Posted by: twotrees | August 28, 2018

Patriot

A photo taken in 1967 shows US Navy Airforce Major

America has many patriots; most are unsung.  The janitor working late at night, the teacher who spends their own money to provide for students, a farm worker toiling under the sun for years, the hospice angel holding someone’s hand in their final hours…

John McCain was one too:  having served and suffered through armed conflict, capture and torture to return to serve in the US senate.  He was, unfortunately, one of the few remaining politicians who said what he felt and stuck to his guns, even when unpopular.

Although he and I didn’t share all thoughts with regard to political views, I, like many who have come forward in the past 72 hours, would take a moment to thank him for his service, for his honesty and for his grit.  He had a loudspeaker for which to speak to people and he used it well.

His final letter to the public was an example of who John McCain was and should be remembered as.  Here is that letter:

My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for sixty years, and especially my fellow Arizonans,

“Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.

“I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s. 

“I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America’s causes – liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people – brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.

“‘Fellow Americans’ – that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process.

“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

“We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.

“Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening.

I feel it powerfully still.

“Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

“Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.”

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Posted by: twotrees | July 20, 2018

Man on the Moon

We all have an answer to where we were at the time of world-changing events in our lives. Today is one of those for many of us – the day, forty-nine years ago, that two American astronauts walked on Earth’s moon. Long before Michael Jackson made a style of dancing backwards famous, Neil Armstrong and Buz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon, climbed down the metal steps of Eagle, the lunar module, lander and jumped on to the dusty surface of another heavenly body.

I was at summer camp in Maine with about 30 other campers, peering into the screen of a small, black & white television.  We couldn’t hear much and the image was scratchy, but the significance was not lost on this science nerd.

Human beings had achieved what a decade before had been thought impossible.  And partially because the president, Kennedy in 1961, challenged the nation to do this by the end of the decade.  Through the hard work of men and women of science, we did it.  Several moon shots followed, but without the drama of the first.  I remember them posting the U.S. flag on the surface, with wire holding the flag out (as there’s no consistent wind there).

I remember the words Armstrong uttered into his Plantronics headset as if it was yesterday:  That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  Perhaps the most accurate words ever spoken.

Here’s a link to a 2 minute montage of that very special day:  https://youtu.be/cwZb2mqId0A

And Kennedy’s challenge to go to the moon : “Not because it they are easy, but because they are hard” People thought he was crazy.But we did it:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwFvJog2dMw

 

Posted by: twotrees | June 24, 2018

We can do better…

Today’s LA Times editorial speaks to how there is a hardening of the heart in America. By that they mean that our leadership and many Americans are caring less about the we and more about the me.

Yet looking at the documents crafted by our country’s framers, the word me does not appear. For better or for worse, we’re in this together.

The editorial sites Philip Alston’s UN report on extreme poverty and reflects a few of his comments on how the Unites States treats its less fortunate. One quote of the report stands out when it states ”The principal strategy for dealing with extreme poverty in the USA is to “criminalise and stigmatise” (spelled such as Alston is an Australian).

From the report: “There is thus a dramatic contrast between the immense wealth of the few and the squalor and deprivation in which vast numbers of Americans exist. For almost five decades the overall policy response has been neglectful at best, but the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.”

As the leader of world in so many ways, the United States must strive to do better in the things we don’t lead the world in, the things that mar our greatness, if you like. We can do it but the question remains – do we want to?

Read the LA Times editorial here: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-trump-social-safety-net-poverty-20180623-story.html

Read the twenty page United Nations report here: http://undocs.org/A/HRC/38/33/ADD.1

Read an interview with the report’s author Philip Aston: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-un-poverty-inequality-report-20180602-htmlstory.html

Posted by: twotrees | June 3, 2018

Eat less, live more

We Americans demand perfection when it comes to our fresh fruits and vegetables.  That’s why the blemished apples I buy at the farmer’s market are one third to cost of their ‘more perfect’ siblings.  Do my eyes, stomach or blender care?  Not one tinker’s cuss.

Food waste is destroying the planet, writes Sharon Kunde in today’s LA Times.  In her piece, Kunde explains that worldwide, one third of all food produced is lost or thrown away each year, amounting to 1.3 billion tons unconsumed. For those who love numbers, that’s equal to 2,600,000,000,000,000 pounds of food.  How ’bout them apples?

Read her piece then reconsider how you can help.  Buy, eat and discard less, live more.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-kunde-food-waste-20180603-story.html

Posted by: twotrees | April 2, 2018

Water flowing underground…

The lyrics ‘water flowing underground’ from the Talking Heads song Once in a Lifetime came to mind after reading a story in the LA Times this morning about how the Sierra snowpack will be greatly reduced in the decades to come. According to the director of UCLA’s Center for Climate Science, that snowpack will be reduced by 64% before the end of the century. The piece goes on to speak about how this will affect humans, largely through the reduction of freshwater, and describes new ways in which we need to store the water for future use. One of those methods is letting water trickle into aquifers that we can later extract as needed.

Not mentioned in the story and of interest to me is what this will do to the beautiful forest of trees in the Sierra Nevada. If you have been there in the past few years, you have noticed that there is a sizable percentage of trees that are dead: some still standing, some fallen.

Read the story here: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-hall-reich-sierra-snowpack-climate-change-20180402-story.html

Posted by: twotrees | March 23, 2018

Plastic Pangea

If you haven’t heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch then you haven’t been paying attention. It is a large mass of garbage (largely plastic) that is accumulating in the Pacific Ocean between North America and an area south of the Hawaiian Islands. And it’s big. Once thought to be the size of Texas, it is now thought to be twice that size. For those who love statistics, that is roughly 536,000 miles of volume. One could argue that it makes up the eighth continent on planet Earth and is estimated to weigh 174 million pounds. And growing.

If that’s not startling enough, here’s more: It’s growing and much of the plastic, which scientists know dates back at least 40 years, is decomposing, which is a bad thing.

Large chunks of debris, like plastic, are easier to collect and generally less likely to end up inside of marine life. There are exceptions, when whales, great white sharks and others consume large pieces and often die a slow death due to the trash clogging their intestines.

But the small stuff is more insidious and finds its way into and up the food chain, affecting all forms of life (including yours).  Although scientists feel that it’s unlikely to move out of the area which it now owns, imagine if it did (due to wind, tides, etc..) and landed on the beaches of California, Mexico or Hawaii.  Say goodnight…

Read the LA Times story about it here, which has a link to the original published piece in the journal Scientific Reports: http://enewspaper.latimes.com/desktop/latimes/default.aspx?pnum=6&edid=84bc38a0-b714-4b86-b747-a340214de449

Posted by: twotrees | March 17, 2018

Bald eagle nest cams are back!

Two years ago I became aware of the bald eagle nest cam out at the Channel Islands. After visiting the site once I found myself going there daily to check in on the chicks, who were at first helpless but then grew into magnificent creatures that eventually flew the coop.  Now the same nest, at Sauces Canyon, is again inhabited. I visited the site and even after dark they have a system whereby you can observe them at night. Watch carefully and you can see small mice roaming around in the nest.
https://www.nps.gov/chis/learn/photosmultimedia/bald-eagle-webcam.htm

Posted by: twotrees | March 14, 2018

Britain’s Carl Sagan

Stephen Hawking is nothing like Carl Sagan, yet both encouraged people around the world to think about the cosmos. Hawking, 76, died today of natural causes. Having been ill for the past 50 years, it’s amazing he lived as long as he did.

Afflicted with motor neuron disease at the age of 21, he shifted gears and used his brain for a living, even as his body failed him. And we all benefited from it.

Hawking was very much a mortal man with flaws and foibles as we all have. But he was a genius beyond imagination, dreaming up theories and formulas unknown before him.  He had a sense of humor, appearing on The Simpsons and as witnessed in a recent Jaguar commercial. http://youtu.be/XYkcuxw4aJM

The remembrance of him in tonight’s Guardian does him justice:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/mar/14/stephen-hawking-professor-dies-aged-76

 

Posted by: twotrees | March 12, 2018

Think of climate change as an economic deterrent

image

Most of us think of climate change in terms of how it will affect the planet, plants, animals and people.  We think of natural disasters such as flooding, trout, hurricanes and such and imagine these things being broadcast to us on television.

Now think about climate change strictly from an economic standpoint. Start by reading Michael Hiltzik’s piece in today’s LA Times about how it will affect the bread basket of America… which is California.

Whether it be the reduction of cold nights which will inhibit the growing of nuts and stone fruit to the effect it will have on field crops like strawberries, which are intensively grown in Ventura county, this all adds up to a change of life and economy for many people in this state.

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/latimes/default.aspx?pubid=50435180-e58e-48b5-8e0c-236bf740270e

 

photo from video provided by KABC-TV

These days it seems not uncommon to hear about people who locked their kids away or worse. Now comes the story of the Joshua tree couple who lived in a 200 square-foot box with three children. Left at that, most of us would fill in the blank’s with the usual conclusions. This circumstance however seems different.

It will be interesting to see this story unwind but today’s LA Times story indicates that the kids were reasonably well cared for, loved and productive in their own way. The crime appears to be the family had absolutely no money,  would not accept  help and therefore lived on the edge.

With close to 100,000 homeless people living throughout Southern California, many of whom appear to not be productive in any way, shape or form, this story is different. Read about them here:

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/latimes/default.aspx?pubid=50435180-e58e-48b5-8e0c-236bf740270e

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