Friday, August 29, 2008

Smart Move to Pick Superwoman, McCain!

Sarah Palin is a grand choice for the Grand Old Party nominee! McCain's campaign was starting to look a little stale compared to all the hoopla and umph being generated by Obama and company. Gotta tell ya, I think McCain just took the wind out of Obama's sails. Who cares about his speech last night right now? Not the media, that's for sure!!!

Wow, what a great choice. Not because she's a woman, although that is a good move as far as I'm concerned. If he'd picked a so-so, inside-the-beltway type woman, or a boring woman, then the energy wouldn't be the same.

McCain picked superwoman!

Man oh man don't I wish I could do half the things this woman can do?

Five kids, runs marathons, governs a state, has a good looking husband ladies..., was a beauty contestant (winner?), hard ass when needed, good looking herself, ethical, shoots guns, eats mooseburgers, was a PTA (or PTO depending on your neighborhood) Mom, city council, mayor, plays sports, hockey-mom, smart, well-spoken, pro-life, wants to drill oil... all juxtaposed with things that are not typical Republican --- union member in the past, husband is current union member.... Alaska, which couldn't be further from Washington... not typical politics... not afraid to speak her mind (although that's something typical for Republican women, we all seem to speak our minds, don't we?)...

I could rave on. I love having Superwoman Palin on the ticket!

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Invites Man Stripped of 'World’s Tallest' Crown to Reclaim His Throne at the New Ripley’s London Attraction on Sept. 3

RJ Note: How odd! They "stripped" him of his title but are willing to give it back IF he shows up on opening day? Guess they no longer believe medical practitioners. Guess they now have to see it themselves. Hmmm. What a concept.

Here's the story.

BUSINESS WIRE --With the recent news that Guinness World Records has stripped the "worlds tallest man" of his title, London's Ripleys Believe It or Not! is offering Ukrainian Leonid Stadnyk the chance to reclaim his crown.

Ripleys Believe It or Not!, which recently opened in London's Piccadilly Circus, is offering to pay for Stadnyk to come to a gala event on September 3, where Guinness officials will be waiting with a tape measure to see if he can reclaim his crown.

Guinness World Records previously crowned 8 feet 5.5 inch Stadnyk the world's "Tallest Living Man" based on a statement provided by his medical practitioner. New guidelines, however, stipulate all contenders to the Tallest Living Man title must be measured in person by an official Guinness World Records adjudicator. Repeated requests to measure Stadnyk went unanswered, and as a result, Guinness World Records returned the title to China's 7 feet 8.95 inches Bao Xi Shun.

On September 3, the quirky and world famous Ripleys Believe It or Not!, the global authority on the weird, strange and bizarre, will celebrate the opening of its London attraction with a red-hot-carpet gala filled with celebrities and human Believe it or Nots!

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Michael W. Smith Helps Southwest Christian Care

I did a quick write up about the event on The Art Snob (art reviews). Not my best writing, will try to do better! Thought you might want to read it though, www.artsnob.blogspot.com. Real quick, heading to Fernbank for their Dino Party Anniversary (there's a better title but I'm rushing and don't have time to look), go take a listen to The Giving on Michael W. Smith's Freedom CD. All instrumental, no words. Couple of my favorites from other CD's (with words ;-) if you want to hit YouTube to check 'em out are "Here I Am" and "Awesome God". Once you get started you'll travel around and listen to a few others I'd bet!

Will update you on my trek to Fernbank! If you're looking for something to do today, consider Fernbank. Great anniversary event from 10 - 2 p.m. today with loads of stuff for kids.
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Friday, August 22, 2008

Michael W. Smith, Southwest Christian Care and The Clothes Less Traveled

I'm really looking forward to tonight! Micheal W. Smith is going to perform at the annual Southwest Christian Care benefit dinner and Greg (my husband) and I will be there.

There are so many happy notes to write about tonight that I have a hard time figuring out where to start!

Going to see Smith is a treat. I defy anyone to listen to My God is an Awesome God, or Here I Am, or any of his other songs without being moved. It doesn't matter whether you consider yourself a Christian or not, the words, the sentiments, the feelings, the music are gonna touch something if your heart is touchable. In other words, ya gotta have some pretty thick walls around those emotions if you don't feel something when he sings!

Southwest Christian Care is such a great group of people with hearts too big to fit inside that banquet hall! Day after day they minister to those who are looking at this big beautiful world for the last time. They do everything they can to make dying an easier passage regardless of a person's faith. As a friend of mine would say, they give feet to their prayers.

To wrap up what is already a twice-blessed evening, I will be sitting at one of the Clothes Less Traveled's tables. Just in case I haven't mentioned it before on this blog, I'm on the Board of the Clothes Less Traveled.

The Clothes Less Traveled is a thrift store ministry. I came full circle to sit on the Board. Years back when Joan Velsmid and others were putting the concept together they asked me to help with the name and the logo. I came up with a list of suggested names (with The Clothes Less Traveled being my favorite). They loved it and voila, a ministry was christened with its formal name.

The group has now been doing good works for just over ten years. Earlier this year I became a Board member. What a joy to be part of this group! I knew they were out there over the years, but had absolutely no idea how much they contributed to the local community. I won't go into detail, but I do hope you'll visit the website and check us out! www.ClothesLessTraveled.org.

So tonight I'm triple dipping! I'm going to try and get a few photos so I can share some highlights from the evening with you. I imagine I'll pop the info on our Music Matters blog, maybe the Helping Hands blog and definitely the Fayette Front Page. Hmmm... we have a brand new site, www.ArtsAcrossGeorgia.com. Maybe I'll do a music review... ah, just remembered our Art Snob blog which is supposed to be reviews of the arts... I guess I'm stuck, I'll have to make sure I write up something over the next few days, won't I?
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Charity Rambling

I know I've written about this before, just not sure which blog I chose when the topic wafted through my brain! If you've heard this one before you'll know by the fact that I'm repeating some of my thoughts that it's one that truly puzzles me!

Have you ever thought about all the fund raising that is done for charities across the country (and world if you want to take it that far)? In Fayette County alone it seems there's a charity event almost every day.

It's more than just the events that we read about in the Fayette Front Page and other local news venues, too.

Think about the kids in school who raise money for various causes as part of their club's mission. Or the jump rope and hoops events for the American Heart Association.

You get calls from save-the-this or cure-the-that groups wanting you to send money. Your best friend is "arrested" and needs money to get out of the charity jail. Jerry is on television raising money for the cure.

Then there's the local churches and their regular donations to good causes.

When I worked for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta it was inferred rather directly that if we wanted to move up the ladder we needed to make sure we gave to United Way. I didn't like the fact that my company was pretty much coercing me to have money deducted from my check if I wanted to move ahead, but being in management I had to set an example and there were a few local home-grown beneficiaries I could choose so I bit the bullet.

I could continue to list ways we're helping to cure and save until my keyboard died and still not touch on how many ways we give!

So, here's the bottom line: Why haven't we cured anything? Why aren't we making major strides in eradicating certain diseases? Why do we still have so many people in need?

If you think about it, giving to these groups is voluntary re-distribution of wealth (or in some cases, the needy giving to the more needy).

We talk about what would happen to our economy if we did away with the IRS (think long unemployment lines) or if our banks or airlines collapsed. Have you ever thought about what would happen if we cured cancer?

There goes how many jobs? Countless. It's not just the American Cancer Society that would go by the wayside. We'd lose umpteen thousand (million) other local agencies. Buildings would be empty and people would be out of jobs. All those research grants being doled out to colleges and companies across the states would dry up. The pharmaceutical companies would take a bit hit because so many drugs wouldn't be needed any longer. Hospital beds would be empty, doctors would have to look at other specialties, and companies who've specialized or depended on some equipment related to cancer cure / treatment would take a huge hit.

What if we all started eating healthy foods and diabetes and heart disease almost vanished? Yes, I know some is related to Agent Orange, heredity and other factors. But our diets stink these days and you know a lot of heart disease, cholesterol problems, strokes, diabetes and other diseases are a result of McDonald's instead of home-grown veggies. Another blog topic for another day!

I still give and I spend a large amount of my time trying to help local groups and charities. I believe we should all give and we should all help our fellow man (and woman ;-).

I will give to Christian City any time I can. You can see results, you can see the way they're helping so many live fruitful lives and giving kids a chance at a much better future. The Promise Place, the Joseph Sams School, the Fayette Youth Protection Home and other similar groups are wonderful agencies making a definite impact on the world. They fall into a completely different category than these large cure agencies.

Some days I see press releases totaling in the millions that have been raised to give to the American Diabetes Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and others. I am NOT saying they're not worthy, I used to be president of the local American Heart Association and know there are a lot of really great people working their tale ends off trying to make the world a better place.

However, when I think about the dollars that are being given on a local level to these nebulous agencies I have to wonder, has charity become big business?
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Death of Daytime Television

I know it's going to break the hearts of the millions who can't go through the day without Jerry Springer or Maury Povich, but it looks like the duo's favorite show topic is going to be passe' in the near future.

With the advent of the new mail-order DNA paternity test kits offered by Fruth Pharmacy, all those poor gals who can't figure out which one of the guys they've been hanging out with is the father of little junior will be able to figure it out without the help of Springer.

Rather than airing their dirty knickers on television, they can make the suspect daddies pay a small fee to get off the "you-pay" list.

Yeah, I know you're laughing if you've ever watched one of those shows. These DNA tests won't make a dent in the number of people who just can't wait to spend the night in the big city and get treated like king and queen for the day just to scream at each other in front of millions... I'm not really blond enough (and I really am blond) to think these cheap DNA tests are going to make a dent in Povich and Springer's line-up of women who can't figure out who fathered their child. Besides people don't really give a flip who the father is, they just like the yelling and screaming and fighting.

I do think the advent of reasonably priced mail-order DNA tests could lead to some really interesting stories though.

Picture this. John Edwards is comfortably snoring one night at whatever hotel he's hanging out at lately. He snorts, then swats at something tickling his mouth. Sleeping soundly, he rolls over and continues snoring.

What was it? His so-called-ex-girlfriend's little sister snuck in and quickly swabbed the inside of his mouth. She's already managed to swab Edward's maybe-maybe-not child's mouth the last time she stopped over to visit sis. Send the swabs off with a forged consent form and viola, a few weeks later the world knows who fathered the child. If sis, who has been pushing Edwards to take a paternity test, isn't brave enough to snitch a swab, you know some enterprising reporter will somehow find a way to get that q-tip in Edward's mouth!

These DNA tests could open up a whole new world of possibilities. Mom's making their daughter with the protruding belly's classmates line up for the test... (think huge lawsuits, too ;-)... New mouth-guards for sleeping dads who want to avoid being tested against their will... Women taking swabs for safekeeping prior to sleeping with guys... (bet that would cut down on casual encounters!). Parents requiring DNA tests from those wanting to date their daughter...

It has more applications than just finding out who's the dad of a hapless child. There are many children who wonder if they were adopted. DNA would answer the question if parents wouldn't tell (I'd think just the threat of a DNA test would open zipped mouths!).

What about those women who wonder if hubby is the father of their neighbor's child, or the secretary's child, or whoever? Have little Suzy or Johnnie over for cookies, get the swab and have what's needed to confront the philandering husband.

Taking this one just a bit further out on the limb of potential, will there come a day when we're all required to provide DNA? When babies DNA is harvested at birth (I believe DNA degrades after a period of time so, if that's true, technology would have to improve for long-term storage). Can you imagine having DNA for every living person alive at some point? It would make it just a bit easier to catch some criminals, and it would make some criminals a bit more careful.

That's one of those far-fetched scenarios (I hope), but this DNA thread is one that can be followed in numerous directions.

Life changed for many when this testing became easily available and I bet you slept through it just like I did...

Here's the story that brought this ramble on (thanks Ann for sending!):

Fruth Pharmacy Begins Retail Sales of Identigene DNA Paternity Test Kits in West Virginia and Southern Ohio Stores

Identigene DNA Paternity Test Kit Enables Fruth Pharmacy Customers to Get a Definitive Answer to Paternity Questions Through a Fast, Affordable and Confidential Process. Fruth Pharmacy, Which Has Been Serving Local Communities for More Than 55 Years, Will Sell the Product in the Family Planning Aisle

SALT LAKE CITY--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Identigene today announced that Fruth Pharmacy has begun over-the-counter retail sales of the Identigene DNA Paternity Test Kit. Fruth Pharmacy, which has been serving communities in West Virginia and southern Ohio since 1952, will offer the new product in all of its 25 stores. The Identigene DNA Paternity Test Kit provides participants with an answer to their paternity question quickly and with probabilities of paternity greater than 99.99 percent. It is the first DNA test ever sold in major retail outlets.

Prior to the advent of the Identigene DNA Paternity Test Kit, the generally accepted method of obtaining a DNA paternity test often required court involvement, weeks of waiting for results, and a cost of multiple hundreds of dollars. Identigene’s retail kit makes the process a convenient and affordable service available in the family planning aisle of the local drug store.

More than 50,000 Identigene DNA Paternity Test Kits have been purchased since they were first offered in a retail store test market on the West Coast only nine months ago. “The neighborhood pharmacy is a completely new sales channel for DNA tests,” said Identigene COO Doug Fogg. “Because it is a convenient and familiar place for customers to purchase products they rely on, people who have a paternity question are taking advantage of its availability in drug stores to get a reliable answer quickly.”

The Identigene DNA Paternity Test uses samples of cheek cells collected from the inside of the mouth of the child, the mother and the alleged father using swabs provided in the kit. The sample swabs, consent forms and a lab fee are sent in a postage-paid envelope to Identigene for processing. Results are available within three to five business days of receipt at the laboratory. An option is also available for retail customers who want to use test results in legal proceedings that provides specific sample collection methods to secure chain-of-custody procedures for the samples.

Suggested retail price for an Identigene DNA Paternity Test Kit is $29.99. The laboratory processing fee for the personal peace-of-mind test is $119. The processing fee for test results for use in legal proceedings is $319, which includes the lab fee.
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Monday, August 18, 2008

Will China Become the No. 1 Superpower?

RJ Note: As the world is watching the Olympics in China, this story really is food for thought. Where do you weigh in on the subject?

By Robert Roy Britt, LiveScience Managing Editor

As the world focuses on China during the Olympics and keeps a watchful eye on Russia's military moves in Georgia, there is an underlying expectation — and for some, fear — that China is poised to become the world's new No. 1 superpower. In fact, a good number of people in many countries believe the torch has already been passed......

Read the story.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

How many memories are lost each day?

My memory is slipping as I get older, but that's not the memories I'm thinking about in this ramble!

Have you ever thought about those memories that vanish into oblivion each day? You attend your child's baseball game, watch and leave. You retain some memory of parts of it for a while, but then those memories slip into the dark recesses of the brain and are, for all practical purposes, gone.

Yes, a crowd watched and lots of memories were made. However, the game is over, children grow, life moves on and it's history. One person retains a bit, another a highlight. Some memories are given a place of honor, shined and re-used time after time, bringing a smile. Others are tarnished by things learned later. Some are deliberately banished to the deepest memory boxes and locked away.

These days we're much better at trying to hang onto memories. We bring our cameras, our recorders and even our cell phones to capture moments. I find that I watch family gatherings and events through the eye of a camera the majority of the time these days.

For the longest time those photos and films ended up in boxes, gathering dust just like our memories. In an attempt to keep the memories alive we now have YouTube, Flickr, Slide and other similar venues to share memories. Some are watched by millions of strangers with no one iota of connection to the actual memory.

We have blogs and so many ways to store information. With the advent of the Internet and computers we've figured out a way to hang onto memories forever if we have the time to type or talk about them.

I woke this morning thinking of all the memories I have stored in my brain somewhere. It led me to thinking about all the memories stored by the billions of people currently wandering around the world. It's overwhelming to try and think about those numbers.

That led me to ponder all the memories that have passed on into complete oblivion. Throughout history some cultures have attempted to chronicle their memories, their history while others have focused solely on the day-to-day and left barely a mark.

So many memories have been lost and so many are being lost each day. We scrambling to hang onto them, cramming them onto video, hard drives and the world wide web.

I wonder if someday future generations will be implanted with some sort of mind recorder that allows us to capture life as it happens, creating a chronicle of memories for anyone wanting to share? Hope it's selective, with an internal off / on button!
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Have a will...

None of us like to think about death or the process of dying --- our own or that of someone close to us. It's important though to think about things like the possibility of nursing homes, long-term illness and what might happen after we're gone.

I've heard too many tales from family and friends about what can happen with or without a will after someone dies. Families squabble over a piece of jewelry that Sue said grandma promised to her and Jane says was promised to her. One member of a family wants to hang onto the parents property while another wants to sell. Little things can cause huge problems.

In my family we experienced a problem that has caused a rift that I can't see being healed.

My grandparents had a long-standing and oft-talked-about will that divided everything equally between their three children. My grandfather died, then years later my grandmother. My grandmother spent the last few years of her life living with my uncle. After her death the other siblings discovered that my uncle had induced my grandmother to change her will and leave everything to him with his son as the heir should he die before then.

One sister wanted to sue, the other didn't. No agreement, thus no action. Now there are three who rarely talk to each other and children who won't give my uncle the time of day (including yours truly... and he used to be my hero).

While the damage to the family was horrible, the damage to our memory of our grandmother was just as serious. It's impossible to think about her without the tinge of what our uncle did affecting the memory.

We all knew she was suffering from dementia and easily led. Depending on who she was visiting or talking to she'd tell them she was going to give them her house and other valuables. She didn't remember what she'd said right after saying it and would repeat herself over and over. It was clear she was not legally in her "right mind". We trusted our uncle, he was always above reproach. So what happened? Who knows.

Not much any of us could have done to stop the will from being changed as we weren't aware. People do strange things when money is involved and you can't prepare for every contingency. However, as a living, breathing, responsible adult, you sure can make out a will and do whatever possible to avoid potential problems.

Here's the article that made me think about all of our family's difficulties. Good advice.

Wills Help to Avoid Confusion, Fights After Death
http://georgiafaces.caes.uga.edu/storypage.cfm?storyid=3475


A few weeks after they married, Joan Koonce’s husband was diagnosed with leukemia. Their marital bliss turned instantly to anxiety and long hours in the hospital.

“We really didn’t have time to think or feel,” Koonce said. “We just got into action.”

Two and a half years later, she said goodbye to him for the last time. They hadn’t planned for death so early in their lives.

He had created a will during his previous marriage. But a will is invalid in Georgia if someone remarries, has a child or adopts a child after the document is drawn up. After his death, she was left to deal with the paperwork and headache of watching the state dole out her husband’s estate.

It is important to update your will when these situations occur, said Koonce, an associate professor and financial management specialist for University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.
The life expectancy of a female born today is 80 years. It is 75 years for a man, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But those years aren’t promised.

“You need to prepare early,” Koonce said. “And you need to make changes to your will as your family situation and circumstances change.”

Writing a will means thinking about death, a topic a lot of people don’t want to talk about, she said.

“Making decisions about who you want to have what and how you want it distributed to them can become overwhelming,” Koonce said, “and the more you have, the harder it gets.”
Even if you aren’t rich, she said, a will is still important.

“You don’t have to own a lot to have a will,” she said. “What you own may not have huge monetary value, but if it has lots of sentimental value. If you want to make sure it goes to a particular person, then you need to have a will.”

It’s often those sentimental things that are fought over the most. “For example, it may be important that your granddaughter gets your doll collection,” she said.

To get started with a will, she gives these tips:

1. Start early. Many young, unmarried people don’t think about estate planning. But they should, just as they should think about the possibility of disability or the inability to earn an income.
2. List your heirs. Beside each name, list what you want them to have. Be as detailed as possible.
3. Meet with an attorney. While online kits are available, attorneys know state laws “and can help you think through many things that can become issues after you die,” she said.
Koonce had her will redrawn this year. If something happens to her son, her assets will go to her church.

“My lawyer included the current address or wherever the church is located at my death,” she said. Attorneys “think about those things we don’t think about. Once the attorney mentioned it, I realized how important it was because there are other churches with the same name.”

The cost for drawing up a will can range from $300 and up, depending on the complexity of the will and estate planning.

Author Stephanie Schupska is a news editor for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
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Monday, August 11, 2008

I may be a vegetarian... but...

I've been a vegetarian since high school. I made the choice so long ago I have almost forgotten why I originally chose to forgo meats. At the time I attributed the change to a concern for our fellow animals. I am fairly sure now that it was a teenage rebellious act that somehow tied to our family tradition of grilling steaks after church every Sunday. I was probably asserting my independence by refusing to kill cows, Bambie and any other animal.

Over the years I've done a lot of reading about meat and fowl, how steaks and chickens gets from the ranch or farm to our tables and I've decided to continue on the path for health reasons more than any other reason. I also have a serious problem with the torture factor involved in mass-producing animals so we can eat a thick juicy steak or a leg of chicken. But these days that's a lesser factor than those related to health.

Just tossed that in so you'd understand that I'm probably a bit more understanding about those who cringe at the idea of killing an animal. However, my line doesn't go quite as far over as a large number of vegans. I believe animals were put here on earth for us to eat. I just don't happen to choose to do so in modern days given all that comes hidden inside the meat these days... and the way we "harvest" those animals.

I'm sharing all of that to lead up to something a friend sent me. It's a photo that might disgust some of you. I thought it was rather gross. PETA painted red-blood-looking stuff on a couple of people, wrapped them in clear plastic wrap and had them lay on the ground in front of a sign decrying what we do to meat.

At first I figured they were both mannequins. Not so. These poor people fried inside the plastic-wrap.

When I was younger I went to a few protests. I was young enough that I really didn't quite understand the issues. I listened to the propaganda and went along for the ride. Dumb in retrospect.

It didn't take long for me to figure out that protesting didn't really do anything other than make the other side dig their heels in a bit deeper. I figured that if I wanted to change the world I needed to learn more and to work from the inside. Of course, as I've gotten older and wiser, I've also discovered that many of those causes I championed in my college days weren't those that I now think should have been championed. If someone had pointed out the errors in the way I looked at things back then, I'd have dug MY heels in firmer.

Luckily, I'm a read-aholic and very willing to read both sides of issues.

I seriously doubt if anyone seeing the poor woman baking in the saran wrap decided to stop eating meat. Maybe some young impressionable kid or someone looking for a cause.

I do believe that our fellow human beings deserve more courtesy and caring than an animal. If you wouldn't wrap a cow in saran wrap and lay it on the side walk in the sun, then you certainly shouldn't expect someone who worked for you (or anyone for that matter) to do it either. The one difference between a cow and the people laying on the sidewalk is that the people made their own choice.

I understand the point the PETA folks are trying to make with the blood covered plastic-wrapped people. I just think there are more humane and less graphic ways to make a point. All it did for me was to bring home that fact that people sometimes have less respect for the other two-legged creatures inhabiting this earth than they do the four legged (or the two with wings ;-)

Here's the link:

http://www.commercialappeal.com/photos/2008/jun/05/59598/

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Friday, August 8, 2008

China stops the rain...

Well, maybe China stops the rain... Isn't there a song that has the words "who'll stop the rain" in it? Somehow I don't think the Chinese will succeed in stopping the rain for the Olympics.

I saw a bit on TV a few months ago about the Chinese building an open-air stadium for the Olympics. This is monsoon or the rainy season in China so many thought it was not a very good idea to subject the athletes and crowds to the rain.

However, China decided they would master the rain and stop it from raining over the stadium.

(Can't you just picture an army holding hoses aimed at clouds trying to fill up with so much water that they'll disperse the rain before it hits the stadium? ;-)

I was just talking to a friend about today being 8-8-08, supposedly the luckiest day of the year to the Chinese, thus it is the day they chose to start the Olympics. It reminded me of the story on the rain so I thought I'd wander around and see if I could find out how successful they had been.

My impression from the initial story was that those working on stopping the rain had been told they would succeed, but none of the scientists seemed overly confident when talking to the interviewers.

They have spent a lot of money and time trying to control weather. I can't even begin to imagine how many variables there must be to consider when trying to stop a cloud that is heavy-laden with water from dumping it whenever it wants.

They now have 53,000 working to stop the rain (no, the comma is not in the wrong place, that really is 53 thousand). From the stories I've skimmed, it looks like they may not have succeeded. Does this mean off with their heads? Hmm...

Here's a few stories I found about it with a bit at the end on pollution in China:

March 08 article:
Weather Engineering in China
How the Chinese plan to modify the weather in Beijing during the Olympics, using supercomputers and artillery.
By Mark Williams
To prevent rain over the roofless 91,000-seat Olympic stadium that Beijing natives have nicknamed the Bird's Nest, the city's branch of the national Weather Modification Office--itself a department of the larger China Meteorological Administration--has prepared a three-stage program for the 2008 Olympics this August... http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/20463/?a=f

August 8th (today) article in Guardian (UK)
China takes battle to the heavens in search of the sun
It sounds like Star Trek but 53,000 really are employed to change the weather
http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2008/aug/08/olympics20081

Cloud Seeding: Changing Weather
Gareth Deighan, Sky News Online
In the weeks and months leading up to the Olympics, China has been firing rockets and cannons into the sky in preparation.
http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/World-News/Beijing-Olympics-China-Uses-Cloud-Seeding-To-Try-To-Change-Weather/Article/200808115073313?lpos=World%2BNews_2&lid=ARTICLE_15073313_Beijing%2BOlympics%253A%2BChina%2BUses%2BCloud%2BSeeding%2BTo%2BTry%2BTo%2BChange%2BWeather

8/7/08
No time to be under a cloud
Hitting every detail, China says it may control tomorrow's weather
http://www.boston.com/sports/other_sports/olympics/articles/2008/08/07/no_time_to_be_under_a_cloud/

8/8/08
BEIJING 2008: RAIN AND SMOG THREATEN OPENING CEREMONY
(AGI) - Beijing, Aug 8 - Smog and rain threaten today's opening ceremony of the Olympic Games of Beijing 2008. Chinese authorities have done much to fight the pollution, only half the usual number of cars on the road, many plants closed. But the air quality still is at the safety limits. Nevertheless, a few hours from the start of the ceremony the organisation has reassured everybody. Then there is the bad weather...http://www.agi.it/world/news/200808080931-cro-ren0004-art.html

Rain Likely at Beijing Olympics’ Opening Ceremony
The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) is predicting a 40 percent chance of rain the day of the Olympics’ opening ceremony. The CMA is also warning that hurricanes could interrupt sporting events held in other cities during the Games. http://en.epochtimes.com/n2/china/rain-olympics-opening-ceremony-2342.html

Here's another little tidbit I found in Sky News Online regarding the pollution:

China Pollution Levels
Sky News has been testing the level of air pollution in Beijing ahead of the Olympic Games and comparing it to UK cities. The results are:
Beijing
333 micrograms per metre cubed
London
56 μg/m3
Glasgow
42 μg/m3
Manchester
29 μg/m3
The UK figures are the latest available from Defra.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Technology from PureSpectrum, Inc. Addresses the Hidden Cost of Using CFL Bulbs

PRNewswire-FirstCall -- There is a looming concern with brand name Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs, and PureSpectrum, Inc. (Pink Sheets: PSPM) is one of a handful of lighting technology companies engineering to directly address the problem.

According to James Wasserman of The Energy Consortium of Minneapolis, Minn., low Power Factor CFL bulbs could become a crucial issue for residential energy consumers and providers as incandescent bulbs are phased out during the next few years in accordance with the Energy Bill of 2007. Low Power Factor results in harmonic distortion and reduces power quality, and this energy imbalance could lead to extensive and expensive corrective actions by utility companies.

High Power Factor standards have been set for linear fluorescent lighting in commercial and industrial settings, but Power Factor standards have not been elevated for the residential sector. Wasserman, a consultant and program manager for a utility company in Minnesota, expects that a power factor correction penalty could be added to residential energy bills in the future to offset the "dirty" or unproductive power created by the influx of millions of low Power Factor CFL bulbs. While this additional line item may surprise unsuspecting consumers, it would mean additional revenue for the utility companies.

A perfect Power Factor rating is 1.0, and PureSpectrum's dimmable CFL ballast technology rated .974 in independent testing performed at a NVLAP-certified facility at the request of multiple prospective licensing partners. For a lighting manufacturer to achieve high Power Factor for an existing ballast design would require circuitry modifications and additional components, but high Power Factor is an inherent performance characteristic for all of PureSpectrum's ballast circuitry designs.

"We analyzed the costing model being used by utilities in commercial and industrial settings and recognized immediately that a similar model will be necessary in the residential sector once there is a massive influx of CFL bulbs to replace incandescent bulbs," said PureSpectrum president and CEO Lee Vanatta, who also said PureSpectrum is designing a full product line of dimmable high Power Factor CFL bulbs. "As utility companies and lighting manufacturers have begun to digest the scope of the transition that is beginning to occur, they are realizing the importance of high Power Factor and the ripples this issue will cause. PureSpectrum has consistently approached the development of our technology from a universal perspective in the sense that we have created technology to satisfy the needs of manufacturers, end users and energy providers."

There has never been a definitive study of the effects of low Power Factor CFL bulbs on energy usage in the U.S., but recent research in New Zealand concluded that Power Factor correction could cost utilities as much as $4 million for every million low Power Factor CFL bulbs installed. With a variety of CFL bulbs with varying Power Factor ratings replacing incandescent bulbs industry, experts have yet to predict the total effect low Power Factor CFL bulbs will have on power quality in the U.S. but the cost will ultimately be passed on to the consumer.

"It is important that a definitive study be performed within the industry to insure that we know what will happen to power quality across the grid as millions upon millions of (low Power Factor) CFL bulbs are introduced," Wasserman said. "We're not sure how big the issue will become, but we know that it could be problematic."

The U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Star program currently only requires a Power Factor of .5 or higher to gain approval, while standards for electronic ballasts set by the American National Standards Institute and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association recommend a of .9 or greater for Power Factor. Because the Energy Star threshold is substantially lower, millions of low Power Factor CFL bulbs are being purchased by uninformed consumers to replace incandescent bulbs.

"While there is no data that declares that a massive influx of low Power Factor CFL bulbs will have a negative impact on power quality in the U.S., we believe this issue will become extremely important during the next five years," Vanatta said. "We know our technology provides a cost effective solution to this potential problem, and we plan to work closely with utility companies to develop a more complete understanding of this issue."

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Little Teeth Suggest Big Jump in Primate Timeline

Tiny fossilized teeth excavated from an Indian open-pit coal mine could be the oldest Asian remains ever found of anthropoids, the primate lineage of today's monkeys, apes and humans, say researchers from Duke University and the Indian Institute of Technology.

Just 9-thousandths of a square inch in size, the teeth are about 54.5 million years old and suggest these early primates were no larger than modern dwarf lemurs weighing about 2 to 3 ounces. Studies of the shape of the teeth suggest these small animals could live on a fruit and insect diet, according to the researchers.

"It's certainly the oldest anthropoid from Asia and India," said Richard Kay, a Duke professor of evolutionary anthropology who is corresponding author of a report to be published online during the week of Aug. 4-8 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Previous fossil evidence shows primates were living in North America, Europe and Asia at least 55 million years ago. But, until now, the fossil record of anthropoid primates has extended back only 45 million years.

"We're going back almost 10 million years before any previously described Asian anthropoid," said co-author Blythe Williams, a Duke visiting associate professor of evolutionary anthropology. "The new fossils from India are exciting because they show that the anthropoid lineage is much more ancient than we realized."

In addition to stretching the primate timeline, the specimens represent a new genus as well as a new species of anthropoid, which the researchers have named Anthrasimias gujaratensis by drawing from the Greek word for "coal," Latin for "monkey" and the Indian State of Gujarat where the teeth were found.

"Anthrasimias may be the oldest anthropoid in the world," the PNAS report said -- "may" reflecting the fact that some scientists think slightly older fossils found in a Moroccan limestone deposit also could have been anthropoid, Kay said.

The report's first author is Sunil Bajpai, an earth scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology who directed excavations at the Vastan lignite coal mine in western India that unearthed the fossils.

Bajpai's Indian team managed to find and remove the tiny Anthrasimias tooth specimens from a strata in the mine while "really gigantic trucks" scooped up coal above them, Kay said. The teeth were dated by identifying microscopic marine plankton fossils of known age in nearby rock layers, he added.

Bajpai's team was funded by India's Department of Science and Technology. Work by Williams and Kay, who are anthropoid experts, was funded the Duke Provost's Research Fund and the National Science Foundation.

Their PNAS report describes tooth structure differences that would separate Anthrasimias from two other ancient lines of primates whose remains have been found at the same level of the Vastan mine. Of the three lines, Williams and Kay believe only Anthrasimias's is part of the anthropoid lineage that evolved into modern monkeys, apes and humans.

"Most of the fossil record of ancient primates is made up of teeth, because teeth are easy to preserve and hard," Williams said. "Occasionally we get lucky enough to have a skull to work with, but in this case a few teeth is all we have." Their PNAS report described two upper molars and one lower molar.

"From the tooth size and structure we can say something about the animals' body weight and diet, because teeth have crests that are differentially developed depending on whether they ate primarily insects, leaves or fruit," he said. But without more body parts, Kay and Williams declined to deduce what the animals looked like.

Other authors of the PNAS report were Debasis Das of the Indian Institute of Technology, Vivesh Kapur of Chandigarh, India, and B.N. Tiwari of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology in India.

CEA to Discuss Standards for Portable and Handheld Devices

BUSINESS WIRE --The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® today announced the formation of a discussion group to weigh interest in establishing industry technical standards for portable and handheld devices, such as MP3 players, GPS devices, video displays and cameras. CEA will hold a Discovery Group meeting to consider the issue at its Industry Forum on Tuesday, October 21, 2008. The meeting will take place at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, NV from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. PDT.

An industry standard for portable and handheld devices could make it easier for consumers to connect these devices with home audio and video systems, in-vehicle audio, video and navigation systems and other consumer electronics (CE) products. CEA already operates nine standards formulating groups covering a broad spectrum of CE products, from in-home audio, video and home networking systems to in-vehicle information and entertainment systems.

Portable and handheld devices continue to change the way consumers collect, store and share audio, pictures, video and other information, said Brian Markwalter, CEA vice president, Technology and Standards. In many cases consumers would like to attach these devices to other CE products to enhance their experiences. CEA wants to explore whether industry technical standards might enable more robust connectivity between portable devices and other products, and whether such connectivity might help to grow consumers interest in such products.

Participation in CEA standards and activities is open to any company, organization or individual with direct and material interest. CEA invites specific ideas for industry standards related to portable and handheld devices at the Discovery Group meeting at Industry Forum. Contact Dave Wilson at 703-907-7421 to request time on the agenda to discuss a specific standards proposal. CEA membership is not required to participate in the meeting.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

August Is National Catfish Month

RJ Note: Memories-- light the corners of my--lip smacking youth. As a child growing up in the deep south, one of the most popular restaurants was a catfish joint. They were all over the place. When you were seated, it wasn't at a table in a room chock full of tables. No sir. You got your own room with a long table. That way, there was plenty of room for the platters of catfish, hushpuppies, and french fries. Ah memories. Why don't we have any great catfish eateries any more?

BUSINESS WIRE --A traveler making his way through the South from other parts of the country might come upon the unfamiliar sight of acres upon acres of similarly shaped, man-made ponds and wonder what in the world they are. But for many Southerners, these freshwater catfish farms are as common a sight as rows of cotton and soybeans, and just as valuable to the regions economy.

The month of August was designated as National Catfish Month by Congress in the late 1980s to highlight contributions the U.S. catfish industry makes to the economy, while providing consumers with a healthy, safe and great-tasting product. Each year, four states that produce the majority of the nations catfish Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi recognize their most respected and successful farmers as Catfish Farmers of the Year.

This August, The Catfish Institute (TCI), the marketing arm of the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish industry, is celebrating National Catfish Month with the debut of a new ad campaign featuring three of these farmers in national magazines including Cooking With Paula Deen, Saveur and Food Arts. The advertisements depict Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippis Catfish Farmers of the Year standing on a catfish pond bank, alongside Food Network celebrity chef and catfish industry spokesperson Cat Cora. The ads focus on the relationship between the chef and the farmer and key in on the catfishs great taste, all-natural feed and earth-friendly benefits.

These gentlemen are all prime examples of the leadership quality of the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish industry, says Roger Barlow, president of TCI. They are good farmers and good businessmen, and they continue to operate successfully, even as our industry faces challenges from a struggling U.S. economy.

The biggest current challenge to the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish industry is the cost of catfish feed ingredients, primarily corn and soybeans commodities that have increased dramatically over the last year," says Barlow.

All three Catfish Farmers of the Year mentioned high feed costs as a concern when they were interviewed separately, and each of them are dealing with it in different ways. In addition, all were appreciative of the title of Catfish Farmer of the Year, a recognition awarded by their colleagues from throughout their respective states.

John Williamson, Catfish Farmer of the Year from Alabama, has been in business since 2000, starting with 500 acres of catfish ponds. His operation has now increased to 1,650 acres. He credits his success in recent years to his focus on efficiency, keeping production high and using more electric generators to reduce the demand on fuel. Williamson was chosen by a panel of his peers who lauded him as a great spokesperson for the industry as a whole.

The attitude Ive taken from the production side is to stay as efficient as possible... by pushing our production levels to the highest level we can obtain, says Williamson. Weve tried to be very proactive and come up with new ideas to stay ahead of the game on efficiency.

Williamson concedes that prices will have to go up at some point to keep catfish farming profitable, but he feels that U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish will continue to be a popular product because of its taste, as well as the safety and earth-friendly nature of the fish.

In a time when Americans are more and more concerned with the origins of their food, U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish has become one of the safest choices in seafood, because the fish are raised in freshwater ponds and fed a strict diet of wholesome grains.

When asked his thoughts on the future of the catfish industry, Williamson says, Our industry may struggle for a while, but I think it will eventually stabilize. There will always be a big demand for catfish, especially in the South. As for me, my family will be in the catfish industry... and continue what we are doing, and probably expand.

Mitt Walker of the Alabama Farmers Federation agrees with Williamsons assessment of the future of the catfish industry.

The industry will be here in five years, but it may look different than it does today. Our catfish will always have a place in the seafood market. We have loyal customers who will always demand U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish. They know its a good, high-quality product. I think U.S. Farmed-Raised Catfish will always have a home, says Walker.

Charles Robb of Hot Springs Village was named Arkansas Catfish Farmer of the Year. He began catfish farming in 2000 with 207 acres, which has now grown to 500 total acres. He is addressing the problem of rising costs by cutting back on the amount of feed given to the catfish, and he is looking at a new food option that is less expensive, containing more corn and less soybeans. Hes hesitant to make these changes but acknowledges that steps must be taken to continue to operate successfully.

We are doing what we can to decrease expenses, but my business plan is to grow as many catfish as our operation will produce, and to feed even though catfish feed is at a high cost right now, says Robb.

Robb is also known as Catfish Charlie in his state, appearing on several radio programs to promote U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish with cooking demonstrations, radio commercials and on-air interviews.

Im trying to convince our consumers that they need to insist on U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish, and at least around here, the word is getting out, says Robb.

I see a positive trend in terms of consumption of our product, Robb continues. Ocean productivity has gone down, but seafood is still an important source of protein. So our fish is a natural choice because of its sustainability. People are looking more and more for a healthy source of protein other than chicken and catfish is a healthy, high-protein, low-fat source of food.

Bo Collins, executive director of Catfish Farmers of Arkansas, says, Charles Robb is a great ambassador to the catfish industry, and we appreciate his tremendous effort to advance our business both inside and outside the state of Arkansas.

Harris Russell, Mississippis Catfish Farmer of the Year, lives in Sunflower, Miss., and farms 1,250 acres of catfish ponds near the town of Moorhead. A former row cropper, Russell decided to try his hand at catfish farming in 1980 and has seen the profitability of the business go up and down. Although he also decries the increase in feed costs, he feels that farmers who are committed to the industry will continue to be successful. His business has grown gradually over the years, which he sees as a key to his success that is, not expanding his operation too quickly.

Harris Russells career is evidence that catfish farming can be quite profitable for farmers who are willing to commit to the business and work hard. Hes been in this business a long time and has earned the respect of his peers across the state, says Keith King, president of Catfish Farmers of Mississippi.

Russell is trying to keep production costs down but believes that the price to the consumer will have to increase in order for farmers to stay profitable. He is pleased to be part of the upcoming advertising campaign, saying, We have such a great product. We need to do all we can to tell people about the benefits of locally grown U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish. Anything I can do to support the industry, Im all for it.

While the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish industry is facing its share of economic challenges, it is experiencing success in its efforts to educate the public about the superior nature of U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish when compared to imported catfish. In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration announced broader import controls on Chinese seafood, including catfish, because tests conducted by FDA food safety inspectors had shown some Asian fish were contaminated with chemicals and drugs banned for use in U.S. food.

In July 2008, Mississippi House Bill 728, requiring the states restaurants to disclose the country of origin of the catfish they serve, was signed into law. While grocery stores were already federally mandated to label the country of origin of their seafood, restaurants were under no such obligation. This law is expected to influence other states to enact similar legislation requiring restaurants to follow the same guidelines as grocery stores in informing the public about the products they serve.

Longstanding catfish farmers are optimistic about the industrys future. These farmers believe in the quality of their product and trust that American consumers will embrace it as they learn more about the health benefits, quality assurance and environmental safety of U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish.

The men selected as Catfish Farmers of the Year for 2008 have several things in common dedication to their families, their communities, their individual businesses and the catfish industry as a whole. They are committed to safe, environmentally friendly farming practices that offer the highest-quality fish available. Catfish farmers were green long before the media began touting environmental awareness. These farmers know that being good stewards of the environment is the best way of ensuring sustainable production over many years, and that is certainly something to celebrate during this years National Catfish Month.

Its important to remind people how much the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish industry matters both economically and as a stable, sustainable food source, says TCI president Roger Barlow. This August, when we are in the grocery store or at the restaurant, we need to remember to support our local farmers by buying locally grown products and that includes U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish.