1) Beating the summer heat

Couple cooling off, Berounka River, Dobrichovice, Czech Republic

When both the temperature and humidity are at 90 how do you try to keep cool?

I would like to the join the couple in the picture above.  When I was a child the beach was my families favorite summer time destination.  While the beach is now one of my favorite places for walking, when the forecast calls for hazy, hot, and humid you are more likely to find me at the Mall or Library, when I can get motivated to go outside. 

Many summer days I just sit in my condo reading, or listening to audio books and music on my iPod, wearing nothing but my undies.  Which is one picture you would never want to see.

2) The inspiring story of Róisín De Búrca, from Connemara, Ireland, who has blown away all the perceived limitations of someone born with Down syndrome.  She has just completed her Fetac Level 5 course in Business Administration at Galway Technical Institute.  She chose this course because: “I wanted to see how the business environment worked and wanted to see if it was the subject I wanted to get into.”

Roisin De Burca near her home in Connemara, Ireland

From an article in the Irish Times, by Vicki McKenna:


“Moving away from home, going on to further education, being named student of the year. These are all major milestones, but especially so when you have Down syndrome. Not that that stopped one inspirational student.

NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD student Róisín De Búrca has had a busy year. One of the few people in Ireland with Down syndrome to have completed a full Leaving Certificate last summer, she then became part of an even smaller group by proceeding on to further education. On top of that, De Búrca recently won Bank of Scotland’s student of the year award. “I felt proud of myself, something I can accomplish in life, something that belongs to me alone instead of the family,” she says.”

“De Búrca has a confident, easy going personality and loves creative writing, a pursuit she devotes much of her spare time to. “I usually write about love and death. I just want to do something to take my mind off things. Now, I am hoping to do a script for a play,” she says. “My favourite novel is Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I just love vampire novels, that is what I am trying to do with my book to bring vampires in as a plot towards the start.”

English and Irish were her favourite subjects in school, and she mentions her particular love of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet , King Lear and Macbeth .

She also has a keen – and varied – interest in music, listing favourites including Luke Kelly and the Dubliners; sean-nós singers including Nan Tom Teaimín; Irish country singer John Beag; popstar Hannah Montana; and folk giants Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.”

“De Búrca received helped that opened the world for her and has enabled her to live independently, says her mother, Eileen Kenny. “It is very important that people with disabilities get the help they need.

“Róisín’s level of achievement is exceptionally high, and that’s partly because of the level of opportunity she got. If she had never been put in for the Junior Cert, then she wouldn’t have achieved it. Likewise, the school could have put her in for the Leaving Cert Applied only, but they didn’t; they offered her the full Leaving Cert. Children with disabilities are often as much handicapped by the low expectations of their carers and those around them as they are by their disabling condition. Roisin has been lucky.

“The opportunities always came from the school. Anyone that did help her – teachers and the education psychologist – have always been impressed by her abilities. She had to work harder than average to achieve the same result, so she was very tired at the end of the day. She is very diligent and hardworking, so she was prepared to put in the necessary time.”

De Búrca’s secondary school principal, Máire de Bhaldraithe, says, “Róisín had drive and enthusiasm for learning from day one in Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin. Her confidence and single mindedness won the hearts of her fellow students and of the staff.”

Gráinne Murphy, independence officer with Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI), notes that De Búrca’s achievement broke new ground because she did “a full Leaving Cert and passed six subjects”.

I am interested in any people you have known, or read about, who overcame the perceived limitations imposed by society, as Róisín De Búrca has.

 3) In most of the tradition bound societies I know of women are treated mostly as second class citizens, and too often subject to the kind of violence as that reported in an Editorial in the New York Times.

I can’t think of a worse misuse of words as in “Honor killings”, women put to death by their own parents for dis-honouring their families religious or cultural traditions.


“There is much to admire in India today, including its vibrant democracy and economy and its rich traditions. It should also lead the way in protecting and empowering women by ending so-called honor killings.

Jim Yardley recently reported in The Times on the case of Nirupama Pathak, a 22-year-old journalism graduate student from northern India who was found dead in her bedroom in April. Police arrested her mother on suspicion of murder; the family insisted Ms. Pathak had killed herself after confessing that she was pregnant.

The legal process must move forward, but what is clear is that Ms. Pathak’s family — members of the Brahmin caste, the highest Hindu caste — fiercely disapproved of her engagement to a young man she had met at school who was from a middle-upper caste. When she told her family of her plans to marry, The Times reported, she was accused of defiling her Hindu religion.

Her family gave police conflicting stories about how Ms. Pathak died. First, it was said that she had died from electrocution. Then the claim was that she had hanged herself. The autopsy showed that she had suffocated.

Responding to an apparent resurgence in “honor killings,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordered a cabinet-level commission this month to consider tougher penalties in such cases. In June, India’s Supreme Court asked seven states and the national government to report on what is being done to address the problem. Mr. Singh and the court need to follow through.

Honor killings are widely reported in the Middle East and South Asia, but in recent years they also have taken place in Italy, Sweden, Brazil and Britain. According to Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, there are 5,000 instances annually when women and girls are shot, stoned, burned, buried alive, strangled, smothered and knifed to death by fathers, brothers, sons, uncles, even mothers in the name of preserving family “honor.” Ms. Pillay has rejected arguments that such family violence is outside the conceptual framework of international human rights.

There is a reason these religious and cultural beliefs are allowed to persist. Politicians don’t have the courage to call it what it is: murder.”