October 31, 2013

Necropants

This is about the creepiest thing I can imagine.  The 17th century NECROPANTS made from corpse legs - and are supposed to be lucky

In 17th century Iceland, sorcerers wore 'trousers' made of a dead friend's skin that were said to bring them wealth.  According to legend, a morbid deal was struck between two friends to arrange who became the trousers or 'necropants,' which were used for purposes of traditional magic at the time.

The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft in Holmavik, Iceland, houses the only known intact pair of necropants, that were meant to be worn day and night by their owner.

 Necropants
In order to make the necropants (called nábrók in the naive tongue) an individual had to get permission from a living man to use his skin after his death.  The surviving member of the pact had to dig up his dead friend's body and peel off the skin of the corpse from the waist down in one piece without any holes or scratches, to make the magical trousers.

The wearer of the pants had to steal a coin from a widow and place it in the scrotum of the trousers, along with the magical sign called nábrókarstafur, ) drawn on a piece of paper

As soon as they stepped into the pants, the skin of the corpse stuck to theirs own, according to the museum, which documents 17th century occult practices. A spokesman for the museum told MailOnline: 'They would immediately be stuck with your own flesh and be part of your body.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 PM | Permalink

"Death is a great teacher, & should not be shut up."

In a fine tribute to his mother who died earlier this month, David Warren reflects on death.

Death is anyway for our benefit. As lessons go in spiritual biology, it is the great teacher. And as a great teacher, it commands one’s attention.

I am naturally opposed to the glib school, among our modern behavioral hygienists. Guilt, regret, & mourning: all good. Even an occasional round of embarrassment. There’s a lot of crap out there on “closure” & the like: pop psychology from the moral & intellectual goons, embedded now in our statist, institutional psychology. Death is a great teacher, & should not be shut up.

It makes a rich field for humor, because it eliminates the “happyface” attitude, or better, reveals it as an exceptionally idiotic form of psychosis. For what the devil & the “happyface” have in common, is the inability to find anything funny, especially the ridiculous in their own behavior. Laughter is their scourge; it stings them like holy water. And it is deepened in the presence of death, when the apprehension of the comic stands, often strangely reverent, just where it finds the intersection with the “tragic view of life.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:04 PM | Permalink

October 30, 2013

Deathbed confession

 Cheeky Gnome

Deathbed confession solves mystery of phantom gnomes

FOR years residents in a picturesque village had hunted in vain for the joker who had been sneaking around late at night and placing gnomes in their gardens.

Over the past decade the ornaments have also appeared at the bus stop, by the duck pond and on the village green in Brattleby, Lincs and all attempts to unmask the culprit failed.

Now the mastermind behind the prank has been revealed following his deathbed confession.

The mystery was finally solved when mourners attended the funeral of Peter Leighton, 61, who died from prostate cancer earlier this month.

Mr Leighton’s son and co-conspirator, David, 32, made the admission as he read out his father’s eulogy on Monday.

Mr Leighton, who works for a pharmaceutical firm in Australia, said: “My cousin came round one day after his first ever visit to a pound shop in Lincoln and one of the items he bought was a gnome. Dad said it would be funny to scatter gnomes around the village. Me and my friend Ben had a map of the village and worked out a route of who had security lights and who didn’t.

“We carried two big rucksacks full of gnomes and had to contend with barking dogs and gravel. It was so much fun dad decided we should do it again.”

He added that his father once told him that reporters and film crews had descended on the village in an attempt to uncover the truth. “He was really laughing. He couldn’t believe it.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 PM | Permalink

Bejeweled Saints

 Bejewelled St Coronatus

The Fantastically Bejeweled Skeletons of Catholicism’s Forgotten Martyrs

Paul Koudounaris is not a man who shies away from the macabre. Though the Los Angeles-based art historian, author and photographer claims that his fascination with death is no greater than anyone else’s, he devotes his career to investigating and documenting phenomena such as church ossuaries, charnel houses and bone-adorned shrines. Which is why, when a man in a German village approached him during a 2008 research trip and asked something along the lines of, “Are you interested in seeing a dilapidated old church in the forest with a skeleton standing there covered in jewels and holding a cup of blood in his left hand like he’s offering you a toast?” Koudounaris’ answer was, “Yes, of course.”

At the time, Koudounaris was working on a book called The Empire of Death, traveling the world to photograph church ossuaries and the like. He’d landed in this particular village near the Czech border to document a crypt full of skulls, but his interest was piqued by the dubious yet enticing promise of a bejeweled skeleton lurking behind the trees. “It sounded like something from the Brothers Grimm,” he recalls. “But I followed his directions—half thinking this guy was crazy or lying—and sure enough, I found this jeweled skeleton in the woods.”

Koudounaris could not get the figures’ twinkling eyes and gold-adorned grins out of his mind. He began researching the enigmatic remains, even while working on Empire of Death. The skeletons, he learned, were the “catacomb saints,” once-revered holy objects regarded by 16th- and 17th-century Catholics as local protectors and personifications of the glory of the afterlife. Some of them still remain tucked away in certain churches, while others have been swept away by time, forever gone. Who they were in life is impossible to know. “That was part of this project’s appeal to me,” Koudounaris says. “The strange enigma that these skeletons could have been anyone, but they were pulled out of the ground and raised to the heights of glory.

Via Tom McDonald at Patheos

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:27 PM | Permalink

October 28, 2013

The "unbefriended elderly" need this

This actually makes sense for those who find themselves without family and without someone they can trust to act as their health care proxy.  I strongly believe that having a health care proxy in effect that appoints someone you trust to make medical decisions for you can make the difference between a good death and an unnecessarily painful one.

Hiring an End-of-Life Enforcer

The chilling dilemma of “the unbefriended elderly,” who don’t have family or close friends to make medical decisions on their behalf if they can’t speak for themselves, generated a bunch of ideas the last time we discussed it.  One reader, Elizabeth from Los Angeles, commented that as an only child who had no children, she wished she could hire someone to take on this daunting but crucial responsibility.  “I would much rather pay a professional, whom I get to know and who knows me, to make the decisions,” she wrote. “That way it is an objective decision-maker based on the priorities I have discussed with him/her before my incapacitation.” 

Elizabeth, it turns out other people have been thinking the same way.
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Last year, Dr. Berman and her co-authors published an article in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society proposing a new type of professional: the health fiduciary.

“These people would largely be drawn from retired social workers or nurses, people in the helping professions,” Dr. Berman said. They might also be clergy, or perhaps paralegals. “They would need to navigate the health care system,” she added. “They could work comfortably and easily within that world.”

The co-authors envisioned health fiduciaries undergoing up to a year’s training (those already knowledgeable about medical matters and end-of-life decisions would probably need far less), followed by certification in individual states.
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Fiduciaries would probably work out of elder law firms or geriatric care management practices, Dr. Berman figures, because clients might retain them so many years in advance that they’d want that kind of continuity.

How much would a health fiduciary cost? In ballpark figures, the authors assumed they’d charge $100 an hour, much less than an attorney or even most geriatric care managers. They might spend 20 hours initially to understand and document a client’s wishes and to later consult with health care providers, the authors theorized — plus additional discussions every few years to see if the client’s thinking or health status has changed.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:32 PM | Permalink

She didn't want to live without Facebook

Teenager who killed herself after her parents banned her from Facebook left note saying she 'couldn't live without the site'

Aiswarya Dahiwal, a second year college student from Parbhani, in the Maharashtra state of India, had asked her parents for permission to log on to the site on Wednesday, but they said no.

The teenager then got into an argument with the couple who told her that she should pay more attention to school work, and spend less time on Facebook.  The family also argued about Miss Dahiwal making long mobile phone calls to her friends.

Her body was found on Thursday morning, and police said that she had hanged herself.  A note found in Miss Dahiwal's bedroom said that she had taken her own life because she was not allowed to go on the social networking site.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:03 PM | Permalink

October 27, 2013

Deathbed portraits

From The Sketch Pad Near the Deathbed by Theodore Dalrymple

This persuaded me that the one thing we refuse to do in these supposedly multicultural times is to try to see the world, including ourselves, through the eyes of others, either in time or in space. Might it not be that those others would consider our own determination to push aside or avoid personal confrontation with death—which is, after all, still the inevitable dénouement of human life, technical progress notwithstanding—morbid and neurotic? Is our avoidance of all contact with death (except on video games) not a pretense that we shall live forever, that death is an aberration that we shall not fall into thanks to our healthy diet, our full health insurance, and our thirty minutes’ exercise a day, and that, while some people no doubt continue to die, it is really by their own fault or at their own insistence? Is not our revulsion from deathbed portraits—an old genre, after all, and by no means confined to the fin de siècle Viennese—more indicative that we wish to ignore the fundamental condition of our existence, even at the cost of forgetting our loved ones, so that we can get on with the business of life, which is to amuse ourselves?

In short, is it not an indication of shallowness and egotism?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:37 AM | Permalink

October 26, 2013

With mother's death, the gift of sight

Mother gives her son the gift of sight from beyond the grave as Florida doctors  perform rare corneal transplant 

Before her passing at age 61 last month, Miriam Aguirre Santos restated and put down in writing her final wish - to have her eyes given to her son.

When he was 5 years old, the Cuban-born Juan Aguirre was struck by a drunken driver while walking on the island where his family owned a house.  The crash damaged the cornea in his left eye, leaving his vision permanently blurry. But all that changed earlier this month.
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Within days of his mother's death from a heart attack, Mr Aguirre, 39, underwent the first ever mother-son corneal transplant surgery in the history of the Florida Lions Eye Bank.

‘It’s like a whole new world has opened up,’ the 39-year old Aguirre told the Miami Herald. ‘I’m seeing things like I never did before. Everything is very, very colorful.’
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Juan's childhood accident that left his cornea severely scarred did not stop him from becoming a successful musician performing under the stage name Diablo Dimes.

Besides her eyes, which she had donated to help her son, Aguirre Santos saved the lives of two other people who received her liver and kidneys.

As for Juan Aguirre, he said that every time he looks at himself in the mirror now, he sees his mother's eyes staring back at him.

'I know that she'll be with me forever,' he told the paper.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:24 PM | Permalink

October 25, 2013

City cemetery refuses to engrave the name of Jesus on a headstone

City-Owned Cemetery Refuses to Engrave 'Jesus' on Preacher's Wife's Headstone

The family of a Colorado preacher’s wife is still fuming after the director of the city-owned cemetery refused to engrave her final resting place with the name ‘Jesus’ because it might offend people. The city eventually reversed course under public pressure.

“We were in disbelief,” said Stacy Adams, the daughter-in-law of Linda Baker. “Who tries to censor Jesus from a cemetery?”
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The cemetery director …refused..He said, ‘What if somebody wanted to put a swastika?”
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She said city officials kept telling them that people would be offended by the name of Christ.

“We weren’t asking for a six-foot neon sign,” she said. “We did not want to put a cross on everyone’s tombstone. It’s a six-inch fish with the name ‘Jesus ‘ on it.”
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Adams tells me the family was incredibly distraught and disturbed by the incident.

“As an American and as a Christian, we have this thing called freedom of speech, freedom of expression,” she said. “We weren’t trying to stop anybody from putting anything up. We just wanted the same freedom others have.”

I find it astonishing that the cemetery director would equate the name of Jesus whom Christians  believe was the Son of God with a swastika. 

Over 77% of the American population identifies as Christian according to a Gallup poll in 2012. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:17 AM | Permalink

October 21, 2013

Should a cemetery allow a SpongeBob SquarePants tombstone?

Family at war with cemetery over 6ft 7,000lb SpongeBob SquarePants headstones they had made for soldier daughter 'murdered by her boyfriend' on Valentine's Day

 Spongebob Tombstone

The family of a woman murdered on Valentine’s Day by her boyfriend say they have been caused additional pain and suffering after being told that the SpongeBob SquarePants headstones that they paid $26,000 to have built are ‘inappropriate’ for the Cincinnati cemetery where their daughter is buried.

Sgt. Kimberly Walker, 28, was found dead in a Colorado Springs, Colo., hotel room on Valentine’s Day and her boyfriend, also a soldier, has been charged with first-degree murder.  To stand as a tribute to their lost loved one, the Walker family decided it would be fitting to erect two 7,000-pound SpongeBob SquarePants monuments at Walker’s graveside in the historic Spring Grove Cemetery.
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According to Deborah Walker, Kimberly’s mother, her daughter loved everything to do with the cartoon character and had countless SpongeBob-branded items including shower curtains.
‘SpongeBob went in her casket before we laid her in the ground,’ she told WLWT.com.
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After receiving approval from a cemetery employee in March, the family decided on the design for the SpongeBob monuments and paid 10 percent of the price for the two $13,000 each statues upfront.
The Walkers also purchased six plots together at the cemetery to provide the required space to erect them.
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Spring Grove has accepted responsibility for the misunderstanding and promised to work with the family to design at alternative which they hope will be more in keeping with the historic cemetery.

‘Spring Grove is deeply sorry for the issues involving the monument the Walker family recently purchased. Although the family chose a design with the guidance of a Spring Grove employee, unfortunately the monument did not fit within Spring Grove Cemetery guidelines,’ President and CEO Gary Freytag told WLWT in a written statement.

As an historic cemetery, we must constantly balance the needs of families who have just suffered a loss with the thousands of families who have entrusted us in the past.

I agree with the cemetery

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:28 PM | Permalink

Death by bowling ball

Party goer, 23, killed after being smashed in head with a BOWLING BALL during brawl 'involving 250 people' at New Jersey bowling alley

Jamont Atkins, of Newark, has died after someone threw a bowling bowl at his head in the melee inside Stelton Lanes, which hosted the College Bowling Bash party.
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While investigators said the fracas involved about 250 people, Atkins' friends said that fewer than a dozen guests got into the fray.

Tajh Harvey, the promoter of Saturday's event and an acquaintance of Atkins, told The Star-Ledger that the young man and his cousin had some words with two other men
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The situation quickly escalated, and several other people got involved in the feud. At some point, someone hurled a chair and a bowling bowl, which struck Atkinson in the head.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:13 PM | Permalink

October 17, 2013

What NOT to do when you give a eulogy

Funeral Etiquette: Do not swear or use coarse language at a funeral, especially when giving a eulogy.   At funerals, you should be respectful, tactful and dignified, especially if you are the one chosen to give a eulogy.  People are grieving, feeling deeply the loss of a friend and family member and their own mortality, so they are in a fragile state.    Do not add to their distress but seek to give comfort to all you meet.

Sir Cameron Mackintosh has been branded a 'disgrace' after upsetting mourners by swearing while giving a eulogy at a friend's funeral.  "Now is name is mud"

Funeral attendees, who were paying their respects to Frank Conway, 88, were shocked by his use of coarse language during his address to the congregation.Mr Conway lived as an old-fashioned retainer on the 15,000-acre estate, running a travelers bunkhouse in a former Loch Nevis church that is owned by Sir Cameron.

Sir Cameron, who owns a 15,000-acre Nevis Estate in the Highlands near where the funeral took place, is said to have used swear words and inappropriate phrases, such as 'fornicating p****.'
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'You don't need any set rule in place to prevent this. 'It's unwritten that you don't use language like this in that situation.'

Councillor for Caol and Mallaig Bill Clark said: 'I cannot believe he would use language like that in the church. It is a disgrace.

'You would not see that in the Highland Council chambers or in Parliament.

The funeral service was held by Father Joseph Calleja, who said: 'I was upset by it and still am. If you cannot say something good about somebody, you should say nothing.'

Sir Cameron, 66, was telling a story about Mr Conway's time running a bunkhouse in Tarbet and referring to a letter sent to him by two dissatisfied German tourists when he made the comments.

Mourners attempted to shout Sir Cameron down during the service held at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and St Cumin in Morar.

Retired skipper Alex Donald, 72, who was at the funeral on October 4, added: 'It is the talk of the local area.

'He has done a lot of good for the community, but now his name is mud.

'He is an educated man and should have known better.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

Married for 68 years, they died in a car wreck holding hands

Couple Married 68 Years Killed In Car Wreck, Found Holding Hands

An elderly couple who died in a car accident  were found in the wreckage holdings hands.

Floyd and Margaret Nordhagen were killed when they pulled in front of a pickup truck on a highway north of Spokane.

State troopers say they had to ask Margaret to let go of Floyd so they could get him out of the car.

Friends told KREM News that Floyd always bragged about Margaret and how pretty she was. The couple was married for 68 years in July.

“I don’t know if they were holding hands before he passed, or if she grabbed him afterwards but it doesn’t matter,” added family friend “Britches” Peden. “They would have been holding hands if they could. so that’s the way we all want to remember them.”

Peden said he used to help the Nordhagen’s take care of the farm and ranch land in North Spokane County. Floyd loved his cattle like pets added Peden.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

October 15, 2013

What NOT to do when you give a eulogy

Funeral Etiquette: Do not swear or use coarse language at a funeral, especially when giving a eulogy.   At funerals, you should be respectful, tactful and dignified, especially if you are the one chosen to give a eulogy.  People are grieving, feeling deeply the loss of a friend and family member and their own mortality, so they are in a fragile state.    Do not add to their distress but seek to give comfort to all you meet.

Sir Cameron Mackintosh has been branded a 'disgrace' after upsetting mourners by swearing while giving a eulogy at a friend's funeral.  "Now is name is mud"

Funeral attendees, who were paying their respects to Frank Conway, 88, were shocked by his use of coarse language during his address to the congregation.Mr Conway lived as an old-fashioned retainer on the 15,000-acre estate, running a travelers bunkhouse in a former Loch Nevis church that is owned by Sir Cameron.

Sir Cameron, who owns a 15,000-acre Nevis Estate in the Highlands near where the funeral took place, is said to have used swear words and inappropriate phrases, such as 'fornicating p****.'
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'You don't need any set rule in place to prevent this. 'It's unwritten that you don't use language like this in that situation.'

Councillor for Caol and Mallaig Bill Clark said: 'I cannot believe he would use language like that in the church. It is a disgrace.

'You would not see that in the Highland Council chambers or in Parliament.

The funeral service was held by Father Joseph Calleja, who said: 'I was upset by it and still am. If you cannot say something good about somebody, you should say nothing.'

Sir Cameron, 66, was telling a story about Mr Conway's time running a bunkhouse in Tarbet and referring to a letter sent to him by two dissatisfied German tourists when he made the comments.

Mourners attempted to shout Sir Cameron down during the service held at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and St Cumin in Morar.

Retired skipper Alex Donald, 72, who was at the funeral on October 4, added: 'It is the talk of the local area.

'He has done a lot of good for the community, but now his name is mud.

'He is an educated man and should have known better.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 AM | Permalink

October 14, 2013

Death by caffeine mints

Man died after overdosing on caffeine mints

A man died from an enormous caffeine overdose after snacking on high-energy mints - each of which is as powerful as a can of Red Bull.

John Jackson, 40, ate Hero Instant Energy Mints, unaware they could kill him. Each mint contains 80mg of caffeine, equivalent to a can of Red Bull, but are sold alongside normal mints.

Coroner Robin Balmain recorded a verdict of accidental death but said he intends to write to the Department of Health highlighting the dangers of energy sweets.
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Dr Dragana Cvijan, a pathologist, told  the court that 79 milligrammes of caffeine has been known to cause death and that a post mortem revealed Mr Jackson had 155 milligrammes in his system when he died.
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Mr Jackson, a former painter and decorator, bought a £4 tin of 12 sweets from his local shop. He was found dead in his flat by his former partner in Darlaston, near Birmingham, on 2 May this year.
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The inquest was not told how many Mr Jackson ate but the manufacturers said that he would have had to have eaten “over 300 of our mints, which is staggering” to have the levels of caffeine he had in his blood.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:54 AM | Permalink

October 11, 2013

Legally Dead Man Walking

Ohio man legally declared deceased in 1994 after running out on his family loses bid to overturn his death status

Donald Miller Jr, of Ohio, may be alive and in fine health, but in the eyes of the law he is still dead.

The 61-year-old Fostoria resident went to court this week to ask a county judge to reverse his 1994 ruling that declared him legally dead after he had disappeared from his home eight years earlier.  But the judge turned down his request, citing a three-year time limit for changing a death ruling.

Hancock County Probate Court Judge Allan Davis called it a ‘strange, strange situation.’

‘We've got the obvious here. A man sitting in the courtroom, he appears to be in good health,’ said Davis, who told Miller the three-year limit was clear.
‘I don't know where that leaves you, but you're still deceased as far as the law is concerned,’ the judge said.

Miller resurfaced about eight years ago and went to court so that he could get a driver's license and reinstate his Social Security number.
His ex-wife had expressed sympathy for the deadbeat dad but had opposed the move, saying she doesn't have the money to repay the Social Security benefits that were paid out to her and the couple's two children after Miller was declared dead.

Robin Miller said her former husband vanished because he owed child support payments and that the overdue payments had totaled $26,000 by 1994, The Findlay Courier reported.

Miller told the judge that he disappeared in the 1980s because he had lost his job and he was an alcoholic. He lived in Florida and Georgia before returning to Ohio around 2005.
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Miller told the judge that he had remained estranged from his children during his protracted absence. Now, he expressed his desire to start his life again, or 'whatever’s left of it.'

The court, however, said ‘no.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:03 PM | Permalink

October 10, 2013

"Aiuta a morire"

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Victor Brombert explores the Intimations of Mortality in his own life and in literature.

Far more troubling was the occasional dialogue I carried on with myself during my adolescent years. Why me? My unreality was early impressed on me when I discovered that I had come very close to nonbeing, had my mother not decided to undergo a delicate operation enabling her to conceive. That too worked both ways, intensifying my delight in being alive. Why me? was turned into, Why not me? And that reminded me once again of my vulnerability. Every wound could be mortal.

Then came the war.
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Plato set the tone in the Phaedo when he had Socrates tell his disciples, before drinking the poison hemlock, that true philosophers concern themselves with nothing but dying and death, that philosophy is in fact the study of death. This seemed to me rather excessive.
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There is an Italian saying one hears occasionally when things go really wrong or when someone wants to express a so-called philosophical resignation in the face of the downward ways of this world: "Aiuta a morire" (it makes dying easier—literally, it helps one to die)
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:21 PM | Permalink

Her Great Legacy was the development of wrinkle-free cotton

Woman who developed wrinkle-resistant cotton - freeing generations from hours of tedious housework- dies at the age of 97

The inventor who developed wrinkle-resistant cotton has died at the age of 97.  Dr. Ruth Benerito, who created the material in the 1950s, died on Saturday at her home in Louisiana.  She is credited with saving the cotton industry as the introduction of synthetic fibres in the 1930s and 1940s led many consumers to turn to the the easy-care fabric.

The achievement 'is considered one of the most significant technological developments of the 20th century.'

 Dr. Ruth Benerito


Her obituary in the New York Times reads: 'A chemist long affiliated with the United States Department of Agriculture, Dr. Benerito helped perfect modern wrinkle-free cotton, colloquially known as permanent press, in work that she and her colleagues began in the late 1950s,'.

Dr Benerito grew up in New Orleans, and started at H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College of Tulane University at 15.  The daughter of a civil engineer and an artist, she credited her parents as being her inspiration saying: 'My father was the one who believed in education. He said the only thing we would get would be a good education and nobody could take them away from you.'
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She went to work at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Southern Regional Research Laboratories in New Orleans, where she spent most of her prolific career.
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In the 1950s Benerito’s research team began to look into cotton and discovered how to treat cotton fibers so that these chainlike cellulose molecules were chemically joined. 

The Chemical Heritage Foundation writes: 'At the time, chemists knew that cellulose molecules could stick to each other by way of hydrogen bonds, but hydrogen bonds are weak and easily broken, making cotton fabric prone to wrinkling.

'The new treatment strengthened the bonds between cellulose molecules by inserting short organic molecules between them, rather like the rungs of a ladder. The new product was one enormous molecule with different properties from the original cellulose molecules. This “crosslinking” made cotton wrinkle-resistant.'
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The same chemistry also faciliated the ability to incorporate flame retardants into children's sleepwear, mattresses and uniforms for firefighters and the military.
But Benerito repeatedly denied she was the sole inventor of wrinkle-free cotton.

'I don’t like it to be said that I invented wash-wear, because there were any number of people working on it, and there are various processes by which you give cotton those properties,' she said.

'No one person discovered it or was responsible for it. But I contributed to new processes of doing it.'

In later years, while she continued to research cotton fibers, Benerito taught classes part-time at Tulane and at the University of New Orleans.
She retired from the USDA in 1986 but kept on teaching at the University of New Orleans until she was aged 81.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:43 PM | Permalink

Touching Death

A very wise piece on burial. 

Touching Death: Mourning Physically through Burial by John Cuddeback

In mid-September of this year my father passed away after a several year decline with dementia.

With the help and support of family and friends we were able to give him a very special burial — in that we buried him ourselves:  opening the earth, setting him in it, and mounding the earth back.  The experience was extraordinary, and one I found to be a gift. It was the catalyst for these reflections.
It was all about the earth.  Opening it, placing something it, and closing it.  Like planting a seed.  We started with the assumption that the more we did with our own hands the better.  We knew that my father had enough hearty pall-bearers that we could actually carry his casket.  With an open casket wake, we knew we could at least put a hand on his breast or hands and feel him dead.

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A body deserves to be buried.  There is an apparent if somewhat disturbing  proximity between human body and earth, as evidenced in the body's relatively quick 'return' to it, fortifying it as a kind of organic soil amendment.  Having buried a body — whole or cremated — in earth or sea, we feel we have somehow done what needed to be done for the body.  An oft overlooked issue is:  have we done what needed to be done for us?

It seems fitting to ask:  what kind of burial is good for those left behind?  After all, though much of what we do after the death of a person is done for the sake of and in memory of the deceased, the needs of those left behind must also be considered.  Prominent among these is surely the need for help in coming to terms with the truth of what has happened. We humans are prone to live in denial, especially of truths that make us uncomfortable.  The death of a loved one, with all that it implies, is often just such a truth that we do not want to face.

The discomfort we spare ourselves now we reap later in unresolved sorrow.  The Greek word catharsis refers to the release of an emotion that needs to be released.  Loved ones of a deceased person stand in need of the cleansing experience of catharsis, and this especially through the fitting expression of sorrow.  Though common wisdom speaks of the necessity of mourning, for some reason this wisdom does not seem to affect most of our post-mortem practices.
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As we hefted the casket, the tension in the crowd was palpable, and my mother gasped "Dear God."  Through my strain I whispered in her direction, "We'll make it Mom.  We've got Dad just fine."  A brother, three sons, son-in-law, God-son, and two grandsons eased Dad into the ground.  And so the final committal was underway.

The prayers were brief.  I stepped up to address the hundreds gathered and invite them to join us in backfilling.  After the widow and the family, the guests were welcome to come forward and shovel earth in the hole.  My brother handed a shovel-full to my mother.  Supported by my sister, she dropped the first bit of dirt that would seal the body of her husband of fifty-seven years in the ground.  The hollow thud was bracing.

It is very difficult to capture what happened over the course of the next half hour or so.  Slowly, surely, the varied group of mourners came forward to do their part.  It was as though they were playing a role they had played before — which, as far as we know was not the case:  few had ever filled such a large hole and perhaps none had enclosed a coffin.

Everyone seemed to understand and be drawn in.  The atmosphere was a unique blend of sorrow, communion, and hope.  One young mother, nursling in arm, didn't wait for a shovel, and grabbing a handful of earth tossed in her contribution.  Children were as engaged in the filling as they had been in marveling at the hole.
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The act of burying is an act of piety that is fitting for the dead.  It is also an act of mourning that is fitting for the living.  Our fellow-mourners who blessed us with their presence that overcast Saturday afternoon have expressed what a profound experience my father's burial was.  I think that we all experienced it as a gift:  a gift that rends the heart, giving a healing and closure that lays it open to the consolation of new life beyond the grave.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:50 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2013

What people talk about when they are dying

My Faith: What people talk about before they die

Today, 13 years later, I am a hospice chaplain.  I visit people who are dying – in their homes, in hospitals, in nursing homes.  And if you were to ask me the same question - What do people who are sick and dying talk about with the chaplain?  – I, without hesitation or uncertainty, would give you the same answer. Mostly, they talk about their families: about their mothers and fathers, their sons and daughters.

They talk about the love they felt, and the love they gave.  Often they talk about love they did not receive, or the love they did not know how to offer, the love they withheld, or maybe never felt for the ones they should have loved unconditionally.  They talk about how they learned what love is, and what it is not.    And sometimes, when they are actively dying, fluid gurgling in their throats, they reach their hands out to things I cannot see and they call out to their parents:  Mama, Daddy, Mother.
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This crucible of love is where we start to ask those big spiritual questions, and ultimately where they end....We don't learn the meaning of our lives by discussing it.  It's not to be found in books or lecture halls or even churches or synagogues or mosques.  It's discovered through these actions of love.

If God is love, and we believe that to be true, then we learn about God when we learn about love. The first, and usually the last, classroom of love is the family.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:15 PM | Permalink

October 5, 2013

Ways you do not want to die

Horror as remote-control helicopter stunt pilot, 19, partially-decapitates himself with his aircraft after he lost control  Roman Pirozek Jr, 19, was an avid RC helicopter hobbyist who apparently ...

specialized in performing dare-devil tricks with his powerful $1,500 model helicopter. His own father watched as the blades of the 6-pound RC flyer sliced off a piece of his head. He was dead when police arrived

Mom sunbathing on the grass with her eight-month-old daughter is run over and killed by parks vehicle

A woman sitting in the sun with her eight-month-old baby daughter and her dog in Holly Park in  San Francisco park was run over by a maintenance vehicle and died in hospital on Thursday. The driver apparently fled the scene, but was later detained and questioned.

She was later identified as Christine Svanemyr, a Zen monk and life coach. 

Svanemyr had spent the last 10 years working for a San Francisco-based meditation school called New Ventures West, where she achieved status as a Zen monk. Svanemyr and her husband, the school’s communications director, previously lived in Salt Lake City.

Thomas Burnoski, a 57-year-old San Francisco parks worker was arrested Friday on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run.

Father, 59, dies just 28 HOURS after being infected by 'flesh-eating' bacteria he contracted while wading in a river

Henry Konietzky, 59, died after he was exposed to the deadly bacteria while wading in the Halifax River in Florida on Saturday.

Mr Konietzky, a married father, had accidentally stepped on some ants before getting into the water and sustained ant bites, which could have created an open wound for the bacteria to get inside.  He then waded into the water, knee-deep, to set crab traps.  The next morning the man from Palm Coast woke to find what looked like an insect bite on his leg.
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Debbie Stack, the man’s sister-in-law, said, "They did not take [the bite] seriously until it started festering and quickly. Then he started feeling ill.’  The keen fisherman was rushed to hospital on Sunday but he was dead by Monday.  Ms Stack said: ‘They tried multiple antibiotics but nothing was touching it. Nothing even phased it.’
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His daughter Sheila added: 'We are still in shock. What's really devastating is that he fished his whole life. For something like this to take him away from us so quickly, without warning, is really scary.'

In Chicago. 2 Investigators: Nursing Home Patient Catches Fire, Left To Smolder Outside

Security camera footage shows Lewis on the patio, a designated smoking area, when the lighter in his pocket suddenly catches his shirt on fire. Residents try, but fail, to put out the flames. Lewis then frantically pushes himself back inside to get help.
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The video shows frantic workers inside the building. Staff members spray Lewis with a fire extinguisher; then they roll him back outside, where his smoldering body covered in foam sits motionless.

My nominee for the Darwin Award Train Runs Over Couple Having Sex on Tracks

Local police say a middle-aged couple in central Ukraine was run over by a switcher locomotive while having sex on the tracks. According to the country's Interior Ministry, the woman died at the location while the man was hospitalized after losing both his legs.  The victims' names were not released, but it was reported that the man was 41 and the woman appeared to by thirtysomething.  The ministry cited the surviving victim, who said that he and his girlfriend “failed to overcome their natural passion when walking home… and wanted to experience an extreme sensation near the railroad tracks.

Here is the runner up. Drug trafficker killed by his own 500kg cargo of weed after it crushed him to death when he crashed car following police chase.

A Brazilian drugs trafficker was killed by his own stock when he was crushed by half a ton of marijuana.  The man died after he lost control of his car and hit a tree, resulting in his stock of weed stored in the backseat shooting forward, squashing him against the wheel.  The driver was on the run from the Federal Highway police, who had taken up the chase after the smuggler refused to stop at a road block in Bataguassu, 210 miles from Campo Grande.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:33 PM | Permalink

October 2, 2013

Photo of funeral at sea for Titanic victims

Never-before-seen photo of Titanic mass funeral showing the 'dignified burial' of pile of bodies set for auction

 Funeral-For-Titanic-Victims

  • A never-before-seen photograph taken on board the CS Mackay-Bennett recovery ship days after the sinking of the Titanic exposes the truth behind what was believe to be a dignified burial of the hundreds who perished on that fateful day.
  • On 15 April 1912, the 'unsinkable' RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and went down in the Atlantic, killing more than 1,500 passengers and crew.
  • Records show that 166 out of 306 bodies collected by the Mackay-Bennett were buried at sea but until now there was no photographic evidence of this.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 AM | Permalink

October 1, 2013

Sea burials: Last stitch is through the nose

One Last Stitch to Make Sure That He's Dead  John Farrier at Neatorama

Before ships had refrigerated morgues, it was common to bury the dead at sea. A sailor's body and weights would be sewed up inside a hammock. His mates would finish the task by sewing the last stitch through the dead man's nose--to be certain that he was really dead.

Here's a description provided by one sailor from his experiences in the 1960s:

The mate sent me down to assist the bo'sun to prepare and stitch up the corpse, as he said I would be unlikely to witness such an occurrence again. The bo'sun, a North Sea Chinaman (ie, he hailed from the Orkney Isles), was in his sixties and had performed the task several times before. He was a deft hand with the palm [leather glove] and needle used to sew the heavy canvas into a shroud around the body, and when he came to the final stitches around the face he pushed the large triangular-shaped needle right through the nose. I winced, and he looked up at me and said, "That's the law of the sea, the last stitch through the nose, if that don't wake him up I know he's dead."

Apparently, it was not uncommon for sailors or passengers to be mistakenly pronounced dead. This was the final test.

 Burial At Sea

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:40 AM | Permalink