The Last Great Day

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May 312013
 

Several days ago, I was running to pick up lunch. In the car, I heard a very brief part of an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. The host was interviewing Greta Gerwig  who plays the title character of the film Frances Ha.  I believe Gerwig co-wrote the screenplay with director Noah Baumbach.

I only caught a small part of the interview, and am not really interested in the movie, but Gerwig made an interesting statement that’s stuck with me. She said:

“You don’t know when the last time of something happening is. You don’t know what the last great day you’ll spend with your best friend is. You’ll just know when you’ve never had that day again.”

This sentiment struck me, and I got a melancholy feeling thinking of times and people past. Many still a part of my life, but many cast to the distance of time, geography, or life’s natural momentum.

I started thinking of some of these great days. Some were shared with or created by people who are still very much a part of my life, and so I’m not ready to believe we’ve had our last great day.

These times include visits to the North Carolina mountains with my friend Glenda. We visit often one of the days before Thanksgiving. I remember one year meeting on the Tuesday before the holiday, and basically having run of downtown Boone, and the little business district of Blowing Rock. It was a misty cool day.  While some might prefer a bright sunny day, I enjoyed the muffled sounds and soft outlines of the foggy mist. We laughed and joked, and just enjoyed the slow easy pace. There will be other trips and other great times.

I remember frequent Sunday afternoons here in Tampa at the home of our friends Jeff and Mike. Mike would cook dinner, and we’d play Shanghai. This even included a hurricane evacuation to Orlando from Tampa in 2004, right into the eventual path of Hurricane Charlie. We spent the afternoon playing cards. I’d get picked on the entire game for being slow in my decisions for my next move. We’re still friends with both,  but they parted ways, so we  no longer have those Sunday afternoons.

However, there are experiences which I have strong reason to suspect fit within this category of “last great days.” Continue reading »

Nov 242009
 

I sometimes wake up during the night with a case of cotton-mouth, so I keep a cup of water on the nightstand beside the bed. Quite a few years ago, when I lived in Greensboro, I had a roommate who owned a restaurant. He brought home some big empty Dijon Mustard jars (probably quart jars) for making big Gin and Tonics and sitting on the porch. I used one of these as my night-time water-glass. It must have had the best silk screening in the world, as the writing was clear and bright for over 10 years of going through the dishwasher.

When I moved to Winston-Salem, then Tampa, then Dayton and back to Tampa that old jar went along with me, and was one of those little things that just made me, wherever I was, feel a little more comfortable because of its familiarity. I know it probably sounds silly, but it is these little things that make up the fabric of our lives…each single little strand.

Throughout life we loose strands of that cloth, but we’re forever weaving in more strands. Such was the case with that jar when I rolled over one night, flipped the pillow around, and knocked the jar to the floor and it finally broke. Just one of those little strands finally wearing out and reaching the end of its life as part of my cloth.

Carl Kasell (2004 NPR/Anthony Nagleman)

But a bigger and more important strand is leaving. Carl Kasell is retiring from NPR as the Morning Edition news anchor after holding the job for 30 years since the inception of the program. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Carl Kasell, and I don’t think I’d ever seen a picture of him until his retirement was announced this week, but I knew that voice as well as that of my best friends.

I discovered Public Radio right after moving to Greensboro. I knew of it, and occasionally listened to classical music, but really didn’t find their whole range of programs until about 25 years ago. Since then hardly a day goes by that I don’t wake to Morning Edition (or Weekend Edition), and I have always had a radio in the bathroom to listen as I get ready for the day.

So Carl doesn’t know me, and there’s not a lot I know about him, but his voice is that of a friend. Something I’ve heard most every weekday morning for the past 25 years. It’s always been a pleasant, calm, but authoritative voice, and has brought the stories of life both great and small. After 30 years of having to get up at 2:00 or 3:00 every morning, and at age 75, I think Carl has earned his retirement. The generous part of me wishes him the very best and thanks him for his many years of keeping me company wherever life took me, but the selfish part of me will miss the constancy of that familiar voice starting my day.

Nov 242009
 

I sometimes wake up during the night with a case of cotton-mouth, so I keep a cup of water on the nightstand beside the bed. Quite a few years ago, when I lived in Greensboro, I had a roommate who owned a restaurant. He brought home some big empty Dijon Mustard jars (probably quart jars) for making big Gin and Tonics and sitting on the porch. I used one of these as my night-time water-glass. It must have had the best silk screening in the world, as the writing was clear and bright for over 10 years of going through the dishwasher.

When I moved to Winston-Salem, then Tampa, then Dayton and back to Tampa that old jar went along with me, and was one of those little things that just made me, wherever I was, feel a little more comfortable because of its familiarity. I know it probably sounds silly, but it is these little things that make up the fabric of our lives…each single little strand.

Throughout life we loose strands of that cloth, but we’re forever weaving in more strands. Such was the case with that jar when I rolled over one night, flipped the pillow around, and knocked the jar to the floor and it finally broke. Just one of those little strands finally wearing out and reaching the end of its life as part of my cloth.

Carl Kasell (2004 NPR/Anthony Nagleman)

But a bigger and more important strand is leaving. Carl Kasell is retiring from NPR as the Morning Edition news anchor after holding the job for 30 years since the inception of the program. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Carl Kasell, and I don’t think I’d ever seen a picture of him until his retirement was announced this week, but I knew that voice as well as that of my best friends.

I discovered Public Radio right after moving to Greensboro. I knew of it, and occasionally listened to classical music, but really didn’t find their whole range of programs until about 25 years ago. Since then hardly a day goes by that I don’t wake to Morning Edition (or Weekend Edition), and I have always had a radio in the bathroom to listen as I get ready for the day.

So Carl doesn’t know me, and there’s not a lot I know about him, but his voice is that of a friend. Something I’ve heard most every weekday morning for the past 25 years. It’s always been a pleasant, calm, but authoritative voice, and has brought the stories of life both great and small. After 30 years of having to get up at 2:00 or 3:00 every morning, and at age 75, I think Carl has earned his retirement. The generous part of me wishes him the very best and thanks him for his many years of keeping me company wherever life took me, but the selfish part of me will miss the constancy of that familiar voice starting my day.

The Kilogram is Losing Weight

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Aug 202009
 

According to an interesting report on the NPR, the object that establishes the official and exact weight of a kilogram may be losing weight.

The international prototype of the kilogram is inside three nested bell jars at the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures in Paris.

The international prototype of the kilogram is inside three nested bell jars at the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures in Paris.

More than 100 years ago a salt shaker sized object made of platinum and iridium was forged in London. This was then shipped to Paris where it was shaped and polished and carefully weighed until it was exactly one kilogram (about 2.2 pounds). By international treaty, this then became the international for the exact weight of a kilogram. The problem is, the mass of the cylinder may be changing.

According to the NPR report:

As it stands, the entire world’s system of measurement hinges on the cylinder. If it is dropped, scratched or otherwise defaced, it would cause a global problem. “If somebody sneezed on that kilogram standard, all the weights in the world would be instantly wrong,” says Richard Steiner, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md.

For that reason, the official kilogram is kept locked inside a secured vault at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures near Paris. Scientists are so paranoid that they’ve only taken it out on three occasions: in 1889, 1946 and 1989. Each time, they’ve compared it to a set of copies. In 1889, the copies and the kilogram weighed the same, but by 1989, they had drifted apart. Based on the data, the kilogram appears to weigh slightly less than the copies.

The issue is, scientists aren’t sure if the official cylinder has gotten lighter, or if the copies have maybe absorbed water molecules and gotten heavier, but this is, for scientists a very big issue.

Physicist Richard Steiner adjusts the watt balance. This extremely sensitive scale can detect changes as small as ten-billionths of a kilogram.

Physicist Richard Steiner adjusts the watt balance. This extremely sensitive scale can detect changes as small as ten-billionths of a kilogram.

The solution is to try to develop a constant for the measure. As an example, consider how the meter is measured. Originally the meter was equal to the length of another standard  piece of metal kept alongside the kilogram, but in 1983 it was redefined as the distance light travels in a vacuum over 1/299,792,458 of a second. Because the speed of light is constant, this new definition means that the meter will never change.

Scientists are now trying to use a watt balance to establish a constant number for weight. I’ll let you read the whole story at NPR.

Katrina: Republican Excuse to Continue Regressive Agenda

 Congress, Corruption, Politics, Society  Comments Off on Katrina: Republican Excuse to Continue Regressive Agenda
Sep 222005
 
  • A nice little tax cut for your wealthy friends – $327 billion
  • Some corporate welfare for your campaign contributors in the oil business – $8.5 Billion
  • Having a king-sized natural disaster to help you try to cut the programs you don’t like for the old and poor – Priceless
  • For everything else, there’s the queers.

With great fanfare, and recalling the "Gingrich Revolution" of the 1990s, House conservatives yesterday proposed a broad set of spending cuts they said would help offset the costs of the Katrina reconstruction effort. Their plan reduces the budget by $500 billion over 10 years, and does so in large part by dismantling programs that invest in middle- and working-class Americans. Progressives can do better. It’s possible to cut far more unnecessary federal spending, accomplish it in half the time, and do so while upholding the principles of fiscal responsibility and concern for the common good.

The proposal announced yesterday cuts substantial funding from several "long-standing targets of conservative scorn," like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the foreign operations budget. The largest proposed cuts are targeted at Medicaid, "the health care safety net for low-income children, elderly, disabled, pregnant women and parents." The plan cuts $225 billion by converting the federal share of certain Medicaid payments into a block grant, and $8 billion more by increasing Medicaid co-payments. Eliminating subsidized loans to graduate students slices off an additional $8.5 billion. $11 billion more is saved by passing restrictive new rules for federal retiree health care and federal pension programs.

A progressive approach to trimming the budget could result in greater savings over a shorter period of time. For example, rolling back the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans would save $327 billion over five years. Cracking down on offshore tax shelters would save $65 billion over the same time period. Simply allowing Medicare recipients to purchase drugs through the mail would save $43 billion over five years. Repealing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry contained in the recent energy bill would save $8.5 billion. Shelving costly and unnecessary weapons systems would save $200 billion. Getting rid of counterproductive agricultural export subsidies would save $30 billion over the first five years along. Giving up half of the 6,371 special earmarked projects of the 2005 transportation bill would save an additional $12 billion. A progressive approach to trimming the budget could cut $688 billion in federal spending over just five years.

 Republican Offsets      Progressive Offsets  
 Title III Program Cuts  $307B    Rollback Tax Cuts for the Wealthy  $327B
Other including DoD and DHS  $333B    Eliminate Offshore Tax Shelters  $  65B
 Cut Federal Share of Medicaid  $225B    Repeal Oil Industry Subsidies  $    8.5B
 Increase Medicaid Copayments  $    8B    Allow Medicare Mail Order Drug Purchases  $  43B
 Eliminate Loans To Graduate Students  $    8.5B    Shelve unnecessary Defense Systems  $200B
 Restriction on Federal Retiree Healthcare and Pensions  $   11B    Eliminate Agricultural Export Subsidies  $  30B
 Foreign Operations Budget  $   37B    Eliminate 1/2 of 6,371 Transportation Bill Projects  $  12B

 TOTAL After 10 Years

 $929B  

 TOTAL Savings after only five years

 $685.5B

Let’s take a special look at some of the cuts included in the Republican Plan. I think most agregious is their call to eliminate "Corporate Welfare." This from a Congress that gave the oil companies, already experiencing windfall profits, huge subsidies in the just passed energy bill. Take a look at a partial list and see if you notice any patterns:

  • Eliminate the Applied Research for Renewable Energy Sources Program
  • Eliminate the Clean Coal Technology Program
  • Eliminate the FreedomCAR Program
  • Eliminate the ITA’s Trade Promotion Activates
  • Eliminate the Advanced Technology Program
  • Repeal the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act
  • Eliminate the Foreign Market Development Program
  • Eliminate the Market Access Program
  • Eliminate the Export Enhancement Program
  • Eliminate the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative

Continue reading »

Santorum and His – It Takes A Family

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Aug 042005
 

This morning I listened, as I always do, to NPR‘s Morning Edition. They interviewed Sen. Rick Santorum about his book, It Takes a Family. Clearly, the book’s title is a slam against Hillary Clinton’s book, It Takes a Village. I haven’t read his book, but according to what he said this morning, instead of slamming Hillary, it sounds as if he actually agrees.

At one point Santorum talked about it takes religious institutions, neighbors, schools, etc. to instill good values in children. Sounds like a “village” to me…certainly something more than just a family.

I’d like to throw in my two cents on the topic. I grew up in an extended family. My grandparents lived close, and I spent a lot of time with them, with cousins, with Aunts and Uncles, and I’m glad of that. I have no doubt it gave me some advantages that probably aren’t measurable, but are there nonetheless. However, I know it also took a lot of other people that were part of the community in which I grew up, and I think those other groups and people are even more important for those children that don’t have two parents and other close relatives.

I know most all the teachers I had exercised a great deal of influence over me in a positive way. I know that our neighbors kept an eye on us, and that made us misbehave less. I remember a time after I was finally allowed to “cross the four-lane” to go to the little store and get gas for lawn mower. I usually got 50 cents for a drink and candy too. But not long after that, the next door neighbor was checking in with Mom because she’d seen me crossing the highway. Mom assured her it was now “OK.” but that’s how we were looked after.

So, Rick, children are certainly better off if they are the product of a close and loving family, a unit that takes many faces and complexions, but even you admitted it also takes all these other people and groups….so you really do know Hillary was right and kids are better off if they are part of a “village.”

I think a lot of the problems today come from the fact that we don’t develop relationships with and attachments to our neighbors like we used to. We have no sense of community, as we’re all self-contained. In Tampa, everyone seems to have a lawn service, so I never see kids out mowing lawns. Both parents work, so there are no more coffee cloches. Right now, I’ve lived in my house for nearly four years, and I can’t tell you the names of one set of next door neighbors. (See, I’ll admit to being just as guilty as everyone else.) Continue reading »