It's another Wednesday Morning in Paradise…

Or, Once again around the circle of the week.

Todays weather promises to be brutal. Yesterday evening at sundown the thermometer was still registering 80. This morning before sunup it’s already at 70. That wouldn’t be so bad but I see the humidity is at 97%…It’s gonna be a scorcher out today.

My commute yesterday turned very long…And there was no traffic. Over the last week the kittens we have living with us till they get up to bye bye size have taken to sleeping on top of my bag (computer, planner, etc). Yesterday before I left, I checked the bag glanced inside and zipped it up as I moved it out the door. Drove to work, grabbed my stuff and went in. As I went to sign in at the front desk I heard a meow…Sure enough, one of the pesky kittens had burrowed down deep in my bag and gone to sleep. So it was back out to the car, back to the house with one little white kitten riding the whole way home on my shoulder…Then back to work, an hour late…You really gotta love life’s little games…

Oh well, I got a passel of emails…

Looking at the daily forecast I really do have a bit of a worry. This year has been very strange for the Blue Ridge. I understand mid 80’s down here in SE Texas on the Gulf of Mexico in May but it should not be getting that warm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Virginia this early in the year. I remember our first family vacation to Valle Crucis, it was August and we left 100 degrees plus down here for the mid 80’s in the valley. All of the workers at the Mast were miserable, according to them it just didn’t ever get that hot in Valle Crucis. We smiled at that and enjoyed the cool (to us). That was just about 5 years ago and here the temperatures are already that high in May (and they have been that warm a lot this year).

I would say this is going to be the straw that breaks a lot of ecological camels backs. After years of watching different species decline, warmer than normal weather is going to start pushing a number of species back north…even on the higher elevations.

I see that Dana Milbank has the same problem that the rest of the Media seems to have with Al Gore. They just can’t take it that he isn’t running. So what do they do? Well it looks like Mr. Milbank puts him in his place for being smart. Again and again and again he puts him in his place. Then Mr. Milbank puts the hog farmers of Iowa in their place…

Imagine the Iowa hog farmer cracking open “Assault on Reason,” and meeting Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, John Kenneth Galbraith, Walter Lippmann, Johannes Gutenberg, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Jefferson and Marshall McLuhan — all before finishing the introduction.

I guess Mr. Milbank doesn’t think Iowa farmers have read any history. Talk about Media snobbishness.

He spoke of Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson and John Stuart Mill, only briefly mixing up his patriots: “James Madison wrote — no, Thomas Paine, I’m sorry.” He gave a brief history of the printing press’s spread through Northern Europe. He used social science phrases such as “the collective process” and the “marketplace of ideas” and the “exchange of goods and services” and “guided by the role of reason.” And he threw in a New Age feel when he discussed the Internet: “It is simply that we have to conjure the full importance that it has in our lives in ways that go beyond what we can see and hear with our senses.”

You know, I have listened to Al Gore, I have listened to Bill Clinton, I have listened to George H. W. Bush, and I have listened to George W Bush…Only one of those men has ever had me wanting to throw things through the TV because he didn’t make any sense, and it wasn’t Al Gore. Why do some people have so much trouble with feeling put upon by a person with a brain who actually uses it? Story after story after story comes out of the Media that plays upon the “superiority” they feel oozes from Al Gore. What is that all about?

Well hell, go read it for yourself if ya want…Washington Post – Dana Milbank

The clock on the wall says it’s time to run…catch ya later…

Tuesday – Back to work…

Yesterday was a great day to sit inside and watch the rains come down. After days of watching the rains miss us here in northeastern Brazoria County, they came down with a vengeance yesterday afternoon. We still have water standing in all of the low spots around the yard though the ditches have drained…The weather prognosticators are predicting more for today. At least all the rain keeps the temperatures down. Or it does till the sun comes back out to stay, then its just like living in a sauna.

I was really lucky to have made the decision to start my brisket on the smoker on Sunday. By the time the kids arrived yesterday afternoon, the barbecue was done to a turn. Nothing like a long slow cooking to make a briskets dissolve in your mouth with just the right amount of smoke flavoring. So even though the weather didn’t cooperate, the traditional start of summer barbecue came off fine…

Well I am running late and I spent some time this morning catching up with some of the folks on my blogroll so I have to hit the road…Later.

Memorial Day 2007

As I sit here in my quiet house on a rainy Memorial Day morning the thunder rumbles in the distance. Later today the family will gather for some good food and company, but now I am wandering the web reading Memorial Day posts. Eventually I’ll get around to my email, but for now it’s the thoughtful posts of memory that are holding my interest.

Leon Hale, in his newspaper column today talks of remembering the 14 friends he lost in WWII. There was one line in his column today that summed up Memorial Day in a whole new way for me…

I don’t need Memorial Day to remind me of these friends. I think about them all the time. Fourteen lives that didn’t get lived.

“Lives that didn’t get lived”. That’s what Memorial Day is, a honoring of the sacrifice of a life, a life not lived to completion. The families not formed or left unfinished, the friends left behind and the friends unmade, the wives and children, both left behind and never created…The lives unlived.

Spend some time today and think on the lives that didn’t get lived…There have been a lot of those unlived lives in this nation’s history. It’s our responsibility to all of those unlived lives to be sure that their sacrifice was justified, that the many lives that will never be because of those cut short are worth the sacrifice we demand of our warriors.

On this Memorial Day as more lives are being put on the line in battles around this world, we must always remember it isn’t the life that ended we are memorializing…It’s the life that wasn’t lived.

Sunday Morning.

On this Sunday, the Memorial Day Eve so to speak, Patry Francis is back with one of her personal short stories that are so powerful the reach into your soul…Do yourself a favor and go read the whole thing.

THE LAST LETTER: A Short True Story


Signs of Human 4, originally uploaded by zachstern.

When I entered high school, there was a war going on. Every night the local paper printed the addresses of soldiers who wanted to get mail. I wrote to every name on the list, and used my babysitting money to send them small gifts.

Source: SIMPLY WAIT: THE LAST LETTER: A Short True Story

Fred First has posted the first part of a piece on patriotism. I find myself in agreement with most of what he has posited in this piece. The only addition I would make to his comments is in adding a “higher ideals” component to the definition. To me, one of the biggest things this country has had going for it over the years is the notion that we can do better…We expected to be better than we actually were. We held ourselves to a higher standard than we held others. Somewhere in the past few years we quit holding ourselves to those “higher” standards and that’s where we are beginning to lose our way. Fred points a way to refind those ideals by rediscovering that tie to place, that tie to home, that tie to country. We will only return to those “higher” ideals when we hold ourselves and those who “lead” us and the companies we allow to sell to us are held to the same “higher” standards.

“We the people” were the words used to found this country. “We the people” have given our lives and our living to making this country strong. “We the people” developed the “ideals” that have led this country through two hundred plus years of wars, disasters and lives. “We the people” will continue to move this country forward, not always well, sometimes with stumbles, sometimes with great arguments, but, always forward if we hold ourselves to the same high ideals our parents and grandparents held themselves.

Go, spend some time with family. Think on those who have sacrificed so much for this great country. Think on those that still sacrifice daily. Give thanks for all of them. Raise your own sights to the higher ideals…Have a great patriotic weekend.

Thoughts for a Saturday Morning.

One of the emails I get each day comes from the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation. Today’s “Thought for the Day” really connected with one of my core beliefs so I pass it on…

You are what you believe.
– Anton Chekhov

You are what the deep faith of your heart is. If you believe that money is going to make you happy, then you will go after money. If you believe that pleasure will make you happy, you will go after pleasure. Because, “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” not as he thinketh in his head. There is a vast distance from the head to the heart. In the Greek and Russian Orthodox traditions, they say that whatever spiritual knowledge you have in your head must be brought down into your heart. This takes many, many years.

Source: Thought for the Day – Eknath Easwaran

Looks like I have shot half the day and haven’t done a thing…Time to move. Y’all have a great day.

Back Early

My hiatus was shorter than promised. Now I am back, on light duty for the weekend with a sore throat and permission to eat ice cream…What more could a overweight middle aged man ask for? Before anyone asks, I have been having a persistent hoarseness over the last few months and the wife finally convinced me to have it checked out. The ENT specialist found some very tiny lesions on my vocal cords. Today he did a slice and dice for a biopsy and we will get the results next week. Due to my weight and sleep apnia there was a very good chance that I would be spending the night. Turns out it wasn’t required, so I am home and under doctor’s order to take it easy, rest my throat, and enjoy some Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla.

While I am sitting here catching up on my reading I came across the following op-ed that reminded me of a story on the Pacifica Station here in Houston that I heard yesterday as I drove to my pre-op appointments.

Sometimes thinking small can get things done. To bring artificial light to an isolated village or refugee camp could require building an enormous hydroelectric dam, followed by laying hundreds of miles of cable. Or it could take the donation of a $10 solar flashlight.

As Will Connors and Ralph Blumenthal reported in The Times recently, the entrepreneur Mark Bent, through his company SunNight Solar, has developed and manufactured a solar-powered flashlight that gives up to seven hours of light, before recharging, and can last close to three years between battery replacements. The flashlight retails for around $20 in American stores, but corporate donors have gotten them for aid groups at half the price, a deep discount but still a profit for Mr. Bent.

Source: Lighting the Way – New York Times

Pacifica had Mark Bent on their program as his company is located here in Houston. His BOGO Light is amazing, and the distribution method is a work of art. BOGO stands for Buy One Give One, and for every light bought for $25 one light is delivered to Africa and distributed. Lights are also sold at discount to organizations for distribution around the world. And the amazing thing about these lights is they are ecofriendly.

It seems that the NY Times did an article on the lights earlier in the week that has generated an enormous amount of curiosity (and emails to Mark). From the Bogo Light website the following info was gleaned…

The BoGo Light is a scientific, eco-friendly breakthrough that is making an impact worldwide. From Cairo to Cape Town, from the Caribbean to the Amazon, it is improving the lives of individuals, families, and entire villages by replacing costly kerosene, candles, and disposable battery flashlights with an affordable, long lasting, solar flashlight.

Two billion people living in the developing world rely on kerosene lanterns, candles, and single-use battery flashlights for light at night. Not only are these options expensive, dangerous, and harmful to the environment, they also negatively impact health, education, and security.

From the radio yesterday and the company’s website it sound as if they are about to bust out. Mark Bent is a former US Diplomat having spent many years in Africa. They are partnered with the World Bank, and the UNHCR.

The Future – The task light is just the first step in our effort to change the world. Here are some of our exciting plans for the future.

  • We have nearly finished development of a room illumination system based on the same components as our task lights – a photovoltaic panel, double AA rechargeable batteries, and light emitting diodes.
  • Much of the developing world lacks access to clean water, so we will begin developing a solar powered water purification system.
  • Too many newborns in the developing world die from conditions easily preventable with proper lighting. We will shortly start researching and developing a solar powered light that can help newborns suffering from jaundice.
  • We want to help build a self-sustaining Africa: Africans helping Africans. To this end, our parent firm (SunNight Solar Enterprises) will partner with African small businesses and entrepreneurs to sell our products abroad.
  • We will continue to expand our present philanthropic efforts, supporting individual orphanages and schools in Africa, South America, and the Caribbean.

Looks like I am going to be investing in some solar lighting for my home…Why don’t you look into it yourself?

Later Folks…

Friday Morning Muse – minus coffee

It looks like I’ll be away from cyberspace for the next day or so playing with the medical professionals. Sitting here this morning without the morning coffee (or much of anything else), I’ve run through my email and checked in on some blog buddies and now I gotta run…Catch y’all tomorrow…

Thursday Morning Coffee Muse

As I wander into the kitchen each morning to pour that first cup I glance above the coffee maker to the weather station and check the outside conditions. At 6am this morning the outside temperature was already at 73 and the humidity was at 92%. By my definition summer has arrived. Given those conditions outside, even with the ac running in this old house the humidity almost never falls into the 50% range. Which I find surprising because in my reading somewhere in the last week I remember reading that a pleasant humidity was in the 40%-50% range. I remember thinking at the time that the person writing that must be from the west somewhere, because I don’t ever recall a reading like that here.

Oh well, emails are calling…

You have to love the Texas Legislature, the Houston Chronicle is reporting today that the “Senate OKs bill for school Bible classes”. You have to wonder what they are thinking, this is the state that keeps fighting the courts on school prayer, so now we want to teach the Bible. Or, are they planning a comparative religion course. For some reason I can’t see the Quran or the Bhagavad Gita on the shelves and being taught in a Texas schoolroom, though I wish a class of that nature was taught when I was in high school. Picture if you can, the track coach who gets assigned the new class of Bible Study 101…

AUSTIN — The Senate easily passed and sent to the governor a bill Wednesday to teach Bible classes to high school students, but lawmakers immediately disagreed on whether the measure would make the courses mandatory.

Legislative leaders differed on whether school districts may offer the religion studies course, or whether they are obligated to do so if 15 or more students sign up for it. Both “may” and “shall” show up in different sections of the House bill that the Senate passed 28-2 without changing.

I see now why we will be missing the wit of Molly Ivins, only she could see the humor of this kind of “Lawmaking”. I guess the real problem I have with this issue is that every quote and even the headline of the article call it “Bible class” not religion class. It seems to me it is starting off biased toward Christianity, not a great way to teach religious equality or separation. Even with a requirement for a curriculum and a “textbook” and not the Bible to teach the course, I see too much of a chance for local schools to do another end run around the constitutional separation of church and state.

Source: Senate OKs bill for school Bible classes | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

Living creatures are nourished by food, and food is nourished by rain; rain itself is the water of life, which comes from selfless worship and service. – Bhagavad Gita

You really have to give the Texas Legislature credit for creative taxation. Just when you thought there couldn’t be another sin to tax…They found one.

AUSTIN — Strip clubs would have to peel off $5 per customer for a new state sex assault prevention fund under legislation approved by the state Senate Wednesday.

The measure, pushed through the House earlier by Rep. Ellen Cohen, would require the clubs to take a daily count of patrons and pay the state $5 for each one. Those records would be subject to audits from the state comptroller.

I guess what floored me about this was the estimated revenue they expect to collect…

The fee is expected to raise $87 million over the next biennium — $25 million of which would go toward a sex assault prevention fund. The rest would go to the Texas health opportunity pool, which is used to provide assistance to low-income people.

A sinner here a sinner there, pretty soon it adds up to real money. Which sinner out there is going to stand up and say “don’t tax my perversion”?

Source: Law adds $5 strip-club fee to prevent sex attacks | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

I see Charles Manson it still kicking at 72. The newspaper is reporting a 11th denial of parole. I once sat and talked with a man who had the same intensity about him that came through the news photos of Manson. Needless to say, the man I spoke with scared the s–t out of me. I found myself staying aware of where he was in the room at all times. I thought at the time he could be another of the family of Manson and I really did not want to find out if I was right. I haven’t recalled that night in 30 plus years.

Time to take the youngest to her last day of school for this session…see y’all down the road.

Just call me slow…

I have been using Gmail as my online email since I managed to wrangle an invitation from my youngest son. I have used Google Reader as my feed reader for quite a while now too. Who knew they both shared a lot of the same keyboard shortcuts…Duh!

If you aren’t using some of the basics, go here and check’em out…Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts

Wednesday Muse – Climate Change

My email yesterday brought me the weekly newsletter from Earth Observatory a part of NASA. The first article they referenced was their updated Global Warming Reference. It is a good overview of what we are probably in for in the coming years.

Earth Observatory Reference: Global Warming

by Holli Riebeek • design by Robert Simmon • May 11, 2007

Over the last five years, 600 scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sifted through thousands of studies about global warming published in forums ranging from scientific journals to industry publications and distilled the world’s accumulated knowledge into this conclusion: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

Far from being some future fear, global warming is happening now, and scientists have evidence that humans are to blame. For decades, cars and factories have spewed billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and these gases caused temperatures to rise between 0.6°C and 0.9°C (1.08°F to 1.62°F) over the past century. The rate of warming in the last 50 years was double the rate observed over the last 100 years. Temperatures are certain to go up further.

One of the facts they mention that I wasn’t aware of is that during the last ice age the average temperature was only 9 to 15 degrees cooler than right now. That’s kind of scary to my way of thinking.

Source: Earth Observatory Reference: Global Warming

Follow that up with this years hurricane prediction and life looks very interesting…

Experts: Expect a busy hurricane season

Oceans warmer than last year, and there’s no El Niño to ward off activity

Federal scientists weighed in on the upcoming hurricane season Tuesday, and their report echoes that of other forecasters: The 2007 hurricane season will produce a greater number of storms than usual.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s report calls for 13 to 17 named storms, up to 10 of which might become hurricanes. About 10 tropical storms and hurricanes form during an average year.

And if that doesn’t make you feel warm and cuddly here on the coast, and remembering the damage from just a few years ago on the Blue Ridge from the rains spawned by these monster storms, they offer these words of encouragement…

Sea-surface temperatures are even warmer this year than in 2006, and climate scientists say they could approach levels of the record-breaking 2005 season — the year of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

Hurricane activity has been on the upswing since 1995 as Atlantic sea-surface temperatures have been rising. Scientists say this period of increased activity could last another 10 to 30 years as part of a natural, decades-long cycle.

I just love the editing that went into that last statement…”natural, decades-long cycle” indeed. True as far as it goes, since man is part of nature, anything we do to effect our environment is natural…Right? It seems to me this is about the same prediction I recall from the season before last. Didn’t it last into January? Didn’t we run out of assigned names and have to go to the Greek alphabet or some such convention?

Source: Experts: Expect a busy hurricane season | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season Track Map

It seems that even Verlyn Klinkenborg is thinking thoughts of global warming. The sight of wildfires burning in California started a chain of thoughts that almost have a spiritual feel to the imagery.

It began to seem to me that we are a species of fire-starters, and that all of our imprisoned fires are just so many versions of yet another cook-fire on the edge of night in a land where fuel has grown scarce from all the cook-fires of all the people.

I thought about this sudden vision for a couple of days. At first, it seemed almost overwhelming. I tried to picture all the combustions that are essential to the human ways of life in all their global diversity. I wondered what Earth would look like from our neighborhood in space if we could see all our incandescences, in all their forms, glowing at once. There would be only a faint corona of anthropogenic combustion, but it would be more than enough to have begun overwhelming the atmosphere, which is, after all, such a thin, faint halo around this planet.

The image of the cook-fire kept coming back to mind — the cook-fires I saw burning last June in a village in Tanzania, where every day the problem of fuel presented itself all over again. Sooner or later a wildfire burns itself out for lack of fuel. The question, I suppose, is whether our species will do the same.

It’s that final image that will live with me, the need for fire to cook with and the lack of fuel to start the fire. The unending hunt for new fuels and new methods of burning to sustain life here on Earth.

It seems to me that the Earth had been banking it’s carbon for eons then along came man. Man started to release the carbon, first before it was banked but before long it was easier to pull it out of the bank in it’s more concentrated form. All of this was no real problem when we were few and scattered about in small communities. Peer pressure kept everyone from getting too outrageous, when the neighbors are close and mostly kin no one person will be overly abusive of any resource. It’s only when the neighbors are unknown that resource abuse goes unpunished by the peer group.

Source: Letter From California: Some Thoughts on Living the Combustible Life – New York Times

It’s been a long morning but it’s time to start winding this down…Y’all have a great day.