Monday, December 31, 2012

Raped to Death

I cannot stop thinking about the young woman in New Delhi who was raped to death.  Raped to death.  I choke on the horror of her ordeal.   Not satisfied with their hour-long assault on the woman, her attackers forced a metal rod into her body.  The media decline to speculate on how this was accomplished.  There are only two orifices through which the rod could enter: anus and vagina.  The damage to her internal organs could not be repaired.  I wonder, was this the rod with which her boyfriend was beaten?  Did she lose consciousness before this final act?  As they lay together on the street, left naked and bleeding by their assailants, could they comfort one another?  Did she have hope for recovery? Will he ever be able to love again?  India is not prepared to prosecute rapists in a way commensurate with their crime.  This incident has been the cause of new promises and proclamations but culture is slow to change. Murder is punishable with death.  The assailants are in custody.  Women around the world will watch. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Night of Believing

For millions of children and children at heart
the night before Christmas is finally the start
of the magical mystery tour of their dreams
when reindeer can fly, and through the fog beams
a bright shinny nose that emits a red light
and Santa with sleigh dashes on in the night
where time is suspended beyond the earth's end
and magic allows each believer to send
her wishes to catch the red blur of his coat
that twinkles with mystical starlight and hope.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

George, Again

On December 19, 235 years ago, George Washington's Revolutionary Army troops completed an exhausting march from their quarters in White Marsh outside Philadelphia.  British troops commanded by General Cornwallis had taken Philadelphia in September after a successful three pronged sweep through the countryside.  White Marsh was no longer safe.  Washington's destination was Valley Forge, a community named for a nearby iron forge on Valley Creek.  Valley Forge is 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia, a distance that Washington considered safe for winter quarters, but close enough to counter any British move out of the city.  Several days later snow began to fall in what would become a severe winter storm.  Temperatures plummeted reaching a low of 6 degrees.  Images of Washington's Valley Forge encampment endure - bloody footprints in the snow, men without proper clothing huddled in blankets, inadequate food.  Washington sought money from the Continental Congress  for provisions.  Moral was terrible.  Men suffered, men deserted, men died.  Think about their travails as you shovel snow this week.   Washington prevailed against these odds.

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Sensless Tragedy"

In the wake of the deaths at Sandy Hook School politicians, including our President, call for action to prevent future sensless tragedy.  In my view, their focus is on the wrong thing.  They all talk about guns.  Only a handful mention mental illness. Ours is  a country in which the mentally ill still struggle for recognition and help.  Many insurance policies exclude most treatments for mental illness.  The shooter in Newtown was known to be unstable.  It was no surprise to some that he seemed sensless to the horrible consequences of his actions.  We would be far better off if our current grief caused focus on better treatment for the mentally ill than on trying to rid the country of guns.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Here's A Science Demonstration You Can Do At Home

You can demonstrate the most powerful force in the known universe right in your own home.  Amaze your children.  Gratify your high school science teacher.  Grow paperwhites.  Let photosynthesis begin! Paperwhite is a narcissus.  Buy several bulbs at any garden store.  Put some pebbles or smooth stones in a glass jar or vase.  Settle the bulbs on the stones and secure them with more stones.  Add water.  Put in a sunny window.  Pull up a chair and watch what happens.  Within days roots will reach down into the watery bed of stone.  Green stems will reach up into the sunlight.  Within weeks the flowers will form, still covered in the growing stem.  And then the blooms.  Fragrant.  Wonderful.  All done by the water and the sun.  Take a break and watch it happen.  Here is a website to help you.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Prayer for Children

When my children were growing up I often sang to them at bedtime.  One of our favorites was the children's prayer from Englebert Humperdink's opera Hansel and Gretel.  Today as I learned about the deaths of so many children at the school in Connecticut I sang this song to them.  Here are the words.
When at night I go to sleep
Fourteen angels watch do keep
Two my head are guarding
Two my feet are guiding
Two are on my right hand
Two are on my left hand
Two who warmly cover
Two who o'er me hover
Two to whom 'tis given
To guide my steps to Heaven.

Here is a lovely performance.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Oh Tannenbaum

I stopped by a rummage sale yesterday and bought a nice size artificial Christmas tree that was already strung with lights.  It was only $5 because one of the light strings was out.  For $.50 I bought a string of lights.  Today my husband and I took the tree to the boarding kennel where our dogs stay when we travel.  This kennel is wonderful - run in the well worn buildings of a former horse farm.  The dogs' day is nice.  The dogs go out in groups to play each morning.  Then in for a nap, and back out at 1 o'clock for another play.  Supper, and lights out.  I don't worry about leaving the dogs there.  They are glad to go with the staff when we drop them off.  We put the tree up in the kennel office.  We took off the dead lights and strung the good ones.  Plugged in, the tree glowed in the way a tree has glowed in my Christmas every year of my life.  I am sad that I cannot acknowledge Christmas without offending someone.  It is a fact that December 25 is Christmas and that many, like me, associate this season with renewal and commitment.  The Hanukkah menorah that is lit tonight is not  a "Holiday Candlestick".  My tree is not a "Holiday Tree".  Get a grip.

Friday, December 7, 2012

War is Hell

In the news this morning is an article written by Elizabeth McIntosh.  She offered her story to editors of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin a week after Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese.  They judged the story too graphic and it did not run.  It is published for the first time today and you can read it here if your own paper doesn't have it.  Today is a good day to search the web for writings, photographs and films of our country at war.  Thanks to the internet the horrors endured by our armed forces are just a few clicks away. Last month, at a school in North Carolina, a first grader wrote a poem about her grandfather's experience fighting in our war in Vietnam.  The poem was to be part of an assembly recognizing Veteran's Day.  Perhaps she interviewed her grandfather, looked at his souvenirs, heard his stories.  In her poem she wrote, "He prayed to God for peace. He prayed to God for strength".  I have no doubt that her account is true.  In the hell of war many would do the same.  The school principal required her to remove the reference to God.  Read about it yourself.  I ask, must we be so politically correct that we cannot tell things the way they are?  Do we think that eradicating mention of God in public schools improves our children's understanding of history?  Do we expect them to believe that a scared and tired soldier would not petition a greater force than his enemy?  Nonsense.  The child did not seek to enshrine belief in God within her public school.  She wanted to tell the her grandfather's story.  Shame on the school.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

High Fives at NASA

Amid all the talk about the future of US manned space exploration, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 travel on.  Remember them?  Launched in the summer of 1977 they were sent to explore our solar system - and beyond.  They are each billions of miles from earth.  Voyager 2, 9 billion.  Voyager 1, 11 billion.  The plan has always been that they would travel to the edge of our sun's sphere of influence, and go beyond into so-called interstellar space.  The project team is still manned by some of the original visionaries.   And now it appears that the project goal will be achieved.  Get a cup coffee and visit the Voyager web page.  Get ready to have your mind stretched.  Visit the heliosheath heading towards the heliopause - the boundary where solar wind ends and interstellar space begins.  Learn about the magnetic highway over which solar particles heading out into interstellar space pass particles coming the other way.  Try to picture all this in three dimensions.  Our space exploration was in its infancy when the Voyager mission was on the drawing boards.  Here's a shout out to those who thought way outside the box.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What Do You Make of This?

The National Science Foundation collects data about foreign nationals who attend college in the United States.  A summary for 2010 shows that foreign students earn nearly half of the graduate degrees awarded in science, math and statistics, and engineering.  In the same fields, foreigners represent an insignificant percentage of recipients of bachelor's degrees.  Close to half of the foreign population in US colleges come from China and India, about equal numbers from each country.  You can learn much more about these students at the National Science Foundation website.  Ponder what to make of it.  Much is made of the importance of technology transfer from the developed nations to the developing world.  In my experience, little is noted in these discussions about the simultaneous transfer of English language fluency and state of the art knowledge that occurs with the award of each degree.  Now companies are pressing Congress successfully to allow easier green card access to these foreign graduates so they can remain in the US for post graduate work.  This should be a warning to our young and to those who pay for their education.  Those are the jobs they might otherwise have.