Book Review: “What Every Person Should Know About WAR” by Chris Hedges

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While this book is dated, being published in 2003, it remains relevant in the clarity it brings to the facts of war.  Most striking in Chris Hedges‘ introduction are a paragraph about the book content and a closing about how hard it might be to read.  I highly recommend it for anyone seeking to join the U.S. Military or National Guard.

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I think the review by Goodreads was quite accurate:

Utterly lacking in rhetoric or dogma, this manual relies instead on bare fact, frank description, and a spare question-and-answer format. Hedges allows U.S. military documentation of the brutalizing physical and psychological consequences of combat to speak for itself. …
This profound and devastating portrayal of the horrors to which we subject our armed forces stands as a ringing indictment of the glorification of war and the concealment of its barbarity.

Some of the things I learned (again, based on this 2003 edition):

  • From 1940-1996 (war & peace cycles, arms race of the cold war), America spent $16.23 Trillion on military ($5.82T on nukes), versus $1.7T on health care and $1.24T on international affairs. [So… if we’d spent all the money we spent on military/war instead on programs for our citizens, this could have become a pretty nice place to live.  Reminds me of Vonnegut, aptly enough as we discuss war, who noted, “The good Earth — we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy.”]
  • The U.S. is the world’s largest arms manufacturer, supplying almost half of all arms sold in the world market.  [This might be why they hate us…]
  • One is more likely to abuse your spouse if in the military.  The Pentagon has disclosed that an average of one child or spouse dies each week at the hands of a relative in the military.  [Wonder what the current statistics show…]
  • Artillery shells can kill you by heat, blast effect, or shrapnel, which sprays ~200′ in all directions and can strike at twice the velocity of an AK-47 round (1,798 meters/sec or almost 6000 feet/second).
  • Explosions create pressure waves moving at 6000 miles/hour.  In enclosed spaces, even a hand grenade can cause serious internal injury.
  • Pressure can rupture air sacs in your lungs meaning, even if you think you are fine, you have have respiratory stress up to 48 hours later that can be fatal. Your organs can rupture even if your skin is not broken.
  • Land mines of 30-grams will blow off your foot or damage it so it will require amputation.  A 150-gram land mine will shred your legs to midthigh.
  • Fragmentation mines are often interconnected in a series of three to six mines and have explosion velocity of about 1000 meters/second (3280 feet/second).
  • Hand grenades can be lethal to a radius of 150 feet, explosing a thousand fragments at 2000 meters/second.
  • If you are hit by an explosive that does not detonate, and the surgeon thinks you can survive and the round will not detonate, it will be removed.  [Else, you just sit there until you die?  They shoot you in the head?  This left me guessing…]
  • Incendiary devices are quite awful.  Magnesium and thermite burns are small but deep.  Phosphorus can burn for hours and has toxic effects on liver, kidneys, and heart. Napalm burns more of the body and often suffocates its victims as it burns for a long time creating toxic vapors.
  • Dumdum bullets were so devastating that they were outlawed in 1899 at the Hague Conference.  New M16A2 bullets are even more damaging.
  • Exit wound from a 5.56 mm (0.22″) dumdum bullet can leave an exit wound of 4″ diameter.
  • Guns are the most effective weapon as they most likely take a soldier from the battlefield.  1/3 of hit soldiers die, 1/3 are removed from battlefield (many permanently discharged) and 1/3 return to battle quickly.
  • There are many Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) from nuclear to biological to chemical (often referred to as NBC).
  • Nukes can kill you in many ways from the blast, to thermal radiation, to initial and residual nuclear radiation, to electrical power surge.  Typically you will die within 2 weeks from nuclear exposure.
  • The only nation to ever use a nuclear bomb was the U.S.  In fact, we detonated TWO bombs in short order on Hiroshima (4/6/45) and Nagasaki (4/9/45) killing 64,000 and 39,000, respectively.
  • Botulinum nerve toxin is the most toxic substance known to science, though sarin nerve gas can kill within minutes (asphyxiation, sweating, drooling, vomiting, dimming of vision, heart failure, epileptic seizures).
  • When you kill someone, you likely go through several emotional reactions, generally sequential but not universal: freeze up (unable to pull trigger), kill with possible exhilaration due to adrenaline (which can create a “killing addiction”), followed by remorse/revulsion, and finally rationalization and acceptance.  If you cannot rationalize your killing it can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • About 2% of the population are considered “natural killers” (3-4% of men and 1% of women) and these typically account for up to 50% of the killing done by a military unit.
  • It is harder to kill when you are afraid because, when afraid or angry, you think not with the forebrain but with the midbrain, which harbors a deep instinct against killing one’s own kind.
    • “The military combats this with repeated training.  You will be rewarded for being able to overcome this instinct. It is the same principle used to train dogs.” ~ p. 77
  • Most military personnel are NOT decorated for bravery.  Only 1.8 M decorations were awarded in WWII for a force as large as 8.3 M in May 1945.
  • If an officer gives a command that you believe is illegal, you must refuse to execute it.  However, refusing to follow a lawful order in combat, even if you believe it will get you killed, can result in a court-martial, or military trial.  [Court-martial is a jury of 12 officers, not your peers, while a special court-martial is just in front of a judge.  This contribution is from Dan.]
  • Troops kill officers in every war, usually for recklessness or incompetence.  This is referred to as “fragging” since Vietnam where at least 600 officers were murdered by their own troops.  An additional 1400 officer deaths could not be explained suggesting that 20-25% of all officers in Vietnam were killed by enlisted men.  [Makes one wonder why the government is so loathe to take care of military folks once they return.  We have trained them to kill efficiently and effectively…]
  • 77% of all combat vehicles lost int he Gulf War were destroyed by friendly fire, or weapon fire coming from one’s own forces.
  • Combat stress, a negative reaction to combat, occurs in 15-30% of soldiers during and immediately after combat.  This condition may result in negative behaviors such as raping, torturing, or killing noncombatants (civilians, chaplains, or medical personnel) or prisoners.  Alternatively, you may resort to drug or alcohol abuse, refuse to fight, or injure yourself.
  • A combat high is when a large amount of adrenaline is released into your system and is equated with getting an injection of morphine – “you float around, joking, having a great time, totally oblivious to the dangers around you”, an intense experience… “if you live to tell about it.”
  • Chapter 7 covers capture, torture and rape, though I was concerned that all the rape figures given were of women: In Kosovo, approximately 20,000 women were raped between 1992 and 1994. In Rwanda, between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 genocide.”  [What about the men that were raped???]  Also interesting to note that, while rape is a war crime, the UN notes: “Rape remains the least condemned war crime.”  It was only declared a crime against humanity in 1993…
  • It was noted that in peacetime, US military personnel are less likely to commit rape than male civilians of the same age.  [Not sure I believe that, except that perhaps it is a result of being segregated by sex in the service.  Again, why is rape assumed to be only against women?  A 2014 RAND study found that women in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps were 1.7 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than women in the Air Force (as reported here) and reported this:

    An estimated 20,300 active-component members were sexually assaulted in the past year, out of approximately 1.3 million active-component service members

    • This includes approximately 1.0 percent of men and 4.9 percent of women.]
  • The last words of most dying soldiers are calls for a mother (wife or girlfriend).  [See women?  They do need us! 😀 ]
  • There is a possibility that your body will not be recovered (if you die over water or geographic, climactic, or political conditions prevent it).  Or if the enemy steals it.  And, if they do, they will likely take anything of value from your body, including possibly an ear or finger, even though mutilating the dead is a violation of the general laws of warfare. [Is it funny to anyone else that there are “general laws of warfare”?  I mean, how can we have some level of civility on something that is brutally focused on killing in the name of righteousness?]
  • The process of notifying the family includes instruction to not physically touch the family members in any way unless they suffer shock or faint.
  • Your body will be prepared for burial by trimming the nails, shaving the face, suturing wounds, restoring distorted features, disinfecting your orifices and stuffing them with cotton (destroying maggots and other insect larvae), removing gas from your head, chest and abdomen, draining your fluids and replacing them with preservatives.
  • Prior to being sent to the one person who receives your personal effects, these items are reviewed to remove anything the officer in charge believes will cause “embarrassment or added sorrow, including anything obscene, unsanitary, multilated, burned, or bloodstained.  All letters, papers, photos, and videotapes are screened.  [Wonder how they determine which are photos of your girlfriend and your wife…  Or husband and boyfriend, as the case may be.]
  • A bonus to military service?  “The U.S. government pays for your body’s transportation, religious services, grave site, and other burial expenses. It provides a free tombstone.”  Per the Department of Veterans Affairs: “Veterans discharged from active duty under conditions other than dishonorable; Service members who die while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training; and spouses and dependent children of Veterans and active duty service members, may be eligible for VA burial and memorial benefits.”
  • Post combat procedures should include a discussion of what happened during the war including performance of ceremonies or rituals to simulate the “long march home” thus giving time to process the war experience prior to returning to civilian life.  [Found this online: “During and after the U.S. invasion of Panama and the Persian Gulf War, U.S. Army mental health teams conducted a number of unit debriefings, although there was no formal doctrinal mandate or training program. With the deployment to Somalia in January 1994 of U.S. Army division mental health and combat stress control detachment teams, critical event debriefings became common practice. They were conducted following deaths in a unit from enemy action, accident or suicide, or after other distressing events involving deaths of civilians or mass casualties of multinational force allies at U.S. medical facilities.”]
  • The return home is typically awkward as the family adjusts to the soldier’s return.  There are greater risks for physical disorders as well as drug-related disorders and alcoholism, depression, hysteria, and hypochondria in combat veterans.
  • This 2003 assessment indicated only a slight increase for combat vets in committing suicide.  [More recent studies are conflicted.  One showed similar percentages of military and civilian suicide rates with “no link to combat deployment and suicides”:

    Those figures translate into a suicide rate of 17.78 per 100,000 person years for those who did not deploy and 18.86 per 100,000 person years for those who did — a difference that is not considered statistically significant.

    Multiple deployments appeared to influence the rate somewhat, with those who deployed more than once experiencing a rate of 19.92 per 100,000.

    Among those who separated early, however, the rate difference was significant. Those who separated from the military without having deployed had a nearly rate of 26 per 100,000 person years rate and those who had deployed had a rate of 26.48 per 100,000 person years.

    The civilian rate, adjusted for age, gender and socioeconomic factors similar the the military population, is 18.8 per 100,000, according to Army and National Institutes of Mental Health calculations.
    Subgroups at highest risk, besides those who had served less than a year, included Marines who did not deploy and separated from the Corps early, with a rate of 32.6 per 100,000, and Army soldiers who deployed and separated — 28.1 per 100,000.

    while another finding significant increases in suicide risk (but overall lower risk of death in general, surprisingly enough) compared to the civilian population:

    Among deployed and non-deployed active duty Veterans who served during the Iraq or Afghanistan wars between 2001 and 2007, the rate of suicide was greatest the first three years after leaving service…
    Compared to the U.S. population, both deployed and non-deployed Veterans had a higher risk of suicide, but a lower risk of death from other causes combined. Deployed Veterans also had a lower risk of suicide compared to non-deployed Veterans.]

  • The book also reports no increased likelihood for homelessness noting: “Although one third of America’s homeless are veterans, 250,000 on any given day, studies indicate that neither military service nor exposure to combat are related to an increased risk of homelessness.”  [More on homelessness below…]
  • On comradeship, it is unlikely that soldiers will stay in touch with their comrades.  It seems that while “friendship creates ‘a heightened awareness of the self’, … comradeship is predicated on ‘the suppression of self-awareness.'”    While in combat, soldiers may love each other like brothers.  But once combat is over, “when other experiences intervene and common memories dim, they gradually become strangers.”
  • Yes, you do get to keep your uniform.  However, when disposing of it, “you are to make sure no nonveteran acquires it.” [Yeah, that always happens. 🙂 ]

I found the figures on homelessness surprising as I was under the impression that a larger percentage of our homeless were ex-military.   Perhaps part of the issue is classification as the “veteran” population does not include those dishonorably discharged.  Another issue is data availability.  For example,  domestic violence providers are prohibited from providing data in accordance with the Violence Against Women Act, leading to potential underestimates of homeless women and children.  And it seems we’re having more women homeless vets since the Iraq/Afghanistan wars.

This link has housing situation information, though also dated (from 2009).

  • In 2008, foreclosures in military towns were increasing at four times the national rate.
  • About 8% of vets are paying more than half their income for housing – a high risk for homelessness.
  • While veterans make up about 10% of the adult population, they make up 30% of the homeless population.
  • Nearly 20% of Iraq/Afghanistan vets return with PTSD or mental health issues – both of these are highly correlated with a risk for homelessness.

VETERAN HOMELESSNESS resource from April 2015 noted:

  • Just under 40,000 vets are homeless with these demographics – largely male (91%), single (98%), live in a city (76%), have a mental and/or physical disability (54%) and are between the ages of 51 and 61 (43%) – so lots of Vietnam era vets.
  • While we’ve made great strides since 2010, the problem is still ongoing.  New Orleans announced in January 2015 that they’d ended veteran homelessness and since then, 3 states and 60 communities have joined them.

You can find a detailed 2017 report here.

The Financial Services Committee in DC reported 5/17/18 “It has been reported by the Department on Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that from 2008 to 2016, the number of people experiencing homelessness has declined.”  The information on this website is a bit misleading as the current Housing and Urban Development report (December 2017) reports homelessness is recently going back up, including for vets.

  • Homelessness increased for the first time in seven years. The number of people experiencing homelessness increased by a little less than one percent between 2016 and 2017. This increase reflected a nine percent increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in unsheltered locations, which was partially offset by a
    three percent decline in the number of people experiencing homelessness in sheltered locations.
  • Between 2016 and 2017, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness increased for the first time since 2010. Nonetheless, homelessness among veterans dropped 45 percent since 2009. The two percent increase during the past year was almost entirely accounted for by increases among unsheltered veterans in major cities.

The good news is that families with children may be finding homes (or their kids are aging out or going out on their own as the data appears to be new for unaccompanied homeless youth).  This may be due in part to the Supportive Services for Veteran Families’ (SSVF), initiated in 2011, that aims “to rapidly re-house homeless Veteran families and prevent homelessness for those at imminent risk due to a housing crisis.”  [Though I noted that Volunteers of America is a supporter in this effort – a 501c3 which is also a “ministry”.  So much for the separation of church and state…]

There were over 500,000 homeless people in January 2017 based on the annual Point in Time figures.  Note that Part 2 of this report for 2017 will come late in 2018.  You can find a link to recent annual reports here.  While figures were much improved from 2010-2016, we’re now seeing an uptick of 1% in homeless individuals.  1% may not sound like much but we’re talking about 5,000 people.

So, I learned a lot reading this book, dated as it was.  It was a departure from Hedges normal fiery rhetoric… but as informative as ever.  I would recommend it for anyone considering joining the military service or National Guard in the U.S.  It gives an accurate description of what to expect as it answers many of the questions someone might have when considering enlistment, especially in this age of perpetual war.

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Enbridge vs. Faith Leaders on the Upcoming PUC Decision on Enbridge’s Line 3 Proposal

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So the final round of Public Utilities Commission hearings happen this week.

I’ve spent many hours reading about the pros and cons submitted on this Line 3 Proposal in Minnesota and I must say that I found the recent letter from the Interfaith Leaders to be quite inspiring.

Yes, five hundred fifty-four Faith Leaders.  554!!  Their names and information are included on the letter to the PUC and I can provide the full document to anyone interested.

Their main points include the fact that approving Line 3 would continue the “long tradition of taking positions against politically marginalized Indigenous communities” and that Enbridge’s “history of pipeline spills” could bring devastation to wild rice areas. “Even if there were no spills (an implausible outcome), this pipeline would be a massive new investment in fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when the threat of climate change requires a new direction.”  They note: “All signers of this letter wish to join together in stating our clear opposition to Line 3 and ensuring it is never approved.  We are ready to open a new chapter in how we treat our environment and and how we relate with our Indigenous neighbors.”

Enbridge too put out a letter recently, which they chose to print as full-page ads in many Minnesota newspapers.  They noted their commitment to “protect communities and the environment” and to “bring opportunities and lasting economic benefits”.  I’m not sure how they reconcile their commitment to protect communities with their pursuit of a lawsuit that is seeking tens of millions of dollars from Clearwater County alone. And their notorious history of oil spills has done nothing but harm the environment.  When it comes to job opportunities, most of the jobs will go, not to Minnesotans, but to outside experts.  And the economic benefits will mostly bypass America entirely, instead filling the pockets of Canadian business owners.

The Enbridge letter fails to mention that 1) the Tar Sands products they want to push through Minnesota will almost entirely go to foreign markets, having little effect on gas prices in Clearwater Country, 2) their preferred route will pass through forty-one wild rice watersheds potentially affecting 4000 acres of wild rice, 3) they are actually ignoring Tribal Sovereignty as all five affected Indigenous Nations are opposed to the New Line 3, and 4) their proposed route may affect less populated areas of the state but the people in this area are no less important than those along the I-94 corridor.

Enbridge says they will “work with any landowner who would like us to remove the old line from their property” but has made no strides in a month’s old request from Red Lake Tribal Council to immediately remove their pipelines from Tribal lands. They also fail to mention that they have yet to put in writing to the State of Minnesota how they will guarantee financing to clean up any spills that will occur here when their New Line 3 fails.  With the Canadian Tar Sands pipeline in South Dakota failing after only seven years of operation, this is a valid concern, especially since Enbridge’s lawsuit hopes to snatch from our coffers what amounts to over two years’ worth of Clearwater County revenues.

The question should not be, “What is the best way to transport Tar Sands oil through Minnesota?” but “What is the cleanest way to provide Energy for our Future?”

Gardening Fun

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I have been having lots of fun playing in the dirt… some for the Harn Homestead and lots more volunteering to help others.

After such a slow coming spring, I worried that our gardens would not have enough time to finish.  But, as Char assures me, even if you don’t plant until July 4th, the garden WILL make it (apparently one year they had a really late planting but still had a good harvest).  And it now feels like mid-summer with all the HOT weather.  Sometimes I’m amazed it’s just barely June!  We just never really got much of a Spring…  But things are growing, and fast!

Part of the process is cleaning up the past year’s growth.  Connie and I have recently spent time at our 89-year-old neighbor’s place working on cleaning up gardens.  And then we spent some time at Farm by the Lake, a local venue for shows, weddings, readings, and overnights.  Their garden beds were in need of cleanup and, because they do so much to bring culture to our little rural community, we were glad to help with a bit of gardening.  The property, on Lake Lomond in Bagley, was gifted by Bagley native Richard C. Davids, a naturalist, author, editor and teacher who wanted Farm By The Lake to provide a space where “we can find renewal with the land, with another, and with God.”  I’ve attended music shows, storytelling events, a writing workshop, and their annual craft fair, which also features lots of musicians.  It’s a lovely space currently being cared for by friends Dawn and Marty.

Before:

 

After:

 

You see, in the last photo, Connie “inspecting” my work, finding it acceptable. 😀

As a member of Shevlin Garden Club, Connie and I also recently did a Sunflower planting event where we helped children plant seeds at the Clearwater County History Center (CCHC).  From their website:

The museum is located in the former Shevlin School, a two-story brick structure built in 1911. The school closed in 1991 and the historical society “History Center” opened in 1996. The grounds also include several historic buildings: the first log school built in the county in the late 1880s, a school built in 1936 by the local WPA crew, the Ebro Depot (a small transportable depot- the size of a box car), and The Halvorson cabin (a two story log cabin from 1904). Two additional buildings on site house larger tools, machinery and miscellany. Exhibits are changed on a 12 to 18 month schedule, with different themes and topics covered each year.

We ended up having a wonderful day, even with a cold rainy morning.  The CCHC hosted a dairy event in the morning where kids made butter and ice cream and, just as they finished up their sundaes, the rain let up so we could plant the sunflower seeds!  Connie Nunemaker and Nancy Ames showed the kids how to turn up the soil and then hoe trenches for the seeds.  Then Connie explained spacing and the kids planted all five rows.  The outside rows feature Teddy Bear Sunflowers, a shorter variety, while the inside row is Sunburst, a very tall sunflower variety.  In between, we planted Ruby Moon and Autumn Beauty sunflowers, some of which present with red coloring.

Why do we do it?

First it’s nice to know we’re helping plants look their best by removing tall grasses and old growth.  Maybe it’s something to do with my apparently-increasingly-more-prevalent-each-year-OCD, but I am liking more order than chaos.  [Perhaps to combat the ‘chaos’ of not being able to control my aging??]  I like seeing the plants without all the grass encroachment.  And while I admit I do NOT have much issue pulling out grasses, I still struggle with the cultural idea of the ugliness of dandelions!  They are much harder to pull…

Another benefit we can bring is to relocate some of the bird-dropped seeds to more appropriate places and this allow more space and better proliferation in new locations.  Connie collected a spruce and a couple little pines to relocate.  Would they be fine without us?  Well, surely they would all duke out a co-existence.  But in a few years, that large oak growing among the flowers might bust through the concrete barrier poured years ago to contain the bed. We have one of these to relocate too – but that will be another day.

We are hopeful to help Dawn as she works to bring the flower beds back to what Richard Davids intended at Farm by the Lake.  It will be a multi-year project but will be fun to watch as things transform.   It will be extra fun and a bit easier if we can find more community support for the project. So far, Dan has committed himself and I’ll be recruiting soon!

Plus it feels good to be with the plant nation! They are lovely and if you listen close, you might hear them saying hello.  And, did you know?  Dirt has some kind of Prozac-type effect on people?  It apparently has some kind of component that makes us feel happy.  It’s just anecdotal for me so far but there might be something to it!  [And I much prefer the natural way to the idea of popping pills.  Who knows what else those might be doing!?!]

And speaking of anecdotal, it seems that the friends I have that talk with their plants, giving them love and attention, really seem to have better luck with abundance and growth.  I believe these plant beings hear us and appreciate us when we help and love them.  As such, I’ve been talking to the Sungold and Grapes just outside our front door every day. And I head out to see the Raspberries several times a week to tell them how big they are getting!  Hopefully they will soon be joined by the squash, beans, argula, beets, peppers and such that I seeded last week.

 

And of course there is the satisfaction of seeing the final result. The Sunflower event at the CCHC included a Sunflower growth chart where several kids marked their heights.  It will be fun at the end of the summer to see how the sunflowers surpass the kids in annual growth!

 

Plus, helping to clean up a couple of my neighbor’s flower beds resulted in a delicious lunch!  Can’t beat that!

 

Gardening is the gift that keeps on giving.  Seeing the plants thrive, enjoying the beautiful flowers, watching pollinators enjoy the food, and harvesting the veggies throughout the season.  I’m looking forward to great rewards for all my garden work.

Harn Happenings Spring 2018


W5-20-18-6.jpgell, I guess it’s time for an update from the Harn for the twelve of you who care.

It’s been a busy and full spring this year but we still feel like we’re always behind.  One reason is that we seemed to go from winter to summer overnight this spring.  No cool transition days just clouds and freezing to 75-degree sunshine!!  Winter coats to T-shirts.  Winter boots to Vans.  Another reason was the traveling that started our spring – just had to get down to Indy for some parties – we miss so many people from Indiana days.  Oh, and we both lost a week to “vacation” separately, so that was like losing 4 weeks.

But we’ve still managed to do quite a bit:

  • Planted peas, arugula, radish, turnip, rhubarb (a new variety), a dozen raspberry canes, 5 grape vines, 20 trees, peas again, lilacs, primrose, ground cherries, tomatoes, onions, dahlias, native pollinator plants (indigo and prairie smoke), potatoes, and a Sungold tomato.  And that’s just at our place…
  • We planted a couple thousand onions (bulbs and starts) at Merry Gardens Farm, rows of herbs, and 1000′ of brassicas ~ cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage.  Plus we diversified the farm this year broadcasting amaranth and dill and planting more flowers to bring good predator insects and pollinators. They have CSAs now!
  • Created a Shutterfly book of our first year (really 18 months… from November 2016 to March 2018) at the Harn, full of stories and details.
  • Did taxes and completed a seminar on grant writing at Leech Lake Tribal College.
  • Figured out how to make flower bombs with Connie and made them with the Rec Lab crew.
  • Played a few games of Drain the Swamp.
  • Vacuumed about 10,000 Asian beetles – Terrorists!! – from the windows, walls, and ceilings. [We think they are all gone now…  OOPS!  Except in the pump room!! Got them too!]
  • Saw Corey Medina and the Brothers a couple times.
  • The first robins showed up while I was at Rec Lab and we’ve finally got dandelions in full bloom.  Day lilies are up, and even some Siberian iris.
  • Fixed the screen door and gave the porch a thorough sweeping to prepare for more outdoor time there – our favorite room in the house!
  • Fixed our garage door.
  • Helped with the Shevlin Garden Club Annual Plant Sale and helped pull off the 12th District bi-annual meeting.
  • Squeezed in a show at the Quad A / Andria in Alex – Nunsense!
  • Dan road tripped back to his dad’s home state for an architectural adventure [best food of the trip was there, as were some cool art and beautiful trails].
  • Had Italian International Dinner Night at David’s.
  • Cut some firewood for the upcoming years.  Thanks to Randy of Merry Gardens Farm for the loan of the monster chainsaw!
  • Played with polymer clay a bit, though I lost some things to the dreaded oven…
  • Dumped 13 Humi buckets.  Whew!  We were down by a bucket or two, even considering the weeks off-site this spring.  Once again, an easy job with the system we have in place – see photo here.
  • Visited Mom and Tom and sent a BUNCH of cards out to friends and family.
  • Read NobleGhost Fleet, Blue Nights, Tao Te Ching, Pirate, and Lights Out (watch for an upcoming review).
  • Fighting the Highway Department for our trees along the road out front.  Looks like a losing battle…  Such a fucked up country where roads and cars are more important than nature and trees.  I wish we’d start changing things in a big way towards LESS fossil fuel focus.  In the end, I think we’re gonna see that we wasted a lot of money as we collapsed in on the end of the fossil fuel era.
  • Watching our friend Ann Marie Ackerman make history with her new book, Death of an Assassin [Ann starts at about 4:30 and, yes, you can hear my friend Jacqueline, her sister, laughing out loud as the video ends, which made me laugh out loud too.  Miss that girl…].
  • Read the Swedish War Preparation Manual and feel even less hopeful for our survival here in America.  I mean, we don’t have an emergency preparedness plan/system/website…  FEMA says DHS knows, DHS says DoD knows, DoD says FEMA knows.  Looks like we’re pretty much on our own here.  Go Rugged Individualism!!

But, our rhubarb’s looking good so life is bearable.

The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things

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A review of The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things: Fourteen Natural Steps to Health and Happiness by Larry Dossey, M.D.

A wonderful read sure to enlighten and inform. Covering topics from Optimism and Risk to Tears and Dirt, a wide range of ideas is shared about how the ordinary things in life can bring healing and happiness to us all.  Written by a medical doctor, this work can be scathing at times in calling out the hostility of modern medicine to accept and respect the mundane. Perhaps it is the ever increasing complexity of medicine that poo-poos the simple.  Nonetheless, simplicity is making a resurgence in many ways… likely the result of the increasing complexity of much of modern life!

Below are are some of the wonderful things I learned.  But note that this is a tip of the iceberg to what is included in this 265-page book (298 pages if you include all the Notes).

Optimism: Optimists get sick less often and live longer than pessimists!!  And people enjoy the company of optimists more than pessimists.  Makes me want to be optimistic ALL the time!!  There are a couple extreme stories of optimism and pessimism leading to life or death after a diagnosis.  But… some can find the unending view of the silver lining annoying.  Funniest quote?  Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915): “A pessimist is a man who has been compelled to live with an optimist.”  (I think Dan liked this… or maybe just related well to it!)  He discusses this idea of optimism in much detail, including the downsides of optimism.  One of the critical points made is that optimism can be learned, as can pessimism.  He notes that the learning of pessimism happens “any time we foster social conditions that make it more difficult for people to climb out of poverty, acquire an education, and support their families.”  It’s easy for the privileged to insist in looking on the bright side but for many, it’s easier said than done.

Forgetting: So much ground covered in this chapter!!  The power of a physician “forgetting” the diagnosis from medical records forwarded when giving a second opinion, jurors forgetting the media coverage when determining culpability of a defendant, the sports flub that not being forgotten extinguishes a future successful career.  Dossey also gives tips for preventing age-related memory loss and briefs current research on gene manipulation to improve memory.  Forgetting is critical if we are not to be bogged down by all life’s disappointments and all those little things that happen in the course of being human.  Besides, much of what we think we know is often fiction.

Novelty:  There is no surprise in the idea of new things being fun when you dive into Fechner’s Psychophysical Law, which explains why novelty wears after repeated exposure and pleasure fades over time, even for something extremely exciting on discovery.  I was fascinated how this idea may explain why millionaires require more and more money as they get richer, similar to how addicts require more drugs over time, for the same exhilaration.  Why is there no treatment for money addiction?  Dossey gives many examples and discusses other aspects of novelty: Buckminster Fuller’s idea that we should all change careers every ten years – may not be profitable but we’d sure learn more; mindful eating for better pleasure making each bite “new”; the research showing that neophobes (those who fear new things) die earlier than those who embrace the new.  Interesting was the discussion of how the Psychophysical Law may explain why ideas change too.  Even bigots and haters, who so enjoy their prejudices, can lose interest as they age.  Of course, the opposite can occur… Hitler and Idi Amin simply increased their atrocities over time.

Tears: Dossey discusses the theory of letting babies “cry-it-out” to the history of tears (did you know there is a lachrymatory renaissance in the U.S.?) to how tears for cleansing differ from those caused by emotion.  If you’ve ever felt refreshed after crying, it’s likely because one function of tears is removing toxins from the body.  However, if you have unprovoked laughter or crying, that without any emotional content, it could signal a brain abnormality that you might want to get checked.

Dirt: While I was surprised that he did not cover the microbes in dirt which apparently make us feel happy (they have a similar effect as Prozac to our bodies), he did cover the history of our filth phobia and germ consciousness and how they have led us, in part, to our disposable society and the vocabulary with which some refer to immigrants, i.e., “dirty” Mexicans.  He reminisces about how he and his brother, like others in their community, were urged to play with the kids with chicken pox and the evidence that this likely made immune systems stronger.  Our ideas about dirt may need revision lest we someday have to inject ourselves with bacteria!

Music: A Googling exercise found sex to command 185 million internet listings but music wasn’t far behind, with both having profound effects on human behavior.  Dossey notes that “Crackdowns on music are common wherever repressive regimes are found.” But he also notes the use of music by right-wing extremists to mold minds  like William Pierce, neo-Nazi owner of Resistance Records, a vendor of “hate-core” music.  What institutions fear about music is its “capacity… to point to a reality that transcends the authority of any government or religion.”  Singing has also been found to restore health in some grave situations.  And did you know that humming may relieve sinusitis?  Dossey also provides fascinating forays into the music of DNA, geometry, and nature, as well as how it calms both the surgeon and those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Risk: If you attempt to avoid all risk, you must also forego any opportunity.  And those who warn of risk are often full of hot air.  As Dossey explains, when women entered the workforce, observers (almost all male) noted that “leaving one’s sheltered role… would… put them at risk for health problems.”  But studies showed higher levels of HDL “good” choloesterol, lower levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol, and lower levels of triglycerides as well as better health (for those with positive attitudes toward their jobs).  Of course, there are levels of risk and ways to take risks with planning and forethought as opposed to just jumping the canyon, so to speak.  I think of the times I’ve risked entering into something I wasn’t sure I could do and the exhilaration that follows a successful foray.

Plants: We all know the healing value of plants as many of our medicines are plant derivatives.  However, what about a more emotional connection?  Did you know that some plants are so connected to humans that they will blossom when “their” human dies?  While scientist long ago believed that animals did not feel pain, it is now becoming clear that plants also “feel”.  I find great comfort in talking with my plants and trees and I bet their are many plant people I know who find their plants respond to kindness and caring as well as water and sunlight.

Bugs: A very interesting review of the resurgence of leeches and maggots in health care.  Sometimes the very simple and inexpensive is effective when no matter of costly medical technology can heal…

Unhappiness: Just as we know there are far more ways for a venture to fail than to succeed, there are far more ways for something to turn out bad than for it to be good.  Think about your hotel room for an upcoming vacation… it could be perfectly fine!  But there are a lot of ways in which it might fail to please.  There is an argument that dwelling on the possible unhappiness may prepare a creature for the unexpected.  We often find we are drawn to the accident, the fight, the violence while the normal and everyday is passed over without a second glance.  And, if it weren’t for unhappiness, how would we know happiness?  While finding wisdom can come from an epiphany of enlightenment, it often comes as a result of suffering or unhappiness.

Nothing:  This was perhaps the most needed chapter for me to read.  As a Enneagram 7, I am driven to Doing Something… Anything! But there is much value in doing nothing.  It is often where creativity strikes.  With regard to medicine, sometimes doing nothing is the best approach, rather than offering “solutions” which truly only cause side-effects and offer no real cure.  Often, people outgrow problematic behavior that, if focused on and “treated”, could become a more long-term issue.  Think about the three-year-old who throws a tantrum.  When we attend to them, they learn the value of tantrums.  When we ignore them, they eventually tire of the activity and stop it.  Many spiritual paths focus on silence and stillness, only there will we find pure consciousness, that ultimate state of transformational enlightenment!  As Taoism tells us:

In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.

In the pursuit of the Tao, every day something is dropped.

Less and less is done

Until non-action is achieved.

When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

This chapter also revealed a quite interesting concept regarding energy debate:

energy camps

Dossey argues, along these same lines, that prevention is the analog to conservation in medicine and it’s often seen as “boring and unglamourous”.  There is also a nice discussion of how the Big Bang came from Nothing… and Scientists think Mystics are the crazy ones!!

Voices: This chapter gives many examples of hearing voices that result in health or life-saving.  It also discusses where these voices might originate and touches on the idea of consciousness and cellular memory, especially with regard to transplanted organs.  I love this paragraph:

The ancient Greeks would have considered our refusal of the help offered by voices as dangerously arrogant. They would have said that our denial of a Source outside ourselves amounts to hubris.  And they would have predicted our downfall, for that is the punishment the gods reserve for those who adopt such prideful positions.”

Mystery: This chapter gives interesting insight into what made Dossey want to become a doctor – it is the mystery of it all; though he found most of the training failed to address the questions he most wanted answered.  Mystery, or maybe curiosity about the mystery, has been vital to our understanding of health.  And for that matter, anything.  Dossey argues that fundamentalism strives to remove the mystery of religion through the use of rules and dogmas, which I believe may be why it is reducing the interest in religion these days.  Who wants a bunch of rules placed on them?  I think we’d prefer mystery.  And even in science, mystery is the cutting edge.  When we think we have it all figured out (as some scientists clearly do), we lose our edge in progress.  It is in the questioning and uncertainty that we find the next discovery, the next truth.  Dossey notes that “‘Mystery’ is related to the Greek myein… to be quiet, to surrender one’s self-importance.” As such,  Wilderness is a great mystery and perhaps the reason I have been so drawn to moving to the woods.  There is much to discover about life here, including, perhaps, what the purpose of it all might be.

Miracles: Miraculous healings of all kinds are discussed here, along with the incomprehensible rejection of them by many in medicine.  Perhaps if we’d give a bit more curiosity to the spontaneous remissions of cancer and miracles of faith healing, we might discover some methodologies that we could replicate…  There are many in the medical field who have witnessed such things, though few feel comfortable acknowledging them, let alone investigating them.  One thing is clear: “Skeptics” who attack such things as irrational and impossible are not truly skeptics which infers thoughtful inquiring.  Many of these so-called skeptics have long ago made up their mind about these kinds of things – they are simply impossible.  A true skeptic is always open to new insights. Dossey argues that the vehemence with which these people oppose is due to worldview.  Our assumptions about why and how the world works are often held so closely that to question them is to question us.  To suggest our worldview – miracles are impossible – is wrong is equivalent to questioning our sanity.  Dossey notes: “Those who protest miracles are like a man dying of thirst who complains about the temperature of the water he’s offered. You think we’d be more grateful.”  Regardless of how vehemently some will deny them, miracles continue to occur.  Dossey quotes Michael Grosso who notes about Miracles:

“their importance lies in the fact that they foreshadow a revolution in our understanding the structure of human reality itself.”

Even Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life: one is as thought nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.”

As Dossey says, “Miracles will endure, most current theories won’t. … Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the airplane (as) experts considered human flight impossible.  … they flew their plane… even though commuters could look out the windows of the trains and see them doing so, (as) the newspapers they were reading at that very moment decreed that is was completely impossible for a machine heavier than air to fly.”  And today, “While experts assure use that they are impossible, (miracles) keep on happening.”

I have given you some bits and pieces from this work but there is so much more history, detailed examples, and interesting insight to be gained by a reading of your own.  I highly recommend it.

45DD Not just Pulling Out… but also Going Down?

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It was interesting to be at Mom’s this last week – with TV!  She, of course, has MSNBC on non-stop so we got to see some interesting correlations with 45DD to Nixon’s years (which husband Dan has been noting for months now).  It’s almost comical, if not a bit scary (mostly to think it could take as long to remove 45 as it did Nixon) to see the comparisons.

While it was slightly entertaining, I’m not sure I understand this need for constant TV News watching. I believe it’s making our country sicker and sicker by the day.  The constant plugging in to the “news” which seems mostly to be a rehashing of sound bites over and over, only entrenches people more firmly in their stances, depending on which channel they watch… it seems almost everything is biased these days.

And TV does not appear to be doing anything to bring about any common sense, common decency, or progress for all Americans.  What does seem to be happening?  Well, racism seems to be getting more and more out of hand and 45DD keeps making progress on his only apparent goal: turning back any and every thing that happened during Obama’s administration, which mostly means giving more and more to the already wealthy and doing more and more harm to our environment.  I’m wondering if what 45 is doing is also basically racism…

The CONSTANT “news” coverage is really insane – how many ways can we talk about 45’s lawyers and who knew what when?  How many ways can they say the same things over and over??  I literally heard a guy on NPR the other day saying something ~ it was about 30 seconds of saying and re-saying the same simple thing that could have been said in about 6 seconds.  It’s maddening!  It’s like we need to fill the space with talky noise.

And now they are spewing some of what 45DD and the war mongers want them to… Dan noted Media are claiming “Iran” fired missiles into Israel (after Israel fired missiles into Syria, of course… Israel is so ironically good at hanging on the cross) when the source of the missile firing has yet to be determined!

I believe moving to the Harn without TV was a REALLY good idea…  We still have NPR and we can watch Trevor Noah, Sam Bee, John Oliver, Seth Meyers – you know, folks who cover more of the real news via satire than the actual “news” anchors – so we can stay kind of up to date.  But we are not sucked into the insane and repetitive 24-hour TV “news” coverage.  [Though we do get sucked into the FB at times… which is a whole other WTF-is-wrong-with-us subject.]

The orange one has his own catastrophes occurring with new facts emerging almost daily about funding that seems damning.  I just keep wondering why all the investigations seem to be taking SO LONG…  And why there still seems to be so little condemning of 45DD in light of everything that is emerging.  As David Letterman put is last week:

Letterman on 45DD

On a good note, we did get some North Korean prisoners out – well, someone did.  45DD doesn’t seem to do much except take full credit for EVERYTHING that happens [or will be happening…“We’ll see what happens”…] while mostly spewing nonsense, often unintelligible or unrelated, that only his followers can think is intelligent.  But this was a second “success” for his administration – I think they are going for one/year.  Last year it was Tax Reform, which really mostly helped rich white people but is seen as victory by his poor white followers who mostly will get fucked by it.  This year it’s three guys returning from North Korea.

But the long, slow, slog to failure seems to continue for 45DD.  He pulled out of the Iran deal this past week – which could have grave implications for the US and the rest of the world.  Meanwhile, there are immediate ramifications for others.  For many in the U.S., the only real downside will be higher fuel prices. But the consequences for those closer to Iran geographically could be catastrophic.  It will be interesting to see if the remaining parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for Iran will continue to abide by it, thus making the U.S. largely irrelevant.

What you may not be aware of are the losers and winners in the Iran Deal Pullout.  The big loser in the U.S.?  Boeing. Tariffs are looming and this pullout could leave them in the lurch with their aircraft contracts in Iran.   And overseas? Germany.  With many companies in Iran, German leaders are working hard to maintain the agreement with the other parties. And who are the big winners?  Oil companies, China (the world’s #2 largest economy on their way to #1 as they continue to fill the void as we pull out of things), and the biggest winner?  Russia.  About a month ago, for the very first time, Iran awarded a prime oil project to Russia.  So this could very well be another instance of Putin getting exactly what he wants from the administration he is accused of putting in place here in America. [Watch minutes 2-8 of this video to see a layout of the potential winners and losers.]  As is evident in Iran, moderates want the deal to continue.  Thus, 45 has now aligned himself with Iranian hardliners who want to see it scrapped.

[If you are reading closely, you will recognize the above as a reverse shit-sandwich.  Have you ever used this technique – you know, couching some crappy news between two slices of good, or at least not so crappy, news?  Well, there are not enough good news items from this administration so I had to do the opposite kind of sandwich, which is a lot messier.]

And if you are REALLY paying attention, you will recognize the happenings now for their stunning similarity to what happened about a hundred years ago here in America, basically the time between the Great Depression and WWII.

  • The US is becoming more and more isolated, which mirrors how we reacted following WWI and prior to WWII – largely turning inward and staying as uninvolved as possible globally.
  • The talk of tariffs is reminiscent of actions taken just as the Great Depression began.  In an attempt to protect American jobs, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Bill was passed, which ended up exacerbating the Great Depression.
  • A repealing of Dodd-Frank deregulates the banks, which could lead to another financial crisis as some predict the partial repeal of Glass-Steagall  (implemented in 1933 and partially rescinded in 1999) did in 2008.
  • And most recently, 45 is looking to rescind the child labor laws, which is ironic in that unemployment is still something in need of remedy.  It was during the Great Depression that we saw major reforms in taking children out of the workforce, as so many jobs were needed for adults.

Speaking of jobs, we can surely not count on 45DD to implement anything like the New Deal or the Civilian Conservation Corps – for all the good they did to stabilize the country and deal with the effects of the Great Depression, Republicans still can’t admit to them being good things.  What we can count on is that 45’s continual “pulling out” is telling the world, “Agreements you make with us aren’t worth the paper on which they are written.”  [Of course I know he could never talk like this!!  His grammar is atrocious!]  And what we can hope to avoid is World War III.  We’ll see what happens!

In actuality, we look much like 1930’s Germany… Hitler reference fully intended.  [Yes, many times this has been abused but it’s more and more apt for 45DD.]  The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect laid this out plainly in a 2017 tweet ~ how ironic!

AnneFrank

[Big thanks to hubby Dan for all his history knowledge that wrapped up this week’s blog.]

And finally, with a throwback to Dan’s home state…45 took a little road trip to Elkhart, Indiana last week too, where he told the crowd, “America is Respected Again.”  Uh, not sure what universe he is living in but it seems we are losing respect more and more around the world as is evidenced nicely in this succinct video from the UK.  His message is attractive in Indiana.  Dan and I have noted to many here in Minnesota (and I have noted in this blog) that one reason we moved from Indiana is that they seem to be marching back to the 1950’s (1850s if they can).  But as the Democratic Mayor of South Bend put it:

“Trying to turn the clock back socially, economically and racially to the ’50s, that’s attractive to some people. But the alternative is to move to the future.”

Let’s hope we keep moving forward, not back.

Perhaps the natural disaster in Hawaii will yield some relief for us.

pele

Rec Lab 2018

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Another Rec Lab has come and gone and it was again, full of fun and lovely people, most of whom I only get to see once a year but who I love dearly.  The amazing thing this year was the cohesiveness of the entirety of Rec Lab.

Typically we have a Discussion Leader that talks about one thing, a Monday Night Celebration that is usually a theme of a different sort, and Fireside evening programs which are quite diverse as well.  But this year was somewhat magical in the way that Discussion Leader Connie Nunemaker’s talks, focused on Gardening and including our friends the pollinators, was carried through in the Monday Night Flower Power celebration and the Fireside talks which had a number of links to butterflies and stories from the beautiful garden of life.  Even the donated items for the Fundraising Auction were linked in many ways to gardens with plants and floral handmade items.

And Tea Time was fantastic with its garden theme.  Barb Benson outdid herself with an organized, well-planned, and beautiful set-up for each afternoon’s refreshments.  She included a focus on sustainability that I really loved: For every time you brought your own mug, you got an entry into the drawing – for one of her husband Jewitt’s artistic cards.  [And there must have been a lot of us participating since I didn’t win once! ;-)]  I am hopeful that Barb’s efforts will continue to guide the Tea Time committee well into the future… until someone comes up with an even better way of doing things, once again.

I was so happy that Connie Nunemaker agreed to speak for Rec Lab as she was a delight and a thrill for many who gushed about how much they enjoyed the Discussion.  She truly had something for everyone.  From soil science to flower bombs, the language of flowers to free plants for your garden, she led informative talks where everyone learned a little something.  One of the more interesting points was about rainfall and how one of the reasons it greens everything up is because, as rain falls, it gathers nitrogen from the air (which is about 80% nitrogen and 20% oxygen) and puts it into the soil.  Nitrogen is what makes plants greener.  So after a rainfall, everything looks to have greened up significantly for good reason!

But as is the case with any large event, there were shortcomings.  And these are a chance for us to learn, though I sometimes wish that I could learn more easily.

What I learned through my failures this year is that, instead of working on how to proactively prevent issues, I should focus on how to reactively deal with what I foresee as potential problems – though this year I failed on both counts for the main concern I had.  Maybe that’s why I got to hear from those hurt most in the debacle.  It’s a penance I’m willing to pay though I wish I’d had the foresight to prevent the issues in the first place.

I struggle with the concept of letting things happen as they will… simply “learning from them for next time”.  Some may feel that it is only through failing that we learn… or maybe that we learn best through failure.  I can agree with the latter but not the former.

My dad often said, “Experience is a dear school.  A fool will learn by no other.”  Perhaps it is because I heard this so often that I am the way I am… constantly looking to make things better, constantly evaluating and dreaming of the next best iteration, always looking for the group to discuss ideas in hopes that, together, we can avoid pitfalls and find our best success.

I’ve seen many groups come up with amazing solutions… things one person alone would have never developed so quickly.  I have always thought that was the purpose of a Board ~ to develop ideas as a group, to keep each other on task and on target, to assure we are moving forward as a full team for our best effort.  I’ve helped many groups, often with non-aligned end goals to find win-win solutions so I know it can work.  It was one of my favorite things to do as an engineer in the steel industry.  Perhaps it’s just that I lack the skillset to do that like I once could.  Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s Minnesota.

A friend recently shared with me, “Board work can be soul sucking.”  I can see through my experience on many boards that this is often true.  I have seen success stories and had many good experiences, but it seems that it’s often some of the most trying work I’ve done.  Maybe it’s because it’s voluntary work!

But I believe it’s more because I care too much.  Dan told me as I struggled this year:

Very few are capable of going ALL IN like you do. Many have fears that hold them back from a full commitment to something. Most Americans worry more about their own image.  When we let that go then we become empowered to truly help others.  You have a gift and the freedom to share that.  This scares those who cannot understand it.

Maybe.  In discussions prior to the spring Board meeting I had the encouragement of multiple Board members in bringing up my topic of concern.  However, when I brought the idea to the floor, I stood alone.  I was immediately accused of “stepping on the toes” of another committee.  I guess I thought we were all on the same team!  Instead of being seen as an idea to discuss as a Board, my idea was seen as an attack on multiple fronts.  And instead of fighting for it, I just let it die.  Being off-site for the meetings doesn’t allow as much personal interaction or reading of body language in the room.  Perhaps this is part of the reason I seem to lack the capability I once had in business, and even on other Boards.

And I do jump ALL IN.  But I’m finally learning that it just isn’t worth beating my head against the rock.  [It always seems to take me longer than others to learn this… I’m pretty tenacious.  Or maybe just not so smart…]

Another friend recently advised, “When you feel like you’re caring too much, think to yourself, how much will this matter in five years.”  I’ve revised this down to five months or even five weeks.  And sometimes, it’s only five days to realize that most of life is really irrelevant in the grand scheme.  In reality, it’s all just an experience here on Earth.

I believe I am finally at a place where I can let go this year, my last as a Rec Lab Board Member, and fully enjoy the event without becoming consumed with trying to assure we’re thinking of everything, avoiding all the pitfalls, making everything awesome!  I am doing well so far to not need to correct any typos in the minutes, to not need to address any actions during the meetings, to not feel a need to put in my two cents.  OK.  Let me be honest.   I FEEL the need to do these things.  I’m just deciding to not do them.  I’m letting things be as they are.  My input is not required.  Nothing is really critical enough to necessitate my involvement.  It’s an idea I contemplate frequently these days.

And I am hopeful that, at next year’s Rec Lab, I will not be a detriment to my friends and roommates – who BTW did a wonderful job of encouraging me and helping me through this year as I struggled.  I thank them for their caring compassion.  It meant the world.

For Rec Lab 2019, all I need to do is assure that the Art Show is prepped for displaying the created works next May.  [Sorry, Laura, I’m taking the easy gig this year!!  Though Discussion turned out to be pretty easy too so I hope you enjoy it instead.]

And there were plenty of things for which to be grateful and proud.

  • Watching the fun at Monday’s celebration unfold was hilarious!!  All those women with low hanging balls!  And seeing the creativity of costumes was wonderful.
  • Watching as so many people took time to care for others ~ helping them learn, sharing experience, and being creative ~ was inspiring.
  • Hearing the Fireside stories was heartwarming, funny, and challenging.  Tina shared a story about assuring you don’t live life too quickly and instead enjoy the moments, even the tough ones, as they are often the ones that bring you closer to each other.

I guess my painful moments gave me a chance to let others care for me and I am so grateful that they were there for me.  And it allowed others to give me insights that helped me see where I need to go from here.  Though some of those insights were painful, they turned out to be the most informative and helpful.

It’s hard for me to take a back seat and “not care” (as I put it).  As with any experience, I am hopeful that the growing pains will bring good lessons that lead to improvement.  And, in all reality, most of the downfalls were not enough to ruin what is, by and large, a wonderful event at a happy place.

Here are some of my favorite things…

Redneck Life with Laura Burlis, Ann Hippensteel, and Jill Featherwolf (thanks, Jill!); my polymer clay time; June’s collaborative switch plate (this is the heart of Rec Lab to me – working together to create something beautiful); my upcycled thrift shop finds ($4); Tracy Gulliver’s “star” talk (love it when a first year attendee jumps right in to participate!); Laura, me & Lutz ~ Hippy Time;  Mother Nature – Connie Nunemaker (this year’s Discussion Leader); more of my polymer clay and Jill’s Owl – love him!; and me – Happy (jacket before photo).

I also loved Laura Burlis’ Glacier Trip presentation – FABULOUS!!  Another example of why we shouldn’t rush through things… she spent almost an hour on this – AFTER Fireside – and had a HUGE audience.  And my most favorite time is Art Show where we can see all the wonderful work from our week together.  Here’s a video.

Two Pieces of Good News and One of Bad?

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While I was at Rec Lab last week, there was a major step forward in the Minnesota pipeline fight as the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), Ann O’Reilly, issued her recommendation on the Enbridge Line 3 “Replacement” Pipeline request.  While I have yet to read the entire 368-page document, I have read enough to provide a bit of a commentary. Here is her SUMMARY OF FACTS AND RECOMMENDATION:

Applicant has proposed, what it calls, a “replacement project” – a project to replace Line 3 in Minnesota. In reality, Applicant is asking to abandon its current Line 3 and construct an entirely new pipeline – one that is longer and wider, has the capacity to transport more oil, and opens a new corridor through northern Minnesota for nearly half of its route. For Applicant, the new line would replace existing Line 3 within Enbridge’s Mainline System. For Minnesota, as proposed, the Project represents a new oil pipeline and the abandonment of an (old) one.

Line 3 was constructed in Minnesota in the 1960s. Through the years, and as recently as 2009, Enbridge has added additional pipelines alongside Line 3, such that Line 3 is now located within a corridor with five to six other Enbridge lines. This corridor of lines runs through two Indian Reservations: the Leech Lake and the Fond du Lac Reservations. Regardless of whether the Project is approved, five other Enbridge pipelines in the Mainline corridor will continue to run through those two Reservations.

The evidence in this case establishes that Line 3 is currently being used and remains an integrated part of the Enbridge Mainline System. This system of pipelines delivers crude oil to Minnesota and various other states. Line 3, however, is old, needs significant repair, and poses significant integrity concerns for the State. Accordingly, the Judge finds that replacement of the line is a reasonable and prudent action.

The evidence also establishes that “apportionment” on the Enbridge Mainline System currently exists for heavy crude oil, has existed for some time, and will continue to exist if this Project is denied. “Apportionment” means that Canadian oil shippers who use the Mainline System to transport their products are unable to ship all of the crude they seek to export into the United States. Apportionment shows that demand for shipment of oil on the Mainline System exceeds Applicant’s capacity to ship the oil through its pipelines.

The evidence shows that, due to its age and condition, existing Line 3 cannot transport more than 390 kbpd (thousand barrels per day) of light crude oil. Therefore, without significant repair or replacement, Line 3 cannot assist Applicant in resolving apportionment on the Mainline or meeting its customer’s demand for oil transportation services.

A new Line 3 would solve two problems. First, it would remedy the integrity issues related to the old line. Second, it would allow the Mainline System to meet the current and future shipping demands of Applicant’s customers (i.e., shippers), who are predominantly Canadian oil producers.

Based upon these facts, Applicant has established, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the probable result of denial of a Certificate of Need would adversely affect the future adequacy, reliability, or efficiency of the transportation of crude oil by Applicant’s customers; specifically, Canadian crude oil shippers.

Applicant has not, however, established, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Minnesota refiners or the people of Minnesota would be adversely impacted by denial of the Project. The evidence shows that Minnesota refiners are currently receiving sufficient amounts of crude oil to meet their production needs. Therefore, denial of the Project would not result in harm to Minnesota refiners.

While a denial of the Project may not result in harm to Minnesota refiners, granting a Certificate of Need would likely result in benefits to Minnesota’s refiners and refiners in the region. These refiners would benefit from access to more crude and different crude mixes. This increase in supply options would likely yield benefits to the people of Minnesota, as consumers of refined petroleum products.

Based upon this evidence, the Administrative Law Judge concludes that Applicant has met its burden of proof in establishing the first criterion of need under Minn. R. 7853.0130(A).

Applicant has not established, however, that the consequences to society of granting the Certificate of Need are more favorable than the consequences of denial when evaluating the Project, as proposed. As proposed, the Project requires the creation of a new crude oil pipeline corridor through Minnesota for approximately 50 percent of its route (from Park Rapids to eastern Carlton County). The Administrative Law Judge finds that, based upon Applicant’s Preferred Route, the consequences for Minnesota outweigh the benefits of the Project, as it is proposed.

This cost-benefit analysis changes, however, if Applicant replaces Line 3 in its current location. That is, if the Commission were to select Route Alternative 07 as the pipeline route in this case. In such a circumstance, the benefits to Minnesota refiners, refiners in the region, and the people of Minnesota slightly outweigh the risks and impacts of a new crude oil pipeline.

In-trench replacement of the line allows Minnesota the benefits of the Project, including the replacement of an aging and infirm line; elimination of apportionment on the Mainline System; and the economic benefits of removal and replacement. (Note that removal of the line will substantially increase the economic benefit to Minnesota.)

Moreover, in-trench replacement mitigates, to a large degree, the detrimental impacts that abandonment of an old line and creation of a new oil pipeline corridor would have on the State.

In-trench replacement will: (1) allow Applicant to utilize its existing pipeline corridor where at least five other Enbridge pipelines currently operate; (2) isolate the environmental risks of an oil pipeline to an existing, active oil pipeline corridor; (3) prevent the abandonment of nearly 300 miles of steel pipeline; and (4) avoid establishing a new oil pipeline corridor in a particularly sensitive region of the State that could be used, in the future, for additional pipelines.

In 2029, Enbridge’s easements with the federal government, allowing it to run six pipelines through the two Indian Reservations, will expire. Thus, sometime before 2029, Applicant will need to either renegotiate those easements with the Tribes and the federal government; or remove those lines from the Reservations. Approval of the Project, as proposed, would result in a partially new oil pipeline corridor being created in the State where Applicant could someday request to relocate its other pipelines. This is especially true if negotiations with the Tribes before 2029 are unsuccessful.

Applicant seeks to decommission and abandon its old Line 3 in place. That would mean nearly 300 miles of steel infrastructure being abandoned in Minnesota, where it will remain for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In addition, the easements that Applicant has obtained from landowners for the new Line 3 allow it to “idle in place” the new line, thereby signaling to the Commission that Applicant also intends to someday abandon the new Line 3 when it no longer serves Applicant’s needs.

The abandonment of the old Line 3 and the creation of a new corridor leaves open the possibility of thousands of miles of Enbridge pipelines someday being abandoned inplace when they are no longer economically useful to Applicant. This is particularly true in a carbon-conscious world moving away from fossil fuels; a move that Minnesota aspires to follow.

To that end, the Administrative Law Judge recommends that the Commission GRANT Applicant’s Application for a Certificate of Need but only if the Commission also selects Route Alternative 07 (in-trench replacement) as the designated route. The ALJ finds that Route Alternative 07 best satisfies the legal criteria for selection of a pipeline route, as compared to Applicant’s Preferred Route and the other route alternatives.

An approval of Route Alternative 07 does not, in any way, infringe on the sovereignty of the various Indian Tribes to disapprove permits or other approvals required for construction of the Project through land over which the Tribes maintain jurisdiction. Just like the Commission cannot bind the federal government, the Commission does not have the authority to require the Indian Tribes to permit the replacement of Line 3 within the Reservations. It would, however, likely encourage the Tribes and Applicant to accelerate discussions that must inevitably occur prior to 2029 related to the five other lines.

Absent the existence of five other lines within the same corridor, and absent Applicant’s request to abandon its old line, the Administrative Law Judge may have made a different recommendation. But under the facts as presented by the parties, this result best balances the public interest in the transportation of energy and the protection of Minnesota’s people and environment.

Applicant states that it is seeking a “replacement” of Line 3. This recommendation endorses such an approach – it provides for a true replacement of the line.

So basically, there is a need to replace the leaky pipeline as a prudent way to eliminate the integrity concerns if crude transport is to continue in Line 3.  However, because of it’s fragility, Line 3 is unable to supply Enbridge customers, predominantly Canadian crude oil shippers, their desired demand. So Enbridge has shown that they cannot safely transport to meet the needs of these customers.  What they haven’t done is prove that Minnesota refiners or Minnesotans NEED the project. In fact, denying this project would not harm Minnesota though she finds that granting the Certificate of Need “would likely” benefit Minnesota refiners and refiners in the region…  BUT, she finds issue with their proposed new corridor, which if approved would have consequences that outweigh the benefits for Minnesota.  IF they do an actual replacement of the current Line 3, the benefits “slightly outweigh” the risks and impacts of a new crude oil pipeline. She does note that pipeline removal will substantially increase the economic benefit to Minnesota, something Minnesotans for Pipeline Cleanup have been saying for some time now, including in their recent March 8th Press Conference.  When Dan gave his testimony for the ALJ last year, he noted that the number of jobs for pipeline removal was three times the number for pipeline construction.  Looks like his point got good coverage here with the ALJ!  Unfortunately for me, and more importantly our future generations, there is little in her summary referring to the massive effects on climate change.

And the tribes are, once again, given a back seat with the ALJ’s conclusion that more pipeline work on both the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac Reservations would be her recommendation, at least through 2029 when the easements expire, though she does note that they have the right to deny the new construction.  Red Lake has made it clear that Enbridge needs to remove their lines from the Band’s land immediately so it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

It is possible that Dan may have an idea of what might happen.  One scenario is to put in a new terminal in North Dakota who would likely be very supportive of new fossil fuel infrastructure and thus eliminate Clearbrook, MN. [Boy!  They’d never see that one coming!!  “Enbridge is our friend!”]  By following the Red River (as Friends of the Headwaters had suggested), they can bypass much of the Minnesota issues and route more directly into Joliet, IL.  The good news for the U.S. is that, should there be a rupture into the Red River, it flows north to Canada so their dirty oil would then cause issues for them, not us.

Enbridge originally made clear that they would not proceed unless their proposed new corridor route was approved.  So this may be a line in the sand from the ALJ.  Enbridge will have to decide how truly important it is to build a Line 3 Replacement… a true replacement that is.

The second piece of good news this week was that the State of Minnesota has supported the use of the Necessity Defense by the Valve Turners in the trial pending in Clearwater County.  MPR did a summary story that explains the history – it’s worth the four minutes to update yourself by listening to the embedded link in this story on what may be the case of the century in the little county seat of Bagley, Minnesota, population 1574 according to the signs at the edge of town (though the 2016 census puts the population at 1400).

The gist of the case is that the activists admit to their attempt to shut down the pipeline but they argue that this is Necessary because all other efforts to prevent climate change have failed.  Our legislators and corporations continue business as usual, pumping fossil fuels from the ground and into our atmosphere while millions are dying from the effects of climate change.  None of our marches, letters, or actions have been able to stop the increasing dangers and loss of life due to climate change.  Thus, these types of civil disobedience are the only way to bring the issue to light so that real efforts to mitigate climate change are implemented.  This is a Climate Emergency!  The use of the Emergency Shut Off Valves on the pipeline was the proper response to the emergency.

This cross-country shutdown of the Tar Sands pipeline last October was done as a sign of solidarity with the people of Standing Rock.  Thus far, three other activists in the action have been tried and sentenced with varying degrees of punishment:

  • Ken Ward ~ time-served along with community service and supervision in Washington.
  • Michael Foster ~ currently serving a one-year sentence in North Dakota. (Got my second letter of response from him while at Rec Lab too!!)
  • Leonard Higgens ~ received a three-year deferred sentence with probation. He was also ordered to pay $3,755.47 in restitution.  [Note that Leonard’s attorneys filed two appeals which may keep this issue in the public eye – the true goal of the non-violent civil disobedience – to persuade as many people as possible that we must address climate change now… and in a massive way.]

Personally, we’re hoping to provide housing and support for those coming to defend the four in Bagley: Annette Klapstein (activist), Emily Johnson (activist), Benjamin Joldersma (support person), and Steve Liptay (documentarian videographer).  Maybe I can even get Bill McKibben to sign the giant poster I have of him in our kitchen!  Rumor is that he and James Hanson could be brought in to testify.

The one bad piece of news – though maybe another ugly angel that turns out to help the pipeline fights – were the explosions at the Husky Energy oil refinery in Superior, Wisconsin.  At first there was no urgency in evacuation but it soon became clear that an evacuation would be needed.  Explosion in Superior 4-26-2018Which makes me ponder, “what do you do when you get this notice?”  Hell, how do you even KNOW there IS a notice?  And how far away do you have to go to be “safe”?  Is Duluth far enough away?  How long do you have to be gone?   If you’re at work, do you go home to rescue pets and take them with you to a safer place?  What if you have no where to go?  Does Husky Energy have to foot your bill for a hotel in Duluth?  So much to consider – one of the many things most of us don’t give a second thought to in our day-to-day operations.  But perhaps these citizens were better prepared as some may have also survived the 1992 “Toxic Tuesday” event when a train carrying benzene gas derailed just south of the city forcing the evacuation of about 30,000 people.  It’s important to remember that benzene is part of the chemical concoction that will be mixed with the Tar Sands to allow them to “flow” through the Line 3 Pipeline Enbridge is proposing…

In 1992, the situation was a disaster of unknown proportion when it happened.

From the Duluth News Tribune “20 years later, benzene spill still stings in Duluth-Superior memories” b

It was a flammable liquid mixture that was 45 percent benzene, which, splashing into the river, created the cloud.

Another car had liquefied petroleum gas, which made cleanup extremely difficult and dangerous. Another contained crude butadiene, a compound used to make synthetic rubber and also dangerous to handle.

But in Superior and Duluth, no one knew any of this.

At command headquarters at Duluth City Hall, Lyons’ staff was having a difficult time getting answers.

“Communication was the hardest thing,” he said. “You had an incident in another state.”

Finally, frustrated, a team went to the site. A call was made to Canada and the manufacturer of the benzene. More than 21,800 gallons of it had spilled through a foot-wide gash in the tank. Officials wanted to know what it was and what health dangers it possessed.

“They were evasive,” Lyons said of the manufacturer. “Either they didn’t want to tell or they didn’t know.”

The command center certainly knew it was an irritant, given the reaction of the officers on Park Point as the cloud passed over. Lightheadedness, flushed faces.

Finally, chief deputy Bob Larson made it plain, Lyons said. He asked the company representative what he’d do if his family was in Duluth with the cloud looming.

“He said he’d get them the heck out of there,” Lyons said.

Now, an extensive evacuation was on.

“It was a movement of 30,000 people with one sentence,” Lyons said, still praising Larson, who died last year.

Of course, Enbridge is assuring everyone they are not affected… but the fact is, they supply this refinery.  Thanks to Ellen Zoey Holden Hadley for this FB post:

Superior Explosion

“Confused about Enbridge’s role in yesterday’s disastrous Husky refinery fire? See the large white storage tanks to the left and right of the black plume? Those are Enbridge’s. Husky refinery gets its oil from the Enbridge terminal across the street. The Enbridge pipelines that cross Minnesota deliver the oil to the Enbridge terminal. And see that dark line of trees behind the big white tanks? The Nemadji River is behind those trees, and flows into Lake Superior, about 1/2 mile to the left of this picture.  THIS IS WHY WE MUST STOP LINE 3!!!!”

And there’s this from the Twin Cities Pioneer Press:

HYDROGEN FLUORIDE A CONCERN

The Superior refinery is one of about 50 nationally that uses hydrogen fluoride to process high-octane gasoline. An acid catalyst, hydrogen fluoride is one of several federally regulated toxic chemicals at the refinery, such as propane and butane.

The refinery can handle about 78,000 pounds of hydrogen fluoride, according to federal Environmental Protection Agency records.

Schade, the refinery manager, would not answer specific questions on hydrogen fluoride Thursday, only saying its presence at the refinery was one reason the evacuation was underway.

A Superior Fire Department official said having the fire spread to the hydrogen fluoride tank would be the worst-case scenario for the situation to worsen, with other experts saying the fumes could spread a toxic cloud of gas for miles downwind.

A 2011 report from the Center for Public Integrity called hydrogen fluoride an “extremely toxic” chemical that, if released into the atmosphere, can spread rapidly.

“It’s like chlorine gas. It’s an extremely toxic gas cloud that can move for miles downwind,” Fred Millar, a Washington, D.C.-based independent consultant and activist on refinery toxicity issues, told the News Tribune. “If your local officials aren’t explaining how concerned they are about that, then they should be. It would be a disaster. That’s what the evacuation (distances) should be based on.”

So, is it worse to be a dictator in Syria purposefully releasing chlorine gas to kill citizens or to purposefully build infrastructure that could literally cause the same end result?  This article makes clear that the corporations involved realize the danger they have created.  If they choose to continue business as usual, and it seems there is no reason to think they would do otherwise, are they not just as culpable as Assad?

It is perhaps time we all begin contemplating what we might need to do should some similar type of event happen in our community.  And maybe that consideration will lead us to discovering less hazardous ways of living, safer ways of life, and more sustainable methods of enjoying each day.

I’m at Rec Lab!!!

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Taking the week off to thoroughly invest in Rec Lab.  See you all next week… hopefully with a report on all the fun I had, things I learned, people I saw, and clay art I made.

Rec Lab 2017 ~  Clay work and Instructor Laura Burlis

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Update: This is the $2 jacket I picked up on the way to Rec Lab – hoping to decorate it in Jenifer Burlis-Freilich’s Upcycling Clothing class!!  (I can tell you it’s turned out great… you’ll see in next week’s blog.)  I also got a $2 olive colored shirt that I’m turning into quite the get-up.  I’ll be wearing it at the next Corey Medina and the Brothers show…. I’m really loving upcycling clothes.  But my first love of Polymer Clay is still taking a BIG part of each day at Lab…

See you next week!!

Rec Lab 2018 Prep

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It has been a whirlwind time since getting back from Indiana.  First I had to finish a book on Dan and my First Year at the Harn because a Shutterfly coupon I had was going to expire March 31st.  Then, I decided I’d made it so big that I should go ahead and use the 50% off coupon instead which had a deadline of April 2nd.

After getting that done, I could play a bit.  I headed over to Connie’s to work on tote bags we’re making for the Rec Lab auction.  Got partway through that work and then headed to Angie’s where she planned an Alcohol Ink on Tile craft day.

Now I thought this would be REALLY fun.  It turns out, it’s kind of frustrating.  There is NO CONTROL.  Just when you think it’s almost perfect, you add another drop and the whole thing turns to shit.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some really cool effects and Angie was pretty good at the perfect tile work.  She made flowers and landscapes and designs.  Meanwhile Connie made wonderful abstract flowers, rose, iris, etc.

Meanwhile, I was like a hippie clown on acid.  All my stuff was just rainbows of weirdness.  You can see Angie’s work in the top four left tiles below (and the far right solo one), Connie in the bottom four left corner tiles, and me in the line dropping down from the crazy alien fried egg thing.  I just kept adding stuff like an ink spritz, an alcohol spritz, another drop of ink.  Nothing really seemed to fall into place.

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So… I started taxes.  Yes, I know, it was late.  But we had the Turbo Tax and I figured I could do it quick.  And you know what?!? 4-4-18 (3) I DID!  It only took a couple days and it was SO MUCH easier than loop-de-looping through all those circular tax formulas in the book.  Now, let’s just hope we don’t get audited cause that program is kind of a black box…  Dan took a pic of me as I was immersed in the process.  I had two computers, three screens, a bunch of paper records, and two TV trays beside the desk.  And I survived.  Barely.

We had a Grant Writing class for a couple days and THEN I figured I could really start working on the Rec Lab preparations.  And what did I decide to do?  More alcohol inks.  (Yes, the tote bag I started at Connie’s is still awaiting a lining.)  I don’t know if it was that I thought I could make it work if I just tried harder or if I didn’t want to admit the project had bested me!

The second round of ink on tile went a bit better.  But I also realized that the clear coat spray had something in it (acetone, I think) that was causing the tiles to bleed as I coated them.  I had one only bleed halfway and I think this was because it was painted while not lying flat.  Half the tile remained as it had been originally painted, half turned into a tie-dye wash.  Weird.  But I decided this whole set could be a “Wake Up from the Blur/Party Until Blurry” coaster set.  You can just use them all the time if your a real alcoholic.  It’s like a progression of clear to blurry work it seems, or blurry to clear, depending on how you look at it.  But they still look kind of cool.  Who knows.  Maybe no one will bid on them.  But I’ve had a couple compliments so… we’ll see.

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The new tiles I got are smaller as I thought I could make some little magnets out of them.  And they are turning out OK.  Here’s a Beach Bum set I made for the auction.20180407_213409-1

I also still have to get packed for Rec Lab.  It should be a fun year with my neighbor Connie coming as the Discussion Leader.  I’m hopeful she has an enjoyable time.  I am pumped up about the stuff she will present – something for almost anyone.

And I am really looking forward to seeing many of my Rec Lab friends as this is the one time of year I get to visit with some of them. And, of course I’m looking forward to the crafting.  And the food – Cheryl and the kitchen staff are pretty amazing at Camp Wapo.  Just hope it also decides to warm up a bit before we get there!!

I’ll see you in a couple weeks.  Next Monday is Rec Lab.  And I hope to have lots to show you from there after I return home.