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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!”

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Rather then try to explain what a beautiful day it is I’ll let James Russell Lowell do it.

From The Vision of Sir Launfal :

“And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays:
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers”

1) Joy

We will find no better picture of joy than on the faces of those whose loved ones have been saved.

Libyans wave to their relatives as a ship docks in the rebel-held port of Juliana, in Benghazi. The trip was organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to evacuate some 300 people from Tripoli to Benghazi. (Mohamed Abd El-Ghany /Reuters)

2) Despair

The sound of silence that can be found in every heart that has yet to find a source of faith that can help them believe tomorrow can be better.

3) Hope

Two homeless men, Brad Carter and Norman Gignacir, have formed the HOME of Daytona Beach to aid others on the street.

From an article in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean http://tinyurl.com/5vtvdwk

Jon Pichardo, right, checks in Norman Gignac for the midday meal Friday at the Volusia-Flagler Coalition for the Homeless in Daytona Beach. (N-J | Nigel Cook)

“Brad Carter can hardly remember the last time he got more than two hours of sleep at night.

The homeless man doesn’t feel safe disappearing into remote thickets of woods, and the public places he chooses usually draw too much attention to his snoozing. Not long after the 44-year-old closes his eyes, someone is usually shaking him and telling him to go somewhere else.

So he wanders, and sometimes he plunges into such exhaustion he falls asleep walking.

“Try sleeping with your door wide open and see how safe you feel,” said Carter, who’s been homeless for four years. “That’s what it’s like sleeping on the streets.”

A year ago, Carter reached his saturation point with never having a spot to slow down, never having a roof over his head, never being given a chance to prove himself on a job.

So he and a homeless friend, 60-year-old Jon Pichardo, started a group they hope will not only help them, but also hundreds of others on Daytona Beach’s streets struggling to return to a reliable paycheck and a place with four walls and a roof they can call their own.

They launched HOME of Daytona Beach, a nonprofit agency that’s helping with jobs, shelter and permanent housing, and also working toward improving the perception of the homeless.”

“To work toward changing stereotypes, some of the group members volunteer at the homeless coalition, Halifax Urban Ministries and other social service agencies. They’re also trying to organize a one-day art and music festival this summer that would showcase the talents of local homeless people.

“We feel the only way that conditions are going to change for the homeless is to change public perception of the homeless,” Carter said.

The conditions they want to change are pretty basic. They’d like to see another homeless shelter in the city with about 150 beds. ”

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.

The weather man had said it would be cloudy and rainy. I was gratefully surprised to wake up to a beautiful sunny day. Went off to the beach for my first shoreline walk this year.

My walks at the beach are usually solitary, though there are many people around me. I am very comfortable by myself and can’t remember the last time I felt lonely. I am of course always surrounded by this big, beautiful, amazing world.

From the essay “Nature” by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”

Another artiest whose work I love is Vincent Van Gogh. I have a print of his “Starry Night” above my bed. Someone going by the name Copper Twist has created what is my new favorite interpretation of this painting with bacon:

I’ll finish with some art work of nature from the world of photography I came across last week

Yazoo City, USA: Floodwaters from the Yazoo river, one of the tributaries of the Mississippi, inundate crops (Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Kommetjie, South Africa: High winds churn up rough seas to produce sea foam, washed up on the beach (Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA)

A cloud of smoke and ash is seen over the Grimsvoetn volcano in Iceland, May 21, 2011. The cloud rising up from Grimsvoetn as a result of the eruption was seen for the first time around 1900 GMT and in less than an hour it had reached an altitude of 11 kilometres (6.8 miles), according to the Icelandic Meteorological (Institute.STR/AFP/Getty Images)

1) World in Pictures – Thursday, Feb 10

Qasim, a laborer, smiles as a camel nuzzles him near sacks of grain in a wholesale market in Karachi, Pakistan. (Christian Science Monitor)

Worshipers gather around candles stuck to jars with honey during a religious mass in the church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin in the city of Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. The day of Saint Haralampi, the Orthodox patron saint of bee-keepers, is celebrated every February 10. (Guardian)

These five children go to school during the day and work at night and on weekends in a fabric workshop. Three are local children, and two are from Hunan and Guizhou. They get 0.3 yen each for every 100 bra straps that they attach to a machine accessory, which will be used in the next step of the bra assembly process. In one day they can earn 20 to 30 yen each (Guardian)

Katie Ward (front) and her brother Daniel Rogers slide down a hill on an inner tube near their home in Hot Springs, Ark. (Christian Science Monitor)

2) The Road From Prison to Rehabilitation

If we want to stop the revolving door that prison too often becomes, a very expensive revolving door, we need to provide more support for programs, with a proven record of success, that turn criminals into productive citizens.

Even in the best of times it is hard to find public support for programs designed to help ex-cons. Most of these programs get there support from private contributions. A program with that record of success is the Delancey Street Foundation, which began in San Francisco, and now has expanded to Los Angeles, and four other states besides California.

Part One

Part Two

A link to the Delancy Street Foundation http://www.delanceystreetfoundation.org/

1) January has become the snowiest month on record here in CT, with 28.3 inches so far and another 8-12 inches expected overnight.

Tonight I will dream of this:

and wake up to this:

Today’s view from my condo, so tomorrow those cars will look like snow cones.

2) Being in need of a chuckle I give you:

Popeye

and from the fashion runway today in Paris – Parrot Girl

3) All Gil Meche had to do to collect 12 million dollars was show up for Spring Training at the Kansas City Royals baseball camp. The money is guarteened no matter how he performs.

Instead he pass on the money and retired, saying:

“When I signed my contract, my main goal was to earn it,” Meche said this week by phone from Lafayette, La. “Once I started to realize I wasn’t earning my money, I felt bad. I was making a crazy amount of money for not even pitching. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I deserved it. I didn’t want to have those feelings again.”

Gil Meche chose self-respect over money. No amount of money can, in its self, make you feel good about yourself. I have no doubt that he made the right choose.

I wonder how many people could walk away from 12 million dollars?  I am not sure I could.

A link to the story in the New York Times – http://tinyurl.com/6exae4x

1) Pictures from a Guardian slide show of the 32nd Dakar Rally, a 5,976-mile off-road marathon stretching across Argentina and Chile,

Fans sit on a dune to watch the ninth stage in Copiapo, Chile.
Wonder how much these guys paid for their seats?

The BMW driver Guerlain Chicherit and his co-driver Michel Perin, from France, race their car in the sixth stage between Iquique and Arica in Chile.

Mitsubishi’s driver Guilherme Spinelli and his co-driver Youssef Haddad, both from Brazil, compete during the fourth stage between Jujuy, Argentina, and Calama, Chile.

KTM MRW Rally Factory’s Juan Pedrero Garcia rides through barren terrain between Iquique and Arica in Chile.

2) In 1944 Dr. Martin Luther King traveled to my home state to work at a tobacco field in Simsbury, Connecticut. The experience influence his decision to become a minister and heighten his resentment of segregation. The news story about that trip, linked to below, also gives us a window into the America I was born into, where in most places skin color dictated your place in society.

Can you remember any experiences from your youth that shaped your life?

From a Comcast news story – http://tinyurl.com/6kpwahz

“On our way here we saw some things I had never anticipated to see,” he wrote his father in June 1944. “After we passed Washington there was no discrimination at all. The white people here are very nice. We go to any place we want to and sit any where we want to.”

Until then, King was thinking of other professions such as becoming a lawyer, Conard-Malley said. But after his fellow Morehouse College students at the tobacco farm elected him their religious leader, he decided to become a minister.

In his later application to Crozer Theological Seminary King wrote that he made the decision that summer “when I felt an inescapable urge to serve society. In short, I felt a sense of responsibility which I could not escape.”

In a letter to his mother three days after he wrote his father, King marveled over a trip he took to Hartford.

“I never thought that a person of my race could eat anywhere but we ate in one of the finest restaurants in Hartford,” King wrote. “And we went to the largest shows there.”

He wrote a week earlier of going to the same church in Simsbury as white people. His new calling as a religious leader was emerging, too.

“I have to speak on some text every Sunday to 107 boys. We really have good meetings,” he wrote.

King was nicknamed “Tweed” by his friends because he often wore a tweed suit to church, said Alexis Kellam, whose late father, Ennis Proctor, worked with King that summer in Connecticut.

In her book “Through It All: Reflections on My Life, My Family, and My Faith,” Farris wrote that her brother underwent a “metamorphosis” as a result of his time in Connecticut.

1) The wisdom in comics

a. Agnes “A closed mind gets musty and may even start to mold. When people seem to be out of their minds they may be just out to get some fresh air.”

b. 9 Chickwood Lane Advise column. Question – “I am thinking of going into politics, but I am worried, do politicians go to hell?” From Paved with good intentions.

Answer – “Don’t worry politicians never go to hell. Quite the contrary. Hell goes to the politicians. It tags along, pays all their meals, arranges junkets, etc. Don’t worry Paved, you’ll be well taken care of. Hell knows a bad thing when it sees it.”

***We interrupt this segment of the post for the following commercials, brought to you by “Ed’s Politics” ****

Dear President Obama, I don’t want my politicians to be civil. I want them to speak with passion about what they believe in.

“Blood libel” refers to the claim that religious minorities, usually Jews, murder children to use their blood as part of a ritual. Dear Sarah Palin you are a clueless idiot.

***We resume our regular progaming***

2) Martin Luther King was someone who spoke with great passion, and knew a great deal about false accusations. He was killed for his beliefs. Dr. King is being honored in January 17, 2010. His contribution to making the words in our Constitution “that all men are created equal” a reality makes him one of the greatest American leaders of my lifetime.

This recognition took longer than it should have. Many today still don’t agree Dr. King deserves it. While the rest of the country celebrates Dr. King, the Tea Party in several states are holding rallies to support their views, and the Tea Party supported the Governor of Maine, Paul LaPage, who has declined to take part in MLK Day celebrations.

***Up Date – Maine governor LaPage changed his plans and did attend the NAACP breakfast honoring Dr. King. I applaud Gov Lapage for recongnizing the importance of this day. ***

Ronald Reagan was also opposed to the holiday. He threatened to veto the King Day bill but recanted only after Congress passed it with an overwhelming veto-proof majority (338 to 90 in the House of Representatives and 78 to 22 in the Senate).

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) voted against the creation of the holiday to honor King, and later defended Arizona Republican Governor Mecham’s rescinding of the state holiday in honor of King created by his Democratic predecessor. After his opposition grew increasingly untenable, McCain reversed his position, and encouraged his home state of Arizona to recognize the holiday despite opposition from then-Governor Evan Mecham.

On May 2, 2000, South Carolina governor Jim Hodges signed a bill to make Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday an official state holiday. South Carolina was the last state to recognize the day as a paid holiday for all state employees.

On April 3rd King made his last political speech in support of the black sanitary public works employees, represented by AFSCAME Local 1733, who had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment. In one incident, black street repairmen received pay for two hours when they were sent home because of bad weather, but white employees were paid for the full day.

“And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

At 6:01 pm an assassin’s bullet took his life. King died at St. Joseph’s Hospital at 7:05 pm.

1) The Good – Homeless man becomes law school student.

From an arcticle in the Miami’s Just News – http://tinyurl.com/4lbrydj

“In 2005, Desmond Meade stood at a railroad track thinking of ending his life when he noticed the sign for a drug rehab two blocks away, checked himself in and never looked back.

Five years later, he is in his first year of law school. Through Miami’s Community Partnership for the homeless, he became drug-free, attended Miami Dade College and earned a a couple degrees with high honors.

“Community Partnership gave me a sense of gratitude and when you have gratitude you wanna give back,” said Meade.

So how is Meade giving back? He runs a transitional home where he lives with eight other men who are working on getting their lives back on track. They eat meals together, attend counseling sessions and live as a family. He will graduate from law school in 2013. Meade only wishes his mother could be here to see him now, though he knows she will be watching from above.”

2) The Bad

Hundreds gather for a vigil at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix, Ariz., on Jan. 8, for US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) of Arizona. (Guardian)

A foreign perspective in gun ownership in the US, from the British Guardian:

“Jared Lee Loughner was suspended from college and had been in trouble with the police. And yet he could buy a gun and go on to shoot Gabrielle Giffords and kill six others. What is it with guns and America?”

http://tinyurl.com/4a6rb5y

3) The Loony

Swimming clubs from around Germany gathered at the freezing Orankesee lake in northern Berlin at the weekend for a dip in fancy dress during the 27th annual ice carnival (Guardian)

Have you ever gone ice swimming? What winter sports have you participated in?

1) Guardian 24 hours in Pictures – Thursday- http://tinyurl.com/365fbz5

 

Guelb Agantour: The dust cloud of French driver Francois Lethier’s buggy during the seventh stage of the Africa Eco Race. The race started in Nador, Morocco and continued through Mauritania to Senegal
 
  
Hubei province, China: Golden-haired monkeys huddle to keep warm at the Shennongjia national reserve
  
2) Orthodox Christian Epiphany Day, January 6th
  
From the Guardian a slide show of Orthodox Christians who celebrated Christmas, Epiphany Day, two weeks after other faiths do, on January 6th. http://tinyurl.com/29gvmlq
 
 
 
Bethlehem: People greet the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, during a ceremony at the Church of the Nativity
 
  
Bethlehem: A Russian nun prays during Orthodox Christmas at the Church of the Nativity
  
Byzantine chant  “Ο αίρων την αμαρτίαν του κόσμου” (You who bears the sin of the world) – Service: Feast of the Epiphany
 
 
3) People making a difference
 
Madeline Kolab, 17, is Gaza’s only full-time fisherwoman.

 
I can’t think of any job that a person should be excluded from solely because of their gender.  Can you?
 
I would love to hear about any teenager you know of who is trying to change the world, and make it a better place, as Madeline Kolab is.
 
Christian Science article by Daniel Estrin – http://tinyurl.com/37jrpjr
 
 

“Every morning as the sun casts its first rays across the Mediterranean waves, scores of Palestinian fishermen cast their lines and hunt for fish. So does one fisherwoman.

Sixteen-year-old Madeline Kolab, in modest garb with a head scarf, stands tall atop a flat blue raft and digs her long paddle into the rocky sea as she heads out to collect a net she set the day before. This is easier said than done in a place like Gaza, where Palestinian society abides by traditional gender roles and the governing Islamist group Hamas dictates how women should behave in public.

“Our traditions here say that fishing is only for men,” Madeline says. She says she invites her girlfriends to join her, but their families won’t let them. A fisherman nearby yells that he’d be ashamed if his daughter went fishing.

Madeline shrugs. “I don’t care about what people say. I only care about feeding my family,” she says. The fish and crabs she catches are too small to sell. Instead, her family eats whatever she catches. Her father, a veteran fisherman, became disabled, so she quit school after ninth grade to take over the job.

Fishing in Gaza is risky. The Israeli navy allows boats only a few miles offshore, to prevent weapons smuggling and attacks from the sea. A young fisherman on the shore grins when he says that Madeline can dive deeper in the sea than any of the men can. The old-timers on the beach may not like it, but Gaza’s only full-time fisherwoman is making waves.”

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