"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Monday, March 30, 2009

Whose Father Was He?

The photo pulled me in. Three little faces, so obviously siblings, looking out from a time long passed.

This photo was found clenched in the hand of a dead soldier at Gettysburg. When this photo was found, a search began to identify the soldier (he had no type of identification on him when he died).

The New York Times is doing a five part series on this story. I am in, can't wait for part two. Check out part one below.

Whose Father Was He? (Part One)
By Errol Morris

No name — but a soldier brave, he fell.
We shall find her, without a name;
This picture, sometime, will tell whence he came.
— Emily Latimer, “The Unknown”[1]

The soldier’s body was found near the center of Gettysburg with no identification — no regimental numbers on his cap, no corps badge on his jacket, no letters, no diary. Nothing save for an ambrotype (an early type of photograph popular in the late 1850s and 1860s) of three small children clutched in his hand. Within a few days the ambrotype came into the possession of Benjamin Schriver, a tavern keeper in the small town of Graeffenburg, about 13 miles west of Gettysburg. The details of how Schriver came into possession of the ambrotype have been lost to history. But the rest of the story survives, a story in which this photograph of three small children was used for both good and wicked purposes. First, the good.

Four men on their way to Gettysburg were forced to stop at Schriver’s Tavern when their wagon broke down. They heard the tale of the fallen soldier and saw the photograph of the children. One of them, Dr. J. Francis Bourns, a Philadelphia physician on his way to tend to the wounded from the battlefield, was intrigued. He convinced Schriver to give him the photograph so that he might attempt to locate the dead man’s family. Perhaps he was touched by the poignancy of the photograph — three children, all under the age of ten, now without a father. As a life-long bachelor he might have yearned for a wife or family of his own. On the other hand, perhaps he saw it as an opportunity for financial gain.

Dr. Bourns returned to Philadelphia with the ambrotype. He had it copied by several photographers, producing hundreds of inexpensive duplicates in the carte de visite format. The carte de visite photograph, roughly the size of an index card, could be printed in multiple copies, allowing for much quicker mass production of a single photographic image than ever before. Because there was no way of printing photographs in a newspaper, Bourns knew that he might need dozens if not hundreds of cartes de visite to put the image of the three children before the eyes of someone who knew them.

But the story had to be circulated as well, so the photographs were supplemented by a series of newspaper articles, the most prominent of which appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Oct. 19, 1863, a little over three months following the discovery of the ambrotype. It appeared under the heading, “Whose Father Was He?”

After the battle of Gettysburg, a Union soldier was found in a secluded spot on the field, where, wounded, he had laid himself down to die. In his hands, tightly clasped, was an ambrotype containing the portraits of three small children, and upon this picture his eyes, set in death, rested. The last object upon which the dying father looked was the image of his children, and as he silently gazed upon them his soul passed away. How touching! how solemn! What pen can describe the emotions of this patriot-father as he gazed upon these children, so soon to be made orphans! Wounded and alone, the din of battle still sounding in his ears, he lies down to die. His last thoughts and prayers are for his family. He has finished his work on earth; his last battle has been fought; he has freely given his life to his country; and now, while his life’s blood is ebbing, he clasps in his hands the image of his children, and, commending them to the God of the fatherless, rests his last lingering look upon them.

When, after the battle, the dead were being buried, this soldier was thus found. The ambrotype was taken from his embrace, and since been sent to this city for recognition. Nothing else was found upon his person by which he might be identified. His grave has been marked, however, so that if by any means this ambrotype will lead to his recognition he can be disinterred. This picture is now in the possession of Dr. Bourns, No. 1104 Spring Garden [Street], of this city, who can be called upon or addressed in reference to it. The children, two boys and a girl, are, apparently, nine, seven and five years of age, the boys being respectively the oldest and youngest of the three. The youngest boy is sitting in a high chair, and on each side of him are his brother and sister. The eldest boy’s jacket is made from the same material as his sister’s dress. These are the most prominent features of the group. It is earnestly desired that all the papers in the country will draw attention to the discovery of this picture and its attendant circumstances, so that, if possible, the family of the dead hero may come into possession of it. Of what inestimable value it will be to these children, proving, as it does, that the last thoughts of their dying father was for them, and them only.

For those of us used to seeing stories illustrated with photographs, the Philadelphia Inquirer article is fascinating. The absent ambrotype is described: “The children, two boys and a girl, are, apparently, nine, seven, and five years of age, the boys being respectively the oldest and youngest of the three. The youngest boy is sitting in a high chair, and on each side of him are his brother and sister. The eldest boy’s jacket is made from the same material as his sister’s dress.”

The description asks us to think about the details, to imagine them, to pick from among many other details the relevant ones, the ones that can be used to unravel the mystery. The use of “the same material” implies a mother’s hand, or at the very least, a bolt of cloth that was purchased and then used to make clothing for both children. It is evidence — a clue. We are looking for the unseen wife — “. . . we shall find her without a name” — the woman who made the garments out of whole cloth.

Here, a photograph is used to provide a unique identification. Not in the way that might be imagined — someone looking at the ambrotype and saying, “That’s so-and-so . . . .” But by providing a piece of evidence, a context, that could be used to identify the family and the deceased husband and father.

In the traditional detective story, someone asks around: Do you know the identity (or the name) of the people in this photograph? Here, the identification is not made on the basis of recognizing the people from a photograph. But by first “translating” the photograph into words and sentences. The ages of the children were estimated — as it turns out not far from the truth — but the telling details were their respective positions in the photograph, the fact that there were three of them, and the shirt and dress worn by the brother and sister flanking the brother in the middle were similar.

Also, family portraiture was not so commonplace. A family had to go to a photography studio or be visited by an itinerant photographer. The family of the fallen soldier was asked to identify the one picture that was taken. The widow would have enough information to make an identification. Today, we are able to seamlessly integrate words and pictures — captions and photographs — but the Humiston story allows us to see how this was done before there were means to easily put the two together in a newspaper or broadsheet.

And then, a woman in Portville, N.Y., was shown a story about the photograph that appeared in the American Presbyterian. She feared the worst, having not heard from her husband since the battle of Gettysburg. She asked the town postmaster to write to Dr. Bourns on her behalf and request a copy of the ambrotype. When she opened the letter from Philadelphia in late November of 1863, Philinda Humiston knew her husband, Amos Humiston, the father of her three children — Franklin, Alice and Frederick — was dead.

The story of Amos Humiston has been chronicled in a book by Mark H. Dunkelman, “Gettysburg’s Unknown Soldier,”[2] an attempt to recover the “identity” of Amos Humiston from the depredations of history. There were two separate searches more than a century apart, an initial search to identify the fallen soldier, and then a subsequent search to discover something about the man. There is also a series of implicit questions. The first question is: What is his name? The second question: Who is he? Tell me something about Amos Humiston. And then, there is a third question: “Who is he to us? What does he mean to us?”

(This is the first of five installments of “Whose Father Was He?” The remaining four parts will be published on consecutive days this week.)

FOOTNOTES[1] “The Unknown” written by Miss E. Latimer for The Orphans’ Homestead (Philadelphia, PA: Bryson & Son, 1867). [2] Mark Dunkelman, Gettysburg’s Unknown Soldier: The Life, Death, and Celebrity of Amos Humiston (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999).

article and photo courtesy of: http://morris.blogs.nytimes.com/


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Head in the Clouds

I had the most amazing Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Starr. Some of the moments of my time in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade fade in my memory, but not those of Kindergarten. At the time, we were living in Richmond Virginia, and I was attending Chickahominy Academy.

Aside from the funny name, Chickahominy will always be a perfect school in my memory because my one and only year there was spent in Mrs. Starr's classroom. Mrs. Starr was more than a teacher, she sought to find out who each of us as individuals were and cultivate the talents and dreams she found there. I can remember vividly the names of the other children in my class, because she talked about each of the other children in the room to all of us all the time. George is great at this, Melissa is wonderful at that. She made me believe I could do or be anything, and to have this as a beginning of school, my first year, was amazing. It was the best foundation a child could hope for.

One of my favorite memories of my year with her were random sunny days when she would gather up blankets and take us out on the lawn behind our classroom. I can remember it seemed that we took up all of the lawn, behind the whole school--in my five year old eyes, there were so many of us. Our instructions were simple: lay down and look up, and see what appeared in the clouds. She told us if we started out quietly, and just laid there, watching, we would soon see formations, pictures and shapes. We did as we were told. And sure enough, we started to see things. Someone would call out-A bunny! And then we would all look for it before the clouds shifted and we would see something else.

I learned through those days to see beauty in unexpected places and in the joy of small things. What better lesson is there than that?

I kept in touch with Mrs. Starr for many years, all the way into college, but lost touch with her at some point after that. I have done research on the internet, but have not been able to find her. I hope somewhere she knows how much she touched so many lives, and how fondly I remember those days, watching the clouds float above us on blankets on the lawn behind Chickahominy Academy.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Just for Laughs

This picture was captioned on the I Can Has Cheezburger site. I think it is funnier on its own, without a word. I have laughed so hard this morning over this photo. I can totally see this happening, because the minute any type of grocery or shopping bag comes into this house, one of my cats is IN it. They love them. Have a great Thursday!


It's Time to Make the Donuts!

Have you ever been at Dunkin' Donuts and thought: There just aren't enough choices here! I want to tell them exactly what I want on my donut!

Well, here's your chance. Dunkin' Donuts is having a "Design Your Own Donut" contest, and I must tell you, it is too much fun playing with toppings and fillings on the site.

More details are below, have fun, and maybe YOU will be making the next new donut for Dunkin'. Click here to go straight to the contest entry.

Dunkin' launches create-a-doughnut contest
Posted by Monica Eng at 5:20 p.m.

As millions of American workers sit at their desks contemplating a job change, a few of us might think that our real talent lies in doughnut design. Well, there's only one way to find out, and that's to enter Dunkin' Donuts' "Create Dunkin's next Donut" contest.
The competition started this week and runs through April 7. It challenges creative doughnut lovers to go online and build their dream doughnut, name it and put it up for competition. I have to admit that I've spent some delightful time on the site designing that perfect pastry (right)--all in the name of reporting, of course. It can become engrossing as you choose just the right shape, dough, filling, frosting and accents for the treat. My first creation featured a round chocolate cake base topped with chocolate frosting, roasted almonds and crushed Heath Bar. Now I'm thinking that some red sprinkles would have perked it up considerably.
Anyway, a dozen finalists will be chosen to come to Dunkin headquarters in Canton, Mass for a bake off of the entries and then the public will vote for their favorite finalist beginning May 15. The new doughnut will be unveiled on June 5, which is National Donut Day, of course.
As a promotion during the contest, participating DD's will offer a doughnut for 49 cents with the purchase of a medium or larger coffee.
article and photo courtesy of chicagotribune.com


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I love the moment in an art gallery, when I forget where I am, when the room I am in gets quiet, even if it is filled with dozens of people. It is almost as if white noise fills my ears. It is the moment I see a piece of art that transports me away from where I am for a few seconds.

It can be almost any piece from any era, a painting or a sculpture, folk art or impressionism, modern or classic. There are just certain pieces that stop me in my tracks.

Seeing pieces like that in person are always best, but I love the internet for introducing me to artists I would otherwise miss; and for guiding me to the doorway of their own little museums. The artist of the piece above, which I am aching to own, is Duy Huynh. I think I am now his biggest fan. Please check out more of his work on the Etsy site, and the other locations below.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/larkandkey/ (see prints in side bar, you can also see all of Duys work from the current exhibit - One Year)


Monday, March 23, 2009

I Love Jesus, But I Drink A Little

My friend and fellow blogger, Cheri sent me this video this morning. First of all, I LOVE Ellen DeGeneres, I think she is one of the funniest people out there, and her show is great. But this woman Gladys Hardy, who called into the show, and whom Ellen subsequently calls back, could give any comedian a run for their money. I laughed so hard watching this video this morning, and it sent me out in the best mood. Enjoy!


Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Year in the Making

What does it mean to love someone? Poets, authors, scholars, and songwriters have been asking that question and trying to answer it for centuries. Does it mean all the things the Hallmark cards say? Does it mean different things to different people?
For me, there are few examples out there, and I do lose heart a little bit. I was a romantic at one point in my life, and somewhere along the way became a cynic.
But I know one love story to be true. Matt Logelin loved his wife Liz. This isn't a sappy-mushy love story, but instead one of those that makes you think soulmates are possible, and that really good guys do exist.
Sadly, Matt an Liz didn't have their completely happy ending. As many of you know that follow Matt's blog, Liz died one day after giving birth to their daughter Madeline last year. But in that year, so many of us have followed Matt's words as he grieved, cried, hurt and triumphed, and in the meantime, raised his daughter. He also started a foundation in his wife's name. His words are always profound or funny, witty or painful, but his love of Liz is impossible to miss. He loved her every year he was with her, and recalls their life with such tenderness, and his loss with such magnitude.
The video above was posted on his blog--a photographer friend of his took her one-year photos, as her husband took video shots to make the short film above. I have watched it several times (you HAVE to have the sound on--it makes it), and I am so happy to see Matt so happy, and to see the love between him and Madeline. (It also makes me ache to be a better photographer! Gina is amazing!)


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lessons in Etiquette, Courtesy of the Rocklin AMF Lanes

Imagine it: you have your bowling ball in hand, you are all set to knock down all the pins, this will be a strike, you know it! Then, some rude, inconsiderate, obviously etiquettely-challenged bowler approaches his lane next to you at EXACTLY the same time. This is a clear violation of bowling etiquette, any fool knows that. So, what to do? You could a) Take the high road and nod for him to go first, b) Wait for him to nod for you to go first, c) Become insanely offended and ultimately strike him in the face with your bowling ball.

If you are stumped as to the correct answer, read below! Life is full of hard decisions.

Man loses tooth as bowlers brawl over etiquette

ROCKLIN, Calif. -Police said a dispute over bowling etiquette led one man to assault another with a 16-pound ball, knocking out one of the man's teeth. They said a 24-year-old man hit a man in the face with the bowling ball during a melee involving six bowlers at the Rocklin AMF Lanes. Two groups got into a fist fight about 12:40 a.m. Thursday after two bowlers approached the lane at the same time. They couldn't agree which should go first.
Rocklin police Sgt. Terry Jewell said the victim was treated for facial injuries at a local hospital. Doctors reinserted the tooth, hoping it will reattach itself.
The suspect was being held on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon in Placer County Jail.

article courtesy of The Sacramento Bee, http://www.sacbee.com


Friday, March 20, 2009

There is No Me Without You

Haregewoin Teferra

some of Haregewoin Teferra's children

My friend Judith passed along an email about this earlier today, and I must say, I was captivated by the pictures. I had known of the book and this story before, but today, especially, I was drawn in by the photos and the faces in them.

Melissa Fay Greene is an accomplished author and wrote the award-winning book, There is No Me Without You. It is the story of an Ethiopian middle-class widow named Haregewoin Teferra whose home became a refuge for hundreds of AIDS orphans, and about a few remarkable children who moved through her life. I look at the pictures of Haregewoin, and I just see LOVE in her eyes, in her expression.

Haregewoin Teferra has cared for these children night and day, 24/7. A few days ago, very unexpectedly, she died. The orphans are at risk, and time is of the essence. I know times are tough, (believe me, I do), so if you can't contribute, just pass along this story to others, as it is worth knowing about and learning about, and hopefully others along the way can help.
As I sat looking at the photos, listening to Melissa's voice during the slideshow, and as I read about Haregewoin Teferra...I thought: what an important life has been lost. And, what purpose and meaning she gave to her life by caring for children who might otherwise have been lost. It is bittersweet--she is irreplaceable and this is so sad, but what an amazing gift she gave while she was alive.

Below is the latest about Haregewoin Teferra's passing, and information to make contributions.
To watch a slideshow and hear more about Melissa's family (and her 5 adoptions!), and to hear some statistics that are hard to believe, go here.
For amazing photos of the kids in the orphanage go here.
And for more about Melissa Fay Greene's writing, go here.

Haregewoin Teferra with one of the orphans.

Dear Friends,

By now you may have learned the shocking news that Mrs. Haregewoin Teferra has died suddenly after a short illness. We don't know what caused her death; she felt sick for a couple of days, went to the doctor, came home without a diagnosis, felt sick again, laid down, and that was the end.
We are grieving, yet we have no time to spare: 59 children survive her, many of them toddlers and babies, the majority HIV-positive. Worldwide Orphans--the New York-based organization that has provided pediatric care to Haregewoin's children for many years--has stepped into the breach. They have assumed full custody of the 42 HIV-positive kids and are prepared to take responsibility for the 17 HIV-negative children, as needed, most of them babies and toddlers. Those small children are still at Haregewoin's foster home; their caregivers have stayed on; and the Atetegeb board has taken charge of their well-being for the present. These heroic measures come at high cost: it is estimated to require about $4,600 per child to cover food, healthcare and medicine, education, clothing, and caregivers. Once the children's basic needs are secure, their paperwork will be sorted out: some may be eligible for adoption, others may have extended families in a position to take them in; others may find new placements. No one knows, at this moment, whether Haregewoin had made financial plans for the children in the event of her death. All that can be sorted out in the future. The crisis is NOW: keeping the children fed and clothed, paying the salaries of loving caregivers to act as stand-ins for their late parents and long-devoted foster mother, and making sure there is no lag-time in their life-saving medical treatment.

Haregewoin lived with these children seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for ten years. She is irreplaceable. The youngest children, of course, have no idea what has just happened. Please let us work together to act as foster parents in absentia for them and to provide financial sustenance to the adults on the ground in Addis during this transitional time. Thank you in advance for any amount you can give.

Checks may be sent to:

WWO511 Valley Street
Maplewood, New Jersey 07040
Sincerely, Melissa


Thursday, March 19, 2009

In Only A Moment

I have been so affected by the death of Natasha Richardson, and I have been asking myself why--since I don't know her personally. I am a fan of her acting, and from what I know of her, she is a good person. I think it is the fact that she and her husband seem to be relatively good people that have done seemingly good things with their fame. They had a good marriage, and two sons, who are losing their mother at a tough age.

I believe it is also hard to watch so many idiots with fame running around pantiless, taking life for granted, taking risks, almost asking for something to happen. And then something like this happens, and it doesn't seem fair. Not that I wish anything bad for anyone, it is just hard to understand.

As always, there are lessons to be learned. The first literal lesson is: wear a helmet in any sport or activity where there is a chance your head could hit the ground or anywhere else. This should shock some people into reality.
And the second is: Life is fragile. It can be taken from all of us at any moment, doing any everyday thing. Sometimes there is no preparation or time to say goodbye. Bad things happen to good people every day, and sometimes it doesn't make sense.

My heart goes out to Liam and her sons and Natasha's extended family.

Be safe and let those close to you know what they mean to you.

Head injury from blunt impact killed actress, official confirms

(CNN) -- Actress Natasha Richardson died of injuries caused by blunt impact to the head, the New York City Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Thursday.

Natasha Richardson fell on a beginners' ski slope in Canada.

The death was ruled an accident, the office said.
Paramedics dispatched to help Richardson minutes after she fell on a Canadian ski slope Monday were turned away and did not have a chance to check her injury, the ambulance service director told a Toronto, Canada, newspaper.
Richardson -- a film star, Tony-winning stage actress and member of the famed Redgrave acting family -- died two days later in a New York hospital from a head injury suffered at a Quebec resort about 80 miles northwest of Montreal.
Yves Coderre, operations director for Ambulances Radisson, told Toronto's The Globe and Mail newspaper on Wednesday that his company sent an ambulance to the slopes at Mont Tremblant Ski Resort after a call from the ski patrol.
"They never saw the patient," Coderre said. "So they turned around."
Watch how brain injuries can be hidden »
Coderre did not say who sent the ambulance away. Efforts by CNN to reach Coderre have been unsuccessful.
A resort spokeswoman said a statement was being prepared in response to the latest report.
An earlier statement from the resort said a paramedic from its ski patrol "arrived on the scene within minutes" after
Richardson, 45, fell during a lesson on a beginners' trail.
The ski patrol paramedic "did not find any visible sign of injury," it said.
"As standard protocol, the ski patrol insisted Ms. Richardson be transported to the base of the hill in a rescue toboggan," it said. "Once at the base of the hill, Ms. Richardson was advised by staff to consider seeking additional medical attention which was declined."
The resort's statement said Richardson, accompanied by her instructor, returned to her hotel but about an hour after the fall was "not feeling good," the statement said.
Another ambulance was later called to the hotel, where paramedics found her conscious, but she "wasn't in good shape," Coderre said.
Richardson was taken to a local hospital before being transferred to Hopital du Sacre-Coeur in
Montreal. From there she was transferred to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.
She and her husband, actor
Liam Neeson, have two children, Michael and Daniel.
Her family issued a short statement Wednesday night acknowledging her death.
"Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha. They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time."
Richardson is a member of acting royalty. Her grandfather, Sir Michael Redgrave, was a famed British actor. Her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, is an Oscar-winning actress, and her father, late director Tony Richardson, helmed such films as "Look Back in Anger," "The Entertainer" and the Oscar-winning "Tom Jones."
Watch a review of her career »
Richardson's uncle Corin Redgrave, aunt Lynn Redgrave and sister Joely Richardson are also noted performers.
Natasha Richardson won a Tony for her performance as Sally Bowles in the 1998 revival of "Cabaret" and earned raves for her Blanche DuBois in a 2005 production of "A Streetcar Named Desire."
She was scheduled to perform in a revival of Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music" this year, after a January benefit performance of the show.


Monday, March 16, 2009

If You are Looking for Inspiration...

I know this is an old video, and you have probably all seen it. It made the email rounds last year, or maybe even the year before. But, I have this bookmarked on my computer, and I go to it regularly when I need a reminder that dreams can come true. I think there is such a purity of that notion in this moment. I get goosebumps every single time I watch it- without fail.
So, enjoy watching Paul Potts, a former mobile phone salesman, on the show Britain's Got Talent.


Thursday, March 12, 2009


I have watched this video several times and cannot understand how this works. This fountain is located in a shopping mall in Japan, and creates words, images, and moving shapes and it is fascinating to watch. Enjoy!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Spammies: Awards for the Best, Worst and Most Ridiculous SPAM Messages (in my inbox)

As far as I know, the Spammies don't exist, except in my mind. There couldn't be such a thing really. Think of the millions of entries, the clogged email accounts, the viruses spread by merely forwarding an email for contention. Oy vey. So, I will just have the little award ceremony for myself and all my dear readers. The following "winners" were judged from a pool of the 763 emails in my SPAM inbox. It was a long and arduous process, but I managed to narrow the field down. Congratulations winners! SPAM on!


The winner in the “Spellchecker Be Damned” category (a very competitive category, by the way) goes to this talented spammer, perhaps testing prospective students: If they don’t catch the misspelling in the subject line, they have no business searching for clues with us.

The next winner won in two categories, “Time Zones Be Damned”, and “Most Artificially Polite” This spammer wants us to know that they are very sorry for disturbing us at 10:17am. (note the difference in the subject line time and the time the email was received). This entry was also a runner-up in the “Spellchecker be Damned Category”. This spammer was sorry for the disruption an hour ago (our time), but now, not so much. But repeating how sorry they are over and over makes it alllll better.

This next spammer wins the “If I Seem Really Stupid in the Subject Line, Maybe the Recipient Will Open this Email out of Pity” category. This was also a close race, with many contenders.

And next, a fan favorite, the "Best Lack of Use of the Letter 'L'". This one can be tricky, as some spammers quite accidentally fall into this category, instead of exhibiting real skill.

Next category: “The Most Patriotic-Appearing Email Obviously Sent from Another Country”. This spammers new motto: When in doubt, take the “the” out.

Now we come to the most exciting award categories, the ones saved for the nail-biting last minutes of award presentations. All three fall into the final overall category of “DESPERATE ATTEMPTS”, but this category is so broad, that three divisional categories had to be created.

First in line is the “Pretending to Be a Friend of the Recipient with an Urgent Message” category. Because these messages ARE so urgent in nature, grammar, spelling, and sentence structure should be thrown to the wind, creating a frenzied state for the recipient.

Next is the “Pretending to Be a Friend Didn’t Work, NOW Pretend one of your Family Members is Friends With the Recipient”. This type of message should appear casual, because hey, the recipient and the spammer are now practically related. Formality has no place here. Using the common name of Ugjbovqfus put this spammer over the top in this category, since SO many of us know someone with that name.

And finally, the envelope opens for the last category, “When all else Fails, Sex Sells”. Most of the ED emails cancelled themselves out competing against each other, and this category needed a fresh take on the combination of desperation and sex. This entry was the clear winner, easily covering both areas. I mean seriously, let’s just get straight to the point, shall we?

That’s all until next year’s Spammies! Mark your calendars, plan your Spammies parties—you know you want to. ;0)


A Dangerous Message

I have an opinion about stardom and fame that I think a great deal of people agree with, but some may not. I think that once a person finds themselves in the limelight, a known name, or famous--either through Hollywood or the NBA--they then have a responsibility. All of the money, recognition, and opportunity gives you an audience, and nine times out of ten, that audience- the most attentive part of it- is younger and impressionable.

Now, certainly, children and teens should see role models in their home and community; but when they look at someone famous, who is making millions of dollars, who has achieved-in their mind--success, they are searching to replicate the actions that got that person there.

Many of the famous have succeeded in doing this-- Michael Jordan comes to mind--but sports stars today leave much to be desired in their message to youth, on and off the court.

I am writing about this topic because of the recent abuse suffered by Rihanna at the hands of her boyfriend, Chris Brown. At first, I didn't write about this, because I am not a fan of either of their music, and didn't feel I knew enough about either one of them to comment. But then, I realized, this isn't about music, it is about domestic violence--period.

When the news first broke, I wasn't sure what the attack entailed. Then, when I read the details, my stomach turned. This was not some overheated-in-the-moment minor incident; this was full on beating, pummeling--with blood spatter and a chilling photograph documenting the aftermath. My fellow blogger, Lydia, wrote a beautiful "open letter" to Rihanna on her blog.

Now that Rihanna and Chris have reunited (and are supposedly penning a love song to perform soon) I am saddened for Rihanna, for her decision, and for the millions of little girls, teenagers, and even women out there watching her and receiving a very dangerous message.

Domestic violence is already a dirty little secret. Women hide in shame from their own friends and family, afraid to tell anyone what is really happening. They often blame themselves, and this shame lengthens their time in the relationship. It is also hard to find the strength to leave someone you fear so terribly.

But I am angry, also. So many women out there who are in these horrible, violent relationships don't have money or job skills and feel so hopeless about the prospect of leaving even though they desperately want to. But Rihanna does not have that dilemma. She has money, resources--more options than almost any woman in this situation.

So many other celebrities and specialists have spoken out about this situation including Oprah. We all know that this is not a one time thing. He will hit her again, the "I'm sorry" bit will also repeat itself, and every time Rihanna will lose more of herself to a man who does not deserve her.

My worst fear is that those looking to her as a role model will see in her actions that this is "love"--staying with someone at all costs, and putting yourself last--and even in danger. It is a dangerous message, and one I can only hope Rihanna wakes up to before it is too late.

Commentary: Brown-Rihanna case's dangerous message

By Jane Velez-Mitchell HLN

Jane Velez-Mitchell says the Chris Brown-Rihanna relationship sends a bad message to young people.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Pop star Chris Brown has been charged with two felonies -- including assault -- in the Rihanna beating case. If convicted, Brown could face more than four years behind bars.

The charges stem from the early morning of February 8, when he and his girlfriend Rihanna reportedly got into a heated argument in his car hours before they were scheduled to appear at the Grammy's. What police say happened next shook the entertainment world.
A Los Angeles County affidavit says Brown gave Rihanna a vicious and continuous beating. He allegedly started by shoving Rihanna's head against the passenger window, then punched her in the face numerous times while still driving. The beating reportedly splattered blood on Rihanna's clothing and the car interior.

The report goes on to say that in between barrages of punches, Brown placed Rihanna in a headlock and bit her ear -- still driving, mind you. After stopping the car, Rihanna says Brown again put her in a headlock. She said she began losing consciousness and as she fought back, he bit her finger.

Days later, a gruesome police photo of Rihanna leaked to the media and it showed her with a bruised, scratched face and a split lip. It was clear evidence of a continuous pummeling, not some impassioned slap in the heat of the moment.
Perhaps even more shocking than these grisly details are reports that this may not have been Brown's first time abusing
Rihanna. According to TMZ, Rihanna told the LAPD that Brown had attacked her several times in the past, and the assaults were gradually becoming more violent.

Yet less than a month after this ordeal, Rihanna has apparently forgiven him. Amazingly, according to an unidentified source quoted by People magazine, Brown called Rihanna on her 21st birthday and the two then reunited for some time together at Sean "Diddy" Combs' Miami, Florida, mansion.
Through her lawyer, Rihanna asked a judge Thursday not to prohibit Brown from having contact with her while he faces the felony charges of assaulting her.

Before the reported reconciliation, Brown attended anger management classes, according to the New York Daily News, even though legally he didn't have to. Sure, it's a positive step, but come on, Rihanna! Nobody can change that quickly.
Rihanna and Brown's punch drunk love is sending a dangerous message to their young fans. And don't tell me children aren't paying attention, because they are both up for Kid's Choice Awards on March 28.

Rihanna's apparent quick forgiveness for the alleged pummeling sends the worst possible signal -- namely, that this sort of behavior is just par for the course when it comes to male-female relationships.

When you look at the numbers, it is certainly more prevalent than we'd like to admit. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, 5.3 million women are abused annually in the United States. An American Bar Association survey found that about one out of four American women are raped or physically assaulted by a current or former partner at some point in their lifetime.

But there is some progress. The Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics found that intimate partner abuse rates in America have steadily declined since 1993.
Yet the Rihanna beating shows just how much ground we still must cover. As much as I sympathize with her, I think Rihanna herself may have to go to classes. Her reported reunion with Brown enables his allegedly abusive behavior and is, in my opinion, a classic case of battered woman's syndrome.

If she is going back to Chris Brown so soon, Rihanna is putting herself at risk and seems to be falling into the brutal cycle of powerlessness, fear and low self esteem that often accompanies abusive relationships. And it sends a message to Brown that he doesn't have to change. iReport.com: Chris Brown fans: Share your reaction

If the reconciliation is real, Rihanna is also setting a dangerous example for other abused women. Unfortunately, despite her incredible looks and talent, I think she is now the poster child for battered woman's syndrome.
Our society must stop this cycle of helplessness that traps abused women. We must give them the help they need to escape the abusive spiral. But women must begin holding their loved ones to a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to violence.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Separating Politics and Science

There are criticisms and compliments for President Obama regarding all of his decisions in his first 100 days. This will be the case for the next four years, I am sure. As a die hard supporter of President Obama, I have been nothing but thrilled with his changes, initiative and communication so far.

One of my biggest concerns from the Bush administration was the blocking of much needed stem cell research, based more on religious views than anything else. At any rate, you have to at least judge it as politics over science.

I was thrilled to hear of the overturning of this order, and the clear statement from Obama that politics cannot stand in the way of science--he is clearly making a stand to separate the two--and let much needed scientists and environmentalists do their work.

The only sad note to all this is that eight years of work (and progress) was lost during the Bush administration.

Obama overturns Bush policy on stem cells

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Obama signed an executive order Monday repealing a Bush-era policy that limited federal tax dollars for embryonic stem cell research.

President Obama signs the executive order on stem cell policy Monday at the White House.

Obama's move overturns an order signed by President Bush in 2001 that barred the National Institutes of Health from funding research on embryonic stem cells beyond using 60 cell lines that existed at that time.
Obama also signed a presidential memorandum establishing greater independence for federal science policies and programs.
"In recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values,"
Obama said at the White House.
"In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research -- and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly."
Watch as Obama announces he's lifting the funding ban »
The president pledged to develop "strict guidelines" to ensure that such research "never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction."
Such a possibility, he maintained, is "dangerous, profoundly wrong and has no place in our society or any society."

Obama's order directs the NIH to develop revised guidelines on federal funding for embryonic
stem cell research within 120 days, according to Dr. Harold Varmus, president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and co-chairman of Obama's science advisory council.
"The president is, in effect, allowing federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research to the extent that it's permitted by law -- that is, work with stem cells themselves, not the derivation of stem cells," Varmus said in a conference call with reporters Sunday.
While conceding that "the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown" and "should not be overstated," Obama nevertheless expressed hope that the order will help spur faster progress in the search for cures to afflictions such as Parkinson's disease, cancer and spinal cord injuries.
See a map of nations that have taken a lead in using human embryos in stem cell research »

Researchers highly value embryonic stem cells because of their potential to turn into any organ or tissue cell in the body. Stem cells have this ability for a short time. A few days before the embryo would implant in the uterus, it starts to develop into specific cells that will turn into skin or eyes or other parts of a developing fetus. Watch a doctor explain why embryotic stem cells are so important »
When the embryo is 4 or 5 days old, scientists extract the stem cells and put them in a petri dish. With the removal of these stem cells -- of which there may be about 30 -- the embryo is destroyed.

Twenty-one of the 60 stem cell lines authorized for research under the Bush policy have proven useful to researchers. Bush twice vetoed legislation -- in July 2006 and June 2007 -- that would have expanded federally funded embryonic stem cell research.
At the time, Bush maintained that scientific advances allowed researchers to conduct groundbreaking research without destroying human embryos.
Conservative leaders echoed Bush's rationale in their criticism of Obama's decision.
"Advancements in science and research have moved faster than the debates among politicians in Washington, D.C., and breakthroughs announced in recent years confirm the full potential of stem cell research can be realized without the destruction of living human embryos," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Sunday.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, said the Bush policy imposed proper ethical limits on science.

"My basic tenet here is I don't think we should create life to enhance life and to do research and so forth," Shelby said Sunday. "I know that people argue there are other ways. I think we should continue our biomedical research everywhere we can, but we should have some ethics about it."
The issue of whether to lift the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research has, however, exposed a clear rift between the more moderate and conservative factions of the GOP.
In February, a group of six moderate GOP congressmen sent a letter to Obama urging him to lift the funding ban.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan also issued a statement Monday thanking Obama for lifting the ban.
"These new rules will now make it possible for scientists to move forward," Reagan said. "Countless people, suffering from many different diseases, stand to benefit from the answers stem cell research can provide. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to do everything in our power to find cures for these diseases."
President Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease after leaving office -- an affliction that many scientists say eventually may be cured with the help of embryonic stem cell research.

Obama's presidential memorandum, however, may turn out to have a broader impact than his executive order.

The memorandum is expected to create a clear change of tone from the Bush administration on a broad range of scientific issues.

Bush's critics argued the former president allowed political factors improperly to influence funding decisions for science initiatives as well as to skew official government findings on issues such as global warming. Watch a GOP congressman say Obama is 'behind the times' »
Obama's memorandum directs the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy "to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making."
In a thinly veiled criticism of his predecessor, Obama reiterated a promise to base "public policies on the soundest science" as well as to "appoint scientific advisers based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology."
article and photos courtesy of CNN


Saturday, March 7, 2009


Just for fun, I had to share one of the pictures from the I Can Has Cheezburger site. Every now and then, one of these really makes me laugh. If you grew up with the board game Clue, this one will make you laugh, too.


Holy Hell

There are many aspects of the following article that are appalling. First, a Brazilian nine year old is raped and impregnated with twins by her stepfather. Then, her family is excommunicated from the Catholic Church for getting the child an abortion. (The doctors were excommunicated also). All that is bad enough. But one reason I post this article is for everyone to peek into a place where abortion is illegal.

In Brazil, abortion is illegal, except in cases of rape or when the birth endangers the mother life. But as you read further into the article, you see that in a country where women don't have a legal choice, abortions are still performed by uncertified or shady "clinics", and even more lives are put in danger. And, even though the nine-year-old's family was "legally" within the rights of the laws for abortion, their church still saw fit to take action. The church (and the community) are free to make harsher judgments (I believe) in a situation where a personal choice is governed by law.

When I hear lawmakers in the US arguing to overturn Roe v. Wade, I wonder if they think beyond the decision itself, the bang of the gavel. I understand the deeply felt feelings on both sides, but there is more to this decision than morals, beliefs, and intentions. Religion shouldn't even be a part of the decision (or politics for that matter), but it has become a huge piece of the abortion debate. There are so many intricacies to how and why women make the decision to have an abortion, and why in other cases such as rape and incest, there have to be options. Even now, it is hard to draw lines about the ifs and whens, if it becomes illegal, the ifs and whens might seem endless. But there is no "if" about the fact that if abortion ever became illegal in the US, the same shady clinics would pop up here, the same issues would arise.

And yet again, I have to ask when reading stories such as this: I thought the idea of being a Godly people was to be forgiving, compassionate and understanding, not judgemental and damning-- reading into every punctuation mark in what some interpret as "God's Law". Excommunicating this family and the doctors sounds nothing like a Godly compassion, and more like man's assuming a higher power to judge.

Nine-Year-Old's Abortion Outrages Brazil's Catholic Church
By Andrew Downie / São Paulo Friday, Mar. 06, 2009

The case of the pregnant 9-year-old was shocking enough. But it was the response of the Catholic Church that infuriated many Brazilians. Archibishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of the coastal city of Recife announced that the Vatican was excommunicating the family of a local girl who had been raped and impregnated with twins by her stepfather, because they had chosen to have the girl undergo an abortion. The Church excommunicated the doctors who performed the procedure as well. "God's laws," said the archbishop, dictate that abortion is a sin and that transgressors are no longer welcome in the Roman Catholic Church. "They took the life of an innocent," Sobrinho told TIME in a telephone interview. "Abortion is much more serious than killing an adult. An adult may or may not be an innocent, but an unborn child is most definitely innocent. Taking that life cannot be ignored."

The case has caused a furor. Abortion is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape or when the mother's life is in danger, both of which apply in this case. (The girl's immature hips would have made labor dangerous; the Catholic opinion was that she could have had a cesarean section.) When the incident came to light in local newspapers, the Church first asked a judge to halt the process and then condemned those involved, including the 9-year-old's distraught mother. Even Catholic Brazilians were shocked at the harshness of the archbishop's actions.

"In this case, most people support the doctors and the family. Everything they did was legal and correct," says Beatriz Galli, the policy associate for Ipsas Brasil, an NGO that fights to give women more say over their health and reproductive rights. "But the Church takes these positions that are so rigid that it ends up weakened. It is very intolerant, and that intolerance is going to scare off more and more followers." (See pictures of the Pope's last visit to Brazil.)
Brazilian devotion to the Catholic Church has declined over the past several years. Whereas Brazil was once an almost entirely Catholic nation, only 74% of Brazilians today admit allegiance to Rome, with large numbers, especially the urban poor, having defected to Protestant Evangelical sects. Many more water down their Catholicism with dashes of African religions such as Candomble or spiritist beliefs such as Kardecism. Only recently has the decrease in Catholic affiliation seemingly leveled off.

Evangelicals have not projected a united pro-life platform in Brazil, certainly not one as monolithic as the Catholic Church's. But at least one major sect, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, has taken a stance that showcases its differences with its Catholic rival. The Universal Church's television channel TV Record recently aired spots featuring a woman declaring, "I decided who to marry. I decided to use the pill. With my vote I decided who'd be elected President. I decided to work so that I won't be discriminated against. Why can't I decide what to do with my own body? Women should be able to decide for themselves what's important." (
See the top 10 religion stories of 2008.)
The public-relations campaigns of the Catholic Church's rivals do not impress Archbishop Cardoso Sobrinho. He told TIME that the Vatican rejects believers who pick and choose their issues. Rome "is not going to open the door to anyone just to get more members," he said after comparing abortion to the Holocaust. "We know that people have other ideas, but if they do, then they are not Catholics. We want people who adhere to God's laws."

In Brazil, that hard line carries over into public life and government policy. While equally devout neighbors Mexico, Colombia and Uruguay have taken steps to give women more of a say in the matter of terminating pregnancies, Brazilian public opinion supports the status quo, and the country's Congress last year voted overwhelmingly to reject a modest attempt at decriminalizing abortion. The advances that have taken place are mostly local initiatives carried out almost surreptitiously, such as the move by São Paulo states to offer the morning-after pill and heavily discounted contraceptive pills at state-run pharmacies. (
See pictures of São Paulo trying to renew itself.)
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva did make a halfhearted attempt to spur a national debate last year, calling abortion a public-health issue — even as he declared himself steadfastly against it. But with the Church quick to stifle such talk and the general public not sufficiently engaged to demand action, the debate never took off. In truth, abortions and unwanted pregnancies are a sad constant in Brazil. Although abortion is illegal, an estimated 1 million women each year have one. The poor are forced into clandestine clinics or take medication, while the better-off are treated by qualified physicians at well-appointed surgeries known to anyone with money and overlooked by colluding authorities.

That secrecy has a price. More than 200,000 women each year are treated in public hospitals for complications arising from illegal abortions, according to Health Ministry figures. Those who don't have the courage or the money to be treated take the pregnancy to term. Although the fertility rate has fallen considerably in Brazil (from 6.1 children in 1960 to about 2 today), 1 in 3 pregnancies is unwanted, according to Dr. Jefferson Drezett, head of the Hospital Perola Byington, Latin America's largest women's health clinic. Meanwhile, 1 in 7 Brazilian women between the ages of 15 and 19 is a mother, and the average age at which women have their first child has fallen to 21, from 22.4 in 1996, according to a government-funded study. (
See pictures of America's purity ball.)
Those numbers shock the Catholic Church. But the Church's response to the Recife rape and abortion has shocked public opinion. Some Brazilians hope the controversy may compel the country to deal seriously with an issue that affects so many of its citizens. "Brazil wants to be a world leader, but the government can't guarantee equality for women," says Galli. "This is not a topic that anyone wants to debate."

article and photo courtesy of Time.com


The Real Person to Blame for the "Octomom" Situation

I have kept quiet here about Nadya Suleman, now often referred to as the "octomom" in the press, because my frustration level was so high, and also I didn't want to give any more time or words to this story. However, as some of my friends who desperately want children are getting fertility treatments now, I think there are a few issues to be addressed, beyond Nadya's issues.

If you have watched any of the interviews with this woman, I think it is clear that she is troubled, and has more than a little blurred vision of reality. With six children at home, and upon talking to this woman, any decent, educated doctor would have counseled her differently, perhaps had her speak to a therapist or some other professional, and would have, at the very least, not implanted that number of embryos. This doctor is the real person to blame, for worrying more about the success rate of his practice, than the safety and sanity of a patient in his office. Now there are eight innocent children in the world who will no doubt suffer at least one or more disabilities, with a mother who is ill-equipped in more ways than one to handle this responsibility.

For those that don't know, insurance does not cover the cost of IVF. I haven't heard anyone asking where Nadya got the money for this procedure, but let me tell you, it isn't cheap. It can be in the tens of thousands for just one attempt.

I think this is one of the core problems. Nadya's doctor is clearly negligent--the article points out more than one area of concern--but doctors across the country with good intentions do often implant more embryos than they might otherwise because they know their patients can only afford one attempt.

Now, these doctors are not implanting eight embryos, and they are not implanting them in women that have six children at home. They are trying to give couples who have tried everything else a chance to have a baby. But the increase in multiple births is the result of this. Why insurance won't cover this process is beyond me (although I think I have an idea and it is all about money). If insurance covered IVF, and the guidelines were reasonable--covering couples that could not conceive otherwise, doctors could be more cautious, implanting single embryos and giving the process a chance to work naturally, and give couples one child at a time.

In the end, the "octomom" situation is such a mess, that I fear that some well-meaning law makers are going to try and over correct the situation, and that parents who do need IVF, and who are doing all the right things, will pay the price.

The Fertility Doctor Behind the "Octomom"
By Alison Stateman / Los Angeles Saturday, Mar. 07, 2009

To Nadya Suleman, Dr. Michael Kamrava was a hero. Suleman sought treatment at Kamrava's West Coast IVF Clinic, in order to conceive all 14 of her children - the last batch of whom generated worldwide headlines as only the second living set of octuplets born in the United States. However, to other fertility practitioners and professional reproductive associations, Kamrava's reported means were troubling. And at least one former client had little heroic to say.

"I didn't like him at all. He was very rude," says Michael Verdi, 59, who, with his late wife Eva Menen, went to Kamrava in the early 1990s for infertility treatment. (Menen died of an unrelated illness in 1998.) "When the treatment started, I was asking him questions and I wouldn't get proper answers. I would get psychiatric answers, clinical answers." After three months without success, the couple stopped treatment. "Eva was getting emotionally upset because nothing was happening and he wasn't explaining things," says Verdi. "We did research and figured out he was doing a lot of stuff wrong. He overmedicated her and he was doing insemination when she wasn't ovulating." The couple filed a medical malpractice suit against Kamrava on April 22, 1994 and settled a few months later. Verdi could not recall the sum they settled on or further details. The malpractice suit was one of at least four filed against Kamrava since 1991. (Calls for comment to Dr. Kamrava's office and to his current lawyers were not returned.)

One approach of Kamrava's has come in for particular criticism: implanting large numbers of embryos. Suleman said during her first interview on the Today show that she had been implanted with six embryos during each IVF cycle, far in excess of the maximum recommendation of two for a woman her age by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). Days later, the Los Angeles Times reported that a 49-year-old uninsured woman was pregnant with quadruplets after being treated by Kamrava a few months after he helped Suleman become pregnant. In that case, Kamrava transferred at least seven embryos made from younger donor eggs, according to the Times.
Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, medical director of the Fertility Institute, has known Kamrava for 20 years and used to work out of the same lab as part of a multi-physician program at the now-defunct Century City Doctors Hospital. He speculates that Kamrava may have chosen the path of multiple-implantations because he was under pressure to up his success rate. To keep to the Fertility Clinic Success Rate and Certification Act of 1992, that rate must be reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention annually. Steinberg says that after the law went into effect, fertility centers implanted more embryos per cycle and there was an explosion in the number of multiple births. ASRM responded by urging its members to stop the practice and multiple births declined dramatically as the number of embryos used went down.
The 1992 act, says Steinberg, "was sort of a regulatory control that was supposed to empower patients by providing more information to them, which is great in it's intent. I think it proved more detrimental than positive because it made [some practices] more aggressive."
Despite Kamrava's practice of using more embryos than most doctors practicing IVF, his overall success rates remain low when compared to nationwide averages. According to statistics provided by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, in 2006 — the most recent data available — among patients younger than 35, Kamrava transferred an average of 3.5 embryos versus the nationwide average of 2.3. However, he had a 10% success rate versus a nationwide average of 39% for procedures resulting in live births. John Scodras, an embryologist who worked as lab director for Kamrava from 1993 to 1995, says when he joined the practice the pregnancy success rates were low. "The culture system they were using was not up to par," says Scodras. "I bumped up the pregnancy rate from around 10% by about 25%. So we were running about 35 percent by the time I left."

"To me as a scientist," says Scodras, "that tells me that his lab isn't functioning up to par. If you get six embryos from a cycle and they don't look good I could see where he would say you know these don't look good, I'm going to transfer them all because the likelihood of them resulting in a pregnancy is slim." Adds Scodras: "I guess he did it once and they had a singleton so he didn't think anything of it the other times. That's a dangerous thing to do."
In the meantime, professional reproductive societies have taken notice of the controversy. Kamrava was removed from the American Fertility Association's Physician Network on Feb. 9, the day it became public that Kamrava's clinic had treated Suleman, pending the outcome of the investigation, according to an AFA spokesperson.

The website for Kamrava's practice used to trumpet his lab's certification with leading professional societies including the American Association of Bioanalysis. However, after being notified by TIME of its inclusion, a representative for the AAB said Dr. Kamrava was never certified through the association's board, the American Board of Bioanalysts (ABB). In fact, according to Mark Birenbaum, Ph.D., administrator for the organization, Kamrava had been denied certification when he applied 15 years ago. Because of confidentially rules, Birenbaum could not disclose the reasons for the denial, but requested that Kamrava remove the claim from his site. (There is no mention of the certification on the revamped site for West Coast IVF Clinic.)

Meanwhile, as the Medical Board of California continues its investigation into whether the treatment Suleman received violated the "standard of care" for the profession, legislators have responded by proposing additional regulation of the industry. California State Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino) introduced Senate Bill 674 late last month, which would bring fertility clinics under the jurisdiction of the Medical Board of California and their approved accrediting agencies, and set accreditation standards and guidelines for the operation of the clinics.

Steinberg strongly opposes additional industry regulations. "There's two octuplets reported in all of history. There are over a million IVF babies. It's been going on for 33 years so in 33 years there have been a handful of problems," says Steinberg. "It's not cookbook medicine. Every single case, every single couple, every single single woman is a unique situation and regulations tend to address things in general."

Kamrava's working style also left his employees wanting. "If something went wrong that he didn't like, he was a yeller. He did yell at the office staff. I didn't experience that. I'm kind of in a different position. In any fertility practice, I'm treated as more of an equal to the physician than a simple employee," says Scodras.

When Scodras decided to take his current position as lab director of Southwest Florida Fertility Center in Fort Meyers, Fla., Kamrava hired Dr. Shantal Rajah, an embryologist he recruited from England. "Honestly, I was surprised he hired a woman because, although with his patients he got along very well, I just pictured him as more suited to a male in the lab," says Scodras. After just three weeks in Kamrava's employ, Rajah found herself at odds with the doctor over the heating of the laboratory and was abruptly asked to leave the practice. She sued him for breach of contract, reaching a settlement in 2003. Rajah declined to comment further about the case.
article and picture courtesy of Time.com


Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Quick 10: 10 Eiffel Tower Essentials

I often stop by Mental Floss to look for things to post here, and of course I couldn't resist this listing of 10 facts about my favorite monument in my favorite city. I consider myself a bit of an Eiffel expert, but a few of these were news to me!

by Stacy Conradt - March 5, 2009 - 3:27 PM

The famous Eiffel Tower was inaugurated 120 years ago this month. Even if you’ve never been there, you’ve no doubt seen the thing a million times – it’s practically synonymous with Paris and France (to the chagrin of some, I’m sure). But what do you really know about it? Here are 10 bits of trivia to amaze your family and impress your friends. Or something like that. They probably aren’t “essentials,” exactly, but I like alliteration maybe more than I should.

1. When the lofty landmark was inaugurated in 1889, it was the tallest structure in the world. This only lasted until 1930, when the Chrysler Building shot past it by more than 60 feet. It’s currently taller than the Chrysler Building, though, if you count the 79-foot antenna added to the top. This still makes it only the fifth-tallest building in France .

2. La Tour Eiffel looks like it’s one uniform color, but that’s only perspective. Since it’s so tall, it takes three different shades of whatever the color is (right now it’s a brownish-grey) to make it appear all one shade. The darkest shade is used on the bottom and the lightest on the top. It’s recoated with 60-70 tons of paint every seven years to prevent it from rusting.

3. World-famous chef Alain Ducasse runs Jules Verne, the gourmet restaurant on the second level.

4. In 1912, an inventor testing out his coat-parachute died when he jumped from the first deck and his invention failed him. Whoops.

5. The French sabotaged the Eiffel Tower before they ceded it to the Nazis and Hitler during WWII: they disabled the elevators, making sure that Hitler would have to climb to the top if he wanted a fantastic view of
Paris (and he did: he agreed that Paris was the most beautiful of all of the European cities). The elevators were repaired in 1944 and all Allied soldiers were given free trips to the top.

6. You’ll find little Eiffel Towers all over the world, sometimes in the most baffling places.
You know about the ones in Las Vegas and Disney World, I’m sure, but replicas are also in Hangzhou, China; Shenzhen, China; Slobozia, Romania; Copenhagen, Denmark; Messinia, Greece; Varna, Bulgaria; and Aktau, Kazakhstan. These in addition to mini-Eiffels in the hundreds of towns in the U.S. named “Paris,” of course.

7. Gustave Eiffel had 72 names engraved on the tower to represent some of the great French scientists, engineers and mathematicians of the day. You can find the whole list

8. Talk about an eyesore – from 1925-1934, Citroën used three of the four sides of the landmark as an advertising space. At tht time, it was the world’s largest advertising ever.

9. Despite its great height, only one person died during the construction of the tower.

10. Thomas Edison visited the Eiffel Tower and was most impressed with it. He signed the guestbook, “To M Eiffel the Engineer the brave builder of so gigantic and original specimen of modern Engineering from one who has the greatest respect and admiration for all Engineers including the Great Engineer the Bon Dieu, Thomas Edison”

article and photo courtesy of mentalfloss.com


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

They Survived and I am Hooked

Pretty much without exception, I have hated reality TV or anything that looks like it. And as each television station releases their new lineup of shows each season, I am always saddened to see more reality tv on the list, and the topics and titles of the shows seem to have been conceived by middle schoolers.

I originally wrote off the show I Survived on the Biography channel, thinking this to be the latest reality showdown-type program. What it is instead is a documentary feature program and is totally worth the watch. The basic premise is 2 or 3 stories are covered during each show, each about someone who survived an experience, escaping death only by a whisper.

The filming is done with one simple camera angle on each person with a black background. There is no glitz or hamming up of anything. Whoever (wisely) produces and directs this show realized that the stories and the emotion-filled voices of these survivors provides all the drama and intensity a viewer needs. I have been moved to tears more than once, and inspired by every story.

The one in particular that has stuck with me (and that is not posted on the website yet) featured a woman who was on a plane that had been hijacked. (this was pre 9/11 and was an international flight). The hijackers took over the plane and immediately shot a few passengers and/or crew members, then threw their bodies down the stairwell on the tarmac. The whole plane was terrified of course, and the hijackers would randomly pick three people at certain intervals, place them in the same empty seats, and if their demands weren't met, would kill one of them every 15 minutes. Then, this woman (the survivor) and her seatmate, whom she didn't know, were "chosen" and put in these seats along with one other passenger. The other two were shot as the 15 minutes passed. This woman knew she only had 15 minutes to live. She told of praying and of closing her eyes and "placing" everyone in front of her to say goodbye--her family, loved ones, and her new husband. And, because she hadn't had the chance to have children, she put this "anonymous" child in front of her and said goodbye to that child.

15 minutes passed, then another, then hours. But, the negotiations did fail. She was dragged to the front of the plane and a gun put to her head. She said she had a brief moment where she felt she would be alright. She was shot and tossed down onto the tarmac.

She laid there for hours until the hijackers allowed airport employees to remove the bodies. She had somehow survived. She was rushed to a hospital and taken care of.

Most of the people on the plane perished, as the plane was rushed by police and security, the hijackers set off hand grenades down the aisles.

I cannot express to you the grace in this woman's voice, her appreciation of the beauty of life, her kind remembrance of her seatmate even after all these years. I was riveted.

You may think--that is so sad, so horrifying-- why would I want to watch something like that? I will tell you why. Because within every one of these stories are heroes, people who do amazing, otherworldly things to help others, to help them survive and tell these stories. And that matters.

For more information on the show and showtimes, and to watch some of the previous shows online, click here.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

It's Almost Time...

...for the Ranunculus to be available! I think I posted about these beautiful flowers last year, too. I don't know if it is because they are only available for 2-3 months out of the year, or just their beauty, but I adore these flowers, they are my favorites.
They are completely unique with petals like paper that seem to unfold instead of bloom. The name ranunculus is latin for "little frog", which lends itself to the flowers often being found near water.
I knew nothing about these flowers until one spring, while living in San Francisco, I was downtown and came upon the most amazing outdoor flower market. I walked up and down the aisles and saw these beautiful flowers in a bucket and asked the vendor about them. I was hooked from then on. He told me that they were usually only available from Feb-May, but at least through florists I have found here in NC, and even online florists, I am lucky to see them longer than March-April.
If you have never seen them up close, keep an eye out soon!


Monday, March 2, 2009

Good News for Lulu and Bizkit the Sleepwalking Dog

First, an update on Lulu. This is the email I received from Judith today (Bear and I did a happy dance):

Lulu is doing better on all fronts and we're going to bring her home this evening! We've come a long, long way since Friday night when we thought she might not make it through the night. Thanks for all the good thoughts and wishes which seem to have worked well. Keep 'em coming when you think of it!
Love, Judith

Now, for the video above, it really needs no explanation. Many of you have probably seen this already if you read Dooce, and it is making it's way through the email forwards. But it is too funny not to post again! Bear already dreams like this, "running" and he growls and barks in his sleep, too.

Happy dreams to all the dogs out there!



  © Blogger template ProBlogger Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP