Pinhas

In this week’s Torah parsha Pinhas Moses and Aaron’s son Eleazar are asked to take a census of the Israelite people after God had sent a plague upon the Mideonite people for their trickery against Moses.  This parsha brings to light the importance of census taking, inheritance and land distribution.

The census is taken to determine the size of each tribe and the land is to be distributed based on the number of people of each tribe.  The daughters of Zelophehad came forward before Moses and explained that their father had died in the wilderness and had left no son.  They were brave determined women and asked that they be given a land holding.  Moses brought the case to the Lord, who determined their case just.  They were to be given their father’s share.  The Lord then tells Moses instructions for inheritance of property.

In the United States these practices are still carried on today. ¬†Every 10 years in the US a census is taken. ¬†The results are used for determining how federal funds and other resources are to be distributed based on population numbers. ¬†This practice dates back prior to the Revolutionary War. ¬†Census records can be viewed by the public after a period of 70 years and are available at US National Archive repositories located throughout the country. ¬†These records can be helpful in researching one’s genealogy and family background.

The inheritance practices in Pinhas are also largely in place but can be varied based on ones final will and testament.  The daughters of Zelophehad were the first feminists mentioned in the Torah and modern women can look to their example in standing up for their rights at a time when women are beginning to see a backslide in the progress we have made over the last century.

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Everything is Better by Bicycle

After my company transferred me to California’s Inland Empire, I purchased a bicycle as a way to commute to work. ¬†Besides saving me money on car payments, insurance and gas, I get an extra work out each day. ¬†An added bonus is that I can also use my bicycle to explore other areas of southern California.

My first outing was to the beach at Santa Monica.  I began my trip by boarding the Metrolink with my bicycle to Los Angeles.  At Union Station, located in Downtown LA I transferred to the subway at 7th street and boarded the lightrail to Santa Monica.  The lightrail ends about a block from the beach.  As you can imagine, Santa Monica is busy during summertime and there are lanes dedicated just for bicycles down to the pier and Palisades Park.

I chose to explore Palisades Park first before riding down to the beach itself.  The park sits atop a bluff overlooking the beach area.

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Benches, palm trees line long paths throughout the park.  A fence runs along the edge of the bluff where you can lookout over the beach and boardwalk as well as the Santa Monica pier.

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Taco trucks lined the street that runs along side the park. People strolled along enjoying the view, getting a bite to eat and photographing the view. Having a bicycle allowed me to explore more of the park than I would have been able to do on foot, leaving me with enough energy to explore the beach area.

The path in Palisades Park leads to the Santa Monica pier.  There is a ramp down to the pier for pedestrians and bicycles.  Souvenir shops, restaurants and an amusement park can be found on the pier.  A ramp leads down to the boardwalk on the beach.  Once on the boardwalk I rode down to a cafe on the beach where I stopped for a drink.  Many people travel the beach by bicycle allowing one to really expierience the entire beach.

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People leave their bicycles at designated areas and head for the water on foot through the sand, stop and eat at one of the many cafes, rent a surf board to ride the waves or walk with their family to enjoy the scenery.

Santa Monica by bicycle is the only way to go. ¬†By taking the train with my bicycle I avoided LA’s traffic jams and was able to see more of Santa Monica than I would have been able to on foot. ¬†I got some great exercise in without it feeling like exercise. ¬†And I spent time at one of my favorite places, the beach.

The EPA Denies a Petition to Ban Dow’s Chlorpyrifos

In her book Silent Spring which was published in 1962, environmental scientist Rachel Carson warned us of the effects of using pesticides. ¬†In March of this year Scott Pruitt, an administrator with the Environmental Protection Agency ¬†and the Trump Administration’s top environmental official, met with Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris regarding the use of Chlorpyrifos, which according to the Los Angeles Times interferes with brain development ¬†of fetuses and infants. ¬†Their meeting was regarding the use of of the pesticide in which the EPA decided to reverse its ban.

On their website, the Environmental Protection agency defines Chlorpyrifos as an organophosphate primarily used to control foliage and soil borne insect pests on a variety of food and feed crops. ¬†The EPA states that Chlorpyrifos can over stimulate the nervous system causing nausea, dizziness, confusion and at high exposure respiratory paralysis and death. ¬†More than 6 million pounds of Chlorpyrifos is sprayed each year on fruits and other crops making it one of the most widely used pesticides in the world. ¬†The pesticide had been on the market since the early 1960’s and has been blames for sickening farm workers in recent years.

Why then did the Environmental Protection Agency decline to ban the pesticide from being used? ¬†In a recent article, the Los Angeles times states that Dow donated $1,000,000 to Trump’s political campaign. ¬†This appears as though it may be a conflict of interest which could result in causing serious illnesses and death.

Unfortunately Rachel Carson’s pleas to ban pesticides from use have largely gone unheard and we are only now beginning to see the effects on humans and other living species as well as water quality. ¬†We may feel the harm for many years to come. ¬†Is a political favor worth it?

You Don’t Need to be an Athlete to Run

A few years ago I decided to challenge myself by taking up the sport of running.  I had never really been a runner but it was something I was driven to do.  I found a track and tried jogging around it a few times.  Not feeling like I was getting anywhere I realized I needed something more structured.  I downloaded the app Couch to 5K on Google Play and everything changed.

The app claims that it can take a person from couch potato and by the end of the program they will be able to run a 5k.  I had my doubts as I had not run that far since my late twenties.  The program starts out slow combining running and walking.  Diligently following the program I worked out 3 or more times a week.  Soon the track was no longer an option because my distance had increased significantly.  About midway through the program my knees started hurting.  I was worried I would have to stop, but I read about knee injuries in a running magazine.  The magazine suggested changing your form by making sure to keep your head up and your posture straight.  The recommendations worked and I continued on to the end of the program.

At the end of the program I was running 3.2 miles without stopping and I signed up for a 5k race in downtown Seattle.  I had been training for months now and was ready to put all that training to the test.  The morning of the race, true to Seattle, it was pouring down rain.  Not a drizzle but a full downpour.  I was devastated.  Not wanting to back out due to weather I put on my running wear and headed out the door into the rain.  I ran the 5k without stopping and by the end was dripping wet.  Running is not just about being an athlete, it is a challenge, it helps you set and reach goals and it is great for ones health.

The year after the 5k I signed up and trained for a 10k.  The 10k is almost 7 miles and a major achievement for someone who was once a couch potato.  This year my goal is to run a half marathon which is 13.1 miles.  I do not run to come in first place, I run to finish.  It will be a major challenge, but I am determined to reach my goal.  All you need to be a runner are a good pair of shoes.

Taking the Scenic Route

In our fast paced world everything seems to happen at the speed of light.  Information is available in seconds via smart phones, we balance home, work and a personal life and we want things now rather than later. Taking ones time is almost an act of rebellion.  When I received a transfer from my company to California, I decided to slow things down and take the scenic route.

Since I had the time I decided to travel on the Coast Starlite Amtrak train from Seattle to Los Angeles.  Purchasing a ticket can be done easily via an app on your smart phone.  No ticket is necessary as a bar code may be scanned from your phone.  My train arrived on time and I was assigned a seat with more leg room than on an airplane.  Each seat comes with a fold down table and the seats recline almost all the way back.

Three meals a day are available in the dining car which is set up like a restaurant.  The seating is shared, giving one the opportunity to meet others traveling on the train.  The food was good and the service excellent.  For those not wanting formal dining a snack car offering everything from pizza to bloody marys is also available.  Selected items can also be delivered right to your seat.

If one is lucky enough to have obtained a window seat, sight seeing is a good way to spend the time.  We left Seattle and traveled through the rural areas of Washington state, through the city of Portland and were once again traveling through the farmlands of Oregon and California until reaching the Bay Area.  Shortly after leaving Jack London Square in Oakland, the train begins to travel along the coast.  Breath taking views are right out ones window.  If you do not have a window seat, an observation car with comfortable seating, tables and large windows is available.

The trip took a little over a day and a half.  I spent my time catching up on some reading, completing some sketches and enjoying the sights and my down time.  I met a lot of nice people, each with a unique story about where they were going and why they were traveling by train.  We pulled into Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and at a taxi stand in front of the station I caught a cab to my hotel.  Traveling by plane may be fast, but nothing compares to the enjoyment of slowing things down and traveling by train.

 

 

Korah

‚ÄúFor the sake of His great name, the Lord will never abandon His people seeing that the Lord undertook to make you His people.‚ÄĚ I Samuel 12:22. ¬†

 

This week’s parashat Korah illustrates the importance of knowing history in order to avoid the mistakes of the past.  Korah and his people questioned why Moses and Aaron had placed themselves above the others.  Instead of trusting in God, they succumbed to the fear that they had been taken from a land flowing in milk and honey only to die in the wilderness.   This angered the Lord and the ground opened up sending Korah and his men alive into Sheol.

 

The problem is resolved in Prophets I Samuel.  The people of Israel were now asking for a leader and Samuel delivered to them their king Saul.  They were reminded of the past and did not make the same mistakes.

 

This parsha is relevant to what is going on in our society today.  The people are consumed with fear.  Fear of those who are different, fear of people being placed in positions of leadership, fear of losing power and fear of losing their status in society.  We are focusing on the wrong things.  Instead of fearing what is different in others, we could be focusing on what we have in common and how we can build upon that to make our communities thrive.  Our country is dividing itself and the only solution to the problem is to remember the mistakes of the past to better our future.

Despite Risks to Workers and Consumers, Asbestos Still Legal to Use in the US

 

The most common health problem from exposure to asbestos is malignant mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer.  Symptoms of mesothelioma often do not surface 20 to 40 years or more after first exposure.    Patients have a 1 year survival period once diagnosed with the disease.  

 

Washington state senator Patty Murray has tried to introduce a bill that would ban the use of asbestos in the United States multiple times, but the bills have failed to pass.  More needs to be done to protects workers and consumers from exposure to asbestos.  The public is largely unaware of the products conDespite the many documented health risks to workers and consumers, the use of asbestos has still not been banned in the United States.  Found in products around the home and on construction sites, people are often unaware of their exposure and risk to their health.  A bill to ban the use of asbestos in our country has been introduced multiple times but has failed to pass into law.

 

Asbestos is a commercial name given to a variety of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals.  Its use dates back over 4,000 years ago with large scale mining beginning in the 19th century.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos fibers may be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos-containing material during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling. In general, exposure may occur only when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in some way to release particles and fibers into the air.

 

Asbestos has been used in a variety of building construction materials because of its fiber strength and heat resistance.  It may be found in products used for such things as attic and wall insulation, vinyl floors, roofing and siding shingles, textured paint, walls and floors around wood-burning stoves protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets, water or steam pipes, oil and coal furnaces, heat resistant fabrics, automobile brakes and clutches,  Many people working in professions that use such materials are unaware of the dangers to their health from use and exposure to these products.

 

taining asbestos and what that could mean to their health several years down the road.  Education on asbestos and its dangers is needed and local and federal politicians need to work on passing laws banning its use.  Lawsuits against companies using asbestos knowing the dangers to its workers have been successful but will not bring family members back.  Banning the use of asbestos in the United States is necessary to prevent the deaths of the workers and consumers being exposed to this deadly fiber.