Monday, September 28, 2009

Autumnal Equinox Sunset

Equinox Sunset

I saw this photo this morning and thought I would share it with you. It was taken last week on the evening of the Equinox. How beautiful!

'Often inspiring or offering a moment for contemplation, a sunset is probably the most commonly photographed celestial event. But this uncommonly beautiful sunset picture was taken on a special day, the Equinox on September 22. Marking the astronomical change of seasons, on that day Earth dwellers experienced nearly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness (an equal night). Reflected in the calm waters of Lake Balaton with a motionless sailboat in silhouette, the Sun is setting due west and heading south across the celestial equator. In the background lies the Benedictine Archabbey of Tihany, Hungary.'

Credit & Copyright: Tamas Ladanyi (TWAN)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

'Body Worlds' Comes To Town

This past weekend two of my friends and I visited the Body Worlds exhibition. This a traveling exhibition of preserved human bodies and body parts that are prepared using a technique called plastination to reveal inner anatomical structures. The exhibition's developer and promoter is a German anatomist Gunther von Hagens, who invented the plastination technique in the late 1970s at the University of Heidelberg.

When I learned that the exhibit was coming to town I asked several friends if they would like to go with me to view the displays. A curious thing happened - I did not get any responses from them and I assumed that maybe they were too busy to go.

Then one day I was sitting with a group of people who were discussing the exhibit. The consensus of the group was that it was blasphemous and barbaric and they couldn’t imagine why anyone would go. It was then that I had the ‘aha’ moment and realized that the people that I had invited to go were possibly horrified with the idea and didn’t want to tell me.

Body Worlds was first presented in Tokyo in 1995 and have since been hosted by more than 50 museums and venues in North America, Europe, and Asia. Body Worlds exhibitions have received more than 28million visitors, making them the world's most popular touring attraction.

I focused on that figure of 28 million when I read it because it confirmed for me that maybe I was not alone or being ‘ghoulish’ by wanting to see the exhibition.

Each Body Worlds exhibition contains approximately 25 full-body plastinates with expanded or selective organs shown in positions that enhance the role of certain systems. More than 200 specimens of real human organs and organ systems are displayed in glass cases, some showing various medical conditions.

This particular exhibit concentrated on the heart. On the day we went it was well attended and the people were walking around in complete silence. It certainly gives one a lot to think about. The most revealing, for me, was viewing a liver with cirrhosis and the lungs of a smoker and non-smoker which are placed side by side. I learned that a person who smokes twenty cigarettes a day produces a coffee cup size of tar for the lungs to ingest – thus causing the black lung that was on display.

The Body Worlds exhibitions rely on the generosity of body donors; individuals who bequeathed that, upon their death, their bodies could be used for educational purposes in the exhibitions. Currently, the Institute for Plastination has a donor roster of 8000 individuals, 490 are already deceased.

They state “We believe that when people understand more about how the body works and how it can break down, they are more likely to choose healthy and sustainable lifestyles. We also hope it will inspire visitors to learn more about the life sciences.”

The exhibitions also allow visitors to see and better understand the long-term impact of diseases, the effects of tobacco consumption and the mechanics of artificial supports such as knees and hips.

The Body Worlds exhibitions aim to educate the public about the inner workings of the human body and show the effects of poor health, good health and lifestyle choices. They are also meant to create interest in and increase knowledge of anatomy and physiology among the public.

One conclusion that I did come to while wandering around the exhibit was that I could never donate my own body to be an exhibit – not sure if that is because I am prudish or that I just don’t want to be hanging around for all to see. But I am glad that others have given us the gift of understanding more about how our body functions and the exhibit leaves everyone with their own personal thoughts on what they have just seen. I am sure that we all left there with the idea of making more sensible choices about the way we treat our bodies.

If this is something that is of interest to you -

I highly recommend visiting this exhibit if it comes to your community.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Autumnal Equinox

Veteran peace and environmental activist Jerry Rubin is calling on people everywhere to celebrate this year's autumnal equinox by hugging a tree.

There will be a mass tree hug at noon Tuesday at the Children's Tree of Life in Palisades Park, near the Santa Monica Pier.

Rubin says hugging trees not only relieves stress but also takes back the title "tree hugger" from those who would make it a term of ridicule and it also reminds people of the importance of trees to the environment.

The exact date and time of the fall equinox, when the sun moves into the astrological sign of Libra, varies from year to year.

When and why the autumnal equinox happens:

The seasons of the year are caused by the 23.5ยบ tilt of the earth's axis. Because the earth is rotating like a top or gyroscope, it points in a fixed direction continuously -- towards a point in space near the North Star. But the earth is also revolving around the sun. During half of the year, the southern hemisphere is more exposed to the sun than is the northern hemisphere. During the rest of the year, the reverse is true. The halfway points in the year are called the equinoxes. It is time of the year when the sun rises exactly in the east, travels through the sky for 12 hours, and sets exactly in the west. Everywhere on earth experiences close to 12 hours of daylight, and 12 hours of nighttime.

The Autumnal Equinox is also known as:

Alban Elfed, Autumn Equinox, Fall Equinox, Cornucopia, Feast of Avilon, Festival of Dionysus, Harvest Home, Harvest Tide, Mabon, Night of the Hunter, Second Harvest Festival, Wine Harvest, and the first day of autumn.

So there you have it - today is the first day of autumn and for those of us living in Northern parts of the United States it also signals the time that the leaves start to change color and a gradual change in temperature.

We have already started getting a chill in the air in the evenings, it is becoming dark earlier each evening and the leaves are falling from the trees.

For those readers who live in the warmer climates you should try to visit the Northern states because the foliage is beautiful and it is the best time of the year here.

Go on out there and hug a tree today – I dare you!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Hurt Locker - a movie about the Iraq War -2009

The film features a scene where the EOD team is stranded in the desert and Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) has to assume sniper duties on the fly.

This past week I went to see ‘The Hurt Locker.” A film about the Iraq war.

If you are a reader of this blog you will know that I am a pacifist and definitely against war. I have posted several times expressing my anguish about how many have died and the current status of the wars that the United States are involved in.

During the Vietnam War there were accounts televised daily, reporting that day’s number of troops Killed in Action and the number who were wounded. Every evening we witnessed bloody war scenes of the actions that had taken place in the war zone. It was gruesome, and the high number of dead increased rapidly. (At the close of the war 58,209 US deaths had been recorded with more than 2,000 still missing.) As the public became desensitized to violent images on television, life went on as usual. However, the more we learned, the more anti war sentiment increased. Eventually there were thousands of anti-war demonstrations held around the country and finally a troop pull out was announced.

Some of these things are missing in the current Iraq/Afghanistan wars. They are almost invisible. We see a few mini clips of the war action in these countries, the bodies of those who are killed are returned quietly with very little fanfare, and until recently, it was forbidden to take photos of the flag draped caskets as they arrived home. The only way you hear of how many war casualties there are is to look them up online. As of this date: 5,173 killed in action and 1,342,801 Iraqis and Afghanis have been killed.

I wanted to view the film because I spend time protesting the wars, and telling as many people who will listen to me, how many people have died in these wars. I have friends who have completed active service in Iraq who are very tight lipped about what is actually going on there.

I am aware of the mounting numbers of troops who return wounded, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and several others who have committed suicide.

During the Vietnam war I worked for the American Red Cross at the McGuire Air Force/Fort Dix Army bases in New Jersey. My job was to greet the war wounded as they arrived to that part of the nation to be transferred to the Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. I was the first person they would see as they were disembarked from the aircraft on their stretchers. The patients were all holding their Purple Heart medals that had been presented to them as they boarded the planes in Vietnam. Most of them were in their teens (remember they were drafted at 18 then) and they all had lost either their sight and one or more of their limbs. I would help connect them with their one free phone call to the person of their choice, (mother, father, wife, etc.). There were no computers or cell phones in those days and there was no contact with their families while they were in Vietnam except by the occasional letter that was not always guaranteed to arrive.

I did my best to greet the men with a big smile even though my heart was breaking for them and their circumstances. This is when I personally witnessed the physical devastation that is the direct result of war.

Anyway, today as I protest against the war, I often find myself wondering just how is it ‘over there.’ What are the real circumstances?

I read the reviews about “The Hurt Locker” and decided to see if it was pure ‘Hollywood’ or if it showed the actual day to day lives of the military and civilians in that part of the world.
One review stated ‘while the film features its fair share of action movie danger and, yes, explosions, it derives a sobering weight from the very real efforts of the few American soldiers tasked with diffusing the Iraq War's most unpredictable weapons on a daily basis. Incredibly, the soldiers of the EOD -- short for the US Army's Explosive Ordnance Disposal team -- volunteer for this duty, an assignment with far more casualties than any other military post. ‘

Other reviews stated that it was a realistic depiction of what is actually happening in Iraq.
Reviewers state ‘The Hurt Locker is a film that was written by Playboy writer Mark Boal, who spent time in 2004 as an embedded journalist in Iraq. He turned his experiences and observations into a fictionalized character study of three bomb technicians in Baghdad. The film has earned some of the biggest raves of the year from critics who hail Boal's riveting characterizations and accolades are also going to Kathryn Bigelow for her superbly tense direction.’

Mr. Boal who was in Iraq as a reporter states that ‘the time in Iraq was really research, and I did additional research after that. It enabled us to make something that was pretty faithful to what life there was like in 2004.’

As I watched the film I gained some additional insight on just what life is like for those troops who are assigned there and what life must be like for the local citizens.
I still see war as senseless and it confirmed for me that there is still so much work to be done in getting the word out to those who appear to have, once again, become desensitized to U.S. troops coming home in wooden, flag draped boxes.

So, if you are against these wars please let someone else know. Write letters, make phone calls, stand out, demonstrate, and talk with others until someone listens.


What about the title of the film?
In Iraq, it is soldier vernacular to speak of explosions as
sending you to ”the hurt locker”

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Reflection - The Power Of Prayer

Asa: physician, son of Abijah and grandson of Rehoboam, was the third king of Judah (OT)


Many of my readers have been praying for Asa Hill.

The Buffalo News printed the following statement this morning. Asa has died. The 7 year-old boy was in the Women's and Children's Hospital in critical condition after sustaining serious injuries in an accident Thursday on the I-190.

According to a hospital spokesman, a Memorial Service will be held Monday at 11am at the Unitarian Universalist Church at the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Ferry Street, Buffalo, New York

Friends and Family are welcome.


As I was writing a Sunday Reflection today I saw Asa’s grandmother Lorna Hill on the local television news station. She said (I am paraphrasing) "Many of you joined us as we prayed for a miracle for Asa. Asa has died but do not overlook the fact that prayers were answered and miracles have happened, but for other children.

The prayers of some other families have been answered. His heart, liver, and kidneys will be donated to three other children who have been waiting for a miracle also. Now those children will be able to live healthy lives.”

Her words brought tears to my eyes. I, along with many others, believe in the power of prayer and I am also aware that sometimes the prayers that we offer up are often answered in ways that we did not exactly have in mind – but often after examination we realize that they were in fact answered.

The Hill family is strong in faith and is finding comfort that in losing their son his organs will be donated to others who have been waiting for them.

His father Amilcar Hill said that Asa was “filled with love.” It is the families wish to pass that love on to others.

This family’s graciousness is a wonderful example to me and I thank them for this lesson.

As the family and friends pass through this time of pain and sorrow I pray that each day ahead will continue to bring some measure of comfort to them.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Sudden Death in the Afghan War - 5,154 US dead

Calm - then sudden death in Afghan war

By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU and JULIE JACOBSON, Associated Press Writers
DAHANEH, Afghanistan –

The pomegranate grove looked ominous. The U.S. patrol had a tip that Taliban fighters were lying in ambush, and a Marine had his weapon trained on the trees 70 yards away. "If you see anything move from there, light it up," Cpl. Braxton Russell told him.

Thirty seconds later, a salvo of gunfire and RPGs — rocket-propelled grenades — poured out of the grove. "Casualty! We've got a casualty!" someone shouted. A grenade had hit Lance Cpl. Joshua "Bernie" Bernard in the legs.

A Marine and son of a Marine, a devout Christian, Iraq war veteran and avid hiker, home-schooled in rural Maine, Bernard was about to become the next fatality in the deadliest month of the deadliest year since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Then they reached the pomegranate grove. The orange streaks of bullets whizzing in every direction grew visible as the light faded.

"That's when I realized there was a casualty and saw the injured Marine, about 10 yards from where I'd stood," Jacobson would write in her journal. "For the second time in my life, I watched a Marine lose his. He was hit with the RPG, which blew off one of his legs and badly mangled the other. ... I hadn't seen it happen, just heard the explosion. I hit the ground and lay as flat as I could and shot what I could of the scene."

Bernard lay on the ground, two Marines standing over him exposed, trying to help. A first tourniquet on Bernard's leg broke. A medic applied another.
"I can't breathe, I can't breathe," Bernard said. Troops crawling under the bullets dragged him to the MRAP, the mine-resistant armored vehicle that accompanied the patrol.

"The other guys kept telling him `Bernard, you're doing fine, you're doing fine. You're gonna make it. Stay with me Bernard!' He (a Marine) held Bernard's head in his hands when he seemed to go limp and tried to keep him awake. A couple more ran in with a stretcher," Jacobson recalled in the journal.

"Another RPG hit the mud wall on the other side of the street from where we were, about 5 yards away. It was a big BOOM, and I just lay my face in the dirt and everything went quiet for about 10 seconds. It was just silence like I was wearing noise-canceling headphones or like world peace had finally descended upon the earth. The air was white with sand. Then I started feeling the rubble fall down around me. And I thought, `Is this what it's like to be shell-shocked? Am I all still here? I can't believe I am.' "
"I was fine and surprised at how calm I was and that I could actually still hear."

That night, officers assembled the platoon in a darkened room of the run-down house where the Marines had camped after taking Dahaneh two days earlier. There the officers delivered the news: Bernard had died of a blood clot in his heart on the operating table.

Bernard was the 19th American to die in Afghanistan in August. Fifty-one Marines, soldiers and seamen lost their lives that month. Of the 815 Americans killed in and around Afghanistan since 2001, 151 died last year and 180 so far this year.

It had all gone very quickly. It was late afternoon when the Taliban fired their first RPGs. It was dusk when the Marine was driven away in the armored vehicle. And it was night when the patrol returning to base saw the dark silhouette of the helicopter that flew him away.

In Maine, his father described him as "humble, shy, unassuming — the very first to offer help." He didn't smoke or drink, and always opened the door for others. His friends were his church group, whom he would visit when on leave, and his sister Katy, 20.

Lance Cpl. Joshua "Bernie" Bernard was 21 years old.


This account is based on excerpts from an AP story was published this week by reporter Julie Jacobson while on assignment in Afghanistan.


To this date there have been 5,154 recorded deaths of US service members since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started.

If you are troubled by this please join one of the protest efforts against the war.
Write to the President, and your elected officials to let them know how you feel.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

If It Is Thursday It's Going Green - Plastics in the Ocean

Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch Worries Researchers

This photo shows the 'island' of garbage in the Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean garbage patch worries researchers
Updated: August 27, 2009

It's one of the bigger pieces of trash in a giant patch of garbage-littered water - one that's bigger than Texas - where most of the plastic looks like snowy confetti against the deep blue of the north Pacific Ocean.

But most of the trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has broken into bite-sized plastic bits, and scientists want to know whether it's sickening or killing the small fish, plankton and birds that ingest it.

While scientists have documented trash's harmful effects for coastal marine life, there's little research on garbage patches, which were first explored extensively by self-trained ocean researcher Charles Moore just a decade ago. There's also scant research on the marine life at the bottom of the food chain that inhabit the patch.

But even the weather-beaten, sun bleached plastic flakes that are smaller than a thumbnail can be alarming. "They're the right size to be interacting with the food chain out there," Goldstein said.

Plastic sea trash does not biodegrade and often floats at the surface. Bottle caps, bags and wrappers that end up in the ocean from the wind or through overflowing sewage systems can then drift thousands of miles.

The sheer quantity of plastic that accumulates in the North Pacific Gyre, a vortex formed by ocean and wind currents and located 1,000 miles off the California coast, has the scientists worried about how it might harm the sea creatures there.
Plastics have entangled birds and turned up in the bellies of fish, and one paper cited by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates 100,000 marine mammals die trash-related deaths each year.

The scientists hope their data gives clues as to the density and extent of marine debris, especially since the Great Pacific Garbage Patch may have company in the Southern Hemisphere, where scientists say the gyre is four times bigger.

Only humans are to blame for ocean debris, Goldstein said. In a blog entry posted a day before the science ship arrived in Newport, Ore., she wrote the research showed her the consequences of humanity's footprint on nature.

"Seeing that influence just floating out here in the middle of nowhere makes our power painfully obvious, and the consequences of the industrial age plain," she wrote. "It's not a pretty sight."


I read this article in the paper this week. The words that stood out to me are
'100,000 marine mammals die trash-related deaths each year.' and
'Only humans are to blame for ocean debris.'

What more evidence do we need to understand that the use of plastic bags and bottles, etc., are harmful to humans, wildlife, and the environment?

I urge you to reduce your use of these items.