January 31, 2005

Ice Cream for the Soul

Kids are amazing.  Here's a passalong story from Beliefnet

Last week I took my children to a restaurant. My six-year-old son asked if he could say grace. As we bowed our heads he said, "God is good. God is great. Thank you for the food, and I would even thank you more if Mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And liberty and justice for all! Amen!"

Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby, I heard a woman remark, "That's what's wrong with this country. Kids today don't even know how to pray. Asking God for ice cream! Why, I never!"

Hearing this, my son burst into tears and asked me, "Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?"

As I held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at my son and said, "I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer."

"Really?" my son asked.

"Cross my heart." Then in theatrical whisper he added, indicating the woman whose remark had started this whole thing, "Too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes."

Naturally, I bought my kids ice cream at the end of the meal. My son stared at his for a moment and then did something I will remember the rest of my life. He picked up his sundae and without a word walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her, "Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes, and my soul is good already."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:31 PM | Permalink

Fantasy Coffins

There's a new trade that I must make note of - fantasy coffin maker.  Seems as if funeral traditions change around the world,  not just in America.  Craftsmen in Ghana are carving coffins for clients who want to bury their loved ones in something more meaningful than a traditional coffin, something that reflects their trade or something they loved, be it the Bible or beer.

Here are some of wooden caskets that Issac Adjetey Sowah has crafted in Teshi, Ghana.

 Shoe Coffin
Bible Coffin
 Beer Coffin

    Hammer Coffin

Hat tip Ann Althouse link

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:39 AM | Permalink

January 29, 2005

Life Poster

Great tutorial by Mike Matas on how to make a life poster like this.  He did it in about 30 minutes and the poster cost $29.  If you don't have  iPhoto it might take longer.  What a great gift.

    Life Poster

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:56 PM | Permalink

Message of Love in Blood

Every now and again, if we look carefully, we can catch a glimpse of what it must be like to know that you will die in the next few moments.  But such glimpses are ephemeral, easily lost.

The people on the upper floors in the World Trade Center on September 11 who knew they were trapped called home.  They had to tell their families that they loved them.  Voice mail messages.  What's more ephemeral?

Knowing how important these voice mail messages were, Verizon turned off the system's "janitor" feature that deletes messages automatically after seven to 30 days to save them.  Verizon offered taped recordings free of charge to more than 5 million voice mail subscribers in 31 states who received love-full messages from their friends and family.

From the LA train crash, comes another ephemeral message  of love - in blood.

He thought he was going to die.

He was having trouble breathing. As he lay wedged under a train seat and metal debris, with whatever energy he could summon and a heartbreaking economy of words, he scrawled a farewell in blood on the seat. "I {heart} my kids. I {heart} Leslie," he printed. The blood ink seemed to be running out as he got to the second sentence.

The man who was extracted with the "jaws of life" by three firefighters and has returned home.  He prefers not to talk to the
media about his private message of love that became a public tribute.  We can thank Al Seib from the LA Times who captured this photograph.

                               Heart La

        When death is only moments away, people think and feel love and they must say it.  Why not think about those love now, write it down in a letter, put it with your will.  The evidence of who and what you loved is what you want to send into the future.  It is your legacy and your legacy matters. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:22 PM | Permalink

So children can have a legacy

Last Sunday in New York City, two separate fires took the lives of three firemen.  Two of them were forced to choose between jumping for their lives or burning to death.   Four are still fighting for their lives.  Families are bereft and children are fatherless after the worst tragedy for the NYC fire department since September 11.

Yesterday, 10,000 mourners braved the bitter cold to turn out for the funeral of John Bellew.  His widow Eileen read a Letter to God that so moved the crowded church that they stood and applauded.  She worried that her four very young children would never really know their father.

"Eileen, and all of us, want the children to have a legacy. Anything. Notes, pictures, letters. Anything that will tell them who their dad really was," said brother Danny Bellew

                              Eileen Bellew and son Jack

FDNY Battalion Chief promised to keep the memory of John Bellew alive for his children with stories and pictures.  Msgr Jack O'Keefe whose father was a firefighter killed in the line of duty gave the eulogy.  He said he was raised by the NYC Fire Department and firefighters would give him stories about dad for decades.  Clearly, he expected the firefighters to do no less for the Bellew children.

For those of you not part of such a brotherhood, please consider writing each of your children a letter every year on the birthday telling them that you love them and why you are proud of them.  Consider too building your own personal legacy archives about yourself, the people you love, the music you love, the books you love, the things you love.  Tell who you really are.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:13 AM | Permalink

Paying It Forward

When Dean Jaeschke was 17 years old, he was nearly killed in a car crash as he slept in the back seat.  He was thrown from the car which landed on top of him, spilling hot oil over his body.  He is alive today because strangers from another car pulled him out.

When a train derailed outside of Los Angeles, killing 11, one man trapped in the tangled wreckage pleaded for help.  Even as people rushed towards the train, they backed off, afraid of the flames and spilled fuel. 

But not Dean Jaeschke.  He knew what it was like to burn. 

Jaeschke freed the man named Scott McKeown who later died, but not before thanking his rescuers for not letting him burn alive.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:26 AM | Permalink

January 28, 2005

Harry Potter's grave

In a small town near Tel Aviv lies the grave of a 19-year-old British soldier from the Worcestershire Regiment who was killed 66 years ago during fighting in Hebron .

Today, it's a tourist attraction for literary fans from around the world. 

It's the grave of Harry Potter.

   Harry Potter Grave
(AFP Photo via Yahoo)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:37 AM | Permalink

January 27, 2005

New blog look

Well, I missed the debut of my new revamped Legacy Matters  because I lost my internet access just as it went up.  I was probably out shoveling anyway since that's pretty much all I've done this week. 

I think it looks great in three columns, with new Google search and, at last, a place for all the quotes I keep on collecting.  I couldn't make it to the Blog Business summit in Seattle, but I know they are recommending that bloggers find sponsors and display
Google ads.    Google ad sense is an example of what can be done with their  quite amazing algorithms.  The ads change depending on the words in the displayed blog post.  Every time you click on one of these ads, I think I get a penny so click away.

Since I'm writing about legacy matters, I wanted a way to find out just where people are in their legacy planning.  So, I now can post surveys to learn just that.

Recommended books are below the google ads.  Another example of an amazing algorithm.  You click on an ad from your computer and Amazon recognizes you and it also recognizes me as the referrer or recommender.  You click and buy and I get a tiny percentage and you don't pay anymore

There are several categories:

  • my top picks,
  • creating better lives -adult development
  • creating better legacies
  • funerals
  • death and dying
  • life rules and life lessons

So enjoy and visit often.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:09 PM | Permalink

January 25, 2005

Negative Cathedral

"Too much has been said about Auschwitz -- and yet not enough" writes Adam Zagajewski in today's Wall Street Journal. (link requires subscription)

For somebody who, like the present writer, lives in Krakow, only 40 miles from Auschwitz, it's certainly not an academic, abstract matter. The camp exerts a special attraction for all kinds of tourists, some of them shallow, some not, but who'd criticize it -- to have this place abandoned and forgotten (or perhaps "recycled") would have been truly disheartening. The modest city of Oswiecim lives next to the camp museum, not unlike the provincial city of Chartres dwarfed by its cathedral. The huge difference being of course that the Auschwitz monument is one of suffering and horror, it is a negative cathedral, so to speak; no spires greet the pilgrims from afar, we're in a flat landscape here. This is not an architectural landmark. Memory is not visible. We're here in the shabbiest museum of the world.

Still, the memory of Auschwitz and the other death camps lives on in the writings of survivors even as they are dying the natural deaths of old age.  Eamonn Fitzgerald over at Rainy Day believes in Remembering to not forget.   

What was it like to experience the unimaginable? Rainy Day recommends If This Is a Man, Primo Levi's account of the time he spent as a prisoner at Auschwitz. After reading Levi, one understands why some people would want to deny the Holocaust. The wickedness involved defies comprehension and suggests that "civilization" is but a veneer, and a thin one at that.

For the rest of the week, in remembrance of the liberation of Auschwitz, Rainy Day will be presenting diary entries written during the Second World War by those who were either caught up in the Nazi murder machine or by those who oiled it. We begin with an example of the latter. Why? Well, in the last few years Germany has witnessed a return of a specious 1950s theory that presents the perpetrators as victims. Actually, in this revisionist scenario the enablers of Auschwitz are double victims, first of Hitler the Great Seducer, and secondly of the Allied air campaign that destroyed the supply chains that filled the railway cars that delivered the men, women and children from all over Europe to the death factories.

Yesterday, a diary excerpt from Josef Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of Propaganda; today, diary excerpts from Edith Velmans who escaped the death camps by hiding with a Christian family for three years.  An immigrant to the U.S. she published her diary, Edith's Book, in 1998, about how she survived the war.

Reading these diary excerpts Eamonn presents gives you such a picture of those times through the accumulation of small details that you begin to understand the  power of being your own personal historian.  Any single day of your life if laid out with detail will be fascinating in 50 years time.  God forbid that you ever must endure such horrors. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:11 PM | Permalink

January 24, 2005

"I'll be right back"

When asked what he would like as his epitaph, Johnny Carson said, "I'll be right back." He also wanted an eternal flame at his grave that would be operated with a clapper.

Perhaps one of our last widely shared television icons, he was one we all went to bed with at some point. And talked about in the morning.    Always boyish with a Midwestern charm, his demeanor was so affecting yet cool that men and boys in the millions copied his mannerisms and reactions to tell their own jokes or retell his.

Former NBC Chairman Grant Tinker once called the Tonight Show "the biggest and best television has ever been."    And that indeed is a great legacy.  And so was his generosity to up-and-coming comedians.  He was an extraordinary mentor, always on the look-out for new talent.  Among the comedians who got their first nod of national recognition on the Tonight show are

  • Rosanne Barr
  • David Brenner
  • George Carlin
  • Dick Cavett
  • Billy Crystal
  • Rodney Dangerfield
  • Ellen Degeneris
  • Jay Leno
  • David Letterman
  • Steve Martin
  • Joan Rivers
  • Jerry Seinfeld

That maturity and generosity of spirit is what I most admire him for. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:00 PM | Permalink

January 22, 2005

Beyond the Pale

Deep in all of us is a revulsion at certain behavior - torture,  beheadings and the physical abuse of the weak and powerless, for example.  Whether it's in our DNA or our souls, revulsion, I believe, makes us more human.  By turning away with a feeling of violent disgust at certain acts, we shun the perpetrators.  They are not recognizably part of anything with which we can identify.  They are beyond the pale, outside the bounds of acceptable and civilized behavior. 

Revulsion I think is an important instinct that's been honed by centuries of evolution.  Beyond the pale,  life is nasty, brutish and short. 

Whatever one's political inclinations, when graves are desecrated and the remains dumped on the street like so much trash, we feel revulsion.    The BBC reporter Mohammed Olad Hassan was horrified to see a large number of abandoned human skulls on the streets of  Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. Young boys were playing with one skull, like a toy.   

Militias from some Islamic courts in the Somali capital dug up hundreds of graves at a colonial Italian cemetery and dumped the skeletal remains near the airport.    Some 3000 people were buried In the Italian cemetery - soldiers, traders and missionaries. 

The profanation of a silent and historical place, sacred to all civilisations, is a vile and particularly hateful act which can have no justification whatsoever," the Italian government said in a statement.

Italy controlled parts of Somalia from 1889 until it's independence in 1960. There has been no real government of any sort in the country since 1991 and  the transitional government is afraid to return from Kenya.  Without a government in place, roving gangs of militias rule the city and, as Thomas Hobbes predicted,  life indeed is nasty, brutish and short and so it seems is burial.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:12 PM | Permalink

Romeo and Juliet in Padua

Just 40 miles from Verona where Romeo, believing Juliet was dead, killed himself, 70 year old Ettore in Padua was despondent after four months sitting beside his wife who was in a coma following a heart attack.  He finally gave up hope and gassed himself to death in his garage.  In less than a day, his wife Rossana, woke from her coma and immediately asked for her husband. 

What a sad story.  That poor woman

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:16 PM | Permalink

Your Paintings Changed My Life

Today an accomplished graphic designer,  Michael Beirut pens a lyrical tribute to Alton Tobey, an American artist I had never heard of in the Design Observer.  As an eight year old Michael thought Tobey was The Best Artist in the World.    The young Michael poured over Tobey's  illustrations for the Golden Book History of the United States , books that Michael's mother bought at a special promotion at the grocery store.  No matter how sophisticated his tastes became, Michael never lost his admiration for Tobey and was fortunate to be able to tell him in person, "Your paintings changed my life."


Thanks and tip of the hat to Virginia Postrel who understands the Substance of Style.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:20 AM | Permalink

January 21, 2005

J.K Rowling's Desk

J.K Rowling's desk is messier than mine and a lot more fun with "portkeys"  that transport you to different areas of her site.  Her links page is the coolest one I've ever seen with living pictures and books that when clicked on open to display  information.  Move your cursor around to see the many hidden delights  - even in her trash can.  What she has done with her short biography would make any scrapbooking enthusiast proud.  If your kids or nieces and nephews are Harry Potter fans, this official JK Rowling site will delight them.  You can amaze them with Harry Potter arcana and even store them (the arcana that is, not your kids) in your own scrapbook on the site.

  Jk Rowling Desk
I know, I know for real fans, it's just marking time until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Book 6 is published on July 16, 2005.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:26 PM | Permalink

The Irish have it right

In between other posts, the Anchoress has been writing with great eloquence about the long, slow dying of her beloved brother.  Her last post about his death and the funeral arrangements is very funny and wonderfully moving.  She's captured the grief and hilarity that can surround funerals, especially Irish ones. Read "Whatever ," he smiled.

So, Robert Burns had it quite right. There are events in our lives that defy planning or anticipation. Whether it is the birth of a child, the start of a new job, or the expected death of a loved one after a long illness, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry..." or, in the case of my family, crumble under the weight of a grief so heavy and complete that no amount of mental, material or emotional preparation was sufficient to deal with the reality of my brother's death..... 

The Irish have it right. I'm not a drinker - a few cocktails a year, on special occasions, and a Guinness here and there is my speed. In the second hour of S's wake - when hundreds, literally hundreds of kind, generous, compassionate people were filling the rooms and condoling with us - I suddenly had one idea in the back of my mind:
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:21 AM | Permalink

January 19, 2005

Roses and Cognac

Every year for 56 years a mystery man has paid tribute to the poet Edgar Allen Poe on his birthday January 19th with three roses and a half empty bottle of cognac. No one knows the identity of the "Poe Toaster"  but apparently a father passed on the tradition to his sons after leaving a cryptic note in 1993 saying, "The torch will be passed."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 PM | Permalink

Passalong Stories

Because I'm constantly marvelling at the scope and breadth and depth of the human experience, from time to time, I plan to bring you a collection of stories to show you what I mean.  Here is the first collection.
If you have any good stories, pass them along to me.

Her Jewish parents were forced to flee the Nazis in war-time Greece.  The little baby Reina Gilberta was protected first by a family friend and later by nuns at the Convent of St Joseph together with Mama Lina who baptised her to get the proper papers the Nazis required.  While war waged throughout Europe, Reina had a happy, secure and loving  childhood.  After the war, she reunited with her real parents thanks to one courageous nun and after 40 years reunited with Lina's family.

...with your words, your letter, your voice on the telephone, my mother came to life again, my little sister, she loved you so much and you loved her too...She loved you so much she said "no" to my father and me when we wanted to keep you. Little Gilberta, you said your first words in our house. Instinctively you said "mama," to the woman who was holding you in her lap. And she, lovingly, said "no, I'm only mamma-Lina. Your real mother will come back."   The whole story

After your 17 year old mother has aborted you, you survive but are not expected to live.  After being placed with a foster family, you learn how to walk.  Today, you train for marathons and have become a song-wrier and performer.  Everyone wants to hear Gianna Jessen's story.  Caution, this is a pro-life story

My biological parents made some really poor choices," she said. "I forgive them for what they did (but) I live every day with the result of the 'choice' that my biological mother made 27 years ago. So it's ridiculous to think our choices on a moment-by-moment basis only affect us. They always affect someone else, for good or ill."

Hanneke A 19 year old nurse in Holland is drawn to a 40 year woman in a coma who had no living relatives.  Night after night, Hanneka talked to the woman in a coma and told her all about her parents who had died in a car crash when she was quite young.  There's an extraordinary twist in the story of the Voice in the Night.

What makes him do it? Listen to what  Don Vermilyea, a 54 year old man from West Virginia, has to say after walking 10 years and  13,000  miles 

People think this is Donnie's Big Adventure, but it isn't. It isn't that at all. This is real. I hurt 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I hurt all night and all day.
Want to go on a ten year walk all by yourself? Wanna talk about scary? Try doing this."
There isn't a day that goes by that I don't dream of quitting,
We need to slow down and stop taking care of each other more,
Not just as Christians but just as human beings."

The last is a "passalong" -  which according to Beliefnet is one of those emails that have been forwarded so often, no one knows their origin or veracity It's called The Miracle of the Deer and how they are drawn to the purest, most loving heart.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:21 PM | Permalink

Another Plymouth Rock

I think that this was the best article I've read this week in honor of Martin Luther King and his great legacy not just to all Americans but to the world.    Roya Hakakian writes in Dr. King and I  how  a daughter of the Iranian revolution became a lover of America.

It was he who helped me reconcile with America. He proved to be yet another Plymouth Rock.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:46 PM | Permalink

The Emotional Power of Vintage Sounds

What do the following have in common?

slamming down a phone,
the pop of flashbulbs,
the clickety-clack of typewriters,
the jackpot sound of cascading coins,
the ka-ching of cash registers,
the screech of a phonograph needle,
the clatter of home movie projectors

You don't hear them anymore in our increasing digital age.  These sounds are becoming obsolete, except in our memories if you are of a certain age.    But they are not forgotten.  At least not by Dan Sheehy  whose job is to preserve America's acoustic heritage for the Smithsonian Institution.  Sheehy says sounds are like smells.  They can transport the listener to another time and place.  Such is the emotional power of vintage sounds that a cell phone ring tone that mimics an old-fashioned rotary phone is the most popular ring tones offered by Valentino Production Music, the nation's oldest sound-effects warehouse.  Full story by Roy Rivenburg of the Los Angeles Times

It makes you think about what sounds you might want to capture and preserve.  Your grandbaby's gurgles, your son's laughter, the commotion of everyone getting out the door on a school day.  Pick one day and be a sound gatherer in your own life.  You'll be delighted with it in 10 years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:17 PM | Permalink

January 16, 2005

Mother's Side

I started building my personal and family legacy archives by collecting and scanning old family photographs of my mother's side of the family and then eliciting stories and names from her.  The presentation was first done in powerpoint, then converted to Apple's keynote, then saved as a quicktime movie.

I'm not a professional.  I am just using the digital tools that are available to all of us.  I'm very pleased with the results.  Take a look and let me know what you think.

History Muns & Pats7.5

Update: it seems it's not working, I have to add something to the server which I will soon

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 PM | Permalink

On the Bioedge

A clearinghouse of legal and medical bioethical news and opinion, the Australasian Bioethics Information (ABI)  is a rich source for finding out current stories that illustrate complex bioethical questions.  We will all face some of these issues.  Legal and health professionals will see a lot more of them in the coming years.(I'm having trouble creating a working link so here's the url to cut and paste. http://www.australasianbioethics.org/Newsletters/currentbioedge.html#lisbon )

Take a look at the sampling of stories in just one week's newsletter. You must remember you're not  reading crazy stories from the  News of the World or the Onion,  but from a respectable newsletter.  It just shows  you how far we've come into an unimaginable future, how close we are to the bioedge.

  • Healthy patients deserve euthanasia too, say Dutch doctors.  Just being alive is suffering enough apparently.
  • Lobotomised Kennedy sister dies at 86 after 60 years in an institution.
  • Alabama man lives in coma for 23 years because his family refuses to let go
  • Some doctors "offensive" towards Down syndrome infants
  • Grandmothers overturn age-old conceptions. More on the 67 year old Romanian woman who's seven months pregnant with twins.

UPDATE: The 67 year old Romanian woman, Adriana IIiescu gave birth to twin girls today.  One died shortly afterwards, the other is in good health

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 AM | Permalink

January 14, 2005

Celebrating Lives Well Lived - Oh Well

You don't often see ads for mortuaries except for discreet ads in the obituary pages.  That's about to change.  Boomers want funerals to be more about their lives and they are not alone in their interest in personalizing funerals.

That will likely change as the interest in personalizing funerals continues to grow.  Baby boomers are saying they want the funeral industry to be more about their lives.   

Kristi Arellano reported  in the Denver Post (sorry link expired)

Denver's Fairmount Cemetery & Mortuary  has launched a billboard and print campaign featuring black-and-white photographs of smiling people accompanied by epitaphs such as "Walked on all seven continents" and "Put six kids through college." 

The tagline: "Celebrating lives well lived."

The aim of the ads is to bring Fairmount to the forefront of people's minds when they find themselves planning a funeral and secondly, to encourage funeral planning. 

Can't argue with that, but what about lives not so well lived.

Oh Well

via Jim Treacher

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:01 PM | Permalink

Getting the Last Word

“If you want to be dead-sure to get the last word, pen your own obituary.” writes Gayle Ronan Sims at the Philadelphia Inquirer

Funeral directors, hospice workers, ministers and newspapers say they're seeing an increase in self-written obituaries, which are making their way into the organized person's "important papers" files, along with burial plans and wills.

Many people are finding that writing their own obituaries can be an inspiring experience, bringing families together. And getting their names and stories published - for most people, for the first and only time - is a commitment to posterity.

"People planning their funerals often include self-written obituaries," said Julian Weinstein, corporate secretary of Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael-Sacks, a Philadelphia funeral home. "They want a memorial to themselves, and they want the facts straight."

Another thing to add to my growing list.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:25 PM | Permalink

The Emotional Power of Vintage Sounds

What do the following have in common?

slamming down a phone,
the pop of flashbulbs,
the clickety-clack of typewriters,
the jackpot sound of cascading coins,
the ka-ching of cash registers,
the screech of a phonograph needle,
the clatter of home movie projectors?

You don't hear them anymore in our increasing digital age.  These sounds are becoming obsolete, except in our memories if you are of a certain age.    But they are not forgotten.  At least not by Dan Sheehy  whose job is to preserve America's acoustic heritage for the Smithsonian Institution.  Sheehy says sounds are like smells.  They can transport the listener to another time and place.  Such is the emotional power of vintage sounds that a cell phone ring tone that mimics an old-fashioned rotary phone is the most popular ring tones offered by Valentino Production Music, the nation's oldest sound-effects warehouse.  Full story by Roy Rivenburg of the Los Angeles Times

It makes you think about what sounds you might want to capture and preserve.  Your grandbaby's gurgles, your son's laughter, the commotion of everyone getting out the door on a school day.  Pick one day and be a sound gatherer in your own life.  You'll be delighted with it in 10 years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

January 12, 2005

Blushing with Pride

In this week's Carnival of the Vanities #121 at Multiple Mentality,  Josh Cohen has collected the best posts around the blogosphere.  It's well worth visiting to see the variety of posts and the diversity of bloggers out there.

Here's what he had to say about my post Ship of Pearl, Coils of Time.

There’s a picture in this post from Jill Fallon of Legacy Matters that looks like a giant insect. But that’s just on the surface. The post itself takes us from beautiful images to an understanding of the world. The most unique Carnival post that I think I’ve ever read.

I'm blushing with pride. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:11 PM | Permalink

More Tsunami stories

"She looked like a simple housewife when she checked in," recalled Ravi Singh, the hotel manager in Port Blair. "But now I marvel at the courage she has shown."

For 17 years, Theresa Prasad, the 46 year old mother of two, petitioned Indian authorities to allow her to go to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to set up a ham radio station.  Because the islands are considered a very sensitive area, no ham radio operator had been allowed since 1987 when Prasad was last there.  Arriving at Port Blair a month ago, she set up a station in her hotel room.  With the tsunamis, Prasad became a lifeline to the outside world. and the hub for relief comunications for officials on the islands.  Washington Post story, Wave of Destruction, Wave of Salvation

A ten year British girl who paid attention in her geography class is credited with saving the lives of hundreds. saved the lives of hundreds of people in southern Asia by warning them a wall of water was about to strike, after learning about tsunamis in geography class, British media reported.

Tilly, who has been renamed the "angel of the beach" by the top-selling tabloid The Sun, was holidaying with her family on the Thai island of Phuket when she suddenly grasped what was taking place and alerted her mother.

"Last term Mr Kearney taught us about earthquakes and how they can cause tsunamis.  I was on the beach and the water started to go funny. There were bubbles and the tide went out all of a sudden."

Her intuition was enough to raise the alert and prompt the evacuation of Phuket's Maikhao beach and a neighbouring hotel before the water came crashing in, saving hundreds of people from death and injury.According to The Sun, no one on Maikhao beach was seriously hurt by the tsunamis that have left more than 125,000 dead and millions homeless around the shores of the Indian Ocean.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:32 PM | Permalink

January 11, 2005

Ship of Pearl, Coils of Time

I love beautiful images.  They give me great pleasure and, well-chosen, represent a truth that can't be expressed in words.  For some time, I've been looking for an image of a human life.  I wanted the image to show different stages of life spiraling into increasing states of consciousness.  I wanted it to represent entelechy  - that vital force that directs an organism toward full realization of its potential, a force that drives us all.  I wanted both the acorn and the oak.

Chambered Nautilus

I think I've found it.  It's a  neutron radiograph by W. Fecych of a chambered nautilus that I found at the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory.  Unlike x-rays which see mostly the differences in density, neutron radiographs are used to see materials where hydrogen is present.  The neutron radiograph is more ghostly, more spirit-like, than a regular photograph of the living carnivorous nautilus living in the dark with its lensless eyes, waving hungry tentacles, "the great white sharks of its day."

  Living Nautilus

It's the beautiful shell that's inspired scientists, poets and philosophers from the times of the ancient Greeks - the great legacy of a primeval creature.    Since finding the radiograph I've learned so many wonderful things that  I am convinced that this is just the image I want.

The Nautilus is a cephalopod, a mollusk.  Its spirally coiled shell consists of a series of chambers; as the nautilus grows it secretes larger chambers, sealing off the old ones with thin septa. The animal lives in the largest and newest chamber. The shell wraps around itself as it grows with the earliest stages always in the middle.

Nautiloids, once one of the dominant groups found in the oceans of the world, are living fossils. Living on the deep ocean floor in the Pacific, it is near immortal, surviving the cosmic collision that doomed the dinosaurs, sixty five million years ago.  The chambered nautilus has been been around for 100, 200, 500 million years in different estimates, maybe the oldest living creature still around.

To the ancient Greeks, the shell of the chambered nautilus was a symbol of perfection.  Mathematically, it can be described as a logarithmic spiral though not  the same logarithmic spiral the Greeks called The Golden Ratio.  It is a Fibonacci sequence with each chamber or vault exactly 6.3% larger than the last.  It grows outward from old to new in a growth pattern similar to that of the human embryo.  The chambered nautilus is the symbol of the John Templeton Foundation

It embraces Sir John's ideas and vision for discovery, for rigorous scientific inquiry, and for innovation, and is emblematic as a window on visible and invisible worlds.

Last fall, NPR's Morning Edition had a series to explore the intersection of art and science.  An interview with Manjul Bhargava reveals him to be an artist of music and math, a 28 year old full professor of number theory at Princeton University and a master of the "tabla a small Indian hand drum used to create music with rhythmic, precise patterns"

Number theory is the type of math that describes the swirl in the head of a sunflower and the curve of a chambered nautilus.  Bhargava says it's also hidden in the rhythms of classical Indian music, which is both mathematical and improvisational. He sees close links between his two loves -- both create beauty and elegance by weaving together seemingly unconnected ideas.

Courtesy of The MIT Press Journals, I read Joseph Lim's piece about  Structural Prototypes from Seashells and  learned that the chambered nautilus "as a study in two opposite kinds of spaces: the successive diminution of tiny chambers and the open-ended space that an infinite coil implies."

The chambered nautilus is a cephalopod, a free-swimming shellfish, both mobile and carnivorous.  The chambers, also called  vaults, act as submarine ballast tanks for the creature to vary its bouyancy in water. "With the aid of a siphuncle (a central tube connecting all chambers), the nautilus is able to pass varying amounts of nitrogenous gas and fluid to rise or submerge at will."

The father of the Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr,  also named Oliver Wendell Holmes, was a physcian, esssayist, novelist who invented the stethoscope and coined the word anesthesia.  A friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson, he was also a transcendentalist and poet.    His poem, The Chambered Nautilus is justly famous and one of the favorite poems of the 19th century.  (editor's note: I once lived in the Oliver Holmes apartments on Wendell St. in Cambridge.  I admire the transcendentalists and revere Emerson.)

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn!
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:  --

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!

Our human life is a journey from the acorn to the oak, from birth to death, expanding ever outward into larger understandings of the world and our place in it, until we no longer need our shells as our spirit unwinds from the body into the unchambered ocean of reality.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:38 PM | Permalink

It seemed queer putting up my own tombstone

The tombstone of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr, at Arlington Cemetery lists his military service first before his tenure as U.S. Supreme Court Justice, probably so his wife could be buried there as well, or so he wrote to his friend Harold Lasky.

I have a lovely spot in  Arlington toward the bottom of the hill where the house is, with  pine trees, oak, and tulip all about, and where one looks to see a  deer trot out (although of course there are no deer). I have ordered  a stone of the form conventional for officers which will bear my  name, Bvt. Col. and Capt. 20th Mass. Vol. Inf. Civil War- Justice  Supreme Court, U.S.-March 1841- His wife Fanny Holmes and the dates.  It seemed queer putting up my own tombstone-but these things are  under military direction and I suppose it was necessary to show a soldiers' name to account for my wife"

In a letter to another friend, Holmes writes about the unknown bones collected from Civil War battlefields.

I shall go out to Arlington  tomorrow, Memorial Day, and visit the gravestone with my name and my  wife's on it, and be stirred by the military music, and, instead of  bothering about the Unknown Soldier shall go to another stone that  tells beneath it are the bones of, I dont remember the number but  two or three thousand and odd, once soldiers gathered from the  Virginia fields after the Civil War. I heard a woman say there once, 
'They gave their all. They gave their very names.' Later perhaps  some people will come in to say goodbye."

A good photograph of his tombstone can be seen at this link from findagrave.com 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:50 PM | Permalink

Preacher Dies During Sermon About Heaven

He was on the pulpit and saying, "And when I go to heaven..." when Presbyterian minister the Reverend Jack Arnold collapsed and died last Sunday at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Florida.

Several members of the congregation with medical backgrounds tried to revive the minister and paramedics were called, but Arnold appeared to die instantly...  Before collapsing, Arnold quoted the 18th century Bible scholar, John Wesley, who said, "Until my work on this earth is done, I am immortal. But when my work for Christ is done ... I go to be with Jesus," said associate minister Michael Beates in a telephone interview.

"We were stunned," Beates said. "It was traumatic, but how wonderful it was he died in his own church among the people he loved the most."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:30 PM | Permalink

January 6, 2005

Brain Trade

In Maine, a special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate the harvesting of brains from the Medical Examiner's office and their sale to the Stanley Medical Institute, a brain bank and research facility in Bethesda Maine for $1000 -$2000 each, apparently without the consent of the families in at least 31 cases.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:33 AM | Permalink

January 5, 2005

Should Survivors Have Legal Access to Email?

An interesting discussion at A Stich in Haste over whether survivors should have legal access to email.  In Michigan, the family of 20 year-old Justin Ellsworth, a soldier killed in Iraq, is trying to persuade Yahoo! to give them access to his email account.  So far, Yahoo! is standing by its policy of protecting the privacy of its subscribers.

I had never heard of "sweepers", friends of dying AIDS patients who were designated "when the time came" to

go through the dead friend's apartment and "sanitize" it (i.e., clean out the porn and other things best unseen by grieving parents). Today I'm sure such practices would often include email passwords with instructions to wipe out potentially embarrassing emails and cyber-accounts.

KipEsquire asks:

How can Justin Ellsworth's parents be so sure that they will want to see those emails? More importantly, how can they be sure Justin wanted it?    My heart goes out to Mr. and Mrs. Ellsworth, as it does for all those who have lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere else. But I would give them a somber warning: Be careful what you sue for...you might get it.

This is going to become more and more of an issue in the years to come.  Which is why everyone should leave a letter to their executor saying explicitly just what they want people to have access to, and, if they want, the passwords.  Unless permission is explicitly given, the deceased's privacy should be respected.  You don't read other people's mail. Period.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 AM | Permalink

There are Possibilities of Doom You Never Imagined

The Strangelets in the Plasma of Quarks.  in an upcoming experiment at New York's Brookhaven Laboratory, scientists hope to reproduce the billionth of a trillionth second after the Big Bang and so create a soup from the melting of the neutrons and protons created by smashing nuclei of gold causing a temperature of more then a trillion degrees.  The soup or plasma of quarks will probably contain strangelets or strange quarks which is no problem unless they are negatively charged which means could attract ordinary nuclei and gobble them up - essentially eating up the entire earth and everyone on it.    The scientists are mad at the talk of a doomsday scenario.

So why do they want to do it.  To prove a theory that such a state of matter once existed. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:13 AM | Permalink

January 1, 2005

Tsunami of Grief

The numbers are still rising.  Drudge today says there may be 400.000 dead in Indonesia alone.  Four hundred thousand!

Then I read Times of India and learn that the Red Cross is estimating that the toll could reach 1,000,000 dead once more information comes in from Andaman and Nicobar Islands which are situated just north of Sumatra, the epicenter of the quake on Sunday that set off the killer waves.

Residents in several affected areas are already claiming that the number of dead projected by authorities is far way below the reality.  A senior official in New Delhi said because of the massive area covered by tsunami and majority being poor arriving at a final accurate figure of casualties is next to impossible. He pointed out that in several instances entire villages have been swept away, with no survivors to even update officials about the tragedy. But the woeful task of counting the dead is not an easy task.  Already in several areas the official number of dead is way below what the locals claim. In Kulachal locality of Kanyakumari district alone local survivors are putting the number of dead at a couple of thousands. "We have buried about a 1000 in the local church itself. The rivulet here is still filled with bodies, so is the beach," one of the survivors told timesofindia.com on Wednesday. According to official estimates, the entire Kanyakumari district has only around 800 dead.

From the Aftenposten in Norway, I learned

around 1,500 were from Sweden, 440 from Norway and 200 from Finland.  More than 3,000 people may have died at Khao Lak alone, a Thai beach resort north of Phuket island especially popular with Scandinavians and Germans. By Wednesday, 1,200 bodies had been recovered there.  Apart from the Scandinavians, authorities had lost track of over 200 Czechs, 188 Israelis, 100 Germans and 100 Italians holidaying across the region.

Australians are warned that the death toll of Australians caught in the tsunami could reach hundreds and some bodies may never be found.  Australian News online reports that Federal Police Commission Kelly warned the number of Australian victims could dwarf the Bali bombing tragedy in which 202 people died, including 88 Australians, making it Australia's worst peace-time loss of life on foreign shores.  People should brace themselves for a higher death toll. "We're at day six and then with 1,250 Australians missing clearly the numbers are going to be a lot larger. The identification process for those bodies being stored might take months, involving fingerprinting, examination of dental records and DNA matching.

CNN reports that Kofi Annan was skiing in Wyoming but interrupted his vacation to return today.

Meanwhile the gruesome task of identifying and burying bodies continues.  In Sri Lanka, The Chicago Sun Times reports
they are cutting off victims' fingers for later identification so they can bury the corpses immediately.  In Phuket, authorities have put microchips in 1000 unidentified bodies to store key data to make it easier for relatives to claim bodies later. 
Kevin Sites on the scene reports

Thai soldiers, wearing surgical masks, race against time to arrest the process -- before the bodies become impossible to identify. In a well-choreographed drill -- they use hammers to smash square blocks of dry ice, carrying the shards on sheets of plastic and dumping them inside the coffins with the remains. They work at a very high tempo -- almost as if they were trying to rescue the living -- rather than preserve the dead.  On the sides of the coffins are photographs of the deceased as they were found, special attention paid to jewelry or tattoos, anything that can help in identifying who they once were.

Coffins Digital Photographs

There are desperate web postings  She means everything to me

Another blogger writing from Matara, in Southern Sri Lanka, wrote of the effort to bury the dead: "At the mass graves, we watched as bodies were lifted out of vans. No records of death. Only one Policeman on duty. No law. No order. Just people burying the dead.  Body after body. Shovel after shovel.''

There's a new blog to help people find their missing loved ones.  Tsunami Missing People

And frantic SMS messages from Morquendi/Sanjaya in Sri Lanka at Chiens Sans Frontiers

[We can pray later. Keep the food, water, clothes and medicine going. SAVE LIVES NOW!PRAY LATER! Pass this on. Message phones, word of mouth, any way.]

[All those who can help SHOULD help. All of us working to provide aid let's not waste time at religious ceremonies tomorrow. Praying's not going to help anyone right now. Let it not disrupt our work. EVERY MOMENT COUNTS! Saving lives IS god's work. We can pray later! ]

[They're still collecting bodies from swamps. They're piling up the ones they find and cremating them on the spot. We watched them burn about 20 bodies in a pile. Shot the whole thing, but I won't air it because it's just too horrific. My nose was dead by then. Wonder of I'll ever be able smell anything again.]

[The country's infrastructure cannot support the paramount relief effort. Things are in a state of chaos.]

I heard from  Rick Von Feldt who was in Phukett and has set up an amazing blog Phuket Tsunami to tell his story and the stories of others.  He commented, 

"There is just sadness every place - and it doesn't get better when there is a race on to get rid of the bodies."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:22 AM | Permalink