Monthly Archives: November 2020

Israel: The Short Version

Modern Israel is weird because the settlers of modern Israel were weird. Holocaust survivors with PTSD and a thirst for revenge, or extremely current skills at fighting for the Resistance, or for various militaries, were blended with people who were basically farmers or tradesmen or merchants who had never fought anybody. People of every political stripe not just from one country, but from all over the world. And weirdest of all, the Jewish kibbutz folks who wanted to be Jewish Communists who spoke Hebrew but didn’t know bupkis about the Bible, and who actively prevented smart kids from pursuing higher education. (But couldn’t stop them from joining Israel’s army.)

Modern Israel is weird because a lot of the “Palestinian Arabs” were actually resettled there by the Ottoman Empire, somewhere around the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Often by pushing indigenous Arab/Israeli Christians or Muslims off their land, or out of their houses. People don’t talk about this. (And actually, a lot of Middle East problems come from this forced resettlement stuff happening everywhere on the fringes of the Ottoman Empire. In Armenia, as we know, it ended in genocide.)

Modern Israel is weird because it’s a small enough country that a lot of people know each other. People can be at each other’s throats in their parliament, but also be relatives or college friends or army buddies.

Another reason that modern Israel is weird is that they tend to have an “ourselves alone” attitude, just like modern Ireland used to have. It’s not that they’re not good allies, because they can be. It’s that they’re going to consider their own self-interest first, mostly because they know that historically they’ve been messed with, and that people continue to mess with them today. But honestly, that’s how the US does things also.

The US did some amazingly nasty or unhelpful things to Israel, early on and at random times down the years, and Israel has occasionally done nasty or unhelpful things in return, or at random times. That doesn’t make them not our ally; it makes them slightly more our ally than France. 🙂

If we have a State Department or intelligence analyst paying attention, we should be able to keep Israel on our side without putting ourselves into bad positions. When Israel has weird political parties in power (okay, that’s all the time!), we should be able to figure out their goals and be ready for what they might want to do. But it’s okay to have allies that are not clones of the US.

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Fun with Kidney Stones

If you’ve never had kidney stones, keep doing what you’re doing. If you have, here’s some interesting info.

Basically, as long as you are hydrated, your kidneys are usually able to cope with everything you do and drink. But large crystallized compounds called kidney stones can form under the following conditions:

1: Not enough calcium in your diet, or coming into the kidneys, to bind to the little oxalates and push them along. So potentially you have a big gang of lonely oxalates hanging out temporarily in your kidneys. If you pee them out, you’re okay. But if you don’t, they get together and form crystals as soon as other stuff shows up.

2. Too much calcium without enough water, which turns into calcium crystals in the kidneys, that don’t get out if they get too big. (And then when oxalates come along, they bind to these crystals, and suddenly you have a really big kidney stone.) Calcium oxalate crystals being formed in your digestive system is normal, but having them form in your kidneys is the most common kind of kidney stone.

3. Too much cystine in your kidneys, period. Cystine, an essential amino acid, usually isn’t a problem unless you have cystinuria, a fairly rare genetic disease that messes with absorption.

4. Too much calcium phosphate in your kidneys without enough liquid. Those lonely calcium crystals can also get together with phosphates and make calcium phosphate crystals, or even join calcium phosphate with existing calcium oxalate crystals. This means you have a lot of calcium and not enough oxalates in your tummy… and something else going on. Urinary tract infections, but also other kidney problems or hyperthyroidism.

5. Uric acid crystals that actually turn into stones. Bad, bad dehydration is what causes this, or really acidic urine, or certain diseases. They can actually treat it short term with baking soda/bicarbonate of soda antacid!

6. Struvite stones = magnesium ammonium phosphate. Caused by really alkaline urine, which doesn’t usually happen unless you have an infection somewhere. They give people stuff to neutralize the pH and deal with the stuff in the stones.

If this isn’t a good recap of what I’ve read, read up on it for yourself.

So basically, it benefits you to eat/drink lots of calcium, so that the oxalates bind to it in your tummy instead of in your kidneys.

And you should drink a fair amount of water every day, so that all the various kinds of crystals do not form in your kidneys, and don’t get to the point that they are big masses that don’t dissolve easily.

And you should urinate and clear things out, because otherwise your kidneys will just work hard to concentrate everything into uric acid crystals, while all the other crystals have more time to get together and cause trouble.

If people know they tend to get specific kinds of kidney stones, their doctors will have specific recommendations. (There seem to be a lot of ins and outs, often based on what you are already taking in vitamins, prescription drugs, etc. Excess Vitamin C can turn into oxalates, and Vitamin D pills often include extra calcium.)

But what else helps?

The juice of citrus fruit and melons contain citrates, which can also bind to calcium in your kidneys and help you pee it out, and thus keep oxalates moving on out of the kidneys instead of making stones. This is one reason why lots of multivitamins and electrolyte drinks contain potassium citrate.

Nuts, potatoes, chocolate, black tea, beets, rhubarb, bran flakes, currants, leeks, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tomato soup, grits, tofu, Concord grapes, and spinach are high in oxalates. But they also tend to make you urinate, which usually is good for kidneys. So you have to think about levels. Eat/drink calcium with them, basically, and don’t pig out every day.

(In the UK, where people usually drink tea with milk or cream, they don’t have to worry about black tea oxalates as much. But remember, almond milk is also a nut.)

Or you could look up other tonics to encourage urination, that don’t include oxalates. (Just don’t use peppermint tea, as some people have good luck with it, but it seems to bring on kidney stones in others.) “Palo azul” or “azul tea” is a bark-based tea that is supposed to do wonders, but I don’t know anything about it. Green tea or oolong tea is a lot easier to find, and apparently fights stone formation. (They are both low in oxalates, because of how they are processed after picking.)

Eating too much meat or too many carbs and sugars, all at once, can stress out your kidneys. Don’t do that, or don’t do it for days and days in a row.

Don’t stress out. Some people’s kidneys don’t work well when they’re unhappy, angry, anxious, etc. (Probably stress hormones.)

Resveratrol fights kidney inflammation and helps your kidneys keep pushing junk out. It’s found in peanuts (a nut!), cocoa (chocolate!), grapes, blueberries, strawberries, mulberries, bilberries, and cranberries. In grapes, it’s only present in the skins, which is why red wine has resveratrol and white wine mostly does not. (The skins are strained out of white and rose wine at an earlier point in production.) But your body metabolizes resveratrol and doesn’t grab a lot of it, which is why there are pills.

Drink water and go to the bathroom regularly. Seriously. Then you don’t have to remember this stuff.


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Ruth Lyons

Today on Channel 5 from Cincinnati, they re-broadcast a documentary from 2011 about the legendary Midwestern television host, Ruth Lyons. (Ruth Lyons: First Lady of Television.) It was fascinating, because she basically had the force of personality to ignore sexism (or inertia) and push her way to the top… and people loved it! She just did stuff instead of thinking about it, and she gently trolled others instead of being trolled.

She went from a job playing piano on WKRC radio, to emergency guest host, to on-the-spot reporter of the Great Flood of 1937. She wanted to do more news, but ended up becoming WKRC’s program director; and then took over the field of variety entertainment at lunchtime for housewives, on a new rival television station, WLWT.

Needless to say, nobody previously had known that housewives needed a variety entertainment and talk show format at lunchtime. Or a tv host who tested the products she was supposed to advertise, and refused to accept sponsors whose products stunk… and revealed the stinkage on the air.

She was a gifted, prolific songwriter (every week there was at least one new song by her), a good pianist in many styles, and a serviceable singer, but she had a real eye for talent and was interested in pushing people to the top. There was a reason that agents tried to get their clients on Ruth Lyons’ 50-50 Club. Back then, the Tonight Show was okay, but it was Ruth Lyons who sold albums and theater tickets.

She was beloved for speaking her mind, and her show had no color line. All her guests were her guests, who sat next to her on her rocking loveseat. She touched off controversy in 1963 by spontaneously dancing with a famous black singer, and then delivering an on-air talk the next week about how she had been getting nasty phone calls. The next week, the station was flooded with supportive phone calls instead.

She also pranked the All-Star baseball game in 1957, getting her audience to send votes for the entire Reds starting lineup, and thus creating an all-Reds National League All-Star team. (Needless to say, the voting rules changed the next year.) She apparently also wrote the lyrics to “We’ll Rally ‘Round the Reds,” to the tune of “The Battle Cry of Freedom.”

But after tireless years, her sister died of cancer, and then her adopted daughter was also diagnosed with terminal cancer. She had a stroke and started to get better… and then her daughter died in 1966.

Lyons tried to come back to work, but was physically weak and mentally fragile. She ended up breaking down on the show one day in January 1967, when her young friend Carol Channing was on, and Channing had to try to help her regain composure on live television. Lyons and her doctor decided she should retire, so she did. That day. She was a decisive lady.

From then on, her younger co-host Bob Braun helmed The 50/50 Club, which became The Bob Braun Show, and went on for years and years more. That’s the show I grew up with. His son Rob Braun worked in Cincinnati TV news as an anchor.

Lyons lived quietly in retirement, suffering a series of strokes that made her speech hard to understand, but also writing a memoir that was a local bestseller. She died in 1988.

Besides the daytime talk show, her greatest legacy is probably the Ruth Lyons Children’s Fund. Originally founded (as the Ruth Lyons Children’s Christmas Fund) to provide Christmas presents for poor kids who were stuck in the hospital over the holidays, it grew to provide all sorts of resources for kids and for hospitals in the Midwest. I still have my stuffed dog toy from when I was in the hospital, and plenty of people across the region can say the same.

Here’s an earlier documentary from 1988: Ruth Lyons: Portrait of a Legend.

Ruth Lyons Tribute in several parts, from Norwood Primetime Television, on December 6, 1985. Features many of her staff and singers, including Cliff Lash, her bandleader, who transcribed to sheet music all the songs she wrote by ear.

Here’s a half-hour of excerpts by the producer from Ruth Lyons: First Lady of Television. It includes the story of how Cincinnati and Dayton ended up with more color tvs per capita than a lot bigger cities in the rest of the US.

Ruth Lyons Children’s Fund is accepting donations. Every cent that you donate will go directly to hospitals and kids; there is no administrative overhead at all. “Happy Birthday, Ruth Lyons” tells the story.

Ten Tunes of Christmas: Ruth Lyons. The whole album. It sold more than 500,000 copies, back in 1958. And yes, of course Candee Records was Ruth Lyons’ own indie label!

“Sing a Song of Christmas” by Ruth Lyons, sung by her and her tv show staff. From the album.

“Wasn’t the Summer Short,” written by Ruth Lyons for Johnny Mathis.

“Have a Merry Merry Merry Christmas,” written by Ruth Lyons. Also from the album.

“Christmas Is a Birthday Time” by Ruth Lyons, sung by Ruby Wright.

“Let’s Light the Christmas Tree” by Ruth Lyons, sung by the Lennon Sisters.

“Christmas Lullaby” at about 7 minutes in, sung by Marian Spelman, for whom Ruth Lyons wrote the song in 1961. This seems like a really appropriate Christmas song for this crazy year, and I think all you parents will like it.

“Once Upon a Christmas Time” by Ruth Lyons, from her album It’s Christmas Time Again.

Another Tom from Ohio’s Youtube channel seems to have the most Ruth Lyons songs of anyone!

WLW Radio’s simulcast of The 50/50 Club, from 11/22/1963 (the day of JFK’s assassination). The bad news doesn’t arrive until the whole show is over, and another show is about to begin. No special guests, just in-house fun with the audience.

Ruth Lyons’ Coffee Cake recipe.


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Mother Cabrini Day!

Today is the feast (okay, the memorial) of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (aka Maria Francesca Cabrini, Cecchina Cabrini, and Francesca Saverio Cabrini), a religious sister who founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and emigrated from Italy to the mission fields of the United States. Along with her sisters, she gave tireless care to the American poor of every denomination, as well as setting up many Catholic schools, parishes, hospitals, orphanages, etc. After untiring service that stood in contrast to her tiny frail body and extremely high, cute soprano voice, she died on December 22, 1917, from the after-effects of catching malaria in Rio de Janeiro, ten years before.

As a legal immigrant who became a citizen of the United States, she was the first US citizen to become a saint, in 1946.

Cabrini and her sisters were wonderworkers with their prayers, which isn’t proof of sainthood but doesn’t hurt to show good fruit in their lives. This was seriously downplayed in the last half-century and more, particularly by those putting forward Cabrini as a saint of “social justice.”

Well, sorry, but you don’t get a St. Martin de Porres without the supposedly-embarrassing signs and wonders. The more practical and hands-on the saint is in charity, the more likely that signs and. wonders will happen.

(Activism doesn’t seem to produce saints or wonders, as it is a side-activity to charity, or even a way of blocking ordinary citizens from helping their brothers and sisters, calling on government to replace neighborliness. There are government-bureaucrat-type saints, but not many. Usually martyrs.)

The sad truth is that a lot of the secular products of Cabrini’s hard work have been closed down and destroyed. Orphanages have been decentralized into foster care, which has been good for most kids but has promoted abuse of others. Charity hospitals were closed down for lack of personnel and lack of vocations, or lack of interest by dioceses, or changes in the law and liability; or they have been sold off to businesses, which then often closed them down for being in unprofitable areas of cities. Inner city parishes are bare of parishioners, because everybody moved out to the suburbs. Parochial schools are no longer owned by the sisters and are no longer free to the poor, or no longer in existence.

But that’s not Mother Cabrini’s fault, is it? The same people who want her as a saint of social justice are the ones who have largely turned Catholic charities and action into “make the government do everything” activists, and who have no problem with government regulations that have largely outlawed traditional forms of charity. Making the poor jump through government hoops isn’t very charitable, and doesn’t fill people’s needs in anything but the roughest way. And Catholic adoption services are not allowed to match Catholic babies with practicing Catholic parents, even though matching by “race” is apparently the most important thing in the world.

Mother Cabrini lived and worked in New York, Chicago, Denver, New Orleans, Seattle, and many other cities that were once prosperous, but have now collapsed, or been damaged by riots. We should invoke the prayers of our friend and neighbor (and fellow voter), St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. But we also should start to give and pray and do more, ourselves, without waiting for some agency to do it.

Cabrini was once reluctant to start running charity hospitals and medical ministries, because she thought that wasn’t her order’s job. She would just help raise money, and help another order to do it. Then she had a dream where she saw Our Lady dressed as “Consoler of the Afflicted,” but nursing the sick in a hospital, with her dress pinned up to give her freedom of movement. Mary sternly told Cabrini, “I am doing what you refuse to do!” Cabrini took the hint.

Are we refusing to do God’s work, refusing to help our neighbors directly?

In a move that went largely unnoticed due to riots and COVID restrictions, in 2020 the state of Colorado renamed Columbus Day “Cabrini Day.” I can’t decide if that was stupid or smart, in current year. Regardless, I think it’s pretty funny to have a secular US saint’s day, especially one set up by SJWs; and personally I would push it as far as it would go.

(No offense to Columbus, who suffered great obloquy in his own time and today for trying to stop abuses of Native Americans. Why do you think he lost his government jobs and got imprisoned?)

She was a farmgirl, and never lost that practicality. Cabrini earned her own teaching license and thought she was going to live a single, secular life or would marry, much like most girls today. But God had other ideas; the saint teaches us to listen. Cabrini is also a model for today because she was refused entrance to two religious orders, once because of her health and once because she was considered to be “too useful to spare” by her parish priest, who was a friend but also got it wrong. Cabrini had to found her own religious order in order to follow God’s will, another activity discouraged today. But the good side was that she did gain a lot of administrative experience in her own hometown.

The super-freaky thing was what happened next. Her pastor asked her to help out for a few weeks at a charitable orphanage. He thought she would make a good fixer. She ended up stuck there for six years — first with three jerks supervising her, who all thought they were Cinderella’s stepsisters; and then as boss to those same jerks, who suddenly thought they were Cinderellas. Yeah… become a saint or break. But again, this shows Cabrini’s sympathy for those who are governed badly. She learned to look out for herself and others, to have a strong will, and to understand the dark side of human nature.

And then her bishop looked into the sitation, got her out of it, and suggested she found her own order — a missionary order, since she had a missionary heart.

Which she did, and then didn’t put up with any of that crud which other people had put her through. (She seems to be one of the few modern foundresses of religious orders who didn’t get mistreated by mean girls and would-be Iagos in her old age.) Even though her bishop and her old pastor both thought her order should be missionaries to Italy, she knew that her order was called to go out far away. Without defying anyone, her will to follow God’s will for them remained adamant. The same thing happened when various bishops told her she should not go to Rome and get his permission to send sisters to foreign parts. She did not defy them, but she consulted a canon law expert, learned her rights, and went to Rome. (And was told in a dream to go, by Baby Jesus. And got her permission, even though Pope Leo XIII told her that she was needed in America, not in Asia as she had planned. And then she used her papal permission to trump other bishops… very politely.)

As was said about her by Mons. Aristeo V. Simoni, in his introduction to The Life of Mother Cabrini, American Saint by Mabel Farnum, “God sometimes leaves His children in the dark so that they may see His [guiding] stars.”

But she took a more cheerful view. Cabrini’s idea was that we take the good things God gives us, use them as best we can at the moment, identify the problems and fill in the gaps when we can, but not worry too much about what is currently lacking. Her prayer when things were needed was, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, we thank thee.” She also insisted that “Missionaries are joyous! They have every right to be, because they are Christ’s.” Even when the seas were rough on the sisters’ voyage to America, she took it as both a test from God, and a sign of God wishing to bless them when they passed the test.

When she needed more sisters, she asked the religious order that had run her school to send them any sisters who weren’t fitting in or who were unhappy with the life. In her house, these “misfits” became valuable sisters, and holy. Her Rule insisted that there was no need for ascetic penances beyond the common life of Catholics and sisters, because “Religious life in itself offers every chance for sacrifice. There is no need to seek further for crosses.”

But whenever the sisters had nothing left of some supply, and no money to buy more, Mother Cabrini would ask them just to check the cupboard one more time — and there it would be, even though the cupboard had been completely bare. Or there would be money in the desk drawer, once or twice.They were not begging sisters, though they did beg when it was needed. But most of all, they always lived in dependence on God.

If you can get access to, follow the link to Farnum’s book. It is charming and not too rose-colored.

And it also tells the story of how she surprised and conquered the archbishop of Buenos Aires, and got her way for her order…. Her Colegio Santa Rosa is still at work.


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