If you live down river from a manmade lake or reservoir, the words you don’t want to hear are “the dam broke.” That happened in central Missouri when the Taum Sauk Reservoir Dam broke and suddenly the people who lived down river were inundated with a billion gallons of water.

Engineers were shocked to find that a whole big piece of that reservoir was made out of dirt and rocks…little stones. The problem was that the dam that was supposed to hold back the flood was made of material that couldn’t withstand the pressure of the flood. Of course the test of what anything is made of is what happens when massive pressure hits.

    Have you ever been in an earthquake? Our country is going through what could be called about a 7.2 on the Richter Scale. In the words of Jerry Lee Lewis, “There’s a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on.” We’re almost sick of the news—home values are tanking, unemployment figures are rising, bankruptcies are common, savings accounts and retirement accounts are disappearing. We are reminded of the danger when we hear words like Iran, nuclear, Russia, Bin Laden.

      When you've got a rambunctious child, you've got to figure out a way to channel that rambunctiousness into something constructive. I know about rambunctious, believe me. The Johnsons do, too. And they turned spunk (much shorter word) into gold.

        I spend a few vigorous minutes on my treadmill, and I feel like I'm ready to star in a Bowflex commercial. Then I watched athletes running the marathon at the Olympics. I need a few more minutes on the treadmill.

          You're 16 and the whole world's watching you. That's Shawn Johnson at the Beijing Olympics. She's got a lot of expectations riding on her. The petite Iowa gymnast entered the Olympics, favored to win the sport's most coveted title, the all-around competition.

            I wasn't expecting to be moved by an Olympic commercial. Then I saw Derek Redmond and his father. It was that unforgettable moment from the Barcelona Olympics when track star Derek Redmond had no way to finish his race. In the middle of his run, he got a crippling injury.

              Who would have thought that watching people swim could be exciting? But then, how many people swim like Michael Phelps? I know I’ve been hooked into rooting for him as he goes for a gold medal record. And how about that guy who’s following all those guys with a camera? He must be a really good swimmer! Michael says his life is basically, "I eat, I sleep and I swim." I’m pretty good at two of those three. Don’t look for me in the Olympics.

                I finally found an Olympic athlete I can relate to. No, it’s not America’s swimming ace, Michael Phelps. I don’t even like to be seen in public in my bathing suit. It has a hole in the knee. The balance beam isn’t my thing either. I have a hard enough time turning around twice and finding the ground. But it actually is a gymnast with whom I was able to identify. A little.

                  The weather's been good for the Olympics in Beijing. Except for those dark clouds. World-class athletes, disqualified on the brink of their moment of glory. Because of what they call doping. You want to win so badly that you pump illegal substances into your body to give you the edge. Instead, you go over the edge.

                    The world is watching the Olympics. I'm trying to watch when I'm able. The Olympics are pretty engaging. I'm not sure how some of these athletes get their bodies to do what they do. Jumping jacks are challenging for me. What intrigues me are the personal stories - they're what make this a human drama, not just a sports drama.

                                  

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