Archive for July, 2010
Some interested articles that I found this week:
In France, a print newspaper for children is succeeding in a world where more and more news reading is occurring online. The New York Times presents an interesting article about Mon Quotidien (“My Daily”), which has 60,000 readers, some of whom come in to the newspaper office to help with editing and content decisions.
On the other side of the world, the Plastiki ended its long journey in Sydney. This boat, built from 12,500 recycled plastic bottles, had departed San Franscisco in March and traveled the 8,000 miles to Oceania. The crew of the Plastiki wanted to raise awareness about how plastic waste can threaten the oceans, while showing that recycled plastics can be used to build a variety of useful products. According to the Plastiki website, around 60-80% of marine debris is plastic. This mess, estimations say, leads each year to the deaths of at least a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals as they ingest or are tangled in the plastic.
A landmark agreement occurred this week when Nike agreed to spend $1.5 million to help Honduran workers laid off from a closing subcontractor’s plant. Nike declared that the money is not for severance, but for a “worker relief fund.” Proponents of worker’s rights hope that this effort, the first time a major brand took some financial responsibility for subcontractor’s employees, would bode well for the future of workers in sweatshops.
The Japan Times report that 2009 marked the 25th year in a row that Japanese women had the highest average lifespan in the world – now at 86.44 years. The life expectancy for men there is fourth in the world. Hong Kong and France followed Japan for women’s life expectancy, while Qatar and Hong Kong had highest averages for men.
The US, Britain, and France may send envoys this year to Japan’s Hiroshima memorial, a peace service held every August 6th, for the first time ever. Hopes are that American and British attendance could bode well for international nuclear disarmament efforts.
The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, promised $277 million for an Australian suicide prevention program that would focus on men. The money would help with such benefits as psychological counseling, psychiatric services, and increased access to support to the critically ill. Two thousand people died from suicides in Australia last year.
The United States is now 12th among 35 developed nations in 24-35-year-olds with college degrees. The College Board warned this week that lagging behind may “undermine American economic competitiveness.” The problem appears to be with completion: about half of the students who enroll in bachelor’s programs will finish, and only about a quarter of students who start at a two-year college will end up with an associate’s degree within three years. Many believe that these statistics will be improved with a focus on facets of K-12 education, such as better college counseling programs, dropout prevention programs, and education standards that align better with international norms. The cost of higher education was also posed as contributing to the issue.
The Economist published a comprehensive article on high speed railroading in the US, including information on the current rail capacities and possibilities for future growth.
A large highway construction project in Northeast Tarrant County will recycle a huge amount of concrete. The old pavement will be crushed on site and used as base material in the newly paved highway. By recycling their own concrete, instead of hauling it and the buying crushed material from somewhere else, the project will save millions of dollars.
In a great example of “not in my backyard,” and another setback to helping the homeless of the area, the YWCA of Fort Worth and Tarrant County has been thwarted by neighborhood interests in its attempt to find a location to build a women and children’s shelter. Two proposals this year have been denied, as residents fear a group of lawless or shady individuals coming into the area and lowering property values.
And, the lowering of home values felt all around the country for a while now has finally hit home in Fort Worth, with Tarrant County losing more than $4.4 billion in taxable home values. This loss will result in fewer collected property taxes, an issue for the already strapped city.
And, of course,
(Good!) Health News
Nature News reports that a new “antiretroviral microbicide gel can cut HIV infection in women by more than 50% if used consistently.” Attempts have long been going on to develop such a measure that would slow HIV transmission, especially in poor countries. In the scope of HIV/AIDS research, this is a profound breakthrough.
This evening we visited the last Wednesday nightKeller Point Pack the Pool event– free admission to their mini-watepark off the beaten path in downtown Keller. I have to say it is probably the best entertainment deal we’ll meet this year, unless you include the trip to Lake Washington last week on Uncle Nick’s motorboat — but since he’s family, that outing desn’t really count. Besides, we had to drive up there an camp in a tent in order to enjoy the Lake Washington trip.
Anyway, the Keller Point — an indoor/outdoor waterpark with three large slides, two lazy rivers” and two splashpark wading palygrounds –decided to celebrate July’s National Park and Recreation Month by letting everyone come and swim at their pool. We heard about this event last year through the Frugal in Fort Worth blog and this year heard about it again because we’re now on th Keller Point emailing list. I was feeling lazy, and might have skipped it, had not Dean been fired up to go. I hate to say this but he does like to get free stuff.
So the seven of us started up the oldSuburban — about to be sold, but still running at the moment — and drove out to Keller, a 50 minute drive from here. We signed it at the desk and went out to float around in circles in the rivers and slide down the slides. Pia had a particularly amusing time, since it was all new to her — last year she was lying around sick in California and couldn’t come with us.
Although the slides at the Keller Point cannot hold a candle to the ones at NRH2O, and the park was quite crowded — not surprisingly, considering the admission charge — the overall demeanor of the staff was friendly and helpful, the pool was clean, and the clientelle was courteous andnot at all uncomfortable to be around. After the swim, we got out our picnic lunch and had dinner in the park next door, then Dean wanted to go toHalf Price Books Wautauga to finish off the evening.
All in all, a first rate time was had by all, and so a big thank you to the management of the Keller Point, for considering the community and inviting us over. Your town has risen in our estimation due to your friendliness and generosity.
Pyaar Impossible, 2010
With Uday Chopra and Priyanka Chopra
Not rated but Bollywood films tend to be for all audiences
I noticed while editing the tags on the site this morning that we had never reviewed “Pyaar Impossible.” This movie, watched once by myself, watched again by myself and Pia, and finally by the whole family, also got the kids singing its trademark song, “Alisha.”
It was after I watched “Dhoom 2″ with the famous Hrithik Roshan late last spring that one of the less important characters in that movie, Uday Chopra, caught my attention for his enthusiasm and humor. Although cast as a sidekick, he managed to carry off a significant and funny romantic subplot. “Does this guy have any other movies?” I wondered. That let me to Pyaar Impossible.
“Pyaar” is the Hindi word for love, apparently. The Pyaar Impossible in question is the love that geeky Abhay has for Alisha, the beautiful bad girl he meets at college. Although he rescues her from drowning, he still never even gets to speak to her. Nevertheless, he continues carrying a torch for her for years while he works on his masterpiece software project in an effort to become rich and “be somebody.”
Now for the fun part. On an important business trip to Singapore, Abhay meets the still-beautiful Alisha, but now she’s a divorced, working mother — disgraced, in other words. He still loves her, so might he have a chance? The problem is — you guessed it — he’s still a socially inept geek. The best way he can get close to her is to work as her nanny, with, as they say, hilarious consequences.
Upon reading the reviews, it seems that native Hindi speakers didn’t always like the dialogue but in translation, it comes across as funny and engaging. At any rate, any movie that I’ve seen three times deserves a review here. I’ve pasted in the trailer below.
I found this in the house last night and liked it so much. “Joanna,” I asked, “would you like your poem to be published on the website”"
“Okay,” she said. Fortunately she did not demand higher compensation than the rest of us get.
Here is the poem:
Am I the Master of My Fate
Am I the master of my fate?
If I am, what should I do?
Should I make something anew
Or become famous and great?
What if I wander far astray
Where nobody is today
To nowhere, where no one dwells?
Or does fate master me?
Will I soon begin to see
That I might become a scoundrel
Will I be a mastermind
Of every kind
And all my goodness fall?
I wonder, will I be unwanted or great?
But the real question is, am I the master of my fate?
Here are some interesting articles that I found online this week.
In a fascinating article, the Times of India reports that young girls who are being pushed towards marriage before legal age are refusing, and citing the desire to further their education as a reason. Studies done in India on the subject of child and teenage marriages carry shocking results. One found that “45 per cent of women– currently between 20-24 years– were married before the age of 18.” Another stated that “16 per cent of women, aged 15-19, were already mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey. It was also found that more than half of Indian women were married before the legal minimum age of 18, compared to 16 per cent of men aged 20-49 who were married by the age of 18.” Reasons for early marriage of girls include poverty – the desire to remove a person from the family’s responsibility – and the higher desirability, and thus lower dowry, for young girls.
The issue of illegally early marriage and childbirth is much more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas. It results in a lower educational level for women, a greater risk of complications in childbirth, and a higher rate of infant mortality. Due to the sexual activities of the older man in the marriage, these women are also put at a greater risk for STDs. The article states that “An analysis of the HIV epidemic shows that the prevalence of HIV infection is highest in girls between 15-24 and peaks in men between five to ten years later.”
The New York Times had a story of success against this system: a woman born into an “untouchable” caste in India, married young, yet who today had her own business and is self-sufficient.
The Star Telegram reports on local student support for the D.R.E.A.M Act, which would “provide a path to citizenship for college students who came to this country as children, have been in the U.S at least five years, and have not been in trouble.” The Act would allow these students, among other things, access to Federal student loans and the ability to be legally eligible for work once they graduate.
Due to budget shortfalls, many states are cutting back on programs that offer home-care services for people unable to take care of themselves, who otherwise would likely end up out of their house and in a nursing home. Proponents of home-health argue that this move will not actually save states money, as the patients will be more likely to end up in hospitals or nursing homes, at the state’s expense. Some states, including Texas, have frozen the level of home-health services, even as demand rises.
By the end of the next few weeks, the vast majority of states will have adopted a set of national education standards. Texas has stated it is not interested in participating in this drive to even the standards for students across the country, while lowering the cost for states in developing their own set of normative levels.
Finally on the National level, the Senate passed a bill which would increase unemployment pay to Americans who had been out of work and looking for more than six months.This move comes at a good time, as unemployment insurance claims jumped this month.
The City of Fort Worth is taking a break on a decision regarding a federal grant that could be used to build Fort Worth a public streetcar system. Many residents feel that a streetcar system would provide low-cost, attractive public transportation – a major plus for the city. The city is unsure of whether it can provide matching funds to accept the grant and pay for the streetcar system, which is estimated to cost 80 to 130 million dollars. There are also concerns regarding funding for other transportation projects in the city.
Also, several people spoke about how the Directions Home program, the City of Fort Worth’s year-old homelessness prevention program, had positively impacted their path to self-sufficiency. Fort Worth, facing a budget shortfall, is unsure of whether the program’s funding will be maintained at its current level. So far, the program has aided 322 people in finding places to live, not only giving them a “key to a door” but a major step towards self-sufficiency.
And, since I’m writing this, we couldn’t go without some
The ongoing battle to eradicate polio has been plagued by setbacks, including a large outbreak in Tajikistan and new people being infected with a mutated version of a live virus given to immunize someone else. The live-virus vaccine is safe for the person administered to but, if the contained virus later mutates, could affect a small number of other persons, infecting them with the disease. Fear of the live-virus vaccine, which is cheaper than other polio vaccination forms, could cause serious setbacks in the race to eliminate this terrible disease, which causes paralysis in some cases. In the U.S, the age of the iron lung was ended quickly with Jonas Salk’s 1955 discovery of an effective vaccine.
To promote the dignity and independence of older adults, persons with disabilities, and other homebound persons by delivering nutritious meals and providing or coordinating needed services.
What is Meals on Wheels?
The Meals on Wheels sector of Tarrant County has operated independently since 1973. The goal of the organization is to fight the issue of hunger by providing all persons unable to supply themselves with breakfast, lunch and dinner with those meals on a daily basis, as well as any other commodities they may need.
Meals on Wheels (MOW) also provides clients with fans, air conditioners, walkers, wheel chairs, supplemental food (from food banks, etc), blankets, microwaves, house slippers, toiletries, and other supplies to clients with limited resources and immediate need. They also arrange for medical transportation, lawn care, and small home repairs on a limited basis.
Meals on Wheels Programs and Fundraisers
MOW is much more than just a food deliver program. The organization host several other programs and events to benefit their clients and the community.
Companion Pet Program- Volunteers deliver pet food to needy clients at times other than regular meal delivery.
Friend 2 Friend- Volunteers are matched with clients for personal visits and phone calls at times other than regular meal delivery. They may also run errands for clients who can not shop for themselves.
Neighbor Helping Neighbor- Coordinators visit people door to door in targeted neighborhoods to identify isolated elderly people and help them find the resources they need. Coordinators partner with churches, businesses, city representatives, and individuals to develop an ongoing core resource group to help isolated senior citizens and keep them safe within their community.
F.I.R.E Help- Smoke detectors are provided for clients in cooperation with local fire departments.
MOW has two annual fundraisers- the Celebrity Golf Classic golf tournament held at the Ridglea Country Club and the Mardi Gras fundraiser held each March. These events have raised thousands of dollars each year which goes towards purchasing meals for the clients. MOW especially relies on volunteer support for these two major events.
Mayors for Meals is a day where mayors of different locations in the area volunteer their time to deliver meals to clients.
High Heels and Hot Meals is a day where city businesswomen volunteer their time to deliver meals to clients.
Diabetes Screening and Intervention- Clients are screened for diabetes and provided resources accordingly. This program received national recognition in 2007 and 2009.
Numbers and Statistics
985,361 meals were prepared and delivered to disabled persons in 2009.
3,949 Tarrant County residents received meals in 2009.
85% of the clients are over the age of 60 years and the median age of clients is 77 years.
67% of clients are female.
$850 is the median client monthly income.
36% of clients are minority citizens.
The average client remains in the MOW program for 5.8 months.
The average number of new clients added each month is 156.
$5 is the actual cost of each meal.
5,398 people volunteered their time, gasoline, and energy to MOW in 2009.
166,953 hours were donated by volunteers in 2009.
Approx. 931,840 miles were driven by volunteers while delivering meals in 2009.
The Issue of Senior Hunger in America
MOW conducted a study in 2008 regarding the issue of senior hunger in America. Some of the findings include:
Over 5 million individuals- 11.4% of all seniors- are facing the threat of hunger.
Those most likely to be at risk as seniors with limited incomes, under age 70, African-Americans, Hispanics, the unmarried, renters and persons living in the South.
Though the poor are more likely to be at-risk, half of all at-risk seniors live above the poverty line.
Married seniors are 20% less likely to be at risk of hunger.
Seniors living with a grandchild in the home at 50% more likely to be at-risk of hunger than those who don’t.
An 84 year old is over one-third less likely to be at-risk of hunger than a 64 year old.
A high school graduate is 20% less likely to be at-risk than a drop out. A college graduate is 40% less likely.
African Americans are 75% more likely to be at-risk than white Americans. Hispanics are 20% more likely.
At-risk seniors are significantly more likely to be in poor or fair health conditions.
The study projects significant increases in senior hunger rates by 2025- 75% more seniors will experience some form of food insecurity and 33% more will suffer from hunger.
You can find more information by visiting www.mealsonwheels.org, calling the main office at (817) 336-0912 or contacting Jessica Lewis, Development Coordinator at email@example.com.
I come to believe that all of society is one big mechanism for taking my money. Sad fact is that I don’t have very much to begin with, and most of it was begged off of willing parties (parents, grandparents, the federal department responsible for student loans). And then, I walk out into the world, and watch as my paltry sums are taken, as I am positively stripped bare of any resources by the world around me. The editor said it makes one reconsider being a deadbeat. After all, when your standards are so low, there’s no need for Turtle Wax ($3.29), new socks ($5, but no holes!), or car repairs ($∞). And knowing that somewhere someone is getting rich off of all this? Not priceless. I’d like to meet the fool who realized they could charge an extra $3 to every moviegoer for making the thing “3D.” Biggest scam ever. Probably one of the most successful. Or the people who sit around in cubicles, trying to figure out where to strategically place all the items in Target so that it would betray the laws of the universe to get out of there for less than fifty dollars a purchase.
There are stores on every corner, from gas stations hawking cold soda to mega-big-box-stores to places where one can apparently drop thousands of dollars on a new couch. There are internet shops, and mail-order catalogs, and people asking for donations at stop lights. It’s like the whole world feels like Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer: “There’s a lot of money out there, I’m trying to get my hands on some…We’re living in a material world and I’m a material girl. Or boy.”
And it’s not just about filling one’s desire to fill their house. Or having something to do on the weekends that involves ice cold AC. It’s about living up to a standard. Not just a standard of living – yes, I admit, I think that hot water and clean sheets and towels and fresh fruit are pretty necessary for my well-being. But what about the side that I have to keep up? Like the cell phone. It’s not just that without it, I couldn’t communicate with my sister as much. It’s that…who doesn’t have a cell phone? Can you imagine having to ask someone to borrow their phone every time you needed to get a ride, or check on an appointment, or get back to your mother to let her know you’re okay? What about if you showed up at your classes wearing shoes that were that side of usable condition – would people notice? Or the car – yeah, I suppose I could ride my bike. In the 100 degree weather. Or make up some scheme to take the bus, thereby increasing my commute time by an order of magnitude. But really? I’m no fanatic.
I admit, again, a lot of the things that I spend money on are pretty discretionary. But sometimes I feel like it’s just part of a system. A money-extraction process that has convinced us to do things a certain way – a way that fills others pockets. Remember Star Trek VI? “Let us redefine progress to mean that just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily mean we must do that thing.” Yeah, my friends and I can scrounge up a small pile of money and go out to eat. But why couldn’t we combine efforts and make our own dinners? Sure, we’d lose on convenience, and it might mean moving a bit out of the comfort zone…
But remember – the system is all about keeping you in the comfort zone. It’s like the matrix. Where you are just happy enough not to get up. Just complacent enough to not change the channel. Where the AC is nice, so you’ll browse a bit longer. But I’d like to be able to go out without feeling like I am suffering from a slow fiscal hemorrhage. And I know, we’re not supposed to care what people think. Who gives a care? But we do care what others think. We can’t just wander off with a machete, hacking a trail in some weird direction, with our peers looking quizzically down the dark path we have forged, some raising eyebrows, some just walking off, and maybe a few tentatively following. Or maybe we could. Just a little. So what do you think? Could we bend the rules a bit? I don’t mean to start wearing sandals we made with home-grown grass, or swearing off commercial entertainment, or making the thrift shop our sole provider. But, instead, realizing that the world is out to get our money. And thinking, maybe, just today, that we won’t let them have it that easy.
We’re beginning our third day in the OC and having a nice time. Today we’re off to Knott’s Berry Farm – I had thought of taking them to Disneyland but at $75 per ticket that idea is a non-starter – and yesterday we went to the beach.
The kids enjoyed the beach the most so far. There’s something about the waves that’s hypnotic, forever the same and yet forever changing, that somehow both excites and comforts children. Kids who were not getting along start to be friendly again.
On the other hand, for the mom, the beach can be stressful. We must remain ever-vigilant lest a wave carry off one of our offspring. The actual level of threat of this may be far less than some moms believe. After all, I saw plenty of 14 year old boys who had apparently arrived to swim at the beach with no mom in attendance; from this I inferred that at least some moms were willing to trust the sea. On the other hand, the fact that these were 14 year old boys makes me wonder – perhaps the attitude was, acceptable risk?
People who live here know some things that tourists do not think of in their rush to get to the beach. We knew to bring a towel, suit and sunscreen but our hosts helpfully kept us from forgetting the following:
- Bring a sweatshirt. The ocean can be cold and you may want it after you get out.
- You may need extra clothes to replace the wet or sandy.
- There are showers on the other side of the pier.
- Parking is not free so bring change for the meters unless you want to drive around for half an hour in a residential district and then walk 6 blocks.
- Bring extra money for food.
- A detour through the fun zone can keep the kids out of the water and sand for an hour or two if it gets overwhelming.
- Two hours at the beach is plenty. After that, lure them away with promises of food.
I recently came upon an interesting article at the World Health Organization’s (the UN’s Health arm, based in Geneva, Switzerland) website about the importance of clean, accessible water to health, especially that of women and children. The article focuses on water, sanitation and hygiene as they relate to the health of women of childbearing age. The article’s content had pertinence beyond just this area, though, and makes one think about the status of water supplies around the world and their impact on all areas of people’s lives.
The statistic posed in this article that I found most shocking was that worldwide, 40% of households do not have access to water on the premises of their home. This means that to obtain water for drinking, cooking, and bathing, many people must carry the water, every day, perhaps over long distances. This job of carrying is more often left to women, including young girls, and can put them at risk for dangers and pathogens they may encounter on their daily trips.
However, it gets more striking: 13% of people “do not even have a hand pump and rely on an unimproved water source.” Since in communities such as these there are also poor toilet facilities, that water is likely contaminated with infectuous creatures and viruses.
With the information above, it is not surprising that 1.5 million children every year die of diarrhea – likely due to a bacterial or viral infection that could have been avoided by clean water supplies. However, not only young children are hurt by such afflictions; older children through adults may also suffer from chronic and overt illness related to unclean water.
The article does point to some hope, though. Many engineers around the world are working on low-cost pumps and water cleaning tools. Education departments around the world are focusing on providing clean water and bathroom facilities at their schools. With this sort of progress, the proportion of the population without clean water can be greatly reduced.
I found this short article when searching for the state of clean water access in India. In many rural areas in northern India, at this time of year, and in slums around the major cities, the only source of water people have is that which is trucked in by the government. The result during times of drought and great need is scary. While these people have some access to clean water, it is not always available, and there may not be enough for everyone’s needs.
Almost everyone in the US has access to clean water. Water sources, with the exception of those that are privately owned and used, are carefully regulated by the government. Thanks to water treatment, the load of infectious agents in our water is very low, and due to our health care system and ready supply of antibiotics and such, infection from dirty water is almost unknown. In fact, the top five causes of death in infants in the US, as found on a 2008 CDC report on infant mortality, did not list any ailments that could be related to poor hygiene. This is not the case in developing countries, alas.
In Tarrant County, one water-borne illness has been of some public health concern. Crytosporidiosis is a disease caused by a parasite found in water which causes diarrheal illness. It is somewhat resistant to chlorine and is usually picked up by children when swimming in lakes and pools. Children ages 0-4 are the most affected age group. The noxious symptoms can last for weeks, though they do not appear to usually be life-threatening.
I happen to have in front of me the 2009 Drinking Water Quality Report for Fort Worth. It details the water treatment process and the measured levels of various mineral, organic, and microbial substances in the water. All were reported far below levels considered dangerous.
Hopefully we can remember that clean water is of the utmost importance to our health and well-being. Efforts towards the goal of clean water for all are being made around the world. The success of these initiatives will mean a great deal for the future of humanity, especially in poor and developing areas.
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