SKIN

Once you see it, its hard to take your eyes off of it. It’s just a black-and-white etching and graving attributed  to the sixteenth-century Spanish artist Gaspar Becerra now in the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Dated 1556, it is accurately entitled “A flayed man holding his own skin.” And there he is, knife in his left hand, all his muscles distinct labeled as in any good illustration of human anatomy, the largest organ of his body – his skin – held head high, draped over his right hand, and hanging to below the knees. The man’s gaze is riveted on what used to cover him and what all of us care for passionately – skin. Becerra’s flayed man appears to have been the inspiration (if not the model to copy) for one of the exhibits on display at Body Worlds, the traveling exhibit of plasticized human bodies.

Our nine pounds of skin provides a study in contrasts and wondrous construction. Gently  feel the soft suppleness of cheek, neck, or shoulder, contrasting their texture to the hard cornified resistance  of heel, ball of foot, or elbow. Look how the skin between your thumb and index finger is wrinkled and folded compared to how it’s stretched tightly over the nose, hip, or bicep. Note the relative insensitivity of skin to touch on the thigh or inside the arm as opposed to the extreme sensitivity of finger tips, lips, or around the eyes. Hairy places and hairless places, oily places and dry places, thick and thin, darkly pigmented and nonpigmented, places that can’t sweat, places that won’t stop sweating – the list goes on and on.

Our skin has so many crucial functions that losing even a small percentage of it is life-threatening. It gives us protection from dying out, giving control of body temperature, acts as a barrier to bacteria and pathogens that would consume us, and has a vast array of sensors for touch, pressure, hot, cold, and injury. Another important function of this marvelous organ, I believe, is communion with others, especially those nearest and dearest. Whether cruel or loving, skin-to-skin contact communicates powerfully. The hateful slap to the face or punch in the stomach is the same in every langage. Skin-to-skin contact is the first meaningful communication that a baby experiences, the medium for the strongest of human interactions and bonding, as well as the last hand squeeze or soothing touch for the dying. How does  my skin communicate to those around me?

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Belgian Malinois

I was waiting in line to clear security at Ontario International Airport on an outbound flight to Chicago when I was saw him coming down the line of passengers, nose low, head casting back and forth, working quickly. His partner was a stocky, bulletproof-vest-clad police officer with a tight haircut typical of law enforcement. He held the leash high with one hand and low with the other, talking quickly to his K-9 partner that I later learned was a Belgian Malinios, a breed of working dogs preferred by law enforcement because of their optimal size and their coat color. Also known as a Belgian shepherd dog. It is slightly smaller than a German shepherd so it is easier to handle, and it has a fawn to mahogany coat color, many shades lighter than its German cousin, making it less susceptible to heat stress.

And as I found out standing there in line, the Belgian Malinios is a master of bomb sniffing. Thankfully the dog kept moving all the way down the line and never sat down once. In fact, the pair moved up  to the upper level of the airport and continued working hundreds of passengers in the terminal. Fortunately, the dog didn’t sit down  a single time during that shift. The animals are rigorously trained to sit immediately if they smell gunpowder or any type of commercial or military explosive. As long as the dog keeps walking and working, all is well. When they do sit, the area is cleared immediately, and the bomb squad comes in with their robots to investigate. Since the dogs are carefully trained to recognize a wide range of explosives and since they undergo weekly practice and recertification, they get really good at finding bombs of all types. During practice sessions it generally takes them only a few minutes to locate multiple bombs planted on or in a jumbo jet. Having a high energy level, they just love to work.

Maintaining public safety require takes vigilance, training, and a clear and certain mission.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Flute

Flutes are one of the simple instruments and certainly the oldest-known musical instrument, dating far back into unrecorded prehistory. Even children quickly discover that blowing across a hollow grass stem (or bottle) can make a hauntingly beautiful tone. In less time than it takes to tell, they learn that different size of grass stems (or bottles) produce different pitches. Smaller volumes produce higher notes, and larger volumes, lower ones. Closed grasses stems (or bottle) are simple Helmholtz resonators that produce resonate sound as the air blown across the top creates pulses of pressure in the chamber.

To understand how it works, think about how to create a single pulse. Some of the air going across the top hits the lip and goes into the chamber, causing an increase in pressure. The pressure inside builds and pushes back till it overcomes the pressure coming in. Because the pushback has inertia, it produces an overcompensation in the pressure, making lower pressure in the chamber. Low pressure inside causes air to  rush back in, starting another pulse. Like a weight bouncing on a spring, the air pulses go in and out of the chamber. To prevent the pulses from dying out, the airstream blowing across the top keeps adding a little energy. The pressure pulses generates the sound that resonates in the chamber.

The flute is an acoustic cavity resonator. Air in the pipe of the flute is set in harmonic motion by pressure pulses generated by air being blown across the top of the mouthpiece. The flute cavity is an open cavity. Its size (and resonant frequency) is determined by which valve is open. The larger the cavity, the lower the note. Blowing more air across the mouthpiece puts more energy in. making the sound louder.

To generate sound in a flute, you must blow air across the top at first the right angle and velocity to get the pulses started. That takes lots of skill and practice. Ducted or fipple flutes are much easier to play. Blowing air into the duct directs it across the lip at just the right angle to get the pulses started. Police whistles, recorders, ocarinas, and pipe organs are examples of fipple flutes.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Performance Anxiety

But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry  beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Mark 13:11, NKJV

Public speaking. Just saying the words makes my mouth go dry, my heart start racing, and my stomach begin knotting up. Or put me in front of important people, and my mind goes blank. Good ideas that I had carefully thought through and meticulously organized for the big presentation skitter away like a nicely raked pile of leaves in an autumn wind. From professional speaker, musician, or performer to novice, we all get stage fright now and again. We start breathing hard, the sweat pops out, and the blood pressure rises.

My guess is that it won’t really help to explain what is going on in your body. Those reflexes are automatic (actually autonomic) and most difficult to control through rational thought, processes. The sympathetic nervous system is firing all out, putting you in top shape for the fight or flight response, and at this point flight appears to be the preferable option. But there is too much at stake. You have to get up and make your speech, sing your song, or nail the landing of your full twisting triple back-flip.

Is there a remedy for performance anxiety? The good news is that several things do help. Perhaps the first thing to do is practice. Compose the speech well ahead, learn the music, get all the fine points down carefully, then rehearse and practice again and again. Fear derived from not being ready is normal and actually a good thing. Respond to that fear with careful preparation. Next, I like to think of the presentation as a fun opportunity. Imagine drawing energy from the eager faces of those in the audience. Good presentations are exhilarating, enjoyable events. Another strategy is to put the presentation in its proper context. How important is it, really? What would happen if you really blow it? Would your mother still love you? Would God still love you? Yes, you want to do well, to put your best foot forward. But this one thing won’t make or break you. Finally, for me, the clincher is that this life is not about me anyway. My days here will be measured, not by my success, but by how I bring honor and glory to God. He has given me the talents and the skills. How am l using them to honor Him?

Lord Jesus, You even said that the words You spoke while here on earth were not Yours but that they came from the Father. May I connect so that I can bring You glory also.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Hideous Flower

For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. Isa. 53:2, NKJV.

I find it interesting that some of our holidays are closely linked with characteristic plants. Easter lilies, Christmas trees, St. Patrick’s Day shamrocks and four-leaf clovers, and of course Valentine’s Day roses. Christmas actually has several characteristic plants connected with the year-end celebration. Mistletoe and holly are beautiful in their own way, but have you seen the deep-green foliage and brilliant reds of the poinsettias this Christmas season? These striking plants are a real favorite because of their bright Christmas colors. Nothing comes close to matching the beauty of a big cluster of poinsettias. One of our local greenhouses is a virtual sea of red and green in early December when their poinsettias start developing their color.

But if you look at the poinsettia bloom closely, you will discover that the flower is really rather plain. The descriptors “ugly,” “simple,” and “unattractive” also come to mind. If you have noted how the bright-red “petals” look much like leaves, you are right. They aren’t petals at all. Botanists call them bracts. Bracts are modified leaves that surround a cluster of unimpressive yellow flowers. And in poinsettias these hideous flowers called Cyathia do their flower thing of making pollen and seed but in a very low-key way.

Various legends of poinsettias and Christmas originate in Mexico, where the plant grows as a native weed up to 15 feet tall. According to one such legend, poor Mexican children gave their best love gift that they had to the Christ child lying in the manger, part of the village nativity scene. Other children laughed and ridiculed the collection of weeds placed in the manger by the poor urchins. But then the miracle happened. The brilliant red star-shaped color developed, showing that a gift of love from the heart is of surpassing value.

Like poinsettia flowers, Jesus is described as unattractive and plain. But the reality of His birth, death, and resurrection, born of unquenchable love, surrounds Him in indescribable beauty and splendor. Why not give Jesus your best and watch how He turns it into beauty?

Lord, today I give You my heart, my life, my all. Though it isn’t pretty, it is my best and most precious gift that I can give. Through the miracle of Your grace, may it be a thing of beauty to glorify Your name today.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Rosin and Violin

Last Sabbath my niece did a wonderful instrumental rendition during the church service. At first he thought of doing a piano rendition but since she was the pianist in the past Sabbath she decided to play the violin.

As always dad is an ever supportive grandpa to them. He is taking it to his grandchildren since they were not able to invest in our (his children) talents. Whenever his grandchildren perform in any event he is always there and comes as an early bird. Probably out of excitement my niece misplaced her rosin. We could not find it anywhere. Not in the violin case, not in the bench, not everywhere. Somebody unknowingly could have taken it. We all know that it’s just not a good idea to play violin without rosin. We found her kind rosin at guitar center and as a reward dad promised her that he would buy the rosin to replace what she had lost in the church. He even thought of buying a better and branded violin for my niece.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Cuetlaxochitl

(Pronounced  cute-el-axo-chit-el)

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.  Eccl. 3:11, NKJV.

The beautiful poinsettias that grace our homes, churches, and businesses around Christmas time are a legacy of Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851). Highly educated and from South Carolina, he was fluent in five languages and served in his state legislature, then in the United States Congress, before being appointed as the first minister to Mexico in 1825. Poinsett was an accomplished botanist who became enamored with Euphorbia pulcherrima (the scientific name for poinsettias that means “the most beautiful euphorb”) that grew abundantly in southern Mexico. Like most Aztec monikers, the Aztec name for this plant is a real tongue twister-slow down and sound it out phonetically: cuetlaxochitl. Other names for poinsettias include Christmas star, star of Bethlehem, lobster flower, Ataturk flower, and flame leaf flower. No wonder scientists opt for scientific names.

During  the time since Poinsett introduced this plant to North America, poinsettias have become a best seller for plant growers, and much research has gone into learning their habits. How can we keep the shrubby plants small enough to be potted plants? What conditions turn the bracts red, pink, or white?  Growers learned that plants bloom only during the winter when days are short and nights are long. In fact, to get plants to bloom in time for Christmas, growers have to “put the plant to sleep” early each night starting in October.  Even a brief exposure to light during their required 14- to 14.5-hour night will prevent them from flowering. For two months the plants have to be treated with long nights if they are to develop their characteristically colorful bracts.

For Moses, his “long night” of character development in the wilderness may have been hard to endure. What night of private pain are you going through this Christmas season? I heard Wintley Phipps say: “It is in the quiet crucible of your personal private sufferings that your noblest dreams are born and God’s greatest gifts are given in compensation for what you’ve been through.” Cling to the promise that God makes everything beautiful in its time.

Lord, You knit me together in the darkness of my mother’s womb. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. May I trust You completely, no matter how dark my nights of pain.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Percussion for Kids

Investing in talent is a thing that I and my husband would not miss for our children. That is just one thing that I did not get support from my parents. When I was a child I love to learn the piano so bad or any musical instrument I can have my hands on but my parent does not have enough to support us and tend to be so negative at times, probably simply because there’s just no money that can be use to invest in our talent.

When our son was a year and months old we noticed his interest in musical instruments. Every after church service he would ran to the piano to touch the keys, and every time we pass through musical instruments he would cry if he could not put his hands on to different percussion. This is also one of the reasons why we come up with a musical studio.

Bongo Drums for Kids

The drums at our music studio are just too big for our little boy so we thought of buying him his own sets of musical instruments; one that would fit his size, something he may consider his personal toys. We found this excellent bongo drums for kids and thought that this would be perfect for him and will be a great addition to the miniature piano that we got for him few months back. Our little man is 5 years old now and so when we showed him this musical instrument and asked him if he likes it he began asking us every day when will those bongo drums comes home.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

Bitter Herbs

Poinsettias are members of a large and diverse family of flowering plants called Euphorbiaceae which has more than 7,500 species. The largest genus in that family, Euphorbia, has more than 2,100 species. Most euphorbs have a white or occasionally yellowish milky sap that is under pressure and will quickly well up or even spurt out. Sometimes a gentle touch is enough to break the skin of a euphorb, causing the sap to appear immediately. On contact with air the sap quickly congeals and seals the break. What’s more, the milky sap contains rubbery latex plus a rich cocktail of organic chemicals with varying degrees of toxicity that can kill insects, snails, or even mammals that try to feed on euphorbs. Many type of milky sap can cause severe skin or eye irritation. The sap of some plants is 10,000 to 100,000 times more irritating than capsaicin, the stinging bite in hot chili peppers. Getting euphorb sap in the eye will be painful and will affect vision for a few days, but it won’t last long. Eating the plant parts of Borne euphorbs can cause vomiting or digestive upset, but nothing more unless you have a severe sensitivity to latex. Other euphorbs can be highly toxic.

So what good are the plants from the genus Euphorbia? Because the genus is so large and each plant produces a wide variety of organic chemicals, euphorbs have played an important role in medical therapy. Some concoctions from various Euphorbia have been part of folk medicine for hundreds of years. One can quickly find reports of extracts from euphorbs with the power to calm digestive upset, cure colic and cancer, rid the body of intestinal parasites, and treat skin diseases, migraines, etc. Some of the most interesting recent testing I have discovered involved culturing cancer cell with euphorb extracts added to the growth medium.  Cancer cells failed to grow, while normal cells remained unaffected. That is good news to pharmacologists searching for a plant-based drug that will attack cancer cells selectively and without side effects. Researchers have also developed compounds to kill snails and insects. Certainly our Creator knew what He was doing, and with our new analytical machines and knowledge of bioactive molecules, we better understand the phrase: “And God saw that it was good.”

Lord, use the bitter experiences of my life as a healing balm for others.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati

The Acoustic Amp

Just recently my husband’s friends performed at a band competition. Well, we’ve missed their practices but we are pretty sure they practice the way they do just like before; they carry with them their acoustic amp wherever they do their practice.

We also missed their performance simply because we are cities apart. Prior the competition we have heard quite a bad news; their acoustic amp accidentally fell from the pick-up truck and got smashed. We eventfully sent our comments through social networks and told them of this wonderful genz benz acoustic amp at guitar center. The band with gladness expressed how interested they are at getting this musical equipment.

They only get the second prize but they went home very happy. After all, they performed not just to win but that they play their music because it is their passion.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati