June 30, 2003

But People Just Won't Shut-up

STOCKHOLM -- Talking on a mobile phone while driving your car is just as dangerous when using hands-free equipment as when holding the phone in your hand, according to a Swedish study published on Monday.
But I've been saying this for ages. What drives me nuts are the people who drive with the phone propped on their shoulder on West Virginia roads. I mean REALLY! This is not Kansas with long straght stretches of road. I can't think of any stretches of road that are straight for more than a mile or two, but people still blather away inattentively.

I can't believe the sheer foolishness of this exercise on these roads. You know the ones, where to the left is mountainside and to the right is a sheer drop, and the entiretly of it needed repaved about five years ago and hasn't gotten any better since.

Well, I suppose I should just hope that they make themselves candidates for the Darwin Award, without taking out an innocent car in the opposite lane.

Posted by Michelle at 04:35 PM |

UK Moves Ahead in Gay Rights

UK gay couples win new rights

    Under the new plans, gay couples in the UK will have:
  • Visiting rights in hospitals
  • Parental responsibility for each other's children
  • Joint state pension benefits
  • Obligation to support each other financially
  • Ability to claim compensation for fatal accidents or criminal injuries
  • Recognition under inheritance and intestacy rules
  • The right to register their partner's death and continue tenancy of a property
  • Exemption from inheritance tax on a partner's home
Despite the fact that those don't seem at all like unreasonable rights to me, I can imagine that this, like the Toronto ruling, and the recent Supreme Court overuling of a Texas anti-gay law, will have the American "Christian" right in a uproar.

Posted by Michelle at 10:13 AM |

Strange Japenese Matrix Stuff

Okay, I know the Japanese are weird, but really.....

Posted by Michelle at 10:03 AM |

June 29, 2003

Ticker

I've managed to finally get the Missing Children ticker to work here, the problem is that the only place it doesn't format strangely is the bottom of the page. So to see the ticker, just click Ctrl + End, and you'll jump to the bottom of the page.

Clicking on the ticker should take you to the Code Amber website, but if it does not, the address is http://codeamber.net/

Posted by Michelle at 05:46 PM |

Makes Me Mad

I am beginning to think that I need to stop paying attention to politics for awhile. Today we got behind a car with a Bu$h 2004 bumper sticker, and I ended up yelling in incoherent rage at the car and its occupants, while Michael seemed to be glad the air conditioning was on and the windows up. It astounds me how much I can dislike a person whom I have never met, but I seem to be managing rather well.

I've tried to put my finger on it, but it's not any one specific thing. Yes, I find his politics despicable: the fact that so many of his actions are assistance to the rich and wealthy who put him in office (Haliburton, Ken Lay, Tyco), but the public ignores it, and the voices on the left who point this out are trivialized. It also astounds me that Americans buy his line that he is compassionate, while ignoring the news that business at soup kitchens and homeless shelters is rising, and while schools are scrambling for funding.

Now that I have written that, I think that what angers me so much is his claim to be religious, to be a Christian, while his actions are not the actions of anyone I would consider a Christian. Christianity calls for compassion for the poor, and the downtrodden. It calls for understanding of others, and it calls the followers of Christ to work for peace. He has done none of the above, and in fact in may ways has done the exact opposite.

Unemployment and poverty have increased while the United States has created tax breaks for the very wealthy while ignoring the poor. This is not the way of compassion.

Violence and war have increased, with the United States taking unprecedented aggressive action against other nations. This is not the way of peace.

Cover-ups in the government of misdoings and mistruths have increased. While those who speak out are branded traitors. This is not the way of truth.

So it is not just his politics that make me so angry, but the fact that he claims to be a Christian--and a pious Christian at that--but he neither talks the talk nor walks the walk of a person of faith--unless that would be a person who has faith in his own power and wealth.

It's as if he read the book but missed every single main point.

Now don't get me wrong. I know that I myself am a flawed person who makes mistakes, but I don't claim to be pious or religious. I only try to be the best person I can be. It is not that I am unforgiving of the mistakes of others, it is that it makes me made angry to hear people claim to be one thing, while their actions clearly define them as something else entirely.

Posted by Michelle at 04:53 PM |

June 28, 2003

Family Pictures

Finally went and downloaded the pictures from the camera. These are taken at a park where Wilson was taken to run around and hopefully tire himself out.

He is almost three, so of course he had plenty of energy later.

Posted by Michelle at 03:26 PM |

June 27, 2003

Completed Order

I just finished The Order of the Phoenix and I have to say I am very pleased. I think she did a fantastic job of tying together some of the things that struck me as loose ends in the previous books, as well as explaining some of the small details that seriously bothered me from the previous books. Things that made me go "why on earth would someone do THAT?" become more clear in this book.

I think she has also done a very good job of humanizing some of the peripherial characters, especially Snape. I found him somewhat frustrating in the earlier books, and I think learning more about him significantly improved the series.

I am very curious, however, as to how a young person reacts to the changing characterizations. I read this book from an adult perspective, and although I can remember what it was like to be younger (and in parts irrational, especially since I still suffer in great part from bouts of irrationality) I read the books through the filter of someone who managed to survive to adulthood--older if not necessarily wiser--and with far more experience. Not that it makes how I read better or worse, but it is different.

I'm trying to remember off-hand, re-reading a book later in life, from a different perspective, but what I remember reading most vividly when younger are books that I don't think would be read significantly differently from an older vantage point: Sherlock Holmes, The Hobbit, and Agatha Christie don't really seem to allow for the shifting perspectives that come with age. And of course I re-read those books time and time again, so I don't think I would have noticed a shifting perspective if there was one. I don't remember vividly enough how I felt about the books that I might read differently now, such as Roots, The Odessa File, James Baldwin, so although I'll enjoy them if I read them again, I don't think it will answer my question.

But of course each individual has their own perception, so it's probably moot point, but that won't stop me from wondering.

And now I want to reread The Hobbit again. As if I didn't have a backlog of new reading material that was just waiting for classes to end....

Posted by Michelle at 11:20 PM |

Order of the Phoenix

I finally started The Order of the Phoenix last night. I'd wanted to start it as soon as I finished my final, but as we were travelling, that wasn't possible, so I started it last night, and at about 300 pages in, really like it.

Hopefully I'll finish it tonight after work. (It's Friday night, what else is there to do?)

When we talked to my mom Wednesday (when Michael was looking for DVDs to borrow) she said she thought that this was the best book since The Sorcerer's Stone (American title) and she was about three-quarters finished. So I am quite optimistic that I will enjoy the rest of the book.

Posted by Michelle at 11:12 AM |

Do Not Call!

The National Do Not Call list went live today!

You can reach it from here: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/donotcall/index.html

or here: http://donotcall.gov.

By 8:15 when I visited, servers were already pretty busy, so be patient.

The only issues I have, are that:

Placing your number on the National Do Not Call Registry will stop most telemarketing calls, but not all. Some types of calls are exempt. Political organizations, charities, telephone surveyors, and the business of insurance, to the extent that it is regulated by state law, are permitted to call you.
So it won't stop everything, but it will help.

Posted by Michelle at 10:36 AM |

June 26, 2003

New Term for the Day

Grass Widow

NOUN: 1. A woman who is divorced or separated from her husband. 2. A woman whose husband is temporarily absent. 3. An abandoned mistress. 4. The mother of a child born out of wedlock.
ETYMOLOGY: Perhaps in allusion to a bed of grass or hay.

From Bartleby.com

Posted by Michelle at 08:44 AM |

Back...Front...Back

Well, we're back. We were actually back Tuesday night, but I was rather busy yesterday, so did little computer reading or writing.

The trip was relatively uneventful. Wilson was cute but cranky--understandably. We took pictures at a playground, but I have not downloaded them yet, so I have not a clue as to whether any turned out well or not.

The busyness of yesterday afternoon was that Michael's birthday gift arrived. Yes, I know it's three weeks until his birthday, but following his birthday is our trip to see Cirque, followed soon by his Summer II finals, where as his Summer I final is today, and his next class doesn't start until next week, so now he has time. Oh, yeah, time matters because he finally got a DVD player. We hadn't gotten one before, because all our money was going into the house, and the same thing for time. But we don't have the time for any major house projects right now, and I managed to find a highly rated DVD player for under $100, so it was worth the wait probably.

So now Michael can again borrow movies from everyone, and it'll be a good study break for him.

So last night we went and bought the switch box needed to hook the DVD player up, and he bought two movies: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and The Matrix. Then we went to my parent's house and he borrowed several DVDs from my parents. So he should be set for the weekend. Plus Erin has said she'll loan is the complete Buffy the Vampire Slayer set, which we've never seen, since we don't have cable.

(You didn't know we don't have cable? We don't. I couldn't afford it for years, and so got out of the TV habit, and now I just can't bring myself to pay the ridiculous amounts of money they want for cable/Direct TV, especially when there are so many good books out there to read. Watching TV would cut into my reading time, and that would be no good at all.)

So the point was that Michael is now delighted that he has a DVD player, and if anyone is looking for a gift idea for him: DVDs would be the thing. :)

Oh yeah, we now have an Amazon Wish list which I still need to send to my family. But I think I'll still maintain our book wish list on my site, since it designates who wants what--although to be honest, I'm not sure it's that difficult to figure out....

Well, laundry is calling and I need to leave for work, so I'd best close now....

Posted by Michelle at 07:34 AM |

June 21, 2003

Dog!

Everyone went out of town this weekend, so we to to take care of all the animals. This would be Cyrus, Holly and Sasha at Brian's house, and Harry Houdini, Bounder, Slate and Miss Friz at my parent's house. (The gerbil(s) and fish needed no attention.)

We took some pictures of Brian's dogs, partially because Cyrus is still silly looking. He got cranky and wouldn't let Brian brush him, so they had to clip his coat. He still looks ridiculous, but doesn't seem to mind.

Our big worry was that Cyrus started limping--small limp Friday, today he looked like moving around was uncomfortable. Not that there is much we can do about it, since he is really too large for me to control if we had to take him to the vet. He really is much larger in the flesh that the pictures make him seem--of course the fact that he's nearly naked doesn't help. With a full coat of fur he looks twice as large.

Hope it's just the weather getting to him, for as much as Cyrus doesn't like most people, he does like me, and he's rather sweet despite his imposing size. Brain said if he looked like he was feeling down to give him Gatorade, which he lapped up like it was the best stuff in the world. We'll see how he is tomorrow morning.

Posted by Michelle at 09:22 PM |

(sigh)

Michael's other grandmother died today. Not the one who just visited, but the one who I never met, and who Michael has not seen for years.

It's hard to bring up more than mild sadness over the death of someone you've never met, never the less I am dreading the trip over for the funeral. Michael's relationship with his father has been less than stellar since his father's remarriage, and I fear that the stress of a funeral will make unpleasantness more likely.

Though the fact that Michael typically ignores things gives me hope everything will be fine (or some close proximity to fine anyway).

Posted by Michelle at 02:44 PM |

Happy First Day of Summer!

1sumwtr.jpg

Posted by Michelle at 11:41 AM |

June 20, 2003

Ursula LeGuin on the Radio

I may be out of my mind, but I'm almost positive that they interviewed Ursula Le Guin on tonight's All Things Considered for their segment on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Not that she was being interviews as an expert. I just realized that read oddly. No, they were soliciting for public opinon, and I think she was in the second group they interviewed. I can't be positive, because I was trying to listen while Michael was telling me a story about his class, so I heard neither the segment, nor Michael's story, in its entirity.

Posted by Michelle at 09:15 PM |

Celebrate WV! Surf the Web!

To to further celebrate WV day (assuming that studying and typing can be considered part of my initial celebration) here is a list of WV websites blogs:

Erin Erin is a poet, author, red-haired goddess and recent law school graduate. Don't look for lots of updates, she's currently studying for the bar.
Charlotte Web mistress extrodinare who kinda sorta likes Buffy.
Brain & Stacie He's just my brother. I claim no responsibility.
Tim Plays in Falling Run Bluegrass Band.
Melissa Another recent law school graduate busy studying for the bar.
Dave Dave is....Dave.
Melissa and Trubie
James & Dani A tad bit busy with a new baby right now....

Ex-Pat:
Hammer Currently in Japan. Which means he'll miss the entirity of the upcoming WVU football season.
Andy I claim responsibilty and knowledge only of the name Paranoid Press.
Steve

Found:
Aunt Lowey's Handy-Dandy Blog

I'm sure there are others, but that's my list for now. Feel free to suggest others.

Posted by Michelle at 12:38 PM |

Happy West Virginia Day!

Happy West Virginia Day!

For those who are still a bit confused, yes, West Virginia IS a separte state, and has been since 1863 and the Civil War.

Some of you may think I'm joking about the above statement, but we don't say West by-God Virginia for no reason.

For those of you who don't understand what I'm talking about:
No, I don't live near the beach.
Yes, we get snow here. Lots of snow.

So in honor of West Virginia day, and my state's political involvement in political upheaval, right from the start, here are some political links:

Senator Byrd This man has done more for West Virginia than I could begin to list. Others have recently learned that he also does a lot for the US, including standing up for what he beleives.
Jay Rockefeller He came to the state as a VISTA volunteer, and so has been working to make the state a better place since he got here.
Allan Mollahan Representative for my district.
Nick Rahall Representative for the 3rd district.
The second district desparately needs a new representative, and no one who has run since Ken Hechler's primary bid of 2000 has been worth a tinker's dam.
Our current governor is Bob Wise who has been making the best of a bad situation. The crash in the national economy has caused trouble here, but our problems are slight compared to states such as California and New York.
No, I've never pretended that I wasn't partisan. :)

Posted by Michelle at 09:25 AM |

June 19, 2003

World Sauntering Day

Happy World Sauntering Day!

To help me celebrate, my car decided it needed to go into the shop.

How thoughtful.

Mechanic said they might not be able to get to it today (unsurprising) and that it might be a thermostat.

Here's hoping that a thermostat is inexpensive to repair.

Posted by Michelle at 08:23 AM |

June 18, 2003

There ARE Nice People in the World

If anyone has not been following the story of the man from India who claims to be 132 years old (his pension book says only 125), his wish was to make the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), but his poverty has not allowed him to do so.

Now, several individuals have funded the trip for him and two of his grandsons.

This may sound trite, but that is just really nice. It's good to read about people doing nice things.

Posted by Michelle at 11:49 AM |

History Will Teach Us Nothing

Dozens of relief agencies have urged the United Nations to expand peacekeeping operations across Afghanistan amid growing concerns that rampant insecurity is jeopardising the country's recovery.
Once again, as soon as our stated goals have been achieved, focus shifts away from Afghanistan.

Perhaps Sting was right, history really will teach us nothing.

I'm beginning to wonder if al Qaeda didn't really achieve its intentions after all, with the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, as it has been theorized he was the leader who would have been most likely to hold the country together following the expulsion of the Taleban.

Posted by Michelle at 11:37 AM |

June 17, 2003

On Books and Reading

Jeremy mentioned something again that he has said before, only this time it really struck me what he was saying.

Jeremy, like me, loves to read. The difference is that Jeremy says that he hates to read books a second time, whereas as at certain times I would rather read an old favorite than a new book. (Don't get me wrong, I am always reading new things, but sometimes, especially when things are difficult, what I want is to simply curl up with The Belgariad or The Fionovar Tapestry or The Complete Sherlock Holmes or the Thieves' World series.)

The idea of not wanting to re-read old favorites is completely foreign to me, and I am curious as to what causes that difference. When I re-read a favorite, I am loking to experience the feeling that book gave me the first time I read or (or the second, or the seventh) the perfect escape into another place another time (yes, that was a 63 Eyes quote).

Which is why when I am having a hard time, I love going back to my favorites. I know how the book is going to make me feel, and it is that feeling, that escape, that I crave.

I am not sure that I can understand Jeremy's point at all, reading a book and never wanting to come back to it. Reading books that are great is an intimate experience. The characters have lived inside my head for a time, and become almost as well known to me as my friends, and the thought of abandoning these book friends strikes me almost as abandoning a cherished friend or loved one.

Not that I haven't read books that I want never ever to read again--I have, but in that case I'm typically sorry I read the book in the first place--but that is an infrequent occurrence.

Posted by Michelle at 07:33 AM |

June 16, 2003

Reason 47,982....

...that I'm not having children.

"Sorry" is a word frequently used by women in labour, according to midwives.

As part of a study into how women viewed giving birth, researchers looked at how mothers-to-be behaved.
They found women constantly apologise for crying out in pain, or behaving "inappropriately" when they are giving birth.
Their shyness is due to women feeling they are in a public place and cannot make a fuss, according to Jane Walker, a consultant midwife at London's Homerton Hospital.
Ms Walker said women's concerns stemmed from the fact they were going through something which they felt was intimate in a very public place.

Posted by Michelle at 01:14 PM |

June 15, 2003

Some Tax Cut....

And the change in my paycheck due to this great new tax cut:

$2.71

I still haven't decided where I'll spend my largess...

Posted by Michelle at 08:31 PM |

Mang's Going Away Party

I put up the pictures from Mang's going away party on Friday.

There's a cute one of me and her. The picture with Helen you can almost tell that they were both about ready to burst into tears.

Posted by Michelle at 01:18 PM |

Family Pictures!

I received another message from Sergei--He posted some new pictures on his website.

No I don't know whether Elefanten Show is actually Elephant show--but I'm hoping it is.

Posted by Michelle at 10:38 AM |

June 14, 2003

Just for Flag Day

Flag Amendment Violates 10 Commandments, Not Just Free Speech

There is an obvious irony in responding to a threat to freedom by restricting freedom. But it is not just the First Amendment that is under assault. So is the First Commandment of the Jewish and Christian faiths, and the First Pillar of the Muslim faith.

By elevating the flag to an object of transcendent veneration -- an untouchable idol -- the proposed amendment strikes at the core of Jewish, Muslim and Christian belief systems.

The Ten Commandments apply to Jews and Christians alike. Heading the list is the commandment to have no other god, meaning no other absolute allegiance. The Second Commandment extends that prohibition to veneration of material objects -- it forbids "bowing down to" or worshipping graven images of any kind. The point of all this is that no temporal power is worthy of the veneration that must be reserved for God alone.

(via Electrolite)

Go and Read the Whole Thing.

There's not much I can add that wasn't covered by the article or by Electrolite.

Posted by Michelle at 10:10 PM |

Uniform Uniforms

Back to a subject I've ranted about before....

I was browsing the pictures from Iraq on the BBC and Times websites, and noticed that all the soldiers pictured are finally wearing desert fatigues. Throughout the war, more than half of the pictures showed soldiers wearing the jungle green fatigues. Now that the mission has changed to peace keeping it seems our soldiers have finally all been issued desert fatigues.

Of course all the vests (flak jackets? Not sure what they're called for certain) worn by most of the soldiers in most of the pictures are the dark green pattern--obviously standing out against the beige of the uniforms and of the desert and the city.

What is the point of that I wonder?

It still stuns and angers me that we sent our soldiers over to die without even proper uniforms to wear for the climate. Just one more sign of how ill-prepared we really were for this war, despite the war-mongering of the administration hawk elites. How those old men could send our young men and women off to die in such a cavalier manner continues to astound me.

It just reinforces the idea I have that military service should be compulsory for all Americans following high school. Would Bush have been so eager to send our troops to die had his daughters been in the military? Would the hawks be so eager if their children and nieces and nephews were the ones who would be on the front lines, instead of Pfc. Lori Piestewa and Staff Sgt. Kendall Damon Waters-Bey and Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez and Cpl. Jose Garibay?

That reminds me, our soldiers lost to Iraq now number 162.

Just for perspective, that's almost four times greater than the number of people in my high school graduating class.

Posted by Michelle at 09:52 PM |

HA!

bo030614.gif

Posted by Michelle at 01:43 PM |

Today.....

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LIZ!

Posted by Michelle at 01:33 PM |

June 13, 2003

Jeb Bush and Education

Jeb Bush comes out on the bottom in this Miami Herald interview with a high school student about education in Florida.

I particularly liked this:

I had one last question. I have always wondered why the governor never sent his children to the public schools in Miami when he lived here.

They would have attended Palmetto, the same high school as I do now.

''I had the right to choose,'' he says. ``I wanted the best education for them.''

(via Atrios)

Posted by Michelle at 03:52 PM |

More on Iraqi Treasures

Oddly enough, Teresa Nielsen Hayden at Making Light just wrote a far more eloquent post on politics and the looting of Iraq. She has several nice quotations from other sources.

Posted by Michelle at 01:22 PM |

Lost in Iraq

There is an article on the BBC website about the recovery of antiques stolen from the Iraqi National Museum.

Which brings to mind a complaint I've been reading, made by supporters of the war in Iraq. The complaint is that the press blew the matter all out of proportion by claiming that all the items in the museum had been stolen, but when it was discovered that the Iraqi museum officials had hidden the items so they would not be stolen, the news was no longer covering the story.

What stuns me, is the fact that Bush supporters are claiming this fact--that the items were not stolen because they were hidden--as a Bush victory against the liberal press etc. What they are ignoring is the fact that the only reasons these items were not stolen or destroyed, was because the Iraqis didn't trust American's to safeguard these national treasures, and so had to take matters into their own hands.

And they were right.

American's didn't safeguard the museum or the library. The safety of the items in those buildings depended solely upon the actions of individuals who both valued the items, and didn't trust the Americans.

This does not reflect well upon either the administration or the American military, and to spin this as a pro-War story astounds me.

We dropped the ball, plain and simple. The only reason damage was limited was because the intelligentsia of Iraq knew Americans could be counted on only to safeguard Iraqi Oil.

Why we dropped the ball is another topic entirely, but I place the blame entirely upon the shoulders of Donald Rumsfeld, who refused to comprehend that more ground troops were (and still are) necessary in Iraq. His incomprehension risks the lives of our soldiers, not only in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan, where American deaths are still occurring.

Posted by Michelle at 10:09 AM |

Family Update

My Aunt saw Ryan while in Baltimore yesterday, and says that he looks much better than she expected, and that he may even come home today (Friday)!

Fantastic!

Posted by Michelle at 07:15 AM |

June 12, 2003

Marked My Calendar!

So I wouldn't forget that June 19th is World Sauntering Day!
(You think I'm kidding, but it's really marked on my calendar.)

(They even make greetings cards for it apparently)

So don't forget! Next Thursday get out there and Saunter!

Posted by Michelle at 12:18 PM |

June 11, 2003

What Makes Us Human

This is just for Mark. :)

....Actually, I think you asked the wrong question.

What makes us human is a simple factor of biology. We are of the species homo sapiens. That is what makes us human.

What you meant when you asked was, I think, is the greater questions:

What sets us aside from animals?
At what point do we move beyond simply being a mammal to being truly human in the fuller sense of the word?
Is there such a thing as a soul?
Assuming we have souls, when do we acquire them?
What happens to our souls after death? Can it be that the higher consciousness we have acquired simply stops when biological functions cease?
What has allowed us, as homo sapiens, to so dominate the world, to so subjugate other creatures and the elements to our wills and whims?

These are the greater questions to which only one definitive answer has ever been given: 42

A singularly unsatisfactory answer to a singularly unsatisfactory question.

To answer the better parts of the greater questions?

To quote Deep Thought: That will take some time.

But feel free to ask more specifc questions or refute anything I say. :)

Posted by Michelle at 09:10 PM |

How Surprising...





Find your Role-Playing
Stereotype
at mutedfaith.com.
[Angel.]

Posted by Michelle at 04:18 PM |

Click It--Unless Driving A State Vehicle

This in....

7) DPS director: Seat belt law applies to all drivers
There was some good news and some bad news following the last "Ticket or Click It" blitz on the WVU campus, according to Bob Roberts, director of the Department of Public Safety. The good news: Some 80 percent of the drivers stopped at safety checkpoints were wearing seat belts, the highest rate in West Virginia. The bad news: Several drivers in state vehicles were not buckled up. "We would like to remind those using state vehicles that the law requires them to wear their safety belts, as does WVU policy," Roberts said. "Public safety officers encourage all drivers to buckle up for their safety, and we will enforce the law if violations occur." Roberts is asking supervisors, deans, directors and other campus leaders to join campus police in encouraging seat belt usage and compliance with the law. "Safety is our goal, not enforcement," he said.

Posted by Michelle at 04:04 PM |

Mapping Your Inbox

"USC Tool Maps the Email Labyrinth"

This is unsurprising, considering a news blurb I read a bit ago talking about how law enforcement could determine networks of people simply by analyzng their e-mail.

What is interesting is that the more recent article avoids much mention of possible law enforcement use of the tool.

Posted by Michelle at 03:21 PM |

Chatting is Good for You

A study published in the June issue of the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological and Medical Sciences, reports that the most significant difference between identical and fraternal twins who lived into their 70s or 80s was how often they kept in touch by phone or mail...

Several earlier studies have demonstrated that longevity is influenced not only by smoking, exercise and alcohol use, but also by social networks in people's lives.

I can readily believe this. My Aunt Sophie died a year ago at the age of 90, and she spoke every day (sometimes several times a day) to my grandmother and Aunt Doris, her sisters. Grandmom once told me that the first calls of the day started out along the lines of "Are you still alive? Good."

Communication and social networks are a very important part of our lives, and I think they are taken for granted or ignored by researchers. Controversial research conducted with breast cancer patients found that social support increased survival, and it is widely believed that social support has significant effect on the lives of women with breast cancer.

It leads one to wonder whether the stereotypical "old women who lives alone with her hundred cats" might be in a way compensating for a lack of social support through pets, after all, living with a pet keeps one from feeling as if they are living entirely alone.

Posted by Michelle at 03:04 PM |

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

But that won't stop me from typing.

I took some pictures while Michael's mother and grandmother were visiting this weekend. It was a good visit, since Michael's grandmother had not been to Morgantown since our weeding, and had not seen the house. I really like the second picture. Everyone was smiling (for once).

I also posted some pictures I'd taken of some of the flowers we've grown (You've been warned. They're just flower pictures.)

I love the digital camera. I discovered that I am now much more likely to take pictures, now that I don't feel like I'm going to be "wasting film" by taking pictures that don't turn out. It's just nice to be able to take pictures of things that I think are beautiful or interesting, and the only thing I'm wasting is time.

Posted by Michelle at 07:29 AM |

Today's Amusing Quote....

How is Sandman supposed to sound? You know, black dialogue boxes and all...

Like the voice inside of your head. Or failing that, like the voice inside of my head...

from Neil Gaiman

Posted by Michelle at 07:08 AM |

Update...

Ryan is doing well. He is already out of ICU, although still hooked up to various and sundry machines. My aunt says that the preliminary results are that he is tumor free, although that won't be certain until the lab results come back.

So hopefully this will be the end of it, and he'll recover from his surgery and get on with the rest of his life.

Whew!

Posted by Michelle at 06:59 AM |

June 10, 2003

Family News!

Ryan's surgery went well! From the information I have received so far, apparently they only had to remove the lower lobe of his lung. I'm supposed to get more details later after my aunt talks to his mother.

I'm just relieved the surgery went well.

Posted by Michelle at 06:46 AM |

June 09, 2003

Israelis and Palestinians visit Auschwitz together

Israelis and Palestinians visit Auschwitz together in a trip set up by an Israeli Christian.

During two long and harrowing days in the camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau the enormity of the Holocaust became real.
Close to six million Jews across Europe were murdered by the Nazis - roughly the total population of Israel today.
When she broke down, an Arab woman put her arm around her.
"This is a one-time opportunity," said Ester. "It's never happened before, and when I see one of the Arabs cry I put my arms round them."
"Now I understand the fear of the Jews," said Hyam.

I am quite glad that they took this opportunity, and that work is continuing to be done to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians together, but it still makes me sad that it takes the enormity of Auschwitz and Birkenau to brings these groups together.

Posted by Michelle at 08:53 AM |

June 08, 2003

Tomorrow...

Is my cousin Ryan's surgery.

21 is too young for lung cancer, so I hope everything turns out well....

Posted by Michelle at 09:01 PM |

The Collected Poems....

...of Donald Rumsfeld. At the Oregon Edge

For example:

the unknown

As we know,
There are known
knowns.
There are things we
know we know.
We also know
There are known
unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are
some things
We do not know.
But there are also
unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't
know
We don't know.

-- Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

Posted by Michelle at 06:36 PM |

More on LifeLog....

The NY Times has an article on LifeLog

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency....or Darpa's LifeLog initiative is part of its "cognitive computing" research. The goal is to teach your computer to learn by your experience, so that what has been your digital assistant will morph into your lifelong partner in memory. Darpa is sprinkling around $7.3 million in research contracts (a drop in its $2.7 billion budget) to develop PAL, the Perceptive Assistant that Learns.
You can even visit Darpa's web information on LifeLog.

You may also want to check out Darpa's Information Processing Technology Office.

Posted by Michelle at 01:21 PM |

June 07, 2003

Steven Brust and Thieves' World

Just read that Steven Brust has been invited to write a Thieves' World story!

I love Steven Brust's books!

I love Thieves' World!

!

I hope this doesn't mean:
1) The story won't make it into the next book
2) The series will never be finished

Not that I'm a pessimist.

Posted by Michelle at 08:24 PM |

Everyone Talks about the Weather...

...But no one does anything about it.

It really is amazing the amount of news coverage the weather is getting. Everything from the fashion section of the NY Times to NPR's All Things Considered.

Of course my first thought is: Come on people! We've been in a drought situation for the past couple years! Rain really isn't that bad a thing!

The second is slightly more complicated. It's widely known that events both natural and man made can change the weather. Volcanoes have been known to affect weather patterns world wide and particulate pollution can have an ameliorating affect on global warming (Also see: Scientific American p 48-57 February 1994)

My question is this:
Is it not possible that our rainy weather has been--at least to a small degree--affected, if not caused, by the war in Iraq? "Shock and Awe" kicked up no small amount of debris into the atmosphere, and the fires burning in the ditches around Baghdad most certainly put out particulate matter.

A classmate who was a doctor in Belgrade during the Kosovo war said that following the bombing campaign, there were terrible storms in Belgrade--storms unlike anything they had previously experienced.

Now I freely admit that the last bit is simply third hand knowledge and not scientifically grounded, but it does a nice job of tying together what I am trying to say.

Localized phenomenon rarely are localized as far as weather patterns are concerned, so it seems reasonable to hypothesize that actions taken in Iraq may well be affecting our current weather.

Posted by Michelle at 08:04 PM |

New mail from Sergei!

Got another message from Sergei today!

He asked his father about any possible connection between his family and ours--apparently his father knows someone else with the last name Klishis, so perhaps it is more common in Russian than here in the US, although my great grandparents came from Lithuania. Regardless, it's still incredibly exciting to get mail from him, to know that someone on the other side of the world has my name!

I'm having a bit of difficulty figuring one of the last sentences in his message, and once again I really wish I was able to take Russian....

It is odd though. We're very close in age, so we both grew up under the shadow of the cold war--him in Russia, me here in the US, and I know that growing up in the 70s and 80s and the belief that we were all going to die in a nuclear explosion very much shaped who I am today, and I wonder if it did the same for him...

Now, I need to find some pictures to send him, of me, of Morgantown, of my family.... The question is should I go for silly, for serious, or for some combination of the two? I want to show him what things are like here where I live (which is serious), but I also want the pictures to reflect some of who I am....

Posted by Michelle at 08:18 AM |

June 06, 2003

Even Freer Will

It's claimed by some (even perhaps by many) that man does not, in fact have free will, that our destiny is set before our birth, that our redemption, or lack thereof, is beyond our control, and we are living our lives as a result of divine will.

To put it bluntly, I don't buy it, and I don't like it.

I don't like it, because to me, it allows us to excuse our bad behavior, it means we donít have to take responsibility for our actions, because what we do is destined. Yes, yes, I know, thatís not what Luther was saying. (Iím not particularly fond of Lutherócall it due to my papist upbringing--so take that into consideration) Perhaps this may beÖ.but even if that is so, it most certainly isnít working that way in real life as we know it. Look at the news and you will see countless, endless claims of diminished responsibility. Rock music makes kids kill themselves, fast food made me fat, I didnít realize that I couldnít use my hairdryer in the shower (that warning has to be on there for SOME reason). People are simply unwilling to take responsibility and say ďYes, I screwed up, and Iím sorry. I take full responsibility for my actions, and I will suffer the consequences for it.Ē

How often do you hear that?

Not very.

So from a purely pragmatic standpoint, I believe in free will.

Ideologically itís a bit more complicated.

Despite having attended Catholic school, Iíve tried to develop a background in the history and ideals of other religions. (Iím not an expert in any faith, but any means, but I do firmly believe that the more we know about how others believe, the more able we will be to get along with others.) And from my readings, Iíve developed what I believe from a variety of sources.

My beliefs on free will stem in large part from my understanding of Lurianic Kabbalah (which I freely admit may be completely wrong, but never the less it has shaped my beliefs). Now understand that Kabbalah isnít a creation myth in the typical sense in the way that creationists view Genesis, itís more of a deep explanationóa metaphorófor creation. It is believed that every action we take, no matter how small or how large, contributes to the well being of the world. Our good actions make the world a better place, our evil actions make the world a worse place. It is our duty to help make the world a better place, to bring God into the world, by taking actions which are good. In this we are joined with God in sanctifying the world. (I apologize for my explanation, and suggest that you read about it for yourself.)

In other words, I believe that evil is a result of human actions, and only human actions of good can counterbalance the evil. For every Hitler we need a Gandhi.

I also believe it free will, because it means that everyone is redeemable. Even politicians. Every person can make up for the evil the have created in the world, they can undo the harm they have done. Itís one of the reasons why I so admire Alfred Nobel, for his attempt to compensate for the destructive force he let loose in the world.

There may be evil in the world, but free will means that evil doesnít win, as long as there is someone willing to be good.

Posted by Michelle at 03:21 PM |

June 05, 2003

Free Will (To Avoid Studying)

I'm still chewing on free will. (You're welcome for that cow metaphor and any imagery it brought to mind.)

But it got stuck back behind studying for my upcoming midterm, finishing the coding asignment for the same class, and writing a paper for the same class.

Why am I in summer school again?

Posted by Michelle at 10:31 PM |

Alcoholism & "The Matrix"

I was listening to an interesting segement of the Infinite Mind this evening, on alcoholism, and it brought to mind something that stuck out for me in the first movie, which is the "alcoholic bum" whose body is taken over by Agent Smith in the subway station.

His very existence seems to say that alcoholism, by its very nature, is a mental addiction, else the "bum" wouldn't be there. I'm sure that it was unintentional, that it was convenient to have a bum whose body would be taken over by Agent Smith, but it is an interesting commentary on the nature of alcoholism, and how it is viewed by people. If alcoholism were a solely physical addiction, then there would be no alcoholics in the Matrix.

If alcoholism is a purely mental addiction, then it should not be viewed by society in such a negative light, for there is nothing that can be done about it. It's all in one's head, and you can't control it.

Now in theory, it would be nice if we reached the second option, where alcoholics and those with mental illness were treated little differently than those with cancer or heart disease (of course some in our society don't treat the physicaly ill well, but those types are becoming an ever decreasing minority) . But I somehow don't see us reaching that point any time soon.

The thrid option is, of course, that those are solely physical addictions, but the Matrix made them into mental addictions, which would in a way, be evil. Condeming someone to a life of misery just to boost realism for the rest of the players.

If that were true, then that would be reason enough for me to destroy the Matrix.

Posted by Michelle at 10:22 PM |

Dreams...

I had an extremely creepy dream last night, and oddly enough, I was actually me.

Posted by Michelle at 09:55 AM |

June 04, 2003

Murder and "The Matrix"

Murder and "The Matrix", and Article on FindLaw by Julie Hilden, looks at the issue of movies, violence and crime.

Does watching violence make you less sensitive to it, more likely to commit it? Research says yes, especially, in cases (as outlined in the article) where the perpetrator is mentally ill. But that doesn't address the idea of personal responsibility. We are all responsible for our actions, and blaming a movie, or a video game, or music for actions that we have taken is simply a refusal to take responsibilty for our own actions--a refusal that is becoming more and more common as evidenced by the horrible high school "hazing" incident of several weeks ago, where girls were hospitalized, yet the parents of the perpetrators protested the punishment of their children, because then they couldn't go to prom, or might effect their ability to get into college.

There is a huge problem in this country, with people refusing to take responsibility for their own actions. Ya know what? If you eat fast food every day and don't exercise, you're going to get fat. If you don't study, you're going to do badly in school. And if you intentionally harm another person, then you should be punished for it. Plain and simple.

Cause and Effect.

Plain and Simple.

Posted by Michelle at 04:51 PM |

Conversation

Gina: Don't mind Michelle and I, we've been working together for so long it sounds like we're not having a real conversation because we don't have to finish sentences....

Michelle: It's like being married, without the sex.

Gina: It's exactly like being married!

Posted by Michelle at 10:55 AM |

Reason 4972 why I don't trust people's taste in fashion and beauty:

I received multiple compliments on my hair yesterday.
I did not even comb my hair yesterday day.

Posted by Michelle at 07:16 AM |

I have been laughing over the comments for this post at Making Light for several days now.

Please note that this is a geeky English post, and not all will be amused.

Posted by Michelle at 07:05 AM |

Bedside Books

Last night I actually looked at the reading material I had piled around the bed, and had to laugh at myself, for collecting such a weird assortment:

Mythology Edith Hamilton - Fantastic collection of Greek and Roman myths. I've read this multiple times.
Earth, Air, Fire, Water edited by Margaret Weis - ho hum. I've yet to be really impressed by any story in this collection. Quite a disappointment.
Irish Girls About Town Maeve Binchy, Marian Keyes, Cathy Kelly - I picked this up as an "I desparately need something to read" book, and was pleasantly surprised. Plus proceeds are going to charity.
Metamorphoses Ovid - I had forgotten that this is much easier to read than you'd think. No wonder it has been around for millenia.
Celtic Myths and Legends Peter Berresford Ellis - writes fiction as Peter Tremayne. Even Michael likes his Sister Fidelma mysteries.
From Dawn to Decadence 500 Years of Western Cultural Life Jacques Barzun - Good, but I'm reading it right before I go to sleep. At two pages a night I may never be done.
American Heritage magazine May 2003 - This is the edition with Lewis and Clark.

Will I ever finish any of these books? Only time will tell.

Posted by Michelle at 06:55 AM |

June 03, 2003

Hatfields & McCoys and WV Affairs

Listening to WV Public Radio's Dateline WV today, they had a nice segment (which I did not get to hear in it's entirity, but I'm cure I'll catch it tomorrow morning) on a peace treaty of sorts singed by the living members of the Hatfield and McCoy families.

The gentleman interviewed said that it was in response to world events, that they wanted to say that if they could give up their feud, then anyone should be able to give up a feud. Peace is possible.

I was hoping to find a news article in one of the on-line papers throughout the state, but nothing. Hopefully I'll read something about it and be able to post more later.

All in all, with the way things are going, it's nice to see formalized peace, even in a situation that has had informalized peace for years.

Regarding other state news, the Cheat River Canyon is being sold to a timber company. There had been hopes that this area would become a wildlife habitat, but it seems now as if we are looking at logging and clear cutting.

The problem is that parts of this area (yes, much of Preston County is quite elevated but there are some low-lying areas, like Rowlsburg) have have a history of flooding problems, and I can't see clear cutting helping the situation. I don't care what the timber companies say, clear cutting is exactly what will happen. I saw the "selective timbering" that went on across the road from Andy's parent's house, and every tree of value was taken out, leaving scrub and a lot of mud. And ugliness. Lots of ugliness.

We'll be told that it won't be clear cut, and we'll be told that even if it was clear cut, this wouldn't increase the likelihood of flooding, despite evidence to the contrary, including research from the WV Department of Environmental Protection. But clear cut it will be (or the selective timbering that is clear cutting in everything but name) and flood it will, and then we will have yet another state of emergency, and this time it will be a problem of our own choosing, our own making.

And that doesn't even address the destruction of a beautiful area. Once again I am astounded by the short-sightedness of industry and politicians. It was decided years ago that part of the move away from relying on coal as the state industry, was a move towards tourism--a move that has really worked wonders in some areas. But now we have mountaintop removal (an abomintion that I won't even start on right now) and logging.

What kind of rationale is this? Who is going to want to visit a state where the mountains have been flattened and the tress cut down?

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.....

Posted by Michelle at 08:04 PM |

Injury Prevention Thoughts

I've been trying to get caught up on school work. Whatever made me think summer school would be a good idea I don't know, but working full time and summer school is TOO MUCH WORK.

Anyway, there were a couple of quotes that piqued my interest, and one that bothered me.

ďThe US stands out among developed countries in terms of fatal violenceÖviolence that does occur in the US is more likely to be lethal. The US has historically demonstrated a tolerance of interpersonal violence.Ē
I am reminded of reading or hearing about the nature of those who populate America. (It was possibly Jared Diamond or Stephen Jay Gould, but it could have been someone else.) What I do remember was the gist of the essay, which was that Americans are moulded by the very nature of our fore fathers. Many of us are descended from immigrants, who are by their very nature, risk takers, who were willing to risk everything on a move to another country. Americans are, for the most part, selected for risk taking.

Are risk takers inherently more violent and lawless? Not necessarily, but I donít think that we can rule out the idea that being descended from people who were willing to gamble their very lives for a chance to possibly have wealth, or religious freedom, or freedom of expression, has strongly shaped the very American consciousness and psyche.

And the last thing I haven't had the time to research, but it really bothers me:

A well defined paternalistic relationship with the fedual lords traditionally had insured the security of serfs through the centuries. But the absence of such established relationships between employer and employee in the new industrial society led to uncontrolled competition and exploitation of workers
Perhaps it's the way that feudal society is made to sound so... pleasant, and safe. It seems to fall into the category of "things in the past were so much better, this modernity is really a bad thing" that drives me buts. And this is from someone who has been accused of being a Luddite (a computer using Luddite, but a Luddite never-the-less)! It has me itching to rebut, but I can't bring to mind any books at hand to refute, so it must pass for now.


Main Entry: Ludd∑ite
Pronunciation: 'l&-"dIt
Function: noun
Etymology: perhaps from Ned Ludd, 18th century Leicestershire workman who destroyed machinery
Date: 1811
: one of a group of early 19th century English workmen destroying laborsaving machinery as a protest; broadly : one who is opposed to especially technological change
Merriam-Webster

Posted by Michelle at 07:27 AM |

June 02, 2003

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Best hours for shut-eye when sleep must be limited

Stanford researchers proved that if you're better off going to bed late and getting up normally, than going to bed at a normal time and getting up early. It seems to be true that the best sleep really is early in the morning.

Posted by Michelle at 03:07 PM |

Heart Attack Survival

Hypothermia helps brain heal after cardiac arrest

A University of Pittsburgh study has found that lower body temperature after a heart attack can increase survival.

Previous studies from the researchers detected increased levels of growth factors derived from brain cells when hypothermia was induced after cardiac arrest. In this current study, the researchers also found that levels of growth factors derived from glia-cells in the brain that support nerve cells are increased by hypothermia as well. These growth factors may play an important role in brain recovery after cardiac arrest.
These studies always lead me to wonder what lead the first person to think "I wonder if this will help? I'm sure it was something like a patient having a heart attack out doors in the middle of winter and a great recovery or something, but it really is amazing sometimes the things that are discovered.

Posted by Michelle at 02:07 PM |

June 01, 2003

Hoorah!

Congratulations Erin!


...on selling a short story!

If she keeps this up, soon I'll be able to say I know a famous author/poetess!

Yeah Erin!

Posted by Michelle at 08:38 PM |

That'd be a loss....

Quote from the NY Times:

Leaders of socially conservative and Christian groups also demanded ó and got ó their own meeting with Mr. Racicot. Participants said they told the Republican chairman they would bolt the party if leaders continued to make overtures toward gays.
Vocal Gay Republicans Upsetting Conservatives

Posted by Michelle at 03:11 PM |

Free Will and Omniscience

Greg posted the following comment/question, which I quite like and want to address.

2) The Oracle is outside of time. She tells Neo that he is seeing things outside of time. The point is, like the famous question, if God is omniscient and knows what we will do before we do it, how can we have free choice, Neo struggles to understand how anything he does is his own choice. The Oracle is pointing out to him that in the view where there is no time, we have already made the choice (in Neo's future). The important part is to understand why we made that choice, so that our lives are directed and we arenít simply reacting to things around us.

Regarding omniscience and free will, some friends and I have debated this back and forth for some time.

My view is that God may be omniscient, but at any one point in time what God sees is not the one path that our lives will take, but the many paths that we could take from each point. At some points in our lives we have many choices, and other points we have only a limited number of options that we can take, but we do still have choice. I picture it somewhat like a maple where the moment after a choice we are standing at the base of the tree, but beyond that the choices being to branch out, and each choice in the future leads to a myriad of other choices.

This is, in fact, how I view the scene in the Architectís room. The screens are showing not all the previous ones, but the multitude of branching paths that Neo could take in that instant. He can react with anger, horror, distain, or, as the movie seems to show, he can remain stoic, keeping his emotions inside instead of expressing them. As we move from the shot of Neo into the monitor, we are simply following the path that was taken, leaving behind the divergent paths. Once we enter that path, all the monitors are the same, because a choice has just been made, but as Neo receives more information, the monitors are reflecting any one of the paths that he could choose, and again we focus on a single choice.

Which rather broadly expands my view, for as I take the scene, even Neoís emotions and reactions are choices, are paths that could be taken, which means that our path is more like a bush or shrub than a tree.

To put this back in the context of a higher deity, God knows all the paths that we could take, just as God knows what paths we are more likely to take. As I type this I have the option of continuing to type and eventually posting this message. I also have the option of getting frustrated with being unable to express myself clearly, and putting my fist through the screen. These are all possible realities, but the continuing to type possibility is much greater than the fist through the monitor possibility. (Though if I work on my Injury Prevention project this afternoon, the likelihood of the fist through the monitor becomes much greater.)

This is how I think the Oracle, the Architect, and eventually Neo, envision the future. For some people, the choices they will make out of available options are so apparent that they can be easily seen, and that is how Neo keeps seeing Trinityís future. What fascinates me is that Neoís attempt to change Trinityís future is the very thing that causes what he sees to come true. This is something that I think the Oracle was trying to prove to him with the vase, and is something that has been covered extensively in mythology. Think of Oedipus, and similar characters in mythology and folklore. If his father had not sent him away, would he have later murdered his father and married his mother?

In some ways it seems to be that trying to avoid our "fate" is the very thing that causes our downfall.

Posted by Michelle at 09:39 AM |

Today....

Happy Birthday Brian!

Birthday wishes to the family's own Alex P Keaton.

Also Birthday Wishes to Gina, who has the misfortune to share her date of birth with my brother.

Posted by Michelle at 09:04 AM |