Why do virtually no animals die in tsunamis?

March 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog


I was born and raised in Southern California, a place where earthquakes are common. And for as long as I can remember, people have sworn by the belief that animals can sense a quake coming before human beings can feel them. This theory rings true with me, in part because, just prior to some of the earthquakes I’ve been in, I’ve witnessed dogs become agitated and start barking nervously. My guess is that dogs, like most other animals, can hear and feel minute vibrations we humans can’t detect. So they instinctively sense that something bad is about to happen. This, of course, is the time-tested theory behind having a “canary in a coal mine” (which happens to be a good song by The Police, by the way). The following videos explore this theory and can help us understand why virtually no animals died in the South East Asian tsunami of 2004 or in the recent Japan tsunami. What do you think of this?

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Do you know why high-fructose corn syrup is bad for you?

March 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

Here’s an explanation that might cause you to pause before you reach for that can of diet soda or granola bar or practically anything else on the shelves at your local grocery!

For many years, Dr. Meira Fields and her coworkers at the US Department of Agriculture investigated the harmful effects of dietary sugar on rats. They discovered that when male rats are fed a diet deficient in copper, with sucrose as the carbohydrate, they develop severe pathologies of vital organs.

Liver, heart and testes exhibit extreme swelling, while the pancreas atrophies, invariably leading to death of the rats before maturity.Sucrose is a disaccharide composed of 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose. Dr. Fields repeated her experiments to determine whether it was the glucose or fructose moiety that caused the harmful effects. Starch breaks down into glucose when digested.

“On a copper-deficient diet, the male rats showed some signs of copper deficiency, but not the gross abnormalities of vital organs that occur in rats on the sucrose diet. When the rats were fed fructose, the fatal organ abnormalities occured.

Lysl oxidase is a copper-dependent enzyme that participates in the formation of collagen and elastin. Fructose seems to interfere with copper metabolism to such an extent that collagen and elastin cannot form in growing animals–hence the hypertrophy of the heart and liver in young males. The females did not develop these abnormalities, but they resorbed their litters.

These experiements should give us pause when we consider the great increase in the use of high fructose corn syrup during the past 30 years, particularly in soft drinks, fruit juices and other beverages aimed at growing children, children increasingly likely to be copper deficient as modern parents no longer serve liver to their families. (Liver is by far the best source of copper in human diets.)

“The bodies of the children I see today are mush,” observed a concerned chiropractor recently. The culprit is the modern diet, high in fructose and low in copper-containing foods, resulting in inadequate formation of elastin and collagen–the sinews that hold the body together.

BINGEING ON FRUCTOSE

Until the 1970s most of the sugar we ate came from sucrose derived from sugar beets or sugar cane.  Then sugar from corn–corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, dextrine and especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)–began to gain popularity as a sweetener because it was much less expensive to produce. High fructose corn syrup can be manipulated to contain equal amounts of fructose and glucose, or up to 80 percent fructose and 20 percent glucose.

Thus, with almost twice the fructose, HFCS delivers a double danger compared to sugar.(With regards to fruit, the ratio is usually 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose, but most commercial fruit juices have HFCS added. Fruit contains fiber which slows down the metabolism of fructose and other sugars, but the fructose in HFCS is absorbed very quickly.) In 1980 the average person ate 39 pounds of fructose and 84 pounds of sucrose.

In 1994 the average person ate 66 pounds of sucrose and 83 pounds of fructose, providing 19 percent of total caloric energy. Today approximately 25 percent of our average caloric intake comes from sugars, with the larger fraction as fructose. High fructose corn syrup is extremely soluble and mixes well in many foods. It is cheap to produce, sweet and easy to store. It’s used in everything from bread to pasta sauces to bacon to beer as well as in “health products” like protein bars and “natural” sodas. . . . (continue reading)

Is this your brain on Facebook?

March 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

Well, I never!

Just saw a tweet that claimed: “After the age of 35, people start losing 7,000 brain cells a day. That number is tripled if they have a Facebook account.”

Could be true. Not sure. All I know is, at 50, some days it feels as if  my personal cellular attrition rate is at least 21,000 a day.

Dramatic before-and-after images of the Japan tsunami devastation

March 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

This morning, I came across these astonishing before-and-after images of the desolation left in the wake of the Friday’s annihilating tsunami in Japan. Trust me. You’ll want to see these.

In the days since the mega-quake struck, the world has in horrified fascination watched the videos of the 9.0 catastrophe. What the earthquake did not destroy, the resulting tsunami certainly did. And what’s left that the tsunami did not destroy, the melting-down Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor very well could, should things continue to deteriorate there.

Let’s not forget that what happened in Japan could, may God forbid it, easily happen along America’s West Coast, or in the New Madrid quake zone, or for that matter, anywhere along any coastline here. The tsunami destroyed a relatively rural and comparatively sparsely populated area of Japan (compared, say, to population centers such as Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, or Hiroshima). Just imagine what that same tsunami would do if it hit with the same force, say, Long Beach or Santa Monica, California. The problem is, if a tsunami ever does hit the California coast, it won’t take out isolated areas. It would devastate hundreds of miles of coastal cities, from San Diego to San Francisco.

Is today’s Japan quake a harbinger of worse to come?

March 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog


Like the rest of world, I am horrified by the the damage and death being reported in Japan after today’s mega-quake which devastated the central island of Honshu. And I join countless others around the world who are praying for the Japanese people in an especially fervent way. Who knows what will happen next? Hopefully, the worst is behind them, but it’s quite possible that more quakes will rock Japan and other seismically active areas of the earth, including likely areas in the U.S. such as California and the St. Louis/New Madrid quake zone, etc. The Lord’s words, “Watch and pray,” are reverberating in my mind right now.

Watch this video and, if you think it has merit, plan accordingly. Personally, I find the information presented here (2 days ago!) to be very thought provoking, to say the least. Do let me know what you think, whether positive, negative, or indifferent.  

Lastly, this Bible verse seems particularly appropriate for today’s meditation:

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”  And Jesus answered them, “Take heed that no one leads you astray.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs. (Matt. 24:3-8)

So, a Somali and an American are in a parking garage…

March 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

I was in Minneapolis yesterday morning. When I returned my rental car at the MSP airport parking garage, a pleasant black man in his late 20s or early 30s (or so he looked) took care of processing the car for me. He seemed genuinely pleased when I asked him if he was from Somalia. My guess is that he was also probably surprised to meet an American who could tell. Anyway, we chatted for about 5 minutes about this and that, including about how many Somalis are coming to the U.S. He must have been able to tell from my accent, because he asked if I was from California.

“Yes,” I said, “though now I live in Columbus, Ohio.” I mentioned that Columbus has a large Somali population. He agreed, but added that the single largest population concentration of Somalis outside Somalia is in Minneapolis. He expressed great dismay over the violence and chaos reigning back home in Somalia.

I asked how often he gets to go back home for a visit.

“Never,” he said. “If I go back there right now,” he told me matter-of-factly, “the tribe in power there would kill me immediately.”

“What? Why?” I asked.

“Because my tribe ran the old government. The new people kill all of us if they can.”

He seemed to be a genuinely friendly guy, and his English was reasonably good — which indicated to me that he was making every effort to learn the language and, guessing from his jocularity, engage with Americans.

Normally, when I’m dropping off a rental car somewhere, there’s not much in the way of a conversation beyond, “How’s it going?” and “Thanks for your help.” But this young man was an affable exception.

As I turned to walk away, I smiled and said, “God bless you!” I quickly checked my sports jacket pockets for one of the Divine Mercy holy cards I try to carry around with me. But wouldn’t you know it, at that particular moment, I didn’t have one. I was praying for him, though, as I walked into the terminal.
 

Explaining “New Media” Through Venn Diagrams

March 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

You may remember an earlier blog post I made called “Social Commentary Through Pie Charts and Venn Diagrams.” Well, here’s another one that caught my eye today, courtesy of those comedic geniuses at Despair.com. Even as someone who uses Twitter and Facebook (is MySpace even around anymore?), I have to admit that this diagram does get uncomfortably close to capturing the essence of what New Media platforms can become for those who become slaves to them.

“Flashmobs are another ministry we offer here”

March 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

Boy, was Robert Heinlein right when he said, “Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.” I was reminded of that adage when I saw this video of a “flashmob” inflicting itself on those attending Mass at a Catholic parish in South Dakota.

From what I can tell by the news report in this video, it was encouraged and orchestrated by the Catholic teachers and allowed to take place by the priest! The saddest part of this spectacle is that whatever reverence for Mass and Our Eucharistic Lord these poor school children may have is being systematically eradicated by this kind of “Let’s-Make-Mass-More-Relevant” foolishness.

 

Some trivia about trivia

March 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

Merriam-Webster defines “trivia,” a plural noun that can be both singular or plural, as: “unimportant matters : trivial facts or details; also singular in construction : a quizzing game involving obscure facts.” Big deal, right? Right. Trivia is no big deal. Still, I’ll bet you didn’t know these  six trivial yet interesting facts about trivia. I didn’t.

These dreams

March 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

When I read the horrible news this morning about the murder of Shabaz Bhatti, a Pakistani Catholic politician, I was prompted to mention here some dreams I have been having this past year.  I suppose you could classify them as nightmares, though they all seem to have the same underlying message of hope and confidence in the face of danger. By way of examples, let me describe two recent dreams that have had me pondering their meaning ever since. Both are part of a confluence of other, similar dreams that all seem to lead me to the same point, though along different paths and through different scenarios and images.

In the first dream, I had been captured and was being held by a mob of furiously angry Muslim men. Their appearance — bearded, armed, wearing Kaffiyehs — was identical to the images we’ve all become accustomed to seeing on the television news reports about “Jihadists” who use violence and terror to achieve their goals.

In this dream, my captors were screaming at me, punching and kicking me, pointing at me and demanding that I renounce Jesus Christ and convert to Islam. In my mind’s eye, what is most vivid about this dream was the sheer fury with which they threatened to slay me if I would not abandon Christ.

Several of them brandished long knives and swords. It was obvious that I had only two choices: convert or die. In my dream, my heart racing and my mind engulfed with fear and panic, I was thinking, “So this is how I will die? They will cut off my head for being Catholic?” And I knew the answer to both questions was “yes.” The only alternative would be to deny Christ. If I didn’t do that immediately, it was clear to me, they would grab me by the hair, pull my head back, cut my throat, and then cut off my head.

It was “now or never.” “Do or die.” “Apostatize and live, or stand firm and suffer the consequences.” I can’t adequately describe here the intense fear of death that I felt in this dream.

And that’s when I woke up. Heart pounding and gradually realizing that I was home and safe and that it was all a bad dream, I was left with a burning question in my mind and heart: “If it had been real, not a dream, what would I have done?”

I told myself then, as I tell myself now, that I would have stood firm and remained faithful to Christ even unto death. I hope and pray that I am never tested in that way, but I know how weak I am and how it is only the grace of God that could give me the strength and courage to accept death rather than renounce the truth. This is true of all the martyrs. And what this dream impressed upon me is twofold: First, that although such a terrible ordeal is not likely for me, given where I live, it is still a possibility for me, given the times in which I live. Second, I know that if that supreme sacrifice “death rather than apostasy” were ever required of me, without the grace of God to strengthen me, I would likely fail the test. So I pray, pray, pray every day (and I would ask all of you, in your kindness, to pray for me, too) that the Lord would always keep me close to him, and supply those things that I lack should a test like the one in my dream ever overtake me.

The second dream was also dramatic and frightening, but in a different way and with a different though related message. In this dream, I and my family had run down to the basement of our home to take shelter from a raging hurricane-tornado-superstorm. As we huddled in the dark, praying that we would survive this direct hit on our house, we could hear the tremendous din of destruction just above our heads. After what in the dream seemed to be several minutes, the brief but extremely violent storm passed, and we emerged from our basement. What I saw in this dream was utter devastation in every direction. Our house had been literally destroyed down to the foundation. Nothing, no house, no tree, nothing, had withstood the  annihilating force of the storm. Except for one thing.

I looked down at the ground and there at my feet was my Bible — front cover facing up, all pages perfectly intact, entirely untouched — as if it had been protected by a steel vault during the storm. As I stared down at my Bible, a single, clear, and certain message entered my mind: If the worst comes, whether it be political upheaval, social unrest, natural disasters, war, natural disasters, or some other catastrophe we might suffer through, all that will remain is our faith in God. That’s it. Everything else in this life may be utterly extirpated and razed down to the foundations but, for those who love God, what cannot be removed is His Truth and His love for us.

St. Paul said, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).

The second clear and unambiguous message I felt in my heart when I awoke from this dream is this: If storms of persecution or societal upheaval come our way, and I do believe that they very well may, those who love God and have been building their house on the rock will not be swept away. And what’s more, it was impressed upon me very deeply that, as Catholics, we must know why we believe what we believe about Jesus Christ and His Church. For the time will likely come when those who don’t know why they believe what they believe will not be able to stand firm when real opposition comes. When the storm breaks, those who don’t clearly know why they believe what they believe will simply cease to believe.

Jesus said, “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).

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