Archive for August, 2004

Grain production an all time high in Columbia River Basin

Monday, August 16th, 2004

Grain – oats, wheat, and barley – is piling up on the ground at a grain terminal on the Snake river in greater quantities than last year. And last year’s piles were only shipped away a few months ago. There is no room left in the steel silos so grain is poured in enormous¬† piles on the ground. It seems there is no end to our farms’ ability to produce given the chance – and the promise that they will receive a set price no matter how many bushels are harvested. It takes a while
to negotiate for buyers because people raised on rice are not easily able to switch to other grains. Further negotiations are needed if the grain is donated to tax free organizations for distribution in war torn countries.

So as long as our Agriculture department can sell the grain, at any price, it will be shipped away in time for next year’s harvest. We ought to be proud to feed the hungry. And I do mean WE. Our tax dollars make up the difference in the selling (or giving away) price because foreign buyers do not pay per bushel what farmers need to produce it. Now that
isn’t a bad thing if it is promoted honestly. But farmers do not want to admit they are taking welfare. Especially when they adamantly oppose public school lunches for the needy or food stamps to the jobless.

Family farms are what built this country. Families struggle with the uncertainty of the weather and work hard to care for their crops. The Agriculture department should have been developed to help those farmers. But our Agriculture department does not fund only family farmers it funds the multibillion dollar corporations whose owners never worked in a field in their lives. Sam Donalson and others like him may never even have seen the acres that they cover with herbicides and pesticides. They never calculate the water they steal from the aquifers that can never be adequately replaced.

We need an investigation of the Department of Agriculture and a revamping to put the welfare – if there must be any – back into family farms where their pride and incomes build their communities. Get out and elect a democratic slate in November and then push to get some action that will build our country up with pride we must have to lead the world.

Arthritis is mysterious disease of the cartiliage that overlays our bones

Sunday, August 15th, 2004

WHICH IS: a form of connective tissue consisting of a flexible and resilient
matrix containing cells (chrondrocytes) lodged in lacunae, which are small
spaces or cavities

It matters not the technical terms – when you’ve got it, it hurts. My
big jolly sister used to respond to "How are you?" with the
quip "I’d be just fine if Arthur I. Tiss would go away."

Well arthritis doesn’t go away. I can attest to that. The cartilage swells
in finger joints, hardens and prevents bending or seizes the digits into
permanent curls. The middle and ring fingers on my hands began to swell
when I went into menopause. I watched a co-worker consult doctors, take
medication and end up with unsightly claws for fingers. I didn’t know
the history behind her problems but I knew that I was under stress that
I could relieve. I decided to try to prevent useless disfigured fingers
in my future.

Hands connected to flexible wrists are one characteristic most distinguishing
humans from the closest apes on the evolutionary tree. I wasn’t working
physically with my hands at my editing job so I really didn’t see a connection.
But I had used my hands in the past on household work – milking cows,
wringing out laundry, digging, hoeing and hammering.

Because of the constant flexing of the digits, blood is moving through
every cell with each beat of the heart. Without constant flexing the blood
isn’t moved and the tiniest of cells simply stand still.

Could my past be catching up with me because I no longer used my hands
with such gusto? I tried to keep the joints moving. I couldn’t concentrate
completely on myself because I had a life that held me in a stressful
routine. My husband, Ron, had several heart attacks for which he later
had surgery. I worked 8 hours a day on a job to pay for our necessities.
I got up at midnight to get my 15 year old son from his job to prevent
police harassment. I worked many hours more on technical societies and
decided to resign from that part of my life. No more presidencies. No
more faithful public servant. Did it work?

Not entirely. The first digits on all fingers of both hands are disfigured,
swollen and stiffened but my hands are very useful. And I exercise them
all the time. If they ache I exercise them more and the pain goes away.

Fifty years ago when we lived in the country my farmer neighbor sold
out and moved to the city. I later talked with him and discovered how
happy he was to be in town because his wife developed arthritis in her
hands and needed constant doctor’s care. Doctors dispense chemicals to
relieve pain. Or write prescription because patients demand them. Or that’s
all they know how to do.

When Ron and I went to the Mayo clinic to find an alternative to his
heart problems the diagnosis was blockage to the heart. Bypass surgery
was needed. When I asked if diet change or an exercise regime would prevent
surgery and he offered no suggestions. He simply said, "I dispense
medicine." and that was that.

Think about maintaining the level of exercise you are now engaged in.
As the body ages and well meaning relatives tell you that you don’t have
to do this or that. Hire somebody. Buy the vegetables instead of gardening.
Every movement of your muscles is important to your future. Treat them
with determination and don’t let them sag.

I hold physicians in highest regard but they are my last resort when
it comes to taking care of my body. All chemicals in the form of pain
relief have side effects on the body and I choose to avoid them whenever
I can. The body responds to an introduced chemical and tries to fight
that and the source of the pain as well. I get rest, lots of water, and
sensible diet. It works for me.

Compassion and morals formed before humans formed religion

Sunday, August 15th, 2004

Misunderstandings abound in regard to human actions. Where do morals
come from? Did they miraculously arise when people decided that nature
was overruled by Gods?

I think not.

Human survival occurred because certain actions made sense. People
couldn’t go around killing people. Single individuals or small groups
learned that protecting each other assured their own safety. The drive
for personal survival was instinctive. Hunting for food was time consuming
and when found, food was shared with the entire group. Unlike other
mammals, humans shared food and more recently material goods. During
times of plenty sharing of goods brought power to the benefactor. Generosity
and nurturing behaviors evolved as part of our biology and have secured
survival of the human species..

But back to morals. Science and religion periodically become locked
in a death match. Known history records cycles of rational thought recurring
among escapes into the fantasy labeled as religion. Those are covered
in The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins. Did the adoption
of a set of rules influence human survival? Or did survival demand rules
to ensure adaptation and development of our species? Because humans
have survived, rules seem to have appeared long before subjection to
gods was introduced. History shows those rules were used as the early
basis of religions.

Studies by anthropologists and paleontologists show that the size of
hominid brains hasn’t changed in the last fifty thousand years (read
Broca’s Brain by Carl Sagan). The family Hominidae as
a viable species has flourished because individuals took care of each
other – a very strong instinct.

Researchers point out that goodness, generosity, and altruism might
actually be our most important genetic traits, see Good
and Smart
for further details.

A flash in the sky – asteroids get in our way

Saturday, August 14th, 2004

I did it. I got up at two-thirty on the morning of August 12 to watch
the annual meteorite show. For those who haven’t heard of it let me
assure you it is not an extravaganza put on by the networks to draw
viewers. The show is a natural wonder of the universe. The earth passes
through a band of asteroids that inhabit an area beyond our stratosphere.
When the earth’s atmosphere pulls one of those rocks to close it is
pulled in and burned up. What we see is what used to be called a shooting
star. We do not see the rock as a pinpoint of light until it burns.

It is impossible to imagine what the earliest peoples thought of the
spectacle. Did they consider it out of the ordinary. Some fiction writers
(and anthropologists) believe that those animals who discovered living
upright cowered in fear of natural phenomena. I don’t believe it. Scientists’
observations do not support that idea. Animals accepted nature, ran
from fire because they couldn’t breathe near it, turned their rears
to storms and waited them out, flipped up tails and frolicked in flash
thunderstorms as excited by the ozone as it moved through the soil.

Did we come down from the trees because trees became scarce? Or did
the development of a flexible wrist make swinging from branch to branch
less secure? Or did discovery of food on bushes and underground make
foraging easier? No matter. Whatever happened worked because here we
are several millions of years later a successful species.

The shooting star is still a thing of wonder. I know the science of
it and that does not diminish the thrill of seeing the flash across
a small piece of my sky. In truth science magnifies the wonder of it
all. Image a large hunk of rock getting so hot it burns up! That opens
more questions about the atmosphere and possibilities of meteorites
hitting the earth, dinosaurs disappearing and oil developing from plants
in the bowels of the earth. Wow!

Every time a new technology is developed we can see deeper into the
larger universe and deeper into the macro cells that are the essence
of life. You’ll find me tuned into the sky every year, same time, same
station to marvel at the physics of it all.