Two KRUSTY nuclear reactors power a settlement on Mars. From CNET.com.

Nuclear power is not doing well. The cheap fracking of natural gas and oil, while it is putting a crimp on our enemies, is also hurting the nuclear industry. Already racked with the high cost of regulation (we’re talking millions per plant), no compensation for carbon emission and a lack of public understanding about what nuclear power actually is, the nuclear industry is failing. Plants are closing around the US, and the workforce is not attracting the best and brightest. As the workforce ages and less plants are available, we have the risk that US nuclear power is going to go extinct. Except for the United States Navy and China, nuclear power seems on the way out the door.

And yet…
Continue reading “Is KRUSTY the future for nuclear engineers?”

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – It is a clear, glorious day here in the northwest corner of Louisiana.  I’m writing this from the wooden swing that hangs from my giant magnolia tree which is in full bloom with sweet smell of the South.  I’ve got two lazy cats at my feet, a cold beverage beside me, and meat on the smoker out back.  Life is good.

I do my fair share of complaining about Louisiana politics, politicians, the terrible state of public education, and pretty much everything else that gets under my skin, but most of the time I feel pretty lucky to live in the South.

As I read about poor John McCain planning his own funeral and about how friends are coming by to pay respects and “say things that need to be said,” I feel the need to count my blessings.  Say what you will about John McCain, but facing your own mortality must be difficult.

I try to keep in mind that every single day is a gift.

Today we are sitting outside, as I said, listening to our local college team play in the SCAC championship baseball game somewhere in Texas.  I thoroughly enjoy listening to baseball on the radio and much prefer it to listening to the commentators on television.  On the radio, the announcers have to paint a picture with their words and are much more descriptive and entertaining.

“Working in short sleeves the Bulldogs are wearing yellow jerseys today,” isn’t something you’ll hear a tv commentator say very often.

On television, since you can see the action yourself, they spend too much time having to fill air time with banal blather that bores me to tears.  When I can, I’ll watch baseball on television with the sound down and pull up audio online.  I’m weird like that.

Whenever I listen to a baseball commentator I can’t help but think about Roger Angell; was there ever a writer who covered baseball more beautifully?  I don’t think so.

You can have the NFL all day long; give me a baseball game any day of the week.  To me there is something so pure and so beautiful about the game baseball.  It’s like several different games of strategy in a single game and much more complex than it seems.  It’s truly America’s game, played by those “boys of summer,” and every other baseball cliché you can come up with.  Throw ‘em all in there!

Yes, I’m sitting here at the very edge of my summer break and my mind is full of summer projects and plans for things I need to do in the next eight weeks away from school.  I will weigh the importance of these plans and see what can be procrastinated and then get about half of them done. But probably I will spend a lot of time right here in this swing, sipping a cold beverage, visiting with neighbors, watching my cats lazily stretch out in the cool St Augustine grass and just be glad to be alive.

My wish for you on this Monday, at the end of this post basically about nothing, is that you make today count, be grateful for the small things, and that you find some kindness that you can do to brighten someone’s day today.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.  Follow her on Instagram: @patbecker25.

Yes, I legitimately worked there, and earned these coins.

“We’ll be so much more efficient doing this at Fleet Forces.”

I cringed when I heard these words. I was working at Second Fleet, about ready to transfer, and I heard one of the smart-ass bureaucrats from Fleet Forces tell me this. My reply was sharp “Really? You have no idea what we do here.” And I was right. At the time, Second Fleet handled all the training, certification and day to day problems for the entire East Coast of the Navy. Every CASREP, every SITREP, all of it flowed through the Second Fleet Battle Watch. Our purpose was to use the 3 stars of our boss to fight for training time, materials and whatever else the fleet needed to deploy successfully.

But the Navy wanted to “save money,” so we were told that Second Fleet would be dissolved, and all functions taken by the behemoth command known as Fleet Forces. Almost instantly afterwards, TF-80 stood up. We had lots of powerpoint to justify TF-80, with “readiness kill chain” and other fun phrasing, but in reality TF-80 was the fill in for Second Fleet, because all those “efficiencies” weren’t really happening. Then, after 7 years of watching fleet training go down the toilet and us surge units to fill spaces for combatant commanders, now we’re bringing Second Fleet back. Heck, we’re even thinking about bringing back a NATO command in Norfolk to address things like integrating allies into Carrier Strike Groups (gee, didn’t we have that before?).

Continue reading “Bringing back Second Fleet…and maybe some real training”

Saint Dymphna was an Irish princess born in the seventh century to a pagan king and a Christian mother. She is the Patron Saint of people who are suffering from mental illness and/or emotional stress, nervous disorders, epileptics, victims of incest, runaways, and mental health professionals.

I first learned of her from my grandmother, who suffered from depression and who gave me a pocket sized prayer booklet for Saint Dymphna from the Franciscian Mission Associates in New York which features the image below on its cover. I still have that booklet, well over twenty years after it was given to me. Saint Dymphna is very dear to me, and her feast day is coming up on May 15th.

Saint Dymphna Patron of Mental & Spiritual Afflictions

Dymphna’s Christian mother was very beautiful, and her husband, King Damon of Oriel, loved her very much. Saint Dymphna was raised Christian; she was secretly baptized by her mother and educated by their priest, Father Gerebernus. Young Dymphna loved Jesus Christ and promised herself to Him with a vow of chastity as she began to approach womanhood. Via the National Shrine of Saint Dymphna, here is what happened soon after:

It was not long, however, until an unexpected cloud overshadowed the happy childhood of the beautiful girl. She lost her good mother by death. Many were the secret tears she shed over this bereavement, but at the same time she found great comfort in the Divine Faith which, though she was still of a tender age, already had taken deep root.

Dymphna’s father, too, greatly mourned his deceased wife and for a long time continued prostrate with grief. At length he was persuaded by his counselors to seek solace in a second marriage. So he commissioned certain ones of his court to seek out for him a lady who would be like his first spouse in beauty and character. After visiting many countries in vain, the messengers returned saying that they could find none so charming and amiable as his own lovely daughter, Dymphna. Giving ear to their base suggestion, the king conceived the evil design of marrying Dymphna. With persuasive and flattering words he manifested his purpose to her. Dymphna, as may be expected, was greatly horrified at the suggestion, and asked for a period of forty days to consider the proposal. She immediately betook herself to Father Gerebran, who advised her to flee from her native country, and since the danger was imminent, he urged her to make no delay.

With all speed, therefore, she set out for the continent, accompanied by Father Gerebran, the court jester and his wife. After a favorable passage, they arrived on the coast near the present city of Antwerp. Having stopped for a short rest, they resumed their journey and came to a little village named Gheel. Here they were hospitably received and began to make plans for establishing their future abode at this place.

The king, in the meantime, having discovered Dymphna’s flight, was fearfully angry, and immediately set out with his followers in search of the fugitives. After some time, they were traced to Belgium and their place of refuge was located. At first, Dymphna’s father tried to persuade her to return with him, but Father Gerebran sternly rebuked him for his wicked intentions, whereupon he gave orders that Father Gerebran should be put to death. Without delay, his wicked retainers laid violent hands upon the priest and struck him on the neck with a sword. With one blow of the steel, the head was severed from the shoulders and another glorious martyr went to join the illustrious heroes of Christ’s kingdom.

Further attempts on the part of Dymphna’s father to induce her to return with him proved fruitless. With undaunted courage she spurned his enticing promises and scorned his cruel threats. Infuriated by her resistance, the father drew a dagger from his belt and he himself struck off the head of his child. Recommending her soul to the mercy of God, the holy virgin fell prostrate at the feet of her insanely raving father. Thus the glorious crown of martyrdom was accorded to St. Dymphna in the fifteenth year of her age, on the fifteenth day of May, between 620 and 640. The day of her death has been assigned as her feastday.

The records of Dymphna’s life and death say that the bodies of the two martyred saints lay on the ground for quite some time after their death, until the inhabitants of Gheel removed them to a cave, which was the customary manner of interment in that part of the world at the time of the martyrdoms. But after several years had elapsed, the villagers, recalling their holy deaths, decided to give the bodies a more suitable burial. When the workmen removed the heap of black earth at the cave’s entrance, great was their astonishment to find two most beautiful tombs, whiter than snow, which were carved from stone, as if by angel hands. When the coffin of St. Dymphna was opened there was found lying on her breast a red tile bearing the inscription:

“Here lies the holy virgin and martyr, Dymphna.”

The remains of the saint were placed in a small church. Later necessity obliged the erection of the magnificent “Church of St. Dymphna,” which now stands on the site where the bodies were first buried. St. Dymphna’s relics repose there in a beautiful golden reliquary.

Miracles and cures began to occur in continually increasing numbers. Gradually St. Dymphna’s fame as patroness of victims of nervous diseases and mental disorders was spread from country to country. More and more mentally afflicted persons were brought to the shrine by relatives and friends, many coming in pilgrimages from far-distant places. Novenas wer made, and St. Dymphna’s relic was applied to the patients. The remarkable cures reported caused confidence in the saint to grow daily. At first the patients were lodged in a small annex built onto the church. Then gradually it came about that the patients were place in the homes of the families living in Gheel. From this beginning Gheel developed into a town world-famed for its care of the insane and mentally afflicted. An institution, called the “Infirmary of St. Elizabeth,” which was conducted by the Sisters of St. Augustine was later built for the hospital care of the patients. Most of the latter, after some time spent in the institution, are placed in one or other of the families of Gheel, where they lead a comparatively normal life.

In the town of Geel, Belgium, where Saints Dymphna and Gerebernus were martyred, local people still continue to provide care for those who travel there seeking relief from mental illness centuries later. Via NCR Online:

In the mid-14th century, Geel erected a church in Dymphna’s honor; it was built on the spot where she was buried. Around this time, rumors spread about disturbed individuals who were cured upon visiting Geel. As these accounts circulated, people began bringing disturbed family members, hoping for their own miracle. And many embattled souls made it to Geel on their own.

A building contiguous to St. Dymphna Church was built to accommodate the troubled pilgrims. Soon enough, the capacity of this structure was exceeded. Church authorities appealed to the citizens of Geel, who responded in a way that would eventually designate Geel as “the charitable city”: They welcomed mentally ill strangers into their homes.

The Geel community showed remarkable compassion, particularly for an era when most any sort of psychological aberration was viewed as being due to demonic influence or possession. Ronald J. Comer’s Abnormal Psychology mentions the typical techniques of the time for dealing with the psychologically aberrant. Exorcisms, of course, were performed. “Holy water” or “bitter drinks” might be administered. If these remedies failed to produce results, the ensuing therapy could consist of flogging, scalding, stretching of limbs, or starvation. It was hoped that these extreme measures might expunge the iniquity.

In contrast to these measures was the Geel way, in which the mentally ill, who were called “boarders” instead of “patients,” became a valued part of the community. Many of the boarders helped with agricultural labor. They were allowed to go about the village, and some even became regulars at local taverns. Some boarders stayed in Geel for only a few months; others stayed for the rest of their lives.

The boarder population peaked in the year 1938, when the number reached 3,736. About 1,600 remained by the late 1970s. Geel now has some 500 boarders and a total population of about 35,000.

Via Medelita, here is more information about how the mentally ill are cared for in Gheel currently:

These days, boarders are considered wards of the local psychiatric hospital, and they have a treatment team that checks in on them and drops off medications when needed. However, there is no care plan or greater goal given to the families that take them in. They are only told to be as normal as possible. Families are unaware of the patient’s diagnosis, only knowing what the patient chooses to tell them, and often times, families are not trained in any way other than what they’ve learned from relatives, other townspeople, or past experiences. Despite the lack of a treatment plan, boarders are given the security and stability of being accepted by a whole community, as well as family and doctors, which some say has a healing effect. People living in Geel simply do not look at mental illness in the same way that most societies do, and mental illness is regarded with zero stigma attached.

Compassionate care for the mentally ill seems to work out well for the afflicted and the people of Geel who welcome them and help them. Divine intervention seems a plausible explanation for this.

Below is a prayer to Saint Dymphna, via Our Catholic Prayers:

Good Saint Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body, I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need. (Mention it.) Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity, patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions, beloved child of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request.

(Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be.)

Saint Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.

You can also do a Novena to her, which is a series of prayers lasting nine days. Via Pray More Novenas:

St. Dymphna Novena Prayers

Day 1 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Faith

O God, Source of our salvation, in the midst of a pagan people, Thou didst enlighten St. Dymphna by the light of the true faith, which she professed under the guidance of her holy confessor, Gerebran, with such constance that she suffered martyrdom. Through the intercession of these two saints, we beg Thee to strengthen the faith which Thou hast given us, so that by wisely subjecting our souls to Thy Supreme Authority, and by faithfully conforming our lives according to our faith, we may honor Thee with our whole heart and soul until the hour of our death. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 2 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Hope

Almighty and infinitely good God, Thou hast promised eternal salvation to those who obey Thy commandments and make zealous use of Thy graces. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, who fled from the danger of sin by leaving the palace of her father, and who, eager to gain eternal salvation, fled to Belgium to live in poverty, we beg Thee to grant that we also, who are striving for eternal happiness, may overcome all obstacles in the way of virtue and may attain eternal salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 3 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Charity

God of love, Thou art the most perfect Being, and Creator of all that is good and beautiful. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, who in her youth loved Thee above all creatures and for Thy sake loved her neighbor as herself, as the image and likeness of Thee, as the price of the Blood of Jesus and as co-heir of heaven, be pleased to help us by Thy powerful grace, that we may faithfully fulfill the two great commandments of charity not only in word, but in action and in truth. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 4 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Piety

God, Our Creator and Supreme Master, St. Dymphna served Thee with great zeal even in her childhood, by hearing Thy word with delight, by assisting at Holy Mass with fervent reverence, and by receiving Holy Communion from the hand of St. Gerebran with tender devotion. Through her intercession we beg Thee to grant us the same virtue of piety so that, having honored Thee during this life as our Creator, we may possess Thee hereafter as our final reward. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 5 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Prudence

O God, ruler of the universe, Thou didst allow St. Dymphna to discover a helpful means of avoiding the evil intentions of her father. Through the merits of Thy holy servant, be pleased to grant that we may become, according to the words of Jesus, simple as doves and wise as serpents, so that through prudent advice and sound judgment we may recognize what we must do to achieve the great work of our salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 6 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Justice

O God, source of eternal justice, Thou didst inspire St. Dymphna to flee from her country and her father in order to render to Thee that which was Thine. Through her intercession we beg Thee to make us seek after justice so that we may perform our duties toward Thee as we ought. Though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 7 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Fortitude

O God, rewarder of those who remain firm in their good resolutions, Thou gavest St. Dymphna such a love of virtue that she had the courage to suffer privation, persecution, and even martyrdom. Through her prayers we beg Thee to grant us fortitude that we may courageously and perseveringly overcome ourselves and finally conquer the enemy of our salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 8 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Temperance

O God, You made St. Dymphna resplendent in the virtue of temperance so that she mastered sensual inclinations and used temporal goods prudently. With temperance she combined the beautiful virtues of modesty, docility and humility. Let us not forget that humility is called the foundation of all virtue because it banishes from the soul pride, the obstacle to grace. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, we beg Thee to guide and direct us, so that being preserved from evil and nervous disorders, we may obey till death the commandments and counsels Thou hast given us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 9 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Chastity

O God, lover of innocent souls, Thou gavest St. Dymphna the virtue of angelic purity which made her reserved in all her actions, modest in her dress, attentive in her conversation, upright in her character, so that she even shed her blood to preserve this precious virtue. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, we beg thee to bestow upon us the virtue of chastity that we may enjoy peace of conscience in this life and pure eternal joys of heaven hereafter. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Please remember those suffering from mental illnesses in your prayers and try to have compassion for them in your hearts.

*******

MJ Stevenson, AKA Zilla, is best known on the web as Zilla at MareZilla.com. She lives in a woodland shack near a creek, in one of those rural parts of New York State that nobody knows or cares about, with her family and a large pack of guardian companion animals. 

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I read with interest the post by Baldilocks about the kids in the United Kingdom who can’t tell time.  It seems difficult to believe, doesn’t it?  But, it’s true and it’s true here in America too.  I teach in an American high school and I have kids who can’t tell time on a regular clock and who can’t read cursive.

That’s not to say it’s true with all kids, but there is a large majority of them that this is the case.

Leaning toward academics, I also have students who have never read a book voluntarily.  Let that sink in. I encounter on a daily basis any number of kids who have never voluntarily picked up a book and read it.  On any subject.

Even worse? Under the Common Core curriculum that is not likely to change.  Our ELA supervisor has told us “we will probably never return to teaching or reading entire novels in English.”

I’ve been reading Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide (2009) and at every page I’m both sickened but also seeing exactly what he is saying in practice every single day.

Administrators and supervisors will say that we aren’t “teaching the test” and that if we follow the Common Core curriculum faithfully that it won’t be necessary to teach the test, but look at what we give kids to read: chunks of text.  Pages of articles culled from Common Lit or from news sources.  Non-fiction articles.  These are followed by endless graphic organizers, analysis, sticky notes, highlighting in multiple colors, and mind-numbing multiple choice questions.

Unless kids read on their own, they aren’t reading for fun anymore.

In our eleventh-grade syllabus, they read only a few chapters of The Great Gatsby, not the entire novel.  This is true across the board for novels in high school.

To me, this is criminal.

Gallagher’s thesis is that kids will never become life-long readers under this practice and he builds his case with research and data throughout his book.  Consider also that the group this most affects are those kids in poverty who start out their educational experience through American public schools in “word poverty” because there are very few, if any, books in the home and they have not been read to often enough to build a large vocabulary.  They start out at a disadvantage which we make worse by eliminating pleasure reading in class.

I went to a literacy convention one year and met a lady who said that each year at Halloween, instead of giving out candy, she gives out books.  What a cool thing to do!  She said that at first the kids were surprised and a little irritated but once she looked out her window and saw a little girl reach into her bag to see what it was, and then she sat on the curb and started paging through the book.

What a wonderful gift it is to give a child the gift of reading!

As an educator, that’s what I strive to do, despite the constraints of Common Core.  There’s a large part of me that rebels at being part of the problem.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.

I’ve managed to buy and sell a few homes due to constant military moves. While plenty of people will try to talk metrics on homes, whether it’s price per square foot or something like that, the reality of whether it was “worth it” is whether you made more money selling the home than what is cost you. Oddly enough, how much a home is worth is actually pretty simple: it’s worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it. If someone offers to buy your house for $250,000, and has the money to do it, it doesn’t matter whether the house is actually WORTH that much. To that person, it’s worth $250K.

In Britain, we’re asking the same question now about human life: how much is Alfie Evans life worth? It’s becoming less about cost (although I’m sure that’s an issue) and much more about power. On one hand, to Alfie’s parents, his life is worth every possible shot that human medicine can offer. No matter how distant a shot, it’s worth the chance that he will improve and give them more time on earth. Continue reading “But what is it worth to you?”

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Can I just beat this drum one more time?

Let’s talk about the American public school system just once more, because I’m just not seeing the outrage that I would expect to see if parents really knew what was going on in classrooms with regard to curriculum.

In the first place, why do people think Common Core is gone?  I’ve seen over and over on social media that “we aren’t using Common Core” – in whatever state you’re in.  Perhaps some are not, but be very clear: even if your curriculum in your state is Louisiana Believes or Iowa Core, or whatever it is, it’s still Common Core.

What is wrong with Common Core?

A lot.

Common Core is scripted lessons.

Common Core is sterile, pre-made PowerPoint slides.

Common Core is 75% non-fiction.

Common Core is unrelenting standardized testing, some of which take three days to complete.

Common Core is stripped of teacher creativity and innovation.

Common Core is the heavy hand of Big Brother threatening to enter your classroom at any given time to ask which scripted lesson you are on and to examine your scripted teacher notes to be sure you’re reading them and that you are not altering the pre-made slides.  Woe be unto you that do these things:  you’ll get marked down on your evaluation rubric.

A spinoff of Common Core is the PLC, or Professional Learning Community, where teachers meet to discuss “data” from tests and work together to determine how to improve student learning.

Some states, like Louisiana for example, have no ELA textooks (we can’t have those kids reading fiction now, can we?) and instead work from reams and reams of copies from the curriculum department.  It’s a paper nightmare.

The result of all this?  Frustrated kids. Frustrated teachers.  Kids learning only how to take a test.

Meanwhile, we are lining the pockets of people like Pearson who distribute these tests.

Why is there a national teacher shortage?  It’s not just about low pay.  I’d venture to say that’s not it at all. Most teachers go into the profession knowing the pay is low – that’s not why we teach.  It’s been low since the beginning of time and, trust me on this, we all know that teachers will never make the kind of scratch a basketball player or a football player makes.

No, teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate because they don’t get to teach any more.  Anyone can read a script, right?  Anyone can pull up the state mandated slides and read them, right?

Why are parents putting up with this canned curriculum business?  What are their kids learning?

I’ve long been a believer and supporter of public education but if I had a child in the public school system right now, and they were under Common Core, we’d be homeschooling or I’d sell my soul to get into private school.

Can someone explain why we are still putting up with this?

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.  Follow her on Instagram at @patbecker25.

Image from Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/democracychronicles/15933907480

I’m ecstatic to see that North Korea is not only talking about denuclearization, but is also willing to conduct direct negotiations with the U.S. and end the Korean War. In the past, it seemed all we ever got from North Korea was more demands with little promise of anything in return. Sure, it could all be a ruse, but I’m guessing that there is at least a little bit of genuine desire for peace.

Most people in the U.S. are probably thinking of a peace treaty and eventual reunified Korea, with the accompanying butterflies and rainbows. However, there are two darker aspects we should probably consider:
Continue reading “Some undesirable end states for Korea”

Happy Friday! Here are some oddball things I came across, submitted for your enjoyment…

It is “spring” here in New York’s Scenic Hudson Valley, but The Winter That Will Not Die rained ice chips on me while I walked the dogs yesterday and there are still mounds of unmelted snow along side driveways and parking lots in the neighborhood, but I don’t think I have much to complain about because at least we are not buried in tumbleweeds like they are in Victorville, California:

High winds have left a California desert town buried in tumbleweeds. Residents of Victorville, which is northeast of Los Angeles were shocked when hundreds of tumbleweeds blew into their town, burying everything in their wake, including 150 homes. There were so many weeds that they reached the second story of some of the houses.

Video captured and posted to YouTube showed massive piles of the weeds blowing through the town, completely covering some homes as clean-up crews worked to remove the tumbleweed.   MORE

H/T iOTWReport.com

When I saw a headline earlier this week about how some human beings have a genetic mutation that allows them to remain underwater for longer than most people, I expected I’d find out that they’d grown gills, but it turns out that they have special spleens. Via National Geographic:

If you hold your breath and plunge your face into a tub of water, your body automatically triggers what’s called the diving response. Your heart rate slows, your blood vessels constrict, and your spleen contracts, all reactions that help you save energy when you’re low on oxygen.

Most people can hold their breath underwater for a few seconds, some for a few minutes. But a group of people called the Bajau takes free diving to the extreme, staying underwater for as long as 13 minutes at depths of around 200 feet. These nomadic people live in waters winding through the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, where they dive to hunt for fish or search for natural elements that can be used in crafts.

Now, a study in the journal Cell offers the first clues that a DNA mutation for larger spleens gives the Bajau a genetic advantage for life in the deep.  READ MORE

H/T: Instapundit

Two cops were having a rough time trying to arrest a couple of miscreants who were violently resisting. One cop was knocked unconscious, when a female off duty medical assistant came to the rescue with a BODY SLAM to one of the thugs (also a female) who was attacking the cops. The bystander turned heroine then held the crook in place until the downed officer was back up and the cops could finish  the arrest. Via FoxNews:

Officer Brian Lowenhagen and Sgt. Eric Walters were attempting to arrest the suspect, later identified as 21-year-old Jacob R. Hellenbrand, outside of a convenience store on Sunday when a woman who was with him punched Loewenhagen “numerous times,” according to the police department.

As Sgt. Walters attempted to restrain the woman, identified as 21-year-old Olivia J. Boomsma, the “male was able to blade his body toward Sgt. Walters and forcefully kick Sgt. Walters on the right side of his face and head,” according to the police department.

Around that same time, an off-duty medical assistant who had stopped in the convenience store on her way home came to the rescue.

Divine Savior Hospital employee Vanessa Guerra ran toward the officers after she noticed Walters had fallen unconscious. As she was checking on him, the “female suspect was beginning to fight with Officer Loewenhagen again and was yelling about having a knife in her pocket,” police said.

That’s when Guerra “disregarded her own safety to help protect the officers,” the police department explained. She “body-slammed” Boomsma against a wall and “held her there until Sgt. Walters resumed consciousness and was able to handcuff the female,” the station added.

“I’m in the medical profession. When you get into that mode, you’re there for your patients, you’re there for the person that you see in need. And that’s what you do,” the medical assistant later told WKOW.

Portage Police Chief Manthey of the Portage Police Department thanked Guerra for her bravery, WKOW reported. RTWT

Dogs. They really do make everything better! Via SunnySkyz:

A group of Border Collies are having the time of their lives and they don’t even realize how much they are helping the planet.

Last year, wildfires in central Chile destroyed over a million acres of forest land.

Months later, a unique team was brought in to help restore the damaged ecosystem.

A border collie named Das and her two daughters,Olivia and Summer, have been fitted with special backpacks that allow them to distribute native plant seeds throughout burned forests.

Although the task is a serious one, it’s an excuse for the dogs to have fun.

“They reeeeeally love [it]!!” their owner, Francisca Torres, told Mother Nature Network. “It’s a country trip, where they can run as fast as they can and have a great time.”

Depending on the terrain, the four-legged trio can cover as many as 18 miles in a day and distribute more than 20 pounds of seeds.

Credit: Instagram / summerbordercollie via SunnySkyz

Dogs helping to reforest the forest. The longer I live, the longer I come to believe that there is little in this world that cannot be improved with dogs.

Have a nice weekend!

*******

MJ Stevenson, AKA Zilla, is best known on the web as Zilla at MareZilla.com. She lives in a woodland shack near a creek, in one of those rural parts of New York State that nobody knows or cares about, with her family and a large pack of guardian companion animals. 

By:  Pat Austin

The Shadows on the Teche. Now owned by The National Trust.

SHREVEPORT – I was traveling last week and because of that (and in honor of Pete’s 30-year anniversary!) I didn’t post.  Where was I?

We went to New Iberia, Louisiana to attend the Books Along the Teche Literary Festival.  We were there with people from at least twelve other states in the nation including Colorado, Michigan, Iowa, and Rhode Island as well as from several other countries.  The three-day event was filled with a variety of activities, seminars, discussion panels, bus tours, swamp tours, dinners, dance lessons, film screenings, an art show, a performance theater, bourrée lessons, and an authors and artisans fair. The great southern writer Ernest Gaines was there and read from his latest book which was awesome. It wasn’t possible to do everything, but we tried.

I wrote about the festival on my own blog and there was so much I had to split it into two posts.

And that didn’t allow us much time to take advantage of the other great tourist attractions in the area like the Tabasco Factory tour (we did that), Jungle Gardens (did that), Jefferson Island, the Conrad Rice Mill tour, and branching out from that, the surrounding communities are filled with history and things to see, like St. Martinville, St. Francisville, Loreauville, etc.  And yes, New Orleans is not that far away, nor is Baton Rouge.  Those places are already well-known for their tourist attractions.

But New Iberia has stolen my heart.  We hear a lot in this part of the country (I’m in northwest Louisiana) about southern hospitality, but New Iberia takes it to a new level.  New Iberia isn’t known for being a tourist town in the way Natchitoches is, for example.  But it should be.

Why? There was one point in the evening on our last night there that I decided that if I ever lost faith in humanity, or got frustrated with life, I just need to come to New Iberia because there is such a true joie de vivre in everyone’s face it makes you happy just to be there. It’s in their daily interactions, in their lives, it restores your faith in people. Plus, it’s just beautiful country.

Bayou Teche runs 135-miles through the area; ancient live oaks hug the banks and are literally dripping with Spanish moss.  The land is often flat and you see sugar cane fields, crawfish farms, and flooded rice fields.  The air smells like salt blowing in from the Gulf and the sky turns a bruised purple in the evening when the sun begins to sink into the west. We danced under the stars to cajun fiddle players and zydeco bands; we ate alligator, catfish, boudin, maque choux, etoufee, gumbo, and shrimp. What’s not to love?

We didn’t know one soul when we arrived and when we left I felt like I have a whole new cadre of friends.  One couple we met told us that when we come back we are more than welcome to stay with them. “We have an extra bedroom!” she said.  And she meant it.

Everyone we talked to, from the shopkeepers, convenience store clerks, waitresses, residents, everyone, truly engages with you when they talk to you.  It’s not just, “Oh how are you doing, glad you’re here,” kind a thing and move on.  They look you in the eye, listen to you, ask questions, engage.  They remember.  And they dance, they laugh, they love, they share wide open.

In the end, the book festival was just lagniappe to the true treasures of New Iberia.

If you’re planning to hit the road this spring or summer, consider a trip to south Louisiana.  New Iberia is easy to get to; it’s just south of Lafayette.  I know I’ll be back many, many times.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.