Archive for October, 2005

Cell phone disrespect for sure

Monday, October 31st, 2005

What is it about Halloween that brings kids, ranging from age 4 to 14 – out to get soaking wet in pouring rain? A one ounce candy bar? I don’t think so.

To come out on a night like this, with parental permission, probably parental delivery, something else is compelling human souls to be out and about. Do we need a costumed excuse to celebrate the onset of dark dreary months of winter? Well something is afoot.

With water in their eyes, makeup running down their faces, kids faced a near-drowning experience in Bellingham at the witching hour. And as if that wasn’t dramatic enough for a spooky night, Watcom county was treated with a display of lightning and thunder to validate the occasion. Forget the cell phones, folks, the relay tower was unceremoniously wiped out by a glorious flash of lightning. What else would a self respecting lightning bolt do but caress a lonely tower isolated from all the fun? Imagine the lop sided grin of satisfaction from the tower. Sorry folks, I have no energy left for your pleasure.

Forget calling your juniors tonight, maybe for tomorrow as well, depending on how passionately the lightning bolt ravaged the tower.

Hear this: I tried to call you, Mom, but my cell phone couldn’t find a signal.

What an excuse for not meeting curfew on a school night!

Is Education Failing Boys?

Friday, October 28th, 2005

Invariably when statistics show the low grades and the dropout rates of boys, the education system is blamed. Various excuses are put forth to bolster that myth — the change in our economy from hands-on manufacturing-based to services and communication, escalated effort to boosting female achievement, or lack of paternal figure in the home – are among the most prevalent faults.

Michael Gurian postulates that the real answer is all in their heads. Gurian reminds us that male and female brains differ on the biological level and these lead to different tendencies in the ways children access the world and how these tendencies help explain why boys as a group are not benefiting as much from our educational system as girls.

Male brain production of higher levels of dopamine in the blood stream than females affects impulse control, making it more difficult to learn while sitting still.

Neural connectors in the sense memory and listening centers of male brains tend to be weaker than females, leading to absorption of less verbal information but are more stimulated by visual and tactile input.

Male brains get about 15 percent less blood flow than female brains.

Male brains like to go into a rest state between tasks, characterized by reduced neural activity.

Changes in the educational system will require looking at gender in the middle school years, actually addressing the issue of gender identity — the period of transition and transformation from child to adult. Offering these children the chance to explore questions about what it means to be a boy or girl opens the opportunity to become more abstract, critical thinkers.

The book “The Minds of Boys” by Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens offers ways to motivate boys to learn, among them encouraging intake of water and protein in the morning and above all, involving relatives and schools in the nutrition plan.

I’ve always heard: “you are what you eat”.

Well, no doubt it helps the final product.

On Vacation

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

There comes a time when a person needs to get away from all things routine and I decided it was yesterday, October 20, Ashton Elizabeth Sherer’s fifteenth birthday. And the day of immediate decisions. I would leave for Judy’s cabin on Tieton Reservoir shore near White Pass. It had been over two years since I had been there and I wasn’t sure if it was vacant or even whether it had been sold in the interim since Judy had found employment in Alaska. As I turned left off US Highway 12 on Tieton Road pointing toward Tieton Helipad, I was alarmed at the amount of smoke coming up through the pines and firs ahead of me. Within two miles the source of the smoke was visible in flames at the base of trees and in clumps of detrious on the forest floor. It didn’t bode well for a restful day at the cabin.

More alarming and surprising was the scene at the Lake. There was literally
no lake. I could only see small streams among the hills on the lake bottom.
Lines of previous water levels were vivid showing the level of water had
receded as much as 20 feet or more. We’re not talking shrinking of 20
feet in a hundred acre area of water but in hundreds of acres of water
surface in a lake that reaches in the Tieton river bed for over 10 miles.
Big time water deficit. I took pictures of the outlet of a large stream
that fed into the lake where Alex had waded into when we visited ten years
ago. Scary is the depth of the gorge leading under the bridge where young
people were jumping feet first into the then very high water. Luckily
the water was so icy coming down from the snow in the surrounding hills
that Alex opted not to immerse himself beyond his knees. And only for
a matter of very few minutes although he felt some excitement in the divers
downstream 50 yards or so. The stream is now only a 3 to 5 foot wide trickle
feeding into the Tieton Reservoir.

From this point which is beyond Judy’s cabin I saw no sign of smoke and wondered if the fires had been put out. It looked as if the cabin was in no danger. If it had been I would have driven away and proceeded northward. I was ready for a night in the forest – no telephone, no television, no radio. After dark to see the stars beyond the trees I walked a short way up the road. Not only did I see clearly the big dipper but every star in the handle of the little dipper which were not visible from the Clear Lake campgroud in Oregon with Tim a month ago. That was thrilling. Simple minded me.

What else I saw were lights of several other cabins where inhabitants were settling in for a peaceful night, not apparently concerned with forest fires. I went to bed confident.

But in the morning with fingertips tingling from cold, I felt guilty using wood I had not helped to harvest as I had in past visits and did not heat the cabin for further habitation. I decided to head north for centralized heating still within the scope of vacation.

Witch is old English, meaning to bend.

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

A dog howls. I shiver. Leering pumpkins appear under porch lights. The night of witches looms on the calendar. The community thinks up horror corners to frighten wee little ones out of their skins with all sorts of unlikely encounters in deep dark chambers.

Hecate, the Greek goddess of ghosts, cackles with glee. She is the special patron of wizards and witches. She hovers in graveyards and at crossroads, moving about with souls of the dead. Dogs howl and announce her coming. Local coyotes around here are bound to set them off.

No matter. The day, and night, will come and go. But beware! The costumes for sale in specialty stores indicate there will be many more full grown ghosts, and such, out this year. Other than Hecate on her broom, some might even wear snakes as did Diana and Proserpina.

I’ve Had It

Monday, October 17th, 2005

This ends the event Down The Great Columbia! At least in this century. Today was the day for school classes scheduled to see re-enactors of the Corps of Discovery where Lewis and Clark documented so much of the continent that had never before been visited by white folks. Actually two hundred years ago today Lewis was busy writing everything he could learn about the river peoples that congregated at the point where the Snake river runs into the Columbia river at a place we call Sacajawea State park. He was critical of the women for not wearing much below the waist but a g-string which was often lost in the folds of fat.

Most of the Corps men were as unhappy with the smell of rotting fish as they were with the smell of rotting buffalo back along the Missouri river. Druillard, the breed interpreter, estimated there were more fish in the river than there were bison and antelope and elk all together in the great plains. River people didn’t have to go hunting for food, it came right up the river to them.

Captain Clark was not about to eat those sick fish. He was familiar with Atlantic salmon that would spawn and swim right back into the ocean and come back next year to spawn again. Those red dying fish must be diseased. Well, the Indians lived with the knowledge of the life cycle of the Pacific salmon and thought nothing of the dying fish. In fact they probably used the dried dead ones for fuel if they did want a fire but the white party would have none of it. They traded a few worthless trinkets for wood and found little else to cook on it.

Clark took the small canoe and two men for paddlers and went up the Columbia river to mark the Yakima river as directed by President Jefferson. It was important to know the extent of the oncoming streams for purposes of traffic and trade in this unchartered country. He documented many drying racks of salmon on the shore and islands as he went north taking readings for his maps. Meanwhile I believe the hunters in the party went across the Snake river – it was only 475 yards wide at the mouth – and hunted for deer and large birds. That would put them on what is now my National Wildlife Refuge, McNary. Sacajawea would have gone also to dig for roots or search for berries. She had to eat well to be able to feed nine-month-old Jean Baptiste. She carried the baby with her and the journals mention that Lewis’s dog, Seaman, sometimes was with her. The dog more often favored Clark because he would not eat dog as the other men did.

But tomorrow the Corps moves on and it is doubtful that a similar event will be offered another year. I know the visitor and convention bureau will dream up a good excuse for recalling the historical journey that put a new spin on the travel and economics of the entire world. Seven thousand extra visitors did good stuff for the old home town as well.

Make a Point

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

Being so steeped in history of 200 years ago, I didn’t remember it was Sunday when I came home today from the third day of interpreting history and automatically checked for mail. I was more tired than I realized, apparently, and simply running on radar.

Heritage Days down the great Columbia makes a point of the historical significance of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in a sort of living history at Sacajawea State Park at the confluence of two great rivers. Today the ever present wind of the Columbia Basin kept us wrapped in jackets and campers inside their tents. When the sun shone it was very pleasant and I sat in a sheltered spot on the leeward side of the gazebo when I had a moment to sit. I sat under a canopy in a comfortable chair intending to read more of James Alexander Thom’s book about The Sign Talker who was an interpreter for Lewis and Clark. It is fiction but written, as Thom’s books are, with a sense of authenticity about the expedition from a half breed Indian’s point of view.

In my Discovery Walks, I point to where the historic party landed, now under water held back by Ice Harbor dam and McNary dam. I point to a poster of rolling desert hills and sloping sandy beach and exclaim that was the scene that met the eyes of the white men who “discovered” the Columbia river. I point to trees and grass and emphasize that none of this green stuff was here 200 years ago this exact day. I point to samples of rabbit brush, sagebrush, bitterbrush and greasewood as the only plants visible to the travelers “as far as the eye could extend” according to Ordway’s journal. I point out the importance of Sacajawea’s presence and contemplate her desire to continue on the journey instead of remaining with her family when she could have in Shoshone country back in August. When asked about Lewis’s death I point out facts in history that I believe indicate he did not commit suicide, regardless of suggestions made by historians for many years. Most of the questions I get have no answers only educated guesses which I am quick to point out are my own conclusions because there is no proof of what really happened.

After my Discovery Walks I took the boat that shuttles visitors from the point of landing by Lewis and Clark on the Snake river up the Columbia river over a similar route taken by Clark in the small canoe toward the mouth of the Yakima river on October 17. Kennewick’s Columbia park hosted the huge exhibits brought by the National Park Service labeled Corps II which has been traveling the route of the famous voyage for six months. Graphics depicting the voyage are extensive and impressive. A tent of many voices holds hundreds of people who sit in comfort and hear Sgt Patrick Gass, York, and other actors speak as if they were now on the journey. Historians explain what little is known of the characters and events in moving ways which give listeners a better sense of history.

Ben Franklin transit bus returned me to Sacajawea park for which I am grateful. I point out it is beyond me to swim even downstream to my car.

Historic Excuse To Gather At The River

Saturday, October 15th, 2005

OK, so day two of the Lewis and Clark Heritage Days is over. Sunny with clear skies was welcome weather especially following the report of rain which never occurred. A

Down the Great Columbia with Lewis and Clark

Friday, October 14th, 2005

The first great day of the 4 day commemorative stopover of Lewis and Clark down the great Columbia River is over. We are celebrating for four days but the voyage of discovery landed on October 16 and left after noon on the eighteenth. Oddly enough Lewis thought he was on the Columbia River when they left Clarkston and the Clearwater river in Idaho. This is one of the many mistakes that Lewis took to heart as his failures in the journey. He brooded about his failures and had a couple of serious enemies that dogged his progress when he returned to St. Louis in 1806.

The party landed at the bank of what is now Sacajawea State park at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers. The park is tree covered and a lovely place to picnic and enjoy the waters.

Two hundred years ago, however, nary a green blade of grass nor tree was visible “as far as the eye could extend” so said Ordway in his journal. Clark didn’t like the absence of trees either. He was just civilized enough to want his food cooked over a wood fire. Silly, huh?

Lewis did his best to record everything about the native peoples which was tough because no one spoke the language. The half breed Druillard did a pretty good job with sign language but some concepts were impossible to get across to the Easterners. How about the idea that everyone owned the land? and the sky? and the sun? Well Lewis and Clark were well aware of measuring land for settlers and they knew what boundaries meant. And so they assumed that everybody should know that.

What my Discovery Walk was all about was explaining and illustrating what the point of land was like two hundred years ago. All desert, native plants that people living here for centuries knew what they could be used for in daily life. I had examples of rabbit brush, sagebrush, buckwheat, and bitterbrush. I showed them how sturdy dogbane could be as cordage tying their arrowheads to shafts, and even the rose and dogwood that was used for shafts for arrows and spears. The sixty degree weather kept the cement floor cold under my Yakama moccasins but the elkskins kept me quite comfortable otherwise.

It was all interesting and entertaining, especially for me. And I will be out there tomorrow for more of the same.

Antibiotics or no?

Monday, October 10th, 2005

Two scientists were rewarded for finding the cause of ulcers is bacteria, not stress or spicy foods. Pathologist Dr. Barry J. Marshall and microbiologist Dr. J. Robin Warren, Australians, were awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on gastric disorders. Their findings overturn the long held view that ulcers were physiological illnesses which could be treated with antacids.

The researchers faced years of ridicule from scientists and drug companies. Physicians argued for decades that the interior of the stomach was too acidic for bacteria to grow. Alert physicians observed that ulcers could be cured with a short course of antibiotics and bismuth compounds that killed the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, which causes more than 90% of duodenal stomach ulcers and 80% of upper intestinal ulcers. The remainder are caused by overuse of aspirin and similar drugs which may eat away at the stomach lining.

Dr. Warren observed a bactium in more than half the patients from which biopsies were obtained. Dr. Marshall joined forces and together they preformed new biopsies finding the same organism in the majority of patients and all of those with ulcers. The bacterium infects roughly half the population around the world but only a small proportion of those infected develop ulcers. What business the bacteria are up to when not making ulcers is yet to be discovered.

The kicker is – when do physicians dispense antibiotics? If I have the nasty culprit in my system it can and will cause distress. That happened a year ago when I suffered debilitating muscle spasms. I had to roll slowly out of bed and breath deeply to recover enough strength to get to the medical center. The gynecologist insisted I had cancer and took every test known to technology. I drew the line on a mammogram but succumbed to all others. Of course nothing noteworthy was found and I was sent on. An internist found ulcers and prescribed a well known and very expensive antacid medication to be taken for several months. Even after the ulcers were gone I was advised to remain on the medicine to prevent recurrence of the ulcers.

I may be one to have Helicobacter pylori in permanent residence in my system. When I had infected gums that caused earaches a few months ago, an antibiotic was prescribed and now all is well. Or is it? At the first sign of a cold or ear ache my inclination is to get the antibiotic treatment. Not a good idea. Antibiotics aren’t guided missiles zeroing in on one target. They are more like scatter guns taking out all bacteria around. Well I’ve got a lot of “good” bacteria that guard my system so killing all in sight may do more harm than good.

So what’s the answer? Stress and a poor diet aren’t the cause of physical problems but they may very well wear down the immune system, making the body unable to prevent ravaging of the stomach lining or other vulnerable areas such as ears and throats. I eat less, drink more water, and sleep whenever I get a chance to avoid getting worn out. With that I may stay lucky and healthy.

Trust nobody – y’hear?

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

The Patriot Act indicates, no – demands, that no one be trusted until proven innocent. That proof will be impossible to find because records the police access, are gathered under Patriot Act privacy. The accused would never know where the “proof” of guilt came from, nor know the reason for the accusation. The unfairness of such access by the government smacks of Hitler in the 1930s. Very fearsome. Indeed.

Television writers are now capitalizing on that fear with crime shows, weekly no kidding, of the background of criminals who after capture were found accepted in their neighborhoods as average well-liked citizens. The crimes portrayed, real or manufactured for TV, show ordinary men and women living normal uncomplicated lives until their crimes were discovered and WALLAAHH they are revealed to be heinous psychopaths responsible for kidnap, slavery, butchery, rape, and/or pornography production.

Those individuals exist. Books have been written about the lives of many. However what is a travesty on our society is the advertising about TV series of those criminals insisting that these are OUR neighbors, living innocently next door. And the promotion warns you to look at neighbors with suspicion and ask, “Could this innocent looking person be a monster?” which can only bring on a response of fear and suspicion. Shame on the promoters and shame on CBS.

Is that helping us live in this sad world of terrorism,I ask you? How can children not cringe with fear totally distracted from living their childhood. And we are not living in a war zone as are thousands of children in the world. How can hate and revenge not surface in the hearts of people who believe society lets them down on a daily basis? Colombine? Oklahoma City? How many calls will the police receive from neighbors who, after watching the show, will report suspicious neighbors? Welcome to Nazi America next door.