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In Memoriam: Passed Pets

  • Posted on: 3 April 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

Crossposted from Daily Kos.

A few days ago, a good friend told me of the passing of an old friend. The two of them had been together for 21 years. It saddened me, as I understood how close they'd been and what they'd gone through together, but we both agreed that our old friend was in a better place.

So far, most people reading the above who hadn't paid attention to the title might think that this is solely about people - but, as hinted in the title, it's not: it's about people and their pets, the faithful companions who stand by us through thick and thin.

I'll refer to my friend here as "BugBear" and to her faithful, now-passed-on companion by her name: Spanky, which was short for Spank a Funk a Puss. There are two other furry companions I'll make reference of here: Smoky, who passed on a decade or so ago, and Missy, who passed on a few years back. For those who have lost a special companion, use the comments to honor and remember your furry friend and companion.

...and now, on to the memorial and to the memories.

 

Good-hearted Fun, With A Sinister(-esque) Google, By The Vacationeers

  • Posted on: 29 March 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

If you like a good mental twist on reality, you should check out The Vacationeers on YouTube. They've got a lot of good stuff, including a semi-sinister take on how Google's manifestation into almost every aspect of life could become - well, if not the stuff of nightmares, then the stuff of the Twilight Zone. Or maybe the Outer Limits.

Hat-tip NathanNewman of Daily Kos, whose diary You're Not Google's Customer -- You're the Product brings another, different perspective to the pervasiveness of Google.

Part 1, "The Googling" - Google Maps

Part 2, "The Googling" - Google Moon

 

Continued after the jump. Three more videos embedded...

 

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The High Costs of Caring

  • Posted on: 27 March 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

This isn't a commentary or diary so much as a kind of long comment that I thought contained a reference worth bringing to the attention of others. From a recent Daily Kos diary,1 the following:

Psychology/Behavior

University of Michigan: Study shows real social costs of caring for cognitively impaired elders
March 22, 2011

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The real social costs of cognitive impairments among the elderly are being greatly underestimated without counting care given to older Americans who have not yet reached the diagnostic threshold for dementia.

That is the central finding of a University of Michigan study published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study is based on data from 169 primary family caregivers of individuals with dementia or cognitive impairment. The sample is part of the Aging, Demographics and Memory study, which examined a nationally representative sample of men and women age 70 and older as a supplement to the U-M Health and Retirement Study, funded primarily by the National Institute on Aging.

"We were surprised to learn how much time family members spend caring for loved ones who have some cognitive impairment, but whose impairments are not severe enough to be classified as dementia," said Gwenith Fisher, a psychologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). "These caregivers are dealing with many of the burdens of caring for an older, cognitively impaired family member, but they may not be eligible for much of the help available unless the diagnosis is dementia."

Having lived through this,2 it's good to see that studies are now focusing on the overall costs. The takeaway line that caught my attention?

"These caregivers are dealing with many of the burdens of caring for an older, cognitively impaired family member, but they may not be eligible for much of the help available unless the diagnosis is dementia."

Yes. "Unless" and "Until" - and sometimes even afterward.

The costs of caring can be significant - but, that's part and parcel of what it really means to care, isn't it?3

I don't regret it.

 

Footnote references over the fold.

 

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Another, Older Mess: Hanford Nuclear Reservation

  • Posted on: 26 March 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

The ongoing nuclear issues in Japan have sparked renewed domestic concerns about our own nuclear power plants and their relative safety. One site, in particular, recently came back into the spotlight when Der Spiegel posted an article about it entitled America's Atomic Time Bomb: Hanford Nuclear Waste Still Poses Serious Risks, By Marc Pitzke in New York. From the article:

Fifty-two buildings at Hanford are contaminated, and 240 square miles are uninhabitable due to the radioactivity that has seeped into the soil and ground water: uranium, cesium, strontium, plutonium and other deadly radionuclides. Altogether, more than 204,000 cubic meters of highly radioactive waste remain on site -- two-thirds of the total for the entire US.

In one area, discharges of more than 216 million liters of radioactive, liquid waste and cooling water have flowed out of leaky tanks. More than 100,000 spent fuel rods -- 2,300 tons of them -- still sit in leaky basins close to the Columbia River.

The cooling water for the facilities came from that river. Until 1971, it was secretly pumped right back into it after only a minimum amount of treatment. High radiation levels were measured 250 miles (402 kilometers) further west, where the Columbia River flows into the Pacific. It was mostly Native Americans who ate the poisoned fish.

Note the last line: It was mostly Native Americans who ate the poisoned fish. That would make it yet another issue in a potentially long line of issues that Native Americans have with our government's manner of handling important issues. [See also: Klamath fish kill and New Orleans for additional examples of government oversight falling down on the job.]

Anywho...again, from Der Spiegel:

On December 3, 1949, Hanford physicists released a highly radioactive cloud through the smokestack of the so-called T-Plant, the world's largest plutonium factory at the time. The radiation was almost 1,000 times more than what was released during the 1979 meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, the worst nuclear accident in American history. Fallout from the experiment, which was called "Green Run," drifted all the way to California. People wondered why they suddenly got sick.

Studies would eventually show that some babies at Hanford were radiated twice as much as the children of Chernobyl. Before the "Green Run," Tom Bailie, the 2-year-old son of a farmer loved to play in the fields. But then he suffered an inexplicable paralysis; later, he wouldn't be able to father children. His entire family died of cancer.

But it wasn't until 1986 that Bailie, with the help of a dogged reporter from the Spokesman Review, a regional newspaper, began to figure out why. It was the beginning of what would turn out to be a decades-long fight between the radiation victims and the US government. The victims sued the government and forced it to open its secret files. Some of the lawsuits have been consolidated into class-action suits and are still ongoing today.

[...Read more...]

Lovely, and quite telling about where our nation's priorities are - at least, from the perspective of the power brokers.

 

Atlantic Oil Spill Near Nightingale and Inaccessible Island

  • Posted on: 26 March 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

Via a piece from March 22 on Boston.com,1 another environmental disaster:

LONDON—Thousands of endangered penguins have been coated with oil after a cargo ship ran aground and broke up on a remote British South Atlantic territory, officials and conservationists said Tuesday.

The shipwreck also threatens the lobster fishery that provides a livelihood to one of the world's most isolated communities.

The Malta-registered MS Olivia was grounded on Nightingale Island in the Tristan da Cunha chain last week. The ship had been traveling from Brazil to Singapore and contained 1,500 metric tons (1,650 tons) of crude oil and a cargo of 60,000 metric tons (66,000 tons) of soya beans.

The ship's 22 crew members were rescued before it broke in two.

[...Read more...]

Nightingale Island is part of the Tristan da Cunha chain of islands located about halfway between South America and Africa. The article notes that the British government has expressed concern over the potential environmental/ecological and economic damage, but that it is too early to tell what the impact of the accident will be.

The image included in the Globe piece shows three oil-covered rock-hopper penguins who do not look very pleased at all with recent events.

Footnote references below the fold.

 

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More About Aaron Huey: TED Talk

  • Posted on: 24 March 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

By now, you may have read through - and ideally donated to - the Pine Ridge Billboard Project by Aaron Huey. If you haven't, there's still time: a $10 donation will help get the project off the ground. For a little more information about Aaron Huey, you can visit his web site or view his TED Talk (Aaron Huey: America's native prisoners of war), provided below.


Aaron Huey's effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the struggle of the native Lakota people -- appalling, and largely ignored -- compelled him to refocus. Five years of work later, his haunting photos intertwine with a shocking history lesson in this bold, courageous talk from TEDxDU.

Thank you for watching. Namaste.

The World of Tomorrow - Today! Technological Innovations In Green Design

  • Posted on: 23 March 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

Talk about the "world of tomorrow, today" - take a look at some of the technology that is up-and-coming as part of the green tech revolution:1

  • Samsung Unveils Solar-Powered Zero Energy Transparent TV, by Lea Bogdan, 03/08/11

  • Super Batteries Made From 'Frozen Smoke' May be Here Soon, by Timon Singh, 03/02/11
    More information about aerogels, taken from one of the articles linked in the blurb (from the Times Online):
    In 2002 Aspen Aerogel, a company created by Nasa, produced a stronger and more flexible version of the gel. It is now being used to develop an insulated lining in space suits for the first manned mission to Mars, scheduled for 2018.

    Mark Krajewski, a senior scientist at the company, believes that an 18mm layer of aerogel will be sufficient to protect astronauts from temperatures as low as -130C. “It is the greatest insulator we’ve ever seen,” he said.

    Aerogel is also being tested for future bombproof housing and armour for military vehicles. In the laboratory, a metal plate coated in 6mm of aerogel was left almost unscathed by a direct dynamite blast.

    It also has green credentials. Aerogel is described by scientists as the “ultimate sponge”, with millions of tiny pores on its surface making it ideal for absorbing pollutants in water.

    Kanatzidis has created a new version of aerogel designed to mop up lead and mercury from water. Other versions are designed to absorb oil spills.

If you think that's fascinating, get a look at some of the other articles linked to when you pull up the 'Frozen Smoke' piece about aerogels:

Related Posts

Seriously fascinating stuff, with a lot of potential ranging from robots to medicine, to areas I haven't even begun to think of.

And, of course, variants of such tech could be perfect for a couple of sci-fi works I've got in process, a few of which I'm doing with friends.

What do you think? Does the promise of the new technology sound too good to be true? Do you think you could come up with some applications for some of the technology?

Let's discuss in comments below...

 

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Footnotes

_________________________

1 Due to the extremely short piece, I won't quote excerpts. I can, however, include YouTube videos where appropriate.

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Killed in Benghazi: Mohammad Nabbous, the "face of citizen journalism" in Libya

  • Posted on: 21 March 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

Via The Guardian,

The death has been announced of Mohammad Nabbous, described as the "face of citizen journalism in Libya".

Nabbous was apparently shot dead by Gaddafi forces in Benghazi on Saturday.

Known as "Mo", Nabbous set up Libya al-Hurra TV, which broadcast raw feeds and commentary from Benghazi, on Livestream.

Video from the Guardian article, via YouTube

A Google search on the term "journalists targeted" yields quite a few results, indicating the potential power and impact that live reporting can have on fluid, dangerous situations - particularly in this age of ubiquitous and instant communication. Any time that there's a potential for oppression through violence, those doing the oppression know how important it is to keep the truth hidden as long as possible. A few samples from the search results as of this report:

  • Journalists targeted in Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya:
    New York, February 18, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists called on authorities today in Bahrain, Yemen, Libya to cease their attempts to prevent media from reporting on anti-government demonstrations. Bahraini authorities used live ammunition--including fire from a helicopter--against peaceful protesters and journalists, according to news reports. Pro-government thugs attacked at least two journalists in Yemen, and the Libyan government appeared to be shutting down Facebook, Twitter, and Al-Jazeera's website as a means of silencing reporting on protests.

  • Journalists Targeted by Warring Factions in Ivory Coast:

    The New York-based Committee to protect Journalists [CPJ] says both sides are using media outlets allied with them to disseminate their political message.

    Media houses have been used to inflame passions and win the hearts of civilians in both the south and the rebel-controlled north, says Mohamed Keita, the CPJ Africa advocacy coordinator.

    [...snip...]

    Thirty people were killed recently when they marched on the offices of the state-controlled television station to demand the resignation of its director.

    [...snip...]

    "It is becoming unbearably dangerous for media outlets and their journalists to operate in Ivory Coast,” says Keita. He calls on both sides to “refrain from targeting the press or using politically motivated censorship."

  • Turkish newspaper claims more journalists targeted by ruling party:
    Turkey’s ruling party has a list of 70 people, including journalists and opposition figures, to be kept under surveillance or detained in the scope of the Ergenekon investigation, a daily newspaper has claimed.

The truth hurts. Sometimes, ensuring that the truth gets out can be deadly.

Be careful out there. Without journalists - and without citizen journalists - the forces of oppression and decay can operate with less fear of opposition.

We need to stand together, and we need to keep those who have given their all to keep the rest of us informed, and safe, in our hearts and minds.

Support your local citizen journalists and their efforts - remember, they're doing this for all of us.

 

Note: For those interested in the fate of the four missing NYT journalists, they'd been held in Libya and are now scheduled for release. Via the Boston Herald,

NEW YORK — Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi have said they will release four New York Times [NYT] journalists who were captured during fighting in the eastern part of the country, the newspaper said today.

[...snip...]

The journalists are reporter Anthony Shadid; photographers Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario; and a reporter and videographer, Stephen Farrell. In 2009, Farrell was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan and was rescued by British commandos.

Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, told ABC News reporter Christiane Amanpour during an interview that the journalists were in Libyan custody, and on Thursday evening Libyan government officials told the U.S. State Department that all four would be released, the Times said in an article on its website.

[...Read the rest at the Boston Herald...]

 

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"They're not just crazy, they're evil." - The GOP's Ongoing War Against the Poor

  • Posted on: 19 March 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

Via Susie Madrak on Crooks and Liars comes this stultifying new revelation:

They're not just crazy, they're evil -- and un-Christian, should they have the audacity to claim otherwise. If only we could force them to live like this, they wouldn't last a week:

St. Paul, MN – Minnesota Republicans are pushing legislation that would make it a crime for people on public assistance to have more $20 in cash in their pockets any given month. This represents a change from their initial proposal, which banned them from having any money at all.

[...Read More at Crooks and Liars...]

What's the vehicle that the Minnesota Republicans are proposing for this, and who will it affect?

House File 171 would make it so that families on MFIP - and disabled single adults on General Assistance and Minnesota Supplemental Aid - could not have their cash grants in cash or put into a checking account. Rather, they could only use a state-issued debit card at special terminals in certain businesses that are set up to accept the card.

[...Read more at Crooks and Liars or FightBackNews.org...]

The underlying "thought" process justifying this type of draconian, unConstitutional and highly offensive measure is an unfortunately common one among conservatives and teabaggers alike, from what I've seen. A recent example in the form of an exchange with an individual sympathetic to the Minnesota Republican efforts illustrates this nicely - below is my response to one of his excerpted comments, where he rolls the presumptive meme into his "logic" as a ploy to justify his "thinking:"

>> The reason these rules are put in effect is because the welfare recipients who have cash in their hand will buy liquer, drugs and anything else the want and are prohibited from buying under rules of welfare. Welfare money is for NECESSITIES ONLY. <<

You're making bad assumptions in your arrogant ignorance.

"welfare recipients who have cash in their hand will buy liquer, drugs and anything else the want" - whereas I know welfare recipients who do none of that, and need more than $20 cash to pay their rent or baby-sitter for when they have to go to the doctor.

Several welfare recipients I know of don't have or maintain bank accounts, so don't have checking accounts. When they get their checks, they cash them and then either get cashiers checks (which cost a fee) or make payments in cash to those facilities, utilities, transportation, child-care, medical, retail outlets and individuals who don't or can't accept welfare cards but who provide necessary services.

Just because you have no clue what it takes to live on welfare - or less - per day, per week, per month, that doesn't mean your ignorance is any excuse to make invalid, ignorant, arrogant and mis-informed statements as if they're based on fact.

What continues to amaze me, and shouldn't, is that even as the GOP's plan to further disenfranchise the poor and (shrinking) middle class becomes more blatantly obvious - both in terms of how damning it is for the nation and economy as well as for the affected classes of people - there are still many members of the poor who'd be directly affected by all this, and yet they are so agitated by frustration, conflicting messages and the constant onslaught of propaganda that they continue to vote against their own best interests...which, at this point, also serves to further worsen the GOP-spawned problems that got us into the worst of this mess to begin with.

 

Hat-tip Pulling to the Left for the heads-up.

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US Embassy, Tokyo: Citizen Evacuations Have Begun

  • Posted on: 17 March 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

Via Dolores M. Bernal's News Junkie Post,

The US Embassy in Tokyo has officially announced that it will start evacuating American citizens and their families off Japan starting on Thursday, local Japan time. The Department of State cited the "deteriorating" nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant as the reason to take Americans to "safehaven."

[...snip...]

The safehaven locations so far are in Korea and China — Seoul and Taipei respectively. Citizens wishing to go back to the US will have to make their own arrangement from these locations.

An updated item from the US Embassy site in Tokyo provides the following information:

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo informs U.S. citizens in Japan who wish to depart that the Department of State is making arrangements to provide transportation to safehaven locations in Asia. This assistance will be provided on a reimbursable basis, as required by U.S. law. U.S. citizens who travel on US government-arranged transport will be expected to make their own onward travel plans from the safehaven location. Flights to evacuation points will begin departing Japan on Thursday, March 17. There will be a limited number of seats available on evacuation flights departing from Narita and Haneda airports on March 17. Priority will be given to persons with medical emergencies or severe medical conditions.

Persons interested in departing Japan via USG-chartered transportation should proceed to Narita and Haneda airports or contact the US Department of State and Embassy Japan by sending an e-mail to JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov or by calling 1-202-501-4444. Please provide the following information:

  • Name
  • age
  • place of birth
  • U.S. passport number, and
  • any special medical needs.

Immediate family members (spouses and children) who are not U.S. citizens must be documented for entry into the safehaven country and/or U.S., if that is your final destination.

We hope that the ongoing situation in Japan can be resolved quickly, preventing further damage and destruction in a nation already reeling from a series of tragic events.

If you can provide any assistance, please do so. There's an excellent list of organizations put together by Lili Ladaga from Yahoo! News. The list there provides some details in a description about giving. In order to get the list of organizations out to the public with the donation links intact, I've listed the organizations directly below, using the links provided by Lili @ Yahoo - so you'll notice that any click-thru tracking credits Yahoo! with the source ID. That's a good thing. Still, check out their original source material for more information, and do what you can to help:

Thank you.

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Explosion at 3rd Nuke Plant; Second Tsunami Spotted Off Coast [Update - NO 2nd Tsunami]

  • Posted on: 13 March 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

Update: The meteorological service has said there is no second tsunami.

______________________________

Another tsunami spotted off the coast of Fukushima - the site where the distressed nuclear plants are located. And an explosion occurred at Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant unit 3 ("The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says a hydrogen explosion occurred Monday morning at the No.3 reactor at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture." via news banner atop NHK World news page). Meanwhile, rescue temas from 9 countries arrive in Japan to assist in relief operations.

What a bloody mess.

For those who may want to help, Shelterbox is on the ground in Japan. Donations to them are one of many possible ways to try to help.

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Earthquake, Tsunami, and now a Volcano

  • Posted on: 13 March 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

Crikes - it's been one hell of week for Japan. Now, Shinmoedake volcano on the southern island of Kyushu has started erupting:

Hundreds of people were forced to flee when the Shinmoedake volcano on the southern island of Kyushu began spewing ash and boulders.

The explosion from the eruption could be heard miles away and an ash plume extended two miles into the sky.
[Read more]

Located 950 miles or so from the epicenter of the quake, experts are uncertain if the volcano's activity is tied to the recent quake.

Sorry for the short diary - but wanted folks to have something to add to if following relief and recovery efforts in Japan. There is nothing below the fold.

Side note: Something called 'volcano monitoring' was used by experts in recent weeks, who noted increased activity and lava buildup.

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Dual & Dueling Natural Disasters: Major Earthquakes, Tsunamis in Japan

  • Posted on: 11 March 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

Above the fold: Information and links regarding emergency communication and people finder services. Please DO NOT use these pages or access the links unless you are actually looking for someone, particularly if you are not located in or around the affected areas.

Please provide any corrections to translated text in comments

Google Activates Person Finder page

Google activates Person Finder for Japan quake, tsunami

Google Inc. has just activated a Person Finder page to help people concerned about loved ones in the area affected by Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The Person Finder page can be found at http://japan.person-finder.appspot.com/ and it is available both in English and Japanese.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/techchron/detail?entry_id=84797#ixzz1GI7GlnlV

via SF Gate

In Japan: Emergency Message Board

NTT East Voice171/Web171 Page

災害用伝言ダイヤルをご利用できる電話、提供開始時期、
Overview and emergency messaging
Available for telephone emergency messaging service, offering start date,
We explain our message and phone number can be registered.

災害用伝言ダイヤルの録音と再生方法を具体的に

Specifically, the way emergency messaging service for recording and playback
We explain.

災害用伝言ダイヤルの録音と再生方法を具体的に
Specifically, the way emergency messaging service for recording and playback
We explain

[Source Page on NTT East]

NTT West Web171 Page

災害用ブロードバンド伝言板の概要とご提供のしくみおよび
Mechanism and overview of broadband Disaster Message Board

災害用ブロードバンド伝言板の 登録 および 閲覧 方法を具体的に
Broadband disaster message board for registering and viewing messages

[Source Page on NTT-West]

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Her Final Year: A Memoir

  • Posted on: 9 March 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

It's now official. My co-author Shadan7 and I, along with our wives, have decided to self-publish our book about our experiences caring for our respective mothers-in-law as they slowly succumbed to Alzheimer's Disease.

The book's title is Her Final Year. Why that title? Because it fits - in several ways. Particularly if you regard the "year" as a metaphor. I'll excerpt from the link above, as Shadan7's explanation for the metaphor sums it up nicely:

The idea for the book – the metaphor, if you will – is that you can consider Alzheimer's progression and impact on a life as something of a whole. Just as the seasons progress, just as the days and weeks and months follow one after another in a fairly seamless manner through the course of a year, so does the disease advance. January starts with hope for a new year, in December you're looking back at how things actually unfolded. You can predict, in general terms, what the weather will be like from month to month – but you can still have a glorious sunny day the week of Christmas, just as you can have a grim and cold weekend in September.

Likewise, someone suffering from dementia can have good days and bad days, even as the general trend of the disease moves relentlessly on to a known conclusion. Furthermore, in no two people will the disease progress in exactly the same way.

Therefore, in order to make our book the most useful to other people, we've arranged the "months" according to the general progression of the disease, and then we've placed individual entries – drawn from email correspondence, blog posts and Live Journal entries – into the "month" where it most seems to fit. There is a general tendency for those entries to follow an actual chronological progression, but it happens that sometimes they don't match up that way. In addition, things are time-compressed: the actual experiences we’re relating happened over roughly four years, but in order to make the most sense of them they've been fit into this one-year framework.

Hence, Her Final Year. Incidentally, the last third or so of the book is a whole other section titled His First Year, dealing with the impact of the caregiving and subsequent recovery from it.

 

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