Disasters, Deaths, Decisions

I figure the best way to deal with a hurricane or typhoon is to be somewhere else.

That’s not always possible, so ‘how to survive’ advice generally talks about how to cope with wind, rain and flooding.

Some advice may seem obvious, like boarding up windows and having supplies on hand.

Some maybe doesn’t, like avoiding the attic when flood waters rise. Going up another floor to stay dry might seem reasonable at the time. Trouble starts if the water keeps rising. When that happens, having a hatch to the roof or some way to break through the roof is a good idea:

News here in America has been focusing on the usual political fracas and celebrity shenanigans. But there’s a bit about the east coast storm, too.


(From Reuters, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“Trees were downed across North Carolina amid high winds”
(BBC News))

At Least 14 Dead In Carolinas And ‘The Worst Flooding Is Yet To Come’ In Some Areas
Emily Sullivan, NPR (September 15, 2018)

“Florence weakened to a tropical depression Sunday morning, the National Hurricane Center said, but flooding continued to be a major danger throughout the Carolinas.

“North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the storm is more dangerous now than when it made landfall. ‘Flood waters are still raging across parts of our state, and the risk to life is rising with the angry waters,’ Cooper said in a news conference on Sunday….”

More than a dozen folks have died so far in this storm. Some drowned, debris hit others. At least one died when a chimney fell on him.

A mother and her child died when a tree fell on their house. Emergency crews found her husband in the wreckage, alive. He’s been taken to a hospital.

I don’t think the house in the Reuters/BBC photo was theirs. The Independent article showed what looks like a different neighborhood.

Meanwhile, folks living near the western Pacific Ocean have another storm to deal with.1

In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

(From Reuters, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“A building used as a refuge by miners and their families was crushed by landslides”
(BBC News))

Typhoon Mangkhut: Miners and families buried by landslide
(September 17, 2018)

Rescuers in the Philippines are digging through mud to retrieve bodies buried by a landslide that hit as Typhoon Mangkhut battered the country.

“At least 32 people in the mining town of Itogon, in Benguet province, were crushed in a single shelter.

“Teams are raking through the rubble with their bare hands, passing blocks of concrete and pieces of wood down a 50ft line to clear the area….”

My guess is that Mangkhut 2018 will end more lives than Florence. I could be wrong about that. Both storms are still in progress, and the resulting floods won’t go away quickly. We may hear about more collapsed hillsides and crushed shelters.

I figure the folks near Itogon were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time — but for the right reasons.

“…A group of artisanal goldminers in the village of Ucab, which lies in a valley in Itogon municipality, had huddled with their families in a two-storey shelter, Conrad Navidad of the International Organization for Migration told the BBC. The building was crushed, and 29 people remain missing.

“‘It was used as a worship area for the church group of the mine workers and their families,’ said Mr Navidad, who was at the scene earlier on Monday. ‘Before the typhoon hit, their pastor invited them to take refuge in that bunkhouse – and then the disaster happened and they were buried by the landslide.

“‘They are not hoping for survivors anymore – just for the retrieval of the bodies buried.’…”
(BBC News)

My ‘at the wrong place’ view isn’t the only possible assumption.

Maybe nobody will see the Itogon tragedy as a real-life melodrama. But the potential is here for at least two sorts of rant.

‘And the Moral of this Storm Is – – – ???’

Folks favoring older traditions might figure the dead and missing were guilty of being in the ‘wrong’ church. Or maybe for being gold miners — worshiping mammon and all that.

That sort of thing is a perennial favorite. (September 10, 2017)

Katrina: God’s Judgment on America
Anonymous; Restore America, via Beliefnet (2005)

“… There was the burgeoning Gulf Coast gambling industry, with a new casino that was to open on Labor Day weekend. But of course, what is a little gambling if it supports ‘education’ and brings revenue into government coffers? And then there was the 34th Annual gay, lesbian and transgender ‘Southern Decadence’ Labor Day gala to be held from August 31st to September 5th….”

The more avant-garde might see gold mining as an affront to Mother Nature, who rose in fury against the despoilers:

Jennifer Lawrence calls hurricanes ‘Mother Nature’s rage and wrath’
Christian Holub, Entertainment Weekly (September 8, 2017)

“Jennifer Lawrence says the deadly hurricanes that have formed in the Atlantic Ocean over the last month — including Hurricane Irma, which is set to batter Florida this weekend — are the result of ‘Mother Nature’s rage and wrath….”

Forget ‘saving the Earth’ – it’s an angry beast that we’ve awoken
Clive Hamilton, The Conversation (May 27, 2014)

“Environmentalism is undergoing a radical transformation. New science has shown how long-held notions about trying to ‘save the planet’ and preserve the life we have today no longer apply.

“Instead, a growing chorus of senior scientists refer to the Earth with metaphors such as ‘the wakened giant’ and ‘the ornery beast’, a planet that is ‘fighting back’ and seeking ‘revenge’, and a new era of ‘angry summers’ and ‘death spirals’….”

Me? I think storms are dangerous. Sometimes people die during storms. Some are careless. Some do everything they reasonably can to stay alive, and die anyway.

Life happens. Sometimes it’s pleasant. Sometimes it’s anything but.

I figure that whatever happens to me, pleasant or otherwise, what matters most is what I do about the experience. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 17041707, 1730, 18521869)

Disasters, Decisions

(From Author Anthony Ivanoff, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(What’s left of trees and barricades in Hong Kong, near Hennessy Road, St. Paul’s Convent School and Yee Wu Street.)

Mangkhut 2018 is over the mainland now, giving folks in southern China trouble. Meanwhile, survivors in the Philippines are dealing with ‘after the storm’ issues:

I think we get information about disasters more quickly than we did in my youth.

That could be a problem if I decided to fret about them, or — perhaps worse — enjoy watching others suffer. Or decide that folks who aren’t near me don’t matter.

Knowing that others are suffering won’t do much good, if I can’t or won’t do anything about that knowledge.

There are, happily, a few things I can do. Like share ‘how you can help’ links you may not have seen on the national news:

Sin and All That

Even if I didn’t ‘feel like’ caring about what happens to folks in places I’ve never seen, apathy isn’t an option.

If I take my faith seriously, I’ll at least try to love my neighbors — and see everyone as a neighbor, no matter who or where they are. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; Luke 10:2537; Catechism, 1706, 1776, 1825, 18491851, 1955)

I should be promoting truth and justice, contributing to the common good and getting involved as best I can. Acting as if mercy matters is another good idea. (Catechism, 1915, 2239, 2447, 2472, 24752487)

I can use suffering, joy, any experience, as a reason to pray and rejoice. (1 Thessalonians 5:1618; Catechism, 2648)

None of that is easy. But it’s still a good idea.

I should also try to avoid sinning. That’ll be a tad less difficult if I’ve got a clue as to what “sin” means.

Turns out that it’s pretty simple.

Sin is deliberately doing something that hurts myself or others. It’s doing something that doesn’t make sense in the long run. It’s an offense against reason and God (Catechism, 18461869)

Putting the almighty buck, fame, good looks, or anything other than God at the top of my priorities is a bad idea. Living for nothing but my career, for example, would be wrong. But working is a good idea. It’s what we’re supposed to do. Within reason. (Catechism, 378, 531, 21122114, 2172)

I take sin and all that seriously.

But I don’t see virtue in either hurling epithets at ‘those sinners over there,’ or trying to make myself feel miserable because I’m a wretched sinner.

That gets me back to typhoons, hurricanes and other disasters.

I don’t see calamities as ‘God’s judgment on those sinners over there.’ On the other hand, I don’t think they’re meaningless. They’re opportunities to practice charity: which is a virtue. (Catechism, 1813, 18221829)

Disasters can also be a good reminder that I’ve only got so much time to “work out” my salvation. (Philippians 2:12)

Not that I can work my way into heaven. (March 11, 2018)

Using the Brains God Gave Us

I’ve seen some of the usual ‘be very afraid’ stuff in op-eds, along with one refreshingly sane look at what’s been happening over the last few decades.

I think folks on all sides of the ‘climate and environment’ hullabaloo would be well-advised to turn the hysteria down a notch or two.

I also think that studying this world, developing new tools, using the brains God gave us, is a good idea. It’s part of being human. (Catechism, 159, 214217, 283, 294, 341, 22922295)

Part of our job is taking care of this world. We can and should use its resources: wisely, keeping future generations in mind. (Catechism, 24152418, 2456)

More about that, and what my family’s experiencing at the moment:

1 This month’s big storms:

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Death in the Family

My father-in-law, “Deacon Dad,” had breakfast this morning. My wife and #3 daughter were there, lending a hand. He had been hospitalized recently, returning home a few days back.

A priest came later in the morning, with the Eucharist. My father-in-law asked for, and received, a blessing. Then he started a nap, and died.

I can think of few better ways to leave this life.

The family is being told about today’s loss. Has been told, I would think, by now. It’s about twenty after four in the afternoon. The next few days will be — eventful. Interesting. It’s a largish family, and this is a major event in our lives.

We’re all feeling the loss, each according to our circumstances and nature.

My son and I had a good talk about woodworking, city planning, golf courses, the Myst/Cyan games — all of which made sense in these circumstances, for folks like us. Like me, anyway.

I’ve also wept a bit, and decided to start writing this.

There’s a lot to say. But I’ll skip pious platitudes, saccharin slogans and all that. This really doesn’t seem like a time for that sort of hokum. I’m not convinced that it’s ever appropriate. Except in stories, and that’s another topic.

Besides, I’ve talked about life, death, and the big picture before:

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O Tempora O Mores! Oh, well

With major storms headed for cities in both hemispheres and the usual political brouhaha here in America, I figure this morning’s small town standoff won’t be national news.

I didn’t know about it until early afternoon, when my son told me why we’d been hearing so many sirens. A helicopter showed up a few minutes later.

It started sweeping back and forth over the near-southwest part of Sauk Centre. I assume it was there in response to the standoff. Maybe it was with Stearns County law enforcement, or some regional news service. Seeing it through reading glasses and against a brightly-cloudy sky, I couldn’t see any markings.

The good news is that nobody seems to have been killed. This could have been much worse. But it was serious, and odd, enough to make the news here in central Minnesota — and West Virginia, of all places:

UPDATE: Suspect Who Shot Deputy With Arrow in Custody
WJON [(St. Cloud Minnesota] (September 13, 2018)

“Authorities say the suspect who shot a Stearns County deputy with a crossbow is in custody.

“Multiple law enforcement agencies are on the scene of a standoff in Sauk Centre just before 11:00 a.m. in the 7000 Block of 10th Street South.

“Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson says they are dealing with a suspect in a home who shot a crossbow at a deputy.

“He was involved in an earlier incident with one of our deputies in which he fired an arrow at our deputy.”

Gudmundson says the deputy was hit in the arm and taken to the hospital. He’s believed to have non-life threatening injuries…”

Suspect fires crossbow at Minnesota deputy; standoff ensues
Bluefield Telegraph [Bluefield, West Virginia] (September 13, 2018)

“A deputy in pursuit of an erratic driver has been struck by an arrow, precipitating a standoff at a home in central Minnesota….”

My hat’s off to St. Cloud’s WJON for reporting the incident, but I think their online article has a typo. 10th Street South makes sense as an address, since that matches where I saw the helicopter. But “7000 Block” seems more than a bit overly distant. The helicopter simply was not that far away.

A family member told me that a more local source had said “700 block.” That makes more sense. KXRA also identified the weapon as a bow, not a crossbow: which also tallies with what I’ve heard locally.

Either way, attacking police after hitting a building seems like a really bad idea.

Police involved in stand off with man in Sauk Centre
KXRA (September 13, 2018)

“Multiple law enforcement agencies were on the scene of a stand off between police and a suspect who, was holed up in a private residence in Sauk Centre on the 700 block of 10th Street South. Officers have now taken the man into custody. According to Sheriff Don Gudmundson the man was involved in a prior incident with police where he says the suspect shot an arrow from a bow at a deputy. The deputy was hit in the forearm by the arrow and taken to the Sauk Centre hospital with non life threatening injuries. He will be transported by ground ambulance to another hospital. Gudmundson says shots were fired by another law enforcement officer, but did not specify if any of them hit the suspect.

“Gudmundson says all of the immediate homes in the area were evacuated. Although all of the Sauk Centre schools are on the east side of town and the incident on the west side of Main Street, as a precaution the schools were put on soft lockdown….”

I’d planned on writing about Typhoon Mangkhut and Hurricane Florence, and probably will. Eventually. Today, I’ll share what I think about the too-close-for-comfort excitement. And what I don’t think it means.


I don’t know why someone was driving erratically, hit a building and shot a deputy.

Maybe the driver was trying to read a map, or texting, or DUI. Or seriously short on sleep. Or something completely different.

DUI seems likely, since shooting a sheriff’s deputy isn’t a particularly prudent act. But “likely” isn’t “certain,” assumptions aren’t facts, and assumptions based on other assumptions are even more dicey.

That’s one reason I won’t denounce Demon Rum. Or texting. Or crossbows. Or bows and arrows. I’m not even convinced that we need tougher crossbow/arrow laws, or that folks should pass a background check before buying a telephone.

Poodle Skirts and Cicero

I also don’t yearn for those days of yore, any more than I think poodle skirts led to punk rock, Batman, and all manner of iniquity.

O tempora o mores!” made sense when Cicero said it in his first Catiline Oration. The Roman Senate was busily shredding its reputation, and that’s another topic. Or maybe not so much.

I’ll indulge in the occasional bit of nostalgia, but we’ve never had a Golden Age. Today’s America, and world, aren’t perfect; but on the whole I’d rather live now than in the ‘good old days.’

I’m not happy that the neighborhood I grew up in is now a parking lot, and some reforms my generation wanted haven’t turned out as well as I hoped. But some have. And some are ‘good news, bad news.’ (August 20, 2017; August 11, 2017)

What hasn’t changed are the basics: unchanging ethical principles that work in all times and all places.

They’re pretty simple: I should love God and my neighbor, see everyone as my neighbor and treat others the way I’d like them to treat me. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31, 10:2537; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1789)

Simple, but remarkably hard to do. I’ve talked about that before. Among other things:

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Life: It’s Been Happening

The last several weeks have been somewhat eventful.

Part of my tongue went numb five weeks ago this evening, August 2. It was probably a TIA, transient ischemic attack: a stroke, the sort that doesn’t do permanent damage. As far as medicos could tell, anyway.

Staying up that night left me seriously short on sleep. Knowing what could have gone wrong didn’t help.

Neither did wondering if there was damage: minor enough to get missed, big enough to affect some function. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. I’ve tried writing and some graphics work, and done about as well as I’d expect under the circumstances.

The TIA and recovery — which is still in progress — resulted in my getting one post out during August. I’m working on another.

That one’s more difficult, since my plan is to think about and discuss why I’ve been so anxious over what was, objectively, a relatively minor medical event. And maybe why writing about it is so hard.

Last Sunday morning, September 2, I heard a loud “CLICK!” in my right knee. I could still walk after that, very carefully. The knee’s range of movement was fine, but it hurt. A lot. That’s kept me inside.

My wife, bless her heart, borrowed a walker for me; so moving around is easier. The pain is decreasing and I’ve found and corrected several bad habits in posture and position. Medical attention may be needed eventually, but I’m giving my efforts and time a chance first. Household medical expenses have been bad enough as it is.

Tuesday, September 4, my father-in-law wasn’t feeling well. My wife and #3 daughter were with him most of the day. Toward evening, a doctor and family friend stopped by. He determined that father-in-law’s oxygen level was well below safe levels.

My father-in-law was in the local hospital until late today. He’d been feeling better for a while, then not so much. Local doctors decided that he’d get better care in a more fully-equipped hospital.

He’s now in the St. Cloud facility, about an hour down the road. My wife and #3 daughter have been spreading the word among our family while I’m writing this, then talking with someone who knows him and us — and came here to talk.

While the father-in-law situation was happening, I learned that my wife plans to cut my hair. That’s not exactly a crisis, or even a problem. On the other hand, my hair is longer now than it’s ever been.

Having spent my teens in the 1960s without doing the conventional long-hair routine, I’ve enjoyed my post-midlife non-crisis.

After mentioning that, and my interest in getting a photo of my dubious accomplishment, #3 daughter took a photo. That’s it, at the start of this post.

None of this is the sort of crisis that’s international news, or fodder for a mini-series. But like I said, the last few weeks have been eventful.

Considering how long it’s been since I posted something, and how long it may be before I do again, letting you know what’s been happening seemed reasonable.

So does doing my usual link list of vaguely-related posts:

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