Thursday, April 28, 2005

Something is Rotten in Denmark

I missed the phenomenon when it started in Germany. Hamburg, to be exact. It seems that Germany has had over 1,000 toads simply explode, and now the toads in Denmark are exploding too. Here's the full story.

This isn't a case of animal cruelty, the way you might expect. No teenagers coming during the night and planting explosives inside the toads. No toad-seeking mini-missiles. According to the story, "Experts are at a loss to explain what is causing the toads' painful deaths, which primarily take place between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m."

"[T]he toads climb on to land, swell to up to three times their normal size, and burst, casting their innards up to one meter in the air, the Coppenhagen Post reports."

The experts, including curator of Denmark's Museum of Natural History, Frank Jensen, expect the cause to be something earthly, like the ozone hole or toxins in the environment. They point out that amphibians are especially susceptible to subtle changes in their habitat.

Let's hope they figure this one out before it spreads any more.


It looks as though they have figured this out already! Is it toxins? The ozone hole allowing too much ultraviolet radiation to get through? Some other environmental disaster caused by Evil Big Business ruthlessly raping the toads' ecosystem?


It's crows. They've developed a taste for toad liver (full story here). "Based on the wounds, Mutschmann said, it appears that a bird pecks into the toad with its beak between the amphibian's chest and abdominal cavity, and the toad puffs itself up as a natural defense mechanism." Mutschmann is Frank Mutschmann, a Berlin veterinarian. "But, because the liver is missing and there's a hole in the toad's body, the blood vessels and lungs burst and the other organs ooze out, he said."

"Hamburg's Institute for Hygiene and the Environment regularly tests water quality in the city, and found no evidence that the toads were diseased. The institute even ruled out that the toads were suffering because of a fungus brought in from South America."

Still the Institute isn't ready to accept the crow theory just yet. Not until they've actually observed it. If there are more developments, I'll be sure to post them.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


I had lunch today with a few people from my previous job. I haven't seen them in quite a while, but they're working for the company I'm at now, and now that my department has moved to the main headquarters, we had a chance to get together and catch up on all the people we used to work with.

We're all in IT (used to be called DP until they new-and-improved the name), and it's getting pretty dismal out there. One of the guys mentioned the dreaded word, "outsourcing." That's the word that got so much negative press during the 2004 presidential campaign. It became a word that people could only say if they followed it immediately by spitting on the ground. But when he said it this time, it was to point out that the outsource companies in India and China are finding that they need Americans to do a lot of the work.

Meanwhile, the job-loss issue that I see over and over in IT is not outsourcing, but corporate mergers. When two companies merge, nearly all of the headquarters departments at the company being taken over are dissolved. A corporation only needs one payroll department, one accounting department, one IT department. A merger takes two of each of these (and more) departments and throws one of them out on the street.

Over the course of my career (25+ years) I have seen many, many more people downsized or merged out the door than I've seen outsourced. Forget the "peril" of outsourcing. It's corporate consolidation that's the bigger threat.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Happy People/Healthy People

OK, this study (courtesy of the London Telegraph) was performed in the UK, so it's possible that Happy British people are healthier than their unhappy British counterparts. But the results of the study square with what I learned during the course of getting my Bachelor's degree in Psychology--particularly in the Adulthood and Aging class. Our Aging professor lived for research, especially when that research involved trying to find ways to extend not only life, but vibrant, healthy life.

From the studies we looked at, we learned that optimists live longer than pessimists. People who see themselves as having some control over their lives live longer than people who see their lives as entirely outside of their control.

In the famous Nun's Study (link here), they researched a group of nuns in one convent who had grown old together. The researchers had, in the nuns, a common environment and lifestyle, which allowed them to find correlations to longevity (and Alzheimer's, but that's another story) that aren't as easy to find in the general population. What they found was that those nuns whose entrance essays (written at an average age of 22) used positive emotional words were the ones who lived longer. As the study article states, "Taking into account that nuns are less likely to engage in behaviors that are health risks such as excessive drinking and smoking, the authors agree that this may be part of why they lived a long life. But, they argue that 'the phenomenon represented by the use of positive emotion words in early adulthood writings did add years to their lives.'"

The thing that's different about the UK study is that it looked at the subjects over the course of a day, not over the course of a lifetime. The researchers apparently checked the various hormone levels of the subjects as the subjects reported their emotional states.

The Telegraph reports, "The main chemical difference in those who were generally happy was the lower amount of the chemical plasma fibrinogen in the blood, a major predictor of cardiovascular disease risk.

"The happier subjects also had lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone related to conditions such as type II diabetes and hypertension. Happy men also had lower heart rates throughout the day and evening, suggesting good cardiovascular health."

This study is encouraging to me because my parents, especially my father, are generally happy people, and so am I. Looks like we just might live forever. I hope you do too.

Uh Oh

Eeek! It's been a week since I posted anything. Too much overtime at work, and it's even been eating into my prime blogtime: lunch hour.

So, what to post on? Important things, like judicial nominations and their blockade by the Senate Democrats? The good news that happy people are healthier? Or life in general?

Chances are, this will take all day in bits and pieces of time, because work is still a pressure cooker. And, the posts will probably be a little of everything.

But. No time right now. Gotta work....

Monday, April 18, 2005

Great Job Opportunity

The Times of London is reporting a job opening for Chief Executive Officer of Her Majesty’s Government Communications Centre (HMGCC). James Bond fans would recognize this position as that of "Q," the man whose job it was to invent all those cool gadgets that Bond got to use.

There really is a Q: James Widdowson, the current CEO, is leaving his post and will need to be replaced. According to The Times, "As a result of the war against terrorism the unit’s role and resources have been expanded and the successful candidate will have funds of £27 million at his disposal and be in charge of 425 staff."

Not to mention, the salary. "Whoever is appointed will earn between £90,000 and £100,000 a year and will be expected to provide “inspirational” leadership with experience in cutting-edge technology and a strong sense of integrity."

"While Aston Martins fitted with missiles may be far-fetched, the British ingenuity which has created exploding rats, compasses hidden in buttons and booby-trapped camel dung remains prized by the secret services.

"One of the more urgent requirements of secret agents are tiny but powerful and long-lasting batteries to power the equipment they use.... A further area likely to be investigated by the new Q is use of nanotechnology for spying, as the art of miniaturisation gets down to molecular level."

This isn't quite my area of expertise. But if it's yours, see The Times article for more details on how to apply.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Judicial Nominations

I wasn't going to post anything today at lunchtime. Too much to do today, trying to get ready for our department to move locations over the weekend. But Hugh Hewitt made the Senators' email contacts too easy, and I sent a message to both of my Senators (Boxer & Feinstein -- what a losing combination!) and to Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist. Here's what I told them:

Almost identical messages to Boxer & Feinstein:

Sen. Boxer/Feinstein,

I urge you and your colleagues to stop blocking the votes of the President's judicial nominations. When Bill Clinton was president, the Democrats made a big show of demanding that all his nominations get an up or down vote. Well, that demand is still just as valid today as it was under Pres. Clinton.

Let the President's nominations get a vote on the Senate floor. If you reject them, fine. Just vote.

When you and your party derail the workings of the Senate, then there's no point in your being there. Obstruction will result in your replacement.

Will they get the message? Doubtful, especially Boxer, who never ever ever listens to her constituents. Ever. Unless they're way, way, way Hard Left. Feinstein listens on occasion.

Then I wrote to Senator Frist, who isn't obstructing the way the Democrats are, but whose attempts at compromise are amounting to cooperation with obstruction. What's the difference?!?

Sen. Frist,

The leading Democrats have made it clear they WILL obstruct the President's nominations and are even considering filibustering John Bolton and presumably any Supreme Court nominations. The time for seeking a compromise is over, because the Democrats will not compromise.

The Republican leadership, starting with you, must act NOW to change the cloture rule for presidential nominees and get these and future nominees the vote they deserve. If you dither any more than you already have, your support will start hemorraging. For the first time ever, I gave money in 2004 to John Thune's campaign, President Bush, and Bill Jones (vs. Sen Boxer). But if the Republicans don't grow a spine and grow it soon, I will have to consider that money wasted, and you Republicans won't see another dime from me.

We elected you to pursue the programs President Bush campaigned on, especially getting some sound judges on the appellate courts to counteract the lunacy of the left-wing judges. If you can't find the guts to get the job done, then you can kiss a presidential bid goodbye, and we'll find somebody who does have a spine.

Do it now, Sen. Frist. Do it now.

That about sums it up. I'm fed up with the Democrats running the Senate, when we elected Republicans to run the show. The Republicans can either do what we elected them to do, or they can make room for someone who will.


Here's what I sent to Senator John McCain, who is expected to announce that he will vote against changing the cloture rules. Similar to what I sent to Frist, but with some key differences.

Sen. McCain,

The leading Democrats have made it clear they WILL obstruct the President's nominations and are even considering filibustering John Bolton and presumably any Supreme Court nominations. The time for seeking a compromise is over, because the Democrats will not compromise.

The Republican leadership, including you, must act NOW to change the cloture rule for presidential nominees and get these and future nominees the vote they deserve. Your dithering and leaning toward the postion of the Democrats is counterproductive. For the first time ever, I gave money in 2004 to John Thune's campaign, President Bush, and Bill Jones (vs. Sen Boxer). But if the Republicans don't grow a spine and grow it soon, I will have to consider that money wasted, and you Republicans won't see another dime from me.

We elected Republicans to pursue the programs President Bush campaigned on, especially getting some sound judges on the appellate courts to counteract the lunacy of the left-wing judges. The idea that if you change the cloture rules now, it could hurt you when you're in the minority is ironic. Because, if you DON'T change the rules now, you WILL find yourselves in the minority very soon.

If you can't find the guts to get the job done, then you can kiss a presidential bid goodbye, and we'll find somebody who does have a spine.

Do it now, Sen. McCain. Do it now.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Our Military

"SARANAC LAKE, N.Y.--There are no longer generators running, or armored vehicles rumbling, or mortars exploding, and the roar of the silence is deafening to me. What I hear at night now is the gentle breaths released from the perfect lips of my sons. The same lips that I cannot kiss enough. The lips that make my eyes fill with tears every time they touch my cheeks."

So begins a column in the Wall Street Journal's Editorial Page, by Greg Moore. It's a beautiful piece about a soldier coming home from Iraq and the importance of his family. I recommend reading the whole thing.

What stands out for me, in addition to what Moore has to say, is the way this reveals the lie that's told by the Left (Schumer? Kennedy? The sound clips are running around my head, but I can't quite identify them.) that the military is manned by the hopeless poor who are unable to get a real job. Yes, Greg Moore is a member of the National Guard, which implies that he has a day job. But the quality of his writing reveals the kind of character and clear-headedness I see in the Marines who attend my church in Southern California.

Our military is not full of the oppressed, slack-jawed dolts that the Left would like us to believe. It is made up of strong, intelligent men and women who know their duty and strive to fulfill it honorably.

Another example of the quality of our military is David Rozelle, who lost a leg in Iraq and fought to come back to active duty, and is serving in Iraq again. His book, "Back in Action: An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude" tells the story.

I can't say enough about our military. And I can't thank them and their families enough for the sacrifices they make so that our nation and others can remain free.

May the Lord God bless them all.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Pope John Paul II & Communism

To start, I need to say that I'm a Never-Catholic. I was raised as a Protestant and always felt sorry for the Catholic kids who had to go to catechism after school, while I got to go home and play.

So the Pope has never been mine. I've seen the papacy of John Paul II as an outsider, but I respected the strong stands he took for the pro-life position of the Catholic church in the midst of global pressure to bend (or break) on these issues.

What I wasn't aware of was his stand against Communism. (Another disclaimer while I'm at it: I was raised by the public school system to be a liberal, feminist, anti-nuke (power & weapons), anti-big-business, pro-choice, rabid environmentalist. I grew up and came to my senses over time, but not until Bush-41's presidency, so I missed the whole Reagan fervor when it happened.)

When I watched the Reagan funeral and listened to the speeches and read the commentaries on his legacy, I got the impression that Communism was defeated by President Reagan, with a little help from British Prime Minister Thatcher. I don't remember hearing about the Pope's contribution at the time of Reagan's funeral.

Now, though, Pope John Paul's anti-Communist position is front-and-center in much of the coverage. And the best column I've read about it is Peggy Noonan's excellent piece for the Wall Street Journal Opinion page.

She says, "But I think I know the moment Soviet communism began its fall. It happened in public. Anyone could see it. It was one of the great spiritual moments of the 20th century, maybe the greatest.

"It was the first week in June 1979. "

This pre-dates Reagan and happened only a month after Thatcher became Prime Minister.

Noonan continues, "On June 2, 1979, the pope arrived in Poland. What followed will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.

"He knelt and kissed the ground, the dull gray tarmac of the airport outside Warsaw. The silent churches of Poland at that moment began to ring their bells. The pope traveled by motorcade from the airport to the Old City of Warsaw.

"The government had feared hundreds or thousands or even tens of thousands would line the streets and highways.

"By the end of the day, with the people lining the streets and highways plus the people massed outside Warsaw and then inside it--all of them cheering and throwing flowers and applauding and singing--more than a million had come."

"The pope had not directly challenged the government. He had not called for an uprising. He had not told the people of Catholic Poland to push back against their atheist masters. He simply stated the obvious. In Mr. Weigel's words: 'Poland was not a communist country; Poland was a Catholic nation saddled with a communist state.'"

There is so much more in her column, all of it beautifully written. I recommend reading every word. More than once.

He was not my pope, but he was a man who carved his mark for Good on the world's stage, and I admire him for that.

May he rest in peace.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

God Save Our Schools

The mind boggles sometimes at what's going on in the public schools. Here are two articles about some of that.

The first involves, of course, the ACLU and its relentless pursuit of the removal of God from the public square. According to the article, "The ACLU expressed outrage that, when Shane Tycer took the microphone to pray before the ballgame when the regular announcer was late, no school officials tried to stop him." They (the ACLU) have asked the courts to fine the Tangipahoa Parish School Board or throw one or more of them in jail over the incident.

My favorite quote from the article is, "'Public schools should be kept inclusive and secular in keeping with our founders’ ideas for religious liberty for all,' Cook said." Cook is Joe Cook, executive director of ACLU of Louisiana.

The logic of this statement is stunning. According to the ACLU's alternate reality, the Founding Fathers of our country felt so strongly about religious liberty that they wanted public schools (which didn't exist then) to be kept secular. By erasing religion from all public forums, we ensure religious liberty for all. This makes perfect sense, in the same way that "WAR IS PEACE," "FREEDOM IS SLAVERY," "IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH," and "ARBEIT MACHT FREI" make sense.

The second story is one that I've heard before. School officials are concerned that the use of red ink by teachers on student assignments is traumatic to children. So they're switching to other colors, especially purple.

The thing that makes this article a little different from previous ones is that this time it was parents who complained about the red ink. "Red writing, they said, was 'stressful.'"
"'The color is everything,' said Foriska, an educator for 31 years." Another teacher, Justin Kazmark, said, "Purple is just a little bit more gentle."

It can only be the public educational system that brings people to conclude that red is stressful and purple is gentle. I have no doubts that twenty years from now, these same educators will be shocked to discover that children find purple to be a traumatic color.

It's not the color, it's what it's used for that brings the emotional association.

God save our schools.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


The new carpet came last Thursday. I spent most of my spare time in March either mentally or physically getting things off the carpeted part of the floor. My commute time was heavily taken up trying to decide which things would fit in the kitchen or one of the bathrooms and which things would have to go into the storage unit I rented just for the new carpet.

Wednesday night my daughter and I moved the most of the non-essential heavy stuff out into the driveway, blocked from casual view by the cars. Bright and too early Thursday morning, with the help of a friend, we got the rest moved. The back door and laundry area were completely blocked with boxes, then the TV. The rack of DVDs got moved into the kitchen, blocked in by the piano, and then the couch that has recliners at each end and is too heavy to get outside. And my bathroom was so full of stuff, it was unusable. We kept my daughter's bathroom available.

But once everything was off the carpet, what a glorious day! There was nothing we could do but sit outside in our office chairs in the shade and watch the butterflies go by. We took our little dog, Abby, for a walk heading south along the street as the butterflies flew north. Flocks of Monarchs came at us, making a starburst pattern as the breeze blew them around and behind us. It was exhilarating.

After our walk, we napped in our chairs, Abby on my lap, and at 3:00, I got in the car to listen to Hugh. That's when I heard that Terri Schiavo had finally passed away, and I thought about her and the butterflies, about transformation and a glorified body in heaven.

And then the installers finished, and we had to move everything back in the house from outside. By the time we finished, it was late, and I had bruises at my wrists and on my knees and up one thigh. I got my daughter's bed put together and my box spring and mattress thrown on the floor, and I hit the sack so I could get up at 5:00 Friday morning to go to work.

It was like that in March: Full of Terri Schiavo and also getting ready for carpet. Full of the most crucial issues of life and also the mundane.

Now, as I go through April, I don't want the mundane to win.

Patron Saint of Blogging

Hugh Hewitt has mentioned that there isn't yet a patron saint of blogging. He offered St. Augustine of Hippo as the obvious choice, because of his prolific writing (Confessions, City of God, etc.) He also likes St. Hugh of Lincoln, but that's just vanity.

Personally, after having listened to How the Irish Saved Civilization on tape, I like St. Columba. He was a bard, a miracle worker, and legend has it that he wrote 300 books. He is also the patron saint of bookbinders and poets. Through his and his fellow monks' work at the abbey of Iona in Ireland and beyond, Western Civilization's writings were preserved and spread throughout Europe during the Dark Ages, so that they were still available to help spur and inspire the Renaissance.

Aren't these the descriptions of bloggers? Bards, poets, miracle workers, people whose work has the potential to save civilization.

I give you St. Columba, the patron saint of blogging!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Terri Schiavo XI

I had carpet installed this past Thursday and had to have everything off the carpeted areas ahead of time. So from Wednesday afternoon until Friday night, I had no TV, and I still don't have the internet re-hooked up at home (I was out of town over the weekend). The news about Terri's death and then Pope John-Paul II went unblogged by me (although I have to thank the rest of the blogosphere for filling in for me).

Here is the link to the Schindler family's statement following Terri's death. I can't begin to imagine their loss, and I'm impressed by their gracious thanks to so many people.

At the same time, I can't begin to imagine what compelled the people who argued that Terri's feeding tube should be pulled. It's a testament to how much our society has changed that these people got such sympathetic treatment by the news media.

If we go back far enough, say before WWII, society (including the universities, the government, and the news media) promoted the value of all life. These institutions and their leaders may not have been religious themselves, but they supported the Judeo-Christian worldview. Society frowned on unwed mothers, divorce, and juvenile delinquents. They locked up abortion providers and mercy killers.

After WWII, things began to change. People who held an anti-Judeo-Christian worldview began to gain leadership positions in the nation's universities, government, judiciary, and especially the news media. And the pillars of a life-affirming society began to crumble.

The difference between the people who wanted Terri's feeding tube kept in and those who wanted it pulled is their worldview. Those who see the world as created by God, with mankind created in His image and having a spirit, value any life as worth living and worth protecting. Those who see the world as being material in its totality--whatever is tangible or measurable is real, the spiritual realm is a delusion--see life as having value when it's useful or productive. For these latter people, Terri stopped being productive and became a drain on resources, and her life stopped being worthwhile to society.

These material-believing people are the ones who predominate in the educational system, teaching our children and young adults a godless view of life. They dominate the mainstream media, allowing a voice only to those who agree with them, and this helps to promote their values over the traditional Judeo-Christian values. And for the people who hold traditional values, it starts to seems as though all of society has gone to the other side.

Terri was important for her own sake. She was a woman who loved and was loved by her family, and whose story touched so many other lives. But she was also important because she became the catalyst to show our nation what we are becoming--a country divided over how it values life.

I have medical instructions (it's not really a Living Will, because Living Wills are normally designed to say NOT to recussitate or take extreme measures) that say to absolutely take whatever extraordinary measures are available to keep me alive, and especially to never, never pull a feeding/hydration tube. I don't believe that withholding food and water is moral/right/ethical/whatever word you want to use. I set up these instructions seven years ago, because I was already concerned that my life could be at risk if I didn't.

What I don't have is an organ donor card. I've also been concerned for years that if I had one and was seriously injured, that the medical community might see my organs as more important to somebody else than to me. With a lot of the discussion going on around Terri Schiavo, this looks to me like it's becoming more of a risk.

Even Laura Bush has spoken about the importance of having a Living Will, but as this article says, the Campaign for Children and Families, advises against a Living Will and argues in favor of using the "Will to Live" form. "'California's living will law assumes you want to be starved or dehydrated to death,' said CCF President Randy Thomasson. 'This is frightening. Most people don't know that signing the standard advance directive form could sentence you to a horrible death, by your own hand or someone else's.'"

If you want to be kept alive, look into the Will to Live form.