Tag Archives: Personal

Pure Water

People are always attracted to water. We hiked up the mountain to this cascade in Le Tigre National Park, Honduras.

(This post has been sitting in my drafts for a couple of years.  Now, that we’re on a “boil” order in my county in northeast Kansas in July 2011, I thought again of how we take our clean water for granted.  I wrote this about a visit to Honduras, where you can’t drink the water from the tap.)

It’s early on a February morning in 2007, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and already hot.  I don’t mind.  Back home in Kansas City it’s freezing.

Behind the courtyard wall, I wait at the gate, listening.  I’m an early riser so I volunteered to make the water bottle exchange.

“You’ll know when they’re coming,” my friend Michael told me the night before.  “They call out “Agua Azul, Agua Azul.”  He likes the sound of it.  “It’s like a call to prayer.”

Most societies and religions find spiritual and cleansing properties in water, so Michael is right about that.

Three large empty bottles sit on the driveway near the gate.  I hear the faint call, and I lean out to look.

I see a truck slowly rumbling down the steep incline of street in this affluent neighborhood in the capital city of Honduras.  The back of the truck is stacked with large water bottles.

“Agua Azul.  Agua Azul.

I wave my hand at the truck. A man darts to the gate, grabs the empty bottles and replaces them with full ones.  He hops back on the truck and continues his call.  “Agua Azul.  Agua Azul.”

Now we’ll have purified water for the next couple of days.  We go through it quickly, using it for everything that passes our lips. The water truck comes three mornings a week.  It saves the trouble of taking the bottles to the store. The house has running water, but it’s not purified.  We have to be careful not to drink it or even use it for brushing our teeth.  I keep a small bottle of purified water in the bathroom during my visit.

You can’t be careful everywhere, and on a trip to see the Mayan ruins in Copan, Honduras, some of us come down with horrible gastrointestinal distress.  I’ll spare you the details (worst diarrhea of my life!), but it was touch and go on the drive home.  Michael and Anita knew the roads and the rest stops, and thankfully, my husband is an Eagle Scout, prepared with supplies at all times, including a roll of toilet paper.

At home, we take pure water for granted.  But civilization has long been plagued, literally, with contaminated water.  Cholera is one disease spread by water fouled by bacteria.  People would often drink alcoholic beverages, rather than water, because they were less likely to get sick. Steven Johnson writes about a cholera epidemic in “The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic — and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World.”

Hacienda San Lucas overlooks the Copan River Valley, where the early Mayans settled more than a thousand years ago. Maintaining pure water is always a problem wherever people gather in cities.

In Copan, we visited Flavia Cueva, who owns the Hacienda San Lucas.  Anita, who is with the U.S. State Department, had met with Flavia before on an official visit.  Local people and members of the International Rotary were working to improve the water quality. International Rotary is providing water distribution and health education to six remote villages in the area.

My water district at home, WaterOne, sends out an annual water quality report, summarizing what’s in the water and provides lots of facts, which are also available on the website.  WaterOne was one of seven utilities worldwide selected as a finalist for a global water award for its Wolcott Treatment Plant. We’re very lucky we don’t need to buy bottled water, regularly, although there is a run on bottled water now because of the boil order.

Here’s a copy of the story in the Kansas City Star about our boil order:


Raccoon Believed Culprit in John County Boil Order

By MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

Posted on Fri, Jul. 01, 2011 03:57 PM

A raccoon appears be to the culprit in a water pipe rupture that led to a boil advisory for more than 400,000 water customers in Johnson County.
Officials of Water District No. 1 found the animal dead inside an electrical unit at the Hansen treatment plant on Holiday Drive in Kansas City, Kan.
Eric Arner, a spokesman for WaterOne, said the animal may have chewed into wires or just brushed by the equipment, triggering an event that will affect customers at least until 5 p.m. Saturday during one of the hottest spells of the year so far.
People in the WaterOne service area — which includes most of Johnson County but excludes most of Olathe — are advised to use bottled water or to boil their tap water at least two minutes before consuming it. Unboiled water is safe for washing and bathing.
Retail stores in Johnson County are reporting brisk sales of bottled water. People are buying shopping baskets full of it at the Lenexa Sam’s Club, 12200 W. 95th St.
“We’ve got plenty for today and two more semis were dispatched when we heard about this,” said club manager Eric Rector. “We should have more in stock tonight.”
The Price Chopper at 8686 Antioch Road in Overland Park was sold out by mid-afternoon. A new shipment was expected over the weekend but store management did not know when it would arrive.
The boil precaution is necessary because the pipe rupture led to a drop in water pressure, which may have drawn contaminants into the system. Officials are testing tap samples from across the 275-square-mile water district for safety. That process, and flushing any contaminants out of the system, takes at least 18 hours.
Arner said water officials noticed a sudden drop in system pressure at 7:20 a.m., which they later attributed to a raccoon that got inside the housing of one of the huge electrical switches that run the pumps. The animal apparently shorted out the switch.
“The pumps themselves are designed to trip off when there is any fluctuation in power so they don’t fry their circuits,” Arner said. “So when the power was restored in a matter of seconds or even milliseconds the pumps turned back on and created a water surge.”
Officials believe that surge caused a 54-inch pipe near the Hansen plant to rupture at a joint. Arner said the pipe should not have failed even with a surge and WaterOne is investigating whether there were any other factors involved.
Water officials were able to restore pressure throughout the system shortly after the pipe break but some areas may have less pressure than normal.
While most of Olathe is outside WaterOne, between 6,000 and 7,000 people in northwestern and southwestern areas of the city are affected, said city spokesman Tim Danneberg.

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Filed under Biology, Drink, Health, Life, Personal, Random, Travel

Remembering Kathy

Here is Kathy in a reflective mood.

Today (December 1)  is Kathy’s birthday.  I often think of her and always on this day.

Long ago, Kathy died five months before her twenty-fifth birthday.  She is eternally young in my mind, but even if she were here today, she’d still be young at heart.  She was one of those perpetually upbeat people, a good soul, a happy person, a helpful person, a fun person.  She was one of my best friends, and the only friend who traveled through grade school, high school and college with me.  We were so different in many ways, but we had a bond that couldn’t be broken — even now.

She was my room mate on and off in our college town, often leaving town for new adventures before returning to go back to school.  She’d tried a lot of jobs, including cab driver and blackjack dealer in Las Vegas.  She’d wanted to be a doctor to help people.  We were in a chemistry class together, when she told me she’d realized that a scientific career wasn’t for her.  She found many other ways to help, such as driving Meals on Wheels to help people who couldn’t get out of their homes or prepare meals. She always helped anyone who asked.

She’d starting moving into my house to be my roommate again a few days before she was killed in a car wreck.  On a Saturday morning, I was getting ready to attend a wedding, ironing a dress on Kathy’s ironing board (which I don’t think she’d ever used!) when I heard the news on the radio.  It didn’t sink in at first, and then I sunk to the floor in shock.  I never made it to the wedding.  A photograph of  Kathy’s mangled truck was in the city newspaper that Monday morning.   A drunk driver had strayed across the center line and rammed head-on into Kathy’s truck.  She and her friend Susan were killed instantly. The drunk driver survived and was barely hurt.

Our hometown church was packed for the funeral.  It’s a cliché to say that those who have passed on before us were the glue that held the group together, but Kathy truly was the center.  Her place is a gaping hole at every reunion.

On our nonstop drive to Berkeley, California from eastern Kansas, we did make a few stops. Here Kathy and I put the camera on top of my car and set the timer. We're in the Great Salt Desert in Utah.

A week before she died, she’d asked me to take photographs of her softball team in action. She and I both loved photography.  She’d been my assistant photographer on the high school yearbook for two years. I later was glad I was able to give the photographs to her family.   She is buried in the same cemetery where my father is now buried, and after his funeral I visited her grave site.  Kathy’s parents had erected a headstone with their names on the stone carved either side of hers. It was heart-breaking to see.

Even now I miss her so much.  It may sound very selfish, but I feel truly robbed. I have lost family members and good friends since, and each new grief stabs me with the truth of how precious life is, how blessed we are to have family and friends, and that most things we think are important are truly trivial.  Still, I need to learn that lesson again and again, and Kathy continues to teach me. One lesson she always “taught” was to have fun!

One of the most fun things Kathy and I did was drive nonstop (except for pit stops) from the Kansas City area to Berkeley, California, to visit Jan.  Kathy was a tireless driver, although I took over occasionally.  That trip is still one of the highlights among many highlights in my life.  Kathy and I had a great time with Jan, and I am blessed that we are still close friends.  Her blog is Planetjan.

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Filed under Friendship, Life

Relax!

Hammock on the Veranda Postcard postcard

Here’s a photograph I took on a recent visit to South Carolina. Can’t you just imagine yourself relaxing in this hammock with a cool drink and a book? I didn’t try it myself, because I probably would have spilled my drink on my book. But it’s a lovely fantasy.

When bloggers start posting just a photo or two or a YouTube video once or twice a month, you know they are on the downhill slide to quitting. It’s true that I’m blogging less and less often. But I’m not giving up, I swear.

Soon after I started blogging here in the Spring of 2008, I read that the average blogger lasts about two years. I don’t know where those statistics came from, but that seems about right. When I make the rounds of my fellow bloggers, I find they are posting less, too. Sadly, some of my favorite bloggers have stopped posting, apparently forever or so rarely that their infrequent posts are merely the sputters of a dying blog. Blogs take time and commitment. They sure as heck don’t make any money.

I know the world isn’t begging for my thoughts, but I do like to post about interesting subjects I find, usually about nature, travel, music and history topics. Lately, though, I’ve been enjoying a rest in my “mental” hammock. What I really want to write about is politics, but I’ve sworn not to. Wouldn’t be polite.

One fellow blogger, Shouts from the Abyss, has kept up the good fight by blogging EVERY day (sometimes twice) for more than a year!

Planetjan has slowed, too. She has a very full schedule, but she’s also dedicated to posting. She’s hilarious, so I’m always happy to read one of her posts. Her latest is Hands On Learning.

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Filed under Communication, Friendship, Internet, Life, Personal, Writing

Hello, Sunshine

Sunning themselves are Stubbs and Fluffy on the lower shelf and Leo on the top in the new sun room in the newly renovated cat palace at Wayside Waifs in Kansas City, Missouri. Many of the cats awaiting adoption at Wayside Waifs get a chance to be free roamers while awaiting their "furr-ever" homes..

The newly renovated cat palace at Wayside Waifs in Kansas City is a great new home for cats and kittens awaiting adoption.  One of the new features is a sun room.  You know how cats love to sun themselves! Just watching the kitties lolling and sprawling in the sunshine makes me smile. I wish I could take them all home.   I have a soft spot for Leo and Fluffy, a cute couple.  Leo reminds me of my sweet old Malcolm.  Leo and Fluffy love to cuddle together, although I saw Fluffy snuggling with Stubbs, too. Fluffy is a darling little cat, with a huge tail.  She’s very friendly with people and other cats! (I might be turning into a crazy cat lady, but I don’t care!)

Fluffy.

Wayside Waifs is an independent humane society and no-kill animal welfare organization established in 1944. According to its website, “Wayside Waifs is the largest pet adoption center in Kansas City, placing over 5,000 animals each year in loving forever homes.”

Click here for the Wayside Waifs website.

Wow, look at Fluffy's tail.

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Kansas City, Life, Pets, Photography

It’s a Diabolical Plot!

Loki realizes that golf balls don't taste as good as they look.

I woke up on Sunday with a bed full of golf balls.  How did this happen?  A pile of rawhide chews I can understand, because Loki the dog hides them everywhere, but how did Loki get these golf balls?  Then I saw Bones the cat slink by.  Aha! 

Bones was briefly top pet -- until Loki joined the household. Bones is plotting ways to return to the top by taking advantage of Loki's love of chewing.

The golf balls are strays from the nearby golf course (some of the balls got pretty darned close to the house!) and sit in a corner on the counter, awaiting use as practice balls.  Bones sits on the counter, pushing the balls over the edge, one by one.  Bones thinks he has finally found a way to get rid of this usurper animal, who is staying with us for a while.  Bones knows we may forgive Loki for chewing up toothbrushes, wood trim and even priceless family photographs, but golf balls?  Never! (Sorry, Bones!  Loki is forgiven again…But, Bones,  I promise you extra head rubs. )

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Dogs, Family, Humor, Life, Personal, Pets

Asleep at the Wheel

"Asleep at the Wheel," an Austin,Texas, based-band, performed in the Olathe, Kansas, Free Summer Concert series on June 11, 2010.

One of my old favorite bands came to town on Friday, June 11, 2010,  — “Asleep at the Wheel” (With a headline like “Asleep at the Wheel,” you might have thought this would be a political post!)  The band performed in the Olathe (Kansas) Free Concert Series.  Fortunately, great friends got us great seats up front, because I got delayed walking the lovely but labor intensive dog, Loki.  (More about Loki in a future post…)

One of the music lovers at the concert sports a tattoo featuring a guitar and a harmonica.

Years ago, my husband and I heard “Asleep at the Wheel” in Kansas City in another free concert series on another humid summer night, and the band was just as awesome last night.  Sounds like we’re a pair of real cheapskates with a hankering for Texas swing! 

Ray Benson, the founder of "Asleep at the Wheel."

Under the direction of founder and lead singer Ray Benson, “Asleep at the Wheel” is in its fortieth year.  Some of the band members are barely even half that age. The band has undergone a lot of changes in membership, but still maintains that polished yet over-the-top Texas sound. Ye Haw!  

“Asleep at the Wheel” has won nine Grammys.  The “Wheel” has performed and recorded with many outstanding entertainers, such as Willie Nelson and The Dixie Chicks. (See Barack Obama sing with Asleep at the Wheel in a 2008 video below. Someone should have loaned the future prez a cowboy hat!)   In 2005, “Asleep at the Wheel” debuted its tribute play to Bob Wills, the king of Western Swing.  Check out the websites below for more information.

Jason Roberts and Elizabeth McQueen of the Texas Swing band "Asleep at the Wheel" in Olathe, Kansas, on June 11, 2010.

“Asleep at the Wheel” playing their iconic “Route 66.”

Barack Obama joins in with “Asleep at the Wheel.”

Listen to”Asleep at the Wheel” on their MySpace page.

“Asleep at the Wheel” official website.

“Asleep at the Wheel” entry on Wikipedia.

“A Ride With Bob” website.

Olathe Free Summer Concert Series.

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Filed under Entertainment, Kansas City, Life, Music, Personal

2010 Commencement at the University of Kansas

Potter Lake on the campus of the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

As any Kansas Jayhawk knows, visiting the University of Kansas campus, particularly at Commencement time, is a sacred experience.  One of my nephews graduated from KU on May 16, 2010, so of course I made the holy pilgrimage!  The weather was overcast, threatening rain, but we enjoyed the day with little more than a sprinkle.

My sorority, Chi Omega, is in the background of this landmark -- the Chi Omega fountain. It's a popular photo spot, as you can see here. Our group portraits often were taken in front of it. During my college days, the Chi O house didn't have air conditioning, so there were many nights when I tossed and turned in the early Autumn humid heat listening to the fountain through my open window.

The KU campus in the city of Lawrence is one of the loveliest in the country.  If you don’t believe me, just ask another Jayhawk! KU is perched on Mount Oread, adorned with a jewel of a lake and landscaped with native and ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers.  I took an urban botany class while a KU student and got to know many of the trees personally. We still keep in touch.

Bernadette Gray-Little, the new chancellor, addressed the graduates, reminding us what a treasure our university is as she told us about her first year on The Hill. We have one of the most recognizable mascots — the Jayhawk. Come on, admit it, you’ve seen a Jayhawk, even though it’s a mythical bird.

Education graduates line up with their blue balloons, preparing for their walk down the hill into Memorial Stadium.

Our chant is notable, too.  Rock Chalk Jayhawk, KU. Teddy Roosevelt called it his favorite college cheer. Maybe he was shouting it when he charged up San Juan Hill!

The march down the hill is very festive, almost like a carnival, with some graduates turning cartwheels, walking arm in arm or holding the hand of their child.   Many wore accessories like feather boas or leis or messages on their mortar boards.  Many carried balloons.  One graduate carried a fake ficus tree in a pot. What was that all about?

One young woman tossed off her cap and gown and was wearing a “Where is Waldo?” outfit. I kept looking for her in the stands. Even in that costume, she was hard to spot among the thousands of graduates.  The whole procession takes a little over an hour. 

I walked down the hill as a graduate years ago. We all made it into the stadium and were seated when it started to rain.  The chancellor declared us all graduated, and we all left.  But the best part of the ceremony is the walk down the hill anyway.

More serious graduation ceremonies were held earlier for the various schools and departments.

Graduates pass through a line of faculty to get to their seats. Here, a graduate introduces her baby -- a future Jayhawk?

We are happy to celebrate the success of this great university, forged during the Civil War.

The city of Lawrence was founded in 1850s by abolitionists from Massachusetts who knew they wanted to start a university.   Here’s what the Commencement program had to report:

“Lawrence’s early days were violent, the most deadly being the 1863 raid led by pro-slavery guerrilla William Quantrill and his band of ruffians from neighboring state Missouri.  During the bloody ransacking, the town was virtually destroyed, and nearly 200 men were murdered.  The pre-dawn attack continues to spawn conversation today.”

The Jayhawk mascot visits with graduates.

This conversation is called the border war and breaks out especially during football and basketball season.  KU has some mighty fine teams.  James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, was KU’s first basketball coach. KU has won twelve National Championships: five in men’s basketball (two Helms Foundation championships and three NCAA championships), three in men’s indoor track and field, three in men’s outdoor track and field, and one in men’s cross country.  On April 7, 2008, the Jayhawks defeated Memphis 75-68 in overtime to win the 2008 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.  The KU football team has played in the Orange Bowl three times: 1948, 1968, and 2008.

In 1951, the Memorial Carillon and Campanile was dedicated in honor of the 276 KU men and women who had given their lives in World War II. Music from the 53 bells is an integral part of campus life.

The Commencement program stated: “Joyfully, just three years after the horror of the Quantrill raid, KU opened for business.”  Tuition was $30 per year.

Quantrill’s raid is vividly depicted in Ang Lee’s “Ride With The Devil.”

Various KU websites list notable alumni and faculty.  I’ve been lucky to meet or interview a few of them for articles.  One is internationally known paleontologist Larry D. Martin, who with David Burnham, discovered in 2009  a venomous, birdlike raptor that thrived about 128 million years ago in China.  In 1975, I met Dr. Martin at a dig of Pleistocene mammals, The Natural Trap, Wyoming.  In 2004, I visited Dr. Martin at a dig of Jurassic dinosaurs near Newcastle, Wyoming, and will post about that in the future.  Another person I was privileged to interview was Cora Downs, a professor of microbiology, who developed the flourescent dye that is used to identify and trace bacteria and viruses. I also interviewed Takerua Higuchi, a KU professor, known as the “father of physical pharmacy.”

Graduates celebrating!

Among notable alumni are Elmer McCollum, who discovered Vitamins A, B and D;  Walter Sutton, who discovered that chromosomes come in pairs and carry genes; Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the recently demoted Pluto, now a dwarf planet; doomsayer Paul Ehrlich (“The Population Bomb”) and  Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, formerly Kansas governor,  whom non-Kansans may know as the official who recently taught a reporter how to sneeze into his elbow at a press conference on the flu.

Graduates appear on the big screen as they stroll into the stadium with their own festive accessories.

Click on famous University of Kansas faculty and alumni for a more complete list.  (I’m not on the list, ha, ha.)

Official University of Kansas website.

My post on the KU Museum of Natural History.

This Week in KU History.

Wikipedia Entry on the University of Kansas.

Link to photo gallery of KU Commencement.

In an annual tradition, medical school graduates open bottles of champagne.

The School of Education graduates release their balloons.

Check out the KU commencement photos on facebook.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little gives her first KU Commencement Address.

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Filed under Education, History, Kansas, Life, Personal, Photography, University of Kansas