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Chicago Pics

Back in September, I went to Chicago with shimmeringstar1 Here are some pictures from that trip.

More under the cut...Collapse )


Cassandra Screaming

While I have a great deal of sympathy and compassion for people caught in disasters, I'm also often very frustrated because so much of it is often preventable.

According to Anderson Cooper on CNN, people spend about $2 billion a year on psychics. It's natural for people to want to know what might happen in the future in order to best prepare for it. We spend billions on psychics to predict the future for us.

And yet, when scientists, who have the best grasp on what the future might portend by virtue of the methods they use to study the world,  try to warn people of impending disasters, they are all too frequently ignored. In fact, in today's anti-intellectual climate, they are often villified.

It's like Cassandra standing at the gates of Troy, telling her people not to bring the wooden horse into the city. Did the Trojans listen? No. She was just a crazy woman ranting nonsense. And they ignored her at their own peril.

In many cases, science is actually quite good at predicting the future. Scientists may not be able to predict the exact time and date. They may not be able to predict the exact details and severity. But they often can predict likelihood and provide estimates as to effects. Environmentalists predicted the disastrous flooding of New Orleans long before Hurricane Katrina washed ashore. 

I've been aware for over a year that the NYC subway system was one bad storm away from being flooded due to rising sea levels if the city didn't take measures to raise its floodwall.

Science tells us that it's only a matter of time before both Los Angeles and San Franscisco experience a devastating earthquake, and that much of the infrastructure and many of the buildings in those cities will not survive.

Science tells us that demand for water in western states will soon exceed capacity, creating critical water shortages in places like Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Science tells us that our aquifers are being drained and our water poisoned by pharmacuetical drugs that aren't tested for by the agencies responsible for keeping our drinking water safe.

Science tells us that if you build in a flood plain, you're likely to get flooded. (That one is pretty much common sense, and yet people still seem to be shocked when it finally happens.)

Science tells us a lot of things that we don't want to hear. Science told us that smoking causes cancer long before tobacco companies fessed up to it. Science tells us that obesity is linked to heart attack and stroke. Sure, not everyone who smokes will develop cancer, and not every obese person will die of a heart attack, but science can predict the future of those who do smoke with more accuracy than a psychic reading a deck of tarot cards. If you're a smoker and you develop cancer, you shouldn't be surprised.

Science tells us that global warming will effect the entire planet in ways it can't even begin to predict, and frankly that scares the crap out of me. If you care about the future, it should scare the crap out of you, too.

If you want to know what the future will bring, start paying attention to the warnings provided by the people who study how the world works, who measure and quantify what is actually happening and project that information onto the future. Your future. Our future.

Now let's talk money. We complain and whine about improper and wasteful spending of tax dollars.

NYC could have saved millions, possibly billions of dollars if they had acted proactively to raise their seawalls instead of waiting to do it after the disaster actually struck.

New Orleans could have saved billions, not to mention 2,000-some lives, if they had listened to environmentalists before Katrina hit. 

It's a terrible waste of tax payer dollars to address these issues retroactively instead of spending the money to prevent the disasters in the first place.

Troy would have done well to listen to Cassandra's screaming. We would do well to listen to our own voices of prophesy, the scientists warning us of the consequences of our actions and inactions and take measures to protect ourselves accordingly. Unfortunately, like Cassandra and Troy, we too often ignore them. What folly to let the city burn. 


My Dad's Teeth

It turns out that my dad isn't just being stupid about his teeth after all. I think I've mentioned that he has lost all but a few of his teeth in the past ten years, and we thought he was just being silly for not pulling the two or three that remain in front in order to get dentures so he could eat normal food. While the soft food thing has turned me into a pretty decent crock-pot cook, it's still a pain to have to work out a meal plan for my parents that eliminates anything that requires chewing. 

Well, anyway, Thursday night he woke up with an excruciating tooth ache. His dentist and doctor were out of town Friday, but we did manage to get him a script for pain medicine for the weekend. Yesterday I took him to his dentist, who is an oral surgeon. This is the first time I've met Dr. S., and it was a very enlightening visit. 

Dad has a severely abscessed tooth. This will come out Monday after a few days of antibiotics. I had guessed as much, so that was not the enlightening part of the visit.

Dr. S. told us why Dad has refused to get dentures all these years. Mind you, when we've asked Dad about it in the past, he's gotten very angry, and his response has always been, "Would you want to get YOUR last tooth pulled?" followed by expletives and throwing of napkins and general fury and unpleasantness. And, of course, my answer (in my head) has always been, "Well, DUH, if it meant I could eat REAL FOOD, then, YES!" Based on his response to the question whenever it has been asked, the entire family has just assumed he was being an ass about the whole thing. 

No, it turns out that Dad has such severe bone spurs in his jaw and mouth that massive oral surgeries would be required before he could even be fitted for dentures. Even if he did have the surgeries, Dr. S. said that dentures probably wouldn't fit him comfortably. So, years ago, they decided that dentures wouldn't do Dad much good. 

You'd think Dad might have mentioned that he had ping-pong-ball sized bone spurs in his mouth that precluded the use of dentures at some point in the last ten years, but no.  But at least we know he hasn't been completely irrational about those three teeth all this time....

Of course, this is all a bit personal for me since I'm a genetic clone of my father, in more than just his bone-spur-producing skeletal issues. So I listened in horror as Dr. S. described Dad's mouth, realizing that ping-pong balls are probably in store for my lower jaw, too. Something to look forward to!



Sometimes it's hard to stick with the whole Buddhist "Right Speech" thing. I admit it gets tricky on those occasions when you know you shouldn't lie or say hurtful things, when the truth would be hurtful (but oh, so satisfying to point out). Because, dang, sometimes I want to tell the truth so badly, and when injustice, hypocrisy, and irony are at work, it's really hard to keep silent.

Random Bits on a Cool Fall Day

Well, I think I can report that the heat has finally broken. We had a light frost last night, and we had our first fire in the fireplace yesterday evening. Fires in the fireplace are the one thing I look forward to about winter. Fall has pretty colors, so that's something for this time of year, as well. It's still very dry, and the El Nino which was supposed to bring us a wet winter is now in doubt. I do believe this fall has been drier than last year.

Last month I decided to plant a bunch of desert plants in the cactus garden at the top of the yard. My thinking was: "well, if they don't make it, it will be because we're getting enough rain that everything else will survive. If they make it, at least something will flower in my yard next summer." So, it's a bit of a grand experiment to see what survives and doesn't survive. So far, they are doing well...

Actually, the yard is very pretty right now. I have several varieties of sunflowers blooming in spectacular fashion; the crepe myrtles have decided it's safe to really go to town; and the asters are coming into their own. Several of my spring-blooming plants like roses are also having a second go-around. My lantana are spectacular.

Pet Name Metamorphosis

It's amusing how pet names morph over time, at least in my family. This has been true since my childhood, but I'll only share some recent examples.

Trip Hazard was quickly changed to Tasha. Tasha, who turned out to be very difficult to pick up and hold because she apparently has no bones, turned into "The Worm." Because The Worm seemed undignified even for a cat, it morphed into The Erm. The Erm eventually became Erm, then Ermie. Kate calls her "Ermlot" sometimes. 

Cherokee, who is still called Cherokee on occasion, has many names. Ort. Ortling. But Cherokee morphed into Cherokeet at some point. Then Cherokeet was shortened to Keet. And now, in the Ortling tradition, she gets to add Keetling to her list. She responds well to all of them except the Ort names, so we know she's probably responding mainly to the "ee" sound in her names. She would probably come equally well to Beet or Beetling, too. 

Doormat got a real name when he moved indoors: Dominick. That was quickly shortened to Dom. Who soon became Dom Dom. Lug. Great Gray Lug. Lugolicious. He knows who he is. 

Rabbit quickly became Rabbity. Rabbity Cat. Miss Rabbit, and Miss Rabbity Cat. Kate tosses out Rotunda and Rabwort in her direction once in a while. 

Sarah, too, has a couple names, although we still use Sarah most of the time. Sarah Bear is a common alternative, as is Mop-Head. (She comes to Mop-Head, actually.) Miss Sarah Bear. Puppy. Benjo is the name she gets when she tries to bite people. 

Tyke, oddly, has always been Tyke, although I do occasionally call him Mr. Tyke-Man Tyke and Tykster Boy. 


At SunDog House

My first column appeared in the PCAS Newsletter this month. It's on page 5:

Horrible Weather

8:15pm, 103 degrees, and I'm watching smoke plumes on radar. This summer will never end.

How Hot is It?

The street lamp covers downtown are melting.

Yesterday's highs:


What I Did Today

Someone driving along Highway 51 east of Stillwater was dragging a muffler. This created sparks which ignited several wildfires along the highway. Everything is tinder dry here since it hasn't really rained since May. Temperatures were 110+ yesterday, with moderate winds. Fire departments from all over the state came to fight the fires, but it was an impossible task until the temps cooled off and winds died after dark.

Jeff and I went out to take photos, and the heat was brutal.

You can see the manufactured home being threatened in the lower right hand corner of the picture.

More wildfire pics under the cut.Collapse )