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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Denial, not just a river in Egypt

Now, here comes another gloomy post...but I just wanted to remind those of you who always wear rose-colored glasses or engage in denial that reality has a way of smacking us upside the head sometimes. I'm referring to Global Warming. Is it happening? Or is the earth just gearing up for another major climate change -- which has indeed happened over the ages? Regardless, something is going on...and it IS going to effect all of us -- sooner rather than later.

Here's couple good news articles:

Warm climate transforms Alaska terrain


Sinking towns

In the cooler interior regions, buildings are slumping and roads are buckling as permafrost -- frozen soil -- thaws and turns into softer, spongy soil. The Inupiat village of Shishmaref on a narrow Chukchi Sea barrier island is preparing to move as the town sinks into the ground.

"For those of us who live in the changing conditions every day, there's no question. We see it. We feel it every single day," Cochran said.

Satellite records released on Wednesday showed that sea ice coverage in the arctic region has fallen for the last four years with "unusually early springtime melting in areas north of Siberia and Alaska," according to a study by the University of Colorado, NASA and the University of Washington.

Shrinking sea ice has created hardships for sea animals like polar bears that find their prey at the ice's edge.

Heated-up waterways are throwing off long-established salmon cycles and, according to one scientist, have allowed a warmth-loving, salmon-wrecking parasite to thrive in the Yukon River.

Warming is accentuated in high-latitude regions like Alaska in part because of thinner atmospheres in the polar region, concentrating greenhouse gases, and in part because of the nature of atmospheric currents, according to studies.

Such changes have also contributed to falling ice coverage in the Arctic Sea, with spring and summer melting happening 17 days earlier than usual, according to the satellite study.

The disappearance of ice and snow uncovers dark surfaces of the ground and sea, which absorb more solar heat and warm up the landscape, said Vladimir Romanovsky, a permafrost expert at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Geophysical Institute.

Report: Ice-free Arctic summers possible by 2100


"It's increasingly difficult to argue against the notion that at least part of what we are seeing in the Arctic, in terms of sea ice, in terms of warming temperatures ... is due to the greenhouse effect," Mark Serreze, a research scientist at NSIDC, said in an interview.

"We've put a hit on the system and we are in the midst of a grand global experiment," Serreze said about the impact of global warming and ice melting on humans and animals. "We will have to live with the outcome."


I doubt that my generation of Baby Boomers or those older than us will have too much to worry about, but IF I were younger, I'd definitely be worried. Or if I had offspring, I'd be concerned what their life will become. Not just due to earth climate changes, but due to the depletion of oil known as Peak Oil.

Just some ideas to ponder.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tuesday Night

I've been planning to write an entry for days now, but never seem able to have time. Finally I decided to use the QuickPad, then transfer it to the PC and post later.

I just returned from a bike ride; I decided to go at 4:00 in the afternoon, during a lull in traffic -- between school kids and those returning from work. It's getting dark earlier, and after our evening meal (especially when DH is late, and that happens often) there's not enough time before dark to ride. Still hot today, but I rode in the nearby subdivision and on a shaded highway, and the cemetery. DH did go with me a few afternoons on the Killer Loop, but the old bike he was riding now has a problem. He could buy a new one, but is not sure he'd stick with regular biking. I get bored with the airbike sometimes, and much prefer outdoor biking if possible.

GOOD NEWS: We finally got significant rainfall from Hurricane Rita. We sure needed it badly; the creek (where horses get water) was getting low and we'd had to provide water for them. One of the long-time farmers here told us before we moved to this place that he'd never seen this creek dry; that it has been low, but never dry. And that was true of this dry spell; the creek was still running, though just a trickle. Anyhow, it started raining Sunday afternoon, some heavy downpours, then a slow, soaking rain all night! The ground absorbed it all, but we're hoping now we'll have rain once a week. Usually fall weather here is rainy and cooler; I'm sure ready for it!

Hurricane Rita seems to have done a lot of damage to some small coastal towns in Louisiana and Texas, but missed the larger cities. I suppose that is better news than the last hurricane disaster, but it is never good when people lose their homes and jobs. At least the fatalities are much lower, and Bush seems to have learned Americans aren't oblivious to suffering and dying people, that they do not like ignoring blatant problems.

How about those gas prices though? Just wait till exorbitant heating bills hit us this winter, complaints will abound!

I'm back on a diet. I wasn't pleased with my cholesterol level, though my G.P. said it was normal. Click on the link for more about that on my CR blog.

I'll end with this cute ditty I think captures cat-attitude:

We Is Friends!
Me And You Is Friends
You Smile, I Smile
You Hurt, I Hurt
You Cry, I Cry
You Jump Off A Bridge
I Gonna Miss Your E-Mail Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Superbug, Rita and more...

Not to depress you, but there's a couple of interesting news developments that seem highly likely representative of the coming years for humans.

First, I assume most people know about the notorious bird flu that is just waiting to become a mutation that can be infectious from human to human. IF that gets started, millions will die worldwide. Read this article if you aren't aware of the avian flu killer:

Bird flu pandemic inevitable

Then there's this other lurking staph germ killer on the loose:

Study: 'Superbug' Germ Kills 3 in Chicago

Three Chicago-area children have died of a toxic shock syndrome-like illness caused by a superbug they caught in the community and not in the hospital, where the germ is usually found.

The cases show that this already worrisome staph germ has become even more dangerous by acquiring the ability to cause this shock-like condition.

"There's a new kid on the block," said Dr. John Bartlett of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, referring to the added strength of the superbug known as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

"The fact that there are three community-acquired staph aureus cases is really scary," continued Bartlett, an infectious disease specialist.

Of course, apparently whooping cough has made a comeback in Los Angeles:

California Whooping Cough Cases Surge

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Nearly three times as many whooping cough cases have been reported in California this year compared to 2004, according to the state Department of Health Services.

The state tallied 1,276 cases and four infant deaths through August. For the same period in 2004, it logged 450 cases and two deaths.

I won't mention much about Hurricane Rita today, since we're more or less in limbo as to where and when it'll hit. But just the sheer volume of hoards of evcuating people from the Texas coast is causing problems; there's been reports of people running out of gas on the interstate due to idling in the long, long lines of cars heading for higher ground. I would suggest they take a hint, and think about relocating somewhere else. The coastal areas in many parts of the world are doomed as global warming increases.

On the lighter side though, I'll end this post with a chuckle (sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying!):

George Bush got called up to heaven. Presently he was ushered into the Almighty's presence.

Without waiting George asked "God, why are you sending all these hurricanes against America. Katrina could be understandable but another one named Rita that is even stronger? Oh Lord, what have we done to deserve this?"

The Almighty looked down on George Bush and said, "First George, you have to address me by my proper name."

"Start by calling me Allah."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hint to the Prez

I read this post earlier, and just couldn't resist sharing it:

Bill Maher's remarks to Our Leader.

"Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you any more. There's no more money to spend--you used up all of that. You can't start another war because you used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people.

Listen to your Mom. The cupboard's bare, the credit cards maxed out. No one's speaking to you. Mission accomplished.

Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service and the oil company and the baseball team. It's time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or space man? Now I know what you're saying: there's so many other things that you as President could involve yourself in. Please don't. I know, I know. There's a lot left to do. There's a war with Venezuela. Eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote.

But, Sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You've performed so poorly I'm surprised that you haven't given yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that walks like a man. Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never conceded an entire city to rising water and snakes.

On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans. Maybe you're just not lucky. I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side.

So, yes, God does speak to you. What he is saying is: 'Take a hint.'"


Somehow I don't think the Prez got the hint though, and now we're about to have another destructive force, Hurricane Rita to remind him yet again. Listen up, Prez!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Daily life here...

Ahh, living in what seems to be the Sahara desert here, I wouldn't mind even leftover remnants of the approaching Hurricane Rita! We are soooo dry here, the ground is like a rock, and in places it has actually cracked open! The last rain we had was from Katrina, but it was scant, and mostly wind mixed with showers. Afterward our house had swirls of nasty dirt plastered to the white siding, and I had to actually wash it down with the water hose. Last night I was watching a movie and there was a thunderstorm scene, the hard rain streaking down windowpanes; it created an intense longing for rain. Strange how you miss something in nature when it is lacking, not just for the benefits but the sensory aspects.

Nothing new here to write about; life as usual. I can't complain though, since I perfer peace and quiet. Tomorrow morning I have to go for an early medical appointment; my G.P. wanted to have some blood drawn, do a few simple tests like cholesterol and sugar levels, potassium, etc. There's nothing wrong with me that I know of, and I feel fine (except for annoying sinus problems in this dry, hot weather)...but she requested the test. And I would like to know what my cholesterol is, since DH and I try to eat healthy, rarely have any meat whatsoever.

This past weekend we looked at a few houses for sale, and found one that I truly loved. We're not preparing to move, but IF we found an irresistible bargain, we might. Anyhow, this house was located in the city, a fairly nice neighborhood but across town from our other house; it was built in 1916, and at one time someone had done quite a bit of restoration. However, it has been empty two years, a foreclosure, and needs a lot of work. It has much of the original woodwork, hardwood floors, a beautiful fireplace in the "parlor" and is two stories with a half-basement/cellar. The price is at $69,900.00 -- not out of our leaque, though we wouldn't want to pay the entire price in cash, since we'd need money to start more renovations. However, I don't think we'll buy it. I just hate to see such a lovely old house sitting there in overgrown weeds, neglected. The neighbors told us there was even an auction, but the bank wouldn't accept the highest bid. So I doubt they'd take much less than the asking price. I do hope someone comes along and buys it, lavishing time and attention on the house.

Here's a photo of the house:

1916 Historic House Posted by Picasa

I was wondering what happened to the huge old house used in the recent film, "The Skeleton Key." It was located in southern Louisiana somewhere, and had scenes of downtown New Orleans too. We saw it a few weeks ago, and I had tried to track down where the house was located, but learned that the film company was not publicizing it due to the 90+ year old couple who lived there! So it's possible the house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina; I hope the elderly couple survived.

And speaking of hurricanes, there's another one threatening the Gulf area, Hurricane Rita. It's still a bit early to know exactly where it'll make landfall, but IF it does hit the Texas coast, there may be more oil rigs and refineries damaged -- not to mention people hurt and/or killed. Time will tell, I guess. I don't envy those living in coastal areas -- not now, nor in the future IF the global warming situation creates rising sea levels, terrible flooding and loss of land mass.

I'll end with this photo of my tub of flowers on the steps of our back deck, still blooming as long as I water them faithfully!

Flowers on deck steps Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Thought-provoking Ideas

In my travels across cyberspace, I found a fascinating website that lists all the doomsday theories. Two of these theories are so interesting, I wanted to use them as excerpts here. If you like philosophy (and what writer doesn't?) you'll enjoy pondering about these profound ideas:

From website Exit Mundi

New form of energy on the horizon?

There's a fuel supply that is costless, unlimited and that gives off no pollution at all when you use it. There's just one minor problem. When you try to use it, you may accidentally blow up part of the Universe.

It will be over before anyone can say `sorry'. In a laboratory somewhere, someone tries to get hold of a weird and completely new, exotic type of energy. But boy, the experiment goes out of hand. Suddenly, there's a BIG explosion. And then there's nothing -- our planet, the sun, all planets in our solar system and even some stars surrounding our solar system have been blown to smithereens.

And explaining what went wrong isn't even simple. We're talking quantum physics here: the physics of the vanishingly small building blocks that make up all matter in the Universe.

In quantum physics, everything is totally different from daily life. Quantum particles can be in two places at the same time, and can behave both like waves and particles. In fact, when you hear a quantum physicist say `particles', don't think of little, round balls.

Quantum `particles' are better compared with tones of music: they're definitely there, but you can't see them or catch them.

One of the most mind-boggling properties of quantum particles is that they come into existence out of nowhere. Suck every molecule of air out of a bottle, making it completely vacuum -- and quantum particles will still be there. They pop up in pairs out of nowhere. And within a tiny fraction of a second, they merge together and -- zzzip! -- they're gone.

It is precisely this odd `quantum vacuum' that may one dy open the door to a very new source of energy. Suppose you're able to snatch some of those out-of-nowhere particles away. Admittedly, you'll have to be REALLY fast. But if you do succeed, you'll have harvested particles out of nowhere. And since matter and energy are basically the same stuff (according to Einstein's E=mc2), you'll have energy out of nowhere!

The advantages would be unimaginable. Here's an energy source that never runs out, is everywhere around, is extremely cheap, and causes no pollution whatsoever.

But then again, there is a small, but alarming risk. There may be simply energy too much. Mining the quantum vacuum might bring about an unstoppable chain reaction, releasing an ever increasing amount of energy. In fact, no-one knows how much energy will be released: calculations done by physicists give answers anywhere between zero and infinity.

Obviously, too much energy would mean trouble. The explosion could be huge enough to blow apart our entire solar system and everything around it. And of course, infinite energy would bring about infinite destruction, bombing not just a handful of stars, but everything in the entire Universe.

Gladly, no present-day scientist is capable of mining the quantum vacuum. On the other hand: one day, there will be. And that day may arrive sooner than you think: some estimate around 2020 science will be ready. Let's hope physicists finally have their calculations straightened out by then.

So it's `wait and see'. And talking about `seeing': as the famous science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once pointed out, whenever you see an unexplained burst of energy coming from the cosmos (and there are a lot of them), it may be some alien civilization, blowing itself to kingdom come while experimenting with the quantum vacuum...

And this one, which will keep you preoccupied for hours -- but a word of caution: It's not for the easily disturbed! :-)

Could someone or something switch us off? Could it possibly be true that our world is just a computer program, or a hologram, or a dream? Although it's about the weirdest thing you could think of, there are some tantalizing clues this might indeed be the case. The stuff we call 'reality' simply isn’t very real after all.

Welcome to the outskirts of reality. Welcome to the place where theoretical physics and philosophy meet, and where religion and science loose their meaning. Better fasten your mental seatbelts. What we’re about to tell you is just too weird. Too mind-boggling. And quite disturbing, really.

Here we go: the place we call reality may not be real at all. It may look real, and feel real, and smell real. But if you know where to look, and you look real close, you can see the cracks. Just like a Hollywood actor that suddenly realizes he's not surrounded by real buildings -- but by props made of cardboard paper.

If that sounds like lame science fiction; I agree. Indeed, we’ve all seen The Matrix. But could such a thing be conceivable? Could it be true? Are we really here? Or are we, as one reader of Exit Mundi suggested, only a computer simulation, run by an alien race?

Perhaps the simulation is getting boring, and the guy running the program is about to switch it off. We’d see some kind of huge ‘game over’-sign, and that would be it. One moment, we’re here. And the next – we aren’t.

If you’re easily disturbed, or prone to paranoia, better stop reading now. You may not like the answers to questions like these. What you are about to read may change the way you see things -- forever.

Why is the Universe Fine-Tuned?

First, there’s a very, VERY weird thing about the place we live in – something so weird and profound it sends shivers down your spine. For in fact, the Universe seems to be ‘fine-tuned’ to make life possible!

It has to do with the stuff most people find boring in school: the laws of physics. Ultimately, all of these laws are founded upon the ‘physical constants’. Such as the force of gravity, the ‘strong force’ that glues atomic nuclei together and the electromagnetic force, the driving hand behind stuff like lightning and computers. But why do these fundamental ‘presets’ have the values they have? Why aren’t they a little bigger, or smaller?

The British cosmologist Fred Hoyle was the first to realise this is no coincidence. A very peculiar thing about the fundamental constants is that they appear to have exactly the right values. If they were slightly smaller or bigger, atoms, stars, planets and people simply wouldn’t exist!

Take the strong force inside atomic nuclei. If the force were just slightly stronger, it would boost up the burning of stars so much, that they would explode only seconds after they were formed. We wouldn’t have a sun – or even a planet. If on the other hand the force were a tad weaker, it would be too weak to hold together elements like the heavy hydrogen isotope deuterium. Stars wouldn’t light up. And we wouldn’t be here either.

Astonishingly, the same goes for all other constants. As the famous British astronomer Martin Rees put it: “Wherever we look, we see examples of fine-tuning. Most of the physical constants and the initial conditions of the Universe examined so far appear to be fine-tuned to some extent.”

That leaves us with a gnawing, unsettling question: Why? Why are all physical contants exactly the way they are? Every cosmologist agrees that this can hardly be a coincidence. So what, or who, set the rules?

Matter: Chunks Of Music?

Next, you should know the stuff our Universe is made of isn’t very real at all. Sure, you can feel the chair underneath you, and see the monitor in front of you. But what we feel and touch and see in everyday life is actually a manifestation of some deeper, completely different kind of underlying reality.

One way to explore what matter is, is to take it apart. First, you’ll find tiny chunks of matter that are called molecules. Then, if you take the molecules apart, you’ll find the atoms the molecules are made of. And then, if you take apart the atoms, you’ll see it’s made of a nucleus, surrounded by a cloud of electrons. And what if you take apart that nucleus? You’ll be in for a big surprise. For inside an atom’s nucleus, reality as we know it actually ceases to exist.

An atom’s nucleus is made of tiny entities we call ‘particles’. But that’s just for lack of a better word. When you say ‘particles’, you think of little balls. But in quantum physics, there’s no such thing as solid `balls’ you can touch or see.

In fact, ‘particles’ like quarks, electrons and photons are so incredibly and utterly different from everything we know of, our language lacks the words to describe them. Particles can be in two places at the same time, and behave both like a wave and a tiny chunk of matter, depending on what you do with them. Particles can pop in and out of existence from nowhere. And ‘grabbing’ them is impossible: it is simply not possible to both know where a particle is and how fast it moves about.

But still, a particle has to be something, right?

That’s why more and more physicists turn to `string theory’. In string theory, matter is ultimately made of extremely small elastic circles, called strings. These strings vibrate. But not like anything we know: the strings vibrate in at least ten dimensions! Our particles are the vibrations of the strings. They are the music the strings make.

The Universe: Bubbles Of What?

Okay, hold that thought: matter is ultimately the manifestation of something else.

Gladly, there are also things that are normal. Take the Universe. Again, it is something we think we know. The Universe is that big black thing with all the lights in it over your head. Perhaps you’ve even heard it’s expanding: first, there was a kind of blast (called the ‘Big Bang’), and from that moment on, the Universe grew bigger and bigger.

But hold it right there. Once more, the real story is far stranger than that. For starters, the Universe has no ‘outside’. To ask what is ‘outside’ the Universe is a meaningless question – it would be like asking what continent lies ‘outside’ our planet. ‘Outside’ the Universe there are no dimensions, and there is no time. The Universe is best seen as an expanding bubble of dimensions in a sea of nothingness – although ‘nothing’ isn’t really a word you can use to describe what is ‘outside’ the Universe.

It is extremely difficult to fully comprehend what that means. According to one theory, there are many dimensional bubbles like the one we live in. Our Universe could be the result of two of such bubbles – or ‘planes’ – colliding. And wait, now you’re doing it again: you’re picturing a place with bubbles floating around. But there’s no such thing as a ‘place’. Instead, the other Universes should be wrapped up within our own reality, remember?

An even more bizarre theory has it the place we call the Universe is actually best compared with a hologram. Our Universe could be some kind of optical illusion, the result of several dimensions resonating.

And it goes even further. For in fact, it could actually be possible to create a Universe! Basically, the only thing you’d have to do is squeeze a huge amount of energy together into a very dense, small spot. This would lead to a Big Bang, the theories predict. We wouldn’t see it happening: the Big Bang would create a new dimensional bubble, far beyond reach of our own bubble.

OK, let’s pause for a second. Just think about it. Is it possible that our reality is actually made by some other civilisation, in some other Universe? It would explain why the fundamental constants are fine-tuned…

And You? How Real Is Your Mind?

So, to wrap things up: we live in a place that’s not really a ‘place’, we’re made of stuff that’s not really ‘stuff’ and what we see is only a small part of what’s really there. Matter, time, dimensions, the Universe – it’s all lucid, unreal. And to make things even more bizarre, for some reason, our Universe is exactly preset to make our existence possible. Pretty confusing, don't you think?

Gladly, you can cling to this one security: that you are here. No matter how weird the stuff around you is, you are definitely for real. No need to explain: you just know you are.

But do you really?

Let’s do an experiment. Speak out your name over and over and over and over again. After a while, you’ll notice something weird. Your name will begin to sound strange. It’s no longer something that is you – your name is just a word, a random sequence of syllables and sounds that other people utter when they want to catch your attention. If your parents had given you another name, you would listen to another sequence of sounds.

The same happens when you look in the mirror. Stare at your own face long enough, and you’ll suddenly realize it’s just another face. The face in the mirror is, of course, yours. But after a while, it won’t feel like that anymore. The face you see could be anybody's.

Most neuroscientists agree the same applies for your consciousness. The thing you call your ‘self’ is most likely an illusion, created by your brain. Your brain gives you vision, sound, speech, feelings, and thoughts. When you add all these things up, you’ll have some overall feeling of awareness you call your consciousness. But still, your brain is the thing running it. Your feeling of ‘self’ is best compared to a software program running. It looks very real – but it isn’t.

Of course, most people believe there is something like a ‘soul’ or a ‘spirit’ living inside of you. But when it comes down to facts, there just isn’t any evidence for that. Every thought you have, every move you make, every emotion you feel - it’s just brain, brain, brain.

There are actually experiments that prove it. When you disturb your brain in a certain way, your feeling of ‘self’ can get detached from your brain. Suddenly, it will feel as if ‘you’ are not inside your body anymore. You experience what is known as an ‘out of body experience’, or a ‘near death experience’.

But you don’t have to be nearly dead to feel it. The sensation can easily be created in a laboratory, by placing a helmet with rotating magnetic fields on your head. The magnetic field acts like a ‘jam signal’ on your brain. Suddenly, you'll feel like you're floating outside your body. But you aren’t. It’s just your brain going confused.

And you don't really need a helmet to do the trick. Visiting a place where the movement of the Earth's crust generates magnetic fields can give you the experience. Being in a situation where your brain doesn't get enough oxygen sometimes does it. Certain brain operations bring out the experience. Meditation and intensive prayer can generate it.

In fact, exactly this is why some people see ghosts, or Maria, or feel like they are visited by aliens. It is an incredible weird experience to be ‘outside of your brain’. Your brain will try to make sense of it. Immediately, the rational part of your brain will come up with an ‘explanation’ for the experience. You will sense a ‘presence’ near you. If you’re religious, you might see Maria, or Jesus. If you believe in UFOs, your brain might tell you you’re visited by aliens. If you believe in ghosts, you’ll feel the presence of a ghost of a dead person. But in reality, it’s your own feeling of self you’re experiencing.

So... Are We A Game Of Sims?

So there you are. You’re just a walking piece of matter that’s pretending to be someone. But in reality, things like matter, or self, or the Universe, or time, or dimensions are all illusions. Everything we see and everything we feel are, in fact, the manifestations of some underlying reality.

That leaves you with an unsettling question: what exactly is that reality?

The truth is: we don’t know. Could be almost anything, really. A dream, even. Or a simulation. Or a kind of computer game, an advanced kind of Civilization or Sims. There’s no way of knowing if there’s someone or something pushing the buttons. There’s no way of knowing if there isn’t, either.

And then, there’s this other thing most theorists agree on: our reality could suddenly end. Our universe could fold up. The dimensions we live in could be wrapped up. The very fabric of our physical world could be disrupted by some unprecedented, weird physical event. From one second to the other, our reality would no longer be there. Sounds like fun, right?

But then again, why bother? For that’s the deeper consequence of these things. If there is no such thing as a place we call Earth, we needn’t really worry about its end. Would the characters of a Sims-game feel sad or disappointed when you turned off the computer? Or would the people you dream of at night mind if you wake up? You guessed it: they probably wouldn't. What isn’t really there, doesn’t really end.

That being said, there’s only one small problem. You see: you have to be a good philosopher to really feel it that way!


I have a doctor's appointment at 3:00, just a regular checkup for my blood pressure medication prescription. Jeez, would whoever/whatever is controlling this game of life for me, PLEASE make it more pleasant -- and SOON!!! ;-)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Doomsday Thoughts....

The "busy" vacation week was over Sunday, but I still had quite a few household chores to finish before having any significant free time. Ah, what is that old saying: "A man's work is from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done."

At any rate, I finally had time to surf the web, catch up on the latest journal entries I read, etc. I think I've given up on ever doing any creative writing again; but IF I did, it would have to be sci-fi -- and perhaps a doomsday scenario. I did write a UFO/Alien story some time ago, though it was in the form of journal entries...and believe it or not, it was also about aliens and possible destruction of earth. I had many readers, and some who actually believed what I was writing was true, not fiction. Perhaps I should find that story, and continue it, even finish it eventually. Perhaps I might...someday.

Now...for the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. Politics aside, I have come to the conclusion that IF several unknown, horrible disasters ever should hit the USA (think THREE natural and/or terrorism disasters at the same time), the message we humans should have learned by now is: "You are on your own." In other words, survival of the fit, death of the elderly, sick, weak, etc. That IS, after all, the message of evolution, and we, as humans, are not much above the animals in that regard.

Another aspect that has troubled me (most of my life, not just recently) is that ALL our human struggles, our efforts at meaningful lives, our hope for humankind to survive apparently into that it is all ridiculous. Hence, the title of this blog: Mad, Mad World. Think about it: natural disasters wipe out thousands constantly; the cosmos has so many dark destructive forces at work that eventually, one way or another, every single trace of earth and human existence will be wiped out utterly and completely. Sure, doomsday scenarios seem preposterous -- until they happen. And read the history of former human civilizations on earth that perished if you have any doubt that such events can happen.

I have come to the conclusion that ALL human/animal life is futility, the suffering, the surviving, the killing, the healing. The ONLY reason humans continue is that we have an inborn, biological instinct to LIVE and REPRODUCE. Is this good? I am not sure, but perhaps it is NOT GOOD. Has it never occurred to any human that perhaps there is a force at work in the cosmos which deliberately DESTROYS any kind of threatening (as in violent, destructive, ever-expanding into the universe from the original spawning ground) lifeform like ourselves? Maybe in sci-fi stories, but doesn't this occur to others as well? Isn't religion (all the various beliefs) just a means of "pretending" there is some point or reason for living -- and hope for immortality?

We ridicule drug addicts, alcoholics, crazioids who live in fantasy worlds...but really, isn't it possible they realize the stupidity and useless futility of life itself? I remember a quote that went something like: "You can't be sane in an insane world."

And folks, we probably live in an insane world -- a mad, mad world. Look around, and you'll realize the wisdom of this truth.

What should this mean to us individually? I'm not sure...beyond the fact we should live TODAY, do the things we enjoy, not those we loathe...for it could ALL end in a blink of the eye.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Explosion Coming Soon...

Possibly in the oil refinery business, somewhere. I couldn't believe this business news article when I read it, but after a second reading...and taking into consideration Bush's faulty thinking, I have to accept it.

Bush calls for fuel output boost

The White House has told US refiners to postpone all scheduled maintenance in a drive to maximise petrol and diesel production as the administration raised its oil price forecasts on Wednesday in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

A senior executive from a big refinery in Houston said: "The message from the government is, 'Run the refinery as high as you can and avoid all the non-priority maintenance in the next four or six weeks'."

Washington has also told refiners to stop producing ultra-clean diesel to increase petrol output.

A Louisiana refiner said: "The White House said, 'Forget about [ultra] low-sulphur diesel. We need gasoline and diesel. We need you working 100 per cent'."

New regulations on producing ultra-clean diesel were due in January 2006 but are now likely to be postponed, refiners said.

The US energy department told refiners informally that they should boost production after petrol prices rose to record highs following storm damage to oil installations in the Gulf of Mexico.

The tabular content relating to this article is not available to view. Apologies in advance for the inconvenience caused.But postponing maintenance, during which a refinery runs at reduced capacity, can be a costly and dangerous gamble. Some of the industry's worst accidents have been blamed on such delays.

Jamal Qureshi, market analyst at consultancy PFC Energy, said: "It does expose the potential for safety problems. But you don't have a choice."

The energy department's monthly forecast said it expected US crude oil prices to reach $70 a barrel in the fourth quarter of this year and about $60 for the whole of next year.

Before Katrina, the official forecast for 2006 was an average price of $56.70 a barrel, but Wednesday's report estimated an average price of $63.50. Oil prices on Nymex rose slightly to $66.50 a barrel on Wednesday before settling down $1.59 at $64.37.

Last week, the US moved to boost petrol output after it lost about 10 per cent of its refining capacity because of damage by Katrina. It relaxed environmental regulations on petrol to let US and foreign refiners fill the shortfall more easily. It also eased shipping regulations to allow foreign tankers to move oil products along the US coast.

Inventory levels of petrol are expected to fall sharply as refiners were forced to dip into their stockpiles to fill the shortage. The energy department will publish the inventory levels today.

Europe meanwhile tapped its emergency reserves of petrol and diesel to help out. US refineries that were unhurt by the storm are running close to full capacity. One refinery on the banks of the Mississippi said it had postponed until January the maintenance work it had scheduled for October. It said, however, that the downtime might be delayed indefinitely on instruction of the US government.

In the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, four large refineries were still shut, while two were working at reduced rates.

Many refineries are still difficult to reach. Oil companies and contractors have hired barges to house their workers and move their equipment, and are using boats normally employed to take tourists to see alligators.

You can read the remainder of the article by clicking on the link.

Busy, busy here. DH and I both have been working this week, doing necessary upkeep on the house. I have done some extensive cleaning, painting touch-ups,etc. Hopefully we'll get it all finished during this week.

I'm appalled at the way the "Bush Spin Machine" has tried to blame his dereliction of duty on everyone but him. But that's a common Repug ploy: blame the victims. What is even more scary is that the Repugs actually believe that crap; guess they didn't see the truth when it was being broadcast for the whole wide world to see on CNN and FOX, huh? Pitiful. IF there's a God, I have a feeling He will not be happy about the test results in this disaster.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Going, going...gone...

Today, I have only the excerpts from an informative New York Times business article for this entry. You might want to read it if you never lived through the 70s Gas Crisis. No, this IS NOT the 70s, and of course, we don't have a Democrat in office. Nope, this time we have a Republican -- but either way, unpreventable problems loom on the dark horizon.

Alas, I'll allow you to draw your own conclusions from the article or excerpts:

Katrina's Shock to the System

"The refining system is stretched, with no reserves, no excess capacity, no cushion," he said. "The fundamental problem is that we depend on oil companies that dislike the refining business because of historically low returns but whose deficit can produce an economic, social and political crisis."

But Mr. Mabro added: "There is an obligation to supply. For consumers, it's a public utility. If people can't get gas, they become furious, they become violent, they create trouble. Energy is a necessity."

And the end of the article:

Still, with no government control over either prices or supplies - and despite the global emergency coordination, the pledges of rising European imports and the loans from American strategic stocks - the risks to oil markets remain very high, analysts and economists said. The economy may be able to withstand current prices, but energy markets are at the mercy of the slightest glitch anywhere around the globe that can push prices even higher.

"If we had a major disruption in supplies elsewhere on top of that we could definitely go to triple-digit oil prices, no problem," said Vincent Lauerman, the global energy analyst at the Canadian Energy Research Institute, in Calgary, Alberta. "What we have right now is a runaway freight train. There's nothing I can see between it and higher prices."

The idea of $100-a-barrel oil, which was scoffed at as recently as two weeks ago, is now not so far-fetched. And its effect would be substantial.

"If oil hit $100, it would have quite a debilitating effect," said William Hummer, the chief economist at Wayne Hummer Investments. "The economy would slow to a crawl. We'd have a return to stagflation, that cliché from the 1970's. We'd see a huge cutback in driving. The sacrifices would be severe. It would be another blow to the airlines and the whole transportation sector."

The Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm in New York, identified potential events in nine countries that could send prices higher - from terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, to which it gave a 10 percent probability; to unrest by oil workers in Nigeria, a 30 percent probability; or attacks on Iraq's oil industry, with a 50-50 probability.

In other words, said Mr. Felmy of the American Petroleum Institute: "There is no question that this is a global issue. We're all in this together."

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Houston, We Have a Problem

Now that those pesky people who insisted on surviving in New Orleans have been saved, there seems to be a HUGE problem brewing. Namely, where do they go, where do they live? Will the healthcare system and local relocation areas be overwhelmed? I can almost see the greedy corporations wringing their hands, wondering how much all this will cut into there "profit bottomline."


Long ago, back in the 1930s, we had the "Great Depression." I suppose all you youngsters out there MAY have studied it in school, forgot it immediately. But let me refresh your memory by the personal tale told to me by my own grandmother and grandfather, who lived through that era. You see, that was BEFORE there were any social programs like welfare, food stamps, medicare, medicaid...and basically what the government and more importantly, what the rich and middle-class learned is that you cannot simply hope starving, impoverished masses of human beings will disappear. They live among us, mostly unseen, unheard...until we have a horrible crisis like Hurricane Katrina, or the Great Depression. Then you have all these displaced, disgruntled, miserable human beings sort of...well, in your face. And impossible to ignore. My grandmother said hungry begging people used to come to her backdoor, and she always gave them food. Think about that a minute: HUNGRY beggers at your backdoor. Roaming nomads (some of them mentally ill, some criminally violent) in YOUR neighborhood, your safe, quiet suburban home...right there, in your face.

According to Bush's Compassionate Conservative ideology (and daddy Bush's 'Thousand Points of Life' ideology) religious charity and the overwhelming generosity of others will simply take care of those hungry folks. Well, my friends, NOW is the time this kind of thinking is TESTED in reality. How many grand, huge churches are offering to take care of those in need by allowing them shelter, food, and essentials? How many so-called Christians are offering and opening their homes to these people, indefinitely? I don't want to hear about two or three exceptional ones, I want to know that THOUSANDS are doing what Bush has professed to believe they will: Come forward willingly and fix this awful problem without any government assistance.


FDR helped the poor by creating social programs for them. I'm not going to rehash it for you, but I bet you can learn more by googling it on the internet. It has worked for many, many years...until the Republicans gained ALL the political power this time around. If you voted for these stinkers, you'd better take a long, hard look at what you are going to face in the future without social programs -- only the hopeful ideology of religious charity as a safety net.

In the meantime, let me just tell you a wonderful byproduct of the gasoline hike in prices: It is actually somewhat quiet on the busy highway in front of our old house. I told DH last night and again this morning that, as Martha Stewart used to say, "It's a good thing." Before, on weekends this highway was so busy with traffic I didn't think I could live here when we first moved in. Last night it was almost entirely quiet after 10:00, so I guess the teen's allowances for gas has dwindled, since before the gas crunch they spent most of the night racing up and down the highway. Today, there's been some traffic, but nothing like usual. If this is the byproduct of higher gas prices, I don't think I'll mind it too much.

DH is on vacation next week, but like always, we have several property upkeep chores to get done around here, and will not be traveling except for necessity.

And that's it for today.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Emperor & Wife Have No Clothes!


I'm watching CNN, MSNBC and I see the Prez doing photo-ops in Alabama, Mississippi and soon, New Orleans (no doubt, secured in a safe area) and I hear a news anchor say that Mrs. Bush met with some storm victims in New Orleans...and she told them she was concerned about the children. That the children needed to "get back to school soon." Erm, WHAT school? ALL THE SCHOOLS IN NEW ORLEANS AND HALF OF MISSISSIPPI WERE DESTROYED BY HURRICANE KATRINA.

I'm sort of thinking that the Prez and his lady need to get, like, a TV and tune into the news channels to learn EXACTLY WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY. For two days Bush remained on vacation and meanwhile, all h@ll broke loose after Katrina hit the southern coastal areas and literally demolished life as the residents knew it. How out-of-touch is the Prez? Is he so far removed from REALITY that he has no concept of what is ACTUALLY going on in his own country, never mind the rest of the world? Good Lord, surely he needs to be clued in. I guess it's a real bummer when you have to leave your vacation early, huh? Perhaps if we sent some angry, violent citizens from New Orleans to Bush's Crawford ranch to relocate he'd get a better perspective.

Here it is the FOURTH day after the WORST natural disaster in US history and just NOW there is finally some help trickling into New Orleans and the southern coastal areas. Am I PISSED, like the mayor of New Orleans? YOU BET. And EVERY American citizen who has seen this SHOULD be outraged. Today, people in New Orleans...tomorrow YOU and YOUR city residents. After all, we had wall-to-wall 24 hour coverage of the 9-11 disaster on ALL media outlets, yet ONLY the news channels stayed with this after the fact.

I have to tell you, having worked in journalism for a time, I was becoming very disillusioned with the news media in this country, due to their lack of spine lately. But this event has redeemed CNN and even FOX in my opinion. Because had they not focused on the disaster, especially human suffering and death in New Orleans, we'd never have known it existed. Never, ever 'shoot the messenger' because, after all, IF we had a terrorist attack or another natural disaster, how would we know what was happening without news reporters covering the situation?

Where will the refugees/survivors from these devastated areas go and stay indefinitely? Allow me to make a revolutionary suggestion: Send them to the SOUTHERN CHURCHES. There must be thousands of churches throughout the South sitting empty most of the time. Most have kitchens, bathrooms/showers and heck, even huge gyms/auditoriums. What better way to deal with the lost, suffering people than to allow them to stay in churches? IF you are a member of a church ANYWHERE in ANY Southern state, and you are a TRUE Christian, then you must demand that your pastor and congregation open their doors, literally, to these survivors. If you don't, I NEVER, EVER want to hear the term "compassionate conservatism" again from any of you! PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH RIGHT NOW, while the whole wide world is watching. Otherwise, you are ALL a bunch of hypocrites.

Today there are fires breaking out all over New Orleans, and it makes me wonder what is going to happen when those refineries start firing up? All of those, as well as most of the oil-related industry there, are very, very delicate technical operations -- which require that everything works perfectly. If not, there's failure and usually in a big way. Back in the early 70s I lived in a house that had the old-style gas heaters with pilot lights and let me tell you, it doesn't take much to cause an explosion. Pipelines, undersea oil operations will take A LONG TIME TO GET WORKING, NO MATTER HOW ROSY THE GOVERNMENT PAINTS THE PICTURE.

With that, I'm outta here.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Getting Dicey in New Orleans

Folks, have you ever witnessed anarchy? No? Well, just look at the city of New Orleans, and you'll see it ain't a pretty picture. Yes, there IS a natural disaster underway, BUT some of this could have been prevented. Basically what you see on or live coverage on CNN TV (NOT as much graphic coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC, due to keeping the remainder of sheep/masses calm) is the result of TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE.

As I type this, a White House PR is trying to calm nerves by saying Bush will do a fly-by tomorrow over the destroyed areas. Excuse me, I think they should DROP Bush right in the middle of the city of New Orleans, so he can get an idea of the REAL problems. Mostly what is happening there is a stampede of POOR people who were unable to evacuate the city beforehand, and now have had literally no outside help...and the thugs/ruthless ones have simply intimidated others by having weapons. Good Lord, where is the national guard? I hear they are holed up somewhere making plans, but they need to GET OUT THERE, PRONTO!

And even when some of the people are rescued, where in the heck are they going to relocated -- permanently? For it will be YEARS until any can ever return to New Orleans, even IF that will be possible.

Of course, you have to look no further than your local gas station to find drama and overheated tempers. Reminds me so much of the late 70s gas crisis, and no, these aren't "rumors," there's really going to be a crunch with shortages -- at least for awhile. Yes, we filled up both our vehicles last night, because IF you have a personal crisis (need medical help) and can't get gas, well, you can't get help. THAT is how dire it can become, folks.

On a personal note, the darn electrical problem happened again this morning and is still ongoing. DH said he'll try to track it down later this afternoon, but at least we DO have electricity so I can't really complain.

I think every person in this country should watch as MUCH graphic coverage of the damage and personal suffering in New Orleans as possible, because this is what happens when civilized life breaks down and you have anarchy and NO HELP. Hoping the government will bail you out is simply wishful thinking - especially with an incompetent boob in the White House. As I write this people, MOSTLY POOR people are dying...and all the PR at the White House can say is, "It's going to take time." Here's a news flash: hurricane Katrina hit the early part of this week and what the h@ll is taking so long to get the national guard in there?

When this is all said and done, I think it'll make people here look at 911 as a blip compared to what is going on in New Orleans and along most of the coastal south. Not just the natural disaster, but the poorly equipped regional and national response. And most of all, it is showing how many, many poor people we have here and how, in the worst of circumstances, they can turn into hordes of angry, violent people.

Which means for the rest of Americans: no one is safe in such an environment.

Think about that, why don't you.

And while you're at it, contemplate what a major earthquake would do in California right about now? Two or more natural disasters at the same time could literally change this country forever.