Glazed in MN, dazed in Asia

Rain fell throughout the day today, glazing the snow with a coat of ice. No pictures. It wasn't pretty.

I am concentrating upon getting things ready before I leave for Tucson for a week. I see that the weather in Tucson is cool, which means sixties during the day. Not bad, but what you really expect out of Tucson is sunshine and 75 degrees in January.

The carpenters adjusted strategy and turned their attention indoors, where it appears they will stay for a few days. Next week, temperatures plunge below zero again, so putting on siding wouldn't be pleasant.

Speaking of pleasant, the floor heat inside makes things pretty cozy there. As they add insulation, it will just get cozier. The wood stove caught up today. I sawed up one pickup load of oak which was felled to make room for the house only last July. Even with such limited seasoning, the ice-glazed wood seemed to take off pretty well.

The stove emits a huge puff of smoke when you open the door. So, I smell like smoke all the time. With practice, I think I can stoke the thing without a baptism in smoke, but right now I have on woodsman cologne.

My mother leaves for Thailand in the morning on a trip scheduled long before the tsunami. Even though Bangkok was not affected, I suspect she will soon enounter evidence of the disaster, if only in airports as people from around the world scurry to help.

There is a report online that Indonesia alone suspects its death toll will eventually top 400,000. I suspect this is true. They report one city of 150,000 which is simply missing. Now there is word that some of the islands which disappeared may have been inhabited. Remember, they are only counting the bodies, not the missing. There are places where there is nobody left to report the bodies, much less the missing.

One flight reported that they went over 250 miles of once-populated coastline without finding evidence of life. How do you estimate the dead when all local records are gone, when an entire village disappears? None of these missing villages has as yet been counted.

A newspaper in India makes the point that the accurate counting of the dead will be important as it will likely dictate the level of aid received by each country. They are making the case that India has thus far vastly underestimated its own dead.

A bureaucrat responded that they are simply following a procedure which requires that they count actual bodies.

I CANNOT SAY THAT I have solved the ethical problem of how I can justify building a house much bigger than I need, as well as my other consumer habits, when the world is utterly full of suffering. What about eating at restaurants? Isn't it a horrible waste when you could make your own meals and send the difference to the unfortunate?

I am not going to duck behind the excuse that the donations usually never make it to the afflicted. There are good charities. But neither am I likely to alter my typical American lifestyle anytime soon.

My Uncle John lives in Texas. He is a former missionary to Ecuador. He speaks Spanish fluently. He has decided to spend his retirement years building simple homes for poor Mexican families. He has set up the whole process. He collects money from friends, the supplies (many of which are donated--such as paint which has been mixed wrong at Home Depot), and makes the difficult decision as to which family in the area where he visits will get a home with a concrete floor and a couple of windows. He also coordinates whatever volunteers might wish to go along.

I think Uncle John is doing a wonderful and noble thing. When I think of what he accomplishes to make the world a better place, it is impossible to not think my own life is a bit on the blissfully irresponsible side.