Patterico's Pontifications

11/23/2007

A Miracle in Phoenix

Filed under: Real Life — DRJ @ 12:19 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Together, Luis and Sylvia Viniegra and Luis, Edgardo and Edmundo Rodriguez have overcome a terrible situation:

“Two twin boys who were found four years ago in improvised, cockroach-infested cages at their Phoenix home have managed to turn their lives around in a miraculous way. The 9-year-olds and their older brother spent Thanksgiving counting their blessings. The twins, Edgardo and Edmundo, and their older brother Luis emerged from a dark nightmare to a happy fairytale, thanks to the kindness of one special couple.

The twins had spent most of their life caged in a crib. They couldn’t speak and were labeled “feral children.” Officers discovered the twins in late August, 2003, after Luis told an off-duty police officer about their squalid living conditions.

“We cried and said, ‘We wish we could help them,'” Luis Viniegra recalled. Luis and Sylvia Viniegra were in the process of becoming certified foster parents when they saw the “caged twins” story on the news. A few months later they got the call to care for all three brothers.

With the boys’ biological parents imprisoned for child abuse, the boys and the Viniegras have become a family – a family of heroes:

“My wife and I said what they need is a lot of love and nurturing,” Viniegra said. “I said, ‘let’s roll up our sleeves, change diapers, potty train and teach them language.'” The couple admitted they had no idea what they were getting into.
They said the challenges at times seemed insurmountable. But with Sylvia’s skills as a retired teacher and the pair’s determination, the boys are now going to school and striving.

“One of our boys who had no language skills is winning spelling bees,” Viniegra said. “The smaller boy is a fantastic artist. The oldest is reading at graduate school level.”

A year ago, the couple came to a crossroads. They would have to release the boys so a family could adopt them or make them permanent members of their own family. Last Saturday, on National Adoption Day, the boys’ last name changed from Rodriguez to Viniegra.”

The Viniegras credit the help and support of many people they call their ‘guardian angels.’ I think Luis, Edgardo, and Edmundo know who the real angels are.

— DRJ

11/12/2007

Why do Dogs chase Cats?

Filed under: Real Life — DRJ @ 7:24 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Our male English cocker spaniel pup chased his first cat tonight. The cat was bigger than he is but there was never any doubt that the dog would chase and the cat would run, even though we were on the cat’s property. (Don’t worry. The pup never had a chance to catch that wily cat, and the cat never got close enough to harm the pup.) On the other hand, our 8-year-old male cocker never made a move to chase or run, but he’s always been laid back about other animals.

It made me wonder: Why do some dogs chase cats? After all, both are predators and, in this case, the dog was the smaller animal. Why didn’t the cat chase the dog or they at least have a stand-off?

— DRJ

11/3/2007

Don’t Forget to Fall Back (and Go Orange)

Filed under: Real Life — DRJ @ 8:51 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Be sure to set your clocks back one hour if you live in a location that observes Daylight Savings Time. The time change takes effect a week later than usual because of changes to the DST law:

“The time change was altered by federal legislation to persist for one month longer this year, based on the debatable presumption that this will reduce energy consumption by about 1 percent. It goes into effect at 2 a.m. Sunday.

The change stems from an energy bill that lengthened daylight saving by four weeks. It kicked in this year with clocks rolling ahead by one hour on the second Sunday in March, rather than the first Sunday of April. They’d typically be set back on the last Sunday in October, but that changed, too, to the first Sunday in November.”

Some experts believe the time change plays havoc with our internal clocks:

“Morning light is the most important light for synchronizing our circadian rhythms,” said Dr. David Avery, a psychiatrist at the University of Washington who specializes in studying the connection between light, sleep and depression. Circadian rhythm refers to the 24-hour cycle for life on Earth.

When daylight-saving time is in effect and reduces the amount of morning light, Avery said, the risk of seasonal depression in some people increases. He said traffic accidents might also be expected to increase as morning commuters struggle against biology.

“It’s not natural to wake up in the dark,” he said. “What our ancestors did was wake up at dawn, whenever dawn came.” This, Avery said, is hardwired into our brain and it doesn’t simply adjust in our bodies when we adjust the alarm clock.

“From a biological point of view, it really doesn’t make any sense to do daylight-saving time,” agreed Horacio de la Iglesia, a UW neurobiologist who studies how the brain governs some of the other biological clocks in the body.

Most people know the brain operates according to a biological clock on this 24-hour solar cycle. De la Iglesia has shown that the human body actually depends upon many such clocks, a coordinated network that needs to work in synchronicity. “There are biological clocks in the liver, lungs and other organs as well,” he said. “We have these circadian rhythms because they allow the body to anticipate cyclical events.”

However, Dr. Avery has some practical advice for people who have problems with sleep and time changes:

“As a doctor, he recommended that those who find this change difficult turn on the lights upon awakening and turn them down before retiring in the evening. The dark-light cycle, Avery said, can be adjusted to some extent.

And stop staring at your “Microsoft Blue” computer screen late at night, he said. Blue light appears to suppress the hormone melatonin, Avery said, which is released by the body to induce sleep. “I’ve changed my screen background to orange, which subtracts blue light,” Avery said.”

It’s almost midnight where I live (CST). Time to go orange.

— DRJ

10/24/2007

Why one California Development escaped the Fires

Filed under: Real Life — DRJ @ 6:15 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

This LA Times article describes LA’s Stevenson Ranch subdivision that escaped the 2003 and 2007 fires, in large part because it was designed to do just that.

Similarly enhanced building code and planned development standards will go into effect for California in 2008. One fire safety expert describes it as the principle of “defensible space.” In addition, fire prevention techniques must be implemented by communities, not just individual homeowners.

The key seems to be a good line of defense and learning from past mistakes.

— DRJ

10/23/2007

California Fires Worsen (Updated)

Filed under: Real Life — DRJ @ 2:30 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The California fires just get worse as the heat goes up, the wind blows, and the largest evacuation in California history continues:

The string of wildfires plaguing Southern California has burned more than 1,000 homes, with new fires breaking out today and hundreds of thousands of people ordered to evacuate. Authorities said four evacuees in San Diego County had died, bringing the death toll to six.

New fires sprang up in San Diego and Los Angeles counties, and more evacuations were ordered in Orange and San Diego counties. As many as 10,000 people sought shelter at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Weary firefighters fought major blazes that have burned since the weekend in seven counties, and officials said containment was days away at the earliest.

In an area as large as Southern California, officials remained focused on how to cope with their individual disasters, and there was little information for the region as a whole. But most officials agreed that all of the numbers grew overnight. There were more fires, more evacuations, more damage and more fatigue among firefighters.

There have been four confirmed deaths and it’s estimated a million people have been displaced, 400,000 acres burned, and 1,500 homes and structures destroyed (1,300 in San Diego alone). Here’s a Google map of current fires.

What a tragedy. Hopefully the Santa Anna Ana winds will die down Wednesday.

Update: There are far more injuries than reported earlier including at least 16 in the San Diego burn unit of which 5 civilians and 5 firefighters are in critical condition. The UCSD facility is ready to take 100 more burn patients if needed.

— DRJ

10/22/2007

California Wildfires force Evacuation of 250,000 in San Diego

Filed under: Real Life — DRJ @ 11:15 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Over 7 fires are burning in California including fires in San Diego County that have forced 250,000 people to evacuate. Officials have urged people to evacuate when they see fire, whether or not they’ve been told to evacuate:

Unrestrained fires stoked by gale-force winds raged across San Diego County today, forcing more than 250,000 people from their homes and scorching 100,000 acres, a county official said, in the worst of more than a dozen blazes racing across Southern California.

“If you see a fire, please evacuate immediately. Don’t wait to be told to leave,” San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said at a news conference this morning. Among those evacuated were hundreds of patients at Pomerado Hospital and a nursing home in suburban Poway, officials said.”

Officials are doing what they can but battling fires on so many fronts has put a severe strain on area fire departments:

“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a state of emergency in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. At least one blaze, the Santiago Fire in Orange County, was believed to be arson, officials said this morning. Two other fires might have been caused by downed power lines.”

In addition, there are fears that the Malibu fire (2400 acres burned, 10% contained) could spread to area trigger points and jeopardize 12,000 to 14,000 more people living in the surrounding area.

— DRJ

9/28/2007

Food and Fun @ the Texas State Fair

Filed under: Real Life — DRJ @ 6:21 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

I’ll never equal James Lilek’s tales of the Minnesota State Fair, but …

(more…)

9/20/2007

A Professor’s Farewell

Filed under: Real Life — DRJ @ 7:04 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

If you want to be a better person, read this WSJ article about the last lecture from Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor Randy Pausch.

H/T Instapundit, of course.

— DRJ

6/17/2007

A Father’s Day Conversation with My Four-Year-Old Son Matthew

Filed under: General,Humor,Real Life — Patterico @ 11:03 am

Matthew: Shake hands with me, Daddy!

Me: [Shakes hands with Matthew.]

Matthew: Isn’t it sticky?

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there. And a special Happy Father’s Day to my Dad, who would have loved to have been around to shake Matthew’s hand — even if it was sticky.

4/15/2007

Sleep Apnea: Diagnosed, But Not Cured

Filed under: General,Real Life — Patterico @ 8:18 am

Back in December I made a crack about my undiagnosed sleep apnea.

It has been diagnosed. But the cure isn’t working too well so far.

(more…)

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