Trucks, are taking a more measured approach, citing both regulatory hurdles and anomalous driving conditions that haven’t been handled yet

In terms of how this affect the commercial driver, we probably won’t see wave after wave of job losses in the next few years. This technology could actually help make trucks more safe, and help solve the critical driver shortages that the industry is experiencing by improving both working conditions and efficiency. In the long-term though, and by the same means, this technology will likely put increasing downward pressure on wages and available jobs by allowing companies to do more work with fewer drivers.