Friday, 31 August 2007

The Last Posting of August

Maybe the last posting of the social summer...

People seem to think that the summer season ends with the advent of September. It really doesn't, not until circa 24 September, but the way in this area that the seasons are viewed are by other events than astronomy. The month of September is viewed as autumn, even though more than half of that month is summer astronomically speaking. But the kids return to school, the beaches are no longer open to people with money fees and life guards, and the vacation season has ended. Summer is over.

Tomorrow is 1 September and I will be in the Boonton Labor Day Parade in the line of march for judging. I need to be in my dress whites and have my cert cards with me. I have never been in the line of march of a judging parade. This will be something new for me. I'm nervous and excited. However, it will also be 1 September, the six-year anniversary of my car accident. I like the idea of replacing my accident with being in judged in a parade with the ambulance.

The time goes by so fast. It is amazing.


This is funny:

3-year-old Reese: "Our Father, Who does art in heaven, Harold is His name. Amen." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A little boy was overheard praying: "Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it. I'm having a real good time like I am."


After the christening of his baby brother in church, Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, "That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I wanted to stay with you guys."


One particular four-year-old prayed, "And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets."


A Sunday school teacher asked her children as they were on the way to church service, "And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?"

One bright little girl replied, "Because people are sleeping."


A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. "If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'"

Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, " Ryan, you be Jesus !"


A father was at the beach with his children when the four-year-old son ran up to him, grabbed his hand, and led him to the shore where a seagull lay dead in the sand. "Daddy, what happened to him?" the son asked.

"He died and went to Heaven," the Dad replied.

The boy thought a moment and then said, "Did God throw him back down?" ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?"

"I wouldn't know what to say," the girl replied.

"Just say what you hear Mommy say," the wife answered.

The daughter bowed her head and said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"

A New Survey

I always enjoy these things. My friend in England, the Bean, sent it to me - I haven't read it yet, so this should be interesting. So let me answer it, and see what others will discover.

Two Names You Go By:
1. Aislínge or Ash
2. Bunkie (my parents call me that - no one else!)

Two Things You Are Wearing Right Now:
1. My claddagh ring
2. Deep purple golf shirt

Two Things You Would Want (or have) in a Relationship:
1. Luis show more emotions
2. Stay happy like we have been and are

Two of Your Favorite Things to do:
1. Blogging/writing
2. Riding on the ambulance

Two Things You Want Very Badly At The Moment:
1. No more back pain
2. Autumn

Two pets you had/have:
1. Puss-puss, a black and white cat when I was a kid
2. Cheryl - a black and white Guinea pig

Two people who will fill this out:
1. Rich
2. Not sure!

Two things you did last night:
1. Read more of Under the Banner of Heaven
2. Watched CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

Two things you have eaten today:
1. BBQ chicken pizza
2. Pistachio nuts

Two people you Last Talked To:
1. Vicki Ahern [nee Tsigaridis]
2. Luis (heading home from West Palm Beach, FL)

Two Things You're doing tomorrow:
1. Picking up Luis' vehicle
2. Riding/driving the rig in the Boonton Labor Day Parade

What were your longest car rides:
1. Niagara Falls, Canada - May 2000
2. Virginia - August 2001

Two Favorite Holidays (Vacations):
1. The British Isles - August 1985
2. Palm Springs, CA - June 1999

Two favorite beverages:
1. Nice cuppa tea! (Decaf Lady Grey with sugar and skim milk)
2. Pomegranate-cranberry juice

Now, here's what you're supposed to do... and please do not spoil the fun. Hit forward, delete my answers and type in your answers. Then send this to a whole bunch of people you know INCLUDING the person who sent it to you. The theory is that you will learn a lot of little known facts about those whom you know.

Remember, I almost never pass these things on. I hate that. But posting it is different. Have fun!

Suddenly Feeling Hopeful!

I went this morning to get the x-rays taken, which was a great experience; the technician, Jeff, was really great - personable, funny, knowledgeable and very anal about making sure that the scans came out really perfect, no blurs or issues. It was interesting, too, to see how far the technology has come. The table under me held the "films" although I don't know if they are really films anymore. The machine that goes over the table can be adjusted up and down, and moves on rails for very easy adjustment. The machinery is small and not noisy. Technology is an incredible thing.

I got the scans on a disc and called Betsy to let her know I was heading over. I drove over to Biomed, and brought her the disc, and she had me come up to her cubicle. I found myself remembering the companies I'd worked for with cubicle-lands. I found myself smiling - the place was a beautifully designed place, but cold. Not temperature cold, but cold, austere, all squares and hard lines and little cubicles. I don't miss that at all.

Anyway, Betsy transferred the scans over to another disc and pulled them up on her computer. She had a coworker, a very nice guy, who apparently is really versed in looking at spinal scans and he did not see any signs of a herniation or old trauma to the spine.


No herniation. I thought my knees were going to give out from the naked relief I felt. It washed over me like a wave. I was smiling, I know that. Oh, the relief. The unbelievable relief. As though a huge weight was lifted from me. I almost cried, I was so relieved.

And now, despite the pain, despite the not having an answer for this, despite knowing that there may be an MRI and more tests and doctors visits down the road, I know what I don't have - a herniated disc!

A.W.A.D. - A Potpourri of Words!

This week we feature a potpourri of words. We opened a dictionary, shook it gently, and these words fell out. They came in all shapes, sizes, and senses. They're short and long. They're flighty and grouchy. Call 'em what you will, a medley of words, a farrago, or a gallimaufry. They're disparate, they're diverse. They are varied and variegated, unclassified and unsorted. And they're all ready to serve.

(bed-SWUR-vuhr) noun
An unfaithful spouse.

[From Old English bedd (bed) + sweorfan (to rub, to file away).]

(EYE-sur-vis) noun
Work done only when the employer is present.

[Referring to the service performed only when the employer is watching.]

(mu-LA-shuh, -shee-uh) noun
1. An abnormal craving for spiced food.
2. Softening of the organ or tissue.

[From Greek malakia (softness), ultimately from the Indo-European root mel- (soft) which also gave us malacology (study of mollusks), malt, melt, and mulch.]

(trans-PON-tyn) adjective
1. Across the bridge.
2. Situated on the south side of the Thames River in London.
3. Melodramatic (alluding to the type of dramas once performed in theaters south of the Thames).

[From Latin trans- (across) + pont (bridge). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pent- (to tread) that also gave us words such as English find, Dutch pad (path), French pont (bridge), and Russian sputnik (traveling companion).]

(ruh-SOR-ee-uhl) adjective
Given to scratching the ground to look for food.

[From Latin radere (to scrape), ultimately from the Indo-European rootred- (to scrape or scratch) that's also the source of raze, razor, erase, corrode, rascal, rat, and rodent.]

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Still Feeling Hopeless and Helpless

I know that physically I am not in good shape. I know I am not a model by any means. I get that - but I get that I am still suffering from severe back pain and I don't know what to do. I am going tomorrow to get the x-ray. I have been told that I may have a herniated disk. I know enough people - friends, patients - who have this and I am scared. Scared to my bones. I don't want to live my life in pain forever. I don't want to have to undergo back surgery that has not really fixed anyone with this problem. I work hard to be happy and positive but it is a struggle just to get up and function.

Some of that is undoubtedly the medication - muscle relaxants and narcotics do not make you feel normal. It is hard to be normal on this stuff. But I am much more unhappy thinking that my future may not have EMS in it; that I may be in pain for the rest of my life. I don't want to be that person.

The fact is that if this is the case, well, I'm a fighter and a survivor and I'll go on to find other things to make my life complete. But it will be harder and it will really be very different if I can no longer be an EMT. My HR life, I think, will get better again and return to more normal working, but I may have to be more aware of how much I'm doing. Maybe I will need to work six days at seven hours each day instead of cramming everything into five days. I don't mind that too much; I think Luis might mind it, though.

I need to stop, I'm imagining the absolute worst case and there may not be anything that severe. I just need to be positive. I'm trying, anyway.

Refrigeration May Be Returning!

The guy from the Sears Repair center came and installed the compressor. He said there is a teeny-tiny chance that maybe something would be wrong with it, and it will not be usable for one full day. It takes time to cool down and for the freezer to be frozen, not merely cold. So at 1600 tomorrow I can restock the fridge.

I hope.

I was so happy that he came and fixed this I could've hugged him. But I won't actually know until tomorrow if this is truly fixed. It has been a long ten days without. My mother said something about how her grandmother never had refrigeration and what it must have been like to live without it. I find that amazing too, but in this case, my discovery was more like how dependent we have become on these things. I have had refrigeration all of my 40 years and while it has gotten bigger and more complex, it is still the same basic concept - food lasts much longer than without. Going without for ten days has been annoying as all get out. But it makes me wonder if we aren't too much creatures of comfort.

Just maybe.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Standy At Jimmy and the Parrots Concert

The township of Parsippany finally pulled it off and got a really great band! We saw Jimmy and the Parrots when they played at the Hot Air Balloon festival last year, the end of July (there is a posting there... under 28 July called "Balloons and Big Toes" and there is a shot of Jimmy and the Parrots playing there). They were very, very good and a lot of fun. They also bounced around and had a lot of fun, ignoring the unbelievable heat and full of energy.

Me with Nan from Car 65.

This is our third concert in Parsippany, and the first two were really bad. What a disappointment they both were. But Jimmy and the Parrots were fun, talented and really made the concert thoroughly enjoyable. Not to mention that it was another fun time with the OEM and Car 65 people - a lot of good people that I always enjoy seeing!

It also got me out of the house, and although I wasn't thrilled to be using the Percocet, it made it manageable. I was able to stand around and talk to people and got some good pictures. And the band mugged for a good shot! They played good songs, like Van Morrison's Brown-Eyed Girl (a particulate favourite of mine)!

A VERY Bad Driver!

This person should have her license revoked immediately. She was tailgating and playing musical lanes and was a complete danger to everyone. Here is what to avoid! What an idiot.

The Sun By Day

Loving astronomy means more than just the moon and the lunar eclipses, of which I have seen many over my 39 years of living. But there is the magic and majesty of the sun, which gives us life in rich abundance, deserts, jungles, etc. The sun that gives life to everything, all that we are and have. I love the sun, too - and not in a how-much-pigmentation-can-I-add way, either. I can't anyway - I'm Irish, but I have sallow skin that fries and then returns to its natural yellow-white state...
The sun rising over the New York City skyline seen from the fourth tee of the Upper Course. This was taken on Tuesday, 28 August, at approximately 0625.

I have an incredible telescope that lets me view the sun as much as the moon and the stars at night. I have a big incredibly dark filter made for solar viewing. I had it in time for the transit of Venus across the morning sun in June of 2004. It was AMAZING. My intent is to also see it transit again in 2012. I'm hoping the gods are as good to me on this as they were the first time.

I would love to say I took this but no, I did not.

I may have missed the lunar eclipse yesterday morning, but John mentioned the sunrise looking incredible from the fourth tee. So I took the cart up there and wow. Wait until you see these images!

I have had the intense and indescribable experience of one solar eclipse in my lifetime, in 1979. The sun was ecipsed in the middle of the day and the sight was unreal. Truly a beautiful thing to see. It was a million years ago, but I remember it so well. I also experienced a partial solar eclipse in 2002, and while it was no where near as spectacular as the full deal, it was... very strange. The air quality was very strange... I remember it clearly but it is hard to describe. Very hard to describe. It had a... sort of greyed out feel to it... I don't have the right words.

Some stats on Sol: Our Sun is a normal main-sequence G2 star, one of more than 100 billion stars in our galaxy. diameter: 1,390,000 km. mass: 1.989e30 kg temperature: 5800 K (surface) 15,600,000 K (core)

The Sun is by far the largest object in the solar system. It contains more than 99.8% of the total mass of the Solar System (Jupiter contains most of the rest).
It is often said that the Sun is an "ordinary" star. That's true in the sense that there are many others similar to it. But there are many more smaller stars than larger ones; the Sun is in the top 10% by mass. The median size of stars in our galaxy is probably less than half the mass of the Sun.

The Sun is personified in many mythologies: the Greeks called it Helios and the Romans called it Sol.

The Sun is, at present, about 70% hydrogen and 28% helium by mass everything else ("metals") amounts to less than 2%. This changes slowly over time as the Sun converts hydrogen to helium in its core.

The outer layers of the Sun exhibit differential rotation: at the equator the surface rotates once every 25.4 days; near the poles it's as much as 36 days. This odd behavior is due to the fact that the Sun is not a solid body like the Earth. Similar effects are seen in the gas planets. The differential rotation extends considerably down into the interior of the Sun but the core of the Sun rotates as a solid body.

Conditions at the Sun's core (approximately the inner 25% of its radius) are extreme. The temperature is 15.6 million Kelvin and the pressure is 250 billion atmospheres. At the center of the core the Sun's density is more than 150 times that of water.

The Sun's energy output (3.86e33 ergs/second or 386 billion billion megawatts) is produced by nuclear fusion reactions. Each second about 700,000,000 tons of hydrogen are converted to about 695,000,000 tons of helium and 5,000,000 tons (=3.86e33 ergs) of energy in the form of gamma rays. As it travels out toward the surface, the energy is continuously absorbed and re-emitted at lower and lower temperatures so that by the time it reaches the surface, it is primarily visible light. For the last 20% of the way to the surface the energy is carried more by convection than by radiation.
I did take this the same date as above about ten minutes later. It is magic!

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

The Moon By Night

This is Wikipedia's image of the moon.

I think man has been completely beguiled and besotted by the Moon since he first looked up to the full moon and thought about what he was seeing. I feel that way every time I look at the moon in all of its phases - full, half, crescent, visible in the day or the night. I love it when it is a largesickle hanging low in the sky in the crepescular light of dawn.

The sun shall not smite thee by day,
Nor the moon by night

It is with those amazing words that I look upon the Moon as my friend. Astronomy makes some people feel insignificant, but astronomy is the celestial dance to which we all belong, just as we are a part of the Earth, the Earth is a part of the solar system and the solar system is a part of our galaxy, the Milky Way. We are all fitted together. An insect has his role in the universe just as Jupiter has its role.

This image is also mine, taken as the Moon went more into the Umbral shadow of the moon.

I got up with my alarm at 0420 and there was the moon, just 25 minutes into the penumbral shadow of the earth. There is nothing quite like a full (umbral) lunar eclipse. The moon gets slowly overshadowed until it goes into the umbra, and once in totality, it can turn orange, blood red or in rare cases, grey. Then just like the moment is over and a sliver of bright light comes as the shadow of the earth continues on its path.

As I drove into work, there were some minor clouds but the slowly occluded moon was visible, delightfully so. By the time I got to work, it was too low on the horizon to see it - but the western sky is not well viewed from the golf course. I drove a cart in the semi-darkness to the Grounds Admin building where I met up with John Hyland. (John looks just like Wilford Brimley - and he sounds just like him, too. I really like John and he and I both appreciate nature greatly.) He hopped in the cart with me and took me to the best vantage point to see the setting eclipsing moon. Unfortunately by then it was too cloudy to see all but the bottom of the very ruddy crescent, and it set into the tree line before reaching totality. But it was nice to see what I did and I loved having John to share the experience with me.

Well, John gave me directions up to the fourth Upper course tee, to see the sun rise. Oh, oh, my gods. I want to buy John a gift. The photos I took... it magical, amazing, an awesome sight and I have images galore of it. I will post those tomorrow. I can feel the muscle relaxants working on me now, so it is soon bedtime.
This is my image of the moon taken on 27 October 2004 during the last total eclipse until March 2007 (which was also occluded by clouds). I held my camera up to the eye piece of my telescope to get this shot.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say:

The Moon (Latin: Luna) is Earth's only permanent natural satellite. It is the fifth largest moon in the Solar System. The average centre-to-centre distance from the Earth to the Moon is 384,403 kilometres (238,857 miles), which is about 30 times the diameter of the Earth. The Moon has a diameter of 3,474 kilometres (2,159 miles)[1]—slightly more than a quarter that of the Earth. This means that the volume of the Moon is close to 1/50th that of Earth. The gravitational pull at its surface is about 1/6th of Earth's. The Moon makes a complete orbit around the Earth every 27.3 days, and the periodic variations in the geometry of the Earth–Moon–Sun system are responsible for the lunar phases that repeat every 29.5 days.

The gravitational, centripetal forces generated by the rotation of the Moon and Earth around a common axis, the barycentre, are largely responsible for the tides on Earth. The energy dissipated in generating tides is directly responsible for the reduction in potential energy in the Moon-Earth orbit around the barycentre, resulting in a 3.8 cm yearly increase in the distance between the two bodies.[2] The Moon will continue to move slowly away from the Earth until the tidal effects between the two are no longer of significance, whereupon the Moon's orbit will stabilise.

The Moon is the only celestial body to which humans have travelled and upon which humans have landed. The first artificial object to escape Earth's gravity and pass near the Moon was the Soviet Union's Luna 1, the first artificial object to impact the lunar surface was Luna 2, and the first photographs of the normally occluded far side of the Moon were made by Luna 3, all in 1959. The first spacecraft to perform a successful lunar soft landing was Luna 9, and the first unmanned vehicle to orbit the Moon was Luna 10, both in 1966.[1] The U.S. Apollo program achieved the only manned missions to date, resulting in six landings between 1969 and 1972. Human exploration of the Moon ceased with the conclusion of the Apollo program, although, as of 2007, several countries have announced plans to send either people or robotic spacecraft to the Moon.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Is This REALLY Funny?

While some of it was cute, this mostly serves to show how prejudiced people are:


Sometimes being Irish engenders a lot of ideas that get old fast. I'm unusual for not drinking alcohol; I'm almost unheard of because I'm Irish and don't drink. Of course, no one mentions that the German, Russian and British/Scottish side drinks, either. Hmmmm. Anyone know any culture that does NOT drink?

Most Irish people I know are married. How is that even a noteworthy thing?

Most Irish people I know are employed. Again, not sure how that has become an Irish thing.


Oh, because in America, we have no one who doesn't know their father. Or plenty of Americans or other nationalities in trouble with the law. And Jesus sounds better in Spanish.


I had to laugh at the talking with his hands. Italians are one of many cultures who do that, but I don't know if anyone compares with them as to how much they do say with their hands. I suppose the French and many other cultures don't have wine with most meals? (I don't think any culture has it was breakfast...) Well, the building trades do have many Italians, but many of them own their own companies in trades. Heinous. What a crime that is. (Yes, that is sarcasm...)


I hire people who can do the job, not people based on anything as non-qualifying as pigmentation. What no permenant address? No one else is like that? I don't know if "brother" is still the current vernacular. That may be out of date by, say, decades.


I was in California. I must not have been to the right part. I missed all of those things.


OK, I will admit that I don't know a whole lot about the Iranian culture. And I don't know if many Americans really do understand the Iranian culture, since no one here seems to be interested in learning about it. I know someone from Afghanistan and I must say, by her description, it is so vastly different from anything we know, we are hardly qualified to comment upon it. Most Amish don't leave home. I can't imagine that anyone thinks their mother is a virgin, once they understand the reproductive system, and many, many people regardless of culture, follow into their father's business.

What's funny about erroneous assumptions about others?

An Interesting Comment

I got this e-mail:

tom sheepandgoats has left a new comment on your post "Zealots of Religion":

'No. Not about the fringe group, anyway. But I'm not so sure about this, which we hear so often it seems popular wisdom:... 'it is the height of unforgivable hubris to say, "Mine is the only right one and the rest are wrong"'. I don't know why that conclusion has to hold. Religion, after all, is a path. A lot of paths don't really lead anywhere or even lead a way we don't want to go. If only one group was making such claims, probably we would, albeit with a little grousing, make examination. But when such groups are a dime a dozen, it's hard to resist bundling and dismissing them all as nutcakes, I agree.'

I'm not sure if Tom is defending religious groups in general or agreeing with me. I found his blog and it looks like the main focus is religion. And I agree with his description that it is a path. I guess it is up to each person what it is a path to; but when groups kill children, what possible good thing can such a bloodsoaked, body-littered path lead to? Is it like the extremist Islam believers with the 77 virgins? Or avarice beyond imagining? What kind of god would be forgiving of such a thing?

I wonder all the time about religion. I don't wonder, however, if it is wrong to kill people. Or marry girls off to old men. Or bombing any other country in the name of my god. I never have to wonder - I don't think any being with that much intelligence requires obiesence in that way.

Another Unsatisfying Medical Experience

I am consistently being led astray by the medical community. Or I'm being put off on a regular basis... I am still having trouble with my back. Shocking. It's been 12 days and nothing is working, but then again, all I have had done is have drugs thrown at me. It's beyond old now. How long am I supposed to go down this road?

I went to my doctor on Friday, 17 August, was twisted twice like a pretzel and given the muscle relaxant - whatever it was called - and told to put heat on it. Then on Saturday I went to the hospital (not by bus, but by Luis in my car (a strange experience, being a passenger in my own vehicle). The doctor felt around my back a little bit, recommended heat and gave me scripts for percocet and Valium (yikes). More drugs.

Today I called up my doctor and he is away on vacation. He gave the information for a covering doctor at the Montville Medical Associates. I called them and got an appointment for this afternoon. I was ushered into a room, had my vitals checked, then left alone for a bit. Then the doctor came in. She was a young, pleasant woman. She ran her hands down my back in a couple of places, said that there really isn't much to do. I ended up with a script to have an x-ray of my back taken... an x-ray... what the hell for?! An MRI at least would show everything, while an x-ray only shows bones and lung opacities. How is that helpful?

They don't do x-rays there. I have to call a couple of different places and see if they'll take my insurance. Wahoo. Unbelievable.

So this is it, this is the wonder of modern medicine.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Zealots of Religion

I am not a good person when it comes to the whole religious thing.

There are several reasons for this, but what I hear in the news and what motivates a lot of the current events certainly doesn't help. I understand the basic tenets of most religions, and I understand the appeal of it to most people. No one likes not knowing things, not knowing why things happen, and religion allows for an easy answer to allay those fears. Whether it is total fiction or the old standby that "God works in mysterious ways", many are comforted by having an answer.

There is nothing wrong with that.

And on paper, broken down to the very simplest of rules, religion is meant to give good directions: be a good person, don't harm others, you get the idea. Once people get involved in running it, then it loses that goodness.

For me personally, I have not had much exposure to religion. Ray was raised a Christian Scientist, but is not practising and is by his own admission, agnostic. My mother was nominally raised Jewish but openly is an atheist. Harry was raised Methodist in a very casual way. My maternal grandmother held seders and professed a belief in being Jewish, but that was as far as that went. My paternal grandparents were Methodist but Pop-pop could really care less about all of it and my grandmother was entirely motivated by "what would the neighbours think" when it came to religion.

I am never destined to be a big believer in any one religion. I like little bits of different ones, and I enjoy the history of them and I like to read about them all - mostly I find it mystifying that anyone believes any of it that strongly. I am too pragmatic to fall into the dogmatic side of it; and too much a scientist and a questioner to ever have blind faith.

As a whole, religious people don't bother me. Keep it simple and keep it to yourself. People who prosthelitize are annoying and the idea that out of so many religions and their countless subsects, it is the height of unforgivable hubris to say, "Mine is the only right one and the rest are wrong". If you love diversity in people, you gotta love all of the diversity in people. How can you be so prejudiced against so many different groups? Of course I say that about humans - how can anyone hate people because of skin tone, eye colour, physical features, but there are inordinate numbers of people who do blindly hates others for just those reasons. People certainly disappoint on that level.

But any religion has its nuts - in polite society they are called zealots; but there is very little to distinguish them from the truly insane. Anyone running around gunning down others, resorting to terrorism, living in cloistered away secret societies clearly must recognise on some level that they are taking this to an extreme. Well, maybe not - certainly they are all able to justify the worst behaviour under the guise of following God - but to do these things... I don't know. I don't understand it at all.

There are some religions that I don't understand at all. Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Southern Baptists... these are strange groups. And that is the more "mainstream" ones. And maybe they really aren't so bad in and of themselves, but then you get these little offshoots that are just scary.

I'm currently reading a book called Under the Banner of Heaven. It is about a fringe group of Mormons that broke off from the LDS (the Church of the Latter Day Saints) and is still practising polygamy to a ridiculous point. You can pretty it up all you want and I personally don't particularly care if someone wants to practise polygamy - I think marriage to one person is a lot of work so marrying two seems like way too much work! - but when one old guy is marrying every 12-year-old he can find, that is nothing more than pediphelia.

Am I wrong?

The Process of Aeration

This week is aeration week. It is called "airification" by the Grounds department, but I suspect the correct word is aeration. No matter what, though, it is an interesting process!

Three times a year, the golf course goes through this process, a necessary rejuvination of grass that takes quite a lot of abuse from its constituents. (So to speak...) But the August one is the biggie - the whole course gets done, not just the tees and greens. And the fairways definitely take longer than anything, as they take up a lot of the space. Gold courses are big creatures - and ours is a 36-hole course (the Upper course and the Lower course), so there are acres of grass to be done. Not a day's work!

The process is this: holes are bored through the course, about one and a half to two inches apart, and maybe two or three inches long. The dirt cores are all shoveled and carted off (I don't honestly know what they do with all the cored dirt). Then, sand is thrown onto the area to fill in the holes. The idea is that this process allows the grass (which is by no means normal "check out my yard" grass) to grow in better, thicker, etc.

As usual, I can go to Wikipedia and see what they have on it... they seem to know everything!

"Refers to the extent of air gaps in soil. Aeration commonly refers to the process of using mechanized equipment to either puncture the soil with spikes (spike aeration) or remove approximately 1"X2" cores of soil from the ground (core aeration). Spike aeration involves the use of an aeration machine with spikes up to a foot or more in length. Spike aeration is sometimes used to address drainage issues in areas with turf. Core aeration is done on turf areas as a means of reducing turf compaction, reducing thatch buildup, improving the infiltration of water/nutrients, and creating an environment where grass seed can have direct contact with the soil."

Having seen this last year, the difference is staggering. I mean it is very visible almost immediately - the grass looks so amazing about a week to two weeks after this is done. The course always looks great and this is in July when we have had a full season with golfers compacting the grasses and gouging pieces of it and us changing the holes around very few days. That is a ton of wear and tear. To see this magic occur in a matter of days is incredible.

Unfortunately, the weather gods have not been good to us this year - more so than usual. This week was a perfect example. We should have had this all done by Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, but with the overcast drizzly weather on Monday and Tuesday's active rain, there was nothing to do but wait. Last year, we had perfect weather for this - they started Sunday night, waited for the outing on Monday to end, then worked their butts off until Thursday morning. Thursday night we had a storm that gave all the newly refurbished ground a good soaking, and all was well! I suspect that they are still working on the aeration process today (which is not great, as it is disgustingly humid out there!).

That Hopeless Feeling

I know someone at work who is watching his daughter go through hell. Apparently there is a messy divorce and a terrible fight over the child from this now-broken union, and he is suffering, his daughter is really suffering and his grandchild is suffering - or will be. There is no way to come out of that without extra baggage that no one needs.

I heard myself saying to my coworker that while I cannot imagine on any level what she is going through, having been in a very happy relationship for over 17 years, I do understand on a very personal level the despair, the hopelessness, that she is feeling. It is an ugly, ugly thing.

My situation is nothing like that, and logically, I feel that there must be a solution, an end to this, but right now, after a full nine days of intense torturous pain, the hopelessness has set in. Last Wednesday I began to have painful back muscle spasms. And not just one muscle that would tighten up for a while, but really, really intense spasms all over the lower thoracic and lumber regions. If you are that interested, you can dig for the very detailed posting about my accident on 1 September 2001. That was the start of it.

This has nothing to do with the muscular dystrophy.

Last Friday (not yesterday) I finally went to the doctor. He twisted me like a pretzel a couple of times, then prescribed... oh, what the hell is it? Wait a second... no, I can't go look - the cat is very happily curled up against my right leg and I just can't dislodge her for that. (That's Ariel - Chelsea never wants to lay next to me when she can lay on me!) Anyway, this stuff is unbelievable. Turns my muscles into total jelly - including my brain (it knocks me out). So now I'm joking with everyone that my brain is a muscle! [The cat got up and now I can find it - carisoprodol - don't let yourself get stuck taking this. Yikes!]
The timing is poor, as well (not that there is ever a good time for this...) with the refrigerator and freezer having died.

Well. Nothing has improved. I have managed to put in mostly full days at work; this week I worked about 35 hours, quite a change from my normal 50. I love my job but sitting there in agonising pain is not okay and not worth it. So I have been leaving early most days (Thursday with all its disasters was a nine-hour day. If I'd only known what that was going to bring...). Every time I have left, it has been in excruciating pain. After over a week of this, it is very difficult to not think that this is my life. That I will always be in pain. That feeling...

...of total hopelessness.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Happy Anniversary - Mt. Vesuvius

Thank you, Wikipedia, for the endless font of knowledge that you are!

Vesuvius has erupted many times. The famous eruption in 79 was preceded by numerous others in prehistory, including at least 3 significantly larger ones, the best known being the Avellino eruption around 1800 BC which engulfed several Bronze Age settlements. Since 79, the volcano has also erupted repeatedly, in 172, 203, 222, possibly 303, 379, 472, 512, 536, 685, 787, around 860, around 900, 968, 991, 999, 1006, 1037, 1049, around 1073, 1139, 1150, and there may have been eruptions in 1270, 1347, and 1500. The volcano erupted again in 1631, six times in the 18th century, eight times in the 19th century (notably in 1872), and in 1906, 1929, and 1944. There has been no eruption since 1944, and none of the post-79 eruptions were as large or destructive.

The eruptions vary greatly in severity but are characterized by explosive outbursts of the kind dubbed Plinian after Pliny the Younger, the Roman naturalist who observed the 79 eruption, to which his uncle Pliny the Elder possibly fell victim. On occasion, the eruptions have been so large that the whole of southern Europe has been blanketed by ash; in 472 and 1631, Vesuvian ash fell on Constantinople (Istanbul), over 1,200 km away. A few times since 1944, landslides in the crater raised clouds of ash dust, which caused false alarms of an eruption.

Before 79
The mountain started forming 25,000 years ago. Although the area has been subject to volcanic activity for at least 400,000 years, the lowest layer of eruption material from the Somma mountain lies on top of the 34,000 year-old Campanian Ignimbrite produced by the Campi Flegrei complex, and was the product of the Cordola plinian eruption 25,000 years ago. It was then built up by a series of lava flows, with some smaller explosive eruptions interspersed between them. However, the style of eruption changed around 19,000 years ago to a sequence of large explosive plinian eruptions, of which the 79 one was the last. The eruptions are named after the tephra deposits produced by them:

The Basal Pumice (Pomici di Base) eruption, 18,300 years ago, VEI 6, was probably the most violent of these eruptions and saw the original formation of the Somma caldera. The eruption was followed by a period of much less violent, lava producing eruptions.
The Green Pumice (Pomici Verdoline) eruption, 16,000 years ago, VEI 5.

The Mercato eruption (also known as Pomici Gemelle or Ottaviano), 8,000 years ago, VEI 6, followed a smaller explosive eruption around 11,000 years ago (called the Lagno Amendolare eruption).

The Avellino eruption (Pomici di Avellino), 1660 BC ± 43 years, VEI 6, followed two smaller explosive eruptions around 5,000 years ago. The Avellino eruption vent was apparently 2 km west of the current crater, and the eruption destroyed several Bronze Age settlements. The remarkably well-preserved remains of one were discovered in May 2001 near Nola by Italian archaeologists, with huts, pots, livestock and even the footprints of animals and people, as well as skeletons. The residents had hastily abandoned the village, leaving it to be buried under pumice and ash in much the same way that Pompeii was later preserved. The eruption was larger than the ones of 79 (VEI 5) and 1631 (VEI 4) with pyroclastic surge deposits distributed to the northwest of the vent, the surges travelling as far as 15 km from it, and lie up to 3 m deep in the area now occupied by Naples.

The volcano then entered a stage of more frequent, but less violent, eruptions until the most recent plinian eruption which destroyed Pompeii.

The last of these may have been in 217 BC. There were earthquakes in Italy during that year and the sun was reported as being dimmed by a haze or dry fog. Plutarch wrote of the sky being on fire near Naples and Silius Italicus mentioned in his epic poem Punica that Vesuvius had thundered and produced flames worthy of Mount Etna in that year, although both authors were writing around 250 years later. Greenland ice core samples of around that period show relatively high acidity, which is assumed to have been caused by atmospheric hydrogen sulfide.

The mountain was then quiet for hundreds of years and was described by Roman writers as having been covered with gardens and vineyards, except at the top which was craggy. Within a large circle of nearly perpendicular cliffs was a flat space large enough for the encampment of the army of the rebel gladiator Spartacus in 73 BC. This area was doubtless a crater. The mountain may have had only one summit at that time, judging by a wall painting, "Bacchus and Vesuvius", found in a Pompeiian house, the House of the Centenary (Casa del Centenario).

Several surviving works written over the 200 years preceding the 79 eruption describe the mountain as having had a volcanic nature, although Pliny the Elder did not depict the mountain in this way in his Naturalis Historia:

The Greek historian Strabo (ca 63 BC-24 AD) described the mountain in Book V, Chapter 4 of his Geographica as having a predominantly flat, barren summit covered with sooty, ash-coloured rocks and suggested that it might once have had "craters of fire". He also perceptively suggested that the fertility of the surrounding slopes may be due to volcanic activity, as at Mount Etna.

In Book II of De Architectura, the architect Vitruvius (ca 80-70 BC -?) reported that fires had once existed abundantly below the mountain and that it had spouted fire onto the surrounding fields. He went on to describe Pompeiian Pumice as having been burnt from another species of stone.

Diodorus Siculus (ca 90 BC — ca 30 BC), another Greek writer, wrote in Book IV of his Bibliotheca Historica that the Campanian plain was called fiery (Phlegrean) because of the mountain, Vesuvius, which had spouted flame like Etna and showed signs of the fire that had burnt in ancient history.

By 79 the area was, as now, densely populated with villages, towns and small cities like Pompeii, and its slopes were covered in vineyards and farms.

Eruption of 79
By the 1st century, Pompeii was only one of a number of towns located around the base of Mount Vesuvius. The area had a substantial population which grew prosperous from the region's renowned agricultural fertility. Many of Pompeii's neighboring communities, most famously Herculaneum, also suffered damage or destruction during the 79 eruption, which is thought to have lasted about 19 hours, in which time the volcano released about 1 cubic mile (4 cubic kilometres) of ash and rock over a wide area to the south and south-east of the crater, with about 3 m (10 ft) of tephra falling on Pompeii. The white ash produced by this eruption is mainly of leucite and phonolite.

The 79 eruption was preceded by a powerful earthquake seventeen years beforehand on 5 February 62, which caused widespread destruction around the Bay of Naples, and particularly to Pompeii. Some of the damage had still not been repaired when the volcano erupted. However, this may have been a tectonic event rather than one associated with the re-awakening of the volcano.

Another smaller earthquake took place in 64; it was recorded by Suetonius in his biography of Nero, in De Vita Caesarum, and by Tacitus in Book XV of Annales because it took place whilst Nero was in Naples performing for the first time in a public theatre. Suetonius recorded that the emperor continued singing through the earthquake until he had finished his song, whilst Tacitus wrote that the theatre collapsed shortly after being evacuated.

The Romans grew used to minor earth tremors in the region; the writer Pliny the Younger writing that they "were not particularly alarming because they are frequent in Campania". In early August of 79, springs and wells dried up. Small earthquakes started taking place on 20 August, 79 becoming more frequent over the next four days, but the warnings were not recognised (it is worth noting the Romans had no word for volcano, and only a hazy concept of other similar mountains like Mount Etna, home of Vulcan), and on the afternoon of 24 August, a catastrophic eruption of the volcano started. The eruption devastated the region, burying Pompeii and other settlements. By coincidence it was the day after Vulcanalia, the festival of the Roman god of fire.

Nature of the eruption
The eruption of Vesuvius on 24 and 25 August, 79, unfolded in two phases, a Plinian eruption that lasted eighteen to twenty hours and produced a rain of pumice southward of the cone that built up to depths of 2.8 meters at Pompeii, followed by a pyroclastic flow or nuée ardente in the second, Peléan phase that reached as far as Misenum but was concentrated to the west and northwest. Two pyroclastic flows engulfed Pompeii, burning and asphyxiating the stragglers who had remained behind. Oplontis and Herculaneum received the brunt of the flows and were buried in fine ash and pyroclastic deposits.

The Two Plinys
Pliny the Younger
The only surviving reliable eyewitness account of the event was recorded by Pliny the Younger in two letters to the historian Tacitus. Observing it from Misenum (across the bay, approximately 35 km from the volcano) whilst his uncle sailed closer, he saw an extraordinarily dense and rapidly-rising cloud appearing above the mountain:

“I cannot give you a more exact description of its appearance than by comparing to a pine tree; for it shot up to a great height in the form of a tall trunk, which spread out at the top as though into branches. ... Occasionally it was brighter, occasionally darker and spotted, as it was either more or less filled with earth and cinders. (Sixth Book of Letters, Letter 16.)”

This was the eruption column, now estimated to have been more than 32 km (20 miles) tall.

After some time he described the cloud rushing down the flanks of the mountain and covering everything around it, including the surrounding sea. This is known today as a pyroclastic flow, which is a cloud of superheated gas, ash, and rock that erupts from a volcano. Geologists have used the magnetic characteristics of over 200 volcanic rocks and pieces of debris (e.g. roof tiles) found in Pompeii to estimate the temperature of this pyroclastic flow. (When molten rock solidifies, magnetic minerals in the rock record the direction of Earth's magnetic field. If the material is heated above a certain temperature, known as the Curie temperature, the rock's magnetic field may be modified or completely reset.) Most of the materials analyzed experienced temperatures between 240 °C and 340 °C (with a few areas showing lower temperatures of only 180 °C). This suggests that the ash cloud had a temperature of 850 °C when emerging from the mouth of Vesuvius and had cooled to below 350 °C by the time it reached the city. It is theorized that turbulence may have mixed cool air into the ash cloud. (Cioni, et al., 2004). This is now called the Plinian stage of the eruption, named after both the younger and elder Plinys.

Pliny stated that several earth tremors were felt at the time of the eruption and were followed by a very violent shaking of the ground. He also noted that ash was falling in very thick sheets and the village he was in had to be evacuated, and then that the sun was blocked out by the eruption and the daylight hours were left in darkness. Also, the sea was sucked away and forced back by an "earthquake", a phenomenon now called a tsunami.

Pliny the Elder
Pliny’s uncle Pliny the Elder was in command of the Roman fleet at Misenum, and had meanwhile decided to take several ships to investigate the phenomenon at close hand. The fleet also attempted a rescue mission for those at the foot of the volcano when, as the ship was preparing to leave the area, a messenger arrived from a friend of Pliny’s living on the coast near the foot of the volcano imploring him to rescue her. He set off across the bay but encountered thick showers of hot cinders, lumps of pumice and pieces of rock which, altering the shoreline and water depths, blocked his approach to the shore and prevented him from landing there. The prevailing southerly wind also stopped him landing there, but he continued south under it to Stabiae (about 4.5 km from Pompeii) where he landed and took shelter with Pomponianus, a friend. Pomponianus had already loaded a ship with possessions and was preparing to leave, but the wind was against him.

Pliny and his party saw flames coming from several parts of the mountain (probably pyroclastic flows and surges, which would later destroy Pompeii and Herculaneum). After staying overnight, the party decided to evacuate in spite of the rain of tephra because of the continuing violent conditions threatening to collapse the building. Pliny, Pomponianus and their companions made their way back towards the beach with pillows tied to their heads to protect them from rockfall. By this time, there was so much ash in the air that the party could barely see through the murk and needed torches and lanterns to find their way. They made it to the beach but found the waters too violently disturbed from the continuous earthquakes for them to escape safely by sea.

Pliny the Elder collapsed and died, and in the first letter to Tacitus his nephew suggested that this was due to the inhalation of poisonous, sulphuric gases. However, Stabiae was 16 km from the vent (roughly where the modern town of Castellammare di Stabia is situated) and his companions were apparently unaffected by the fumes, and so it is more likely that the corpulent Pliny died from some other cause, such as a stroke or heart attack. His body was found with no apparent injuries on 26 August, after the plume had dispersed sufficiently for daylight to return.

Casualties from the eruption
Along with Pliny the Elder, the only other noble casualties of the eruption to be known by name were Agrippa (a son of the Jewish princess Drusilla and the procurator Antonius Felix) and his wife.

Estimates of the population of Pompeii range from 10,000 to 25,000, whilst Herculaneum is thought to have had a population of about 5,000. It is not known how many people the eruption killed, although around 1,150 remains of bodies — or casts made of their impressions in the ash deposits — have been recovered in and around Pompeii. The remains of about 350 bodies have been found at Herculaneum (300 in arched vaults discovered in 1980). However these figures must represent a great underestimation of the total number of deaths over the region affected by the eruption.

Thirty-eight percent of the victims at Pompeii were found in the ash fall deposits, the majority inside buildings. These are thought to have been killed mainly by roof collapses, with the smaller number of victims found outside of buildings probably being killed by falling roof slates or by larger rocks thrown out by the volcano. This differs from modern experience, since over the last four hundred years only around 4% of victims have been killed by ash falls during explosive eruptions. The remaining 62% of remains found at Pompeii were in the pyroclastic surge deposits, and thus were probably killed by them — probably from a combination of suffocation through ash inhalation and blast and debris thrown around. In contrast to the victims found at Herculaneum, examination of cloth, frescoes and skeletons show that it is unlikely that high temperatures were a significant cause.

Herculaneum, which was much closer to the crater, was saved from tephra falls by the wind direction, but was buried under 23 m (75 ft) of material deposited by pyroclastic surges. It is likely that most, or all, of the victims in this town were killed by the surges, particularly given evidence of high temperatures found on the skeletons of the victims found in the arched vaults, and the existence of carbonised wood in many of the buildings.

Pompeii and Herculaneum were never rebuilt, although surviving townspeople and probably looters did undertake extensive salvage work after the destructions. The eruption changed the course of the Sarno River and raised the sea beach, so that Pompeii was now neither on the river nor adjacent to the coast.

The towns' locations were eventually forgotten until their accidental rediscovery in the 18th century. Vesuvius itself underwent major changes — its slopes were denuded of vegetation and its summit had changed considerably due to the force of the eruption.

Date of the eruption
The eruption of 79 AD was documented by contemporary historians and is universally accepted as having started on August 24th. However the archeological excavations of Pompeii suggest that the town was buried a couple of months later. For example, people buried in the ash appear to be wearing warmer clothing than the light summer clothes that would be expected in August. The fresh fruit and vegetables in the shops are typical of October, and conversely the summer fruit that would have been typical of August was already being sold in dried, or conserved form. Wine fermenting jars had been sealed over, and this would have happened around the end of October. The coins found in the purse of a woman buried in the Ash include a commemorative coin that should have been minted at the end of September. So far there is no definitive theory as to why there should be such an apparent discrepancy.

Refrigerator Woes

Some times timing is a terrible thing.

On Tuesday evening I had my parents over for dinner. Ray and I ran across the street to get soda and when we returned, we smelled something weird, burning, in the kitchen. We hunted all over and could not find whatever it was that was causing the odor. It was confined to the kitchen - the living room, dining room, sun room and hallway to the bedrooms all smelled fine. We opened the frig and could hear the fan running and the lights came on. None of the knobs were turned on the oven (not that it smelled like gas, but still). It dissapated but left me with a bad feeling - nothing causes that kind of smell and doesn't have some kind of repercussion.

I came from work on Wednesday and decided to have Bagel Bites, little frozen pizza bagels - I love them. It is easy enough to make (especially since I can only boil water and not even that well) and they are delicious. When I took them out of the freezer, they weren't - they were defrosted! What the hell...?

I made them, and while they were in the oven I looked at everything in the freezer. Yikes - nothing was cold! And the refrigerator was not any better, but I can never tell if the frig is really cold or not. Well, it wasn't cold. Not at all. That is a lot of food ruined. I called Sears - what luck! We did actually get an extended warrantee on the frig when we got it on 1 October 2002 (it will expire on 1 October 2007 - wow...). so it is covered. WAHOO!

Well, Sears couldn't send someone until Friday (today), so I needed to clean out the frig and freezer before that. I cleaned out the freezer Thursday morning, when my back wasn't feeling bad. We have a side-by-side, so there is only so much we could cram in there anyway. That was easy enough. I enlisted help to clean out the frig on Thursday night, as there was considerably more and heavy stuff in there. He did most of the bending and took the bags out.

My father came to wait for the Sears guy so that I could go to work. I had some sticky wickets to deal with there, fallout from yesterday and events today, so I really needed to be there. Ray came and the Sears guy came around 1230 (so much for the 0800 - 1200 window). He managed to pull the unit out (and it is still sticking out about a foot from the little built out area) and determine that the compressor burned out. That certainly explains the terrible smell on Tuesday night).

I'm not delighted with the solution... the Sears guy ordered a compressor and when it arrives here (?!) we need to call for Sears service to return. Luis is in Nebraska (if you can imagine) now. He will be in Florida this coming week. Yikes. Ray might be available next week... I don't want to lose time for this. (Luis is the logical choice for this since he works 2.6 miles from home. I commute 18 miles (not that this is a staggering distance, but still) to work.)

Today being Friday, there is a good chance that we will be a week without a fridge... not a positive thing.

I have no skim milk in the house - what would I do with it? I'm absolutely dying for a cuppa hot tea!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Little Project #2

Ok, you asked for it:

That is it. My expression at the moment. One of amused disbelief. I use it often at work (pick a job). It works well with people who are flimflamming me and this happens more than I like to think.

I tend to be extremely expressive, although I don't do when the situation is not open to it, such as firing people or listening to some of the nutjobs we get on calls. (Unless they are drunk, in which case why hold back? They won't remember my expressions or me!)

The project:

"Ever now and then I like to show my true feelings by pulling a facial expression. Enough said!Project #2 Take a picture of yourself showing how you feel through a facial expression. post it on your blog, send me the link."

OK. Here it is!

A Very Big Earthquake

NO. 7-234
AUG 22, 2007

AUG 15
234057.9 13.354S 76.509W 39G A 0.9 29 274 NEAR THE COAST OF CENTRAL PERU. MW 8.0 (GCMT), 8.0 (GCMT). ME 7.5 (GS). At least 650 people killed and 1600 injured in the Ica-Lima-Pisco area. Extensive damage at Chincha Alta, Ica and Pisco. Widespread communications and power outages ocurred in the area. Relief efforts were hindered by cracks in the Panamerican Highway. Possible earthquake lights were observed in the area. Broadband Source Parameters (GS): Dep 39 km; Radiated energy 4.2*10**15 Nm. Complex earthquake. Depth based on first event. Centroid, Moment Tensor (GCMT): Centroid origin time 23:41:59.0; Lat 13.76 S; Lon 76.97 W; Dep 33.3 km; Half-duration 23.0 sec; Principal axes (scale 10**21 Nm): (T) Val=1.12, Plg=67, Azm=106; (N) Val=-0.04, Plg=12, Azm=347; (P) Val=-1.09, Plg=20, Azm=253; Best double couple: Mo=1.1*10**21 Nm; P1: Strike=324, Dip=27, Slip=64; NP2: Strike=172, Dip=66, Slip=103. Scalar Moment (PPT): Mo=1.4*10**21 Nm.

This is a sad thing and pity. A lot of people died and there have been aftershocks - big quakes like that often have that effect. On the other hand, this is a very siesmically unstable area. I can't imagine anyone there does not know this. As usual, this is something that can get me started on the overpopulation in the world. People wouldn't live in these areas if there were more space. At least, I always think so. But inevitably, all parts of the world have their issues. Look at the Yucatan Penninsula. Would you live there with the number of hurricanes that tear their way across that little spit of land?! I would not. Who needs to worry June through October?

"The cities of Pisco, Ica and Chincha Alta in the Ica Region, and San Vicente de Cañete in the Lima Region were most affected, but the earthquake was also felt in the capital Lima, where the quake broke windows in downtown sectors of the city, as well as various other Peruvian cities, including Pucallpa, Iquitos, Contamana, Trujillo and Cajamarca. Seventeen people died when a church in the city of Ica collapsed and 70 were injured. They were attending mass at the time the earthquake started. About 85,000 homes were destroyed. The city of Pisco, which is 260 km (160 mi) southeast of Lima, has contributed more than 200 people to the death toll and about 80% of the city was destroyed. The government reported 510 deaths.

A magnitude 5.8 aftershock occurred at 19:02 local time, centered 113 kilometres (70 mi) northeast of Chincha Alta. At 19:19 local time, another 5.9 magnitude aftershock occurred, centered 48 kilometres (30 mi) south-southwest of Ica. At least a dozen aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 or greater have been recorded.

The day after, survivors who could not be accommodated in local hospitals in Pisco were taken to Lima by airplane, arriving there later that night. On Sunday, August 19, President of Colombia Álvaro Uribe arrived in Ica.

Tectonic summary
This earthquake occurred at the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates, which are converging at a rate of 78 mm (3.1 in) per year. The earthquake occurred as thrust faulting on the interface between the two plates, with the South American Plate moving up and seaward over the Nazca Plate. Experts say this kind of earthquake is produced about once every 100 years.

Coastal Peru has a history of very large earthquakes. The August 15 shock originated near the source of two previous earthquakes, both in the magnitude 8 range occurring in 1908 and 1974. This earthquake is south of the source of a magnitude 8.2 earthquake that occurred in northern Peru in 1966 and north of a magnitude 8.3 earthquake that occurred in 2001 near Arequipa in southern Peru. The largest earthquake along the coast of Peru was a magnitude 9 that occurred in 1868. It produced a tsunami that killed several thousand people along the South American coast and also caused damage in Hawaii.

Tsunami warnings
A tsunami warning was issued for Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia and even as far as Hawaii following the earthquakes, but it was later cancelled, although some areas of the port city of Callao were evacuated. Tsunami warnings were also made for Panama and Costa Rica, and a tsunami watch was posted for Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico and Honduras. All alerts were cancelled after a 25 centimetre (10 in) tsunami came ashore.

A tsunami warning was also issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency stating that waves higher than 20 centimetres (8 in) could reach Japan's northern island, Hokkaidō, on Thursday, August 16, around 19:00 UTC (Friday, 04:00 JST)."

I'm putting together clothes for Mario to take to be given to the earthquake victims there. I like that. I have plenty of clothes to give, so at least I'm doing the right thing with them.

Still Stymied by My Back

I started having problems last week with my back. It has been spasming a lot, and not just one muscle but everything in my lumbar area, sometimes the thoracic area... it is not fun. I must look odd when I am walking around (not that I am doing much of that right now), because people are asking me if I'm OK. I know sometimes I will be delivering something and suddenly I will have a really bad spasm and all the colour drains out of my face. It's at the very least awkward.

I hate feeling this way.

I went into work today and managed to stay until 1330. By then I was in agony. I can't just sit there, and I can't move around. I put on heat and when I get home I take the muscle relaxants. (Clearly my brain is a muscle... it is rendered useless with the rest of them!) I go to bed and sleep like the dead. Then I get up, feel OK for a couple of hours until the muscle relaxants fully wear off and then the pain sets in. I keep waiting for it to get better...

I guess I have to survive this weekend, and if it is still not better, then I am going back and seeing if there is something else to do. This is just completely ridiculous.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Everyone Has Their THING...

I have a few things that are my things:

Sensa pens
The formerly Willat Company produced a high-end pen that has the special gushy part for your fingers. I loved it the moment I tried it. It was sheer delight - it happened to be a sheer $50 delight. I got it anyway. I loved it from the moment I tried it and now I have about 50 or more Sensa pens. That is my thing. Well, that is the first thing. There are plenty more things I am into.

Writing Paper
There are plenty of people who are strictly into computers or worse, they are physically joined to their cell phone which allows them to text each other. That is most definitely not my thing. I like e-mail - I enjoy it, but just for its speed and convenience. But a letter should be personal and warm and fuzzy! So having the best possible pen to write upon the best possible paper, to use my best penmanship to scroll words across the page that adorn your mailbox... so much more important than anything one could do in e-mail.

So while I may not want to go crazy buying a typewriter or anything nuts like that, I have plenty of things that do the same thing in a different way. Some of us rely solely on the computer to keep in touch with everything - family, friends, news, banking.... everything.

This is a hell of a lot cheaper than a therapist and just as good. I find that I miss having an uninterested third party to talk to and now I have one again and never think about going to a shrink again. I get it all out and feel better about it. That is a beautiful thing. I find that lately I'm blogging a whole lot.

Taking Pictures/Images
Is this a thing or just something really, really weird about me? I take enough photos that I suppose it qualifies as a "thing". We went to Las Vegas in May and I took over 1600 images in four days... I do it to remember things - everything - not because I have any thoughts on being the next Ansel Adams. I just love to take pictures of every day things, not just when I travel. At work I take photos all the time, because at a golf course there is no end to what can be seen!

Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Scented candles is one of those things. In our old house, I had a mid-sized collection of candles. What I did not have was an ideal storage space for said candles. They started out in my office, but that was the highest story of the house, and the heat up there was too much. I then moved them to the garage but soon after we were packing to move and the garage was hot, too.

In my current house, there is plenty of room and plenty of ideally built and spaced and located closets. I took over the entire closet next to the library, and that has worked out well. I'd like to have it rebuilt with stronger, sturdier shelves, but it is not at the top of the list. But it is nearly full. However, being a practical person, I used those candles - all of them - and often have several burning at once. One in each room: living room, kitchen, dining room, eat-in room, sun room, my office and the master bedroom. Luis has an office there but there is no point in bothering to make that room fragrant. He doesn't appreciate it and I am never in it.

You cannot tell me that anyone can be too organised. Too rigid and inflexible, yes, and there are many, many people who are like that. But too organised? No such animal! I love organisation. I'm not always perfect at it, but I am likely to be the closest of most people that try to be organised. And I love well-made organisers. Levenger is almost always my favourite place to shop for lovely decor that serves to organise.

I have so many books I have to live to 200 years old to read them all. It is a daunting prospect. It might be a teensy bit less daunting if I didn't buy a gazillion books every single time I set foot in Borders, Barnes and Noble, etc.

I love it... I even love flying and I always live to regret it (travel is much harder on someone with Muscular Dystrophy), but seeing new things - oh, wow. How much did I love visiting all the places I've been: Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, New England (all of the states there - Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts and - I think - Connecticut), Montreal, Niagara Falls, St. Lawrence Seaway, Florida, New York, Boston (oh, I loved Boston!), Las Vegas, Pennsylvania (Reading, Intercourse, Dutch Country, etc.), Palm Springs, Virginia, Washington DC, etc. I got something - at the very least - from every single trip. I have seen a lot of New Jersey. About Connecticut, I know I have been there; I'm not sure if this state is considered part of New England or not. It seems to vary. I wonder what Connecticut thinks...?

I plan to travel more and if I've to do it without Luis, I'm OK with that. I need to do it now, while I really can, than wait until I'm in possibly worse condition.

Bank Notes
Do you know anyone who doesn't love money? I love money, too, and while it would be fun to have hordes of freshly minted US currency, I thoroughly enjoy foriegn bank notes. United States money is the most boring, poorly thought out notes in the world. Everyone else has gorgeous, colourful, picturesque notes that come in different sizes by denomination; we have our money, all the same in size, all the same in colour. Even the colourful money is a failed experiment.
I work with a lot of people. They've all got things that they love, too. No one seems to have my interests, but I like them all anyway. I find it funny that most of them have golf as a thing. I never understand it, but I do understand the happiness that I get from reading, writing, blogging (which is a form of writing without a pen), burning scented candles, petting my kitties, orgainsing (don't laugh - I can find most everything!), visiting the ocean, going to new places.