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The weatherman informs me we are in for a heat wave, which I don’t mind. It’s the humidity wave that kills me.

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.”
Sam Keen

As I get older my summer activies have become more and more respectful.

Another quote I really like is by Desmond Morris:

“Life is like a very short visit to a toyshop between birth and death.”

Being an Atheist I believe we only get one shot at life. We should try to wring as much joy out of it as we can.

1) Here are two vidoes that I hope will lift your spirits and make you laugh

a) Members of the Great Whale Conservancy find a humpback whale near death – entangled in fishing gear in the Sea of Cortez. They cut the whale free from the net, an act requiring great courage on the part of rescuers and great trust on the part of the whale. The result is spectacular – the whale clearly thanks its human benefactors.

b) A kitten testing its hunting skills against the wild Apple monsters.

2) Too many, for far too long, the circumstances of their lives don’t bring them much joy.

“An internally displaced Somali family are seen outside their makeshift shelter at the Hiran IDP settlement in Galkayo, northwest of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. Galkayo hosts over 60,000 internally displaced Somalis in 21 settlements and there are always new arrivals due to the prolonged drought.”

Photo by Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

American has had, and still has, its share of homeless refugees, as Woody Guthrie reminds us.

3) We all need the hope that our world can be better. For people living in desperate conditions that usually means someone reaching out a caring hand. Conditions don’t get more desperate than the killing fields of 1970 Cambodia.

Muoy You was one of the lucky ones who did survive that hell. Now she is reaching out her hand to try to help her countrymen.

From an article in the Christian Science Monitor series, People Making A Differnce” http://tinyurl.com/3ckpeon

Muoy grew up poor in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, during the Vietnam War. “We lived in a squatters’ shack, but I loved learning and I did well in school,” she recalls.

In 1972 she won a scholarship to study in France. It would save her from Pol Pot’s killing fields, where her parents and siblings were among the 2 million dead. She spent the next two decades in exile, raising a family and working as a teacher in Africa and the Middle East.

Now Muoy wants to transform the prospects of other Cambodian families by giving children of low-income cleaners, laborers, farmers, and tuk-tuk (motorized rickshaw) drivers a high-quality education.

“I don’t just want to teach them to read and write,” she stresses. “I want them to become professionals, writers, thinkers, artists – to make their country proud.”

In Cambodia today, few students have that chance; most have access only to basic education. So upon returning home to Phnom Penh in 2003, Muoy set up the Seametrey Children’s Village, a private initiative. She mortgaged a property she owned abroad, bought a small plot of land, and converted a run-down hut on it into a classroom.

“A school is just a building,” she notes. “It’s the resources that matter.”

Courteous and fluent in English, Muoy modestly calls herself “an obscure woman with dreams bigger than herself.” She started with a handful of young children – those of neighbors and acquaintances.

She ditched the rote learning that is common at crowded government schools and instead set about helping children discover the joys of learning by themselves in a free-spirited environment. “You shouldn’t just stick children behind desks,” Muoy explains. “You need to help them retain their childlike curiosity and spontaneity.”

“Parents pay according to their means. The poorest pay nothing; some pay small sums they can afford. Expatriates and better-off locals pay the full monthly fee of $290.

“A school like this would have been beyond our dreams,” says Ang Kim, a tuk-tuk driver whose two young daughters study in Seametrey. He can’t pay, but he volunteers as a security guard on Sundays.

Currently, the school has 80 students, from toddlers to teens. They learn in small groups from nursery through primary school. Whether from dirt-poor villages, urban slums, or well-heeled Phnom Penh homes, they’re treated alike – and are expected to treat one another alike, too.”

“Seametrey is a visionary project [aimed at] regenerating Cambodians’ self-respect and integrity,” says Elia Van Tuyl, a retired businessman in Palo Alto, Calif, who runs the Friends of Cambodia charity. “It seeks to attack poverty by addressing its psychological, educational, and cultural roots.

After just two years at Seametrey, young Samreth now speaks fluent English. “He’s a bright boy with leadership and oratory skills remarkable for his age,” Muoy says.

“I’m very happy for my grandchildren,” says Tes Kamsan, the boy’s grandmother. “They’ll have a much better life than their mother and I had.”

Muoy is certain of that. She points to a flowery vine in her garden. From its pot the plant has climbed all the way up to her fourth-floor balcony.

“That is my analogy for education,” she explains. “Place children in fertile soil, and they’ll blossom and flourish!”

Mother Nature is quite the prankster. A thunder storm knocked out our power when my clothes were in the washing machine, in our basement. I waited 7 hrs, until 9:00 pm. I finally had to take the wet clothes out and wring the water out each one by hand. I’ll have to re-rinse the clothes tomorrow to get the soap out. Just as I finished the power went back on. Ha ha, lol – @#%&%#@! Mother Nature.

“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.” Russell Baker

1) World In Pictures

a.I would love to be a redneck for the day.

East Dublin, Georgia, USA: A participant in the Mud Pit Belly Flop contest jumps into the pond during the annual Summer Redneck Games. Photo: Richard Ellis/Getty Images

b.Looking at this old guys face my guess is his opinion of rock & roll is the same as my grandfathers.

Novi Sad, Serbia: A resident watches young people attending the Exit festival, one of south-eastern Europe’s largest rock and pop music events. Photo: Balazs Mohai/EPA

c.A dust storm with gusts of wind up to 60 miles per hour moves through Phoenix

d.An awesome view from a very dangerous place. War comes to Shangri-La.

Kunar province, Afghanistan: Spc Jacob Green, 22, with the US army’s 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion 27th Infantry Regiment reads a book overlooking the Cherigal Valley at Observation Point Mustang

2) Giles Duley, war took three of his limbs, his can-do spirit stays alive.

From an article in the New York Times, by C.J. Chivers:
http://tinyurl.com/62j78ep

“Mr. Duley heard a click and felt a flash of heat as the explosion lifted him into the air. He landed on his side on the dirt, roughly five yards from where he had stood. He smelled the stink of the explosives mixed with that of his own burned flesh. He took stock.

“I remember looking up and seeing bits of me and my clothes in the tree, which I knew wasn’t a good sign,” he said. “I saw my left arm. It was just obviously shredded to pieces, and smoldering. I couldn’t feel my legs, so straightaway and from what I could see in the tree, I figured they were gone.”

Mr. Duley had become, in that flash, a triple amputee. Now he risked swiftly bleeding to death. He recalled uttering a single word: “bollocks.”

“Mr. Duley, 39, was wounded in February in Kandahar Province, becoming another in the long line of casualties in the Pentagon’s offensive to displace the Taliban from one of its rural strongholds.

Five months on, after leaving the hospital, he is roughly midway through a 12-week physiotherapy regimen at Headley Court, a military rehabilitation center near London.

There, freshly fitted with two prosthetic legs and a left arm, he has been relearning to walk and confronting the details of pushing forward in life. Pulled along by what would seem an incurably upbeat mind, he is making plans to return to work as a photographer.”

“Since then he has been in almost continuous sessions of exercise and therapy, pushing himself upright and making himself start to walk, while accepting, he said, “that no matter how good I get, I will always keep falling.”

“For now, that means rounds of exercise alongside soldiers whose limbs were lost in the same ways. Gaining access to their regimen at the rehab center was difficult. Some in the government bureaucracy tried to block Mr. Duley’s admission.

Many objections were raised, including that as a civilian nearing 40, Mr. Duley was not in the same physical condition and mind-set as the young military men he would be working beside.

Three limbs gone, spirit whole, the photographer smiled as he recalled the exchange. “Don’t worry,” he said he jokingly assured the medical official who advanced that argument. “The soldiers will learn to keep up.”

3) Another great performance from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame presentation.

Feelin Alright – Traffic/Dave Mason

Politicians worry about their poll numbers. We all worry about the numbers in our budgets. Today I go some great numbers from my doctor:

Blood Pressure 115/64

Cholesterol 190 LDL 110 HDL 70 (Until I went on my Diabetic diet my Cholesterol was in the 250 range)

Body Mass Index 21.6

Blood Sugar level 120

Fortunately none of the test involved how well my brain cells do, or don’t, function.

“The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.”
Doug Larson

1) The World In Pictures

a. The world of smiles and laughter

Havana, Cuba: Youths make a splash after a thunderstorm Photograph: Desmond Boylan/Reuters

b. The world of crying and tears.

Somali women displaced by severe drought conditions queue to get food handouts at a center operated by the government and local NGOs, south of Mogadishu, Somalia. Photo Feisal Omar/Reuters

c. The cement that binds communities together, moms and grand-moms and children.

Children watch as Sofia Alidad plays with her seven-month-old grandson, Asher Naeem, in front of her house in Rawalpindi, north-east Pakistan. Photograph: Muhammed Muheisen/ AP

2)Defining Beauty – Ms. Wheelchair America

Santina Muha

From an article in the Asbury Park Press, by Laura Martin:

http://tinyurl.com/6x3cxxs

“Defining Beauty: Ms.Wheelchair America,” is a documentary film about five disabled women. But Toms River resident Santina Muha, who is featured in the film, doesn’t want people to view her that way.

“Being in a wheelchair is a part of me, but it is not my defining characteristic,” says Muha, who represented New Jersey in the 2010 Ms. Wheelchair America pageant, which is the setting for “Defining Beauty.” “I am so many other things.”

“Yet Muha says many people only see her disability, which is the result of a spinal cord injury caused by a car accident when she was 5 years old.

She hopes the message of “Defining Beauty” changes that. The film, narrated by actress Katey Sagal, will be shown July 9 at the Long Island Film Expo and has previously been shown at the Staten Island Film Festival where it won “Best Documentary Feature” and at the Newport Beach Film Festival where it received the title of “Audience Award Winner Documentary.” Muha says the film is already affecting public perception of people in wheelchairs.”

“One man said during a screening that when he first started watching, he just saw five girls in wheelchairs, but by the end he saw each woman for who they were individually,” she says. “That is kind of the point of the film for me.”

I am not a fan a beauty contest, too much emphasis on the body, not enough on the brain. However I do look forward to the day when someone like Muha has the opportunity to compete in any beauty contest.

3) Music Videos

Tedeschi Trucks Band – Midnight In Harlem

Jeff Lorber and Eric Darius Live At Java Jazz Festival 2008

Anyone who can’t find inspiration isn’t looking very hard.

1) Natalie Merchant is both a great performer, and inspirational person:

Wonder

2) Griffin Latulippe and friends have started a company that will build devices to help the disabled.

From an article in the Christian Science Monitor by Rachel Signer – http://tinyurl.com/3sp479l

“Inspired by his own experiences living with muscular dystrophy, Griffin began imagining how wheelchairs and walkers could be improved. The company’s prototypes for a wheelchair that provides easier access to a rider’s backpack, and an adjustable walker, are now being finalized.

How did you come up with these assistive technology devices?
Griffin Latulippe: Along with four other high school students in the Junior Engineer Technical Society. I entered into the National Design Challenge. Our goal was to create a device to help disabled people in the workplace. We came up with the wheelchair first. It has an arm that swings around so you can easily grab things from the backpack most wheelchair users have to carry their things. Our interest in disabled people’s needs grew, and in the second year, we created a walker for going up and down stairs, with front legs that expand and retract.

What kind of distribution are you envisioning?
We will sell as many products as there’s need. If that means globally, we’d love that. The goal is not necessarily to make money. The goal is to help people.

3) Dominic Deng Diing, who escaped the violence in Sudan, raises funds to help schoolchildren there.

From another article in the Christian Science Monitor by Amy Liberman http://tinyurl.com/6djfcfh

“Dominic Deng Diing’s first teachers were his uncles, who sang the ABCs to the then 6-year-old as they undertook the painstaking walk from Sudan to Ethiopia in the mid-1980s.

Mr. Diing’s brief foray into education was cut short when his uncles and brothers died of starvation during the trek, along with thousands of other “Lost Boys of Sudan” children who fled on foot from the civil war that raged for nearly 20 years.

But the significance of the early lessons stuck with Diing, now a resettled refugee living in Buffalo, NY. He earned his high school degree in Kakuma, a refugee camp in Kenya, and later completed undergraduate and master’s programs in western New York. He’s currently working toward a doctorate degree in education.”

“Diing is trying to spare more than 3,000 children in South Sudan from his experience. They now attend the two-year-old New Hope Primary School, a project of Diing’s Buffalo-based nonprofit group Aid and Care for Africa.”

“Some 55 percent of the students are orphans, living with foster families. They include 10 of the 34 children Diing sponsors himself and his mother looks after. The remaining 24 live with two of his sisters in Kenya and Uganda, where they can receive care for various ailments.

In total, Diing supports about 50 people aside from his mother, including his deceased father’s seven other wives.

“I live a simple life here,” says Diing, speaking at a buffet restaurant near his tiny apartment just north of Buffalo’s downtown. “But it’s the same as my friends do – the little amount we make, we share.”

4) Some more Natalie Merchant “San Andreas Fault”, from a 1999 concert in New York City. I own a DVD of the concert, that I highly recommend.

Daddy’s Home comic strip – One big fish to another, “You know sometimes when father’s day rolls around I wish I hadn’t eaten my children.”

I was born during World War II, while may father was serving in the Navy in the South Pacific. We didn’t meet until I was two years old.

He worked seven days a week, to pay for my mother’s medical bills, never complained. I would stay with his family when my mother was in the hospital, about half her life.

I can’t share any fond memories with you about him, I can’t remember any. Not anyone’s fault, it was just the circumstances of our lives.

My father was a devoted Catholic. I hope he was right about Heaven, if anyone deserves to be there he does.

1) Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation has named Eric Lantz, 40, of Houston, it’s “Best Dad on Wheels” for 2011.

Eric Lantz with his daughter Alyssa

When I was growing up in 1950 America having your mobility limited to a wheel chair to a great extent limited your ability to fully take part in society. Eric Lantz proves how far we have come in 60 years.

From the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation site – http://tinyurl.com/65bjdpf

“Eric Lantz, 40, of Houston, Texas, is thrilled to be named the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s 2011 Best Dad on Wheels. At 18-years-old, Eric assumed he would ever have the opportunity to even be a father when he was involved in a car accident that changed his life.

“Dads in wheelchairs, in general, automatically have more appreciation for being in a dad,” says Eric, living with a T5 complete spinal cord injury. “We don’t take as many things for granted compared to people who haven’t been through this kind of experience.”

Having had such a life altering experience, Eric says, “I appreciate being a dad more because of my injury not necessarily in spite of it.”

“There are certain things that I have to be more creative about,” says Eric of the challenges of teaching his daughter, Alyssa, age four, how to play soccer and swim. “But that’s part of being an OT; breaking down and teaching her how to do things a different way. It’s kind of what I do every day at work, just break down activities, figuring out how to get the job done.”

Aside from being able to apply what he does at work at home, Eric is able to carry his experiences to his patients. “And being a dad too, that’s just a whole other thing I can share with my patients,” says Eric. “Figuring out in a wheelchair how to change a diaper, how to give a baby a bath, all that stuff.”

Eric’s wife, Brenda, and his coworkers nominated him for the Best Dad on Wheels Contest, but best of all was Alyssa’s ability to hide it from her dad.

Being a dad allows Eric to connect much more at his job, too. As an occupational therapist at TIRR Memorial Herman, Eric is able to both help his patients and learn from them.

“I learned my daughter is real good at keeping a secret,” jokes Eric. “She knew about this way before I did!” After discovering Eric was part of the top ten finalists, Alyssa told him: “Dad, we put you into vote for the best dad talent contest!”

So, what does Alyssa love most about her dad? “She says that she thinks it’s great that I’m in a wheelchair,” explains Eric, “because she always has a lap to sit on wherever we go.”

Most of all, our 2011 Best Dad on Wheels winner says, “I try not to let the wheelchair be a limiting factor on what she experiences in her life.”

2) I will guess there are many dads who would have a heart attack if there daughter started dating some guy in a rock band. At least before the record label gave him the big bucks.

It has been an amazing streak of beautiful days. Every day sunny, temps in the 80’s. Cooling off at night into the 60’s. Perfect for walks at the beach and park. I hope the weatherman has been just as kind to you.

‎”A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
Lou Holtz

1) Nature slide show from the Guardian. Half the butterflies in the United Kingdom are under threat of extinction, and more than 70% are in decline. These pictures capture their beauty which, if this trend holds, future generations may not get to see with their own eyes.

Glanville fritllary, Photo by Pippa111

Photo by Woodmore

Orange tips by Photo devonteg

2) I hope sustainable living will become the lifestyle of the future. If the worst predictions of global warming come true, we won’t have a choice. There are a growing number of people who have made this choice, like the couple below. At present the hard part for many is having the time, and money, to be able to make the transition.

From a New York Times article about the sustainable lifestyle Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen have chosen:

http://tinyurl.com/446ub8f

“Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen do not subsist on a diet of lentils and gloom. Yes, the Los Angeles couple proselytize for a more self-reliant household in their new book, “Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World,” just published by Rodale. And to that end, they include in it illustrated directions for making things like homemade dog food and washable sanitary napkins.”

“Promoting a do-it-yourself revolution — in the book and on their blog, Root Simple (rootsimple.com) — is an unusual occupation. With their olive oil lamps (see page 8 in the book), dental twigs (page 12) and dry toilets (page 237), the couple can seem like historical re-enactors. Or prisoners of “Frontier House” on PBS.

Their 1,000-square-foot bungalow in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, on second thought, might be a junkyard Biosphere2, an experiment in the future of sustainable homemaking. This is the way we all could live if we weren’t working 50 hours a week, sitting in traffic on the way to the mega-mart, burning gasoline at $4 a gallon.”

“Just a few years ago, Ms. Coyne and Mr. Knutzen were trapped in the car themselves (a 1994 Nissan Sentra), commuting to jobs. Mr. Knutzen was a researcher and writer at the Center for Land Use Interpretation, a semisubversive think tank. Ms. Coyne worked nearby as the administrative director of the Museum of Jurassic Technology, a meta-museum filled with imaginary natural history and assorted magic.

But the drive to the Palms district of Los Angeles, an hour each way on a typical day, was a haul. “Toward the end, I was biking nine miles to the center,” Mr. Knutzen said.

“And it was faster,” Ms. Coyne said. “That’s one thing I don’t miss. We are both old-time, crunchy slackers, and we’ve tried our whole lives not to have office jobs.”

“Outside their apartment in San Diego, the couple started growing tomatoes in a container. Unlike their studies, this act was down-to-earth and fruitful, in a literal sense. According to David Wilson, 65, the director of the Museum of Jurassic Technology, Ms. Coyne and Mr. Knutzen had found a new philosophy to replace their academic training. “

“The couple’s homestead is just such a project, down to its foundation. The 1920 house sits on a steep hillside on the fringe of Silver Lake. Ms. Coyne calls the area HaFo SaFo, after a revolving podiatrist’s sign (a cartoon of a happy foot and a sad foot) on nearby Sunset Boulevard.

“We bought it in 1998 for $198,000,” Mr. Knutzen said. “It was worth half that,” Ms. Coyne said.

By the time they closed, the little clapboard box was already sliding, “California-style,” downhill. For $80,000, contractors injected two truckloads of concrete under the house. Now, pylons connect the home to the bedrock.

“We basically have the Hoover Dam now,” Mr. Knutzen said. “When the Big One comes, our house will stand,” Ms. Coyne said.”

I didn’t watch “The Wedding” or any part of the ceremonies. Weddings of royalty or us common folk :) don’t really interest me. I did see this piece of Royal Wedding memorabilia on a Guardian slide show – http://tinyurl.com/3hxoh85

Ye Olde Royal Wedding Sick Bag. We yanks usually wait until the divorce, and hearing the size of the alimony payments, before we hand these out.

I do however enjoy attending any event where there is cake:

“The wedding cake, designed by Fiona Cairns, is made from 17 individual fruit cakes (12 of which form the base) and has eight tiers. The cake has been decorated with cream and white icing using the Joseph Lambeth technique. There are up to 900 individually iced flowers and leaves of 17 different varieties decorated on the cake. A garland design around the middle of the cake matches the architectural garlands decorated around the top of the Picture Gallery in Buckingham Palace, the room in which the cake will be displayed. The chocolate biscuit cake was created by Mcvitie’s Cake Company using a Royal Family recipe at the special request of Prince William.”

“I married beneath me, all women do.” Nancy Astor

1) Not pictures from the Royal Wedding:

Smallholding by liquid2liquid/Flickr

I love all the vibrant colors in the clothes of the women of India.

Ahmadabad, India: People crowd a vegetable market amid steep food price inflation. (Ajit Solanki/AP)

Two magnificent pearl-bordered fritillaries mating. A UK survey has revealed record numbers of this rare butterfly, which has been seen earlier than usual this year due to warm weather.
(Gary Pilkington/Devon Wildlife Trust)

2) What is your favorite wedding song?

Paul Stookey’s – The Wedding Song (There Is Love)

This is closer to my inclinations when it comes to love, well okay passion.

Etta James – “I Just Want To make Love To You” & “Born To Be Wild”

RIP Phoebe Snow, who died in Edison, N.J., on Tuesday. She had some of the coolest pipes on the planet.

Did the world suffer the loss of one of your cool friends in the past 12 months?

1) In Pictures – Children of the World

São Félix, Brazil: A boy of the Kayapo tribe plays in front of his house (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

Masaya, Nicaragua: Girls disguised as angels are carried during a Holy Week procession (Esteban Felix/AP)

Karachi, Pakistan Girls wish prawns at a fishery, earning about $1.15 a day (Fareed Khan / AP)

2) Chernobyl – 25 years, 25 Stories – http://tinyurl.com/3oqhr45

Valentina Grigorievna Koltunenko, known to her neighbours as ‘Baba Valja’ (Grandma Valja) is one of them.

“Although it is technically illegal for anyone to live permanently in the Exclusion Zone, some former residents have defied the rules and slipped back over the years. The authorities turn a blind eye to these mainly elderly ‘self-settlers’, whose numbers have dwindled through age to just a few hundred scattered in Chernobyl village and across other former settlements.

Valentina Grigorievna Koltunenko, known to her neighbours as ‘Baba Valja’ (Grandma Valja) is one of them. Now 76 years old, she lives alone in her four-roomed wooden house in the village of Opachichi. Her husband died before the accident, and her three children were living in Pripyat. The village was not evacuated immediately, since the wind was blowing the radioactive plume northwards from the plant into Belarus. But then it changed direction, radiation levels rose and the authorities moved everyone out.

She spent the winter in makeshift, shared accommodation in Makariv, west of Kiev, but got tired of waiting for the permanent housing that was promised. The following spring she returned to her old home and took up a cleaning job in Chernobyl, which had become a hub of emergency activities.

Now she lives on a small state pension, growing vegetables – potatoes, onions, beetroot, carrots – and buying other provisions from a shop that delivers once a week. Sympathetic forest wardens bring her wood and organise help to harvest her garden crops. Her home is warmed from the centre by a huge, wood-burning oven, and a radio-telephone chirrups quietly in a corner.

Scientists regularly monitor radiation around her house. In the uneven patchwork of contamination left by the accident, Opachichi survived with relatively low levels compared to other parts of the Exclusion Zone. This, and the advanced age of the self-settlers, helps explain the official tolerance.

“In autumn they come and measure beetroot, potatoes, everything that grows in the soil,” she says. “A special lab comes too, to check the water. They say it’s ok for us – we’re elderly people.”

One of the greatest tragedies of the Chernobyl accident has been the traumatic psychological impact on the population, fostering feelings of fear, uncertainty and helplessness. Attachment to the land runs deep, and many evacuees long to return to their native villages. Studies have shown that self-settlers like Baba Valja have generally coped better psychologically than those who were resettled and have not been able to return.

She says her children, who now live in Kiev and other parts of Ukraine, would have gone back to Pripyat if they could. “We like it here,” she says. “It’s good to live here.”

“Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose.”
Garrison Keiller

I have survived another two weeks in feline hell. For their part the cats didn’t seem to notice my presence so much until the dinner bell, sound of the can opener, rang. Of course they also believe all the food in the house belonged to them, so I had to fend them off every time I eat. Two would even jump up on the dinner table, thank you so much Inga for feeding them while you eat. They were kind enough to give me a going away present, two lbs of cat hair on all my clothes.

My cousin has been invited on a cruise to Scotland, so I will be back in cat land between May 7th and the 16th. At least when I get back to my own home I appreciate my personal privacy, and being able to eat in peace, even more.

1) Here in the Northeast US the calendar tells me it’s Spring, but mother nature has yet to get the message. The Boston Globes “Big Picture Blog” slide show “Flower Power” shows me what is so far missing from the view out my window.

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/04/flower_power.html

A daisy floats in a rain barrel on April 4 in Kaufbeuren, southern Germany. (Karl Josef Hildenbrand/AFP/Getty Images)

Cherry trees bloom during the National Cherry Blossom Festival along the Tidal Basin in Washington April 2. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

A woman sits on a bench in a park wher hundreds of crocus flowers bloom in the warm sunny weather in the western city of Duesseldorf (Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty Images)

A couple relax amongst daffodil flowers in St James’s Park on March 29 in London, England. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

2) Behind the Veil

Two women, one wearing a niqab, a conservative Muslim garment that only exposes a woman’s eyes, walk side by side in Marseille, France.

Nothing symbolize the control some conservative Muslim religious leaders exercises over women than the niqab. Many Muslim women are rebelling against this control, such as Dr. Qanta A. Ahmed, a british born Muslim woman, educated and trained in both London and New York City, writing in the Christian Science Monitor:

http://tinyurl.com/6z6y7nd

“France’s recent “burqa ban” unveils the ignorance surrounding Islam, an ignorance shared by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s push to ban the face-veil, the niqab – put into effect last week – shocks Western elites. Legislating self-expression is surely more the provenance of draconian states like Iran and Saudi Arabia, than secular La France. To many, Mr. Sarkozy’s France smacks of uncivilized intolerance. But is Sarkozy really so wrong?

I first saw a veiled woman when I was six, possibly seven. Fascinated, and – never having seen anything like this – frightened, I looked up at my father, who explained she was from Arabia. Like us, he told me, she too was a Muslim.

Thirty-five years later, veiled women no longer catch the eye of pluralistic Muslim famoles like mine. Instead, in an extraordinary distortion of social mores, I find they now symbolize all of us, even assimilated, heterodox Muslim women like me.

France’s ban of the niqab in the public space is logical and one that many Muslims, myself included, welcome. Why?

Intensely secular societies, which not only tolerate, but actively celebrate multicultural pluralistic diversity, have been exploited by insular, Islamist neo-orthodoxy. They do so at my expense – the expense of the moderate Muslim. Be clear, neo-orthodox Muslims place no priority on the status of their women, whether living in Bamian or Brittany.”

“In the early Islamic period, the word khimar, “veil,” did not necessarily connote face covering. In the Quran, Sura 24:31, the reference to “khimar” reminds Muslim women of the need to “draw…[it] over their bosoms” as integral to female modesty.

Similarly, the verse of the veil commanded only the prophet Muhammad’s wives, as a mark of high distinction, to speak from behind a “hijab,” meaning a curtain (Quran Sura 33:53).

Later, theological scholarship indicates traditions asserting use of the khimar specifically to mean niqab may have been fabricated. Records show Aisha – one of the most eminent of the prophet Muhammed’s wives, a great scholar of Islam and one of the foremost teachers of early Muslims – provided great detail on the color and fabric of the khimars in her day. Nonetheless, no record exists as to how exactly they were worn.

This convenient vacuum allowed others to insert their own interpretation of veiling, for their own motives, including enforcing gender segregation and even gender apartheid – extraordinary, given Islam’s central emphasis on equality of both men and women and profound regard for justice above all other values.”

“As Muslim women, we must always remember that we are more than our womanhood. We are Muslims first, women second. We are more than our modesty, whether it is swathed in fabric or faith. We are more than these practices, whether mandated by men at home, or men of state. In this regard, Sarkozy’s ban is, in fact, not a test of France’s tolerance, but rather a test of our own.

Can Muslims overcome the rigid myopia of Islamism that emerges from within our midst? Or will we, too, be smothered in a veil of our own making – the asphyxiating veil of ignorance that threatens to strangle us all?”

1) Words

a. Tomb of the Unknown – 2011 “Followed the Golden Rule. Obeyed every law. Never the hint of a scandal. No remembers her name.” Non Sequitur comic strip.

What do you want your epithet to say?

b. Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha

All beings quiver before violence.
All beings fear death.
All beings love life.
Remember that you are like them.
As they are like you.
Then whom would you hurt?
What harm would you do?
He who seeks happiness
By hurting others who seek happiness
Will never find happiness.
Not in the sky,
Nor in the depths of the sea,
Nor in the deepest mountains,
Can you hide from your misdeeds.

2) Pictures

Colombo, Sri Lanka: Buddhists monks lead prayers during a special ‘pooja’ wishing success to the Sri Lankan team ahead of the Cricket World Cup final match against India.
[In the US priest pray for the Catholic school Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish. It is good to know that people everywhere have the same priorities :) ]

Aksai, Kazakhstan: School pupils stand by ballot boxes as a voter leaves a polling station during presidential elections (Photograph: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)

1)

Dadabili, Nigeria: Crude oil spills from a pipeline. The country postponed national parliamentary elections after voting materials failed to arrive in many areas (Photograph: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters)

It was the start of lambing season as newborn lambs sleep on fresh straw at Barracks Farm, Fetcham, Surrey, UK (Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

3) News

I Had to put the belt up a notch this morning. Then I read this story. I could have gone for a workout. Felt depressed and had a donut instead. :)

It should be noted that Charles Eugster was already rowing six times a week at 80, so his version of looking like a wreck is a little different from mine. By his standards I am the Titantic of fitness. :)

From an article in the Guardian – http://tinyurl.com/43oryxy

“My personal trainer and I are always getting into arguments about what part of my body needs the most work. I’m not happy with my abs – I have the remains of a small spare tyre – but she says my bottom is a catastrophe because it’s so flat. What we both agree on is that bodies can be remodelled, no matter how old you are.”

[Ninty-one and he has a personal trainer, I hate him already :) ]

“Then at 85 I had a crisis. I looked at myself in the mirror one day, and saw an old man. I was overweight, my posture was terrible and there was skin hanging off me where muscle used to be. I looked like a wreck. I started to consider the fact that I was probably going to die soon. I knew I was supposed to slow down, but I’m vain. I missed my old body and wanted to be able to strut across the beach, turning heads.”

[He's 91 and talking about struting across the beach turning heads. Now I hate him less. :) ]

“There’s no research into bodybuilding for the over-80s, so it’s been an experiment. With weight-lifting and protein shakes, my body began to change. It became broader, more v-shaped, and my shoulders and biceps became more defined. People began to comment on how much younger I looked, and my new muscular frame drew a lot of admiring glances from women.

Everything I learned was tailored to help my body cope with old age. I took up judo to teach me how to fall properly. My circulation and posture improved, and I was told that there was a chance more muscle mass could protect my brain from Alzheimer’s. I stopped thinking about dying. As I approached 90, my focus was on getting my body back.”

[Now he is talking about, at 90, drawing admiring glances from women. Any women glancing at me are getting ready to call 911 :) ]

In 2008, I signed up for my first championship. I was nervous, but although I was the oldest contestant by around 20 years, everyone was very welcoming. I got higher scores than all the women taking part, and a lot of the men. Then, at last year’s event in Germany, I triumphed, scoring higher than any contestant in any age category for my 57 dips, 61 chin-ups, 50 push-ups and 48 abdominal crunches, each in 45 seconds. As I’m over 70, they did make allowances – I could do the push-ups on my knees, for example – but I proved I wasn’t past it.

[Sixty-one chin-ups? 50 push-ups? At 90! Now I hate him again. :) ]

“I’m not chasing youthfulness. I’m chasing health. People have been brainwashed to think that after you’re 65, you’re finished. We’re told that old age is a continuous state of decline, and that we should stop working, slow down and prepare to die. I disagree. To me, a 65-year-old is young. I turn 92 this year. It is a frightening prospect – the law of averages is against me, and, yes, one day something will happen and that will be it. But until that day comes, I’m going to carry on working on my abs.”

[Now I love him again :) ]

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