Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cruise Ship Confession: ‘I’ll never set foot aboard a cruise ship’

         Good Day Humboldt County!

 I’ll be straightforward…when it comes to cruise ships, I’m a chicken. In 1958 (I was eight) the movie “A Night To Remember” came out. It was about the Titanic’s last hours and was based upon the novel of the same name by Walter Lord.

 The novel told the story of the ships last night in a  "you-are-there" minute-by-minute fashion. So did the movie. I was riveted to my seat as the supposedly unsinkable ship slowly sunk into the icy Atlantic. The theatre got cold. Something happened to me that day. I made a silent vow to never go on a cruise. Even when my wife went last year, I could not be persuaded to partake in such folly! I knew bad things happened on, and in, cruise ships. People get sick because they all eat from buffet style offerings and the cooties go nuts in that environment. Unpleasant odors. Poor hygiene. I could go on…

Two recent events made me recall the Titanic’s fate, and why I don’t do cruise ships. You however may not be a total coward and might even be interested in the second story. The first will give you a pause. I threw the third story in because it supports part of my contentions about cruises. I’m just saying…  

                                            Cruise ship runs aground off Italy; deaths reported

A cruise ship (above photo) with 4,200 people on board ran aground on the island of Giglio, off the Tuscan coast, on Friday night. Three bodies were found, officials said, and there were unconfirmed news reports of a total of six or eight deaths. New reports said 69 people were still missing early Saturday.

 The Telegraph of London said some passengers jumped from the steeply listing Costa Concordia and swam a short distance to the island. 'I thought that was the end': Passengers tell of panic on wrecked cruise ship

"Have you seen 'Titanic?' That's exactly what it was," said Valerie Ananias, 31, a schoolteacher from Los Angeles who was traveling with her sister and parents on the first of two cruises around the Mediterranean.

They all had dark red bruises on their knees from the desperate crawl they endured along hallways and stairwells that were nearly vertical, trying to reach rescue boats. "We were crawling up a hallway, in the dark, with only the light from the life vest strobe flashing," her mother, Georgia Ananias, 61, said. "We could hear plates and dishes crashing, people slamming against walls."

                                             Cruise ships to set sail, commemorate Titanic's sinking

With the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic fast approaching, interest is building all over the world for this historic occasion.

There are two themed Cruises with descendants of Titanic passengers, enthusiasts and cruise passengers getting the opportunity to be part of history.Both cruises go to the site where the Titanic sank on its Maiden and fateful voyage. A special Memorial Service will take place at the exact time the Titanic sank 100 years before.

Passengers sue Thomson Cruises over smelly ship

Unhappy passengers who sailed on Thomson Cruises' flagship, Thomson Dream, nearly two years ago are taking legal action against the cruise line because of unpleasant smells and poor hygiene, according to a local media report.

Staffordshire's local Web site says the claims are being made by 205 holidaymakers who sailed on the 55,000-ton, 1,506-passenger Thomson Dream between May and October 2010, immediately following its acquisition from Costa Cruises. At the time, Cruise Critic reported a number of teething problems on the ship, including faulty plumbing and dodgy air conditioning.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Taking a short trip today – see you Saturday…

x742619345_hkJPG-750x750_jpg_pagespeed_ic_CbChiopUeP   Good Day Humboldt County!

  As soon as I finish writing this I’m gone… down another path to pursue business and pleasure until Saturday.

  Please feel free to check out my past columns on the left. Leave a comment and I promise to answer it.

  Have a great day and I’ll see you on down the road…


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Class conflict in America: the rich get richer while the poor get poorer

We’ve all heard the phrase, “The rich get richer while the poor get poorer, and a recent survey supports that contention. 

“A survey released Wednesday by Pew Social & Demographic Trends finds that 66 percent of Americans see strong or very strong conflicts between rich and poor people. That’s a 19 percentage point increase over 2009.”

No surprise there bucko. Some things never change.

“The strife between rich and poor people is now seen as a bigger issue than other social conflicts, including conflict between immigrants and native-born Americans and tension between black and white Americans, according to the Pew study.”

Are the so-called 1%ers worried that the peasants might pick up pitchforks and storm their castles? Apparently not:

“Despite the perception that there is a growing conflict, the Pew report said they did not find clear support for things like government measures to address income inequality.”

In other words they don’t give a damn!

“More than 4 in 10 respondents said they think people are wealthy because they were born into wealthy families or know the right people.”

As millions of Americans have struggled with high unemployment and other lingering effects of the recession, the nation’s median household income has actually fallen slightly.

Meanwhile, the wealth gap between the richest Americans and the rest of the country widened during the recession, which officially ended in 2009.

“The Occupy Wall Street movement has been perhaps the most visible sign of people’s frustrations over the gap between rich and poor, prompting national attention and similar protests throughout the country.”

With all of our wealthy politicians thriving like thieves in Congress, don’t expect things to really change. History has a way of repeating itself when it comes to corrupt legislators calling the shots.

Surviving Stress: studies says it shrinks you brain and young people are more stressed out today than ever before

Good Day World!
Stress is something we all live with in this hectic society.
It’s how we cope with the constant stress that makes the difference between being happy and miserable.
Scientists have been saying for years it affects the brain and PTSD is one of the many byproducts from it.
But this is the first I've heard about brains shrinking. I’m afraid if that’s true my brain is the size of a pea!

                      All that stress is shrinking your brain, new study finds
Everyone knows stress can cause headaches and sleepless nights. But a new study suggests it can actually shrink your brain. We’re not talking run-of-the-mill stressors here, like a looming deadline or a missed bus.

“These are bad things happening, like a relationship breakup, loss of a loved one, being held at gunpoint,” says Yale neurobiologist Rajita Sinha, senior author of the new report. Simply feeling stressed-out was not linked to gray matter shrinkage.
 But feeling stressed-out combined with a history of stressful life events was.  In particular, stress was linked to markedly less gray matter than expected in a part of the prefrontal cortex that regulates emotion and self-control, not to mention blood pressure and blood sugar.

And maybe it’s already affecting brain function in the healthy individuals she studied, Sinha says.
In other words, the stresses of modern life are far more complicated than what our ancestors experienced. “You can say stresses are a part of life, so what’s the big deal?”

But it is a big deal, she adds, because there’s extensive evidence that stress has contributed to the rise in chronic diseases.
Most human research about the impact of stress on brain structure has focused on patients with stress-related psychiatric disorders such as addiction and anxiety, according to the authors. Those studies have found decreased volume in the frontal lobe, considered the center of emotion control and personality.Whose brains shrunk more, men’s or women’s?
You might think you know the answer, but the researchers don’t, because they didn’t have enough women to compare the sexes.The take-home message, Sinha says, is that the better you cope with stress -- take a walk, call a friend -- the better off your brain will be.

Young People Today More Stressed Out, High-Strung

A San Diego State University researcher says high school and college students today are more stressed-out and high-strung than ever before.
SDSU Professor Jean Twenge is known for her extensive research about how today's young generation differs from previous generations. In fact, she’s written two books on the subject – Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic.
Her latest research indicates today's high school and college students have higher levels of anxiety and mental health problems compared to young people who lived during the past seven decades.
 In fact, five to eight times as many young people in 2007 are having problems compared to those in 1938.
Twenge says the increase is linked to cultural shifts which she says place a greater emphasis on shallow values such as money and materialism versus people and relationships.
"Since the 1930s, American culture has placed a lot more emphasis on materialism. Young people are much more likely to say, 'I'm really interested in making a lot of money,'" Twenge said.
"That (cultural shift) has happened at the same time of this increase in anxiety and depression. We can't say for sure that one causes the other, but we can say they have happened at the same time."
Twenge says typical symptoms of anxiety include excessive worrying, insomnia and nausea.
 Depression, anti-social behavior and narcissism are also on the rise based on the findings. Twenge says this research is important for helping everyone to understand the world in which young people live.
"It's tempting to say (young people) have it easy. Well, that doesn't seem to be the case. This shift in our culture toward emphasizing materialism and fame has not served us very well.
It's not a good recipe for mental health at any age."
Time for me to walk on down the road…

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Largest study ever conducted: ‘Marijuana doesn’t hurt lung capacity’

Periodically smoking marijuana doesn't appear to hurt lung capacity, the largest study ever conducted on pot smokers has found.

Even though most marijuana smokers tend to inhale deeply and hold the smoke in for as long as they can before exhaling, the lung capacity didn't deteriorate even among those who smoked a joint a day for seven years or once a week for 20 years, according to the study published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

In recent years, studies on marijuana smoking and its effects on lung function have been contradictory. While most studies have shown no effects on the lungs from smoking cannabis, others have shown adverse effects, and still others have shown improvement in lung function. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and University of Alabama at Birmingham knew tobacco smoking causes lung damage and leads to respiratory issues such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but they wanted to be clear whether smoking marijuana, had similar effects.

They measured lung function multiple times in more than 5,100 men and women during a 20-year period. In fact, the research shows, some people who regularly smoke marijuana can have a slight improvement in lung function. Experts say that people shouldn’t simply take the news as green light to get high, but should also consider other factors.

“Marijuana is a complicated substance, and for people who are thinking about what they’ve done in the past or are thinking about using marijuana or believing it can help medically, their decision should not be based on lung consideration,” says study co-author Dr. Stefan Kertesz, a researcher and primary care doctor at University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Birmingham VA Medical Center.

“It’s not a decision about lung health, it’s all the other issues: the risk of addiction, an increase in the chance of having accidents and social functioning.”

Researchers reached their findings by using data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults, collecting repeated measurements of lung function and smoking from March 1985 to August 2006.  More than half of the participants, or 54 percent, said they were current marijuana smokers, cigarette smokers or both when the study began. The average marijuana use was only a joint or two a few times a month — typical for U.S. marijuana users, Kertesz said.

The authors calculated the effects of tobacco and marijuana separately, both in people who used only one or the other, and in people who used both. They also considered other factors that could influence lung function, including air pollution in cities studied. The analyses showed pot didn't appear to harm lung function, but cigarettes did. Cigarette smokers' test scores worsened steadily during the study.

Researchers measured how well participants could blow air in and out. A healthy adult can exhale about a gallon of air in one second. Although their study focused on lighter smokers, they found some people who smoked more than a joint a day for seven years, could exhale slightly more air than that.

Kertesz says that extra strength may come from the habit of deeply inhaling, holding and slowly exhaling marijuana smoke. “It’s a tiny increase; it’s not a big increase to lung health,” he says. “So be careful not to say that, ‘Oh, wow! Lungs work better on marijuana.’ That would be totally inaccurate.”

Authors say there weren't enough heavy users (those who smoked two or more joints a day) among those in the study to draw firm conclusions on that group. Dr. Donald Tashkin, who has studied the relationship between marijuana smoking and lung function for more than 30 years as a professor of medicine at UCLA, says the study confirms what other research has also concluded.

“This is a well-done study involving more subjects than in the past,” says Tashkin, who is not affiliated with the new study. “The public should take away it’s a confirmatory study, but larger and longer than previous studies demonstrating, once again, that smoking marijuana does not impair lung function, unlike tobacco.”

Tashkin says scientists have a theory that lung capacity is not affected in marijuana smokers because the chemical THC in marijuana has immunosuppressant properties that interfere with the development of respiratory issues such as COPD. He says this indicates there will be lower rates of COPD, but marijuana smokers are still at risk for chronic bronchitis, which means they tend to have increased cough and mucus. The study didn't look at the risk of lung cancer.

And Tashkin cautions about drawing overall conclusions from the new work: “We’re only talking about one end point. We’re not looking at lung cancer, chronic bronchitis symptoms. We are not looking at other effects, behavioral effects. We are looking at lung function.” (article source)

What would a conversation/debate sound like between 3 tea party members and 3 Occupy activists?

The Tea Party and Occupy are two groups of disenchanted Americans who are helping shape the discussions in politics today.

Representing Occupy are:

From left to right, Sergio Ballesteros, Tim Weldon and Elli Whiteway. is offering a Web-only discussion between six members of the two movements – three Occupy protesters and three members of Tea Party affiliated groups. And they would like you to participate.The one-hour event, which will be live streamed on Wednesday from 4-5 p.m. ET, will be moderated by MSNBC TV’s Richard Lui.

Representing The Tea Party:

From left to right, Monica Boyer, Chuck McNab and Sharon Snyder.

For more information about these six representatives go here.

NBCPolitics is inviting people to join the discussion and is asking those interested to submit questions for our panelists in the comments area below, on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.

Then check back on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET to watch the event live, or look for it after the fact on

What happens if voters can’t decide who to pick for president?

Call It What You Want: The Weather Is Sure Weird This Year

        Good Day Humboldt County!

 I’ve lived in Humboldt County since 1979 and have never seen a drier winter. Our local Channel 3 weatherman, Bill Bernard, has made a few comments about this dry spell but hasn’t been giving out any statistics to compare with other years.

I’m pretty sure this will be, and is, a record breaking year for weather here in Humboldt County…and the rest of the world! No shit! Just look at what’s happening nationally:


                                               Weird winter weather: Want snow? Head south

Where's winter? If you're in the lower 48 states you might try Midland, Texas. At some 20 inches so far this season -- more than half of that dumped on Monday alone -- it's got more snow than most U.S. cities much farther north.

Take Minneapolis, Minn., at just 10.3 inches of snow so far this season (the norm: 24.9 inches), according to Or Chicago, Ill., at just 1.9 inches, when by this time last winter it already had seen nearly 17 inches. Or Buffalo, N.Y., at just 5.5 inches, not the normal 44.4 inches. La Nina was also expected to bring a strong winter to the northern part of the U.S., forecasters predicted last fall. What gives?

Minnesota Public Radio meteorologist Paul Huttner says it's complicated."There may not be one specific reason," he said in a Q&A on the MPR website. "The jet stream has stayed unusually far north in Canada so far this winter. One reason is the so called Arctic Oscillation. It's been in a strong 'positive phase' this year which means stronger westerlies and Pacific air masses for Minnesota" instead of the colder air coming down from the Arctic.

Alaska on alert: towns low on fuel; 95 mph gusts forecast

It's not just the towns of Nome and Cordova struggling through what's been a wicked winter in Alaska; at least two more towns are running low on fuel, and parts of the state face blizzard warnings on Tuesday, with gusts up to 95 mph predicted in the Anchorage area.

A seafaring fuel convoy has been trying to reach Nome but two smaller villages are even closer to running out, the Alaska Daily News reported Tuesday.

"We're running pretty low," said Kobuk Mayor Edward Gooden Jr. The town of some 100 residents was trying to clear its airstrip in hopes that a fuel plane could arrive shortly.

In Anchorage, a blizzard warning was issued Tuesday for the outskirts of Alaska's largest city. Up to 28 inches of snow were predicted through late Tuesday, along with winds from 55 to 70 mph. Anchorage has already seen some 81 inches of snow this season -- double the norm. And it's not just Anchorage.

"Many areas of Alaska are under severe-weather warnings this morning, with blizzard conditions and heavy snow from western Alaska and portions of the Interior all the way to Haines in Southeast," the Anchorage Daily News reported. As accustomed to harsh winters as Alaskans are, this one seems to be taking a toll.

"Is this the winter of Mother Nature's discontent?" asked "Those living in Alaska have to wonder. It's like the poor old gal has gone schizophrenic. There really is no other explanation for the weather extremes witnessed in the north this year."

Time to walk on down the road…

Monday, January 9, 2012

Documentary airs tonight: What ever happened to the billions of dollars sent to Iraq?

It’s hard to believe, but billions of dollars just disappeared…

This is probably one of the greatest financial mysteries of all times. What happened to the tens of billions of dollars the New York Fed sent to Iraq during the war?

CNBC Transcript:

“Our own Eamon Javers is here. He's been following the money trail. He found something quite unusual that happened on the Baghdad-side of the transaction.

Sue, this is an interesting mystery. The money really started here in New Jersey at the New York Fed's compound off of route 17. They shipped it to Andrews Air Force Base. Palettes of cash, billions of dollars loaded onto C-17s and flown to Baghdad.

What we discovered in doing this documentary is all of those flights over the years were net by the same guy on every receiving end of those flights. billions of dollars in cash. And it was his job to handle the cash in Baghdad. His name is Bazel. We had a chance to sit down and talk to him in Dubai. This man is the last known American official to see the cash. He was responsible for transporting the money to the central bank in Baghdad. He agreed to be interviewed if we used only his first name, which is Bazel.

Were you able to resist the temptation to just throw a little off the back of the truck and take some for yourself? Absolutely. There's no temptation there. Why not? I think of myself as in honor of what I do. That is absolutely wrong. So did you take any of the money ever? Never. Never. He claims every shipment under his watch was delivered safely. and he didn't steal the money. But he says he knows what happened to it.

Sue, I don't want to give away the ending there by telling you what did happen to it. That's a cliff hanger. Yeah. The documentary airs tonight at 9:00 eastern time tonight. Everybody will be watching it I know including some who want to get the answer to why is a garbage truck key -- this was the weirdest detail. -- to one part of this story. What he told me is they were getting hit so many times with these convoys, suicide bombers, machine guns going off in Baghdad, he decided at one point he was going to rent a garbage truck -- we have a picture right there. Put $1 billion in the back of that truck, roll it down route Irish, which is the most dangerous road in the world at the time, with a billion dollars in the back and take it to the bank. Because it was so fortified or they wouldn't view it as a target? It's a trash truck. They didn't hit it. They thought it was trash.”

Recall: Mix-up pulls Excedrin, Bufferin, other meds off shelves

This sounds like it’s going to be a headache for a lot of people!

“Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis issued a recall of Excedrin, Bufferin, NoDoz and Gas-X on Sunday, citing concerns that some bottles of the over-the-counter medications contain tablets of other Novartis products — perhaps including the powerful prescription painkillers Percocet, Endocet, Opana and Zydone — or contain tablets that are broken or chipped.
The recalled lots include select bottle sizes of Excedrin and NoDoz with expiration dates of Dec. 20, 2014, or earlier and some bottle sizes of Bufferin and Gas-X with expiration dates of Dec. 20, 2013, or earlier.  Complete information about the recalled lots is available on the
Novartis website. (News source)”

Strange Times: a short walk through the headlines

                                 Good Day Humboldt County!

 I have a few silly stories to share with you today. Believe me, the world’s full of them every day. I decided to start this day with humor and a nod to the slightly strange because it seemed like a good idea.

              Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop arrested

Authorities in southern Wisconsin are facing a tongue twister thanks to the arrest of Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop. The unusually named 30-year-old man was in jail Sunday in Madison. Police say he violated his bail conditions from a previous run-in with the law.

   Magpies and bears mourn  North Korea's "Dear Leader"

The passing of North Korean strongman Kim Jong-il has been marked by plunging temperatures, mourning bears and now, according to North Korean state media, by flocks of magpies. Kim, who died in December aged 69 years after 17 years running the world's most reclusive state, was reputed to be able to control the weather, as well as to have scored a miraculous 38 under par round of golf.

"At around 17:30 on December 19, 2011, hundreds of magpies appeared from nowhere and hovered over a statue of President Kim Il Sung on Changdok School campus in Mangyongdae District, clattering as if they were telling him the sad news," state news agency KCNA reported on Monday.

White House hosted “Alice in Wonderland” party

A new book reports that the Obama White House hosted an extravagant "Alice in Wonderland" party in the fall of 2009, designed by director Tim Burton and featuring actor Johnny Depp.

In "The Obamas," New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor writes that the White House decided to downplay the expensive Halloween party over fears of a public backlash, since it was taking place during the height of the recession.


Time to walk on down the road…

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Plugged In: What makes people think they won’t go deaf?

3dancers     By Dave Stancliff/For The Times-Standard
 The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. When I research on the internet it’s like walking through the biggest library in the world. Yet with all the resources available online there are still some questions that go unanswered.
Maybe you can help.
 Why do people think they won’t suffer permanent ear damage when they spend hours daily with MP3s blaring directly into their brain? What makes them think after years of use they won’t be reading lips?
Is it because no empirically based studies have warned consumers? No. A recent European Commission review confirmed that listening to personal music players at high volumes over a sustained period of time can lead to permanent hearing damage.
The 2011 European Commission says by 2020 it could be commonplace to see one in ten 30 years olds wearing a hearing device as a result of listening to loud personal music players.
Brian Fligor, a doctor at the Children's Hospital in Boston, explains when volume is increased by three decibels, if you listen for only half as long, it produces the same hearing damage as listening for the full duration at the lower volume. Typically, someone who is exposed to more than 85 decibels of sound for eight hours damages their hearing. 
 Why single out MP3 players? The answer lies in the sheer number of songs MP3 players can hold. Other portable music players only hold one CD or cassette at a time, so people listen for a shorter time. MP3 players can store thousands of songs, resulting in longer use. Also, the earbuds common on MP3 players deliver the sound directly into the ear canal, eliminating other sounds.
 I’ve only touched on a small fragment of the information available that warns people, among other things, not to listen to a MP3 player more than one hour a day, and of the dangers involved when using one daily.
 None of the information seems to make a difference though. I constantly see people of all ages sporting earbuds in public places. Men, women, teenagers, children are plugged in. If everyone does it, it’s all right?
 Part of me wonders if any of the plugged-in set have never seen or heard anything warning them of the dangers of their habit? By some massive coincidence, have they all missed the news report, or study in the newspaper, that might have saved their ears?
  I can remember playing my 8-track tape player as loud as my Craig 10 inch speakers could stand. I didn’t think, or care, about ear damage back then. Everyone played their music loud. The only warning I ever got about playing my music too loud was from cops while cruising around the high school. I admittedly had little common sense back then, and didn’t worry about little things like damaging my hearing.
Am I making excuses for young people who play loud music? Not really. They’re the most likely to abuse their own ear drums. Unfortunately, they’re also the most likely to continue bombarding their ear canals if told to stop. 
In recent years I’ve seen other examples of high tech devices that can be harmful to one’s health. The one that bothers me the most is people who text and drive. More and more states are outlawing the practice, but I can’t help wondering why people think they can operate a car in traffic while typing inane messages on a tiny keyboard? Really?

Are people that stupid? Doe the same people who have MP3s plugged into their skulls text while driving? Does it take a certain type of person to believe they know best regardless of the facts? I’m beginning to think that may be the case. I’m not positive yet.
  I can only think of one other answer to my question: lots of people just don’t have common sense. They may get some as they get older, but by then it may be too late. That could explain a lot. What I thought was stupidity could just be indifference. Being clueless must have it’s merits because MP3 players and earbuds have seamlessly found their way into our culture.
 As It Stands, if you ever think of investing in the stock market you might check out hearing aide manufacturers!

Blog Break Until Presidential Election is Over

I finally hit the wall today. I can't think of what to say about all of the madness going on in this country right now. I'm a writer...