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Archive for September, 2009

So I’m doing my rounds in the ER waiting room today–which is wall to wall with people waiting to be seen by the triage nurse, as usual during these times of high flu tide. I mean, it’s starting to feel like every child in this large Metro County is running a fever, and moms and dads are rightfully and understandably concerned about the Swine Flu thing. There have been tragic deaths from it in the county, though usually in people with serious, underlying conditions.
And, thankfully, we’ve seen no cases at my hospital, much less the sorrow of any deaths, although we’re screening every person who comes into ER for any flu and have set aside a large and special area for the screening.
As I’m doing my usual rounding in the triage waiting room–meeting and greeting people and telling them I’m a chaplain and just looking in on folks and urging them to hang in there for the wait and offering water or a blanket and all that, I come upon a little boy with the bright blue mask on that he was given at screening. I’m guessing he’s kindergarten or maybe first grade.
“You feel bad little man?” I ask.
He shakes his head yes. His mom tells me he’s running a high fever and the school called her to come get him.
“I’m sorry,” I tell him. “I bet you’d rather be out playing, wouldn’t you.”
He shakes his head vigorously.
“That’s a great mask,” I say. “I bet you’ll get a lot of girlfriends wearing that.”
He looks at me perplexed. His mom and I laugh.
He pulls down the mask. “My Dad told me and my Mom to come here because I might have the Pig Flu and they have to put me in the Pig Pen,” he informs me. “Is that what he said, Mom? Pig Pen or something?”
Mom covers her face, embarrassed.
“Your Dad sounds like a cool guy,” I tell him.
“No,” Mom says, laughing. “He’s not!”
The screening room has now been dubbed the Pig Pen, of course. We take any comic relief we can get.

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Gardenhose.XSmall

Watering
In the heat of late summer and early fall the garden needs so much water. In the heat of life the inner thirst grows. The more we put out, the more we need to be filled with living water. On our own we can do very little, and that not for long. There is always this fundamental necessity to be infused with God’s love and energizing power.

I unroll the hose. There are the familiar kinks, which show up time and time again as do the kinks in my capacity to give my full attention. The green rubber folds over, a stubborn habit. No water will come through. In my mind, too, an interrupting thought lies accross my attention. I have a kink as solid and full of habits as the ones in the hose.
Slowly I pull out the full length of the hose and lay it where it needs to be before I turn on the water. Inside, too, I must unroll my full attention. Old habits of thought twist themselves into kinks and knots. We will be forced to acknowledge this again and again.

Now in the evening light the water begins to flow. I adjust the nozzle and stand where I need to for the water to reach each part of the garden. In prayer, too, we stand and wait. Both inside and outside have need of a thorough soaking. The rushing sound of the water feels comforting. The steady stream turns gold and shimmers as it catches the last rays of the sun. The garden waits for this water. Our lives wait for Presence to pour in.

~ Gunilla Norris
A Mystic Garden: Working with Soil, Attending to Soul

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Julian Lennon

Julian Lennon

I suppose it’s a measure of what a John Lennon freak I am that this story made me really sad, and I was sad when I posted a few months ago about Lucy’s illness. It’s also a measure of John Lennon’s genius that his inventive music and poetic lyrics had, and continues to have, such power over us fans: And good for Julian and his mum for their compassion.

By Peter Wilkinson
CNN
LONDON, England (CNN) — The childhood friend of John Lennon’s son who inspired the Beatles’ psychedelic masterpiece “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” has died aged 46 from the chronic disease Lupus.
Lucy Vodden was a classmate of Julian Lennon, who came home from school one day carrying a drawing of his 4-year-old classmate. “That’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds,” he told his father.
Lennon seized on the image and embellished it in a song along with “newspaper taxis” and a “girl with kaleidoscope eyes.”
The BBC later banned the track, which appeared on the 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” for its supposed drug reference with the words of the song spelling out LSD.
Lennon always claimed though that the title was suggested by Julian, not from any wish to spell out LSD, the chemical name for the drug, acid, in code.
Julian Lennon lost touch with Vodden when he left Heath House nursery school, near his parents’ home in Surrey following their divorce in 1968. But they were reunited in recent years when he heard she was suffering from the immune system disease and he lent his support to her.
Vodden’s death was announced on Monday by St. Thomas Lupus Trust in London, where she had been treated for more than five years.
“Julian and (his mother) Cynthia are shocked and saddened by the loss of Lucy and their thoughts are with her husband and family today and always,” the trust said on its Web site.
Angie Davidson, Campaign Director of the St. Thomas’ Lupus Trust said “everyone at the Louise Coote Lupus Unit was dreadfully shocked by the death of Lucy, she was a great supporter of ours and a real fighter, it’s so sad that she has finally lost the battle she fought so bravely for so long.”

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From the Metro News, United Kingdom:
Burglar falls asleep on the job
By METRO NEWS REPORTER – Tuesday, September 29, 2009 A would-be burglar failed to finish his crime after he broke into a house, drank a bottle of wine and fell asleep on a sofa.
The man stuffed items into a pillow case before settling down with the full bottle in Milton, Cambridge. The homeowner tried – unsuccessfully – to wake him before calling police.
Cambridgeshire police confirmed a man had been arrested on suspicion of burglary and criminal damage following the incident on September 22.
A spokesman said: ‘We arrived to find the man on the sofa with a bottle of wine on the floor next to him and after trying to rouse him we charged him with attempted burglary.’

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heavily banned books

heavily banned books

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Very interesting stuff on the religious holiday and including some contemporary economics and history in Israel:

The Body Politic Electric
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for Israel to unplug for Yom Kippur.
By Michael Weiss
Updated Friday

Yom Kippur is devoted to atonement and forgiveness—or “conscience consciousness-raising,” as I once heard a rabbi still recovering from the ’70s phrase it. In itself, the purpose of the holiday needn’t really affect day-to-day life, except that observance takes the form of a 25-hour fast and the total abstention from physical labor and the use of technology. Jews in the Diaspora spend most of Yom Kippur at home or in synagogue, where the absence of electricity hardly affects the greater gentile grids. But in Israel, which effectively shuts down for Yom Kippur, the contradiction between ancient religious tradition and modernity is brought into stark relief once a year, creating either a brief trance of neo-Luddite serenity or a sliver of Dark Age privation.
Decades ago, when Israel was still locked in an agrarian economy, this contradiction was inconspicuous. Today, the country’s largest, fastest-growing industries are tech-related. Although children on bicycles and video-store patronage have long been staple examples of Yom Kippur apostasy, the advent of global media has forever altered the possibilities for transgression.
During the Days of Awe, the 10-day period between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, stores in Israel close early and radios broadcast liturgical music—all in rehearsal for the big blackout that occurs when God is said to seal the fate of each individual Jew for the coming year in the Book of Life. On the Day of Atonement, all Israeli radio and national television broadcasts are taken off the air, factories are closed, roads and highways are cleared of traffic, public transportation is halted, and all aircraft are grounded. Anwar Sadat made historic use of this short-term stasis in an otherwise dynamic society by choosing Oct. 6, 1973, as the date for Egypt and Syria’s joint attack on Israel in what was soon branded the Yom Kippur War. (Some historians now argue that the timing was actually beneficial to Israel’s ultimately victorious counter-response, as all roads were empty when Israel Defense Forces reservists were mobilized.) On the whole, religious and nonreligious Israelis alike observe the holiday in some fashion. According to a survey conducted in 2008 by the Panals Institute, 63 percent of Israeli Jews said that they’d fast on Yom Kippur even though the bulk of the population skirts the Sabbath the rest of the year. “One day totally free of car horns, telephone calls, email and polluted air,” Joel Leyden of the Israel News Agency noted in 2006, capturing an ecumenical sentiment.
But in the age of CNN and Twitter, it’s getting harder for an entire nation to unplug. On Yom Kippur in 1995, synagogues were filled with whispers as news of the O.J. Simpson acquittal spread. Matt Silver, a professor of Jewish history, also reminded me of the swiftness with which riots broke out in the northeastern city of Akko last year after an Israeli Arab drove his car into a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. “How did the people hear of that incident if not through banned technological means?” Silver asked. My Tablet colleague Liel Liebovitz, who grew up just outside Tel Aviv in the ’80s, recently wrote about how technology actually alienated him from his favorite Jewish holiday: “Even if the Israeli channels darkened their screens for a day on Yom Kippur, MTV in Hong Kong, or the soccer channel out of Milan, or any of the other stations included in our subscription plan went about their business as usual.”
The key word here is business. In the last decade, the fusion of venture capitalism and Silicon Valley-style savvy has completely transformed Israel into a first-rate economic power, one that has so far proved formidable in weathering the global downturn. As noted in this City Journal essay by George Gilder, an editor at Forbes and the author of The Israel Test, the Jewish state now launches more high-tech companies per year than any European nation. In 2007, it surpassed Canada as being home to the most foreign companies listed on the dot-com-friendly NASDAQ index. It’s second only to the United States in the six key fields of technology development: telecom, microchips, software, biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, and clean energy. A major contribution to the boom has been the influx of more than 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union, beginning in the late ’80s with the Gorbachev reforms. They not only increased Israel’s population by one-quarter but today constitute half of Israel’s high-tech workers. Many Soviet Jews are secular and growing increasingly hostile to the Israeli rabbinate due to its exclusive legal authority to determine the requirements for marriage. Indeed, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party performed as well as it did in last February’s parliamentary election because it promised the emollient of civil marriage to Russian émigrés.
The only area where Yom Kippur melds easily with Israel’s technological advancement is environmental science. Being the only day on the calendar without automobiles makes the holiday the perfect control for studies in air pollution. The Israeli Environmental Protection Ministry found that on Yom Kippur in 2007, the amount of nitrogen oxide in the air in Jerusalem dropped from 250 parts per billion to 12 parts per billion. The holiday is also something of an unintentional trendsetter: “A Day Without Cars,” a green event, has been implemented around the world since 2000 as a way of both reducing carbon emissions and getting urbanites to rediscover their cities on foot. As Orna Coussin observed in a lovely Haaretz tribute to the holiday, a minor coincidence of this phenomenon is that Ford’s Model T first rolled off the assembly line in Detroit on the week of Yom Kippur in 1908.
In a way, Israeli environmentalism has the most in common with the agrarian-socialist culture that used to be inextricable from 20th-century Zionism. A few years ago in Slate, Judith Shulevitz remarked on efforts to try to modernize the Israeli Sabbath so that the rift between secular and religious Jews might shrink. The sociological appeal of this project is that it aims to revive a “public”—as opposed to popular—culture in Israel. But Thoreauvian reminiscences about a day with no video games are bound to grow scarce as more Israelis exchange the factory and the kibbutz for the cubicle and the laboratory. Perhaps the guiltiest confession of all is that the Day of Atonement may become a postindustrial curio in another 60 years of Jewish statehood.
Michael Weiss is a senior editor at Tablet magazine and a culture blogger for the New Criterion.

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William Safire, R.I.P.

William Safire, R.I.P.

I’ve been out of pocket a good bit this week and did not know that William Safire died. He was a wonderful old ink-stained wretch, and longtime jitterbuggers know the place in my heart for old ink-stained newspaper dogs.
And he was a bulldog, a top-notch reporter as well as an incredible wordsmith, and a conservative of great integrity, wit and wisdom–an institution at the New York Times in the now long-gone era of The Great Grey Lady, as the Times used to be called before it finally caved into the U.S.A. Today pressures and converted to color and dazzling graphics. (U.S.A. Today revolutionized journalism in many ways, forcing papers to go to lots of splashy color and graphs and graphics and sidebars, and, much shorter–and, unfortunately–less in-depth writing. Then again, U.S.A Today sort of reversed and started doing more in-depth reporting. Go figure.)
I learned a lot about writing and reporting from going to school on William Safire’s forceful political and current affairs columns in my own ink-stained days, and multitudes of people who love language read his language columns religiously.
Take your peace, Mr. Safire, and God’s blessings on you.

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