Friday, July 31, 2009

More on Body Weight

Underweight and extremely obese die earlier
24. June 2009 06:12

Underweight people and those who are extremely obese die earlier than people of normal weight - but those who are overweight actually live longer than people of normal weight.

Those are the findings of a new study published online in Obesity by researchers at Statistics Canada, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Portland State University, Oregon Health & Science University, and McGill University.

"It's not surprising that extreme underweight and extreme obesity increase the risk of dying, but it is surprising that carrying a little extra weight may give people a longevity advantage," said David Feeny, PhD, coauthor of the study and senior investigator for the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research.

"It may be that a few extra pounds actually protect older people as their health declines, but that doesn't mean that people in the normal weight range should try to put on a few pounds," said Mark Kaplan, DrPH, coauthor and Professor of Community Health at Portland State University. "Our study only looked at mortality, not at quality of life, and there are many negative health consequences associated with obesity, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes."

"Good health is more than a BMI or a number on a scale. We know that people who choose a healthy lifestyle enjoy better health: good food choices, being physically active everyday, managing stress, and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels in check," said Keith Bachman MD, a weight management specialist with Kaiser Permanente's Care Management Institute.

The study examined the relationship between body mass index and death among 11,326 adults in Canada over a 12-year period. (BMI uses height and weight to estimate body fat.) Researchers found that underweight people had the highest risk of dying, and the extremely obese had the second highest risk. Overweight people had a lower risk of dying than those of normal weight.

This is the first large Canadian study to show that people who are overweight may actually live longer than those of normal weight. An earlier study, conducted in the United States and published in 2005 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed similar results.

For this study, researchers used data from the National Population Health Survey conducted by Statistics Canada every two years. During the study period, from 1994/1995 through 2006/2007, underweight people were 70 percent more likely than people of normal weight to die, and extremely obese people were 36 percent more likely to die. But overweight individuals were 17 percent less likely to die. The relative risk for obese people was nearly the same as for people of normal weight. The authors controlled for factors such as age, sex, physical activity, and smoking.

The study was funded by grants from the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C. Authors include: Heather Orpana, PhD, Statistics Canada; JM Berthelot, Canadian Institute for Health Information and McGill University; Mark Kaplan, DrPH, Portland State University; David Feeny, PhD, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research; Bentson H. McFarland, MD, PhD, Oregon Health & Science University and Nancy Ross, PhD, McGill University.

If you want to know more about health risks related to your weight and BMI, ask your doctor or get more information at

Bithers are such idiots!

A birther is a person who believes that Barack Obama has controversy and/or fraud surrounding his birth, though all theories have been either rejected or proved false.

Dr. Rodney T. West delivered Barack Obama in 1961. The baby was born in HONOLULU and his birth was announced in both major newspapers there at the time. This is just getting so stupid I am really sick of this being in the news.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

This is interesting about the Womens Vote!

Women's fight for vote celebrated

Stories including that of Bessie Watson have been re-told in the exhibition

A new exhibition commemorating the Suffragettes' fight in Scotland to win women the vote is opening.

The work, at the museum of Edinburgh, marks 100 years since a march in the Scottish capital to boost their cause.

It uses images and eye-witness accounts to tell the story of the Suffragettes' struggle, which went on until 1928, when women were awarded the vote.

Edinburgh will also stage a re-enactment of the famous march, on 10 October, to mark its centenary.

The Suffragettes - officially known as the Women's Social and Political Union - spearheaded the fight to allow women to vote, despite the resistance - and outright hostility - of most of the male political establishment.

In Edinburgh, the fight went on for more than 60 years - right from the movement's early beginnings in the 1860s. I feel enormous admiration for these brave women
Deidre Brock
Edinburgh City Council

At the height of the campaign, hundreds of women, children and men took up banners and flags and joined the Scottish Women's Suffragette procession on Edinburgh's Princes Street, with hundreds more cheering them on.

Helen Clark, curator of the Votes for Women exhibition, said: "Women couldn't own property, they couldn't hold public positions and they couldn't get the vote.

"Men could stand up and heckle a public meeting, but if women did it, they were physically thrown out in the street."

The exhibition tells the real-life stories of those who campaigned for the vote, including Bessie Watson, a nine-year-old girl who played the bagpipes as part of the 1909 march, and Ethel Moorhead, who was imprisoned in Calton Jail and force-fed.

Edinburgh City Council's culture leader Deidre Brock said: "I feel enormous admiration for these brave women - at that time they were regarded as freakish and unnatural, and they withstood huge pressures from their family, from politics and from society in general.

"This fascinating and informative exhibition will bring to life their struggle for equality, reminding us all of the sacrifices made on our behalf."

The exhibition runs until 9 January 2010.

BBC link!

The Fat Police


Patrick Basham and John Luik, Baltimore Sun - Why is a thin, male smoker considered a physical role model as president but a full-figured African-American woman is considered an embarrassment as his nominee for surgeon general?

President Barack Obama's nomination this month of Dr. Regina Benjamin as U.S. surgeon general brought down upon the White House a barrage of criticism from medical "experts" who claim Dr. Benjamin is setting a bad example because of her weight. For example, Dr. Sarah Reed, who religiously keeps her own Body Mass Index in the "underweight" category, was quoted in The Daily Telegraph saying: "Although her credentials speak for themselves, her weight cannot be overlooked. Shame on her!"

Is Dr. Benjamin too fat to handle the nation's health? There are three evidence-based public health reasons why worries about her weight are unwarranted.

First, there is little credible scientific evidence that supports the claims that having an overweight or obese BMI leads to an early death. For example, Katherine Flegal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in the U.S. population there were more premature deaths among those with BMIs of less than 25 - the so-called normal weight - than those with BMIs in excess of 25.

In fact, the lowest death rates were in the "overweight" category - that is, those with BMIs from 25 to 29.9. Indeed, in this study, Americans who were overweight were those most likely to live the longest.

In the American Journal of Public Health, Professor Jerome Gronniger looked at weight and mortality for each BMI point, rather than simply comparing, as is usually done, mortality across broad categories, such as underweight, normal, overweight and obese. He found that men in the "normal" weight category exhibited a mortality rate as high as that of men in the moderately obese category (BMIs of 30 to 35); men in the "overweight" category clearly had the lowest mortality risk.

Moreover, a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that looked at alternative measures of obesity, such as percentage of body fat, skin fold thickness, waist circumference, and waist-hip ratio, found even less scientific support for the alleged fat-equals-early-death thesis. The authors report that for the intermediate level of each of the alternative measures of obesity, there was a negative link with mortality. In other words, those with a higher waist circumference or a higher percentage of body fat had lower mortality rates.

A second reason why Dr. Benjamin's weight is a non-issue is because in those studies that have found statistically significant associations between overweight/obesity and premature mortality, the risks are so modest as to be essentially negligible. For example, whereas the reported lung cancer risks for smokers are typically 10 to 20 times higher than for nonsmokers, the death risks for those who are overweight and obese are often closer to only 0.5 above those of normal weight.

Third, contrary to conventional wisdom, the association of overweight and obesity with higher risks for a variety of diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease is unproven. In part, this is because these diseases have multiple causes.

More strikingly, increases in overweight and obesity have been paralleled by falls in total cardiovascular mortality and mortality from coronary heart disease and stroke, as well as in the prevalence of hypertension and hypercholesterolemia, undermining claims that overweight and obesity lead to higher rates of morbidity.

The last demographic holdout against "fatism" is the African-American female, who on average is disproportionately heavy. And she is disproportionately comfortable with her weight. The fat police view this fact as simply unacceptable.

Patrick Basham and John Luik, Baltimore Sun

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Review of Lyrics of Gold - Songs of Robert Burns

Lyrics of Gold - Songs of Robert Burns
Ed Miller

The Rigs o' Barley
Ae Fond Kiss
Braw Lads o' Gala Water
Hey Ca Thro'
The Silver Tassie
Green Grow the Rashes O
Comin' Thro' the Rye
Aye Waukin' O
McPherson's Farewell
The De'il's Awa' Wi the Exciseman
Ca' the Yowes
The Collier Laddie
The Lea Rig
My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose
A Man's a Man
Auld Lang Syne

Ed Miller has a really fine voice and he has a distinct and most reticent guitar style that puts him in a class above most folk musicians on the scene today. I had a fantastic weekend at Edinboro University and the best part of this weekend's festival and games was seeing Ed Miller again and listening to him in concert on Friday night and again under the tent on Sat. His new album Lyrics of Gold - Songs of Robert Burns is so good I heartily recommend it to all who love Scottish Music and especially to those who love Burns as I do. You can buy the CD on CD Baby and sample some tracks there as well:

My favorite track on this CD by far is The De'il's Awa Wi' the Exciseman!

Perhaps the best thing about this CD is how Ed Miller brings Robert Burns alive in a way that is accessible to everyone. This is the 250th anniversary of Burns birth and what a grand way to celebrate that is this fine recording. The songs are well arranged and accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Rich Brotherton. More grand contributions are included from Brian McNeill on fiddle and concertina, E.J.Jones on pipes and whistles, John Taylor on fiddle and Marty Muse on pedal steel guitar. There are also complementary outstanding vocals by Karine Polwart to round out the CD.

Texting Lifts Crash Risk by Large Margin

Published: July 27, 2009

The first study of drivers texting inside their vehicles shows that the risk sharply exceeds previous estimates based on laboratory research — and far surpasses the dangers of other driving distractions.

The new study, which entailed outfitting the cabs of long-haul trucks with video cameras over 18 months, found that when the drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which compiled the research and plans to release its findings on Tuesday, also measured the time drivers took their eyes from the road to send or receive texts.

In the moments before a crash or near crash, drivers typically spent nearly five seconds looking at their devices — enough time at typical highway speeds to cover more than the length of a football field.

Even though trucks take longer to stop and are less maneuverable than cars, the findings generally applied to all drivers, who tend to exhibit the same behaviors as the more than 100 truckers studied, the researchers said. Truckers, they said, do not appear to text more or less than typical car drivers, but they said the study did not compare use patterns that way.

Compared with other sources of driver distraction, “texting is in its own universe of risk,” said Rich Hanowski, who oversaw the study at the institute.

Mr. Hanowski said the texting analysis was financed by $300,000 from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which has the mission of improving safety in trucks and buses. More broadly, the research yielding the results represent a significant logistical undertaking.

The overall cost was $6 million to equip the trucks with video cameras and track them for three million miles as they hauled furniture, frozen foods and other goods across the country.

The final analysis of the data is undergoing peer review before formal publication.

Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech institute, one of the world’s largest vehicle safety research organizations, said the study’s message was clear.

“You should never do this,” he said of texting while driving. “It should be illegal.”

Thirty-six states do not ban texting while driving; 14 do, including Alaska, California, Louisiana and New Jersey. New York legislators have sent a bill to Gov. David A. Paterson. But legislators in some states have rejected such rules, and elected officials say they need more data to determine whether to ban the activity.

One difficulty in measuring crashes caused by texting drivers — and by drivers talking on phones — is that many police agencies do not collect this data or have not compiled long-term studies. Texting also is a relatively new phenomenon.

The issue has drawn attention after several recent highly publicized crashes caused by texting drivers, including an episode in May involving a trolley car driver in Boston who crashed while texting his girlfriend.

Over all, texting has soared. In December, phone users in the United States sent 110 billion messages, a tenfold increase in just three years, according to the cellular phone industry’s trade group, CTIA.

The results of the Virginia Tech study are buttressed by new laboratory research from the University of Utah. In a study over the last 18 months, college students using a sophisticated driving simulator showed an eight times greater crash risk when texting than when not texting.

That study, which is undergoing peer review and has been submitted for publication in The Journal for Human Factors, also found that drivers took their eyes off the road for around five seconds when texting.

David Strayer, a professor who co-wrote the University of Utah report, offered two explanations for the simulator’s showing lower risks than the Virginia study. Trucks are tougher to maneuver and stop, he noted, and the college students in his study might be somewhat better at multitasking.

But the differences in the studies are not the point, Mr. Strayer said. “You’re off the charts in both cases,” he added. “It’s crazy to be doing it.”

At Virginia Tech, researchers said they focused on texting among truckers simply because the trucking study was relatively new and thus better reflected the explosive growth of texting. But another new study from the organization is focusing on texting among so-called light-vehicle drivers, specifically teenagers.

Preliminary results from that study show risk levels for texters roughly comparable to those of the truck drivers. The formal results of the light-vehicle study should be available later this year. By comparison, several field and laboratory studies show that drivers talking on cellphones are four times more likely to cause a crash than other drivers. And a previous Virginia institute study videotaping car drivers found that they were three times more likely to crash or come close to a crash when dialing a phone and 1.3 times more likely when talking on it.

Researchers focused on distracted driving disagree about whether to place greater value on the results of such a so-called naturalistic study or laboratory studies, which allow the scientists to recreate conditions and measure individual drivers against themselves.

But, in the case of texting, laboratory and real-world researchers say the results are significant — from both scientific methodologies, texting represents a much greater risk to drivers than other distractions.

A new poll shows that many drivers know the risks of texting while driving — and do it anyway. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety plans on Tuesday to publish polling data that show that 87 percent of people consider drivers texting or e-mailing to pose a “very serious” safety threat (roughly equal to the 90 percent who consider drunken drivers a threat).

Of the 2,501 drivers surveyed this spring, 95 percent said that texting was unacceptable behavior. Yet 21 percent of drivers said they had recently texted or e-mailed while driving.

About half of drivers 16 to 24 said they had texted while driving, compared with 22 percent of drivers 35 to 44.

“It’s convenient,” said Robert Smith, 22, a recent college graduate in Windham, Me. He says he regularly texts and drives even though he recognizes that it is a serious risk. He would rather text, he said, than take time on a phone call.

“I put the phone on top of the steering wheel and text with both thumbs,” he said, adding that he often has exchanges of 10 messages or more. Sometimes, “I’ll look up and realize there’s a car sitting there and swerve around it.”

Mr. Smith, who was not part of the AAA survey, said he was surprised by the findings in the new research about texting.

“I’m pretty sure that someday it’s going to come back to bite me,” he said of his behavior.

Somethingelse Studio and Boutique!

Jannelle Olmstead is a customer of ours who makes such great bags I want to share her work with you all, its just wonderful! Her business is called Somethingelse Boutique! Jeweled Pockets and Fancy Crowns by Jannelle. All these accessories are her own copyrighted designs inspired by historical medieval & renaissance items, yet given to her interpretation and imagination (SO PLEASE BE CONSIDERATE and do not steal her original designs). They are all handcrafted by Jannelle and are solidly constructed for years of use. The fabrics are of the finest quality and no adornment is ever pasted on. Many of these focal pieces are hand-made from other craftspeople in metals, stone, ceramics, horn or wood. She hand wraps all the jeweled dangles and adornments with quality beads and gemstones making these jeweled bags. Every item is unique so they will all have a special individual enchantment. All her hand-painted pockets are original paintings on canvas. All are from her own drawings/designs, except for the Celtic Knots, and all are done by hand by Jannelle. To visit her website:


The Sterling Renaissance Festival, Sterling, NY. Find us in Merchants Bend. July 4th - August 16th. 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

(NEW) The Maryland Renaissance Festival - Crownsville, MD. Find us in Valley Meade. August 29 - October 25th. 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Jannelle Olmstead
SomeThing Else Design Studio
497 W. Foster Street
Palmyra, NY 14522

This is soooooooooooo Funny!

Is Sarah Palin secretly a beat poet? Do her words make little to no sense because she is so immersed in language and lyrics that she operates on a plane we cannot grasp? We sincerely doubt it, but that was the implication last night as William Shatner appeared on the "Tonight Show" and read Sarah's resignation speech in his typical Shatner way, with all the lilting and soft drum beats we've come to expect. It was quite magical.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Divorce Hurts Health Even After Remarriage – Mon Jul 27, 11:42 am ET

Divorce can wreak havoc on a person's health, even after remarriage, a new study finds.

Scientists have known that marriage can boost a man's health and augment a women's purse. The new study shows that divorce or losing a spouse to death can exact an immediate and long-lasting toll on those mental and physical gains.

"That period during the time that this event is taking place is extremely stressful," said study researcher Linda Waite, a sociologist and director of the Center on Aging at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. "People ignore their health; they're stressed, which is itself a health risk; they're less likely to go to the doctor; they're less likely to exercise; they're sleeping poorly."

It turns out, once you have tarnished your health, it's hard to snap back, even if you tie the knot again. "Remarriage helps. It puts you back on a healthy trajectory," Waite told LiveScience. "But it puts you back on a healthy trajectory from a lower point, because you didn't take care of yourself for a year."

Finding that divorce and spousal death had similar impacts on a person's health suggests divorce operates like a traumatic event in one's life, according to Waite.

Mark Hayward of the University of Texas at Austin, who was not invovled in the study, agreed.

"The acuteness of stress surrounding a divorce could operate a lot like a trauma as opposed to years and years of low-grade stress," said Hayward, who is also the director of the university's Population Research Center.

The new study "suggests much of health can be altered by these major turning points in one's life, like divorce, from which one doesn't recover," Hayward said.

Divorce prognosis

Waite and Mary Elizabeth Hughes of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland analyzed data collected from nearly 9,000 adults ages 51 to 61 who took part in the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study.

Overall, about 20 percent of the participants were remarried, meaning they had previously been divorced or widowed, the researchers will report in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. And nearly 22 percent had previously been married but hadn't remarried. Less than 4 percent were never married.

Results showed that those who had been divorced or widowed suffered from 20 percent more chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer, compared with individuals who were currently married.

Other findings included:
People who never married reported 12 percent more mobility limitations, such as trouble walking or climbing stairs, than married individuals.
People who never married were 13 percent more likely to show signs of depression than their married counterparts.
Individuals who remarried reported an average of 12 percent more chronic conditions and 19 percent more physical limitations compared with the continuously married. No difference in depression was found between these two groups.

"Some health situations, like depression, seem to respond both quickly and strongly to changes in current conditions," Waite said. "In contrast, conditions such as diabetes and heart disease develop slowly over a substantial period and show the impact of past experiences, which is why health is undermined by divorce or widowhood, even when a person remarries."

What's a couple to do?

The results don't mean spouses should stick together even when the going gets really tough. But during a divorce or after the death of a spouse, people need to make sure to focus on their health, Waite said.

Hayward notes, however, that the results give averages and that some divorces may do a body good.

"If you have a high-conflict, abusive marriage, divorce can be a relief," he said during a telephone interview. "I would never recommend that people in high-conflict, abusive marriages stay in them."

Rather, support during divorce might be key to better health outcomes.

"I'm just suggesting that if there is any room for policy it is to make [divorce] less adversarial and provide more support for those going through the divorce process," Hayward said.

Susan Boyle's statue in her hometown

Monday, July 27, 2009, 16:39

London, (ANI): Susan Boyle might be honoured with a statue in her hometown of Blackburn. The West Lothian Council is considering building a statue in honour of Susan Boyle, which could become an attraction for tourists flocking her hometown.

Buzz up!
Provost Tom Kerr is looking forward to meeting the 48-year-old singer to find a way to recognise her achievements, said a spokesman. The idea of a statue emerged after a New York couple visited the town and wrote a web diary of life in Boyle''s backyard. The diary entry detailed a 'heritage trail' of a Chinese takeaway, a chip shop, the hotel where she performed karaoke, and her council home.

"Susan is Scotland's wee Braveheart and I would love to set her in stone. I have in mind her face being part of a large globe of planet Earth rather than a life-size statuek,” the Scotsman quoted Brechin-based sculptor Tom Church, who crafted a statue of William Wallace in Stirling, as saying.

The town of Blackburn has gained massive interest on the Internet, thanks to the popularity of Susan Boyle's performances on ‘Britain's Got Talent’.

A council spokesman added: "Certainly the council would like to recognise Susan in some way in Blackburn as the interest shows no sign of stopping. I have just had a Japanese TV crew asking if it was possible to film in the town."

Susan Boyle does Moon River!

Susan takes inspiration from classic movie for first single

Published Date: 23 July 2009
SUSAN BOYLE's first single will be her version of Moon River.
The Blackburn singer is reportedly halfway through recording her debut album and Moon River – which features in movie classic Breakfast at Tiffany's – is the best track so far.

Susan, 48, has said this week that sudden fame hit her like a "giant demolition ball".

She told US TV, in an interview that aired last night, that adjusting to her overnight celebrity has been difficult.

Her first appearance on Britain's Got Talent earlier this year had millions of YouTube hits. After coming second in the TV competition, the former church volunteer was hospitalised for exhaustion.

Clan gathering draws 30,000

Published Date: 26 July 2009
By David Leask and Tom Peterkin
THEY came in their tens of thousands, from the old world and the new, a tide of tartan marching down the Royal Mile to Edinburgh's Holyrood Park.
Scotland's clans and lowland families last mustered like this when novelist Sir Walter Scott coaxed King George IV north of the Border in 1822. But yesterday's gathering of more than 30,000 people was far bigger than its 19th century predecessor. By last night fully 124 clans and families were said to be represented in the Park for a Highland Games that preceded an 8,000-strong clansmen's evening march back up the Royal Mile to the castle.

The Homecoming Year Gathering, launched by Prince Charles at Holyrood Palace, attracted visitors, as the Scottish Government had hoped, from across the world. Pouroto Ngaropo, a 40-year-old of Scots and Maori descent, travelled to the events from Whakatane, Bay of Plenty, in New Zealand. "Maoris and the Scots are very similar people – we have a clan system, too," said Ngaropo, who has a traditional moko, or tattoo, across his face. "I lead a hapu, or sub-tribe, of 841 people and we have many similar rituals, including long wakes."

Dick Boyd from Stratham, New Hampshire, said the meeting provoked strong emotion.

"This is a coming home for me, as I can trace my family back to the Clan Macintosh in the 1100s," said Boyd, his eyes welling with tears. "I am a direct descendent of the Seventh Earl of Kilmarnock and we Scots Americans are fiercely proud of our roots."

As the clans gathered in the tented village in Holyrood Park, the parliament hosted a Diaspora Forum.

The lead speaker, Scottish historian Professor Tom Devine, bemoaned what he called a "national education scandal", arguing that Scots knew far too little about their past.

He was speaking after the Culture Minister Mike Russell had welcomed delegates from all over world and told them of the Scottish Government's efforts to maximise the benefits from developing the relationship between Scotland and the 40 million expats across the world.

Devine said: "Our population is so... historically illiterate because of the glaring inadequacies of the teaching of the nation's past and culture."

Edinboro Highland Games

The Edinboro Highland Games were going on at the same time as the huge Gathering of the clans in her sister city Edinburgh, Scotland!

See my photos of the Edinboro Festival!

Analysis: Scots groups worldwide need to unify

Published Date: 27 July 2009
By Alan Bain
HOMECOMING 2009 and The Gathering are both welcome signs of Scotland and the Scottish Government's interest in its Diaspora.
The successes of these two events are a clear indication of the importance attached by the Diaspora to coming home and reveal the potential economic as well as tourism legacy that those events can provide.

The legacy, however, will depend on the
egree and manner in which it is capitalised
upon by Scotland and its government.

Today's Homecoming Scotland Leadership Conference suggests the hope that the conference's sponsors – the American-Scottish Foundation and the Illinois St Andrew Society – have true partnerships that will evolve between Scotland, its government and the Diaspora.

We suggest that an approach to the Scots Diaspora akin to the non-controlling Irish model be taken. Development and evolution of these partnerships should be organic within a framework that is acceptable to both parties.

In the United States, for example, there is a feeling that greater benefit to both Scotland and its Diaspora could be achieved by a joined-up approach that each has for Tartan Day and Scotland Week.

The importance of a joined-up approach lies in the fragility of the Scottish Diaspora organisations.

The American-Scottish Foundation is volunteer-driven and has no endowment; it depends on membership dues and sponsorship income to function. Communications from Canada and Australia reveal a similar fragility.

Sustaining and building the Diaspora is an objective that both the Diaspora and the Scottish Government have in common. Scotland and its government, it is hoped, will play a vital role in the effort to attain this objective.

Scots abroad tend to gravitate to smaller communities with no access to St Andrew societies and their like. However, the internet can connect the Scottish community.

Discussions took place over the weekend concerning the formation of a single .sco internet portal that would bind Scots worldwide.

We urge that such an initiative be led by the Scottish Government and that it include all parties that have relevant information to provide.

We also encourage the government to develop a Diaspora Task Force that includes representation from those governmental, non-governmental and private sector organisations that have a stake in a successful outcome.

• Alan Bain is president of the American-Scottish Foundation.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Historic Gathering of the Clans

housands of people have gathered in Edinburgh for the world's largest clan meeting and Highland Games.

The Gathering forms the centrepiece of the Homecoming celebrations, to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of national bard, Robert Burns.

It culminates with a clan parade along the Royal Mile and a pageant on the esplanade at Edinburgh Castle.

Organisers said demand for tickets had been "phenomenal", despite the event not selling out.

The convention was to see 100 of Scotland's clan chiefs assembled together for the first time in recorded history.

Hundreds of clan representatives from across the world are also in attendance.
The first minister said the event has been a great success

The Gathering got under way on Saturday, with more than 20,000 people watching the Highland Games in Holyrood Park.

It was officially opened by the Duke of Rothesay, who said it was a unique event.

"It seems to me that today's event represents the stirring meeting of Scotland's history and its living heritage," he said.

"Where else could you find a gathering of this scale?

"To which other country would so many have come from all over, and how else would you expect it to be celebrated, other than in the context of a great Highland Games?"

First Minister Alex Salmond said the event, which has attracted people from 40 countries, was more than just a marketing tool for Scotland.

"Obviously the Homecoming year has a visitor aspect to it," he said.

"But all of these people are celebrating their heritage and roots.

"These are deep roots and affinities that stretch back centuries. To mobilise that wonderful diaspora to make a contribution to the future of our country is a massive thing."

The event, set up in 2007, has been given funding from EventScotland, Edinburgh City Council and Scottish Enterprise.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Custom Magnets FromThe Rams Horn Studio

These are some of the products we make for shows and clubs. These are for recent events this season and we just finished production.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ed Miller, My Very Favorite Singer of Scottish Sangs!

Ed Miller will be singing at the Edinboro Highland Games this Year! Ed Miller is my very favorite Singer of Scottish songs living in the USA!

Ed Miller – Scottish Singer Cole Auditorium/Lawns 7:30pm

Ed Miller has been hailed as "one of the finest singers to come out of the Scottish Folksong Revival" and as "one of Scotland's best singing exports." Originally from Edinburgh, he has for many years been based in Austin, TX where he gained graduate degrees in Folklore and Geography at the University of Texas. Visit Ed at

Deadly bolts: Lightning survivors stress safety

Sure, the odds are long — 1 in 700,000 — but too many take scary chances

By JoNel Aleccia
Health writer
updated 8:14 a.m. ET, Thurs., July 23, 2009

When Steve Marshburn Sr. sees a neighbor mowing his lawn in a thunderstorm, he cringes.

When Michael Utley hears someone suggest that the so-called “lightning crouch” will keep them safe, he wants to scream — and sometimes does.

And when Russ Chapman talks to yet another person who thinks he’s obsessive or phobic for staying away from storms, he is compelled to set them straight.

“I tell everybody I can come up with: Don’t mess with it. It’s much more involved than you think,” he said.

For lightning strike survivors like Marshburn, Utley and Chapman, the only thing more difficult than healing from a bolt from the blue is coping with the misconceptions, myths and downright stupidity they say surround this force of nature.

It’s a challenge that exists year-round, but it grows worse between June and August, the prime thunderstorm season, when as many as 50,000 lightning strikes an hour can bombard the U.S. on a summer afternoon.

Lightning kills as many as 70 people in the United States each year and injures more than 500, according to estimates from the National Weather Service. Already this year, 24 people have died, including eight in July alone.

On Tuesday, 14-year-old Taylor Zimmerman of Stillwater, Minn., was killed by lightning while playing in the rain outside her home, according to NWS data and news reports.

While the annual total has dropped dramatically from a half-century ago, when lightning killed some 375 people a year — mostly farmers perched on metal machinery — it’s still too high in an era of wider awareness, improved prevention and better medical care, said John Jensenius, warning coordinator meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“I think there’s a long way to go,” Jensenius said.

Lightning strike odds: 1 in 700,000
The trouble is that too few people take thunder and lightning seriously, he noted. The fabled long odds of getting struck by lightning — 1 in 700,000 in a given year — lull many people into complacency and prompt them to take chances, said Jensenius.

They play one more hole of golf, or go for a hike or a run despite a gathering storm. They’ll dash across a parking lot in an cloudburst or linger in a boat on a lake a little too long.

“Lightning safety is an inconvenience,” Jensenius said. “People are balancing convenience with safety. To be honest about it, the people who are struck err too much on the side of convenience.”

Michael Utley, 57, never thought about lightning safety before he was struck on a Cape Cod golf course in May 2000. The former stockbroker spent 38 days in an intensive care unit, more than two months in rehabilitation and still hasn’t recovered fully from the mental and physical effects of the ordeal.

“I am 70 to 80 percent of what I was,” said Utley, who now spends his time educating others about the issue through his Web site. “Lightning leaves little black spots on the brain. It fries the brain and body.”

To be sure, there are plenty of people more fascinated than fearful of the phenomenon. On a Facebook page dedicated to lightning storms, more than 271,000 fans swap stories and photos that extol the virtues of “nature’s amazing power.”

But those who study lightning injuries — and those who’ve survived them — say whether it’s distant thunder or a flash overhead, lightning storms should inspire respect — and fast action.

Taking shelter under a tree, relying on postures such as squatting low and balancing on the balls of the feet or simply failing to head indoors at the first rumble of thunder all invite death or injuries.

“If you’re out and there isn’t a safe place, there isn’t a safe place,” said Jensenius. “We just recommend running as fast you can.”

Only about 10 percent of lightning victims die; the remaining 90 percent suffer injuries that can range from mild shocks to permanent problems that include chronic pain, hypersensitivity, memory lapses and impaired thinking and concentration skills, said Dr. Mary Ann Cooper, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who is regarded as the leading international expert on lightning injury.

Nerve damage is the primary culprit because lightning disrupts the functioning of the long nerve cells, leaving many patients looking normal, but feeling and acting fundamentally altered, she said.

“A lot of your routine, where did you put your keys, how did you file this, the multitasking stuff, pieces are missing out of it,” Cooper said. “Their friends don’t come around anymore. The (lightning victims) don’t understand jokes, they’re socially inappropriate. All of those filters are kind of gone.”

Teen recounts lightning strike

June 8: 14-year-old Austin Melton is lucky to be alive after being struck by lightning in Oregon. TODAY’s Matt Lauer talks to Austin and his father, Chuck, about the scare.

That's certainly been the case for Russ Chapman, 40, who was walking across a Littleton, Colo., parking lot in 1999 when lightning struck nearby and “splashed” over him, knocking him to the pavement and leaving him with lingering problems.

In the decade since the incident, he lost jobs because he forgot to go to work, he neglected to eat, suffered from ongoing severe headaches and sleep problems. He developed epilepsy, suffering one seizure while driving. He admits he's pretty leery of lightning now, refusing to go out in storms, for instance.

"I know for a fact that people think I'm really weird," Chapman said.

25 million lightning strikes a year

Lightning is created by the electrical discharge of the positive and negative regions of a thunderstorm, a separation of charge that produces enormous electrical potential within a cloud and between the cloud and the ground. Each flash carries and average of 300 million volts and currents ranging up to 20,000 amps, though extreme lightning can reach a billion volts, more than 200,000 amps and more than 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to NASA’s lightning research team.

Nearly 25 million cloud-to-ground strikes occur in the United States each year, according to the National Lightning Detection Network, with Florida topping the list with more than 1.4 million flashes a year and about 25.3 flashes per square mile. By contrast, Washington state is at the bottom of the list, with less than 20,000 flashes per year and about .3 flashes per square mile.

But Steve Marshburn Sr. knows that all it takes is one strike to dramatically alter a life. He was a 25-year-old bank clerk in North Carolina in 1969 when lightning traveled through an ungrounded speaker and struck him. Now 64, Marshburn has endured 39 surgeries and three bouts of cancer. Along the way, he formed the group Lightning Strike and Electrical Shock Survivors International Inc. to provide information and support to survivors who often feel desperate and misunderstood.

“We’ve talked 20 people out of suicide on the phone so far,” Marshburn said.

Michael Utley was struck by lightning in 2000 on a golf course. Though lightning victims may look normal, their injuries can be profound and long-lasting.

The group was a lifesaver in the early years after he was hurt, said Utley. About 60 people are expected at the annual gathering next month in Myrtle Beach, S.C. That's down from the 150 who have attended in previous years. Worldwide about 1,600 people count themselves as members, Marshburn said.

Those who come to the meeting are often relieved to find others who understand the emotional fallout of an injury that leaves many victims impatient and argumentative, sometimes interfering with family life.

“My wife thinks I’m a mean, grumpy SOB all the time,” Utley said.

Given the lingering effects, lightning strike survivors are the strongest advocates for safety awareness, said Joan Greenfield, a Farmington Hills, Mich., psychologist who counsels victims of lightning strike and electrical shock. She understands their urgency because she was badly shocked in 1996 when she waded into ankle-deep water in a flooded basement and touched an ungrounded General Electric refrigerator.

“We’ve been fried and it affects us,” she said.

‘Everyone's called ‘Sparky’’
Shock survivors are often frustrated by a medical community that fails to understand their injuries and needs and by a wider society where lightning strike is not taken seriously, or it’s an actual joke.

Nov. 26, 2008: TODAY’s Matt Lauer checks in with former guest Lara Eustermann, who survived being struck by lightning.

“Everyone’s called ‘Sparky,’” notes Cooper. “You’d be surprised at how many people have that nickname.”

A running gag in the recent movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” involves a character who says he’s been struck by lightning seven times.

“Remember the movie ‘What Women Want?’ Where Mel Gibson is struck by lightning and suddenly understands women?”” said Greenfield. “That just about toasted me.”

Instead, lightning strike survivors want people to understand their injuries and to take preventing future harm seriously.

“We respect it,” said Marshburn. “We respect it very much.”

New Pieces inspired by Rosslyn Chapel

This is the most famous of the Greenman Carvings in Rosslyn Chapel. 'Green Men'. These are carvings of human faces with greenery all around them, often growing out of their mouths. They are commonly thought to be a symbol of rebirth or fertility, pre-Christian in origin. In Rosslyn they are found in all areas of the chapel, with one excellent example in the Lady Chapel, between the two middle altars of the east wall. The green men in Rosslyn symbolise the months of the year in progression from East to West in the Chapel. Young faces are seen in the East symbolising Spring and as we progress towards the setting sun in the west the carvings age as in autumn of man's years. There are in excess of 110 carvings of Green men in and around the Chapel.Rosslyn Chapel, originally named the Collegiate Chapel of St. Matthew, is a 15th-century church in the village of Roslin, seven miles from Edinburgh in Scotland. The chapel is famous both for its decorative art and its mysterious associations with the Knights Templar, the Holy Grail, and the Freemasons.

We will be selling our new line of Jewelry inspired by Rosslyn Chapel for the first time publicly at the Edinboro Highland Games this weekend. The Greenman figure Jim carved is well known as one of the enchanting and fantastically carved features of Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. I took photos in 2005 and in 2007 of the carvings while in Scotland.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Edinboro Highland Games

WE are selling at the Edinboro Games this coming Weekend!

Edinboro Highland Games & Scottish Festival

July 24-25, 2009

New This Year: Admission is FREE, we're moving to summer, adding a fiddle competition, and the bagpipe band and solo competitions are back!

Experience a wide variety of music at many venues, massed pipe bands marching, fantastic food, awesome athletics, beautiful dance, kids' games, and an array of gift and clothing vendors on the campus of Edinboro University. Come summer -- come see what's new.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

First Communion on the Moon

As we remember the first men on the moon, let's not forget the first supper on the moon -- the Lord's Supper, served and received by an elder in the Presbyterian Church, Apollo 11 astronaut Eugene 'Buzz' Aldrin.

"This is the (lunar module) pilot," Aldrin said on July 20, 1969. "I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way." Aldrin's way was to serve himself communion, using a kit provided by the pastor of Houston's Webster Presbyterian Church.

Aldrin's brief and private Christian service never caused a flap, but it could have. Aldrin has said that he planned to broadcast the service, but NASA at the last minute asked him not to because of concerns about a lawsuit filed (later dismissed) by atheist Madelyn Murray O'Hare after Apollo 8 astronauts read from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas.

Did NASA do the right thing by making Aldrin keep his religious beliefs to himself?

As an elder in the Presbyterian church, Aldrin had the authority to conduct what is called an "extended serving" of the Lord's Supper. But Aldrin was representing the United States of America that day, and in many ways, all of his fellow earthlings. Should he have even conducted a private religious service?

"In the radio blackout," Aldrin wrote in Guideposts magazine in 1970, "I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture, 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.'

"I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements."

One small sip for man, one giant leap of faith for mankind.

The small chalice Aldrin used for the wine went back to Webster Church. Each year on the Sunday closest to July 20, the congregation celebrates Lunar Communion. "Communion can be celebrated anywhere," senior pastor Mark Cooper said Sunday. "Even cramped up in a lunar module on the moon."

Aldrin wasn't the only person to bring his faith to the moon that day. The astronauts left behind a tiny silicon chip containing a message of peace from four U.S. presidents and 73 other world leaders. Seven of them made references to God -- the presidents of Brazil, Ireland, South Vietnam and Malagasy, the king of Belgium, Pope Paul VI -- and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, who wrote:

"On this occasion when Mr. Neil Armstrong and Colonel Edwin Aldrin set foot for the first time on the surface of the Moon from the Earth, we pray the Almighty God to guide mankind towards ever increasing success in the establishment of peace and the progress of culture, knowledge and human civilisation."

Modest Sphinx Moth in Flight

This is a Modest Sphinx Moth but its showing off its bum! That isn't very modest!

To Believe or Not to Believe, that is the Question.....

I was just talking to a young friend who is a Christian but thinks religion is not really very important. What I wrote to her is this:
I think believing in God matters because I think it reflects on your outlook. It's funny I can talk to someone for only a short time and usually the ones who do not believe in a God are very miserable folks who seem to think mankind is the highest power. They see the shortcomings of mankind and that makes them bitter. People who look to God seem brighter and more optimistic. That is just what I have noticed over the years. Those of us who believe have a sort of trust the world is running under adult supervision. Those who don't see a world spinning out of control.

Pachysphinx modesta again tonight

This moth was not feeding it crashed into the Begonia after bouncing up and down on the porch light.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Susan Boyle: Sudden fame hit me like a demolition ball

Published Date: 21 July 2009
SUSAN Boyle, the Scots singer who shot to worldwide attention with her appearance on Britain's Got Talent, has described the sudden fame as a "demolition ball".

In her first TV interview since she became a global sensation with millions of fans – set to be shown in the US tomorrow – Boyle, from Blackburn, West Lothian, said:

"The impact, like a demolition ball. You know, and anyone who has that kind of impact – finds it really hard to get a head around it.

"I've got to be honest here. I guess I had to get my head around it, but through the – the guidance of a great team, and they are very good, I was able to see that in perspective and really turn that around a little."

Boyle, 48, who initially struggled with her celebrity status, is working on an album, under the direction of Britain's Got Talent judge Simon Cowell. Boyle's rendition of I Dreamed a Dream, her first and most popular performance on the talent show, attracted 275 million video views on the web.

"Being plucked from obscurity is a bit like, you know, going on a long journey.

"You don't know what's going to happen. You don't know how it's going to end. I don't want it to end," she added.

Still another Large Moth came a Calling!

Pachysphinx modesta

Pachysphinx modesta, the Poplar Sphinx or Modest Sphinx ranges through southern portions of all Canadian provinces and is found in the eastern half of the U.S. from Maine to northern Florida. James P. Tuttle has range maps showing it as far west as eastern Washington southward to extreme northeastern New Mexico. Most of the western specimens appear to be P. occidentalis, and I would not be surprised if there is some natural hybridization in the western states.
-Bill Oehlke

Family: Sphingidae, Latreille, 1802
Subfamily: Sphinginae, Latreille, 1802
Tribe: Smerinthini, Grote & Robinson, 1865
Genus: Pachysphinx Rothschild and Jordan, 1903
Species: modesta (Harris, 1839)

The Poplar Sphynx or Modest Sphinx has a wingspan of 10-12 cm. Larvae feed on poplar and willow trees. Adults are active at night. These moths are among the fastest fliers of all moths.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Another Beautiful Visitor

The Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) is a North American member of the family Saturniidae, the giant silk moths. It is a tan colored moth, with an average wingspan of 6 inches (15 cm). The most notable feature of the moth is its large, purplish eyespots on its two hindwings. The eye spots are where it gets its name – from the Greek myth of the Cyclops Polyphemus. The caterpillar of the Polyphemus moth can eat 86,000 times its weight at emergence in a little less than two months. It is widespread throughout much of North America, from southern Canada to parts of Mexico.

Male Antheraea polyphemus of the Saturniidae family.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Moth that looks Art Deco!
"Tiger Moth"
Family: Arctiidae
Grammia virgo

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Prince-backed tweed firm revived

A tweed maker supported by Prince Charles has gone back into business through a rescue bid following its collapse.

Landowner Geoffrey Minter has bought the rights to the designs by Hunter's of Brora in Sutherland. A new shop selling the tweed is to open in Brora.

In 2004, the prince hosted a dinner for more than 100 guests in Holyrood Palace, themed around Hunter's tweed.

Mr Minter has sent him two tweed caps to mark the relaunch of the brand.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The worlds oldest bible reunited online

On July 6, 2009, the world's oldest Bible went digital. The 4th century Codex Sinaiticus manuscript ("the Sinai Book") is one of the most important texts in Christianity, dating to the time of Constantine the Great. Thanks to the Codex Sinaiticus Project, you can now see and read its raw animal-hide pages online. The photographs of the book's pages show not just the written text — an English translation accompanies the original Greek — but also skeletal imprints, insect bites, scar tissue and spilled candle wax. At nearly 800 pages, Sinaiticus is the largest edition of an ancient manuscript ever to hit the Web.

Watch a video of the world's oldest Bible at London's British Library.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

'Britain has become a cold place for Christians' - Bishop warns

'Britain has become a cold place for Christians' - Bishop warns

By Jonathan Petre
Last updated at 12:14 AM on 12th July 2009

Bishop of Winchester Michael Scott-Joynt

A leading Church of England Bishop has warned that Britain has become a ‘cold place’ for Christians because of a raft of controversial equality laws.

The Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt, criticised the new Equality Bill, due to be law next year, which will force religious organisations that regard same-sex relationships as sinful to employ gay workers.

In a foreword to a report by the pressure group Christian Action Research and Education, the Bishop wrote: ‘The sad fact is that Britain – which owes so much to its Christian heritage – is increasingly becoming a “cold” place which, as any reflection on the fruit of Christian good works will demonstrate, is not in the general interest of society.’

He said there appeared to be a ‘concerted’ attack on the rights of Christians and when there were clashes, gay rights triumphed.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Some of my Dearest Friends can fly!

These Little Brown Bats have lived behind our Chimney for as long as we have lived here. We love them. Our Barn Swallows live in the shed and barn and they go to bed just as these guys come out. The little team keeps us mostly free of mosquitoes

Every Year Barn Swallows nest in our barn and shed and hatch chicks.

The Prayer Beads I made for my Niece

My Prayer Beads in Video Form

Worshippers draw bead on rosaries

Worshippers draw bead on rosaries

By Mary A. Jacobs
The Dallas Morning News

The request came from a chaplain in Iraq – American soldiers were asking for rosaries. But the chaplain was Episcopalian, and none of the soldiers was Catholic.
"We were surprised," said the Rev. Jim Burns of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York City, which responded to the chaplain's request. He said he thought the rosary appealed to the soldiers because, Catholic or not, "when you are in harm's way, you want a talisman."
Father Burns organized a group of parishioners to make Anglican prayer beads, a variation of the rosary that omits Roman Catholic devotions to Mary. The group sent about 100 sets, and the project got some parishioners interested enough to try the rosary themselves.
The church's story is one of many pointing to a new trend: growing interest among Protestants in the rosary. It's showing up on Web sites such as and The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America has on its site a "Lutheran Rosary for Lent." The rosary figures in Protestant retreats and classes focusing on prayer and contemplative practices. Publishers say they're seeing many manuscripts on the subject.

SOME PROTESTANTS ARE GRAVITATING toward the Catholic rosary, a centuries-old devotion that involves repeating a series of prayers – mostly Our Fathers and Hail Marys – and meditating on the mysteries of Jesus' life.
Others, like Dennis Di Mauro of Herndon, Va., are re-casting the devotion to fit Protestant beliefs. Di Mauro, a Lutheran, discovered the rosary while attending a couples group with his wife, who is Catholic. He liked the practice but stumbled over the Marian elements: meditations on Catholic beliefs about Mary's assumption and coronation as queen of heaven.
So he designed the Ecumenical Miracle Rosary, a set of scripturally based prayers that can be used with the traditional Catholic beads. There are no Hail Marys in this version; instead, Di Mauro prays, "Sweet Jesus, I love you with all my heart and all my soul. Help me to serve my family, and everyone else I meet today," a prayer based on "the Greatest Commandment" found in Matthew 22:34-40.
He posted the prayer on his in 1999. He now averages more than 200 hits a day from around the world. (The site includes versions in German, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.)
Di Mauro is quick to say that his Ecumenical Miracle Rosary isn't meant to replace the Catholic version. Instead, he sees it as a way for Protestants to deepen their prayer lives.

IN THE PAST, Protestants may have dismissed the rosary as a rote exercise, he said, but "people who really pray the rosary aren't just saying those prayers mindlessly. There's a lot more going on. The rosary allows you to get into a rhythm and spend some serious time praying."
Father Burns agreed. "It's a centering kind of thing," he said. "Sometimes, when you pray, your mind goes all over the map. When you have this tactile thing, it focuses you and allows you to go deeper."
George Trauth, a Catholic, decided to teach the Catholic rosary a few years ago at the Dallas Benedictine Retreat, a five-day ecumenical program on traditional Christian contemplative practices. He hesitated, because most of the 40 attendees were not Catholic.
Trauth prefaced the lesson by explaining that the rosary isn't a way to "worship" Mary – instead, Catholics pray for her intercession. The response, he said, was overwhelmingly positive: "Many came up to me afterward and said they were deeply moved by it and would continue to pray the rosary."
Terry Ziegler, co-owner of Catholic Art & Gifts in Farmers Branch, Texas, said Protestant customers will sometimes ask, "I'm not Catholic. Can you sell me a rosary?" His reply: "If you've got cash or a credit card, sure."
Ziegler believes that Pope John Paul II's attention to the rosary has boosted awareness among Catholics and non-Catholics. The pope declared a "Year of the Rosary" from October 2002 to October 2003 and revised the ancient tradition by adding five "luminous mysteries" focusing us on the public life of Jesus – his baptism, the wedding at Cana, his announcement of the kingdom of God, the transfiguration and the Last Supper. (Before, the rosary prescribed meditation on 15 mysteries of the birth and death of Jesus and the life of Mary.)
Debra Farrington, an author and publisher with Morehouse Publishing in Harrisburg, Pa., teaches the rosary at her Episcopal church as part of classes on contemplative prayer. She tweaked the devotion by encouraging participants to add spontaneous, personal prayers between each "decade" (set of 10 beads).
"It's a wonderful meditative practice," she said. "It becomes more and more meaningful the more you do it."
Farrington believes Protestants are getting more interested in what she calls "embodied" forms of prayer. "Praying the rosary involves using the body – you're holding and moving the beads," she said. "It's like walking the labyrinth. People don't want to just live in their heads anymore."

THE APPEAL crosses faith lines. "In the majority of world's religious traditions, there seems to have evolved, independently … prayer beads or some other tangible aid to prayer," said Father Burns. "It seems to be some sort of a common human need."
Growing up in a Muslim family in Turkey, Banu Moore used Islamic prayer beads to pray the 99 names of Allah. Now a Presbyterian minister, she decided to use prayer beads at the Wellspring Christian Formation Center she directs in Jamestown, N.Y.
The result: the Wellspring Prayer Beads, which incorporate elements from the Anglican beads and the Catholic rosary. Moore added beads to represent the Trinity, but prescribed no set form of prayer. Participants are encouraged to select their own Scripture verses or simply offer personal prayers.
She also encourages participants to make their own prayer beads. Some will spend hours picking just the right beads, she said, which makes the devotion more personal and meaningful.
"The beads we use are very colorful," she said. "We're such a visual culture now. You need something to connect you with your faith."
Moore said the idea of praying with beads is readily accepted by Episcopalians and Lutherans, whose religious rituals are similar in many ways to those of Catholicism. But others may require more explanation.
"With Presbyterians, I try to introduce the prayer beads in language that a Protestant will be comfortable with," she said.
She said the use of prayer beads dates back to the Desert Fathers, second-century monks who used beads or knotted ropes to repeat the Jesus prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."
"The rosary is not just a Roman Catholic thing," Moore said. "Praying with beads has been part of our tradition since the beginning of the church. We need to claim what is ours, too."



Usually 33 beads, representing the number of years Jesus is believed to have lived on Earth, with a pendant cross. There are four "weeks" (sets of seven beads) divided by cruciform beads.


Called "mala" beads, typically 108 of them, representing the number of earthly desires a disciple must conquer, and used for repeating a mantra. The beads above are used by Tibetan Buddhists in healing rituals.


The rosary consists of five decades (sets of 10 beads). The Hail Mary is repeated on each bead in the decade and an Our Father is said on each separating bead. Also includes a crucifix and a medallion of the Virgin Mary.


Usually 108 beads with a marker, used to repeat a mantra or to recite names of God or the elements of the universe.


"Subha" beads, usually 33 or 99, used to recite the 99 names of Allah.

Church aghast at 'rosary chic'

Before, it was Madonna with her Kabbalah yarn bracelets.
Now it's Britney and Beck with their rosaries.
When they and other trendy celebs started wearing rosaries as necklaces last fall, sales of the beads boomed in Europe.
"Rosaries are the new pearls," declared one fashionable blog.
British soccer star David Beckham showed up at a party with four rosaries around his neck. Later, he appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair wearing a $1,000 rosary from Dolce & Gabbana. Britney Spears was photographed in London wearing a white set of the prayer beads.

Catholic clergy, not surprisingly, aren't impressed with the craze.
Fearing that the rosary was being "trivialized," the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales put out a leaflet on proper use of the beads in prayer.
"I am sorry that people are wearing them as fashion accessories and are not mindful of their religious significance," the Rev. Allen Morris, an official of the conference, told the BBC.
Father Morris noted that the rosary includes a crucifix, an "odd thing" to wear.
"The cross is an instrument of torture," he said. "Why not wear an electric chair?"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Amid the glitter, some troubling questions remain

Amid hype, troubling issues about conduct with children
By Gene Warner
Updated: July 08, 2009, 7:59 AM / 7 comments

As thousands flocked to Los Angeles on Tuesday, just for the chance to attend Michael Jackson’s memorial service, some people here and across the country wondered what all the fuss was over an aging pop star.

Especially because of the accusations that Jackson sexually abused children.

Advocates for child victims seem to be having an especially tough time accepting the never-ending tributes, the nonstop coverage.

“As a professional dealing with the victims of child sex abuse for 14 years, I can’t pretend not to know what I know about Michael Jackson, all his artistic abilities aside,” said Lt. David F. Mann, commander of the Buffalo Police Department’s Sex Offense Squad.

“It’s just difficult for me to watch. It’s difficult to see people I otherwise respect caught up in the hype.”

Dr. Jack F. Coyne, medical director of the local Child Advocacy Center, said he has had “major problems” with all the accolades.

“We’re applauding this guy for the artist that he was. I don’t have a problem with that,” Coyne said. “But they’re also applauding him for the man that he was, for the whole being that he was. That leaves his victims — and others who have been victimized — with an empty feeling, with a loss.”

Coyne testifies in local trials, often citing the emotional wounds in sex-abuse victims as young as 6 and the scars that endure.

That’s why he was stung by reports that tickets to the Michael Jackson memorial service were being sold for thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars.

“How could we idolize someone who has caused all this pain to children?” Coyne asked.

‘Creepy and weird’

While he emphasized that he can understand the pain Jackson might have felt himself as a child-abuse victim, Coyne has other concerns. “My issue,” he said, “is the children who are left with these scars.”

The Michael Jackson story has refused to die, 13 days after his death.

Newspapers continue to run front-page articles, even when there’s little new. National television morning-show hosts joined the masses in Los Angeles. And local TV newscasts, even thousands of miles away, blanket the story with team coverage day after day; one local station devoted the first six minutes of its newscast to Jackson on Monday, the day before the memorial service.

Jackson was an accused child molester, although he never was convicted of abusing children. He was acquitted in a 2005 trial, after jurors heard that Jackson had paid a reported $20 million to the family of another alleged victim. Afterward, two jurors were quoted as saying they believed that Jackson had molested boys.

And in 1993, Jackson’s sister LaToya said her brother had molested children for years, a statement quickly branded as a lie by other family members.

“They’re treating the passing of Michael Jackson as if he’s the guy who cured cancer,” Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said. “He wasn’t.

“I don’t understand why we’re paying so much attention to someone who’s that creepy and weird. If the alleged pedophilia wasn’t there, I think he would be just viewed as an eccentric, like many other celebrities. I think the allegations of pedophilia, in combination with these eccentricities, bring it to a whole new dimension, a whole new level of creepiness.”

Media called culprit

The main culprit, according to five professionals interviewed Tuesday, is the media.

Several people used the term “media hype,” noting that TV and radio stations and newspapers can increase their ratings and sales by bringing more viewers and readers into the Michael Jackson story, with all its accomplishments and warts.

“None of this has anything to do with Michael Jackson or what he did,” Mann said. “It’s a calculated bet that people will sit in front of their TV sets and watch this for hours—or days.”

But the media coverage would be scaled back as soon as the ratings falter. So what keeps so many people thirsting for every last morsel of information or opinion?

“I think there’s a voyeuristic piece of us that wants to look into the lives of rich and famous people,” said Sharon Sisti, a social worker who is chairwoman of Hilbert College’s social science department. “I think there’s a tremendous curiosity about that.”

But Sisti, who called the media coverage “excessive,” also thinks there’s another reason we’re all so fascinated with the Jackson saga.

“We also want to understand him,” she said. “On one hand, he was accused of having inappropriate relationships with children. On the other hand, he did many wonderful things. There’s a curiosity about what made this person tick.”

The Rev. Darius G. Pridgen, pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church and a community activist, had another explanation.

“I think what people are celebrating now is the celebrity Michael Jackson,” Pridgen said. “His celebrity is so huge that the accusations at this point are on the back burner, although I think they’ll soon be on the front burner.”

Selective memory

In that way, America is treating Jackson the same way it treated other celebrities with warts who died, everyone from James Brown to Richard Nixon to Elvis, Pridgen suggested.

“I think that death has a way of erasing some memories and allowing people to embrace the good of a person,” he said. “We let them rest in peace.”

Pridgen was asked about the teachable moment that Jackson’s death can provide.

“No matter who you are, whether a star or a street sweeper, every person dies with accolades and accusations,” Pridgen said. “Let the accolades be true, and the accusations be just that.”

The critics of the endless tributes got their spokesman Sunday, when Rep. Peter T. King, a Long Island Republican, lashed out at the media coverage in a two-minute YouTube video. King railed at the universal coverage of Jackson’s death, while others who have sacrificed so much for our country— soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, cops, firefighters, teachers and volunteers — rarely get much credit.

“This guy was a pervert,” King said of Jackson. “He was a child molester. He was a pedophile. And to be giving this much coverage to him, day in and day out, what’s it say about us as a country?”

King’s comments have unleashed a firestorm of reaction, pro and con.

As Sedita said of King, without commenting further, “I think he struck a nerve with a lot of people.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Get an Education and Just Say No to being a Lama

From Times Online June 5, 2009

Disunity threatens the Dalai Lama’s timeless authority
Buddhism exerts influence far beyond its home in Tibet, to the West and East. Uncharacteristic leadership questions now challenge its reputation
Michael Binyon

The news that a Tibetan monk, chosen as a child by the Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of a spiritual leader, has thrown off his robes and renounced his vows has caused consternation among some Buddhists.

Lama Tenzin Osel Rinpoche has changed his name, denounced the Buddhist order that revered him as a man of spiritual authority and is now studying film in Madrid. He has renounced the strict life of meditation and prayer that traditionally isolates lamas away from the hurly-burly of modern life and reportedly now attends discos. To some, this will be a shock. But it underlines the extraordinary hold that one country, Tibet, has on Buddhists throughout the world and the many strands of faith and monastic traditions that are found there.

For centuries thousands of monasteries have held sway across the vast mountainous plateau. Tibetan Buddhism has now spread far beyond its cradle, however. The flight of the Dalai Lama in 1959, the resistance to Chinese rule, growing global interest in the monasteries and the setting up of Buddhist teaching centres in the West have put the spotlight on Tibet. And the key question, with far-reaching political and spiritual consequences, is: will Tibetan Buddhism retain unity after the Dalai Lama?

In recent months the issue has taken on a sharper edge. China’s confrontation with the exiled symbol of Tibetan identity has become more intense, with each side accusing the other of bad faith. The Dalai Lama has begun to speak of retiring and anointing a successor during his lifetime — a break, to many, with the tradition of reincarnation and an attempt to forestall Chinese attempts to install a political puppet.

Curiously, London could play a role in deciding the future of Tibet. The Dalai Lama’s choice as his successor appears to have fallen on Ogyen Trinley Dorje, a 23-year-old Tibetan who has been identified by his supporters as the 17th Karmapa, the so-called Black Hat lama (named because of the ceremonial black crown presented by the Ming dynasty emperor Yunglo). The Karmapa is the third-highest lama in Tibetan Buddhism and is head of the Karma Kagyu school, one of the four main “lineages” in Tibet. The identity of the true claimant of the Karmapa crown, however, is the subject of great debate.

At the age of 14, Ogyen Trinley Dorje slipped out of a window of Tolung Tsurphu monastery in central Tibet and fled across the mountains to Nepal and then India. He arrived at the exile headquarters of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, northern India, in January 2000. Conveniently, he also appears to have Beijing’s backing. Certainly, he has spoken of his admiration for Chinese culture and a willingness to co-operate with China. Speaking Mandarin fluently and an avid watcher of Chinese films, he told the BBC earlier this year that he hoped the political issue of Tibet could be resolved peacefully. He has backed the Dalai Lama’s policy of seeking greater autonomy rather than independence.

The Chinese have long refused to recognise the man seen as the second most senior figure in Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama, identified as a boy by the Dalai Lama himself. Instead, they detained him and appointed their own candidate.

But there is a major difficulty to any smooth transfer of authority to Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje: the Tibetan community is deeply split over his claim to the Karmapa throne. A large number are loyal instead to the handsome and charismatic Trinley Thaye Dorje, a 26-year-old who was recognised as the 17th Karmapa after a secret visit to Llasa by a recognised spiritual leader when the boy appeared to him in a dream in 1988. He left Tibet in 1994.

Both have begun to travel widely in the West, visiting monasteries overseas and building up their profiles. And both will, by chance, be in Britain this summer. Were they to meet and settle their differences, Tibetan Buddhism could enjoy a return to a unity and tranquility that it has not known for years.

For now, the disputed succession has opened a damaging rift in Tibetan Buddhism. The Supreme Court in India has backed Thaye Dorje’s claim. There have been reports of violence between their followers and at the monastery where the Black Hat is stored — a terrible blow to those who see ahimsa, or non-violence, as the central tenet of Buddhism.

Thaye Dorje is less political than his rival, but is very much a modern lama, who lives in Kalimpong, India. He had a Western education from English and Australian tutors and an introduction to Western philosophy. Approachable, media-friendly and with his own website (in which he even said that his favourite group was Black Eyed Peas), he is making another European tour this summer, visiting London and Manchester from July 27-31. While here — his third visit to Britain — he will be hosted by two organisations, the Dechen Community and Diamond Way Buddhism, and will expound to his followers The Way of a Bodhisattva.

The details of the visit here by Karmapa Orgyen Trinley have not been announced, but it is understood that it may come at the same time. He will probably go to the Samye Ling Monastery, on the banks of the River Esk, which claims to be the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West.

Traditionally, the Kagyu school has steered clear of politics. The two rival Karmapa claimants have not met face to face and have been careful not to speak ill of each other. Thaye Dorje, in his interviews, wishes enlightenment to all, including Orgyen Trinley and the Dalai Lama. Were a meeting between the two to be to be engineered, many of the current quarrels might fall away.

The dispute over their spiritual authority is as arcane as it is complex. It goes back to the authenticity of a letter left, according to tradition, by the 16th Karmapa to predict his successor to one of the senior Kagyu lamas. According to many commentators, the script in this, which appears to support Ogyen Trinley, was quite different from his normal writing.

The comparison perhaps can be made with the divisions within Christianity that often turn on some small point of history or dogma. A similar dispute arose at the time of the eighth Karmapa in the 16th century. Like Christianity, Tibetan Buddhism can point to an exceptionally rich heritage of rulers, poets, scholars, artists and ascetics.

This has to be really hard on everyone who took part in the young Lama's training. Talk about a clash of cultures!

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