August 03, 2007
The Salvation Army at the Minneapolis Bridge Disaster
One Salvation Army officer (minister) was in their car just before getting on the Minneapolis bridge when it collapsed, while an IT employee was on the bridge when it happened. Both were able to help those who were stranded. You can go to the web site for The Salvation Army's Minnesota and North Dakota Division to see more pictures and news, and contribute to the effort.
April 10, 2007
Our Spring Break jaunt this year was to the nation's capitol. I hadn't toured there since I was around 10, so it was high time I went back, this time with my own kiddos. I'm not going to give a full travelogue here (that tome will go out to family), but here are some thoughts.
Point #1: Bring a bike. DC is rather bike-friendly, and the National Mall is a longer walk than it looks. There is a place right downtown to rent some, but bring what you can. You can cover a lot of ground that way.
The first thing we did was a bike tour (free, as are many things in DC) run by the National Parks Service. It hit many spots in DC but I had no idea how much into DC we'd be. I have pictures of us biking down the middle of Pennsylvania Ave. with the Rangers leading the way. Not down the sidewalk; down the center lane. That by itself was cool (though I kept a good eye on the kiddos with me). There were enough stops along the way to rest my 40-something legs, so it wasn't a killer. They like to theme the tour with a "This Week in History" feel, and the week we went was the week World War 1 started, so at each stop there were talks about how this monument or that feature related back to the war, the run-up to it, the culture of the time and/or how events of the period affected the DC landscape. It went from the Jefferson Memorial, down and back up that peninsula, to the Capitol, to the Pershing Memorial (directly related to WW1 of course) and over to the White House, where we broke away from it to rejoin those of the family doing their own thing on foot. (With 6 in the family, you can only carry so many bikes.) A good learning experience and a good workout.
We hit all the usual spots during the week; the monuments along the Mall, the Smithsonian museums, Ford's Theater, the National Archives, Arlington National Cemetery. The Cherry Blossom Festival had just started, and the trees bloomed on cue. Unfortunately, this brings crowds, and while the National Parks Service has a nice Tourmobile bus service for a reasonable price, our use of it was marred by long lines and slow traffic. Again, bikes are your friend.
Point #2: Staying in a hotel close to DC can be worth the money. I was looking at some hotel web sites for places under $100, but everything was way outside the beltway. The Metro Rail is nice, but we'd have had to drive to the farthest out station first, taking lots of time out of our day. Hotwire.com saved the day, and I've become a big fan. For the same price as the Super 8, we stayed near the Reagan National Airport for a couple of days, and then splurged to stay downtown for a couple more. (Nice to just walk 4 block to the Mall.) Now, I said it can be worth the money because there are some things you'd probably get at the Super 8 for free that you either can't get or cost extra at the nicer hotels. Like Internet access ($10 per day), free simple breakfast, microwave ($25), fridge ($25), coffee maker in the room (1 of our hotels didn't have that) and even park (around $25 per day). Now, this may not been news to those who've stayed at these spots before, but this was my first real experience with it, so it was news to me. Fortunately, we brought a cooler with lots of food, and Pizza Hut delivers to the lobby. (Where else in DC can you feed 6 for $20?) A pool the size of my office cubicle was OK...once enough people left to allow us to go in. I understand that we're probably not the target market, but they could do just a bit more to fill those empty rooms and do just a little more to make it family friendly. So yes, it can be worth the money for the location, if you understand the amenity situation.
Point #3: Spend the time. There were a number of things we'd hoped to do but just didn't have time to do after doing the things we did do. DC is big in the two senses that there's so much to do, and that everything is so...big. The monuments are, of course, generally done on a grand scale, but when you go to the Smithsonian museums, there's so much in there. We spend Sunday afternoon through Wednesday, and really just hit the highlights. Maybe this point is better expressed "Spend the time well". Don't try to do a little bit of everything; do some things well and leave the rest for perhaps another visit.
We had a great time. Learned some history, some science, and got to see those things you see only on TV or the back of your money. I highly recommend a visit there some day if you've never gone.
January 08, 2007
God Is In Control (or "Why I Virtually Stopped Blogging and Why I'm Back")
Regular readers will have noticed that my contributions to this blog have been slight in the past few months, though they are on the rise. The reason for this is that a disease I hadn't thought much about in the past 10 years decided to make another appearance and made typing a chore. My Multiple Sclerosis was back. But while there is bad news involved, there is certainly a lot of good news and praise to God involved
Just before Halloween, a portion of the back of my head went numb (officially making me a numbskull). By the time I got to my neurologist, other portions of my body had gone numb, mostly on my right side. Included in this was my right hand, and, being right-handed, this presented me with some issues. The first time I had MS this bad was actually the first time I got it 20 years ago, and it numbed the whole left side of my body from shoulder to foot. However, I could still write and do most of what I did during the day with just my right hand. Other small relapses during that first 10 years were mostly inconveniences. This time, it was quite different.
Fortunately, my livelihood doesn't rest on my ability to write, but rather to type; I'm a software guy. Still, typing got to be a bit of work. I normally touch type, but now my right had was limited to using my first two fingers to get the keys on the right side of the keyboard and I had to give my left hand more to do. (Touch typists will understand when I say that all uses of the Shift key, spacebar and some letters in the middle were done on the left for a couple months.) I downloaded a free demo of voice recognition software and used that for my program specs and documentation, for e-mails, and for a little blogging. (I'm impressed with the state of the art in this area, especially with no voice training required. I'm unimpressed with how much of this capability is natively in Windows.) For computer programming, however, the keyboard is still the only real option. (Yes, I checked out some voice software for programming, but they were all computer-language-specific, and there weren't any for the language and the environment I was working in.) By the time I got done with the day's typing, I was in no mood to do more on the blog, hence my scarcity.
That's the lion's share of the bad news, but in all this there's quite a bit of good news, and God's getting praise and credit for it.
First of all, the treatment has been working very well. Instead of the handful of prednisone pills I'd take daily for months in 1986, now they give you even more prednisone but via IV and only for 3 days. (This is to reduce the swelling of the nerves.) The numbness has receded almost completely, and at this point, while my writing is still worse than my 6-year-olds, I'm up to using the correct fingers for the right-side keyboard keys (though I'm not touch typing just yet, as the fine sensation of my fingers on the keys isn't really back; my error rate is still not back down to normal). When my doctor got the MRIs back, which would show how widespread the MS "plaques" were, he expected to see between 15 and 20 dots on the film showing the locations. Instead he found 5, with a possible faint 6th dot. He also expected to see residual "holes" or scars from previous relapses, but found none.
And the good news actually started last summer. Prior to my first MS episode in '86, my wife and I had very little life insurance. Once this hit, insurance companies wanted to charge a much higher premium on me, so after it appeared I went ahead and took what I could afford to get adequate coverage. Well, a lot has changed in my family in 20 years (notably the births of our four choldren), so this summer I started looking again, since I hadn't been medicated for it in the previous 10 years. Sure enough, there was an insurance company (AIG, if you're interested) that wouldn't consider the MS since it had been that long. I got something like 6 times my previous coverage for a little over half the premium. So in my estimation, God held off on further episodes until I was able to get properly covered.
Some might say that what God should do is get rid of it completely, if He's the kind, loving God I believe Him to be. What I'll say to that is that in a number of ways, one of which I would term miraculous, He's let me know that He's in control and that He's allowing this for whatever purpose. He has let me know in no uncertain terms that while He can cure it, He just isn't, at least right now. Knowing that, I've been able to accept this and not be bitter about it.
So that's why I've been rather quiet of late, but now that I'm working on getting my typing faculties back, I consider blogging physical therapy. :)
October 18, 2006
Only 68 Days Until Christmas!
I was in J C Penny this evening, and while browsing around I noticed that the background music sounded familiar. For a minute I thought that it was some song that had a melodic phrase similar to a very popular piece of music; just an interesting coincidence. But as I listened to see if the melody changed, I realized that what I was listening to was the more popular tune.
"Angels We Have Heard On High".
I said to the guy at the register, "Christmas music? Already?" He gave a light-hearted roll of the eyes and said, "Tell me about it." I love Christmas music, don't get me wrong (my father is a non-repentant Christmas-aholic), but this does seem a little early.
So you know what that means, right? When you start hearing Christmas carols played in the stores, it's almost...
July 28, 2006
The Mounting Human Cost of a Single Abortion
The ills that abortion is known to cause, outside of the obvious death of a child, continues to either mount or be reinforced.
A new report from a committee of the National Academies of Science finds that a first-trimester abortion, the most common abortion procedure, is linked to an increasing risk of premature birth. The report comes from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a NAS organization.
The IOM published a report this month titled "Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention."
In the report is a list of "immutable medical risk factors associated with preterm birth" and "prior first-trimester abortion" is listed third among other risk factors that increase the risk of having a subsequent premature birth.
The report has huge consequences for abortion because premature birth can lead to a host problems, including cerebral palsy for the child and breast cancer for the mother.
Teenagers are at higher risk due to higher risk of infection and an immature cervix.
This also bolsters the abortion-cancer link.
The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, a group that monitors the link between abortion and breast cancer for women, says the "IOM's findings provide further support for an abortion-breast cancer link."
"If, after having had an abortion, a childless woman is unable to carry subsequent pregnancies, then she could remain childless for the remainder of her life. Cancer organizations say childlessness (nulliparity) is a risk factor for breast cancer," the group said in a statement provided to LifeNews.com.
Other research shows that a premature birth before 32 weeks gestation increases the mother's breast cancer risk, including articles in the British Journal of Cancer and Lancet, both in 1999.
Even though the pro-abortion forces continue to deny that there is any link between the two, the evidence continues to come in. The reason is simple biology.
The biological reasons for this are the same as for the abortion-cancer link, the Coalition explained.
"Breast tissue is only matured from cancer-susceptible tissue into cancer resistant tissue during the last eight weeks of a full-term pregnancy. During this time, women receive protection from estrogen overexposure experienced during the first two trimesters of pregnancy," the group said.
So not only does an abortion kill a child, it can permanently harm the mother, and hurt or kill subsequent children. If someone really is concerned for women, they ought to be concerned for them more than just for the here and now; more than the time it takes for the check to clear.
March 20, 2006
Yesterday's New York Times offered an interesting peek in to an evolving trend in the often-heated custody battles: visitation with Dad by computer (Full disclosure: my brother-in-law is profiled in this story:
With work and the school week behind them, Charles A. Mason III and his daughter, Arielle, who live more than 1,500 miles apart, prepared for their scheduled weekend visit. There was no packing involved, no plane tickets, no car rides or drop-offs. All it took was some instant messaging on their home computers and a little fidgeting in front of their respective Webcams, and father and daughter were chatting, playing checkers and practicing multiplication tables.
"It's funner than talking on the phone, because I can see him," said Arielle, 10, who lives with her mother in Longmont, Colo., but has regular "virtual visits" with her father as part of the custody arrangement her parents worked out after her mother moved eight years ago. "It's just like being in front of him, but with games and computer stuff added."
As for Mr. Mason, who lives in Warrenton, Va., the video chats are a vast improvement over telephone calls, during which his daughter — like many children her age — is often monosyllabic and easily distracted.
"I can barely hold her attention on the phone for five minutes," he said. "When we can play checkers and look at one another, I can keep her talking about school and life for an hour or more."
As divorce has remained a constant, custody arrangements have evolved over the last half-century. Increased awareness of the toll divorce can take on children and fathers' increased involvement as parents, combined with the demands of working parents who often have to move in order to get and keep jobs, have made for increasingly creative and sometimes complex custody agreements.
As the legal system begins to acknowledge the potential benefits of technology in bridging the physical and emotional distance caused by divorce and separation, more families are experimenting with computer-assisted custody sharing.
Although any separating couple can opt for virtual visits in their custody agreement, debate surrounding the issue is unfolding on the state level as advocates push to have the option spelled out in state laws in order to broaden awareness of the practice and enable judges to grant such visits where they see fit.
However, some say that virtual visitation is not necessarily a good thing:
But not everyone gives virtual visits a ringing endorsement. In addition to concerns that it may be used to limit in-person visits, some lawyers and noncustodial parents also worry that it may be used to bolster the case for a custodial parent's contested relocation.
In 2001 an appeals court in New Jersey overruled a lower court decision denying a custodial parent's request to move out of state, reasoning that the court did not consider computer-assisted visits as an option for the noncustodial parent who objected to the move.
A Massachusetts court ordered video visits in 2002 in another contested relocation dispute. The father in the case, who argued that video visits were being imposed to replace in-person visits with his children, lost his appeal to stop the move.
"The danger is that it will become a substitute for real time," said David L. Levy, chief executive of the Children's Rights Council, based in Hyattsville, Md., which advocates for children affected by divorce and separation. "Virtual time is not real time. You can't virtually hug your child or walk your child to school. We don't want this to be seen as an excuse to encourage move-aways."
The Utah and Wisconsin regulations specify that virtual visits should be used as a supplement to, not a substitute for, traditional visits. The Wisconsin bill also specifies that virtual visits should not be used to justify a custodial parent's relocation. The laws define "electronic communication" as contact by video conference, e-mail, instant message, telephone or other wired or wireless technology.
"I think that most judges understand that children require physical one-on-one contact with the absent parent," said Cheryl Lynn Hepfer, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Clearly, such technology offers both promise and peril for children of divorced parents. For such visitation arrangements to work effectively there needs to also be in-person visitation. The custodial parent needs to still be involved in the process of allowing their child to be online to ensure their safety. States need have specific requirements in place that do not allow custodial parents to use virtual visits as a reason to relocate far away from from the other parent. But in situations where the child is already living far away from the parent, the new means of communication available through the Internet allow parents to bridge the distance and spend more quality time with their children. That is something children of all ages and life situations need: time with their parents.
December 12, 2005
Good News from All Over
Found this on Fox News: If you want more good news in your life, HappyNews.com is apparently the place. This isn't just a place to find out about the latest cat rescued from a tree by the local fireman. There's international news ("Growing stability fosters respect for human right in Liberia"), national news ("Ariz. town will go wall-to-wall wireless"), health news ("Breast cancer patients may get less chemo"), science, environment, arts, opinion and a number of other sections. But they do have a section most other papers and websites don't; the hero section. Each section has dozens of stories and it seems to be updated regularly. Their credo is, "Real News, Compelling Stories, Always Positive" and it looks like they're living up to it. (Even with the stock report, which, on the front page, is covered up with a graphic that says, "Warning! Unhappy news alert, click at your own risk". Heh.)
March 22, 2005
We are all Terri Schiavo
Though we often refer to modern society as a "culture of death," never has death been less present than it is today. We no longer routinely face death. Death occurs in hospitals and nursing homes where the elderly and infirm are hidden away from society. Because we do not regularly bear witness to the ravages of disease and decay upon our bodies, I might suggest that on the whole we Americans are ill-equipped to face it when it comes.
For this reason, opinions on the Terri Schiavo case do not seem to follow the usual conservative/liberal political opinions (except perhaps in Congress where pandering to one's perceived constituencies is part of the job description). Friends who self-identify as liberal/left have also lined up in support of Terri Schiavo's parents. Friends who lean rightward are also insistent that she be "let go."
Because deep down we fear crippling infirmity, . . . because we are not equipped to deal with it, . . . because we look at Terri Schiavo and recognize that "there but for the grace of God go I," we wish to "end her suffering." Because we would never want to live like that, we believe it's best that no one else has to live like that either.
Because we have accepted the ideal of "quality of life," and have drawn our own arbitrary lines marking the point at which quality of life ends, we are entirely willing to draw that line for others as well.
The reason so many people support ending Terri Schiavo's life is because we are all potential Terri Schiavos, and it scares the crap out of us.
March 11, 2005
Michael Schiavo rejects offer of $1 million
Earlier today, World Magazine reported that an American businessman named Robert Herring had offered Michael Schiavo $1 million if he would end his pursuit to starve his disabled wife to death. (Note the headline on the BBC link, erroneously calling this a "coma case." Sigh.)
The $1m offer expires on Monday, 14 March, four days before Mrs Schiavo's feeding-tube is due to be removed. Under the offer, Mr Schiavo would hand over his rights to decide his wife's future to her parents.
Mr Herring, who founded an electronics firm and later a satellite channel, said he was moved to act after following the legal battle and realising that time was running out for Mrs Schiavo.
As a supporter of stem cell research, he said he believed that there was hope of a medical cure.
He said he was a "neutral party", insisting he had no connections with the woman's parents, husband or any organisation involved in the case.
"I believe very strongly that there are medical advances happening around the globe that very shortly could have a positive impact on Terri's condition," he said.
"I have seen miraculous recoveries occur through the use of stem cells in patients suffering a variety of conditions.
"With a date of March 18th quickly approaching, and no other viable hope for Terri to be able to keep her feeding tube, I felt compelled to act."
In a follow-up posting, World Mag reports that Michael Schiavo has rejected the offer.
Terri's family members said the offer was "incredible," but were not surprised Schiavo didn't take it. "After he has denied Terri therapy for so many years and denied our family any opportunity to help her, we can only come to the conclusion that he is not comfortable with the prospects of her regaining her abilities to speak and communicate to us the reasons for her condition," they said in a statement.
I'm inclined to agree. Since the man has obviously moved on with his life, fathering two children by another woman, one wonders why he pursues Terri's death so doggedly.
March 08, 2005
Technology creates strange alliances
(Hat tip: World Magazine Blog)
LifeNews.com reports on an unusual bill introduced in the Maine legislature that would outlaw abortions of gay fetuses. The article points out that the bill has the support of a national gay-lesbian pro-life group. Of course, I would assume that any anti-abortion legislation would have the support of any pro-life group.
What I find particularly unusual is that the bill is based on the notion that the mythical "gay gene" may one day be discovered, and as a result, parents may choose to abort an unborn child who is discovered to have that gene.
State Rep. Brian Duprey of Maine has introduced legislation to prohibit abortions on unborn children who are gay. The measure has raised eyebrows and generated debate whether or not genetics has any bearing on someone's sexuality.
The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians says it supports the bill.
"We recognize that at this time the gay gene has not been isolated, but with all the advances of genetics we believe that it may just be a matter of time" said Jackie Malone, executive vice president of PLAGAL.
Malone's group contends that homosexuality may not be a matter of preference or choice, but could be controlled by a person's genetic makeup. If a so-called "gay gene"is discovered and could be determined during a pregnancy, it could lead to abortions, PLAGAL believes.
"Abortion tries to get rid of real human beings who are threatening or undesirable," says Cecilia Brown, president of PLAGAL. "Children are routinely aborted now because of gender or disability. It is not inconceivable to see people aborting because of a possible gay gene."
May I assume that heterosexual fetuses could still be aborted?
(If you think China's "one child" policy that has resulted in more female children being aborted will create problems in the future, imagine what could happen with this! The mind boggles!)
Even more interestingly, Rep. Brian Duprey, who introduced the legislation, said he was inspired by a comment made by Rush Limbaugh.
Last month, Duprey told the Portland Press Herald newspaper that listening to the Rush Limbaugh show gave him the idea for the bill. Limbaugh had commented that if scientists ever discovered a gene that caused a person to be gay, then homosexual activists would become pro-life "overnight."I've heard this sort of comment before -- not sure if it was Limbaugh or someone else -- but I think it's accurate. And science is continually challenging those who insist that an unborn child is a mere "tissue mass."
Jonah Goldberg actually wrote about this bill last month. I missed it at the time. But he also makes a good point about how the discovery of a "gay gene" would affect not just pro-life gays and lesbians, but perhaps alter the thinking of all who identify themselves as homosexual.
Just imagine, for the sake of argument, that Rep. Duprey is right — that sometime in the near future women will be able to abort their pregnancies solely to avoid giving birth to a gay kid. Would this increase the number of pro-life gays and put pressure on the political alliance between gay groups and pro-abortion groups? Probably (although there are significant numbers of pro-life gays and lesbians already).
Nothing sharpens a man's mind as much as knowing he'll be hanged in the morning, as the saying goes. Likewise, one may assume without fear of much contradiction that homosexuals would greet the prospect of the quiet annihilation of their culture with a special revulsion they do not (for the most part) reserve for the consequences of abortion generally.
February 17, 2005
Blogosphere Appeals for Terri Schaivo
Are you tired of the Terri Schaivo story? Those who wish to see her killed have not tired and it seems the clock is ticking to a February 22 slow execution. Many are calling for the blogosphere to try its hand at turning the scythe of the Grim Reaper. The Anchoress has written compellingly on this. I hope you'll read it and do what you can.
Hillary, Abortion, and the Partisan Juggernaut
Even those who might be otherwise viewed as ideologues often get caught up with the juggernaut of partisanship, putting preservation of the party over advocacy or principle.
We’ve seen support among conservatives for changing historic Senate filibuster rules because the Republicans are frustrated by Democratic misuse of the rule that protects the minority party. But even more blatant is the failure of the pro-life movement to recognize and even praise unquestionable shifts within the Democratic Party on abortion.
“Since its defeats in the November elections, nothing has put the fractured soul of the Democratic Party on display more vividly than abortion. Party leaders, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and the new chairman, Howard Dean, have repeatedly signaled an effort to recalibrate the party's thinking about new restrictions on abortion.” (Source)
When Senator Clinton moderated her public position on abortion restrictions, infuriating the pro-abortion cabal, the only thing we heard from conservatives was skepticism and analysis of the enemy’s political calculation.
[Clinton said]: "There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances."
Does not ever have to be exercised. I searched Google and Nexis for parts of that sentence tonight and got no hits. Is the press corps asleep? Hillary Clinton just endorsed a goal I've never heard a pro-choice leader endorse. Not safe, legal, and rare. Safe, legal, and never.
Senator Clinton’s move is no doubt a political adjustment, not a change of heart. But if we discount changes by politicians that are, well, political, we will discount much that is done in Washington (maybe a good idea).
Perhaps I missed it, but I didn’t hear any pro-life conservatives celebrating this shift by Clinton. All I heard were observations about how early in the election cycle she was moderating her positions in order to be electable. I’m sure she is doing just that, and that is the right political commentary. But the pro-life movement should be celebrating any new successes and praising Democrats for the changes that are being made.
And it’s not just Hillary:
Senate Democrats named a professed opponent of abortion rights, Harry Reid of Nevada, as the leader in the Senate.
Many Democrats supported another abortion opponent, Timothy J. Roemer, for the party's chairmanship.
The party has recruited Robert P. Casey Jr., Pennsylvania's treasurer and a Catholic opponent of abortion (and son of one of the party’s renowned abortion opponents) to challenge Senator Rick Santorum.
One Republican Senator has noticed.
Pro-life Senator Sam Brownback, (R- Kansas) said: "Just the language that allows for the Democrats to open up and even encourage people to run for office as a pro-life candidate is an enormously positive development for me."
(I guess the pro-life groups are otherwise occupied. I just noticed that the American Life League has announced its National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day. I’m sure that will change a lot of hearts and minds.
The list of thoroughly pro-life Democrats is short, mind you (Note the website of Democrats For Life), but progress on the issues of life on both sides of the aisle should be praised by pro-life advocates, if indeed saving lives is more important than electing Republicans.