Friday, May 26, 2017

When will WE ever learn?



Memorial Day again. Will we ever commemorate a Memorial Day when there are no wars being fought that place our service men and women in harm's way? We keep praying for that day to come. It hasn't yet.

I've written about my late father, Jarvis Moragne, and his military service in World War II and Korea several times. Recently I have been going through a lot of family memorabilia while doing genealogical research, and I ran across a paper that had apparently been in my mother's scrapbooks, which passed down to me at her death. From the wording, I believe this must have been given to military personnel at Fort Sam Houston where my dad was stationed during the Korean conflict. This was typewritten, then run off on a mimeograph machine. (You youngsters probably never heard of one of these!)

INDIVIDUAL ACTION AIR BURST OF ATOMIC BOMB

BEFORE BURST

Image result for atomic bomb explosionIf Air Alert or General Quarters is sounded TAKE PRESCRIBED ACTION. The best defense against an "A" bomb is the same as against HE bombs. (I guess that HE stands for high explosive bombs. Correct me if I'm wrong.)

DURING AND AFTER BURST

Take cover, unless under other attack, and stay for 10 seconds after explosion or until heavy debris has stopped falling.

Underground shelters, ships, basements, and slit trenches give good protection. Lie close to wall out of line from possible flying debris. Keep head covered and avoid exposure of bare skin. Never stand in open. Fall flat if no protection is available.

RESUME DUTIES, if able.
HELP OTHERS.
DON'T PANIC AND DON'T SPREAD RUMORS.

Remember the large casualties in Japan resulted from failure to provide air raid warning and from lack of organization.

EFFECTS OF AIR BURST OF ATOMIC BOMB

  • Sudden shock -- Shock pressure from burst not enough to kill. Flying debris causes almost all injuries.
  • FLASH HEAT - Burns on exposed skin occur out to two miles. Light-colored clothes or any shielding substance afford protection. Keep your shirt on.
        Flash heat starts forest and brush fires. Many fires started by stoves,         short-circuits, etc. Broken power lines on ships start electrical fires.
        (Fight fires in normal manner.)
  • FLASH RADIATION - 50% of radiation occurs in the first second. 80% in the first 10 seconds, all in first 90 seconds. Fall or dive fast to place as much material as possible between you and blast. In most cases if you are not sounded (sic) or burned you need not worry about radiation.
  • LINGERING RADIATION - (from deposited bomb material) - So small it is not a hazard - disregard it.
Bombs will probably be exploded right in the air. Surface or sub-surface may reduce blast and heat effects and increase lingering radiation. (This is serious, but can be handled by proper care. Most ships or vehicles can avoid by maneuvering.)
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As I was reading and typing the above, I became more and more amazed at the efforts to downplay the results of an atomic bomb blast. If, as I suspect, it was written during the Korean conflict, surely by then they knew the effects suffered by the Japanese people during and after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Please read the ongoing study about the survivors of these blasts here: The Health Effects of Atom Bomb My children all were taught the "duck and cover" techniques in case of a bomb attack when they were in elementary school. Can you imagine getting today's kids to do this?
As a side note, a first cousin of my dad developed/produced the electromagnetic process that made the first atomic bomb possible. (Not something we are particularly proud of, except he was brilliant.) Of course, he was at the Los Alamos site for the initial testing. He lost his own sight a few years after those tests.

The hydrogen - or thermonuclear bomb is one thousand times stronger than an atomic bomb. How can any country even think about loosing such devastation on the world?

As we take time over the Memorial Day weekend to honor the soldiers around the world who have lost their lives in service to their countries, let's also take a little time to sing along with the following...


May peace begin with me... and you...and you...and you. We need it now more than ever.

Marilyn

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Our Humpty Dumpty Government


(Vintage Uncle Sam Humpty Dumpty Doll)

 Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All of our Congress,
Women and Men,
Couldn't put Humpty together again!

This is for those of you who have been observant -- and even those who have not been -- of what the current administration, with the complicity of the current Republican/Conservative-controlled Congress, has been up to lately. These are only some of the things.

Update: The list I had posted here has been removed. I guess I didn't give proper credit, and I cannot locate the original. Here is a site that will help you locate any of the over 4,000 Bills and Resolutions currently before Congress: Bills and Resolutions

This morning, POTUS signed an executive order to review any national monument created since 1996. This will turn over at least 100,000 acres of federal land to the states involved. According to the president, he wishes these lands be turned back, ultimately freeing them for development and economic uses, i.e., drilling, mining, grazing, etc. “...some of these areas were put off limits for traditional uses, like farming, ranching, timber harvest, mining, oil and gas exploration, fishing, and motorized recreation....” The Washington Post

One can check the news almost hourly and find another example of the attempts to dismantle and/or completely destroy many of our treasured institutions, laws, and civil rights, as well as placing individuals in charge of them who have no experience or ability in managing them.

It is understood that the 2018 elections are influencing many in Congress. But the main culprits are the big money donors who threaten to withdraw their backing if their needs are not met. If the 15% Corporate Tax bill that the president requested passes, we will see even more of our freedoms disappear, as more cuts will be necessary to make up for the lost tax revenues.

Totalitarianism is an arrangement of state power in which the ruling elite control the conditions of political and social existence while subverting the authority of individuals.

If any of you have not read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, or seen the 1990 movie by the same name, I urge you to watch the upcoming TV series by the same name. Season 1 starts today on Hulu. It's a tale of what life would be like (especially for women) in the future under a fundamentalist, theocratic regime. It gives one chills to think that this is where we are headed if those in charge of our government today have their way.
(PicMonkey Collage)
Here's praying that POTUS doesn't get so obsessed with his new-found "power" that he decides to order a military strike on North Korea without first getting the approval of Congress. He didn't ask before bombing Syria. 

The only way to start to put Humpty back together again is to begin by voting out of office in 2018 some of the Congressional culprits who are guilty of being accomplices to the current administration.

Peace and Hope for our future,
Marilyn

Monday, April 24, 2017

MOSCOW IN THE SUMMER

(Wikipedia - Public Domain)
Today I read an interesting article about Chernobyl years after the nuclear reactor meltdown. As the "adventurers" who were the subject of the article The Lights Come Back on in Chernobyl were Polish, and a former classmate lives part-time in Poland, I forwarded the article to him. The following are emails he sent to me in response.
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Professor C. Denson Hill, PhD (Affectionately known to classmates as Denny):

"It was, and still is, a sad story. I think that tomatoes grown there, shortly after the disaster, glowed in the dark. Don't know if they still do.

The (Chernobyl) meltdown was totally caused by 'cowboy' type Russian engineers, who ignored normal required safety procedures, and tried to manually manipulate the reactor, and they screwed up...human error, not the breakdown of the reactor per se.

The story of how it happened, and how it was strictly a homemade disaster, was explained to me when I was in Moscow in the summer of 1992."

(Of course, I had to ask Denny what he was doing in Moscow.)

"I spent the summer in Moscow because I was supposed to be on an exchange program between the USA National Academy of Sciences and the Soviet National Academy of Sciences.

I was visiting the Steklov Mathematical Institute in Moscow. There is also one in Saint Petersburg (former Leningrad). But in 1992 they were in an old building with creaky wooden parquet floors. Since then, they have moved to a new modern building, but I have never been there or seen it.

It was a funny story: you apply for this program, and nothing happens for a year or more...so you forget about it. Then suddenly you get notice from Washington that you have been accepted, and they want you to go...in order to maintain 'business as usual'.

Explanation of how and why it was strange, and why they wanted 'business as usual':

1.) Under normal circumstances, it had always been that the USA paid only your round trip plane ticket, and the Russians were supposed to pay your room and board for the duration. Your itinerary was determined by them...this week you give a seminar in Moscow, next week they send you to Leningrad, the following week, fly you to Novosibirsk, or you take trains to some other place for seminars, etc.

In other words, you are essentially their prisoner (in a friendly way) and they decide who and where and when you talk to people in your field of research. They put you up in Moscow in the 'Academic Hotel' and you can eat out in numerous restaurants, i.e., life sort of as normal there.

What happened in my case is that between the time I applied for the exchange program, and the time I was selected for it, the Soviet Union collapsed (on December 25, 1991)! As was explained over the phone to me, by some official in Washington DC, at the National Academy of Sciences, since there was no longer a Soviet Union, it meant I was on an exchange program between the USA Academy, and the void set. The treaty agreement still existed on paper between the two academies, but the one on the Russian side had ceased to exist. So the US guys were begging me to go, just to show the Russians that they wanted 'business as usual' as far as normal scientific exchanges are concerned.

The Russians were also begging me to come, for the same reasons. Neither side wanted scientific exchanges to stop just because the Soviet Union no longer existed. Yeltsin was nominally in power, but of course the emerging new Russia was actually being run by the KGB, renamed FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation).
(Kremlin -Credit: AP/Misha Japaridze)
Trouble was that the Russians were out of money, the Russian Academy was totally broke, prices in Moscow had gone up, and they did not have the rubles to pay for my hotel room, or for train, or plane trips, etc. So if I went there, I would be totally free, and not have to travel around according to any itinerary fixed by them. Also, you could not get into restaurants because they had been taken over by the Russian Mafia, and they would not let you in, claiming the whole restaurant was booked up, when it was clearly empty. Also the price for a mafia to kill someone was around only $400. Taxis were too dangerous to use, because the drivers would just take you someplace and rob or beat or kill you. Supermarkets were empty...yes, empty! Bare shelves.
Image result for Moscow Supermarkets soviet Union
(Moscow supermarket)

You were supposed to declare any money at the airport, when you arrived, but my Russian friends told me that in no circumstances should I declare more than $300 on the required form at the airport. (Had to be less than the $400 above.) And no big bills, too dangerous...only single $1s, $5s or maybe a few $10s. So I had around $2,000 in a giant wad stuffed in my underwear, in small bills. Never needed it...it was there just for any emergency. I lied on the form at the airport, saying I had only $250. (The monthly salary then for a famous Russian Academician was only $20.)
But I have gotten ahead of the story...

2.) As I was finding out some of the above, before making a decision, I had this funny conversation over the phone with the guys in Washington: I asked them how safe they thought it would be, if I did in fact decide to go there. Their answer was: 'we cannot give an update, because our U.S. Academy representative in Moscow was mugged last night, is in the hospital, and we have not been able to contact him to see how he is doing'.

3.) So after numerous emails with the Russian side, finally I said I would go if the Russians would satisfy these 3 conditions:

    (a.) Someone I personally know would pick me up at the airport, and at the end of my stay someone I know would drive me to the airport...so as to avoid being immediately robbed upon arrival, or upon departure by the taxi mafia.
   (b) They would find me an apartment to live in, so I did not have to stay a single night in a hotel.
   (c) Such apartment would have cooking facilities, so I would not have to eat a single time in a restaurant."

(As DENNY had said the supermarkets were bare, I subsequently asked him where he got anything to cook!)

"I took, as checked luggage, an old fashioned 'trunk', or 'foot locker' heavily stuffed with pasta, sauce, parmesan cheese, peanut butter, cans of tuna, favorite coffee and tea, etc. Enough to survive any emergency...slowly used it up over the summer.

There were 3 (actually 4) different ways to try to buy any food item. Consider trying to buy tomatoes, for example:

1.  Supermarket. Probably no tomatoes, or maybe some rotten and stinking ones, or strange white ones that might glow in the dark...but they (if they happened to exist) were very cheap.

2.  Chechens selling perfect blemish-free tomatoes from card tables set up on street corners near the last metro stop. The most beautiful tomatoes you have ever seen, and at a sort of reasonable price, but to be avoided because they are very heavily laden with DDT.

3.  Hard Currency Shops. You had to pay in dollars. That is where those one dollar, or five dollar bills became handy. Veggies and stuff from Sweden, or some other Scandinavian country. Much higher prices, decent stuff, and with a few blemishes and insect bites, showing it was OK to eat. This is where I got most of my routine stuff.

4.  From the garden of somebody's dacha (Russian country house or cottage): Here you get real homegrown heritage type tomatoes, better than in any supermarket here. Everybody with access to a dacha has a garden, and they grow their own veggies during the warm season. And they usually produce more than they can eat, so they pass them around to their friends. These are by far the best ones.

Now change the above story to any other type of fruit or vegetable."
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"The Russians satisfied the three conditions I laid out and paid me 100 rubles per day as a per diem. (Then 100 rubles was our 75 cents!) That was all they could afford. But it turned out to be enough since the apartment was free (it was the apartment of the sister of some mathematician, and the sister was in the countryside dacha for the summer). So I lived like a king on not much more that 75 cents per day. The whole summer, I never took a taxi by myself, but went on buses and the metro often. And did not eat a single time at a restaurant (only in the canteen for lunch at Steklov Institute of Mathematics, where a full three-course lunch cost me about 16 cents).

For the first month or so I was paranoid about being robbed, mugged, beaten, etc. But eventually I realized I was being monitored by those KGB guys in the black car that followed me everywhere, and they did not want simple common criminals to mess me up and create an international incident. Remember, they wanted to demonstrate 'business as usual'.

I hung out often at the Irish pub on Arbat Street, and spent most of my time trying to learn Russian with a Russian teacher, but now I still cannot speak the language."
**************************************
It may sound like DENNY was being melodramatic when he spoke of the Russian "mafia taxis", however, a little research turned up the following 1992 article. Notes from the Underworld It is rather lengthy, so here is an excerpt to prove he was right in being cautious:

"MOSCOW -- Visitors who have finally made it through customs at Moscow's international airport are channeled toward a narrow doorway that opens to their first encounter with organized crime, Russian-style.

Two lines of black-leather-jacketed men press in from either side, forming a sort of human chute. They are taxi drivers.
(from the Russian LiveJournal)
They lean in close, seeking likely-looking fares among the emerging passengers, still disoriented by the scruffiness, the noise, the dim lighting and the apparent chaos of the airport known as Sheremetyevo-2.

'Taxi? Taxi?'

Overwhelming, insistent, they seem to be everywhere. But the appearance of disorder is deceiving.

The airport taxi drivers form one of the mafias that flourish in Russia today. They are a band -- of bandits, some would say -- with their own rules, their own hierarchy, their own sense of honor."
**********************************
(I asked Denny if he would go there today if he were invited.)

"It is completely safe to go there now; probably less dangerous than New Orleans, or parts of Houston.

But, I am not sure why, I have no desire to ever set foot inside that country again. I've seen all the main museums, churches, sites, etc. in Moscow and St Petersburg, so I don't need to go there again...although I would like to be again in that room in the Hermitage (St. Petersburg) where they have 27 or 28 Rembrandts. (When I was there, the Intourist guide gave us only 15 minutes in that room! I was pissed.)

Besides, now that in my declining years, I have invested in buying apartment(s) in another country, I really need to spend time there, because who knows how long one can still travel?"
*********************************
Denny and I attended high school in a very small West Texas town. His life in the past 60 years belies that fact. He's a renowned mathematician and Professor of Mathematics at Stony Brook University in New York. He's quite the cosmopolitan... traveling to Europe when school is not in session. When he is not collaborating with other mathematicians on a paper somewhere in Europe, he spends time in Warsaw, where he has two apartments (flats) in an historical 600-year-old building that overlooks the New Town Market Square, and is on the UNESCO list of protected world sites. 
(His flats are on the floor with the open balcony doors.)

As you can tell, Denny is quite interesting. He has many tales to tell, and lots of friends from his travels who lead interesting lives as well. I look forward to his emails. 

Imagine meeting a Hell's Angel in Warsaw! Everyone has lots of questions when they learn Denny is from Texas -- mostly about our politics. Sometimes to his dismay! Our politics are often the subject of ridicule. 



Until next time..
Peace and love,
Marilyn

Sunday, March 19, 2017

It Could be Worse (Or It Could Be Better)

It seems each day we find ourselves wondering again how we put such a cringe-worthy, dangerously sociopathic person as our current president in power. Each day he marches us further along the path toward the dismantling of the democracy which we have enjoyed for so many years. We know the answer: he fooled many of the poor, disenfranchised voters with his wild promises. The ones he didn't fool who supported him are the top 1% of the wealthiest in our country as well as the major corporations looking for more benefits from the government in the way of additional tax relief and fewer regulations. The combination of these two segments of our society has, by voting him into office, placed us in grave danger. We are fast approaching a society the likes of which in history created hell on earth for all but a few of the richest and most privileged.

Franklin Roosevelt: “People who are hungry, people who are out of a job, are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”


Family friend has her own opinion:

Cliffie S.: "Incompetence won over perceived corruption. Wait, no it didn't. The majority of America voted for Clinton. We wanted Clinton for president. And, while I don't think Clinton is a crook, I would darn sure rather have a competent crook running the show, than a crooked dunce."

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Until the President presented his proposed budget this past week, the biggest issue causing much of the furor in the news is the supposedly improved health care plan presented by the GOP. Even with Obamacare in place, which provides millions more people with health insurance, Americans fall behind our neighbor Canada, who has a universal health care system. I found the following article very interesting in the comparison of the two:

Reuters CF Patients Live Longer In Canada (March 13, 2017):
“'We used insurance status as a surrogate marker for the U.S. health care system compared to the universal health care system in Canada,' Dr. Anne Stephenson said by email. 'We found that U.S. patients with private health insurance had similar survival to Canadians, however, insurance status in the U.S. is a complex construct and may reflect a combination of other unmeasured factors such as socioeconomic status.' 

Image result for Canadian images

Overall, the risk for death was 34 percent lower in Canada than in the U.S., researchers report in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Compared to U.S. patients continuously insured by Medicaid or Medicare, which are (U.S.) government health programs for the poor and disabled, Canadians had a 44 percent lower risk of death, the study found.

And, relative to American patients without any insurance, Canadians had a 77 percent lower risk of death."

My oldest grandson, Cameron, visited me one day this past week. We had a spirited conversation covering his January trip to India; his future plans to attend seminary (he is currently Director of Lifespan Religious Education at Westside Unitarian Universalist Church in Fort Worth, Texas); and his recent participation in protests at a rally in Fort Worth held by Senator Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, Jr. He talked of supporting the Dakota Pipeline protests with a "water" service. And of course, our conversation turned to politics.

Cameron rather offhandedly mentioned that when he becomes ordained, he will like to serve churches in the Austin/San Antonio area -- or Canada. I was a little surprised when he said that. Their universal health care was not the issue, as Cameron has excellent insurance with the Unitarian association.

Related imageAt my quizzical look, he said, "What do you think of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?" I answered that I was very impressed with him, and embarassed by our President's performance when he visited. As some have said, Trudeau is almost a polar opposite from the President. He certainly shows more class. I must admit I know little about Canadian politics, but it's obvious that they are in alignment with Cameron's, who was a big Senator Bernie Sanders supporter. To me this was indicative of how the current administration will affect the young people in our country who were enchanted with Sanders, and so disappointed when he lost the nomination.
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Not enough jobs or affordable health care in the United States is a scary problem for many of our population. However, even our poorest have clean water available, food stamps and organizations which furnish food to the poorest, free lunches for school children, and even limited healthcare at ERs everywhere. At least these are available for now. They may suffer massive cuts under the current administration. However, millions of people in East Africa are facing famine and death from the conditions there. Limited or no food, clean water, or medical help of any kind in some places.

The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres traveled to Somalia this past week due to the drought and cholera which is threatening famine to this nation. $825 million is needed to help the population survive for only 6 months.

From the New York Times, March 7th:  People Are Dying

FILE - In this Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017 file photo, malnourished baby Ali Hassan, 9-months-old, left, is held by his mother Fadumo Abdi Ibrahim, who fled the drought in southern Somalia, at a feeding center in a camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. Somalia's prime minister said Saturday, March 4, 2017 that 110 people have died from hunger in the past 48 hours in a single region as a severe drought threatens millions of people. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh, File)"..Mr. Guterres recited a litany of statistics: Some 330,000 acutely malnourished children, a number that could rise to a million; 3.3 million people in need of medical care to deal with diseases in a country that lacks health infrastructure; and 7,731 cases of cholera — 183 fatal — in the past two months.

'Just last week, 1,352 cases of cholera and 38 people dying — it’s a process in acceleration,' he warned.

The country has already had two consecutive years of drought, and meteorologists expect crops to fail again this year. Famine was last declared in Somalia in July 2011, after an estimated 260,000 people died, most during a two-month period."
Please open your hearts and your pocketbooks and help these starving people by giving to your favorite charity. International Rescue Committee, Doctors Without Borders, Action Against Hunger, and Save the Children are some already providing aid.

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Prayer

Oh God, when I have food, help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work, help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a warm home, help me to remember the homeless;
When I am without pain, help me to remember those who suffer;
And remembering, help me to destroy my complacency and bestir my compassion.
Make me concerned enough to help by word and deed; those who cry out for what we take for granted.
Amen

In spite of the problems we are currently undergoing, America is still among the wealthiest nations in the world. We are blessed, and we are thankful. Let us share the good.

Peace and Love,
Marilyn

UPDATE: Due to ongoing war and famine, South Sudan is in worse shape than Somalia. Tonight 60 Minutes had a segment about the conditions there. Charitable donations are needed for both areas, as well as other East African countries. If you choose to help, the charities all have online websites. One that was highlighted on the CBS show tonight was the International Rescue Committee, which has one of the highest ratings. You may indicate the area you wish your donation to assist. A site to check on a charity's rating and type of assistance can be invaluable. One I like is Charity Navigator.

It has been pointed out that it is very difficult for aid to reach the people. Much is stolen by warring factions or in some cases, even the government. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

BABY, LOOK AT YOU NOW!

Miss Kelly (Future American Beauty Queen) was an absolutely adorable baby and toddler. She is my youngest of nine grandchildren, and is now eleven years old. A couple of weeks ago she accompanied her dad, Matthew, to Grandmommy's house for the purpose of doing a little work that needed to be done around here. 

When they arrived, there was an unopened box from Amazon sitting on the floor. I asked Matthew if he would open it and put together the shower stool it contained. Imagine my surprise when he said, "Kelly, come here and open this box." She immediately plopped down on the floor as he handed her his pocket knife. From the looks of the blade when she opened it, I worriedly asked him if it was a "switchblade" -- it was pretty long. He laughed at me as Kelly set to work cutting all the tape holding the box together. When she finished and returned his knife, he then told her to take the pieces out and assemble them. I protested a little, but Kelly was excited as she emptied the box and looked at all of the pieces of the stool. She ignored my suggestion that she look at the instructions, and went right to work. 

(Future Mechanical Engineer)
In no time at all, she had put together my stool and hurried into the bathroom to place it in the tub. She said the legs were a little too high, and quickly set to work shortening them.

I said, "Kelly, I am so impressed with your skill! Why, you could be an engineer someday." She quickly responded that she intended to be one when she grows up. I said there were many types of engineers -- which would she prefer to be? Without hesitating, she replied, "I'm going to be a mechanical engineer!" 

She and Dad moved on to the next project I had lined up for them. An old lamp of my late grandmother's needed to be rewired with the kit Matthew bought at Home Depot. I hesitantly told Matthew I wasn't sure I would feel safe letting her rewire something electrical (after all, she is going to be a mechanical engineer).  He brushed aside my concerns and patiently began to teach Kelly how to take apart the lamp to begin the process. Here she is cutting the old wire. Dad did most of the work on this, but Kelly watched every step. I have no doubt she will be able to do something like this in the future. By the way, Kelly is a straight A student, creates beautiful artwork, and is as adorable as a pre-teen as she was as a baby!


Matthew later told me that when they left here after taking care of my chores, he and Kelly went geocaching all afternoon. Geocaching is something of a modern day treasure hunt. "GPS coordinates lead you to a location where a treasure, otherwise known as 'cache', is hidden. Many caches come with fun clues that help you along the way. Once found, you log your visit into the provided logbook. Many caches have trinkets to trade – think unusual coins, fast food toys, pencils, etc." If one takes a treasure, you must leave one in its place. For those interested, more information about this fun family outing is on this website Geocaching.

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Another adorable baby!

Travis is Kelly's big brother. He hasn't been over recently as the warm weather has kept him on the golf course where he plays with the Vandegrift Vipers high school golf team. Last week they played their most recent tournament at the Hutto Invitational. Travis placed third on his team with a score of 79. He is a Freshman, and the two who scored lower than he did were a Junior and a Senior. Dad and Mom both were there, and I'm sure they were very proud parents. I am a proud grandmother as well.





Travis is a very good student, being on the A and B honor roll. He's also involved in volunteer work with both his church group and the Young Men's Service League, the Viper Chapter. Here he and his friend are at a recent tree planting day in Bastrop County where in 2011 wildfires destroyed 34,000 acres and killed 2 people. There was another wildfire in the same county in 2015 that didn't destroy as much acreage, but both fires wiped out most of the trees in the affected acres.

(Travis on right and friend Tucker)
Travis will turn 15 this summer, and will be getting his learner's permit to drive. Last fall, when their family was in the country for a Thanksgiving vacation, Dad let him drive a bit on the empty county road.


He certainly looks like he is enjoying this. (I accused his dad of photo shopping this picture.) I will hate to think of my youngest grandson driving on Austin's freeways!

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As proud as I am of my grandchildren, I'm even prouder of all of their parents. Matthew's patience and enjoyment at spending time with both of his children is amazing. He is a super dad who wants his children to explore and learn anything that interests them. They both adore him, too. The next adventure he and Kelly have planned is to release two weather balloons they bought online. They will attach a GoPro camera and send it into the stratosphere. Supposedly, it will land within a 150 mile radius, so using a GPS locator they plan to retrieve it. Sounds like a lot of fun. Hopefully, they can do it on a day Travis isn't playing golf so he can join them.

You know, my own father never wanted to do anything with me as a child. In high school I joined the Chess Club so I could learn to play the game and maybe get him to play with me. We did play dozens of games, but I only beat him one time. To his dying day he denied that ever happened, and if it did, it was only "because I let you win". He never encouraged me to be anything when I grew up other than to "be a secretary". He sure did spend a lot of time telling me the things I could not do, thereby dashing any dreams I had.


My children and grandchildren have more than fulfilled my dreams. They are living and loving their families, accomplishing much in their own lives as well as being wonderful role models, and encouraging their children to pursue and fulfill their own dreams.

In a world -- even a country like ours -- where so many children are deprived of even enough to eat or basic care, much less loving families who provide them with opportunities to explore their future... I can only say how very blessed we are in our family. And I thank God.

Love and peace,
Marilyn

Thursday, February 16, 2017

HE'S AN EMBARRASSMENT

I have been trying my best to keep my own negative thoughts to myself about the current state of our government. I give up and give in!

The chaos surrounding our new president and his administration still tops all of the daily news headlines. It's hard to miss. Many of us have been disgusted by this man and his shameful rhetoric since before the beginning of the past election campaign. The offensive way he doggedly pursued President Obama's proof of citizenship was despicable -- and ignorant. The way he currently dismisses, condemns, or claims that any news he doesn't agree with is "fake news", as well as spouting erroneous statistics that put him in the position of being called "liar, liar, pants on fire" by many of his detractors only confirms the belief that he is ignorant.

I never watched his show The Apprentice, but a time or two at someone else's house it happened to be turned on. Only seeing and hearing a few minutes of this show, I was shocked at the tyrannical method he used with the guests on his show. He seemed to love saying the words, "You're fired!" And then, there were the words out of his own mouth on TV for all to hear about the way he chose to greet women. Ugh! The backlash he received by way of the huge women's march, thousands around the globe joining in wearing their pink "Pussy Caps", some complete with cat ears, was undeniably a show of outrage from women everywhere for this leader of the most powerful country in the world.
(Wikipedia)
Some of the proposed spending cuts and/or defunding of numerous programs or agencies including National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, and nonprofits such as Planned Parenthood will be cause for more resistance not only from women. If the GOP has its way and the president goes along with proposals to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits, the country may experience an uprising akin to a second American Revolution!

From the PBS website this week: "...Post-inauguration reports that the new administration was quick to clamp down on the flow of information from some federal agencies prompted additional anxiety among librarians. 

..There is no scheduled librarian march on Washington, for example, like scientists have planned for Earth Day (though librarians with library science degrees say they will be joining in)......(It is believed that) librarians will coalesce against (the) President.. in large, physical numbers if the administration threatens funding to any major library institutions, such as the Library of Congress or National Archives." ..PBS.org

Read this excellent article about what scientists, programmers, professors and digital librarians are doing. Guerrilla Archivists "Structured like all-day hackathons and organized by volunteers, the events focus on downloading federal science—especially climate-change related—data sets from government websites and uploading them to a new website, datarefuge.org,"

(dangerousintersection.org)

Second Amendment advocates are minuscule compared to the army of  volunteers who are working now and will in the future to preserve and maintain vital scientific data that should be available to the American people. Our First Amendment rights are at risk should they fail in their efforts. (Some data is already being deleted from the White House website.) The lengths these dedicated people are going to in order to keep free public access to important information that may not be in agreement with the current administration's agenda, should make us realize how scary the situation is in today's White House. 


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I have started and not finished several blog posts before this one. It is difficult to keep up with the news coverage. Many articles say what I wish to say, and they often point out the latest White House events that are cause for concern. I decided to go ahead and put my two cents in anyway. After all, he has become the favorite subject of our late night comedians. 


As I began this yesterday, I still tried to keep up with news reports and opinions. I ran across this article in The Atlantic, and had to laugh. As you may have noticed, I do not mention the new president's name. I just can't bring myself to put it in writing, as I feel he represents the worst in our society. Reading this article, I discovered that I am not alone in refusing to use his name. On Not Saying His Name 

When he goes on camera to deliver a speech, it is so obvious that his speeches are written by someone else. He reads them haltingly, using grammar and language not part of his usual speech pattern. It was apparent when he appeared with Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada. He was so unconvincing in the spoken words which he read in their entirety that I almost felt sorry for him. The young Prime Minister showed so much more class and was obviously at ease with his own speech, which he delivered without having to read it.

The president is over his head in trying to govern in the manner in which he ran his business. His frustration with the massive bureaucracy is mounting the longer he is in office, and we suspect it won't be long before he blows up in public, truly being the embarrassment we all feel. I suspect the GOP, in their mostly silent support, are waiting until they wring out as much as they can that they've had on their agenda since before Obama's administration. (Then -- maybe -- impeachment? It may be sooner than we think.) The constant flak created by the administration has been a welcome distraction for them as the Republicans go about their business of trying to dismantle Obama's legacy. 

The impromptu, hour and a half long, news conference the president held today to announce his new Secretary of Labor was exhausting. His beating up on the media showed him again as the bully he is. Nothing about this man is presidential. 

When asked what we could do about him, someone said to me "All we can do now is pray for him!"

Peace and Hope,
Marilyn

I just made a correction about the article I read in The Atlantic. I previously said it was from The New Yorker. This was in regards to "not saying his name"! 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

From Melancholy to Hope

It's been over two months since I last wrote anything here. It's not that I haven't had anything to say. It's mostly because I have been so angry, upset, and even depressed since the election. I know how powerful words are, which reminds me of the old admonition passed down from grandmothers, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." I also am very aware of the (Spiritual) Law of Reciprocity, meant to encourage positive actions/words. In simple terms, "what you send out comes back to you tenfold". Of course, I am also aware that "negative reciprocity occurs when an action that has a negative effect upon someone else is reciprocated with an action that has approximately equal negative effect upon another"...Trade  I've had enough negative happening in my life the past few years without adding additional experiences or criticism. 

Related image

In my estimation, there is nothing "nice" that I can say about our new President. As for not-nice, one only has to look at the internet news headlines or turn on the television news to hear enough about this man and his history to make up your own mind. What he and his administration are doing and will continue to do appears to be so dreadful that one can only hope that "negative reciprocity" will swing back on them with tremendous force. Preferably before his four-year term is up. Impeachment, anyone? (Whoops! Am I sending out something that may come back to bite me?)

The one positive thing that appears to be due to the new Presidency is the DOW reaching 20,000 for the first time ever. If you look at the facts that 86% of stocks are owned by the top 10% of the population, the most benefit will go to those privileged elite. And of course, the upswing was already in play before the election, during Obama's administration.

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I don't think we hear enough about the big money being spent on elections by the huge corporations and billionaires. We can no longer believe that our votes will truly be the ones to elect our government officials. Or that those elected will have the poor and middle-class Americans' interests at heart. It is yet to be seen how the actions taken by our new President will affect the disenfranchised people who voted for him. 

As of 2014, the U.S. Congress was nicknamed the "Millionaires' Club', because for the first time in history more than half of the members were worth over one million dollars. Those statistics are outdated now. I'm certain more have joined the Club. 

(Photo: Stan Honda/AFP)
Former President Jimmy Carter
His opinion on Citizens United:
"It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. Senators and Congress members. So, now we’ve just seen a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over..." America Is No Longer a Democracy

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On a much brighter note, my oldest grandson Cameron took the trip of a lifetime during the past few weeks. He saved diligently for this trip, and has posted many photos and a diary of his travels throughout India on his Facebook page. The highlight of his trip must have been the days he spent at the Burmese Monastery in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India. He returned home a couple of days ago. I'm hoping to get more details of his experiences once he settles in and gets caught up on his work. The photos he sent to me are enchanting... even some he took of elephants in the surrounding jungle. 

Here is his first communication his dad got from Facebook:
January 15, 2017
Cameron and two new friends in India.
"So in just several days in India I: watched thousands of Hindus bathe in the Ganges river in observance of Makar Sakranti, attended a Spanish-speaking Catholic mass in the presence of Mother Theresa's remains, and in two days, I will be sitting under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya where The Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. I must admit, that for much of this journey I felt my normally open heart begin to clench. Being in places especially like Mumbai, where tourists are considered scam bait, it's easy for that to happen. But as time goes by and these amazing experiences continue to unfold, I sense my heart opening up with newfound levels of gratitude, love, and trust that I didn't know were possible."

As I've said before, Cameron and his generation are the hope of the future of the United States of America. Compassionate, empathetic, intelligent, and eager to embrace the world, honor and take care of it, and make it a better place for all.

This Grandmama and her generation can take lessons from them.

Peace and love,
Marilyn