Thursday, September 22, 2005

"Don't dream it, DO IT."

I wish i could...

use my time this well.... talk about creative energy and so useful, too.

Do at least watch the 30 second ROCKY HORROR clip! Gotta love the bunnies.

Are You Happy?

Scientists have reached the conclusion that money DOES buy happiness. Johan Norberg reports: "In fact, one of the few things there is a consensus about in this very young field of science is that money does buy happiness. There is an extremely strong correlation between wealth and happiness. Low-income countries report low levels of happiness, middle-income countries report middle levels and high-income countries report high levels. What the researchers say, though, is that this correlation levels off at a national income of about $10,000 a year. After $20,000, Layard says, "additional income is not associated with extra happiness" (p. 33). ...This is the most highlighted finding from the research. But in fact, it is yet to be proven. The fact that a higher income level does not translate into higher happiness does not mean that growth doesn't. What we do know is that there is a big jump in reported wellbeing when countries move from about $5,000 to $15,000 a year."

Beyond this, happiness is not easy to define, measure, prove. But that doesn't stop the determined scientists. Happiness, or contentment, increases when hope is present. Hope that tomorrow will be even better or at least as good nurtures our happiness. In poor countries, people are hopeful as growth increases--economic and personal wealth. Norberg points to Ireland as a good example. He says, "look at Ireland. This country reported declining levels of life satisfaction between the early 1970s and the late 1980s. Ireland did not grow poorer during this time, but it had low growth and high unemployment. A lack of opportunities for the young led to high emigration. In the 1990s things turned around. Rapid liberalisation, foreign investment and information technology doubled Irish GDP per capita in ten years. It became easy to start a business and to get a job. Unemployment fell from about 15 to 5% and emigrants returned. At the same time, reported levels of happiness grew rapidly, by about one point on a ten-point scale "a dramatic change for such a slow moving indicator. Today, Ireland is one of the world's happiest countries."

I would be happy if I lived in Ireland, so I completely understand Norberg's example. At this point, though, one wonders "what makes me happy?" What is happiness? Theologically, we know that we are made for happiness. Human beings search for happiness and find it in a realtionship with God. The scientists did not mention this cause for happiness. Augustine, we all know, said, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O, Lord." Restless hearts are not happy hearts. Being united with the creative force of life calms the restless heart and soothes the soul. Sweet happiness.

Consider the things that make you happy? Naturally happy, no Irish mugs necessary! When are you content with yourself and with the world; hopeful for things to come, today and tomorrow?

I have, from time to time, been suddenly touched by a distinctive feeling of contentment, happy to be just where I am at that moment. Sometimes, I am alone and sometimes in the company of others. These moments are sharply contrasted with agitated moments during the day when I am restlessly disturbed by all manner of things: rude people, late people--really late people, obnoxiously loud noises, not being able to say NO when asked to something that I know will not make me happy, finishing a task that I've been asked to do only to find out that it was unnessicary, which translates as wasting my time, and many other things.

On the other hand, looking at water of almost any kind fills me with content. Eating olives makes me happy, without a doubt. Modern art at SLAM draws me in and silences the restless voice within me. Feeding animals connects me with the creative life force. Holding a sleeping baby, breathing in the soft, baby smells, erases all the restlessness from my heart in any given day. Certain strains of music have a calming effect. So does butter, come to thnk of it. Is this happiness? Would scientists agree and how would they actually measure the effect of things that soothe and give me hope?

Science cannot measure how we feel. Art describes in various ways (visually and audibly and written ways) what happiness feels like. It knows, and we know, how happiness feels. The Irish know what happiness is and how to find it. Evidently, at least according to Norberg, et al, the Japanese do not. At least that's what the scientists want us to believe.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Yesterday, I visited my mother at the nursing home where she is recuperating from her fall. Looking for something to entertain us, we wandered into the activity room. A man--clearly an Elvis impersonator-- was helping the elders in the room to try their luck at a bass fishing tournament. He brings with him ten tv's, each one hooked to its own software of a bass fishing game that might be called FISH ON! Each elderperson has his own "joystick" fishing pole, complete with the reel. They cast toward the set, reel the lure along, as they watch the screen, waiting for the big catch. Eventually, a BIG fish comes and grabs the lure, and everyone in the room shouts "NORMA, you got one. REEL it in!!" One of three things can happen: Norma 1) reels it just right and nabs the fish; 2) reels to fast and the line breaks; 3) reels to slowly and the fish gets away. It's a hoot. Most of the people stare blankly at the screen and reel sort of absent mindedly until people yell their name and say YOU CAUGHT a FISH. Then they reel like crazy. All the while, the Elvis look-a-like is the most animated, gracious game host I've ever witnessed. He tells us he is a friend of Elvis, and that when Elvis comes he will have to wait in the car. I can't wait til he comes back with Elvis. His resemblance to the KING is amazing. Almost as amazing as FISH ON!!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Oh Yeah! Jon's a walkin' little man, now.
"Run run, as fast as you can. YOU can't catch me! I'm a walkin' little man."

Woke up this morning, feel 'round for my shoes,
You know 'bout that babe, had them old walkin' blues.
Woke up this morning, I feel 'round for my shoes,
You know 'bout that babe, Lord, I had them old walkin' blues.

To take the "test,: go here MST
The questions are in brief "story" form. There are twelve, similar to this:
Standing by the railroad tracks, Evan sees an empty, out-of-control boxcar about to hit five people. Next to Evan is a lever that can be pulled, lowering the railing on a footbridge that spans the main track, and causing one person to fall off the footbridge and onto the main track, where he will be hit by the boxcar. The boxcar will slow down because of the one person, therefore preventing the five from being hit. If Evan pulls the lever the one person will fall and be hit by the boxcar, and therefore the boxcar will slow down and not hit the five people. If Evan does not pull the lever the boxcar will continue down the tracks and hit the five people, and the one person will remain safe above the main track. Evan decides to pull the lever.

Then, you are asked a series of questions.

TODAY's famous birthday---
Happy Birthday Agatha Christie (1890)!!

One of my favorites is And Then There Were None.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Food for thought:
Mother: "Did you know that God was present when you stole that cookie from the kitchen?
Child: "Yes."
Mother: "And God was looking at you all the time?"
Child: "Yes."
Mother: "And what do you think God was saying to you?"
Child: "God was saying, "There's no one here but the two of us--take two."

Religious-minded woman mourning the ways of the younger generation:
"It's because of the cars! Look how far they can go for a dance or a date nowadays. It wasn't that way in your day, was it, Grandma?"
Eighty-seven-year-old lady: "Well, we certainly went as far as we could."

from--The Heart of the Enlightened

Monday, September 12, 2005

Lost Appetite

The carb dieters and animal rights activists (and not a few vegetarians) may rejoice in the news of better, bigger, happier, lower carb meats, but the whole thing sounds as bad as soylent green if you ask me.

Seems the stem cell research has led scientists to create better animal flesh in Petry dishes. "The basic concept behind what is known as in vitro cultivated meat sounds surprisingly simple. Meat is mostly made up of bundled muscle cells, interspersed with fat and connective tissue cells. If it were possible to grow these cells in the laboratory and combine them at the right ratios, test-tube meat could become a reality. The patent that serves as the basis for the Dutch research project puts the issue succinctly: "The product has the structure and flavor of lean meat, but without requiring animals to suffer and without involving religious and ethical concerns or causing environment problems, all of which are the case in today's meat production."

I am not kidding - Test-tube T-bones

More on earthquake protection here in Missouri's New Madrid Fault Zone:
Popular Science April 2005--
"When the Sumatrin Quake rocked South Asia, hundreds of advanced seismometers around the world detected the rumblings. Yet, only two were stationed in the regions hit hardest by the quake and subsequent tsunami. Had coastal towns been equipped with earthquake observatories...thousands of lives may have been saved."

Why aren't there seismometers stationed where we need them to alert us to early signs of a possible earthquake? They are tremendously expensive. But YOU can have one in your home for about $200. Popular Science describes the cost effective version developed by Randall Peters, from Mercer Univ. as "a rudimentary but ultrasensitive seismometer." All you need is a heavy object on a string and a recording device. It's "bare bones" but the results during an earthquake will alert you to seismic activity characteristic of the Rayleigh waves which cause most of the damage. The heavy object in the device designed by Peters is coated with sensors that moves between electrically charged plates. Not exactly a do-it-yourself project. But it could be manufactured and sold for about $200.

Imagine waking up to find clear evidence of seismic activity which causes you to go running around your neighborhood shouting "earthquake o'comin'." It won't take more than one false alarm and your nickname will be Chicken Little. Better to gather those in your house and spend the day in "safe mode" with your emergency kit waiting for the BIG one.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

"It was on this day in 1900 that a hurricane leveled Galveston, Texas, and left 5,000 people dead. The storm kept up for 18 hours, with winds clocked at 120 m.p.h. Most of Galveston was built at sea level, and huge waves swept through the streets and flattened businesses and homes." via writer's almanac

There are not enought fingers on one hand to point to all those who could be to blame for making a natural disaster unnaturally gruesome.

The Fox News Channel's Major Garrett: The Red Cross is confirming that it had prepositioned water, food, blankets and hygiene products for delivery to the Superdome and the Convention Center in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, but were blocked from delivering those supplies by orders of the Louisiana state government, which did not want to attract people to the Superdome and/or Convention Center.

Meanwhile the mayor looks more and more unlike the man on tv who cares and is crying about his people.
via irishtrojan.com

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I have not heard anything on the tv news and only a tiny bit on radio and none in print about the aquarium in New Orleans after Katrina. So, here is what I found this morning:

Meanwhile the aquarium, which held up physically during the hurricane, has lost more than one-third of its 4000 fish due to failing air pumps which normally oxygenate the tanks. Late last week the staff was evacuated from the facility due to mounting violence in the area.

More info can be found on Mongabay.com's site. Earlier news here.

The NO Aquarium of the Americas is one of the best Aquarium's I've visited. It is a shame that due to violent human action against one another these animals suffered.

The whole French Quarter surrounding the aquarium survived fairly well considering the extensive damage in the area. People who live and own businesses down there were eating gourmet cajun food in the days following the hurricane. They used water from hot water tanks to boil the shrimp and other sea food which was thawing in restaurant freezers. They used gas grills to cook up some ragin' cajun cuisine. These residents spent their days cleaning up, one block at a time, the garbage and damage in the streets. But that wasn't a story I saw on CNN, FOX, or MSNBC because they were busy reporting the violence and mayhem which many who were in the city say was blown out of proportion. Rumors and truth, as well, rose into mythic proportions, frightening those who were on their way to help, but turned back. Many people are ready to believe the worst, want to believe the worst, and pass along the worst news, blame, and disgust before checking sources for accuracy. Resourcefulness was the key to survival in NO, as it is in life everyday.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

BE PREPARED - it is your responsibility

Midwestern websites that offer information for surviving an emergency are listed near the end of this post. But first this:

Bookworm urges us all to take the New Orleans disaster as a warning to be prepared. It can happen to you! So, here in the middle of the U.S.--in addition to flooding for those along the Mississippi or act of terorism-- the biggest disaster would likely be an earthquake along the New Madrid fault. I haven't heard anyone speak of this lately. Except my husband the geological and civil engineer who finds such things fascinating.

The reality is that [and this is lengthy, so scan it for the facts) "the New Madrid Fault System extends 120 miles southward from the area of Charleston, Missouri, and Cairo, Illinois, through New Madrid and Caruthersville, following Interstate 55 to Blytheville and on down to Marked Tree, Arkansas. It crosses five state lines and cuts across the Mississippi River in three places and the Ohio River in two places.
The fault is active, averaging more than 200 measured events per year (1.0 or more on the Richter scale), about 20 per month. Tremors large enough to be felt (2.5 – 3.0 on the Richter scale) are noted annually. Every 18 months the fault releases a shock of 4.0 or more, capable of local minor damage. Magnitudes of 5.0 or greater occurring about once per decade can do significant damage and be felt in several states.
The highest earthquake risk in the mainland United States outside the West Coast is along the New Madrid Fault. Damaging tremors are not as frequent as in California, but when they do occur, the destruction covers over more than 20 times the area because of underlying geology.
A damaging earthquake in this Area, 6.0, reoccurs about every 80 years (the last one in 1895). In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released new earthquake probabilities for the New Madrid Seismic Zone. For a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake, there now is estimated to be a 25-40% chance in the next 50 years. The results would be serious damage to schools and masonry buildings from Memphis to St. Louis. USGS also estimates a 7% - 10% chance of a 7.5 – 8.0 earthquake in the next 50 years (equal to the earthquake events of 1811-1812).
A major earthquake in this area - the Great New Madrid Earthquake of 1811-12 was actually a series of over 2000 shocks in five months, some of 7.6 intensity and five of which were 8.0 or more in magnitude. Eighteen of these rang church bells on the Eastern seaboard. The very land itself was destroyed in the Missouri Bootheel, making it unfit even for farming for many years. It was the largest burst of seismic energy east of the Rocky Mountains in the history of the U.S. and was several times larger than the San Francisco quake of 1905.
When will another Great Earthquake happen the size of those in 1811-12? Several lines of research suggest that the catastrophic upheavals like those in 1811-12 visit the New Madrid region every 500-600 years. Hence, emergency planners, engineers, and seismologists do not expect a repeat of the intensity of the 1811-12 series for at least 100 years or more. However, even though the chance is remote, experts estimate the chances for a repeat earthquake of similar magnitude to the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes have changed from the 1985 estimates of 2.7 – 4.0% probability in 50 years to a 7 - 10% probability. This is a result of new evidence of shorter recurrence intervals identified from pre-historical events. Earthquake probabilities for known active faults always increase with time, because stresses within the earth slowly and inexorably mount, year by year, until the rocks can take no more, and sudden rupture becomes inevitable.
Our Greatest Concerns are the 6.0-7.6 Sized Events, which do have significant probabilities in the near future. Damaging earthquakes of this magnitude are very likely within the lifetimes of our children."

I know of very few families who are prepared for this or any other emergency. Actually, I only know of one family--they prepared for 1999 Dec. 31 dooms day disaster. BUT they are prepared.

Here are places to go for information on how to prepare:
St. Louis City EMA

St. Louis Red Cross

Missouri Dept of Emergency Response

Centers for Disease Control

Community Emergency Management

State of MO Emergency Management

Those sites offer planning guidelines for disaster preparedness. The first step, for every family, is take repsonsibility for your own safety and that of those around you. Don't count on the U.S. Calvary to come and rescue you--at least not for the first five days. More importantly, make sure your state and local governments HAVE a plan for evacuation and that you know what the plan will ask you to do. If they don't have a plan, be the pesky activist who bugs them until they do.

Though I have not read Tom Brown's Guide to City and Suburban Survival, it is on my reading list, and can be purchased here.

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans and Tsunami relief efforts

Ok, let's get a grip, people. The destruction and loss of life on the Gulf coast has been mind numbing. It's been five days and the media has focused primarily on the delay of aid reaching the people in trouble. And the chorus sings: How can the US send immediate aid around the globe to tsunami victims but not operate efficiently in a homeland crisis? The answer is that it is lots easier to send money than to send planes, boats, and human resources to a devastated area; an area, I might add, where the VICTIMS are shooting at the relief workers.

Look at the difference between tsunami aid and New Orleans.
On December 27, 5.30 pm the report of devastation read:
Total dead in Asia : 24,000
Sri Lanka - over 12,000 dead, almost 80,00,000 rendered homeless
India - 6000 in South India; 3000 in Andaman and Nicobar Islands which faced aftershocks registering 5 and 6.9 on the Richter scale
Indonesia - 4400 dead
Thailand - 840 dead

According to official estimates, at least 225,000 people died as an immediate result of the tsunami. At least a third of those killed were children. The coasts of India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Maldives, Malaysia, Myanmar and Somalia were devastated. Schools, bridges and roads were washed away. More than 1.2 million people were forced from their homes.

Early estimates from the Gulf coast were that hundreds were feared dead. Five days later the numbers, though still early, hover well under 5,000. And fewer in all are in serious need than in India.

The difference is one in numbers, of course [and dead bodies are a lot easier to aid than living ones--keep this in mind]. But providing aid is equally difficult.
Also reported in other headlines: It is currently estimated that at least 12,000 people have been killed and thousands more are affected after an earthquake measuring over 8 on the Richter scale caused giant tidal waves and flash floods across southern Asia.

CARE's staff in Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Bangladesh are coordinating with the National Disaster Authorities to assess the specific requirements and initiate relief operations.

Yesterday CARE was assisting with the evacuation of people from affected areas to higher ground. Over the coming days CARE will be distributing water, shelter, food and clothing."

CARE was not active on the Gulf coast--at least I haven't heard them mentioned. But it is clear that in the Indian tragedy they spent some time assessing and planning AFTER the tsunami.

And then, instant relief and aid did not magically appearl. In an update from a tsunami relief source they reported that in Indonesia is planning to "send a full charter from Ostende, Belgium to Medan, in northern Sumatra (just outside Aceh), with 32 tons of medical and sanitation materials. It was originally hoped that it could leave tonight (December 27), but problems finding an available plane has delayed the flight until Wednesday. This flight is not yet confirmed."

So, there was difficulty and delay in sending help right away. And even later rescuers finally are sent three days after: Four expat staff (including one medical doctor, two logisticians and the Head of Mission) are ready to leave from Jakarta to Banda Aceh. They will hopefully be able to leave by Wednesday December 29 at the latest. More staff are ready to leave from Europe if necessary. Air assessment of Aceh with helicopters is planned for tomorrow or Wednesday.
The current official death toll for Indonesia is 5,000, but there is, as yet, absolutely no information about a long stretch of the west coast of northern Sumatra.
Malaria and dengue fever are anticipated to be serious problems. The desalination of water supplies will have to be a priority because salt water is contaminating fresh water supplies. Plans to provide psychological support for survivors.[end quote]

The media did not report any "?disgrace" on the part of the nations helping the tsunami relief. The picture was grim: "'We've had reports already from the south of India of bodies rotting where they have fallen and that will immediately affect the water supply especially for the most impoverished people,' said Christian Aid emergency officer Dominic Nutt." MSNC Jan. 3, 2005

No one is blamed. Explanations were offered for the delays as reported in the media, as such:
"'Some affected areas have had communications cut. Others are so remote it is impossible to know the extent of the damage.'" And "'This is a massive humanitarian disaster and the communications are so bad we still don't know the full scale of it. Unless we get aid quickly to the people many more could die,' said Phil Esmond, head of Oxfam in Sri Lanka."

Then there's the U.S. pledging of assistance: The US pledged $15 milion in aid and dispatched a few specialists, while the president expressed in letters his condolences.

The Seattle Times stated on 28 Dec. 2004 ---Some of the areas that have received the most attention -- such as coastal resort communities in Thailand are the least at risk for epidemics because of their advanced infrastructure and responsive, well-equipped governments, experts said. But there has been an eerie silence from more impoverished areas, such as in parts of conflict-torn Indonesia, the low and slowly sinking Maldive and Nicobar islands and Myanmar, where the authorities are telling international relief agencies "next to nothing," said Simon Ingram, a UNICEF spokesman in New York. [ST 12/28/04]

And further, a tsunami blog finally offers the first criticism on Dec. 29: In the past couple of days of red typical-tape confusion and mass fear and shock, a group of city college students have come together with willing and able everyday people to try and focus resources towards the in-the-field relief workers who are making a difference, especially in worst-hit zones in T.N such as Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, and smaller fishing vilages along the coast.----from Relief worker Blog Dec. 29

In outlying areas, rescue was cut off for three days due to conditions, according to sources close to the relief efforts. But it takes days, not hours, for help to arrive in some cases: Quite a bit of progress has happened in Pune. The local Indian Red Cross Society has sent out its first team of doctors, nurses and paramedics from Pune today who will be reaching Chennai on the afternoon of 31st Dec.and then move to the operation areas. They are carrying what is needed most - 'MEDICINE SUPPLIES' and monetary help.

The tsunami victims had NO prior warning to evacuate. The gulf residents, including those at the NO convention center, had 48 hours and public transportation waited for them to take them to safer, higher ground. Some left, and some chose to stay. Now, they see it was a bad choice to stay. But "mandatory evacuation" by definition ought to tell a person the seriousness of the choice they are about to make.

We will never know how well or poorly the U.S. government agencies and private help exercised relief for Katrina because the media is only interested in keeping you glued to the tv, and feeding the frenzy with newsreporters on the streets talking to victims is a sure way to sell air time. But is it the best way to get a big picture view---A view that tells the whole story and not the story of someone who is more than a little cranky for lack of food and water. It takes time for relief workers to travel with goods to crisis stricken areas, no matter where they are. We can always do better. We try to do our best. In this instant mashed potato society of micro-waves and bottled water, people are NOT willing to wait. Nor are they willing to take responsibilty for themselves and others and the environment. The lessons that teach us to CARE are difficult ones. Especially when you don't learn the lesson the first time.

Tsunami victims have come a long way in rebuilding their countries and their lives. If they can do it, why is there any doubt about Gulf coast residents, even the hardy folks of New Orleans. Of course they will rebuild. They will survive. Will they miss the ones they lost? Yes. But their fortitude in moving ahead and not looking back is what their loved ones would want for them. Americans will help them rebuild and relocate and carve even better lives out of this opportunity for change and doing their best.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


New Way to Clean the House

Give all the stuff to people who want your junk. This works. I have this week gotten rid of thousands of pounds of STUFF. Ok. One thing is broken hot tub and one is an oven that works, and one is broken freezer, but lots of stuff.
Losing weight has never been easier. Just go to FREECYCLE St. Louis which pops up on google when you search that topic.

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