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Saturday, April 29, 2017

OK, I get it

I know, I know. I’ve whinged on endlessly about the shattering ugliness of the road (route 22) between the Pittsburgh airport and my father’s small college town, 75 miles away.

It doesn’t help matters to see the area in the dim watery light of Western Pennsylvania’s always rainy Fridays. Even worse, seeing this end of the world when the trees aren’t wearing their magnificent spring and summer colors. I always forget the incredible wealth of tall old trees around here.
When Europeans first explored the eastern shores of North America, trees covered more than 90 percent of Pennsylvania's 28,692,480 acres. (source)
Can you imagine?! Pennsylvania’s no minikin Rhode Island – this is a big, damn state – and it used to be one mammoth forest.
The most recent USDA Forest Service forest inventory report offers data from 2009, the latest available. The report indicates that the amount of forest cover hovers at about 59 percent of total land area, or about 16.7 million acres. (source)
 Ya see, this is what totally blew me away yesterday. I didn’t recognize our normally depressing road trip through Seedy Land (big box christianist/republican indoctrination centers followed closely  by gun shops and windowless, sleazoid porn shops and strip clubs). The giant oaks, maples and elms camouflaged the nasty ass wretched grifter emporiums as well all the falling down vinyl sided shacks and house trailers. AND the sun was out. ON A FRIDAY!!!!!

It was a mind bogglingly gorgeous day. So much so that, with all that brilliant green around us, we didn’t mind (much) being stuck in rush hour traffic.

Way back when I was nearing the end of my college career here, mia madre tried hard to get me to stick around – go on for an MFA. I HAD to get out though. Indiana, PA was a Podunk backwater, a zillion miles from the closet interesting, urban art filled center. I knew, despite my own horrific high school years in this town, that it wasn’t a bad place. For young adult couples who’d won tenure track teaching gigs at the college, it could be a sweet deal. Pastoral, wooded, rolling hills – beauty but with all the bennies that a large-ish college can bring. I saw Dave Brubeck here. Daddy saw Dylan. There were a couple cool pubs and a few independent booksellers. Also, if you’re mobile Pittsburgh, really isn’t all that far away.

I understand the appeal – more so now after seeing the place in sun and full bloom. Pity about the lack of ocean and all the damn Trump voters though.

Friday, April 28, 2017

ZOOM!

Jen and I are on the ground in Pittsburgh now. Yup, this is another wham bam thank you ma'am trip to see Daddy. This was the view from my dirty plane window. DAMN, I'm crazy about clouds in flight.

I think in my next life I'll be a Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture. Why?
A) they're handsome motherfuckers
B) they can fly 36.000 feet above sea level. Oh yeah, BABY – that's got to be obscenely cool!

When the landing gear comes down, I always get this awesome Arlo song in my head.  Oh yeah, I'm groovin' as we head to the rental car counter!

Comin' in from London from over the pond
Flyin' in a big airliner
Chickens flyin' everywhere around the plane
Could we ever feel much finer?

Comin' into Los Angeles
Bringin' in a couple of keys
Don't touch my bags if you please mister customs man

Yeah, alright

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Two Eyed Jack

Somehow that lacks the mystery, grit and danger of One Eyed Jack/Donna. Nonetheless, I’ll take it!

Got my left eye back yesterday and I am SO damn relieved. I can now drive, walk a relatively straight line AND I’m not tripping or banging into things nearly as much. YES! I still look like I got into a big ol' bar brawl but Doc Yoon said the puffy funk will fade in a few days.

The downside of having full vision action is that now I don’t have an excuse for staying away from the Y. I feel good, great even, while I’m elliptical-ing and doing my pool laps BUT getting to the gym is a hurdle. Why?! Newton explained it best in his first law of motion:
An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
Inertia – nails me every damn time. Puttering around the house, painting, reading my latest ripping yarn and napping with Coco – escape velocity is mega hard to achieve. The unbalanced force that gets me up, outta my comfy reading chair, suited up and off to the gym? That’d be my own internal nag-arific voice. Get UP you lazy, fat slag! Do you WANT to look like Jabba after a Fratellis cupcake bender? C’mon, that extra weight’s not gonna lose itself! Yup, I am SUCH a bitch to myself.

My inside TAB voice, on the other hand, says, You work so hard. Cut yourself some slack! Here, have a cookie. He's countered by my inner nursie who calmly chimes in with Exercise lifts your mood and clears your sinuses. You’ll be a lot more comfortable (physically and emotionally) and have way more energy afterwards. GO!

Nursie always wins. Also too – yes, there are a lot of voices in my head.

Yesterday’s other bigness was that the cherry trees arroved. I’d ordered them on line from a place in South Carolina who used FedEx for shipping. The worker bees there had FOLDED MY BOXED TREES IN HALF! Yes, they broke my babies in half. I was near tears. Oni and I took pics. We envisioned disbelieving, uncaring and obnoxious customer service types. We imagined having to go all Perry Mason on their asses in order to get unbroken saplings or my money back. Braced for battle, Oni called. He spoke with a wonderful, brilliantly customer oriented dude.

The company, Fast Growing Trees, is sending two more beautiful, leafy darlings right out, today! Plus, I'm getting an upgrade to a more mature cherry on one – not sure if it'll be the Bing or the Black Tartarian. Hoping it's the Black because that's TAB's cherry. I want to see him big and tall NOW. (Be patient? Trees grow? Shut up.)

They MIGHT even be here by Saturday which'd be awesome+. We’d planned a small tree, Amazing Bob and Rocco planting ceremony for Sunday. Obvs, that’s on hold until the fresh, unmolested saplings arrive.

OK, time to suit up and brave the Y. *sigh* I CAN do this and I WILL feel so much better afterward!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I'm Sciencing!

Math class is tough, whines the 1990s Teen Talk Barbie. Yes, for a lot of us (female and male) it sure can be BUT it's pretty damned fun once you get past the bullshit girls aren't good at math fear factor. Rilly!

How do I know about this math fun business? My eighth grade math teacher, Ms. Ober, showed me it could be interesting and I could do much better than my usual C. My tenth grade geometry instructor, Mr. Wood (??), revealed its sublime elegance. In my junior year of high school though, I had Mr. Zaffuta. He taught algebra and was painfully ill-suited to the task Dude could’ve made Star Wars boring. Why oh WHY do I have to sit through his sleep inducing monotoned delivery for something I’ll, (obvs to me at the time), never use again after semester’s end.

In college, my math professor father subbed one day when my Math 101 teach was out. I was kinda freaked out – geez, now I gotta actually pay attention! I didn’t have to put any effort into that at all – my father made the day’s topic absolutely fascinating. Wowzers – I totally got it! I wasn't excited to the point of changing my major BUT I now understood Daddy’s big math love.

And, by the by, throughout my years as pressroom production manager, I used algebraic equations every single day – multiple times an hour in fact. Turns out – I’m actually good at this number crap and, oh yeah, it's wicked cool fun too!

I wonder what I might’ve ended up doing/being had I combined math and art. Could I have been a precursor to Neri Oxman? Pretty to imagine.

Oxman leads the Mediated Matter group at the MIT Media Lab.
 Carpal Skin!
Designer and architect Neri Oxman is leading the search for ways in which digital fabrication technologies can interact with the biological world. Working at the intersection of computational design, additive manufacturing, materials engineering and synthetic biology, her lab is pioneering a new age of symbiosis between microorganisms, our bodies, our products and even our buildings. (source)
She designs some crazy, cool shit and it all does important stuff too. Functional art! Other awesome science babes:
Michelle Koppes
My research focuses on landscape response to climate change, over the long term and over the recent past. Some of my current research projects focus on quantifying glacier change in response to warming climate and warming oceans, the landscape response to changing glacier dynamics, and the effects of climate change on meltwater resources in BC, Patagonia, Antarctica, Greenland and the Himalayas.

“As a woman, I constantly need to prove I am not only scientifically capable, but hardy enough to thrive in the field, in the harsh environments of my research,” says Koppes. (source)
No doubt sister, no doubt.
Kristin Marhaver's a coral biologist based in Curaçao, Brazil.
She researches how corals reproduce and what their juveniles need in order to survive on today’s reefs — an urgent task as corals struggle against pollution, overfishing and a changing climate. (source)
Jedidah Isler is an astrophysicist studying supermassive, hyperactive black holes.
My first love was for the night sky. Love is complicated.
~~~~~~~~~
These objects (supermassive, hyperactive black holes) devour material at a rate upwards of a thousand times more than an average supermassive black hole. (source)
Baby tapir – how CUUUUUTE!
VERY Star Trek and so damn cool!

Patricia Medici is a conservation biologist.
Brazilian conservationist Patricia Medici has devoted her life to preserving the life and habitat of the South American lowland tapir, the largest terrestrial mammal of South America. Though not well known, tapirs are important to their ecosystems as an umbrella species: protecting tapirs also protects iconic species like peccaries, jaguars and pumas.
Wow, wow, wow – everything’s so cool and connected (yes, I know I sound like a wicked stoner here. Shut up and don't bogart that joint, man!)

Nina Tandon is a biomedical engineer. She's the CEO and co-founder of EpiBone, "the world's first company growing bones for skeletal reconstruction.
EpiBone is a revolutionary bone reconstruction company that allows patients to “grow their own bone.” EpiBone’s pioneering technology utilizes a scan of the patient’s bone defect and the patient’s own stem cells to construct and cultivate a defect-specific autologous-like bone graft. (source)
Whoa – that’s SO sci-fi awesome. Also too, grow your own bone...heh, heh, heh. Yes, OF COURSE, my mind went there!

Elizabeth Gould is a psych prof at Princeton.
As a child, Gould wanted to be an artist, but she found "a great deal of creativity in science." Her work has proved that the brain is not, as previously thought, full of a given number of cells that can never be replaced. Instead, throughout life, neurons sprout in the hippocampus, perhaps forging new memories, while others die from stress or wither from disuse. "Although I once was surprised to find that experience causes new neurons to grow, it makes perfect sense that the brain would evolve throughout life.”
Katrin Amunts is another brain babe.
The Human Brain Project is a decade-long initiative focused on a variety of different platforms related to human neuroscience, but at its core is BigBrain, the most detailed 3D atlas of the human brain ever created. BigBrain will allow researchers to better investigate telltale signs of neurological disease and the way drugs interact with diseased brains, paving the way for drastically improved diagnosis and treatment.
Katrin Amunts is the big brain at BigBrain, the director of the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine at the Jülich Research Center in Jülich, Germany.

Jennifer Doudna developed CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats)  
CRISPR is a tool that edits DNA. It can edit DNA like I'd edit a book!!!
It allows scientists to add or remove specific genomes in a way that’s never been possible. It is the most effective genomic tool ever invented -- and Jennifer Doudna invented it.
~~~
The ability to create primates with intentional mutations could provide powerful new ways to study complex and genetically baffling brain disorders. Doudna’s research is groundbreaking in its implications for curing disease. (source)
Given my own little neurological puzzle box – my Nf2 riddled head – the work done by these women interests me big time.

Cori Bargmann
Through her studies on roundworms, Cori Bargmann is uncovering how neurons and genes affect behavior. Because many of the gene mechanisms in roundworms mimic those of mammals, Bargmann is able to manipulate certain genes and observe how that affects changes in behavior.
Maybe she’ll discover why 45 behaves as he does.

Wanna read about more intensely cool, female scientists? Go here, here, here, here and here. Or, ya know, you can type contemporary female scientists into Google and dive down the rabbit hole of wonder.
She Blinded Me with Science – Thomas Dolby

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Not One of My Better Days

Yesterday I had a nearly transformational long walk. It was just three miles BUT I did that without balance nerves AND only one eye. I didn’t fall either, not even once, and I got from point A to point B in less than an hour.

Golf claps – c’mon, I deserve a thoroughly bodacious round of golf claps here!
Point A was Valhalla. Point B was the grotty little Chinese dive bar that Jen and I absolutely love. Some days the one true balm, the singular, most potent solution to the BIG sad is cheesebaggy “art,” veggie tempura and a lovely little merlot. All served up by the most awesome bartender. YES please!

What was Monday’s BIG sad about? Well, for starters IT WAS MONDAY fer fuck's sake!

The Amazing Bob died on a Monday, remember? It’s not like I try to be depressed on this first day of the week – his last on the planet. Nope, the infernal day sneaks up behind me while I’m working, cleaning or painting and clotheslines me – knocks me clean off me pins.

I was emptying the dishwasher, putting the bowls and mugs away, when one of them stopped me. Yes, this beautiful bowl stopped me in my tracks and said I was The Amazing Bob's. You served him baked haddock and brown rice in me.

And then I went out to fetch the mail. There was some FINAL NOTICE!!!!! subscription renewal bullshit thing, addressed to my beautiful man. Every time mail comes for him a little salt falls into the cracks of my heart. I get mail addressed to Mrs. Donna Grant too – more salt with a dash of vinegar. I didn't change my name when we got hitched and he didn't change his. We had the discussion and decided there was no need. Ok, first the talk got real silly but that was par for our usual course.

Seeing my name and his together is hard. This is due, in no small part, because when TAB was here and breathing, I'd bring in the mail and rant my sweet ta tas off. MY NAME IS MADERER! I have an identity all my own dammit! He'd crack a footlong smile, add a few more denunciations and invectives to the tirade and we'd end up laughing. Me and TAB, we laughed an awful lot.
My soulmate
The other half of me
Yang to my yin
PB to my J
He was all this and more. I continue to wonder – how is it possible that I exist but he doesn’t?

As if missing TAB wasn’t hard enough, I’m just sick to Hell and back of being all one eyed. That pirate patch? Yeah, cute as fuck but it’s sweaty and the string's annoying and I want my left peeper back now, today, RIGHT NOW DAMMIT!

You might think, I certainly did, oh, being half sighted for a week or two won't be so bad. I'll still have vision -- just won't be able to drive. Yeah, true enough but, without those precious balance nerves, my ability to stay upright and walk a meanderingly straight-ish line is dependent on my eyeball action. I could/would eventually adjust but it's not an overnight deal. No, it is not.

Goddammit!

The left eye comes back tomorrow. TAB doesn’t. This is way fucked up and shit.

Clearly I’m overdo for a movie and swim day but the first of my summer MUST SEES doesn’t open until May 12th. I found another flick (open NOW!) that might well do the trick – Colossal.
Gloria (Anne Hathaway) drinks too hard and parties too much. Her boyfriend has enough of it and throws her out. Gloria returns to her hometown, dreaming of making a new start, but instead revives her childhood friendship with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who runs a bar. After drinking a night away with Oscar and his friends, he wakes up to discover a gigantic monster rampaging through Seoul and realizes that somehow the monster is connected to her.
Oh yeah, I’m there!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Language Fun!

Interesting expressions – idioms – make the language world spin. Some poetic turns of phrase are similar-ish from country to country. That’s great but it’s the other ones which absolutely delight me.

In France, fer instance:
When conversation has hopelessly wandered and you want to bring things back ‘round again, you can say Revenons à nos moutons.

The exact translation is (according to Mirriam Webster) let us return to our sheep. The meaning?  Let's get back on topic. K. Works for me. Also too, I really like sheepies!

Can’t easily decide between two things? You’re not on the fence. Nope. Avoir le cul entre deux chaises. You have your ass between two chairs. Ouchie!
Translated exactly, Ça me fait une belle jambe, means it gives me a beautiful leg. Sounds a little sexy, don’t it? Is leg a euphemism for the arbor vitae of lurv? ‘the Hell’s this rilly supposed to mean?
The first form of this expression was "it will not make his leg well done". We were also revisited the variant "it will not make his leg more beautiful". Then, around 1830, the expression became "make the leg well", and finally "make a beautiful leg.” Here, the "beautiful leg" represents the masculine pretension. One can draw a parallel with the "calves of cock", where the cock symbolizes pride. To say that something will make us "a beautiful leg" means that it will not help in anything. (source)
Ça me fait une belle jambe means, basically, a fat lot of good that'll do me //snort//

And, you don’t push up daisies in Lyon when you’re six feet under. Nope, you manger les pissenlits par la racineeat the dandelions by the root. Now I have some strange painting ideas. Cool!

In Italy:
My absolute favoritest Italian expression is in bocca al lupo – (we go) into the wolf’s mouth. This should always be followed by crepi il lupomay the wolf die. My friends Cindy and Giovanni say this to me whenever I go in for big surgery. It means good luck (with oomph).

Another, less macho, scatologically funny good luck wish is, in culo alla balena – (we go) into the whale’s ass. The rejoinder is speriamo che non caghi let's hope it doesn't shit!

Hai voluto la bicicletta? E adesso pedala!Did you want the bicycle? And now pedal!
You made your bed, now ya gotta lie in it or I told ya so.

Non avere peli sulla lingua – Without hair on his tongue.
This is used when you want a person to be brutally honest. Gimme the straight dope, man!

Avere le braccine corte means have short arms. The person described as such is a cheap motherfucker. The English expression have deep pockets and short arms is similar though this specifies that the skinflint's got plenty of bread but is a stone Scrooge McDuck.

In Germany:
Da liegt der Hund begrabenThat’s where the dog’s buried.
No, the expression isn’t concerned with where Fido was planted. //shudder// Nope, it means that’s the heart of the matter. Yes – this makes clear, beautiful sense to me.

Das ist mir Wurst –That’s sausage to me or it does not matter. Meaning – It doesn't matter. I love sausage (though as a Veggie American I no longer eat it). A better illustration of not mattering, for me anyway, would be that's parsley to me. After all, what is parsley besides unneeded garnish?
An often found answer to the etymology of this expression is, that a sausage ("Wurst") has two endings, so it doesn't matter from which side you start to cut or eat. (source)

Oh. I get it now.

 Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof – I only understand “train station.”
This means I don’t understand what’s going on here or “it’s all Greek to me.”

A possible derivation:
The soldiers (WWI) apparently were tired of fighting and wanted to return home. Since train was the primary means of transportation, many soldiers associated the train station (Bahnhof) with returning home. Because the soldiers thought a lot about returning home it could happen that they could or would not follow the conversation because they "only understood train station" (which is the literal translation for "nur Bahnhof verstehen”). (source)
Lastly Sie spielt die beleidigte LeberwurstShe plays the offended liver sausage. Beautiful but huh???? All I could find on this is that it means she’s in a huff. Yes but I really think there's got to be a good origin story in here somewhere.

I could get lost in Lingo Land for days on end...months!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Assorted Creams

OK no...it's assorted bits of randomosity – what's in my bean this morning. Assorted creams though – OH BABY, YES. WANT!
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I had a vivid dream of Kevin last night. He was back. As it turned out, he hadn’t been dead these past 26 years. Nope, he’d been kidnapped by some unnamed, evil foreign power. Why’d they finally release him? No clue. Maybe he'd, for the last time, annoyed the croutons outta them with his caustic and creative insults. (I only mention it but Kevin's the one who taught me the fine art of imaginative verbal blistering)

He was in fine shape – more than fine. Kevin was healthy, handsome and didn’t look a day older than, at most, mid 30s. Me too actually – GREAT dream!

He wanted to take up where we left off – besties considering moving in together/getting all wedded up. In the dream I found myself thinking the timing was incredible. The Amazing Bob exits and Kevin returns? Could only be better if they were both alive together!

The dream ended with us on a couch in a sun filled studio/loft, holding, comforting each other.

What is the half life of grief?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Mother and Child Reunion
Jen, Oni and I watched Alien:Resurrection again last night. I think I love that flick more with each viewing. This is the series installment where I began rooting for the aliens. The United Systems Military is breeding the dangerous, poor beings (using kidnapped human hosts! Bastards!), hoping to weaponize them. Sure sounds like something Trump would invest in, don’t it?

I really love Weaver’s near invincible, dark and amused by it all Ripley Clone 8. That she’s part alien, part human and all clone is brilliant. Winona Ryder was fab as Call the moral robot passing as human too.
The only bit of bad casting is Dan Hedaya as General Martin Perez. Hedaya’s facial expressions are too broad and way cartoonish. It’s hard to take him seriously as a cold, calculating, humanity devoid, asswipian villain. I found myself eagerly anticipating his death more because he was annoying than anything else. Now that I think of it, this is how Orange 45 fooled his fellow Republican/Tea Partiers. They viewed him as an eccentric buffoon and imagined him easily managed/manipulated. Not too bright and awfully swellheaded of that crew. Not surprising either.

The end, where Ripley’s grandchild beastie is sucked out into space is just heart-wrenching. Yup. Sure, earth is saved but this poor babe, who had yet to live a full day or kill a soul, dies an unimaginably painful death.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Looks like the Science March was well attended EVERYWHERE. The entire planet is protesting our heinous president. You’d think Republicans would take a hint and tell him You’re FIRED! but no, the whole party is just as dimwitted and greedheaded. They will be the death of us all unless we reality based beings unite and get out the vote BIG in '18.

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There's a land that I've heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream,
Really do come true.
Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops,
High above the chimney tops,
That's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can't I?
If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tux Tyranny and Trees

She looks sad, right? It's not just me – right?!
My angelic princess Coco’s neediness seems to be growing – she requires near constant lap time. Is she depressed? Maybe, this is just a phase or possibly she was always like this BUT it was The Amazing Bob’s lap she commandeered.

It could be she knows that, in my dark mourning over TAB and Rocco, I’m in big need. She’s doing all she can to provide comfort and support.

Probably it’s a little of everything.

Yesterday morning at 2AM, I woke to find her settled in on my tummy. I don’t usually sleep on my back – how'd this happen? Either she saw a rare moment and snatched OR she craftily, clandestinely tipped me over from side to back. Coco’s a talented, sly thing – she could pull this off. Rilly!

When our girl noticed that I was semi-conscious, she began her meticulous bathing rituals. Afterward, she curled up right over my kidneys and began purring like a freight train. Wonderful – yes. By the time she nodded off though I was wide awake, doing my usual o-dark-thirty fretting (followed by endless rounds of deep breathing exercises) and HAD to wiz. I really hated to displace her but…no choice.

Rocco came home in a box this week. Dr. Jo had brought my poor, precious warrior king’s body to Angell Memorial, the big animal hospital in Boston, to be cremated. Is this what’s unsettling my girl or is that just me? Projection – damn, I’m good at that shit.

My paparazzi avoidant, beloved boy
It’s tree planting season here in Massachusetts. I bought a Black Tartarian Cherry tree for TAB. We’ll plant his ashes at the base so he’ll grow into and become a part of it. My man was big on feeding the birds. He always made sure we had plenty of black oil sunflower and Niger seeds in the house. While I fed the stray cats, he fed the birds. The Black Cherry is very popular with birds so, in death, TAB will continue to care for his feathered friends.

The Black Cherry isn’t self pollinating so I bought another cherry, a Bing. Plus I’ll be planting a lot more bee attracting flowers and herbs to surround them. Rocco will be under and within the Bing. He’ll enjoy watching all the wildlife from the safety of his bark covered new home.

From her indoor perch, Coco will enjoy watching all the cherry gobbling blue jays, cardinals and sparrows – Cat TV.

We don’t have much of land here in Valhalla so these are, most likely, the last trees we can plant. Seems appropriate.