March 30, 2007

Fear and Treats

As I  struggle to finish my book, I've been thinking about fear a lot lately, fear as the parent of regret. 

Apart from an awareness of danger present in the moment, fear is the most paralyzing, enfeebling and deadening emotion that robs us from engaging fully in life.    I've noticed that kids today are far more fearful than we ever were or so it seems.  Paula Spencer writes

We Protect Kids From Everything But Fear

After 14 years and four kids, I thought I'd feel comfortable as a mother. Instead, I'm increasingly aware of a prickly new sensation: that I'm some kind of renegade. Who knew that buying potato chips would become a radical act? Or that letting my daughters walk home from school alone would require administration approval? How did I, a middle-of-the-road mom, become a social deviant?
Watching my daughter's friends ogle my pantry, I realized there's one big, legitimate fear that I haven't heard anybody mention: what's the effect of our collective paranoia on the kids? Yes, these very kids we want to be so self-sufficient, responsible, confident, happy and creative (not to mention not food-obsessed). They're growing up thinking these weirdly weenie views are healthy and normal.

Walking out my front door that day, each girl happily clutched a plastic baggie stuffed with the exotic kid snacks that my daughter had doled out in pity. I may be a rebel mom, but at least I'm not afraid of a chocolate-chip cookie.

It reminds me of nothing so much as this Chesterton quote
When giving treats to friends or children, give them what they like, emphatically not what is good for them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:15 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

40,000 Americans Killed

This is a shocking number.

However, in the five and a half years since September 11, 2001, there have been roughly 40,000 killings by gangs and gang members in this United States of America, mostly in the African-American and Hispanic sections of large cities. Huge swaths of major American cities, especially my home city of Los Angeles, are "no-go" zones for law-abiding people from outside the neighborhoods and even police go into them reluctantly. The innocent women, children, old folks and non-gansgsta men in the communities are living in a nonstop reign of terror.

Terror in Our Midst by Ben Stein

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:40 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 29, 2007

Visions of Hell

Last night I watched the Sopranos, the episode when Christopher, in hospital after being shot and considered clinically dead for about a minute, reports that he had a visited his father in hell where he was told he was going.

Many people were discomfited by the Pope's speech the other day in which he said God's love is great, but hell 'exists and is eternal.'

Have there been near-death experiences of hell?  Time to check out which I found less reliable than the Wikipedia entry on near-death experiences.

Not all near-death experiences are those of a brilliant white light and indescribable love; some experience what they could only call hell.

Two of the most famous are Dr. George Rodonaia and Howard Storm.
If you think that hell has gotten a bad name, you might want to read Fr. James Schall on The Brighter Side of Hell who concludes that Hell exists so that we might be free. 

"The road to Hell," it is said, "is paved with good intentions." It is also paved with many insights into the very nature of our being that guide us to the truth of things and the importance of our existence.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:58 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Another twist on alimony

Another case in uncharted legal territory.  If a man couldn't marry a man in Florida, does a divorced husband have to pay alimony to his former wife if she undergoes a sex-change operation?

Ex-wife becomes a man; ex-husband seeks to end alimony.

I'm betting the ex-wife will win.  Sanctity of contracts and all.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:11 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Biggest credit card heist in history

I like going to T.J. Maxx  for gifts and clothes but I almost never go the Marshalls, maybe because there are no stores nearby.

But the news that at least 45.7 million credit  and debit card numbers were stolen by hackers who accessed the computer systems  maybe even the encryption code, at corporate headquarters makes me a little nervous.

I may be a victim of the biggest credit card heist in history.  I probably am.

Breach of data at TJX is called the biggest ever.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:06 AM | Permalink

Beverage Guidance System

The New York Times reports on the Beverage Guidance System, drawn up by a panel of experts on nutrition and health, who looked at health problems  - heart disease, thinning bones, stroke, diabetes, dementia, obesity and cancer - linked to beverages drunk or not drunk.

The best beverages to drink?
1. Water
2. Coffee and tea
3. Milk

You Also Are What You Drink

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:42 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 28, 2007

Tony Snow's Advice

When we learned that Tony Snow's cancer returned, those of us who liked him were saddened.  None perhaps more than cancer survivors who took much inspiration from him.

G.M.Roper who announced he had cancer in 2006, published a note Tony had sent him which should be sent to everyone who's just learned about their cancer. 

First, enlist as much love and support from friends as you can, and don't be shy. One of the great distinguishing characteristic of Americans is that they always want a chance to do something good. ... most will rally in wondrous and suprising ways. Give them a chance to help. They'll come through for you.

Second, talk to other cancer patients. They have street cred others don't.
Third, learn as much as you can -- ignorance is your enemy -- but don't get too hooked on internet sites. Many of them are idiotic...
Fourth, keep the fighting attitude...Once the game is on, you don't have any choice. You have to play. So play to win.
Fifth: Realize that fear is a complete waste of time, even though it will creep up on you from time to time.
Sixth, relish and embrace your faith...Prayer is an amazing thing, and the healing power of prayer -- something I always suspected before getting cancer -- is palpable and real. 

With prayers and hopes for his second recovery

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:52 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 27, 2007

Being a Eunuch

What it's like becoming a eunuch? 

Richard Wassersug was diagnosed with prostrate cancer at 52.  When surgery and radiation didn't work, he started hormonal therapy that had the effect of chemical castration.

Then he found that the eunuchs of antiquiity were the models of our depictions of angels.

Disfiguring Treatment?  No, It Was Healing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:26 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 26, 2007

The Attraction of War

From a remarkable essay by Brian Mockenhaupt,

I miss Iraq.  I miss my gun.  I miss my war

Yet even at its lowest points, war is like nothing else. Our culture craves experience, and that is war's strong suit. War peels back the skin, and you live with a layer of nerves exposed, overdosing on your surroundings, when everything seems all wrong and just right, in a way that makes perfect sense. And then you almost die but don't, and are born again, stoned on life and mocking death. The explosions and gunfire fry your nerves, but you want to hear them all the same. Something's going down.

For those who know, this is the open secret: War is exciting. Sometimes I was in awe of this, and sometimes I felt low and mean for loving it, but I loved it still. Even in its quiet moments, war is brighter, louder, brasher, more fun, more tragic, more wasteful. More. More of everything.

Mortal danger heightens the senses. That is simple animal instinct. We're more aware of how our world smells and sounds and tastes. This distorts and enriches experiences. Now I can have everything, but it's not as good as when I could have none of it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:37 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 25, 2007

Beckoning Disaster

Why Russia need lawyers and lawsuits.

It would be wrong to stereotype, to say that Russians are fatalistic or heartless. They are, however, not only resigned to tragedy but inured to it in a way that to many raises alarms about the country’s future. They’re not just helpless in the face of disaster; they could be called complicit, ever beckoning the next one by their actions or lack of.
Disasters, natural and man-made, occur everywhere, but unnatural death occurs in Russia with unnatural frequency and in unnatural quantity.

Russia's Stages of Grief Begin and End with Acceptance

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:57 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

"You see people you like, you go there"

Antonio Pierro is 110.  This is some of what he's learned.

If you're going to make wine by stepping on grapes, make sure to wash your feet.

Steal with your eyes, not with your hands.

It's good to have a garden.

There's too much to remember. Sometimes you gotta forget about the past.

You see people you like, you go there.

We were married 47 years. Kindness in giving creates love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:47 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Sixteen Things

16 things it takes most of us 50 years to learn

3. You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.

4. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above-average drivers.

5. There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is: age 11.

via Kottke

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:43 AM | Permalink

March 24, 2007

Vicks Vaporub and Tiger Balm

Hey, I don't know if it works, but it might,

Application of Vicks Vaporub to the soles of the feet effectively counters nighttime cough.

Vaporub works to ease nasal congestion when rubbed on a chest and on sore muscles.  You can use it to remove ticks, and on your forehead to ease a headache, even on sore, cracked heels.

The active ingredients of camphor,  menthol and eucalyptus are similar, but not identical to Tiger Balm which I prefer and have used for years on headaches, insect bites and sore muscles.  Tiger Balm uses the oils of clove, cinnamon and cajuput and absolutely no tiger parts,

  2 Tiger Balm

It's very refreshing when rubbed on the temples say when you're trapped in a hot, crowded subway or anytime when the heat can make you lightheaded. 

You can find Tiger Balm in teeny, tiny tins usually in a Chinese store, that are so small you can always keep one in your purse.

Just be careful you don't get any in your eyes or on any private parts or you'll be sorry.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:53 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Incompetence as the key to keeping power

You could say this is what happens when the Peter Principle infects government, but it's more serious than that.

Theodore Dalrymple realizes that incompetence is the best way of keeping power.

In the looking-glass world of modern British public administration, nothing succeeds like failure, because failure provides work for yet more functionaries and confers an ever more providential role upon the government.
Britain now has more educational bureaucrats than teachers, as well as more health-service administrators than hospital beds.
The state has become a vast and intricate system of patronage, whose influence very few can entirely escape. It is essentially corporatist: the central government, avid for power, sets itself up as an authority on everything and claims to be omnicompetent both morally and in practice; and by means of taxation, licensing, regulation, and bureaucracy, it destroys the independence of all organizations that intervene between it and the individual citizen.  If it can draw enough citizens into dependence on it, the central government can remain in power, if not forever, then for a very long time, at least until a crisis or cataclysm forces change.

Those who lose are the underclass; yet, they are essential to the whole system.

At the very end of the chain of patronage in the British state is the underclass ...Impoverished and degraded as they might be, they are nonetheless essential to the whole system, for their existence provides an ideological proof of the necessity of providential government in the first place, as well as justifying many employment opportunities in themselves. ... what I have seen myself in this most wretched stratum of society: large numbers of people corrupted to the very fiber of their being by having been deprived of responsibility, purpose, and self-respect, void of hope and fear alike, living in as near to purgatory as anywhere in modern society can come.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:19 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 23, 2007

Your Impact on Others

If you ever wonder about the impact of your actions on others, read Just Doing My Best.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:11 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 22, 2007

On Elizabeth Edwards and the return of her cancer

The breast cancer of Elizabeth Edwards has returned in an advanced form and has spread beyond the breast to the bone.  While the doctors say it is incurable, it is treatable.  Her husband John Edwards offered to pull out of the presidential race to stay by her side, but she insisted he stay in and he will.

My feelings are confused.  I  feel bad for them both and then heartened by their courage and puzzled by their decision.  Who would put themselves through the rigors of a campaign when the days may be short?

But then again, who knows?

Dean Barnett, who had his own body blow of a sudden diagnosis 11 years ago has some understanding of what they are going through.

I think I have some understanding and I know I have some sympathy. They’re working through all of this. Their first instinct is not to surrender. That’s good, and it’s what you would have expected. People who seek the presidency aren’t the types who give up or even compromise easily.

THROUGH THE YEARS, I’VE COME TO VIEW SERIOUS and progressive illness as an ever constricting circle with oneself at the center. The interior of the circle represents the contents of one’s life. As the circle gets smaller, things that were inside get forced out. Some of these things are dearly missed; other items that were once thought precious get forced to the exterior and turn out to go surprisingly unlamented.
The Edwards have begun their own journey of that sort. Whether they still find presidential politics at the center of their lives a few months from now is an open question. Regardless, the journey is theirs, and one would have a heart of stone to wish them anything other than good luck and Godspeed.

He's right. Best wishes and good luck to them both. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:01 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Lawsuit against clinic that used wrong sperm

NY Judge rules Lawsuit against the clinic that used the wrong sperm can proceed.

The couple says that they have been forced to raise a child who is "not even the same race, nationality, color ... as they are," the judge said in the ruling.

The judge quoted the couple as saying that after their daughter, Jessica, was born Oct. 19, 2004, they knew something was wrong because of her physical appearance.

They say that "while we love Baby Jessica as our own, we are reminded of this terrible mistake each and every time we look at her; it is simply impossible to ignore," the judge's decision said.

But what are they going to say to their daughter when she is older?  That she is a "terrible mistake?"    There are a lot of lawsuits that should never be filed.  Even though they have been "wronged",  money damages will never right it, while the lawsuit itself will have incalculable damage on the child later on in life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:59 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

German judge cites Koran to justify abuse

When multiculturalism goes too far.

In Germany, a judge cites the Koran
apparently saying it's all right to beat your wife if you both come from Morocco. 

"The exercise of the right to castigate does not fulfill the hardship criteria as defined by Paragraph 1565 (of German federal law),"

A 26-year-old woman, with two children, and a violent, abusive husband sought a quick divorce when her husband threatened to kill her.  No said the judge, you have to wait a year.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:09 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 21, 2007

Supporting Israel, Defending Civilization

From an essay by Fjordman on Why Europeans Should Support Israel

Europeans need to understand how closely intertwined are the fates of Israel and of Europe itself. The term “Judeo-Christian” is not a cliche. We cannot defend Western civilization without defending its Jewish component, without which modern Western culture would have been unthinkable.

The religious identity of the West has two legs: The Christian and the Jewish ones. It needs both to stand upright. Sacrificing one to save the other is like fighting a battle by chopping off one of your legs, throwing it at the feet of your enemies and shouting: “You won’t get the other one! We will never surrender!” We could always hope that our enemies will laugh themselves to death faster than we bleed to death, the Monty Python way of fighting. Maybe that works, but most likely it will leave us crippled and pathetic, if not dead.
To reduce absolutely everything about Europe to gas chambers, thereby allowing the Nazis the opportunity to expropriate everything that has been created during thousands of years, is to grant Adolf Hitler victory posthumously.
We cannot change what has happened in the past. We should, however, consider it our duty to combat anti-Semitism in the here and now and make sure that the remaining Jews both in Europe and in Israel are safe. This is not just because it is our moral and historical obligation, which it is, but also because we only gain the right to defend ourselves against Islamization of we grant the same right to Israel. Likewise, we can only begin to heal our self-inflicted civilizational wounds if we embrace the Jewish component of our cultural identity.

Richard Landes calls anti-Zionism a form of cultural AIDS and pinpoints the moment of infection to the time when France 4, the PBS of France, publicized and distributed around the world faked photographs of the death of Mohammed Al Durah, faked photos that sparked the intifada and a horrifying wave of suicide bombers in Israel and, at the same time, exacerbated the fever of anti-Israeli and anti-semitic feeling in Europe.

From the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston this quotation by Martin Niemoller:

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 20, 2007

Umbilical Blood Banks

Are Umbilical Blood Banks "Taking Advantage" of Parents?

You could spend thousands of dollars ($1700-$2500) to collect plus the doctor's fee and your insurer won't cover the cost.  Add that to the annual fee of $175-$200 that you know will go up, and you're talking real money without understanding the limited benefits.

Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics said parents should only bank if they have an older child with a condition that could benefit.

Because genetic diseases are already present in umbilical cord blood, the cells cannot help children who later develop that type of disease, although they could help family members.

You might want to consider donation to public banks that store blood for treatment and research.

"You also don't know what can happen. A lot of diseases, most diseases are not genetically based," he said, citing anemia and brain injuries.

"It's like an expensive insurance policy, but right now I can't tell you what my insurance is against,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

The Blooker

The Blooker is a literary prize aimed at honoring the best books based on blogs.  The short list and judges have been announced for this year prize sponsored by Lulu.

On the list is Post Secret, now one of the world's ten most popular blogs, attracting 3.5 million visitors a month.

A new genre of stories based on photos posted on Flick'r is called  Fliction  with The Doorbells of Florence,  the first to employ fliction with photos by Andrewlos, now on the Blooker short list and published as a coffee table book.

  Doorbells Of Florence-1

From Via de Martelli, 8  comes the wonderful story of how a would-be Sam Spade became The Undertaker of Debt

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:58 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

A Computer as Your Health Proxy? The 1% rule

With a health proxy, also known as advance medical directives, people can empower surrogates to make medical decisions for them when they can't.

How well do these surrogates do in predicting the wishes of their patients?

New Scientist reports Can computers make life-or-death decisions?

A review of 16 studies found that surrogates got it right only 68% of the time.

Bioethicist David Wendler of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, US and colleagues wondered whether a formula could be used to better predict a patient’s wishes.

The data suggested that most people want life-saving treatment if there is at least a 1% chance that following the intervention they would have the ability to reason, remember and communicate. If there is less than a 1% chance, people generally say they would choose not to have the treatment.

“The difference between zero and 1% is all the difference in the world for someone,” says Wendler.

Wendler says he was surprised at the formula’s accuracy. “I think it’s fascinating. At first when you hear it you think ‘That just can’t be right,’” he says.

He imagines a situation in which a surrogate is told there is only a 5% chance that an incapacitated loved one will survive a life-saving surgery following an auto accident. He says that the relative might predict that the patient would not want the intervention while the formula would predict that they did.

Wendler now wants to collect medical care preferences from people of various ethnic, religious and gender groups, which will help his team refine the formula. He believes that a computer program might one day predict patient’s wishes to an accuracy of 90%.

And the tool could take some of the pressure off of relatives who sometimes have to decide whether or not to switch off a patient’s life support machine.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Getting Older Sooner

Americans in their early to mid-50s today report poorer health, more pain and more trouble doing everyday physical tasks than their older peers reported at the same age in years past, a recent analysis has shown.

The survey of 20,000 Americans over 50 began in 1992 with research by the National Bureau of Economic Research supported by the National Institute on Aging, part of the NIH.

Researchers took  3 age groups:  those born in 1936-41 (now ages 66 to 71), 1942-47 (now ages 60 to 65) and 1948-53 (now ages 54 to 59).  They compared  the self-reported health at ages  51-56.

The youngest group reported having more pain, chronic health conditions, and drinking and psychiatric problems than people who were the same age 12 years earlier.

Seems to coincide pretty closely with TV adoption and more sedentary life-styles,  the wider availability of junk food and increased stress of all sorts, the dry rot I wrote about yesterday.

Story at Medical News Today via David Wolfe's Another Boomer Myth Shot Down.  He says Beth Soldo who led the study is a 'world-class researcher'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 19, 2007

Would You Want to Know?

Katherine Moser faced her genetic destiny early when she learned that she, like others in her family, carried the gene for Huntington's Disease.

The decision to take the genetic test was hers and now she is Facing Life with a Lethal Gene.

Ms. Moser is part of a vanguard of people at risk for Huntington’s who are choosing to learn early what their future holds. Facing their genetic heritage, they say, will help them decide how to live their lives.
She never, she said, regretted being tested. But at night, crying herself to sleep in the dark of her lavender bedroom, she would go over and over it. She was the same, but she was also different. And there was nothing she could do.
Like many families affected by Huntington’s, Ms. Moser’s regarded the disease as a curse, not to be mentioned even as it dominated their lives in the form of her grandfather’s writhing body and unpredictable rages.
Ms. Moser is still part of a distinct minority. But some researchers say her attitude is increasingly common among young people who know they may develop Huntington’s.

More informed about the genetics of the disease than any previous generation, they are convinced that they would rather know how many healthy years they have left than wake up one day to find the illness upon them.
More than anything now, Ms. Moser said, she is filled with a sense of urgency.

“I have a lot to do,” she said. “And I don’t have a lot of time.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Growing Your Body Better

Here's a most interesting summation of recent scientific findings concerning "Normal" Aging  by Dr. Henry Lodge, Columbia University

You replace about 1% of your cells every day. That means 1% of your body is brand-new today, and you will get another 1% tomorrow. Think of it as getting a whole new body every three months. It’s not entirely accurate, but it’s pretty close.
You choose whether those new cells come in stronger or weaker. You choose whether they grow or decay each day from then on. Your cells don’t care which choice you make. They just follow the directions you send. Exercise, and your cells get stronger; sit down, and they decay.

This whole system evolved over billions of years out in nature, where all animals face two great cellular challenges: The first is to grow strong, fast and fit in the spring, when food abounds and there are calories to fuel hungry muscles, bones and brains. The second is to decay as fast as possible in the winter, when calories disappear and surviving starvation is the key to life. You would think that food is the controlling signal for this, but it’s not. Motion controls your system.

The other master signal to our cells—equal and, in some respects, even more important than exercise—is emotion. One of the most fascinating revelations of the last decade is that emotions change our cells through the same molecular pathways as exercise. Anger, stress and loneliness are signals for “starvation” and chronic danger. They “melt” our bodies as surely as sedentary living. Optimism, love and community trigger the process of growth, building our bodies, hearts and minds.

Most aging is just the dry rot we program into our cells by sedentary living, junk food and stress.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Gay Babies

The mind reels at the following:

If homosexuality is biologically determined and a genetic marker is found, will gays protest against women aborting "gay" fetuses? 

Would they prefer pregnant women wearing a patch to eradicate her fetus's natural gayness?

The Problem, in a Fundamental Nutshell: "Is Your Baby Gay."

One thing is for certain.  Our society is unprepared and unequipped to deal with the biogenetic revolution.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Our Everyday Elixir

  Victoria Falls

Along with this spectacular photo of Victoria Falls, comes some marvelous writing by Michael Joseph Gross in Chasing the Ultimate Waterfall

Later I realized this was the reassurance of a waterfall. Here, our everyday elixir, the substance of which we are literally made, seems to be shattered, and immediately, perpetually, restores itself.

All the glory and excitement of this place, and of any waterfall, has just one natural purpose: it's the river's way of getting back to normal. A waterfall occurs at the rift between a stream's force and its path. It is simultaneously a mistake and a correction, existing in order to erase itself.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:55 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 17, 2007

The Great Hunger and Nine Famous Irishmen

I wrote this post last year for Third Age, and thought why not repost it this year because so few people know about the Great Hunger.  The Irish who fled the famine emigrated around the world and were such successful immigrants, so completely integrating into the mainstream culture  wherever they landed, they lost touch with their own history. 

Some say the potato first arrived in Ireland when they washed up on shore following the shipwreck of the 130 ships of the Spanish Armada in 1588 in a violent storm.  It didn’t take long for the potato to become popular as a healthy and reliable source of food and soon the mainstay of the Irish peasantry.  Grown underground, it was plentiful even during times of war, surviving when other crops and livestock were destroyed.  The population of Ireland soared with more than two thirds living on the land, dependent on a potato harvest that, unlike grain, could not be stored.

When the potato blight appeared in 1845 and spread in 1846,  people were left with nothing to eat, with no way to make money to support themselves.  By the end of the worst years of the potato famine, 1847-1849, more than one million Irishmen women and children died of starvation in "The Great Hunger."  Another 1.5 million emigrated.

About a half million were evicted by their landlords, many sent away in overcrowded "coffin ships" to Canada with little food, almost no water and no doctors.  Already weak and sick, often more than half died.  It was said that sharks could be seen following the ships because so many bodies were thrown overboard.

Remember now, Ireland was part of Great Britain and in this time of greatest need, the English government washed their hands of the "Irish problem" by dumping the entire cost and responsibility of famine relief upon the Irish property owners.  They closed down the public works programs and soup kitchens which were a "temporary solution" for the first crop failure.

With the passage of the Poor Law, anyone seeking relief who owned more than a quarter acre in land had to forfeit their land.

Men could only get relief if they went as destitute paupers to workhouses already overfull with widows, children and the elderly.  People were turned away in droves. They wandered the countryside, living in holes and under bridges, eating grass and dying in ditches.

In Donegal Union, ten thousand persons were found living "in a state of degradation and filth which it is difficult to believe the most barbarous nations ever exceeded," according to the Quaker, William Forster. His organization, the Society of Friends, had refused to work in cooperation with the new Poor Law.

Still, it was not enough as the British Government called for maximum pressure to collect taxes and tax collectors seized livestock, furniture, clothes and tools from homeless paupers.  As a matter of policy they would not supply food to the starving people who were considered feckless and reckless for depending on the potato.  In 1861 in The Last Conquest of Ireland, John Mitchel wrote: "The Almighty indeed sent the potato blight but the English created the famine."

  Irish Famine

Little wonder that intense hatred grew against the British.  Unrest by a group of Irish nationalists known as ‘Young Ireland’ caused the British government to send in troops to quell any sort of popular uprising.  Habeas corpus was suspended and the Treason Felony Act was passed that made speaking against the Crown or the Parliament punishable by deportation to Australia for life.

Ireland was forced to pay for its own relief.  Landlords tore down houses so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes, evicting tenants in the winter with nowhere to go.  Men and women who had never committed any crimes deliberately committed crimes so they could be deported.  The horrors of the Great Hunger are unimaginable to us today and deeply shameful to those who survived it.

Michael Shaughnessy, a barrister in Ireland, described children he encountered while traveling on his circuit as "almost naked, hair standing on end, eyes sunken, lips pallid, protruding bones of little joints visible." In another district, there was a report of a woman who had gone insane from hunger and eaten the flesh of her own dead children. In other places, people killed and ate dogs which themselves had been feeding off dead bodies.

So shameful is the memory of the famine that those who survived rarely spoke of it.  Those of Irish descent now living in the U.S or Canada or Australia are only beginning to learn about the Great Hunger, through contemporary Irish bands like Black 47, recent books like the National Book Award winner, Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett and the PBS series on the Irish in America.

What’s most often told is the glory of a new life in a new land.  The most famous of which is the story of "Nine Famous Irishmen’ reprinted on countless restaurant placemats.

In the Young Irish disorders, in Ireland in 1848 the following nine men were captured, tried, and convicted of treason against Her Majesty, the Queen, and were sentenced to death: John Mitchell, Morris Lyene, Pat Donahue, Thomas McGee, Charles Duffy, Thomas Meagher, Richard O’Gorman, Terrence McManus, Michael Ireland.

Before passing sentence, the judge asked if there was anything that anyone wished to say. Meagher, speaking for all, said, "My lord, this is our first offense but not our last. If you will be easy with us this once, we promise, on our word as gentlemen, to try to do better next time. And next time - sure we won’t be fools to get caught."

Thereupon the indignant judge sentenced them all to be hanged by the neck until dead and drawn and quartered.  Passionate protest from all the world forced Queen Victoria to commute the sentence to transportation for life to far wild Australia.

In 1874, word reached the astounded Queen Victoria that the Sir Charles Duffy who had been elected Prime Minister of Australia was the same Charles Duffy who had been transported 25 years before.  On the Queen’s demand, the records of the rest of the transported men were revealed and this is what was uncovered:

    THOMAS FRANCIS MEAGHER, Governor of Montana

    TERRENCE MCMANUS, Brigadier General, United States Army

    PATRICK DONAHUE, Brigadier General, United States Army

    RICHARD O’GORMAN, Governor General of Newfoundland

    MORRIS LYENE, Attorney General of Australia, in which office
    MICHAEL IRELAND succeeded him

    THOMAS D’ARCY MCGEE, Member of Parliament, Montreal, Minister of
    Agriculture and President of Council Dominion of Canada

    JOHN MITCHELL, prominent New York politician. This man was the father of John
    Purroy Mitchell, Mayor of New York, at the outbreak of World War I.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:17 PM | Permalink

March 16, 2007

The Irish and Beer

  Get Beer-1

Blackfive has a patent-pending on the Irish palm pilot shown above.

It's worth pointing out that are two patron saints of Ireland, St Patrick and St. Brigid and the latter  particularly loved beer which is featured prominently in some of the miracles attributed to her.
Her generosity in adult life was legendary: It was recorded that if she gave a drink of water to a thirsty stranger, the liquid turned into milk; when she sent a barrel of beer to one Christian community, it proved to satisfy 17 more. Many of the stories about her relate to the multiplication of food, including one that she changed her bath-water into beer to satisfy the thirst of an unexpected clergyman.

St. Brigid's prayer begins
I'd like to give a lake of beer to God.
I'd love the Heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.

and ends
I'd sit with the men, the women of God
There by the lake of beer
We'd be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.

Who else but an Irish saint imagines God as forever drinking beer, a beatific vision unique to  the Irish?

Go here to hear Noirin Ni Riann recite the prayer in her wonderful Irish voice.

And finally, an Irish joke from To the Point.
An Irishman was walking along a beach in County Cork one day and noticed an encrusted bottle washed up on the sand.  Wondering what might be inside he broke it off at the neck and out popped an Irish Genie.

"Oh, me man, I hah been in tha bottle for a hundred years, and you be settin' me free!" he exclaimed.  "For that, I'll be givin' you two wishes!"

"Two wishes?  Anything I want?" the man asked incredulously.

"Anythin' - just name it," the genie replied.

"Well, what I'll be wantin'," said the man, "is a glass of good Irish ale - but a very special glass, so that no matter how much I drink it will always be full of good Irish ale."

Poof!  There it was in his hand.  The Irishman drank and drank and drank, and twenty minutes later, he hadn't made a dent.  The glass was still overflowing with wonderful Irish ale.

But by now the genie was getting impatient.

"Listen me man" he announced.  "I'm grateful for you settin' me free, but I was in that bottle for a long time and I've things to do.  So you'll be makin' your second wish now."

The Irishman thought for a moment, looked at the glass in his hand, and declared, "You know, I think I'll have another one of these!"

So drink and pray beer for St. Patrick and St. Brigid, but never green beer, an abomination.

There's a party over at Guinness.  You have to register, but then you can download some Irish music by Quagmire

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:14 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

St. Patrick

  St Patrick All Saints-2

His experience as a slave made him a holy man, a mystic and  the first person in the history of the world to denounce slavery unequivocally.    For that alone, he would be revered.    But his influence in Ireland may well have saved Western Civilization at an earlier time when it was in mortal peril.

And so it was that a young Briton named Patricius died an Irishman named Patrick, and neither Ireland nor Christianity was ever quite the same. By the time of his death, or shortly thereafter, the Irish stopped slave trading and never took it up again. Human sacrifice had become unthinkable. His countrymen never stopped making war on one another, but war became much more confined and limited by what we now call the rules of warfare. In the modern classic How the Irish Saved Civilization, it is said that Patrick's conversion of Ireland made possible the preservation of Western thought through the early Dark Ages by means of the monasteries founded by Patrick's successors. When the lights went out all over Europe, a candle still burned in Ireland. That candle was lit by Patrick.

The light of a candle can be blown out, die out or used to light another candle.

After the fall of the Roman Empire to the barbarians, back in the fifth century, Thomas Cahill writes in How the Irish Saved Civilization

... to reasonable men in the second half of the century, surveying the situation of their time, the end was no longer in doubt: their world was finished. One could do nothing but, like Ausonius, retire to one's villa, write poetry, and await the inevitable. It never occurred to them that the building blocks of their world would be saved by outlandish oddities from a land so marginal that the Romans had not bothered to conquer it, by men so strange they lived in little huts on rocky outcrops and shaved half their heads and tortured themselves with fasts and chills and nettle baths. As Kenneth Clark said, "Looking back from the great civilizations of twelfth-century France or seventeenth-century Rome, it is hard to believe that for quite a long time--almost a hundred years--western Christianity survived by clinging to places like Skellig Michael, a pinnacle of rock eighteen miles from the Irish coast, rising seven hundred feet out of the sea."
as the Roman Empire fell, as all through Europe matted, unwashed barbarians descended on the Roman cities, looting artifacts and burning books, the Irish, who were just learning to read and write, took up the great labor of copying all of western literature--everything they could lay their hands on. These scribes then served as conduits through which the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian cultures were transmitted to the tribes of Europe, newly settled amid the rubble and ruined vineyards of the civilization they had overwhelmed. Without this Service of the Scribes, everything that happened subsequently would have been unthinkable.
Without the Mission of the Irish Monks, who single-handedly refounded European civilization throughout the continent in the bays and valleys of their exile, the world that came after them would have been an entirely different one--a world without books. And our own world would never have come to be.

It's fitting that St. Patrick's Day is the First Green of the Spring.    Drink up.

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"Post Normal" Science - Forget the Truth

God help us.  Now there's the "Post-Normal" Science of Climate Change

Professor Mike Hulme, founding director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change apparently is willing to toss out the scientific process, the truth of facts as he writes in the Guardian
Self-evidently dangerous climate change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth seeking,

Melanie Philips writes
So the true battleground has now been illuminated for us. The real fight is between scientists who believe in empirical observation and the truth, and ‘post-normal’ scientists who believe in ideology and lies. It’s a battle between Enlightenment values of rationality and those who wish to return us to a pre-rational era where thought was controlled and truth was a heresy. The stakes could not have been delineated more clearly.

I'm for both religion, science and legacy of the Enlightenment which separated the two realms.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised in this post-modern world where more and more believe that truth is relative that eventually scientists would be infected with the toxic meme, but still, it's shocking they would welcome it.

UPDATE: Others commenting on Post Normal Science are much better than I and  include The Belmont Club where Wretchard writes
Post-normal science is nothing but a cheap and lying term for a political diktat; for the rule of the self-appointed over everyone else. Whatever truth "Global Warming" may contain it has surely been damaged by its association with this disreputable and vile concept which brazenly casts aside the need for any factual basis and declares in the most unambiguous terms that whatever values it chooses to promote constitutes a truth unimpeachable by reality and a set of values that none dare challenge. Until "post-normal science" is repudiated as a method of proving "global warming" then both must share the same reputation.

Over at One Cosmos, Gaghdad Bob writes
Instead of unity and truth, they substitute solidarity and commitment, which is to say exterior or "top-down" order and coercive action, for the lie is always coercive whereas the truth "attracts."

He cites Al Gore's
own acknowledgment (in numerous interviews he has admitted that the main point of his impropaganda film was to frighten people into action, not to dispassionately inform them). ...

What is so objectionable about Gore's film is that, like all post-normal science, its intention is to coerce one into action before one even knows the truth -- not just any action, but probably the most massive and cataclysmic economanical actions ever undertaken by mankind, actions that will kill and/or ruin the lives of millions. There are undoubtedly "accuracies" in any post-normal science, including Gore's film, but the accuracies are not there to serve truth but to spur action.
It is science for the limbic system -- the emotional center of the brain -- not the cerebellum, which is capable of disinterested objectivity, which is the foundation of the human capacity for truth.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:40 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 15, 2007

'Cringe-makingly shameful'

Hina Saleem, the daughter of a Pakistani immigrant to Italy, was killed by her father because he was appalled at her adoption of western ways.  He slit her throat and buried her in the back garden.  He and three other relatives who are now awaiting trial in Italy.

Loredana Gemelli, a self-described life-long leftwinger said, "I thought Hina would become a symbol for Italian women."

In an interview she decried

the fact that women's groups had, in fact, shown no interest whatsoever in either Hina or the trial.

Far from joining themselves to the civil suit Ms Gemelli had brought, feminist associations had "not lifted a finger", she said. Her explanation, which at least one noted feminist agreed with, is that Italy's women's groups - all of the left - were scared witless of seeming racist or anti-immigrant.

From the Guardian, An Uncomfortable Silence.

So if feminists and the left are not going to help, who will? The case of Hina Saleem offers a possible answer. It was not till last month that she was buried. Only one woman - apart from Loredana Gemelli - turned out for her funeral. Her name is Daniela Santanche and she is a member of the Italian parliament for the "post-fascist" National Alliance.

For anyone who regards himself or herself as liberal, that is cringe-makingly shameful.

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Too many dead bodies

He was brought in to take over one of the worst state medical examiner's offices in the country, but the increase in autopsies has brought its own problems now that there is only one fully staffed office in the state. 

Too few body bags, an overwhelmed plumbing system, long delays in picking up bodies at scenes of crimes  and too little space with some bodies being stored in refrigerated trucks parked behind the building is causing a "review of the situation" in Boston.

Autopsies overwhelm medical examiner staff says the Boston Globe.

The Boston Herald has by far the more vivid report.  Morgue backlog 'nightmare'.

One morgue technician walked off the job and flung his badge at his supervisor.  Now on administrative leave while the office processes his complaint, he emails the Herald that:

• Bodies stacked three high on shelves and gurneys in the main cooler, many decomposing and dripping fluids onto others through leaky body bags.
• At least five infants have remained in the cooler for upwards of two years because the office has not been able to arrange burials.
• Poor ventilation leading to a constant stench of decomposition and the routine presence of flies in the autopsy areas.
•  Several cases in which improper drainage and a heavy caseload have caused blood and bodily fluids to back up and pool onto the floor of the autopsy suite.

“These bodies all have names. They are just lying there decomposing with mold forming on them,” said Kelley, a father of four. “It shows a total disregard for human remains.

One shudders to think what would happen in a disaster.

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Laughter, "Powerful, Ancient and Crude"

Scientists explain how laughter originated.  What's So Funny?  Well, Maybe Nothing

“Laughter is an honest social signal because it’s hard to fake,” Professor Provine says. “We’re dealing with something powerful, ancient and crude. It’s a kind of behavioral fossil showing the roots that all human beings, maybe all mammals, have in common.

Professor Panksepp thinks the brain has ancient wiring to produce laughter so that young animals learn to play with one another. The laughter stimulates euphoria circuits in the brain and also reassures the other animals that they’re playing, not fighting.

“Primal laughter evolved as a signaling device to highlight readiness for friendly interaction,” Professor Panksepp says. “Sophisticated social animals such as mammals need an emotionally positive mechanism to help create social brains and to weave organisms effectively into the social fabric.”

Apparently the lower you are on the status pole, the more you laugh.

Maybe that's why we all laugh at our bosses' lame jokes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:59 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 14, 2007

Why Exercise Boosts Brainpower

Using MRI - magnetic resonance imaging scans - researchers found that exercise boosts brainpower by building new brain cells in a brain region linked with memory and memory loss

"No previous research has systematically examined the different regions of the hippocampus and identified which region is most affected by exercise," Dr. Scott Small, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York who led the study, said in a statement.

Study shows why exercise boosts brainpower.

It won't be long before doctors will be prescribing specific exercise to improve your memory.

We've known the connection before, we just haven't understood why.

3 Hours of Exercise a week bolsters Memory, Intellect by boosting brain volume, increasing connections between cells.

Exercise can significantly cut a person's risk for dementia by increasing blood flow and oxygen.

Exercise releases a feel-good chemical - phenylethylamine - which works as an anti-depressant.

More exercise along with less junk food and more fish can prevent 80% of coronary heart disease and 90% of type 2 diabetes.

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March 13, 2007

The Final Four of Everything

Speaking of procrastination, I had a grand time applying NCAA Tournament style brackets to bring the Final Four of Everything to where were you when moments, film deaths, ad slogans and marital arguments thanks to Slate's Enlightened Bracketologist.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:16 AM | Permalink

The Wisdom of Grandma

Peggy Noonan says our political discourse needs less censorship, less political correctness and more self discipline.  Grandma said it best, 'That's Not Nice'.

I think that as America has grown more academic or aware of education, the wisdom of Grandma has been denigrated. Or ignored. Or stolen and dressed up as something else. For instance, Rudy Giuliani's success in cleaning up and reviving the city of New York is generally attributed to his embrace of what is called, in academic circles, the broken-window theory... People from Harvard won great prizes for these insights.

But all of broken-windows theory comes down to what Grandma always knew and said: "Fix the window or they'll think no one cares! When people think no one cares, they do whatever they want." There was not a single grandmother in America circa 1750-2007 who didn't know this. But no one wants to quote Grandma. She's so yesterday. And her simple teachings have been superseded by more exotic forms of instruction.
Part of the reason is that Grandma had more sway in the public sphere 50 years ago, which is to say common sense and a sense of decorum had more sway.
I  think the atmosphere of political correctness is now experienced by normal people--not people who speak on TV, but normal people--as so oppressive, so demanding of constant self-policing, that when someone says something in public that is truly not nice, not nice at all, they can't help but feel that they are witnessing a prison break.
As long as political correctness reigns, the more antic among us will try to break out with great streams of Tourette's-like forbidden words and ideas.

We should forbid less and demand more. We should exert less pressure from without and encourage more discipline from within. We should ask people to be dignified, hope they'll be generous, expect them to be fair. When they're not, we should correct them. But we shouldn't beat them to a pulp. Because that's not nice.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:04 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Good and Bad Procrastination

Good advice from Paul Graham

The most impressive people I know are all terrible procrastinators. So could it be that procrastination isn't always bad?...No matter what you work on, you're not working on everything else. So the question is not how to avoid procrastination, but how to procrastinate well.

There are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, I'd argue, is good procrastination.

I think the way to "solve" the problem of procrastination is to let delight pull you instead of making a to-do list push you. Work on an ambitious project you really enjoy, and sail as close to the wind as you can, and you'll leave the right things undone.

Good and Bad Procrastination

Update.  I forgot to give a hat tip to Armed Liberal for the link.  And to add this a propos quote from Carolyn Myss.

You cannot change anything in your life with intention alone, which can become a watered-down, occasional hope that you'll get to tomorrow. Intention without action is useless.

It looks as if the "good" procrastinators found a way to make their most important stuff, urgent.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:46 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 9, 2007

How Many People Have Ever Lived?

You've probably heard somewhere from someone that there are more people alive today than have ever lived on earth before and assumed it was true.

The U.N. says we number 6.5 billion alive today.

Well Scientific American reports  that 106 billion people have walked the earth before us.

The dead far outnumber the living.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:58 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Action Poetry

Come Friday afternoon, it's time to start winding down. 

So scoot on over to Billy Collins action poetry.  The animations are wonderful.

Thanks to Patti who wrote I have died and gone to heaven.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:57 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

One way to split up property

Unhappily married, they were getting a divorce, but couldn't agree on how to split up their property which included a summer house.    Then the man took action.

Man chainsaws house in two and makes off with his half in a forklift truck.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Why You Never Heard of James Tooley

This surprised me and I think it will surprise you especially if you are interested in education, aid to the poor or development of the Third World.

Cheap private schools are educating poor children across the developing world despite the handicaps states put upon them and without much encouragement from the international aid establishment.

James Tooley did research in India, parts of China, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria.
In every case, private education is a principal lifeline for the abjectly poor
On the whole, dime-a-day for-profit schools are doing a better job of teaching the poorest children than the far more expensive state schools. In many localities, private schools operate alongside a free, government-run alternative. Many parents, poor as they may be, have chosen to reject it and to pay perhaps a tenth of their meager incomes to educate their children privately. They would hardly do that unless they expected better results.

The Ten-Cent Solution (link fixed)

You've never heard of James Tooley...The reason you haven’t heard of James Tooley is that his work is something of an embarrassment to the official aid and development industry. He has demonstrated something that many development professionals would rather not know—and would prefer that you not know, either.

Hat tip to Amy Wellborn.

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March 8, 2007

Margaret Rutherford, Dame Commander

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: Last  month, I guest blogged at Ronni Bennett's Time Goes By, the indispensable blog for anyone who wants the real skinny on what it's  like to get older.

I could say Ronni is a Dame Commander but she's more of a mother hen keeping track of a growing brood of over 50 "elderbloggers", swatting away ageist snark  while still laying before us one perfectly composed post every day to enjoy with breakfast.

Her photo time line is a model of how family photos can be meaningfully enhanced with just a few lines of context.  As a movie buff, her TGB ElderMovie List is a fine resource when looking for a movie you can watch without embarrassment with your parents and with pleasure just by yourself.  So when she asked me to write something about aging, Margaret Rutherford immediately came to mind.]

  Montage Margaret Rutherford-1

Growing older has never really bothered me, perhaps because I was lucky in having wonderful role models of older women. Every May there is an alumnae parade at Smith College and the largest, loudest cheers go up for the oldest women in their 80s or 90s who march proudly under the banner of their graduating class. I’d be all right, I thought, if I could be one of them.

But it was seeing Margaret Rutherford for the first time that absolutely convinced me how delightful it could be to be like her. I was gobsmacked and totally enchanted when I first saw her play Miss Marple in the four “murder” films based on the Agatha Christie novels: Murder She Said, Murder at the Gallop, Murder Most Foul, and Murder Ahoy - every one of which deserves prominent placement on the TGB ElderMovie List

She was endearing, stout as an armchair and as comfortable too, a bicycle-riding, tea-making, pie-baking sleuth with an admiring male pal, cheerful in cape and hat, perfectly dressed no matter what the occasion, sensible to human frailties, fearless, smart as a whip and as funny as all get out. Who knew that being an old lady could be so much fun?

A force of nature, she could do things with her mouth, her tongue in cheek, that have never been equaled and will make you forswear even the idea of plastic surgery if it would rob you of the expressiveness of a ravishing, totally lovable old face like hers.

Born in a London suburb in 1892, nine years after her father murdered her grandfather with a chamber pot, Margaret Rutherford was an only child. Her mother died when she was 3 and she was brought up by a pair of guardian aunts.

Maybe the experience of living with a mentally ill father who was readmitted to Broadmoor, a British hospital for the criminally insane, when she was only 12, disposed her to a life in the theater. She wasn’t pretty, but she was funny and I think a late bloomer. She was 33 when she made her stage debut at the Old Vic in 1925 and 53 when she married a fellow actor Stringer Davis.

She really came into her own in her late 60s and 70s when she began to play Miss Marple. She worked with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, winning an Academy Award best supporting actress in The V.I.P.s. In her 70s, the Queen named her first an officer of the British Empire, later a Dame Commander.

And what a Dame Commander she was as Miss Marple, laying bare evil and overcoming it with goodness, everything made right.  And she did it by becoming and being her magnificent self all the time. Take one scene from Murder Ahoy:

MISS MARPLE: Are you implying that I am unhinged?


MISS MARPLE: Then what are you implying, pray?

DETECTIVE INSPECTOR CRADDOCK: Well, just that you are temporarily not yourself.

MISS MARPLE: Chief Inspector, I am always myself!

In one interview, she said,

"I hope I'm an individual. I suppose an eccentric is a super individual. Perhaps an eccentric is just off centre - ex-centric. But that contradicts a belief of mine that we've got to be centrifugal."

Centrifugal she was, radiating out from a deep core of self, to delight and gift the world.

Since I believe that the point of aging is to become more ourselves, our best selves, and to give our best selves away, I would make Margaret Rutherford a patron saint of aging.

She’s mine anyway.

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March 7, 2007

No greater love

Teen's survival in Gulf 'pretty amazing'.

A 13-year-old boy survived 28 hours in the chilly Gulf of Mexico because the three adults with him kept him propped above the water line on a part of the sunken pleasure boat that protruded above the water, U.S. Coast Guard officials said Tuesday.

Melquisedec Acevedo of Houston was found Monday clinging to a line from the partially submerged boat that sank Sunday about 10 miles south of Galveston Island. Two bodies were recovered and the search continues for a fourth man.

"For that little boy to survive is a strong indication that his family members did everything possible to ensure that he at least had a fighting chance at survival," Petty Officer Adam Eggers said.

What heartens me is the realization that these three men, even as they knew they were dying, did all they could to save the life of the youngest among them whose birthday it was.    Extraordinary bravery and love.

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Can This Marriage Be Saved?

James Olwine married Katie Martindale in Las Vegas on March 4.  On March 7th, he was arrested and charged with aggravated assault for trying to run his new wife over with his car.

Groom Hits His Bride with Car

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March 6, 2007

Tips on buying your next cell phone + service

If you're in the market for a new cell phone by all means know what you're up against by reading 8 confessions of a former Verizon sales rep via Instapundit.

If you're of the Cingular persuasion, then go to 7 confessions of a Cingular sales rep.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:59 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

The Rice with Human Genes

The Rice with human genes.

The first GM food crop containing human genes is set to be approved for commercial production.

The laboratory-created rice produces some of the human proteins found in breast milk and saliva.

Its U.S. developers say they could be used to treat children with diarrhoea, a major killer in the Third World.

The rice is a major step in so-called Frankenstein Foods, the first mingling of human-origin genes and those from plants. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture has already signalled it plans to allow commercial cultivation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

What happened to her sister had happened to her.

When anorexia is diagnosed, it takes about one year to fully refeed an anorexic child at home and another year for the sisters and brothers to get back to normal behavior.

A Diagnosis for One, but an Impact Shared

For better or worse, what had happened to her sister had happened to her, and to all of us. None of us would ever be the same again.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:02 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

The Difficult Patient

Because human nature doesn't change, bringing out the classics to train doctors is illuminating. 

The Difficult Patient, a Problem Old as History

Sophocles somehow got that tenuous position just right, just as he knew that sick people, isolated and transformed by chronic disease, dread being alone and forgotten more than they dread pain or even death.

What will happen when so many singles - never married, divorced or widowed -  get older alone?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:55 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 5, 2007

The Happiness Project

She calls them My Secrets of Adulthood.  I call them practical tips and life lessons.

Gretchen Rubin says each one changed her life, once she figured them out.

She also has her own 12 commandments.

1. Be Gretchen.
2. Let it go.
3. Act as I would feel.
4. Do it now.
5. Be polite and be fair.
6. Enjoy the process.
7. Spend out.
8. Identify the problem.
9. Lighten up.
10. Do what ought to be done.
11. No calculation.
12. There is only love.

The Happiness Project is a  site to bookmark.

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Dolphin Dying of a Broken Heart

Dolphin ‘dying of a broken heart’ after trainer is killed.

When the young dolphin was rescued from the Adriatic Sea, distressed and bruised, she was nurtured back to health by a dedicated trainer who took responsibility for her care.

Now the trainer is dead, the victim of a frenzied attack by her neighbour — and the dolphin, apparently, is dying of a broken heart.

The dolphin is refusing her daily diet of milk and squid and has lost 50kg (110lb) since Ms Monti’s murder. Her weight has fallen to just 160kg (350lb) and she has failed to respond to medication for a gastric infection.
The extraordinary story of love emerged yesterday as keepers at the Oltremare water park in Riccione appealed for international help to save the life of their dolphin.

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March 4, 2007

Termite Guts

Lots of interesting ways to harness, save and generate energy have captured my attention recently.

The Wall St Journal points out some in While You're at it, Why not Generate a Little Electricity

Like using the stairmasters and treadmills at the health club to generate electricity  for the lights or flooring materials in subways to generate electricty from the throngs of people walking into subway tunnels and  backpacks that generate electricity from the jiggling motion of walking.

There's news from the Science Foundation where they've found that using corncob waste to create carbon briquettes may be the way to store natural gas in clean-burning cars given that they can store 180 times their own  volume at one seventh the pressure of conventional natural gas tank.

Now there's a prototype of a pee-powered battery, one that runs on a drop of urine and produces 1.5 volts of electric power (same as AA batteries) for about 90 minutes.

But my favorite is  Termite Guts Can Save the Planet.
Termite guts take indigestible cellulose, which makes up the bulk of all plant material grown on earth, and convert it to ethanol, which even today is a versatile and popular fuel.

Nobel laureate Steven Chu is kick-starting the effort at the Lawrence Berkeley Labs.
If scientists can convert cellulose into liquid fuels like ethanol, the world's energy supply and storage problems could both be solved at a stroke.

This is where the termite guts come in. A billion years of evolution have produced a highly efficient factory for turning cellulose into ethanol, unlike anything which humans can yet design

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:01 AM | Permalink

March 3, 2007

Slavery Still Continues Despite William Wilberforce

I see a lot of movies but rarely write about them.  But I must write about the remarkable film  Amazing Grace which I saw last week.

William Wilberforce, young, handsome and rich was great friends with William Pitt, son of a Prime Minister (William Pitt the Elder) who  become Prime Minister himself at the age of 24.

After his conversion to Christianity as a young man, William Wilberforce brought his religion into politics and while it took him 25 years, he brought about an end to the slave trade on British ships which had made many of his fellow members of Parliament quite rich.

Amazing Grace is an old-fashioned epic, wonderfully acted with sumptuous sets and  also a deeply inspiring movie.  Even the New Yorker liked it.

Amazing Grace,” a vibrant historical epic about the ending of the slave trade in the British Empire, offers what might be called an ideal of virile ethical activity.....Yet, as square as this movie is, it has been made with eloquence and jaunty high spirits, and it tells a good story that is virtually unknown here.
New Yorker  review - no permalinks so go to issue 2007-03-05

What inspired Wilberforce, the American abolitionists and the Martin Luther King was the power of their faith. 

Jonathan Bean writes about Wilberforce in Ignatius Insight
... without his life-changing conversion to Christianity, Wilberforce might have lived a forgettable life as a rich man's son. Instead, he helped give birth to new freedom in the British Empire, hope in America, and inspiration to abolitionists everywhere. Today, with slavery spreading in Africa and Asia, and according to Amnesty International an estimated 27 million in slavery worldwide, Amazing Grace is more than a period piece: it is a timely and enduring lesson on what one man can do to stop the spread of evil.

Sadly, the Muslim world never had a Wilberforce or abolitionists.
What You Didn't Know About Slavery

In many parts of the Arab world, there are still slaves, a custom they keep even when they come to the United States as I was shocked to learn about Slavery in My Home Town.

Director Michael Apted and Producer Terrence Malick hope to effect with their movie Amazing Grace, An Amazing Change - A Campaign to Carry on Wilberforce's Vision of Mercy and Justice.
They have gathered an impressive group of partners.

Go sign the petition already. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:13 PM | Permalink

March 1, 2007

No wonder he's called Buster

I say let's give 3 cheers to the 100-year-old man who fought off a gang of muggers in south London.

This WWII vet called Buster busted the chops of 3 youths who jumped on him from behind as he was leaving a pub and knocked him down.  They ran away while Buster, bloody and bruised, walked to the hospital.

I was confused and I was lashing out at them. How the helI I found the strength I don't know. I think it came from my temper. I don't lose it often but when I do it's not a pretty sight.

Buster who was born in 1906 and has 17 children still works as a van cleaner and said

As long as I still wake up in the morning, I will continue to work.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:51 AM | Permalink | TrackBack