Saturday Morning Musings: Earthquakes and Kidney Stones

I’ve just taken Annie out for her early morning break and cranked up the computer to see what’s going on.

It seems like this earth has an earthquake season, when one hits in one part of the world, we soon hear about another somewhere else.  In January it was Haiti; now the morning news says there was an 8.8 earthquake in the early morning hours that hit the central part of  Chile.  According to Chilean sources, the center was some 70 miles northeast of Concepcion, which is the second largest city in Chile and is on the coast about 200 miles south of Santiago, the capital.

I visited Chile twice, after meeting some great people from there online.  It’s a beautiful country because of its location, lying along the Andes Mountains on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west.  The landscape is amazing everywhere, and the people are very hospitable and decent.  I hope everyone that I met down there is OK.

Here is a link to a video of a fallen bridge (which I believe is in the Santiago area) that I scooped up from latercera.cl (an online newspaper out of Santiago, which I read).  There are also quite a number of images here.  Live broadcast from TVChile here.

Now for the kidney stones:  Overall, I’m pretty healthy and have very few health issues in my life.  Probably, the worst thing has been getting a finger broken by pulling a garage door down the wrong way.  But Thursday morning I was at work and started to have the worst pains in my lower stomach area.  They became so severe, I just could do nothing.  To make a long story short (if I ever can do that), an ambulance was called and I was taken to the emergency room and after several more hours more of miserable pain and several tests, it was discovered that I had a kidney stone that was working it’s way through.  After about 8 hours in the emergency room, I was released with prescriptions for pain and nausea.  I’ve mostly rested since then, but yesterday I started to feel better, but worn out.  This morning, I feel fine.  I know that I will have to change my eating, especially drinking more water and juices, instead of the 4 or 5 Coke Zeroes that I have been accustomed to.

Advertisements

Greece in a $100 VW Bug

A gypsy encampment in northern Greece (taken about 1974)

One of the things that I have spent some evening hours doing is going through boxes of slides that I haven’t given much attention to in a long time.  The move to my new house has made them more accessible, but viewing what’s on each of the little colored transparencies hasn’t been easy.  The projector and small box-type viewer have long since disappeared, so I have been trying to glean through them with the aid of a flashlight. The majority of the slides were taken when I was in the Air Force stationed in Greece.  I’ve written about having been in the Air Force in other posts.  I was lucky enough to have an exciting job and be stationed with the 6916th Security Squadron at Athenai Air Base.  I was also fortunate to be able to have a job where I worked six days in a row, then had three days off.  I spent a lot of those days traveling around Greece, mostly on day trips, in the beat-up VW Beetle that I had bought for $100 dollars soon after I arrived at the base from another guy who was being transferred.  That little bug had a loose steering column and wobbly back wheels, but it took me and friends on many jaunts about Athens and to quite a few places out into the Greek countryside.

The photo at the top gives you an idea of some of the amazing sights this country kid from Kansas encountered.   My old boxes of slides are certainly bringing back a lot of memories.  However, cleaning off all the bits of dust and lint isn’t easy, and getting the slides digitalized so that I can see and share them isn’t cheap either.  Consequently, I’m doing all of that a little at a time.

The quality of the photos is pretty good (if I do say so myself), so I’m planning to enlarge a number of them and frame them to use in my house.  Hopefully, my writing fingers will get into the mood once again as I have a couple of posts started about those days back in Greece, and some of the photos would make good accompaniments.

Portugal Becomes 6th European Country To Approve Same-sex Marriage

Kissing in celebration in front of the Portuguese Parliament Building

Pope Benedict will probably have to go out and buy another pair of Prada shoes to console himself because today one more of the old Catholic strongholds, Portugal, gave the approval to same-sex marriage.

According to Lisbon’s Diario de Noticias and Madrid’s abc.es (I needed the back-up of Spanish to translate), the Portuguese Parliament voted to give the go ahead for legalizing gay marriage.  Portugal now joins its Iberian neighbor Spain,  where same-sex weddings have been legal since 2005.  Four other European countries allow gay marriage: Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

Said Prime Minister José Sócrates, “This is an historic moment for the Assembly of the Republic, and I am happy to have participated in it.”

It’s interesting to note that both Portugal and Spain were both governed by right-wing dictators well into the 1970s and a mere 30 some years later both have come this far in working to eliminate discrimination.

Wednesday Wanderings: Blue Fleece Pants, Christmas Road Trip, Swimming, and Bowl Games

Cold, clear day for a road trip on I-35

Taking out Annie in the morning has definitely changed since I moved to my house, especially during cold weather.  When I lived in my apartment, I’d wake up, get dressed in jeans, shirt, jacket or coat, and maybe even gloves and a ski cap.  Then I’d get the leash on Annie, and we’d go down the three flights, and finally, out to the sidewalk, and walk to the corner.  Now I pull on my fleece pants and a sweatshirt, and we slip down the stairs and out the back door.  I look at my plants while Annie finishes her “business” and back inside we go.  With the 8-foot fence, we’re protected from any wind or neighbor’s view, so it doesn’t matter that I’m still wearing my fuzzy fleece pants with the blue and white snowflakes.

So here I am still in my fleece pants happily thinking about the upcoming New Year’s Day and that I’m in my own cozy home after a Christmas road trip to Kansas.  We made the trips going and coming back each in a one day, but while the drive up to central Kansas never seems too long, the return always becomes drudgery, especially the last boring leg from Dallas to Houston.  I’m sure the reason the trip up is better because of the anticipation of the arrival and seeing family and the old home state.  This time, we had good weather driving through Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas both ways, but the snowy effects of the winter storm that went through the region were evident all the way from near Wichita into Denton, Texas, where the last remnants lay in the ditches and shaded areas.

Despite the cold wintry weather, we had a very pleasant Christmas.  It was the first Christmas that I had spent together with all my siblings since I was a kid out on the farm and the first time that we had all been together since my mom’s funeral last November.  It was an enjoyable time because it was one of the times when aside from the holiday itself, there was no stressful reason for us all to get together.

The red and gold rug looks great at the entry

I hit the jackpot when it came to presents this year.  Everyone was thinking about my new house, and the gift cards to Home Depot and Lowe’s will definitely be put to good use.  I also got sets of screwdrivers and other tools that I will use.  I’ve been saying, “When you have a house, you never seem to have enough screwdrivers.”  I guess everyone had been reading my mind.  I also got a nice rug that matches the colors of my living room–red and gold.  There was a bit of color planning, but part of it has just been evolution.

One of my current do-it-yourself projects

I had been looking for a coffee table, but a bench I had seemed to be just the thing.  It’s the second “project” that I’ve been working on in my garage.  (I realize now that I am going to enjoy having a garage more than just for parking the car.)   I picked up the bench from a what-not shop at leat ten years ago.  I used stain, both latex and acrylic paint, and now I am finishing it with coats of polyurethane so that it will take the hard use I’ll give it in front of my sofa.  Actually, I’m surprised at how nice it has turned out.  Maybe I’ve got a knack!

Having a coffee table is a definite necessity for a place to put the remote controls and the munchies when it’s time to watch the bowl games, and I will be watching them until the last one is over.  This thing with Texas Tech’s football coach is something else.  Well, just as I’m writing this, I checked ESPN and see that Mike Leach has been fired.  I couldn’t see how they could let him get away with that, but coaches have done this sort of thing for a long time and for many there are no repercussions because of how much power these guys (and women, in some sports) wield.  How is it that in many states the football coaches of public universities are the highest paid state employees?  Mack Brown of the University of Texas makes $5.1 million.  I don’t care whether football pays for itself or not; there is something wrong when an employee makes more than the bosses, in this case the president of the university or even the governor of Texas.

Nathan Adrian helped Team USA win Duel in the Pool

With all the preparations for the Christmas trip, I missed out on the swimming news (not even on ESPN information banner), but Team USA won big over a European team made up of top swimmers from Great Britain, Italy, and Germany at the Duel in the Pool in Manchester, England on December 18th and 19th.  One of the big winners in the event was Nathan Adrian, who became the first American to swim under 21 seconds in the 50-meter freestyle race and helped the U.S. team set a world record in the 400 free relay.

OK, I suppose now it’s time to get out of these blue fleece pants and hit the shower before the day gets away from me.

Annise Parker Will Hold City of Houston’s Highest Political Office; It’s Official! Nation’s 4th Largest City Elects Openly Gay Mayor

Annise Parker--Mayor-Elect of Houston

According to Harrisvotes.org with 733 out of 734 precincts reporting Annise Parker with 81,652 votes is defeating Gene Locke who has 70,631 votes, in other words, by about 54% to 46%.

This was a run-off election for this office as well as other local positions.  Turn-out for run-off elections in Houston has been traditionally low. (That’s for you complainers who on other sites have been commenting that only a small percentage of Houston’s population voted for Annise.  That’s been the way it has been for a long time.  City elections in Houston just don’t coincide with national and state elections, so the voters who do go to the polls really have an interest in voting.) Only a bit more than 150,000 ballots were cast, or about 15% of the registered voters in the fourth largest city of the U.S.  Houston has approximately 2.2 million people living within its city limits, but there around 6 million living in the Houston metro area.

Just to put things in perspective, Annise Parker has been selected to oversee a city that is larger than 15 states in the U.S. (including Nebraska, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Sarah Palin’s Alaska (which has about 600,000) and even quite a few countries in the world.

In commenting about Annise’s sexuality, some news sites have noted that Locke would have been only Houston’s second African-American mayor.  I haven’t seen anyone mention that Annise is just the second female mayor in its history.  Kathy Whitmire was Houston’s mayor from 1982 to 1991 during some of the city’s worst economic days–the oil “bust” of the mid-80s.  She was a popular mayor despite getting a lot of flack from the “good ol’ boys”.

Maybe Annise’s election will  shine new light on our city and show people in other parts of the U.S. and the rest of the world what a fresh, diverse city Houston has become.

I met Annise for the first time more than 20 years ago and have always found her personable and most of all real.  She is a person, whom I think, will be a mayor whom all Houstonians can be proud and will make the naysayers change their minds.

Congratulations, Annise!

(Read this Houston Chronicle article for more about Annise’s victory and the mayoral election.)

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)–No, It’s Not Really Mexican Halloween

calacasSome people think that El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is something like Halloween because it falls so near that holiday that was brought to America by European immigrants.

From what I’ve learned, it has more in common with Memorial Day than Halloween.  I suppose the connection between these two “dark” holidays comes with all of the artistic images of skeletons (calacas) that are used in connection with El Dia de los Muertos.  When the conquistadores from Spain arrived, like many other of the natives’ traditions, the invaders tried to put an end to this ritual; however, the best that they could do was to get it moved to the date of the Catholic All Saints Day.

The traditions vary by location in Mexico, but, in general, El Dia de los Muertos has been celebrated since pre-Hispanic times, with people going to the cemeteries, decorating graves, taking food and other gifts that their deceased loved ones might enjoy, and even spending time near the graves; all of this as a way to remember or perhaps “reunite” with the dead relatives.

candyskullOn a trip some years ago to Mexico City, I visited the Escuela Normal de Maestros (Normal School for Teachers) just to take a look at some famous paintings that are housed there.  It was just about this same time of year, and in one building on campus, the students had set up “Day of the Dead” exhibits, which showed a wide variety of rituals for celebrating this holiday across the whole of Mexico.  Everywhere in Mexico City, there were vendors selling little skull candies and ofrendas, which seem to me somewhat of the “Hallmark-ing” of the ancient event.

What I like most about El Dia de los Muertos are all the cartoon-like skeletons, almost always seeming to be having fun.  Maybe they are mocking death.  To me, these calacas make death seem much happier and bright, rather than the morbid, dark association that most of us north of the border have.

What’s Matthew Mitcham Up To These Days?

 

Matthew Mitcham and his partner Lachlan Fletcher enjoy the time they have together between busy schedules.

Matthew Mitcham and his partner Lachlan Fletcher enjoy the time they have together between busy schedules.

The hits on here indicate that a lot of people are still very into Matthew Mitcham, the Olympic gold-medal diver from Australia.  It seems like he’s been a very busy guy since winning the diving championship last year in Beijing.

According to an interview done by afterelton.com: “A year after shooting to worldwide fame, Mitcham isn’t just training for his next diving competition, but is also studying science at Sydney University.”  If you haven’t done so yet, you can read more of the article “Catching Up With Mathew Mitcham” here.

Squidwho also has many photos and links for Matthew Mitcham fans.