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Posts Tagged ‘Science’

This morning I came across an article about the old Mid-Life Crisis, for our kids’ generation. It’s not what Boomers would consider a crisis – you don’t leave your wife and children, lose 20 pounds and buy a Porsche. It’s a more nuanced place, when today’s 40-50 year old couple hits the pinnacle of their careers, they have two kids and two dogs and maybe a Peloton in the family room. But they wake up one morning wondering if they could have had more, or done something differently.

Taffy Brodesser-Akner writes eloquently about today’s rough patch in her book Fleishman is in Trouble.  https://forge.medium.com/welcome-to-the-new-midlife-crisis-6ad07840a503

“First, the people who reported having an age-related crisis in their forties or fifties were also highly likely to have reported dissatisfaction or anxiety in their younger years as well. If you are besieged with self-doubt at midlife, in other words, it is most likely not your first existential rodeo.

And second, the stereotypical midlife crisis is a luxury. No more than 10% to 20% of middle-aged people go through one,… It takes privilege to chuck everything and start anew.”

I always told Bob he’s not allowed to have a Mid-Life Crisis because he went to Woodstock, and really, enough is enough. We’ve weathered lots of storms, moves to different states, rebellious teens, Bob’s back, shoulder and neck surgeries, and even my bout with West Nile. Talk about an existential crisis.

I had to smile the other night when John Meacham asked a group of scholars “What keeps you up at night?”

“Viruses,” Carl Zimmer said!

Zimmer was the most entertaining panelist, a journalist who writes about science and even has a tapeworm named after him! He has written many books and currently writes the column, “MATTER” for the New York Times.

Bob reminded me, in that Vanderbilt auditorium surrounded by really old people and really, really young students (presumably because mid-lifers were home putting their kids to bed), that Zimmer was the son of a former Representative from our old district in NJ. “Carl Zimmer’s father is Dick Zimmer, a Republican politician from New Jersey, who was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to 1997.”

I thought about our home in Rumson, NJ, about living on a tributary with a tide ebbing and flowing into our backyard, and mosquitoes. Lots and lots of mosquitoes.

I was writing for The Two River Times then, I was Forty-Something. And if you’ve been following me for awhile you know where this is going.  I like to think my tiny column for the paper helped to unseat the elder Zimmer after he voted to allow the Assault Weapon Ban to expire. I asked my readers how he could look at himself in the mirror every morning.

The Vanderbilt Chancellor’s Lecture Series was addressing, “2020 and Beyond: Tackling Global Issues in the Decades to Come.”  Most of the conversation onstage was about Climate Change. Meacham began with, “Are facts out of fashion?” The other two academics pointed out that OUR very own EPA Climate Change web page has been erased! If you search for it you’ll find a notice that says, “The information you are looking for is not here” and you are directed to the archives!!

How can we address Climate Change or viruses when we have a Climate Denier in the White House? How can we possibly reduce global greenhouse gases by 50% in 15 years?

2020 will be a “Rough Patch” for our country. But I believe in good journalism and our Constitution. Facts are funny things that will take down Republicans seen lying on TV, lying and obfuscating all week at the Impeachment Hearings – “Clouding real facts with a miasma of falsity,” the Vandy Writer-in-Residence said.

George Washington helped us forge this great nation, and Abraham Lincoln helped heal our still seeping wound of slavery. A Leader will appear to guide us through this collective Mid-Life Crisis. I have to believe as Brodesser-Akner said about mid-life:

“To mature is to accept one’s role as both a person with pain and one with strength to endure it. It is the ability to say to oneself or to those we love: I see you. I hear you. I will sit here with you until it passes, as all things must.

The view out my kitchen window of our hawk in the city.

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Our L’il Pumpkin just turned 5, so naturally the Bride and Groom threw him a party.

Nashville’s Adventure Science Museum is a hands-on wonderland for kids, and it proved the perfect setting for science experiments and birthday cake. But let’s talk about the logistics of an almost “holiday” birthday – Thursday night was Trick or Treating and a house party with a whole neighborhood, Friday night was a family dinner with the Big Four generations followed by a sleepover at Nana and Pop Bob’s, and Saturday we had nearly 20 kids at his kids’ birthday party.

In other words, it was party central here all weekend!

Isn’t it nice to know that White House staffers could bring their little ghosts and goblins to a Halloween party at the Eisenhower Executive Office that was hosted by Mike Pence? Did they bob for apples? No, they were given brick-colored card stock and told to write their names on the cards, oh and then paste their cards up on that wall over there in the hallway, under the big letters that said “BUILD THE WALL.”  https://news.yahoo.com/children-were-told-to-build-the-wall-at-white-house-halloween-party-153024720.html

What is going on in our country? Mr T shows up at a baseball game and the crowd chants, “Lock HIM up!” Then he goes to Madison Square Garden and gets Booed by Mixed Martial Arts fans… I’m surprised we didn’t see anyone dressed up as Mr T for Halloween. Or maybe an anonymous whistleblower…

It was just your typical crew of super heroes and princesses, followed by teenagers without costumes holding out plastic bags. I’m glad we don’t have Mischief Night in TN. Egging cars and teepeeing trees seems to be more of a northeastern tradition. There was even an enforced curfew in NJ, one both of my kids ignored!

I was hoping I’d wake up from my candy and birthday cake coma today and the Impeachment would be over. We could go back to expanding human rights and building bridges, but alas, that scary clown is still in the Oval Office. And worse yet, if he is removed, the VP of making kids create propaganda wall art will be in charge.

It’s a good thing we have a rebel star fighter and a black cat to fight for truth and justice!

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Needless to say, I’m on the “almost too old to bother” with this test. But in my defense, the first time I was scheduled, after Katie Couric made it seem so easy, Gma Ada had a heart attack. I cancelled and flew to NJ.

The second time, just last year, I bought the gallon jug of prep medicine along with two gallons of margarita mix, because we were hosting a Cinqo de Mayo party. Honest. Last April Gma Ada broke her hip, so I cancelled and flew to NJ.

This third time for my very first colonoscopy would be the charm we figured. I considered not even telling Gma Ada what was happening but in the end Bob dropped me at the hospital and drove his Mom to the dentist today. In bubble wrap.

Here is what I learned while drinking myself into oblivion last night.

1. Don’t bother buying any Crystal Light. It only changes the color which made me think I’d flunk the test.

2. Don’t try to read Southern Living Magazine. It’s all about FOOD and you won’t be having any for awhile.

3. Ditto for TV. Did I need to know that Red Lobster is having a special on lobster of all things? The PBS special on rice however…

4. Don’t start texting with that friend who writes you long letters. Your attention span cannot possibly keep up with your powder room visits.

5. Don’t leave any jelly beans or nuts lying around the house, your memory starts slipping and you might be tempted to eat one.

6. Don’t accidentally mix the infant simethicone drops in with your dog’s dinner. It’s hard to multi-task while chugging GoLytely – a most ironic choice of names for my liquid diet.

7. Don’t forget to thank your husband. For answering your same question multiple times, “Did you talk to the doctor yet?” and for cooking dinner when it’s all over. The hospital socks are a nice touch!

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One of Nashville’s favorite Hockey players, Predator’s Viktor Arvidsson, was recently signed to a seven year contract for 29.75 MILLION dollars! All he’s got to do is show up and have fun. https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/cover-story/article/20999248/viktor-victorious-an-interview-with-viktor-arvidsson

You don’t have to attend college to play hockey, you just have to be born with some natural talent and determination. And the juxtaposition of that almost 30 million contract next to the starting salary of 30 thousand a year for our teachers (the same educators some think we should train in firearms) says volumes.

In many states across the country, public school teachers are organizing for a living wage and better conditions for their students after years of funding cuts.

” For K-12 expenditures, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed that in 29 states, total state funding per student was lower in the 2015 school year than in the 2008 school year in real terms. In Arizona, spending per student was down an astonishing 36.6 percent; in Oklahoma, it had dropped 15.6 percent; in Kentucky, 5.9 percent.”

Why is this union walk-out different? Because teachers aren’t just looking for a pay hike; they want well-maintained, not crumbling buildings, they want a smaller student-teacher ratio, they want every student to have up-to-date textbooks. This did not just happen overnight or after our 2008 “recession;” I recall outsourcing janitorial staff in the 90s to save money. Property taxes were funding everything from an increasing need for special education staff and transportation, to maintaining teachers’ rising pensions and medical benefits.

In TN, teachers can expect a starting salary of $36,402. Of course you don’t risk loosing your teeth due to pedagogy, and you don’t have quite as much down time as say a hockey player. But you are expected to furnish the ever-present supply of tissues and Purell, pencils and paper, and the patience of a saint. It’s no wonder there’s a teaching shortage – even when both partners are working, it’s nearly impossible to provide for a family of four on a teacher’s salary.

“Inherit the Wind” was playing down the road at the Nashville Repertory Theater, so Bob and I braved the cold and Lyfted over to see a play about a man who was trying to teach evolution to his high school science students. Based on the real “Scopes Monkey Trial” that took place in 1925 just east of here in Dayton, TN, the courtroom battle between science and religion ran in almost every newspaper in the country and around the world.

The ACLU was challenging passage of the Butler Act earlier that year; “The Butler Act forbid the teaching of any theory that denied the biblical story of Creationism. By teaching that man had descended from apes, the theory of evolution, Scopes was charged with breaking the law.”

The play was turned into a famous movie in the 50s in partial reaction to the McCarthy hearings. But the playwrights were more concerned with our “right to think,” rather than a battle between evangelicalism and facts. Still, this anti-intellectualism is alive and well today at a time when almost 40% of the American people still believe in Creationism.

On the brighter side, since the election there’s been a growing resistance to Trumpist ideology; red states are electing their first blue legislators in years, students are leading the country fighting gun violence and the NRA, and the #MeToo movement has ushered in a new wave of feminism.

The more Mr T chips away at fundamental human rights in the name of personal and corporate greed, the more WOKE our citizens are becoming; it would seem that critical-thinking skills are thankfully still being taught in our schools. My generation started a sea change in the fabric of American society, now it’s up to our children’s generation to repair some of this past year’s damage. And young voters are registering in record numbers!

After all, who doesn’t want to save the polar bear’s ice? Or is ice hockey more important than the Antarctic? Granted, the 24 year old “R-V” Predator seems like a great guy, and who doesn’t love a good hockey game? Are they both mutually exclusive?

Meanwhile, remember our cherry tree the Love Bug was climbing? It’s in full pink pom-pom bloom despite freezing temperatures.

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Yesterday was a good day, despite plunging temperatures. Bob and I packed up a bag-lunch and attended a lecture at the Bridge Building about mysterious ruins and tunnels in Nashville. The Cumberland River Compact sponsored the talk by Tony Gonzalez, a journalist who is now working on a podcast called “Curious Nashville” for our local NPR station. Listeners are asked to submit their questions to the podcast team about the city, and then vote on the most interesting idea.  http://nashvillepublicradio.org/programs/curious-nashville-podcast#stream/0

Some people wanted to know what happens if you put the wrong materials in the recycling bin. Other questions concerned “water-witching” and just what Jimi Hendrix was doing during his year of living on Jefferson Street – in our neighborhood! Gonzalez told us that when he teaches a journalism class, he always tells his students to, “…look to a river for story inspiration.” Rivers rarely disappoint. So he jumped at the chance to investigate this question from a record producer:

I’ve heard rumors of a mysterious tunnel system winding beneath downtown Nashville. Is this true?   

There were lots of rumors and theories of course: perhaps the Underground Railway utilized these tunnels; maybe bootleggers came up river to store their wares under Printer’s Alley during Prohibition? With a little urban spelunking mixed with some good, old-fashioned research on http://www.newspapers.com for original documents, Gonzalez led his audience through a twisted tale of 19th and 20th Century  development that saw creeks repurposed as sewage and water-run-off drain pipes.

Sometimes truth is just not as much fun as fiction. I loved living on the Shrewsbury River. Watching the Great Blue Heron fly over our garage for his morning meal. Reading in my car while waiting for a draw bridge to open and close. Hearing the skeet shooters across the tributary at the Rumson Country Club on Sundays. Cleaning Corgi paws of marshy black silt when the tide came in.

And we knew that bootleggers came ashore to deliver their goods to Murphy’s Tavern.

Of course, my question today is why Nashville hasn’t developed its riverfront? Think about New York’s “South Street Seaport,” where Fulton St meets the East River. Then there’s Baltimore, and Boston. By contrast, we have an abandoned slaughterhouse and empty warehouses littering the beautiful Cumberland River. If I had a few million to invest, you bet I’d start buying some of that land. They say a hundred people a day move to Nashville…

I know because every day I hear 2 or 3 explosions that rock the house and send Ms Bean scampering for cover. Right down the block they are building the new TN State Museum and the TN State Library and Archive, demolition has been going on for the past month. Because this part of town sits on a bed of limestone, the blasting reverberates for miles. It’s not unlike the earthquake I felt in VA! In fact, sometimes it feels like we’re living in a war zone.

Yesterday was a “very bad day” for our Mayor Megan Barry. A real-life Scandal has come to life since it was reported she’s been having an affair with her top security guard. In the midst of trying to get a multi-billion dollar mass transport deal through, she will now be investigated by her state prosecutor, who’s name is, I kid you not, District Attorney Glenn Funk! Let’s just hope the Mayor didn’t write off some extra-marital work trips or empty any mini-bars.

I’m not so curious about our Mayor’s love life. And I didn’t watch the SOTU address. Nor do I wish to masticate over what may or may not be in some random “memo” that “might” be released today. There’s flu running rampant in the Bride’s house so we’re keeping our distance because a trip to Great Grandma Ada is up next. I’ll be sure to download Curious Nashville for the plane.

This is a picture of the Lick Creek Tunnel becoming the Lick Branch Sewer in 1895.

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It’s an unbelievably beautiful morning in Nashville. Crisp, Fall air has arrived along with the sunshine for my birthday. Last night we celebrated under the stars with a Nutella Napoli pizza. I was surrounded by family and everything seemed right with the world.

After all, earlier in the day Bob and I attended a River Talk at the Bridge building. It was hosted by The Cumberland River Compact; for twenty years this non-profit organization has been dedicated to the health and restoration of the river basin, “To enhance the health and enjoyment of the Cumberland River and its tributaries through education, collaboration, and action.”  https://cumberlandrivercompact.org

This particular River Talk was about their latest approach to maintaining the permeable invasive and native plants on the levee. When the Compact took over this job from the Army Corps of Engineers it was pretty wild and had been neglected. After trying a couple of conventional and expensive solutions, they’ve settled on a herd of sheep! A loyal Border Collie named Duggie, slept by his shepherd Zach as we learned all about his sustainable method of property management.

“Sheep are an especially attractive option when clearing steep, rough, swampy or otherwise difficult lots that would pose big obstacles and hazards to human crews with herbicides or motorized equipment.”  http://www.nashvillechewcrew.com

Now y’all know what an animal lover I am, so I was delighted to learn something new about the natural world and how public and private funding can work together in such a beautiful setting. Bob had already met Zach and his sheep on one of his bike rides around town, he spent almost half an hour talking with him and watching Duggie work. Later he told me that I’d love it, that “…it’s an excellent solution to the need!”

Still, when I fired up Twitter this morning after Ms Bean’s walk, I learned that the USNavy Hospital Ship Comfort is still docked in port while less than half of the people in Puerto Rico have potable water. President Clinton had to urge Mr T to deploy the ship, as if he’d forgotten how to govern while Tweeting about footballers #TakingaKnee.

Since then, the call for the Comfort has come to symbolize something larger: A call for the Pentagon to send more.

More food. More water. More generators. More aircraft.

More everything.

My heart goes out to our our friend’s son whose medical education in St Martin has been postponed, to our friends in the French West Indies, and all the people of the British and American Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. To our dear friends in Houston and Florida. This is the exact right time to talk about Climate Change! Our stewardship of the land, sea and air is responsible for such frequent Category 5 hurricanes, and our leader seems to care less about science and more about ratings.

My birthday wish this year is simple. May our grandchildren inherit a healthier planet. Here is the view from the Bridge Building.

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Our new townhouse gets a tiny sliver of light each morning, and the sun streams in again in the late afternoon. Against all odds, I’ve decided to plant a few dish gardens because “Bloom Where You’re Planted” is my mantra. And even though my green thumb has been noticeably absent when it comes to house plants – with the exception of orchids –  I’m determined to turn my horticultural track record around and plant cacti!

After all, who could kill a cactus plant?

They grow in the desert, so water isn’t a problem. I’m really good at forgetting to water things, houseplants are low on my list of priorities falling right after dusting. Gardens, in my opinion, belong outside. But cacti, in or out, do need a fair amount of sun. Therefore I will inch my cactus gardens into that small square foot of sometimes semi/saturated/sun space and hope for the best.

We all adapt to our environment. I’ve gone from living on the edge of a bird sanctuary in Massachusetts, to the Jersey suburbs, to the mountains of Virginia. And now I’m sitting here, in the alcove of our “open plan” Living/Dining/Kitchen room in the middle of a big city. Ms Bean has adapted to a collar and leash; and Bob has changed in his own way, he’s enamored of Uber, forsaking driving, and has just walked in from his daily bike ride!

City life is looking better and better. I’m about to meet the Bride for another look at the fashions of Downton Abbey before the Cheekwood exhibit closes.

I learned a few things from my last visit to “Dressing Downton; Changing Fashion for Changing Times.” For instance, skirts began to shorten during WWI, as nurses on the front lines shortened their hemlines to avoid mud and blood. Hence the Flappers of the early 1920s. Fashion was adapting to the pragmatic needs of working women. Corsets became unnecessary, along with bustles. Eventually, women started riding horses astride in pants, they gave up the ritualized riding costume to ride like a man!

I recently found out a food blogger I follow from Charlottesville, Kathy Younger of KERF, made up with a particularly nasty troll of hers who had created a synchronous, satiric website for two and a half years. One of the many cruel and snarky comments on this other site had said that I looked like a man in my Downton Abbey-type hat. Those of you who know me know I wouldn’t really care, but what was interesting was that this troll took the commenter to task, telling them my website MountainMornings.net was actually well written and interesting!

The funniest thing is I thought the troll was a man. Why? I’m not exactly sure, the writing was sharp and witty, but Tina Fey is sharp and witty. Maybe I just couldn’t imagine a woman cutting down another woman like that. It turns out her troll was a 20 something young woman from LA, one with her own issues, and she wanted to make amends. https://www.katheats.com/i-befriended-my-troll#Z2pOl6ZWizcpyJbw.01

What I wanted to know was who was paying for this troll to write her miserable copy almost every single day? I haven’t quite adapted to the business side of the internet yet, but Kath said there “…are huge networks like Google Ads and they run all over the internet, so you can’t really pinpoint single businesses. They run on so many sites that they probably don’t even know they’re on a troll site.”

Well shame on these advertisers! And just in case you think the White Supremacists marching in Cville shouting “Jews will not replace us” – which no Jew I know would want to do in the first place – was a fluke, Facebook has just announced it will trim its targeting system for advertisers. Yep, it will no longer search for people to target in ads who are self-proclaimed “Jew haters!” I kid you not… They said they are “…building “guardrails” into its processes to stop offensive self-reported profile traits being used as ad categories.” http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-41278800

Did you know that a Jew born in Israel is called a “Sabra?” The name came from a kind of succulent that grows wild and free on the coastal areas, like a prickly pear. I’ve become rather proud of my bleeding post-potting fingers.

I hope that more platforms like Facebook and Google adapt to the troll and racist/anti-Semitic sites that pop up in the wild west of wifi, because free speech is becoming a synonym for spew all the hate you can, and we better learn how to handle this new territory.

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