Archive for August, 2008

Wanna Sing Along?

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Except for marking a beat on a metal triangle in a second grade marching band, I never played a musical instrument. Yet no matter what thoughts wander through my mind certain images bring up a song and I burst out with the related lines. Remember these? There’s a tree in the meadow with a stream drifting by… Or mairzy doats and dozy doats and little lamsy divy… Or when you wish upon a star makes no difference where you are… Or a teaspoon of sugar makes the medicine go down… Or she wore an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini… Get the idea? If you never heard them, too bad, I didn’t make them up.

Sometimes when marking miles on a five-hour drive I challenge myself to sing songs that come to mind. No fair repeating the same song although I do allow as many verses as I can remember. Buffalo gals has lots. The Ole Chisholm Trail is good for many miles. And so is Where Have You Been Billy Boy, Billy Boy? The wear and tear on my throat brings singing to a halt after an hour or so.

Where did the music in my life come from? Music was a constant “noise” in my young years. In the evenings Dad strummed his guitar and sang softly those tunes from the old country. Mother hummed as she worked, pushing the treadle on her sewing machine, pulling milk from docile cows, chopping at the weeds in the bean patch, or washing dishes while I was underfoot so to speak. A song I thought was too sad to hear was “Can I Sleep In Your Barn, Tonight, Mister?” And another was When The Works All Done This Fall. After dark the powerful stations from Texas dominated the airwaves repeating old time country songs. At school seventy years ago singing was a classroom lesson taking an hour once a week. Recess was a time for song circle games like “Farmer In The Dell” and “Go In And Out The Window.”

Somewhere I read that artsy sorts of things are more prevalent in a dominate left brain. Whatever. It brightens my life.

Think hard

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

A friend of mine wrote a glowing endorsement of the soon-to-be-replacement of one of the most hapless congressmen to represent my district. My friend was impressed with the new candidate because his message came out strongly as a campaign for our children, now and the generations to come. He indeed will work to make changes that will turn around the present farce we installed in the white house — twice mind you.

This will be no easy job, nor will it happen as easily or quickly as we would like. The reason is our economic system so erroneously called “free enterprise” is not free enterprise at all. Laws encourage Ann Rand’s deliberate misinterpretation of Darwin’s term “survival of the fittest” where it is imperative that dog eat dog.

The attitude appealed to entrepreneurship. Even more it appealed to companies that combined and dominated the markets. Psychologists write ads to sell frivolous products as absolute necessities.

We gave children more than we had because we could. Trouble is: the more an animal gets, the more it wants. I expect it will take a generation or two, maybe more, for normal human logic to kick in. It will or our species will lose to natural selection. How soon will society realize that we can not survive on greed alone? (or the adage: The one with the most toys wins.)

Most things are built an inch at a time so with thoughtful builders in place, it will happen. Getting people elected who have human needs in mind is a step in the right direction.

No Two Alike

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Absolutely. No two animals are exactly alike. Let’s just think vertebrates here.

All animals share many similarities — a spine with a right side features that are reflected as if a mirror image on the left. I don’t expect that matters to any vertebrate except humans.

I wanted a really spiffy scientific definition of animal and to the a dictionary I did trot. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “animal” as any mammal except humans. Is that interesting or what?

We want to blend and be like everyone else. Sometimes.

We want to be unique, independent of everyone else. And each one is. That sounds on the face of it as impossible. But animals are very complex. Not much of a switch of a protein in a Hox gene will make a big difference in skin texture, hair thickness, or other visible features. I am startled when I look upon a person so familiar that I certainly know her — or him but am assured they are strangers. Often I see such a resemblance in a husband and wife that they look like siblings. Yet neither ever noticed the similarities. Then again couples show not a single similarity — well except for the usual eyes, ears, nose, etc – that they look like different clans. I probably am the only one who notices such things.

Well I am a visual person, ruled by my left brain, I guess. I am unique, even if little kids all think I am their grandmother.

Up And At ‘Em

Monday, August 11th, 2008

If the unrelated thoughts that ran through my mind as I wondered at the bright sunlight at 0635 this morning were translated into my word processor I would have fodder for at least ten articles — or introductory lines for as many memoirs.

But I do not. Neurons are active in my brain, and yours, too. Everyone’s. How impossible our technology is to meet that challenge — instant hard copy recording fleeting synapses. I notice which cars in the neighborhood are missing, the owners off on their Monday routines. At first glance I saw what was there. What a contrast the singular plants in my yard are to the lush green manicured lawns across the street.

And then I noticed what was not. No cats. No paperboy. No biker pumping peddles in his reclined position on his three-wheeler. Too late that’s why. Each thought brings a logical reason for the picture. Is that a dilemma or the average situation for the human animal? Focusing is difficult. And I am not very good at it.

Nevertheless I pour some milk, nuke my oatmeal and move ahead.

Time Will Tell

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Stephen Hawking reminds us in his books about time that regardless if, or when, we figure out how the cosmos began, we are here because of what did happen those billions of billions of years past. How do we know that? Well, I don’t know about you but I know I’m here. So whatever happened did it right, for me.

Nose-in-the-books kind of gals and guys who study physics, relativity, gravity, space, and genetics found irrefutable evidence of underlying rules that govern all the stuff (minerals, chemicals, atoms, light) around and in us. Good thing, too. As insignificant as I am in the universe, I’m happy to know what holds me so I don’t fly off as the earth spins endlessly around the sun.

Humans figured out many things in the recent fifty thousand years but we could only know what was understood after scientists made up symbols and recorded them. And that’s only been about fifteen centuries. The concept of time didn’t enter into equations until Einstein learned how to write.

That’s all heavy stuff. Words are OK but see and touch is what counts with me. I know I’m here because when I pinch myself it hurts. Try it and see if you’re here too.

Where Do I Come From?

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

Do I really care? There are many thoughts and ideas in my mind that distract from the puzzle of where, why and when.

I am the center of my universe with normal human curiosity, for which Eve seduced Adam out of paradise. That is to get answers for questions god denied them. I am reading THE ILLUSTRATED “A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME,” the updated and expanded edition from Bantam, 1996. A physically heavy book, it is at first glance, a work of art. As I delve deeper I find it full of humor and common examples that Stephen Hawking uses to translate cosmic equations into ideas for my imagination. He creates images I can relate to.

In my own world I do what I can to encourage young people to search first, to find out if someone already has answers to their questions and, if not, to consider how they can do their own search. It is in the imagination of following generations that the ultimate answer of the origin of the cosmos might emerge. I do not worry overmuch because I am satisfied to know I came about by natural selection.

That may very well have begun with the big bang. Although I seriously doubt it. Where did the stuff of the bang come from?

I recommend this book. Full of humor and wit. And wonderful illustrations by Moonrunner Design also using reproductions with lasers, Landsat and other modern technologies.

Stephen Hawking, Bantam, 1996.

Inspired Dreams

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Have you ever looked at a building under construction and wished you could see what goes on inside? The city of Richland is expanding the public library and a patron complained there was no place to sit and watch the progress. She recalled how other cities furnished bleachers for the curious. All an onlooker can do around this site is cling with arthritic fingers to the steel links of the security fence. She had the disfigured digits to prove she did it.

This morning when the sun failed to peek through rumbling clouds and freckling raindrops I got a tour with the library director — hard hat and all. I frequented the library often in my past 30-year residence and was familiar with the general layout. I witnessed rearrangement each time new technology demanded space. We stood inside a skeleton of squares and rectangles of steel girders marking new walls – different dimensions that define spaces for familiar uses in efficient ways. Only a few old walls stand to substantiate its history.

Renovating began with tearing out rusty water pipes and antiquated electrical system after the books were moved away. Some unwelcome surprises came up with the old floor, features not documented on engineer’s drawings when quick fixes were necessary over the past 50 years. Oddities brought change orders and construction slowed.

On the newly poured floor I saw steel girders supporting more steel against the open sky. Workers operated massive machines to lift and move materials, not pushing wheelbarrows. Buzzing tools riveted and bolted instead of hammers and saws. Deep powerful footings were visible where a second floor will rise for quiet reading beside the branches of stately sycamore trees. I was impressed.

When I stand in the completed building in 2009 I will remember the skeleton and expect new walls to welcome dreams and aspirations of many happy readers for another 50 years.