30 September 2010

Choice = Wealth, Power, Dignity

Circumstances that we choose are emotionally more tolerable, no matter how bad they are, than circumstances that are imposed upon us.

29 September 2010

Ignorance Need Not Remain

When it's info or wisdom we seek; "He who asks is a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask remains a fool forever."
~ Chinese Proverb

28 September 2010

Group Entertainment Choices

Have you ever ended up making entertainment choices for a group of friends?

I've ended up at movies I didn't want to see. 

A boyfriend in high school took me Ten Pin bowling as part of every date. He was a serious competitive bowler and bought me a bowling ball for my birthday!

I made a few dollars off some local guys playing pool in college. That was only cause their male ego got the better of their judgment, and I was lucky that night.

I wouldn't pay money for  a ticket to watch netball or Aussie Rules football. I'd watch billiards, ping pong and horse racing. I have watched friends play cricket, tennis, and other sports I don't play. 

Planning an evening of fun is ..... complicated, sometimes.

How long do you usually spend in the video shop choosing movies to rent? I spend a long time and I'm decisive! How would it be for my phlegmatic friends?

For a change-up some of us are going to have a frivolous evening tonight.

Will it be:

__Movie- Julie & Julia
__Movie- Night At The Museum 2
__Movie- The Holiday
__Movie- Boy
__Movie- Up!
__Meet for a late dessert.

__Movie- (Add your suggestion)

What's your idea of a fun night with friends of varying interests?

Come on! Throw your comments in. It's not too late for us to adopt your suggestion!

27 September 2010


When asked where he lives, New Zealander and creative writing guru Bill Manhire responds, "I live on the edge of the world, just like everyone else."

Quoting Lloyd Jones speaking at Massey University, Auckland, August 2010

24 September 2010

"...a place which is not a place..."

"There is a place that must be left before we can find a new place, and in between there is a place without a place, a place without support, a place which is not a place, since a true place is a support."    (Torier p160) 

                     Thanks, Nige, for adding to our conversation about liminality.

Multi-Tasking Takes Away More Than We Think We Gain

We've been led to believe that multi-tasking is a good thing, and possibly gender specific.
We know multitasking while driving is not good. Many countries have outlawed driving while talking on a cell phone, but they can't specifically outlaw drinking coffee, putting on make-up or eating a sandwich from the drive-thru.

On the other hand, a much vaunted improvement in the recent iPhone operating system was the multi-tasking feature.

In discerning whether it is good for us or not, I think we need to consider whether we want to look more productive or have a clear and purposeful mind.

A University of London study showed that people distracted by incoming email and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQs. What's the impact of a 10-point drop? The same as losing a night of sleep. More than twice the effect of smoking marijuana.

Doing several things at once is a trick we play on ourselves, thinking we're getting more done. In reality, our productivity goes down by as much as 40%. We don't actually multitask. We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively, and losing time in the process.

You might think you're different, that you've done it so much you've become good at it. Practice makes perfect and all that.

But you'd be wrong. Research shows that heavy multi-taskers are less competent at doing several things at once than light multi-taskers. In other words, in contrast to almost everything else in your life, the more you multitask, the worse you are at it. Practice, in this case, works against you.

Multi-tasking is a significant reason why we are witnessing epidemics of rage, believes Dr Alan Keen, a behavioural scientist at Australia’s Central Queensland University.

‘Why are people in large cities more angry?’ he asks. ‘If I’m living in a big city with a busy job and I’m multitasking and I’m a busy parent, all that translates into chemical changes in the brain.’

For an understanding of what must have been going on in my brain when I was trying to watch an Indianapolis Colts NFL football game on Monday via two different internet streams and a radio stream at the same time, see this highly academic study on Cognitive Control. You will NOT be able to multi-task while reading it!

And spiritually speaking, how can we be fully present with those we love when we are only listening with a few brain cells and doing 17 other things t the same time?
In the midst of day to day responsibilities, Christine Valters at Abbey of the Arts, suggests being as fully present as you can to the task at hand. When you're in work-mode be fully mindful to it as you engage it. Do only one thing at a time. Multitasking only serves to increase anxiety. Quoted from In The Life of a Busy Woman

MEDITATE. Brain scans of non-religious Westerners who meditate show they have increased development in regions associated with memory and attention. U.S. research shows meditation makes brains more efficient at paying attention, so there is brain power spare when doing two tasks at once.

23 September 2010

Letters: Pieces of Ourselves Sent to Another.

I have beautiful volumes of letters, collected exchanges of written conversations between people. Some of them are famous. Some of them were in love. Others were exploring matters of faith, science or were just pen pals.

My Book Club recently read Galileo's Daughter, a book based on the letters of Galileo's daughter to her father. His letters were possibly burnt upon her death for fear of contamination or due to simplicity of life in convents in Italy at the time. The letters tell us much more about Galileo than the average history book or biography would. It was a personal and loving relationship described for us by only one side. The fact that Galileo kept the letters tells us that it was probably a reciprocal affection.

I've read collections of letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, C.S. Lewis,
Thomas Merton and man others. Much of our history has been written and confirmed because of letters.

The internet serves us, but it will not serve us in the same way handwritten letters has. Few will print out texts, emails sent or received, or even many of the photos now exchanged
online. What of those shoe boxes of photos discovered in the attic after aunty died? How will genealogists track back?

I have letters I wrote from Africa in my younger years. They describe events and people and places I had long since forgotten. I read about a young woman embracing another culture and I wonder at who she was. My letters are now mostly vie email, therefore lost in the maze of servers, software and hard drives that will never again spin.

The danger is that we will become the first generation in history to leave no written record of ourselves. If George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Captain Cook, Governor Grey or Ernest Hemingway had only used e-mail, would we have the same record of them that we possess through their letters and journals today?
Write letters. Even if your hand writing is not elegant and your grammar dodgy, write letters to those you love and give hints as to the nature of the relationship, the character of the people in your life and the stories you are living. Write letters as evidence that you were here and that you were connected to others. Your handwriting is unique to you. Leave some of it behind for those who follow.

22 September 2010

Between, Uncertain, Unknowns . . . liminal

Unemployed people. Refugees. People in shaky relationships. Homeless people. Couples struggling with infertility. Those waiting for a visa, or a verdict, medical results or exam results, election results or whether they accept the offer made on that house . . .

"Liminality is a place in between. It is emptiness and nowhere.

Adolescence is the liminal space between childhood and adulthood.

But liminality is more than a point along the way to somewhere else.

It represents anti-structure to structure, chaos to order.

The place between two worldviews is a liminal place.

It is a place of dying and rebirth, even of metamorphosis,

the place where the caterpillar spins its cocoon and disappears from view.

Liminality is Israel in the desert, Jesus in the tomb."

Leonard Hjalmarson

Richard Rohr says,

"I am convinced that without experiences of liminal space (that place where all transformation happens), there is no truthful perspective on life. Without truthful perspective, there is neither gratitude nor any abiding confidence. It is precisely this deep gratitude and unfounded confidence that I see most lacking in people today . . ."

The opposite of this abiding confidence, this transformational faith is a lack of emotional and spiritual maturity, a lack of soundness, leaving us incomplete, coasting on the crumbs and hand me downs of others, not self-feeders in faith and spirituality, but fragile, fickle, fearing that something will happen that might undo us, push us over the edge.

Your response, please?

21 September 2010

Elusive Order

Elusive Happiness

"Happiness is a quality which ever retreats before them
without getting out of sight"

Alexis de Tocqueville

20 September 2010

Moving Video of Courage in Christchurch

Superb summary and interviews in the wake of the Canterbury, New Zealand earthquake.

The earth is still settling after more than 700 aftershocks measuring up to 5.1 on the Richter scale.

Watch the YouTube video. Inspiring.

$9. Really?

Having my eyebrows shaped and tidied up cost me $9 last week. I wasn't in for a hair cut or facial. I just was tired of the chaos above my eyes and decided I needed to call in specialised help.

I think of that $9 and wonder if it was a reasonable expenditure or an extravagance.

Can an extravagance be less than $10, less than $7US after factoring in the exchange rate.

I had lunch at a conference venue yesterday and was surprised when told it was $9. What!? For that little bit of chicken and pasta?

In light of all the natural disasters we've been facing of late, I also purchased an electric torch, flashlight for my American readers. It cost $9.

No, I did not make up that sequence of events, three different items or services all given an exchange value of $9.

As I pondered and compared, I thought it a funny circumstance. Some of my friends would not even blink at $9 for a beauty appointment. They spend significant amounts throughout the year on cuts, styles, treatments, creams, paint, accessories . . . and they look mighty fine.

Opinions very on food and how much to spend on it. Some people value good food, dining in style, above many other things, and will drop upwards of $30 on a meal without blinking. Dining out is normally more expensive in NZ than in the US where there are more mid-range decent options. Some of our idea of value for money has to do with what we get used to.

As for the torch, well, any ghetto dweller would think that was a good buy; LED with little draw on the batteries and so will last a long time while saving me from broken limbs, snake bites and wrong turns. Not that we have snakes in NZ; they are illegal.

All of this rambling just to highlight that the words expensive, extravagant, waste, dear, cheap . . . are all subjective. These words tell more about the person using them than about the value of the item under scrutiny.

I didn't buy the $248 pot w/lid that works as an oven on top of the stove because I thought it "a bit dear." The sales lady didn't linger long with me. She probably knew I wasn't buying before I even asked the price.

Nor did I buy the $160,000 RV, a luxurious home on wheels that will not fit easily on many of the main thoroughfares of this island nation.

But to other people, a $248 pot or a home on wheels makes perfect sense and is well within their budget.

Where do we get our ideas of value, extravagance or "sensible"? Does rampant poverty around us affect our values or do we compare ourselves wit those who have a bit more? Would winning a jackpot make a difference to our sense of value, and would it be for the better?

Just thinking about my $9 purchase series has taken me into semantics, economics, and morality. It's given me a lot more value than the actual number suggests; not purchasing power as such, but perspective.

For $9 I coulda bought another mirror and tweezers.

17 September 2010

"A Storm the Size of Australia? Big one, eh?"

"One of the largest storms on the planet is churning away south of New Zealand with a central air pressure estimated to be in the 950's hPa range and covering an area the size of Australia." reports WeatherWatch.co.nz.

The storm has a very large centre but while the true middle of the system is likely to remain at least 1000kms south of the country gales, heavy rain and snow, are still going to make a direct hit on New Zealand over the next few days.

For my overseas friends who are not accustomed to the place names and conditions of these Antipodean Islands which are often referred to as The Shaky Isles, a weather report that is more extreme than usual. The fact that we live across the ditch from Australia and are the next getting off place for Antarctica influences our weather. NZ has been called many things. "A small comma on the broad expanse of the Pacific Ocean" is appropriate when you look at the magnitude of this storm.

Combined account from NZ news sources: Metservice

"New Zealanders are being advised to batten down the hatches and stay away from the beaches as a huge storm bears down on the country, a southerly change coming directly off the Antarctic shelf during Friday and Saturday.

The wild weather is expected to bring extreme conditions over the next 48 hours, including gale force winds, heavy rain and bitterly cold temperatures.

The same weather system is already causing major problems in Tasmania with thousands of homes left without power as strong winds, snow and surf batter the state.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Tasmanians were experiencing their coldest day in decades.

"one of the largest storms on the planet"

A severe wind warning is already in force for Wellington, Wairarapa and the Marlborough Sounds and there was a possibility there could be severe gales for a time tomorrow in other areas of the North Island, Marlborough and also north Canterbury.

WeatherWatch.co.nz, said the weather was the result of one of the largest storms on the planet, the size of Australia and the centre of which was churning away about 1000km south of New Zealand.

The weather would not be as severe as a hurricane or cyclone partly because the low pressure system would be spread evenly and over a large area rather than tightly wrapped around a small centre."

Auckland will snuggle down and wait it out, praying that Christchurch is spared. After more than 660 aftershocks since the earthquake there, they don't need any more complications. Wild weather will not help in the recovery, the patching of roofs where chimneys once stood or in the soothing of frayed nerves and tempers.

Sin Makes Judges Of Us All?

An interesting cross-cultural, international diversity affirmation thing unfolded on the radio this AM. Ultimately the issue was morality, but the conversations had more to do with who decides or judges the moral fitness of others.

An American Idol runner-up was talking to a host on a New Zealand radio programme today.

Mike, the radio host, asked Adam Lambert, the singer, about various things to do with his tour and then, "Why was it such a big deal that you are gay?"

Lambert answered, "Because I'm in America."

I guess Adam has been tagged more often as "openly gay" than as a singer and he wishes it were otherwise because singing is really his thing. "Being gay is just a side note. I don't want that to take precedence over my art."

Fair comment. Sexuality ought not be a condition for many judgments in life.

Other things are irrelevant too. I don't like that fact that being a woman can taint an intelligent comment I might make or that the fact that I'm single be the point upon which I'm accepted or rejected from certain circles. Some things just don't have anything to do with anything else.

The people I have a problem working with are those who make sexuality an identity marker. When was the last time someone introduced themselves to you, "Hi, I'm Joe and I'm straight."

We've been entertained for years by people who had lifestyles different to ourselves. Which lines do we draw, and where?

In the next segment of programming, another host, was discussing the "mistake" made by a NZ politician in obtaining a false passport in the name of a deceased child when the politician was 26, which was decades ago. Callers were suggesting the politician had made a mistake. The host was countering that it was not a mistake as the young-man-turned-politician had meant to do it, so it was intentional. He was playing with the words used, but it made for humourous asides. Other callers said that was despicable because it was a child's identity he'd made use of. Others ranted on side issues and were not logical enough to quote.

That brings in one of the pivotal points to this conversation: logic. You may take issue with a few things I've said, wondering where I stand on certain matters. If you know me, you'll know where I stand; with Jesus.

But one of the casualties in these kinds of conversations is logic. We can get so defensive, apprehensive, pious and emotional that we throw logic out with the sinner and ruin all opportunity for conversation!

Be able to argue your case without going to battle, and listen for viewpoints that might enrich the understanding of all.

The radio host later asked if there was any politician who could stand up to rigorous testing of all their previous behaviour, views and alliances? Was there anyone who had such an unblemished past that they would please everyone? John 8:7

Would we want a flawless individual in our government? Wouldn't be very representative of me.

Anyway, the question of morality came up and seemed like the thread through much of the controversial morning.

If we are going to argue for a commonly understood and accepted morality, we must agree on a source for morality. Is there a moral law-giver? Are our morals decided by legislation? Is it a democratic process upon which we all get to vote? Is it more of a snowball that we couldn't stop if we wanted to?

In the old days you'd be hung if you stole a horse. These days, with full prisons and less capital punishment, hand-slapping is far more common for many serious infractions.

Notice my wording? I said serious. Then I followed it by infractions. Both words include value judgments. Who has the right to make such value judgments? Is there a commonality about morality?

Juicy Aside: News media here in NZ is full of convictions and confessions today,
politicians wanting to announce their own versions before someone digs up
long buried dirt on them. Easier to spin it if you get in first.

The fact that Adam Lambert is openly gay may be what makes some people uncomfortable, but they may have voted for him anyway.

The fact that the politician was big on law & order issues was unfortunate and contradictory. This is life amongst sinners.

God weeps.

16 September 2010

Talent: Show it Off. How?

If you were in a talent show, showing off your X Factor, trying to be the next Top Model or join a really hot band . . . . .

. . . what would you do to show your stuff?

Do you have "stuff"?

I'm thinking my talent would not make good TV. You?

I've heard of talented gardeners, painters, singers, tennis players . . . .

15 September 2010

Why Do We Give?

A conversation on the radio recently included the ranting of a woman who wanted to donate canned goods to the Pakistan Relief efforts. The goods had not been as eagerly received as she thought they should have been and she was offended.

She just wanted to help.

As generous as her heart may have been, her gift was very probably not appropriate to the need.

How exactly do we get those cans to the needy people of flood ravaged Pakistan? Will they have a can opener, pot or spoon with which to open, heat or eat the contents?

Many accounts have been opened for those affected by the Christchurch earthquake. A local Christchurch businessman questions the need, saying that Christchurch has what it needs and must just now get on with the rebuilding.

The National Business Review wrote about the Christchurch man going to his building and beginning the repair work himself. He sounds a bit of a renegade in that he went in without City Council clearance and could have endangered himself or started a domino effect that could have injured others, but he has the Canterbury can-do attitude.

His blog lists all the reasons why Canterbury citizens can take care of themselves, giving credit to an excellent Civil Defense, the EarthQuake Commission and corporate donations. He then points people to donate to relief for those in Haiti and Pakistan where there was devastation and great loss of life.

Why do people think they need to give money to those who have suffered from this earthquake and the hundreds of aftershocks that have shaken them to the core?

Is it because we are frustrated as we watch or listen to the news reports from the comfort of our "stable" homes or cars? Is it because we have warm and clean clothes on and can have a hot cup of tea or a cold drink whenever we want? Is it because our pictures are still on the walls and our toilets flush?

I'm not suggesting guilt as such. I didn't cause the earthquakes or the floods or the fires.

Maybe I'm suggesting gratitude. Maybe it is in the midst of comparing what they've lost and what I still have that I see disparity and want to level the field a bit?

Why do we give?

14 September 2010

Organization of Office Surfaces


Two mugs.
Multiple phones.
Both doodles & sketches.
I don't see Post-it notes, peace lilly or snacks!

In a way this is an encouraging cartoon to find. It's so much like my desk that it gives me comfort that I'm not the only one.

I still need Cheryl or Ngahuia to come over and sort me out.

What's on your desk?

13 September 2010

Animal Behaviour Can Predict Earthquakes?

Anecdotes or strange pet behaviour is likely to surface as the aftershocks slow and settle in Christchurch. Is there any truth to the belief? Should we all get a dog, bird or goldfish? If nothing else, the water in their dish or bowl might be an indicator.

Would evacuate an entire city based on the strange antics of animals? Imagine presenting that to the city council meeting, the police and fire service!
"Dogs are barking!"
"What does that mean?"
"Maybe they wanna relieve themselves?"

Read what Maryann Mott wrote for National Geographic News 11. 11. 2003

The belief that animals can predict earthquakes has been around for centuries.

In 373 B.C., historians recorded that animals, including rats, snakes and weasels, deserted the Greek city of Helice in droves just days before a quake devastated the place.

Accounts of similar animal anticipation of earthquakes have surfaced across the centuries since. Catfish moving violently, chickens that stop laying eggs and bees leaving their hive in a panic have been reported. Countless pet owners claimed to have witnessed their cats and dogs acting strangely before the ground shook—barking or whining for no apparent reason, or showing signs of nervousness and restlessness.

But precisely what animals sense, if they feel anything at all, is a mystery. One theory is that wild and domestic creatures feel the Earth vibrate before humans. Other ideas suggest they detect electrical changes in the air or gas released from the Earth.

Earthquakes are a sudden phenomenon. Seismologists have no way of knowing exactly when or where the next one will hit. An estimated 500,000 detectable quakes occur in the world each year. Of those, 100,000 can be felt by humans, and 100 cause damage.

One of the world's most earthquake-prone countries is Japan, where devastation has taken countless lives and caused enormous damage to property. Researchers there have long studied animals in hopes of discovering what they hear or feel before the Earth shakes in order to use that sense as a prediction tool.

The United States Geological Survey, a government agency that provides scientific information about the Earth, says a reproducible connection between a specific behavior and the occurrence of a quake has never been made.

"What we're faced with is a lot of anecdotes," said Andy Michael, a geophysicist at USGS. "Animals react to so many things—being hungry, defending their territories, mating, predators—so it's hard to have a controlled study to get that advanced warning signal."

Erratic Behavior in Dogs

Researchers around the world continue to pursue the idea, however. In September 2003 a medical doctor in Japan made headlines with a study that indicated erratic behavior in dogs, such as excessive barking or biting, could be used to forecast quakes.

There have also been examples where authorities have forecast successfully a major earthquake, based in part on the observation of the strange antics of animals. For example, in 1975 Chinese officials ordered the evacuation of Haicheng, a city with one million people, just days before a 7.3-magnitude quake. Only a small portion of the population was hurt or killed. If the city had not been evacuated, it is estimated that the number of fatalities and injuries could have exceeded 150,000. Read more at the National Geographic New site at the above link.

Photos of Jack, Pencil & Milo were taken by Jill Shaw c. 2009

11 September 2010

Quake Safe Your Home

When I visited Te Papa Museum in Wellington recently, I went through the earthquake exhibits. amazing, scary and . . . "But that won't happen to me." Wonder how many in Christchurch had thought the same?

One of the new things I learned in that exhibit was the practice of putting some sort of adhesive under things that sit on flat surfaces. They suggested a drop of wax, Blu-tac or non-slip mats.

At that exhibit, I also went through the shaky house. It had warning signs on it to encourage you to hold on and be prepared for violent action. They did not issue helmets or elbow pads, but that might have been good.

People this week said their real life experiences were many times what that museum Earthquake House demonstrated. Many of them are have having a hard time relaxing to sleep.

Fix. Fasten. Forget.

  • Secure hot water cylinders and header tanks
  • Check that your house is secured to its foundations
  • Secure your chimney with galvanised metal bands
  • Secure tall furniture to the wall studs
  • Secure wood burners to the floor
  • Store heavy objects low down
  • Use non-slip mats under smaller appliances and objects
  • Use plastic putty (Blu Tack) to secure ornaments
  • Push picture and mirror hooks closed
  • Have flexible gas and plumbing fittings installed.

For more information on how to Quake Safe your Home, visit www.eq-iq.org.nz

Also see our brochure - People, Property and Natural Disasters (PDF 1Mb)

EQCover is New Zealand's Earthquake Commission’s natural disaster insurance scheme. It insures homes, land and personal belongings against the following:

  • Earthquakes,
  • Landslips,
  • Tsunami,
  • Volcanic eruption,
  • Hydrothermal activity,
  • Storm or flood damage - TO LAND ONLY.
  • Fire following any of the above.
0800 326 243 EQC Making a Claim

A Simpler Time, by Peter FitzSimons

I heard Murray Deaker interviewing Peter FitzSimons over the weekend about his new book, A Simpler Time.

Later I was at a dinner party where three of us had heard the
interview and two had not. We recounted the highlights, leaving very little out, and had the others in stitches. FitzSimons is a storyteller. He does other things, but he's a storyteller. Otherwise, we would not have remembered the wording and been able to nearly see & smell the scenes and funny anecdotes he described. His people came alive and I woulda loved to have met his mum.

A taster:

"It still amazes me what they allowed us to do without their supervision or help while remaining deeply loving parents. Climb trees from the age of four or five? No problem. Drive the tractor from the age of eight or nine onwards? Good luck to you. Haul on the hoist to pull the half-ton bins filled with oranges off the trailer? Yes. Take your bike out on the Pacific Highway and ride to school? Just be careful, but okay ...

Their rough reckoning was that if we thought we could do something, we probably could - and if we thought we couldn′t do something, we probably still could, if we applied ourselves."

Girl With A Satchel blogger got her dad's view of the book:
Those looking for FitzSimons the rugby player, biographer, journalist, husband or father will be disappointed, as the memoir concentrates solely on his formative years. But if a childhood dictates future prosperity, there's sense in crediting his parents for laying solid foundations for his success.
Harper Collins describes it as:

Peter FitzSimons′s account of growing up on the rural outskirts of Sydney in the 1960s is first and foremost a tribute to family. But it is also a salute to times and generations past, when praise was understated but love unstinting; work was hard and values clear; when people stood by each other in adversity.

Above all, in the FitzSimons home, days were for doing. In this rollicking and often hilarious memoir, Peter describes a childhood of mischief, camaraderie, eccentric characters, drama - and constant love and generosity. The childhood of a simpler time.

My library has three copies on order. I might have to go out and buy one, or two.
Get it for your Kindle.

A Simpler Time: A memoir of love, laughter, loss and billycarts
By Peter FitzSimons, a journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald and Sun-Herald.
He is the author of nearly twenty books - including Tobruk and biographies of Nancy Wake, Kim Beazley, Nene King, Nick Farr-Jones, Steve Waugh and John Eales - and was Australia’s bestselling non-fiction writer in 2001 and 2004.

10 September 2010

An Avon Empty of It's Water

Go to Thoughts On An Earthquake for Adrienne Rewi's post-quake musings on having some things shaken that she hadn't expected.

While my photo was not taken at the same place as Adrienne's photos, it will serve for comparison and to illustrate how the Avon River is a vital and vibrant thread to the tapestry of Christchurch. For it to have disgorged it's water is profound.

Compare this with what you find at Adrienne Rewi Online.

Avon River, Christchurch at Oxford Terrace.
Photo by Jill Shaw, 6.6.2010

Family Info Helps in Emergencies

Families are encouraged to prepare a Family Emergency Data Form as advance preparation for any future civil emergency.

09 September 2010

Irreligious, but Spiritual when Making Sense of Things, Pt 2

Bringing God in to the conversation is usually a good thing. There are times when His name is used in pain, vain or anger. Some would say there are no atheists in foxholes*, that when times get desperate, people seek faith and find God.

However all of that works, I was pleased that, of late, it
wasn't always and only me who was mentioning God. A common comment tying God to the 4:34 AM Christchurch earthquake was, "Thank God it didn't happen 5 hours earlier or 5 hours later. There would have been a tremendous loss of life!"

Does that comment imply that God controlled the earthquake?
He could not have timed it better?
Some would suggest He could have stopped it.
Either way, it brings to the surface the question of the will of God, the sovereignty or authority of God. Does God cause or allow natural disasters? After the 2004 tsunami caused by a tremendous earthquake in the Indian Ocean, a woman rang a talk radio programme and suggested that God had caused the tsunami as judgment on the sex industry of Thailand.
  • How does that explanation account for the boys playing football on the wide public beach of Chennai, India who were swept out to sea?
  • How does it account for missionaries on holiday in Thailand getting caught up in it and drowned?
  • What of all the innocent grandmas, grandpas, mamas, babies & labourers just going about their business on that day?
It doesn't. It makes them pawns and it impinges on the character and nature of God. That's what I said when I called in to clarify that the previous woman's god was not the one I knew and worshipped!

Making sense of tragedy is important for many of us.
Simplistic and half-baked theology doesn't make sense.

Oh, I know, most people mean well and they often do have a sense of a higher power. The recent commenters are grateful for perceived mercies shown when the Christchurch death toll could have been high, very high. Good on 'em for acknowledging that we as humans have little control over much. It's often when disaster strikes that we strip off our public costumes and are shown to have a deeper layer of substance beneath.

But when the urgency has passed, the aftershocks have stopped and people are safely housed with clean running water, I'd like to have the conversation with some as to the theological framework for "Thank God . . .". It's a good comment, but it only scratches the surface.

But then, I'm not supposed to talk religion, politics or money.

*the aphorism about foxholes is often adapted to other perilous situations such as "there are no atheists on a sinking ship".

US & NZ Civil Defence Preparedness Links

America's FEMA In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness
Are You Ready Full Document (PDF 21MB)

With the possibility of hurricanes, killer tornadoes and wildfires FEMA announces the release of a new citizen preparedness DVD titled, "Getting Ready For Disaster- One Family's Experience". The DVD guides viewers through important steps of disaster preparedness and is a welcome addition to FEMA's preparedness materials.

In New Zealand consider these links and resources:

08 September 2010

Irreligious, but Spiritual, when Making Sense of Things. Pt. 1

"Don't talk about religion, politics or money!" was the wisdom of previous generations in my family. I should compile a statistical record of the topics of conversation in my normal day out and amongst people. I'd say those three categories would be very near the top of Frequently Discussed Issues.

I often find myself amongst the less biblically literate, rather than the more biblically literate. That is not a qualitative judgmental statement. It's much the same as saying I usually find myself amongst people who own cars more than amongst those who do not. I usually find myself amongst those who are carrying a few extra pounds rather than those who should add a few.

The fact that many of my co-humans are not biblically literate, or professional theologians, is brought into focus when we have widespread disasters or tragedies that make the news. Those who would never condone religion, and what it has become with it's powerful institutions and political agendas, will speak of miracles, God, angels and biblical stories.

Oh sometimes, in New Zealand, something as important as rugby will elicit a comparison of David to Goliath, need for an ark if the rain doesn't stop, or some such thing. I often wonder about the background of the speaker and the uptake of the listeners when the Bible is referred to.

New Zealand's media outlets have done a super job of keeping everyone informed about events in Christchurch after the earthquake. The media have allowed people to tell their stories and have been as interested in the human side of the story as in politics, economics or buildings.

In the midst of those stories, and comments from the reporters, people have thanked God numerous times and spoken of miracles and angels.

When discussing the Canterbury region and recent finance company failures and then the expectation of seriously high winds, Kerre Woodham asked if locusts were next. Her reference to the plagues in Egypt during Moses' campaign to free Hebrew slaves was apt. In a largely unchurched New Zealand, I wonder how many understood it. Of those who did understand it, how many were under 35 years old?

Technically, a miracle is something supernatural. If you suggest that there is something that causes supernatural events then you maintain a spirituality that opens the door for God, or some other sort of spiritual power.

People often say, "Well, it was meant to be."
If something was meant to be, then who meant it? Who gave the meaning or the purpose to the persons or event or result?

Statistics may show that New Zealand is not very churchified, secular in many aspects, but underneath the politically correct or wounded exterior, there is a spiritual antennae that desires to make sense of things around us.

Prepared? Stuff happens. Pt 2

Brainstorm things that would be useful in emergency?
Prioritize them later. For now, just make your list.
*Multiply some supplies p/person over 3+ day span of time.

Before a disaster: You will need to have:

  • A Household Emergency Plan that will help you and your household plan for what to do when disaster strikes
  • Household Emergency Checklist This list will help you prepare essential food, water, clothing and medical supplies for you and your family to cope for at least three days
  • A Getaway Kit of essential emergency and medical items if you need to be evacuated.
What are some other things you would take into consideration?
Pets, special medical conditions, other people mooching, how to wait creatively, where to store your Be Ready kit, . . .

Consider your list. Choose items you would want handy and pack them in the backpacks in case you have to move quickly.

Consider the process of living each day with limitations and the priorities you'd like to have on hand.

Discuss this with your household. They may have to cope without you at home.
  • Who will turn off water at the main? gas? electricity?
  • How & Where will you meet up during and after an emergency?
  • How to maintain contact during an emergency? (No mobile phone coverage!)
  • How to contact Civil Defence & authorities for assistance?
  • Who can do a first aid course now to care for the family?
Tsunamis happen . . . . as do earthquakes, eruptions, blizzards, fires & storms. We have next to no control of those things, but we can have some control over our ability to cope in those circumstances. For the sake of our own lives, and those we love, let’s be ready!

07 September 2010

Books are Interactive.

May it never disappear. May the smell and feel and sensory
interaction with books be known for many generations.

Prepared? Stuff Happens. Pt 1

Civil Defense officials constantly tell people to be ready for the unexpected. This week an expert seismologist said much is known about earthquakes, except when they are going to happen.

While we can't expect the poor of Haiti to lay in extra supplies in case of emergency, we can expect people to take a measure of responsibility for themselves in developed countries.

I posted about all of this in January 2009, so don't think this is a new pulpit for me after the huge earthquake in Christchurch.

The NZ government has an Earthquake Commission that is prepared to respond in these very scenarios. Christchurch City Council and the Civil Defense is doing a super job. Countries like the United States have offered assistance if needed. But the fact is, people must take responsibility for their own well being, especially for the first 3-4 days.

I'm not suggesting we all become neurotic and weird, anticipating disasters with every change of the wind. I am suggesting that love and wisdom dictate that we consider the possibilities and tuck a few things away.

In 2009 I wrote, "Let’s assume you are at your home, there has been a mudslide that has taken out power and water, roads & telecommunications in your area." After the recent earthquake in Christchurch, we don't have to use so much imagination. Other people can remember hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards. This isn't paranoia; it's reality.

Consider: How would you and your family cope if you were without electricity or water for three days or more? You can’t go to the shops and get anything because they have closed . . . . no electricity and the employees can’t get to and from work!

Can't pump fuel or ring up sales without electricity these days.

With only one road to the North of Auckland and one to the South, I might very well be better off by staying put at home and utilising what I have at hand. I’ll be even better off if I have stocked up and have the right things available.

What do you think those things might be?

06 September 2010

Seismology: Not a word I used everyday, previously . . .

Christchurch Earthquake already on Wikipedia! 2010 Canterbury Earthquake The entry talks about aftershocks and the epicentre, alluvial sediments and strike-slip faulting. No, I don't really now what I'm talking about, thus the quest for info. Curious, I am.

Unfortunately we are all learning heaps about earthquakes at the present. Earth Scientists are coming in to their own, as are geologists, seismologists and disaster preparedness experts. What causes the rumble of an earthquake? How do you measure an earthquake?

  • ‘P’ waves or (primary or ‘push’) waves are the waves that travel at 20,000 km per hour and are responsible for the low rumbling sound that you may hear just before an earthquake. ‘S’ waves are the (secondary or ‘shear’) waves that travel at10,000 km per hour. They shake the ground sideways and cause the most damage.
  • The Modified Mercalli scale is a way of measuring the observable effects of the shaking on the environment. The higher the earthquake’s rating the greater the damage. The Richter scale is a way of measuring the vibrations of the earthquake to tell how much energy was released at the source of the quake.
Who was Richter that his name came in to such common household usage near fault lines?
One of the interesting facts about Charles Richter is that he was born just north of Cincinnati, OH, near the Indiana-Ohio State line, a place in which very very few earthquakes ever occur. I know the place well, but only now learned the connection with Richter of the Richter Scale. Wikipedia
Research suggests that the Christchurch region can expect a sizable earthquake every 55 years and that the conditions are right there for liquefaction of the soil which is the cause of so much disruption of buried lines and pipes, and of surface damage to roads and tracks. Wikipedia's Links for the 2010 Canterbury Earthquake