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Updated: 12/30/04

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Thursday, 30 December, 2004

The death toll is now over 120,000 from the tsunami. They are estimating over 80,000 dead just in Indonesia, with many villages in Sumatra wiped out completely.


The Amazon.com Red Cross donation tally crossed $5,000,000 this afternoon around 1:30 p.m. Eastern. Over 81,000 people have donated money. With all the sniping by diplomats about the amount of money being pledged by the U.S. and other countries, regular citizens are ignoring them and finding ways to help out. And this is only the American Red Cross - others, like World Vision and Oxfam are also asking for donations.

My cousin Jody writes:

Dear Mom, Aunts, and Cousins,

The reports of devastation as a result of the tsunami keep growing. It is just terrible.

If you are thinking of donating any money to relief efforts, I would suggest you investigate your favotite charity at charitynavigator.org. I have used them for years to help me decide where my money should go.

They also have an article with infomation about how to help tsunami victims.

[Thanks, Jody. And I've unblocked your new e-mail address on AOL!]

There's a resident at the Monterey Bay Aquarium that has been setting records:

She's got the meanest, nastiest, scariest reputation in the seven seas. But right now, this great white shark must be hand-fed almost like a baby, with vitamins sneaked into her salmon fillets.

For the moment.

For more than 100 days, the shark now weighing about 75 pounds has been thriving and lolling about in a 1 million-gallon tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, drawing crowds awed by one of the most feared ocean predators.

Such longevity is extraordinary for a white shark in human care. With each passing day, the nameless girl shark sets a new world record and builds a greater following.

This shark has obliterated the previous white-shark record for captivity, a mere 16 days. And the record has partly been accomplished thanks to Manny Ezcurra, 38, a senior aquarist whose job is to "hand-feed" the shark with a long pole.

From its first day at the aquarium, the shark has been astonishing officials there by how willingly it feeds in a tank that features one of the world's largest viewing windows, where visitors peer upon tuna, stingrays and other sharks.

In past attempts to keep white sharks in captivity, the predator has opted to starve. Here, the female shark is eating and growing about an inch a month.

There is a certain fascination with these sharks - well, with any sharks I guess. Gary and I will be going to Cocos Island (in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Costa Rica) in April, where the main attraction is the large number of hammerhead sharks that reside there. Since Gary does underwater photography, he is really looking forward to getting that "perfect shot" of a hammerhead.

To be honest, however, I find shark dives to be . . well . . . boring. I know, how can I say that? Not that it's not exciting to see a school of hammerheads, or to have an individual shark make a close pass, but after about ten or fifteen minutes, I'm ready for something else. But shark diving is fascist - there are sharks and pretty much nothing else to see. Since I do not do underwater photography, I look for a varied experience while I'm diving, and far prefer what we call "macro" or "critter" diving, where it's kind of like a treasure hunt.

[Although the Jaws theme song always plays in the background, no matter where one dives.]

Best friend Laurie called this morning to tell me about a new service being offered by Virgin Phone:

In its Australian market, Virgin has introduced drunken-dialing protection for its customers. For a 25-cent fee, a Virgin subscriber can dial "333" followed by a phone number he would like to avoid at all costs, and the service will block outgoing calls to that number until 6 a.m. the following morning.

Although this might not be of assistance to the binge-drinking subscribers who never sleep, it offers most members the opportunity to sleep it off before making ill-advised proclamations to a spurned lover.

Though this service is most helpful in keeping people from contacting ex-lovers, it also can be used to block out other potentially embarrassing conversations, such as the good-ole ring-up-the-boss-to-remind-him-what-a-Scrooge-he-can-be call.

Even though this feature is currently available only in Australia, a Virgin representative assures me that its popularity means it has a good chance of making an appearance stateside -- maybe in time to keep us from embarrassing ourselves on Valentine's Day.

Years ago, we found a humorous postcard about a new service from the phone company called, "Call Thwarting." It offers, "...an electric charge that stops you from making those ill-advised romance calls at 3:00 a.m." Now it seems that life is imitating art.

[In a manner of speaking.]

And yet more pictures of THE HOUSE with things looking a bit more organized.


We may have found a buyer for the condo. Gary was approached by a man when the movers were taking things out of the condo and he asked if we were interested in selling. He and his wife came over to see it last night, and they will get back to us. It would be nice to be able to get it sold quickly.

[And without a realtor!]

Quote du jour:

"In a real estate man's eyes, the most exclusive part of the city is wherever he has a house to sell."

-- Will Rogers

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