You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2009.

As the following two organizations are proving not having the use of our legs does not have to stop us from the joy of dancing.

The American DanceWheels Foundation

http://www.americandancewheels.org/

Wheelchair Dance Congress

http://www.wheelchairdancing.com/

I must admit that I enjoy dancing in private a lot more than in public.  I use to go dancing in NYC back in my disco days, but now I restrict “shaking my booty” to behind the closed curtains in my condo.  🙂

When was the last time you danced?

Do you have a favorite style of dancing?

While I imagine myself as Gene Kelly I am not too good when it comes dances where there are actual steps you have to learn.  I can jump and down okay which is what R&R dancing pretty much consist of now.  If I where to take lessons I would pick the tango.  I think I would enjoy the combination of grace and sensuality.

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Former NBA player Will Allen has brought gardening to urban communities near Milwaukee and Chicago.  His non-profit organization, Growing Power Inc, also has two international centers in Kenya and Ukraine.

He was awarded a MacArthur Grant in 2008:

 “Will Allen is an urban farmer who is transforming the cultivation, production, and delivery of healthy foods to under-served, urban populations.” “Guiding all is his efforts is the recognition that the unhealthy diets of low-income, urban populations, and such related health problems as obesity and diabetes, largely are attributable to limited access to safe and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.”

http://www.growingpower.org/

From an article by Olga Bonfiglio in the Christian Science Monitor

http://features.csmonitor.com/gardening/2009/01/28/milwaukees-urban-farmer/

“Whenever Will Allen arrives in a neighborhood, scores of curious children seem to come out of nowhere to see what he’s about. His pickup truck carries spades, hoes, earthworms, seeds, and a truckload of compost – all the components needed to make a garden.

Mr. Allen knows a garden not only gives inner-city kids something to do, but it can also feed them good, nutritious food and invigorate the community at the same time.

This vision of symbiosis between an urban setting and locally grown food is what prompted Allen, a 6 ft., 7 in. former professional basketball player, to purchase the last three farm acres in Milwaukee 16 years ago and invite inner-city youth to help him grow vegetables.

“Food is at the very foundation of community development,” Allen says.

His efforts have paid off in significant ways. Today his nonprofit, Growing Power, operates a handful of urban farms and community growing centers around Milwaukee and downtown Chicago.

In addition, Growing Power is helping to develop urban gardening sites and training centers in several other states and two international centers in Kenya and Ukraine. Its website, www.growingpower.org, posts research on its farming techniques as well as various how-to gardening videos.

Allen’s low-tech, low-cost farming approach has earned him a reputation as a leader in the urban gardens and sustainability movement and a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Yet Allen doesn’t want to just grow food, he wants to build healthy communities. The strength of Growing Power’s success is centered on the philosophy that a community must literally be grown from the ground up.

“Every human being should have access to affordable food,” he explains. Around this concept of good food for all, Allen has built a network of relationships among neighborhoods, schools, universities, government, and funding agencies. “Everyone has to be involved. Everyone!” he says.”

Did your parents grow vegetables or flowers when you where growing up?

My grandfather had a garden he was vary proud of.  My only experience was one day when my grandmother got tried of my “helping” her in the kitchen.  “Go help you grandad with his planting.”  I went outside and saw him putting seeds in a row.  I walk over and followed him down the row.  As he put the seeds in the ground I would pick them up.  When he got to the end of the row I proudly showed him the seeds.  He was not to pleased and told me to “Go help your grandma”.

Do you grow vegatibles or flowers now?

The only living thing in my condo, besides a few spiders, is me.  My only skill with plants is to kill them.

 

Which do you believe you spend more time thinking about, the past or the future?

My childhood was not a happy one, not one I have any desire to dwell on.  I have had many joyful experiences since then and it can be fun to reminisce with friends.  However I have no need to be reminded of that Nehru jacket I wore or the times a member of the fairer sex misunderstood my attempt to simply be friendly and deposited her drink on my face.

 I have become happier as I have got older, and view the future with optimism.  I enjoy speculating about what advances the future will bring.

If there were time machines which direction would you prefer to go, to the past or the future. 

I have no desire to live at any time in the past but would love to travel into the future,1000 years perhaps.  Of course I am very happy with my life now but it would be great to live in a time where travel to distance stars was possible.

I believe the world, overall, is a much better place now than in the past, and am confident that it will continue to evolve for the better in the future.  I don’t expect a “perfect” future, one without some form of conflict or inequity.  

New problems will replace old ones. My hope, expectation, is that there will be a world organization through which conflicts will be resolved through peaceful negotiations.  Perhaps whipped cream pies will replace guns.

Can’t think of anything to special to post about so I will leave you some music videos.  Have a great weekend.

1) John Riatt and his daughter Bonnie Riatt:

John Riatt from the Pajama Game – Hey There

Bonnie Riatt – I Can’t Make You Love Me

2) The playful Latin rhythms of Brazilian Elis Regina and her daughter Maria Rita.  I love the way they are having some much fun in their performances.

Elis Regina – Augas de Marco

Maria Rita – A Festa

I was surfing YouTube and found the following video of two Peace Corp volunteers in Zambia.  I am very encouraged when reading the stories of the tens of thousands of men and women doing volunteer work.

The US Peace Corp was officially started by President John F. Kennedy in March 1, 1961.   President Kennedy saw the Peace Corp as a means of countering the notions of the “Ugly American” and “Yankee imperialism” in the emerging nations of post-colonial Africa and Asia.

President Richard Nixon, an opponent of the program, brought the Corp under tighter government restrictions.  Than in 1979 President Jimmy Carter, whose mother had served in the Corp, calling it one of the most glorious experience of her life, made it fully autonomous.

Funding cuts under the Regan Administration reduce the Corp to it’s lowest level.  However after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 (has it really been almost 8 years ago?) , and the realization of the extent of anti-American hatred in the middle east, President Bush doubled the funding for the program.

One interesting fact about volunteers is that the number over 50 years of age has increased from 1% to 6%.  Age is seen as an asset, not a barrier, and married couples are welcomed to work together.

The Peace Corp web site – http://www.peacecorps.gov/

I believe every American man and woman should be required to serve their country for two years.  They could select any two year period between the ages of 18 to 24.  They could choose either the armed services or an agency like the Peace Corp.   Working with a volunteer program like Missionary work would also qualify.  I don’t see two years as too onerous a sacrifice.

What do you think?

I spent some time over the weekend watching a favorite show, Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” on the food network.

Part of an episode on YouTube:

Eating is my second favorite thing to do.  🙂  I am 5’10” and never weighed more than 175, but if my health, and waistline, permitted I could plop down in front of one of those “all you could eat” buffets, assuming the food was well prepared, and eat my way through breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Being a diabetic, type 2,  my meal plan now consist of between 1,500 – 1,700 calories a day, and between 150 – 175 carbs.  The problem isn’t what I can eat but the size of the portions.  Once a week I go crazy and eat whatever I feel like.

1) Picking my favorite food product is easy, bacon, bacon, bacon.  I use to like BLT’s but realized I could eliminate the LT and enjoy the sandwich just a much.  Now I toss the bread and it’s bacon, on bacon, wrapped in bacon.

What is Your favorite food product?

2) Picking my least favorite food product is also easy, smelly, stinky, cheese.  I can’t stand to be in the same room with Roquefort  or Limburger cheeses.  I like Pizza, cheesecake and a few other dishes made with a “mild” cheese odor, but I would die from starvation before I would eat Limburger.  Actually just smelling the stuff might kill me.

What is your least favorite food product?

3) Having spent time in the Far East, where they will eat anything that they can grow or catch, I have tried some unusual food.  Insects can be found in most of the markets.  I liked the roasted ones, ants and grubs.  In Japan there is a restaurant where some of the food is still moving when served.  I have seen a lobster tail served with the tail still twitching.  They also serve what look like live baby eels, but I draw the line there.

 What is the most unusual food you have eaten?

hopalong_cassidy_-30

1) What is the first thing you dreamed of becoming as a child?

My first dream was to be a cowboy, just like my childhood hero Hopalong Cassidy.  In 1949 The Hopalong Cassidy Show became first western television show, and the first to take advantage of television for marketing products. From  Wikipedia:

“Hopalong Cassidy was featured on the first lunch box to bear an image”  “there was a line of Hopalong Cassidy children’s dinnerware, as well as Hopalong Cassidy roller skates, Hopalong Cassidy soap, Hopalong Cassidy wristwatches, and Hopalong Cassidy jackknives.”

I owned a “Hopalong Cassidy” lunch box and eat off my “Hoppy” dinner plate every night.

2) Who was your first comic book/TV?Movie hero?

tarzan_of_the_apes

Edgar Rice Burroughs “Tarzan Of The Apes” was my first comic book hero. His only “super power” was the ability to talk with animals.  Every new Tarzan comic taught me a new world in “Gorilla”.  I also was a big fan of “Mandrake the Magician” and “The Phantom”.

3) What was the first career you trained for?

I took accounting class in high school, and that was the only career I worked in.  My first job after graduation was as a payroll clerk in Pitney Bowes, Stamford, CT.   I was drafted in 1964 and when I got back home I got a job as a bank auditor with The Fairfield County Trust Co., in Stamford, and was an auditor for the next 30 years.

The best description of an auditor I have heard was we are the guys who go on the battlefield after the fight is over and spear the wonded.  🙂

This is a very funny, at least to accountants, Monty Python skit of an account who wants to become a lion tamer:

I can remember many mornings when I tried to avoid going to school, there was 2″ of snow on the ground, it was raining, I had a cold, whine, whine, whine.  In today’s New York Times is a story about teenage girls who did not let being burned with acid keep them from the education they want.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/14/world/asia/14kandahar.html By Dexter Filkins:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — One morning two months ago, Shamsia Husseini and her sister were walking through the muddy streets to the local girls school when a man pulled alongside them on a motorcycle and posed what seemed like an ordinary question.

“Are you going to school?”

Then the man pulled Shamsia’s burqa from her head and sprayed her face with burning acid. Scars, jagged and discolored, now spread across Shamsia’s eyelids and most of her left cheek. These days, her vision goes blurry, making it hard for her to read.

But if the acid attack against Shamsia and 14 others — students and teachers — was meant to terrorize the girls into staying home, it appears to have completely failed.

Today, nearly all of the wounded girls are back at the Mirwais School for Girls, including even Shamsia, whose face was so badly burned that she had to be sent abroad for treatment. Perhaps even more remarkable, nearly every other female student in this deeply conservative community has returned as well — about 1,300 in all.

“My parents told me to keep coming to school even if I am killed,” said Shamsia, 17, in a moment after class. Shamsia’s mother, like nearly all of the adult women in the area, is unable to read or write. “The people who did this to me don’t want women to be educated. They want us to be stupid things.”

In the five years since the Mirwais School for Girls was built here by the Japanese government, it appears to have set off something of a social revolution. Even as the Taliban tighten their noose around Kandahar, the girls flock to the school each morning. Many of them walk more than two miles from their mud-brick houses up in the hills.

The girls burst through the school’s walled compound, many of them flinging off head-to-toe garments, bounding, cheering and laughing in ways that are inconceivable outside — for girls and women of any age. Mirwais has no regular electricity, no running water, no paved streets. Women are rarely seen, and only then while clad in burqas that make their bodies shapeless and their faces invisible.

And so it was especially chilling on Nov. 12, when three pairs of men on motorcycles began circling the school. One of the teams used a spray bottle, another a squirt gun, another a jar. They hit 11 girls and 4 teachers in all; 6 went to the hospital. Shamsia fared the worst.”

“At a desk in the front row, Shamsia, the girl with the burned face, pondered the questions while cupping a hand over her largest scar. She squinted down at the paper, rubbed her eyes, wrote something down.

Doctors have told Shamsia that her face may need plastic surgery if there is to be any chance of the scars disappearing. It is a distant dream: Shamsia’s village does not even have regular electricity, and her father is disabled.

After class, Shamsia blended in with the other girls, standing around, laughing and joking. She seemed un-self-conscious about her disfigurement, until she began to recount her ordeal.

“The people who did this,” she said, “do not feel the pain of others.”

Did you enjoy going to school?  Want kind of a student were you?

I thought I hated school as a teen, but then I thought I hated life in general.  I learned enough to ace every test, then promptly forgot most of.  My love of books and education began when I was in my 20’s.

 

I have been neglecting my blog.  Last week I felt very creative.  This week not so much.  At least you have had some great music videos to watch while I struggle to think up a post.

I spent Monday night on a video chat with my friends Tam, Brent and Mandy.  Mandy has been visiting with Tam and Brent.  You can watch some great videos of them singing and having fun on their sites.

Today, 1/13, I spent the day with some retired friends.  One couple, both in their late 70’s, are the “bionic couple”.  She has had a hip replaced and both knees, he has a new hip and new knee.  Not too many years ago they would have needed walkers and wheelchairs to get around.

Technology is helping to create a better world.  It brings people together, no matter where they live, through video chats, twitter, iPhones, etc and allows the elderly to maintain an active life.  Technology is however a double edge sword and I have just been reading about “embryo screening” that sends chills down my back.

An article in the british news paper the Guardian is about a couple who used a procedure called “pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)” to have a baby girl that would not have it’s mother’s genetic predisposition to breast cancer.

“The baby girl grew from an embryo screened to ensure it did not contain the faulty BRCA1 gene, which would have meant she had a 50-85% of developing breast cancer.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/jan/09/breast-cancer-gene-baby

Doing some research I found that as of 2005 cells can be checked for dozens of genetically determined diseases. One site lists:

  • achondroplasia
  • adenosine deaminase deficiency
  • alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency
  • Alzheimer disease (AAP gene)
  • beta thalassemia
  • cystic fibrosis
  • epidermolysis bullosa
  • Fanconi anemia
  • Gaucher disease
  • hemophilia A and B
  • Huntington disease
  • muscular dystrophy (Duchenne and Becker)
  • myotonic dystrophy
  • neurofibromatosis type 1

I could not find out exactly how many babies were born using PGD but in the US it appears to be at least in the hundreds, perhaps in the thousands.

Here is a link to what Wikidedia has on PGD:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preimplantation_genetic_diagnosis

There are of course ethical problems with PGD.

1) The destruction of the embryos that are found to contain the genetic defect.  For my Christian friends who believe these embryos are children you are killing babies.  I can’t think of a way around that.

2) With PGD parents can not only screen for genetic defects, but also “desirable” traits, like blue eyes and white skin, and we know where that leads.

3) My faith is in evolution, and an important component of evolution is “random” mutation. It is mutations that lead to things like opposable thumbs. Screen out mutations and this can lead to an evolutionary dead end.

We can’t but the genie back in it’s technological bottle.  I have no doubt that the use of procedures like PGD for genetic screening will increase.  We can’t stop it but we had better place the strongest possible controls over it or it may lead us to that evolutionary dead end.

If I know that a crippling genetic disease ran in my family, and I could use PGD to remove this predispositon from the baby I was going to father, I can’t say I would not at least think about using it.  Would you?  

 

 

 

 

It has been awhile since I have been to play on Broadway.  With today’s ticket prices I’d have to sell my condo to afford it.  I use to subscribe to a local theatre, New Haven’s Long Wharf Playhouse.  I saw August Wilson’s original production of “The Piano Lesson” there.  

Link to Wikipedia article on “The Piano Lesson” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Piano_Lesson

August Wilson’s bio – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_Wilson

Have you ever appeared in a play, perhaps in school?

I never have.  I like musicals but if I appeared in one I would have to wear protective clothing from all the thrown tomatoes.

If you have been to any plays which are your favorites?

Mine might be “Les Miserables”.

Do you have any favorite songs from musicals?

Mine:

From Les Miserables – I Dreamed A Dream

From Showboat – Old Man River

From The Man From La Mancha – The Impossible Dream

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