Let it snow …

Just seemed like the right moment … New England and snow, like horse and carriage. Some of these pictures you may have seen before, others not. But until we have new snow, I’ll have to make do with the snows of winters past.

Old #2 in winter

This is old Number Two in the winter … growing old in the empty lot across from the post office … a little more faded with each passing season.

Two Red Chairs - First Snow

Two red lawn chairs, the remembrance of summer so recently passed are bright against the monochromatic snowy woods.

The Deck

The back porch after the first dusting of snow. It’s barely a dusting and will be gone in a matter of hours, but it’s early in the season. Who knows what the season will bring us?

Rimed With Ice

Late Winter Dawn

About 6AM in early March. Sunrise through the trees in my woods. Very late winter … soon, spring.

Death of the Dinosaurs: The Asteroid Didn’t Act Alone

See on Scoop.itTraveling Through Time

dino_decline_0502

There’s never a good time to get clobbered by an asteroid — something the dinosaurs discovered in the worst way possible. It was 65.5 million years ago when an asteroid measuring 6 miles (10 km) across slammed into the earth just off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, blasting out a 110-mile (180 km) crater and sending out a cloud of globe-girdling debris that cooled and darkened the world. That spelled doom for species that had come to like things bright and warm. Before long (in geological terms, at least) the dinos were gone and the mammals arose.

That’s how the story has long been told, and it’s still the most widely accepted theory. Now, however, a study led by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and published in Nature Communications suggests that the asteroid might not have affected all dinosaur species equally. Some, including the well-loved triceratops and duck-billed dinosaurs, might have been on their way out already and were simply hastened to the exit by the asteroid blast. The reason for their weakened state — and the way the investigators discovered it — provides both new insights into the fate of the dinosaurs and new methods with which to study their world.

The asteroid impact — known as the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) extinction — was always thought to have been an equal-opportunity annihilator, and there was good evidence to support that. Tracking the rise and fall of the dinosaurs was always done simply by counting how many species were around at any given moment in history. The more species there were, the better the overall clade was doing; the fewer there were — particularly after the K-T — the closer to extinction all dinosaurs came. But that method was never entirely reliable, mostly because paleontologists do their digging in so many different places.

“Results can be biased by uneven sampling of the fossil record,” says Steve Brusatte, a graduate student at Columbia University and one of the participants in the new study. “In places where more rock and fossils were formed, like in America’s Great Plains, you’ll find more species.” Similarly, in places that didn’t fossilize remains easily, you’d find far fewer — even if at one time there were just as many animals there.

Hadrosaurs by a lake.
Hadrosaurs by a lake. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Natural History team, led by paleontologist Mark Norell, thus decided to take a different approach — looking at the biodiversity within different groups of dinosaurs. If one group — the carnivores, say — was thriving, it ought to be producing more species than groups that were struggling just to hang on. When the investigators looked at things this way — sampling 150 species across seven major groups — they were able to paint a much different and much-less-uniform picture of how all the dinosaurs were faring before the asteroid arrived.

In general, the number of species in the small herbivore group (the ankylosaurs and pachycephalosaurs) was stable or even increasing. The same was true for the carnivores (the tyrannosaurs and coelurosaurs) as well as for the largest herbivores (the sauropods). Things were not so good for the slightly smaller herbivores known as bulk feeders because of the wide range of vegetation they ate (the hadrosaurs and ceratopsids). They appear to have been in decline for a good 12 million years before the K-T wipeout, with their species head count dwindling steadily over that time.

“People often think of the dinosaurs being monolithic,” says Richard Butler of Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, who also participated in the study. “We say, ‘The dinosaurs did this, the dinosaurs did that.’ But dinosaurs were hugely diverse. Different groups were probably evolving in different ways and the results of our study show that very clearly.”

So why were the hadrosaurs and ceratopsids having such a hard time? Geography may explain at least some of the problems. The bulk feeders were especially common in North America, a continent that was then bisected by the Western Interior Seaway, a wide and deep body of water that ran from what is now the Arctic Ocean to what is now the Gulf of Mexico. Changes in the depth, width and temperature of the sea might have reduced the food supply or altered the surrounding ecosystem in other ways that made it hard for the hadrosaurs and ceratopsids to survive. The tectonic collisions, which gave rise to what are now the Rockies and the other mountains of the west, might have had a similar effect.

Tyrannosaurus rex, a theropod from the Late Cr...
Tyrannosaurus rex, a theropod from the Late Cretaceous of North America, pencil drawing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whatever the cause of the two groups’ decline, it’s not certain that their condition was terminal — that they would not have somehow stabilized themselves if the asteroid hadn’t come along and rendered the whole question academic. Indeed, throughout the whole of the Mesozoic Era — from 250 million to 65 million years ago — diversity within dinosaur species was known to fluctuate quite a bit. “Small increases or decreases between two or three time intervals may not be noteworthy within the context of the … history of the [groups],” says Norell.

Of course, the asteroid did come along and did render everything academic. But if all of the dinosaurs left history’s stage at more or less the same time and for more or less the same reason, they now appear to have strutted their hour in ways that were more varied — and in some cases more fraught — than we ever appreciated before.

See on www.time.com

Have a laugh … on me!

It started out as a joke. My husband sent me an email and I thought it was funny. It made me laugh, so without worrying much about the source, the deeper truths, the verifiable facts of the matter, taking into consideration only the fact that it made me laugh, I published it.

It is called “The Man who saw the future” and you can click on it and see the source for all of this brouhaha (google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

I have been accused — me, the queen of geeks — of being anti-technology! Imagine that. A woman who owns three computers, an electronic reader, a tablet, a smart phone, three external hard drives, 4 digital cameras and Lord knows how many accessories, has DVRs and Blu-ray players all over the house … I am anti-technology? If I am not pro technology, no one is.

My laptop. Today's super little machine.
My laptop. Today’s super little machine.

But I am not in favor of letting technology replace human relationships, of instant internet searches replacing research. I’m in favor of using technology intelligently and using intelligence and creativity to define what technology is good for, not the other way around. Tools are intended for use by human beings for human pursuits.

I’m a big believer in facts. I research. I check and double-check sources even though I know that it’s impossible to completely verify any fact or statistic because the act of interpreting information alters it. Most important, I learned that not everything is equally important. I spent decades documenting and verifying … but there are things that do not need to be verified, double-checked, or confirmed. Among these things are jokes.

Not only do I like to laugh, I need to laugh. What is more, I think we all need to laugh.

So, in pursuit of brightening my own and maybe your life too,  I publish jokes which I think are funny. I do not verify the source of the joke. I do not research the origin of laughter. If it’s funny, that’s good enough for me.

Lighten up America!

It’s been a rough period. Not everything is life or death. Laughter can be a bridge over troubled waters. Nothing else, not pill, drugs, or therapy can uplift you the way laughter can.

As far as trying to prove that technology is “bad,” I love my electronic gadgets and goodies. However, you need to recognize what these things are good for and not try to use them to replace the world. Too many people, especially young people, confuse the means and the end.kindle fire

They substitute electronic communications for relationships. I watch my granddaughter and her friends sitting next to each other on the sofa texting. How do you learn to have relationships if you can’t have a conversation? If you use computers to think for you, you never learn to think, especially considering that computers can’t think. They are processors. Very fast, efficient information processors. Anyone can use a computer to collect information by the bushel, but most people can’t connect two related ideas without a flow chart and maybe, not even then.

In a society where we have to warn people not to text while driving, something is seriously wrong.

Information is not knowledge. It’s human minds and creativity that change raw data into concepts, inventions, and ideas.

Blackberry TorchInformation is not communication. You can provide all the information in the world, but if you don’t disseminate it in a form that others can understand, it’s just noise. We collect information at the speed of light. The dumbing down of society is not because of the tools we have available, it’s because we’ve forgotten they are only tools.

We have fantastic resources that we waste on drivel. Technology has not improved our ability to communicate, relate, think, or create. If anything, our dependence on them has reduced these uniquely human qualities. Without a human context, all our fancy technology will remain trivial. Time wasters. Stupid toys.

THAT is the message beneath my humor. NOT that tools are bad, but that we misuse them, fail to use them to any worthwhile end. We have come so far … and remarkably, advanced very little. Our civilization is not one bit more advanced that it was in ancient days.

I suggest that instead of analyzing my jokes to see if they contain accurate attributions, that you analyze your life and see if it’s worth living. In the meantime, have a good laugh on me.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin | [Erik Larson]

I loved it … and hated it … simultaneously.

I have rarely been more conflicted about a book than I was about this one. In many ways it was gripping and sometimes mesmerizing and then again, it was also annoying and at the same time, utterly appalling.

The indifference and callously entrenched anti-Semitism of US State Department officials and their consequent tolerance for the atrocities of the Nazi government is hard to stomach.This is not an image of our government that could make anyone proud to be an American.

The failure of all the western nations to do anything to stop Hitler while they could — with relative ease — have done so is difficult to fathom. The feather-headed self-absorption of Dodd’s daughter is like a case of hives: the more you scratch, the more you itch.

Most of the people in the book are awful in one way or another. Dodd, the ambassador, ultimately grows to become, in his way, heroic. He, at least, saw what was happening and tried — within the scope of his position — to do what he could. That no one listened to him is part of the heartbreak.

dodds
Dodds Embassy in Berlin  (Photo credit: island home)

Worse is that those who failed to act more often than not did so not because they didn’t believe him (although some truly didn’t), but because the majority of them were hardened anti-Semites and/or because they thought Hitler was going to rid Europe of the menace of Communism. Viewing Hitler as the lesser of two evils? How revolting is that? And all of this led to the bloodiest war in human history, a conflict wherein more than 30 million people died.

The banality of evil has never been more clear or more terrifying. Read it and weep.

The Backstretch – Life in the Slow Lane

It’s the backstretch of the year. My endless project will be over, good or ill, at the end of the month. So will Christmas. As for the insanity with which I live, that, I fear, will accompany me into the glad New Year and quite possibly to the end of time, or at least … MY time.

I thought retirement might be dull. I thought it would be … maybe … slower-paced than working was. I was certainly convinced I would have much more time to do stuff, all kinds of stuff, that I didn’t get to do when I was working. Hah!

Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle 1848,...
Queen’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle 1848.

A year ago last August, I was at a retirement party for a friend. Early retirement, I should add. In a rare act of sanity, he hit 60, his pension vested, and he said “Lemme outta here!!!!” and due to actually having at some point done some financial planning, plus a bit of good luck, he could. And did.

So I said, this being a very good friend of many long years standing (and sitting, and falling over, laughing, eating, and whatevering), let’s see if we can fit some time to actually visit a bit more often.

He said, and this is a quote: “Now that I’m retiring, I’ll have plenty of time.” He didn’t know yet, but he sure found out fast enough.

I didn’t stop laughing for days. He hasn’t had a moment to breathe since he quit working. Neither he nor I can figure out how he managed to fit a fulltime job into his life.

Retirement Ceremony
Retirement Ceremony (Photo credit: born1945)

Retirement … a misnomer if ever I heard one … is like jumping into a pool of still water. For a brief few moment, you will see the rings spreading out from where your body went under. Then, the surface will again flatten out into a mirror of smoothness. Life, the waters thereof, have taken you in.

Beneath that silken surface is a roiling mass of tasks, catastrophes, obligations, incomplete projects and Lord only knows what else … much of which has been waiting for your arrival for many long years. As you slide under the surface, hands begin to grab at you, voices come in every direction. Your parents need your help. Your children, grandchildren, the house, the cars, volunteer projects all bang you over the head.

When did I volunteer for that? you ask … but you won’t remember. Don’t bother trying. “You’re making that up,” you mumble, convinced that everyone has lost their minds, that you have slipped down a rabbit hole or through wormhole into an alternate universe. No, just retirement. It’s like that.

You don’t have spare time. You don’t have any time. You’re lucky if you have the time to get a little nap now and then.

Analyze the word and it will make more sense. Re (to repeat); tire (exhaustion and lack of sleep); ment (whatever). You are becoming tired again. Just when you thought you were going to have all that free time, leisure, naps in the warm summer afternoons … hah!

Getting old is definitely not for the faint of heart.

“VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER AWARD” – An honor, a privilege, a puzzlement.

Very Inspiring Blogger award

First of all, thanks to Mike Smith at  MikesFilmTalk who honored me with this, my second Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I have no idea why anyone finds me inspiring, but I like the idea.

I suppose the most inspiring thing about me is that despite everything, here I am, sense of humor intact. Survival is inspirational, but surviving while retaining a sense of humor is better. Unless you are going to be drowning in a sea of your own tears, you’d better laugh because no matter how much crap you’ve already gone through, I can personally guarantee that there is more just down the road past that traffic light. Crap, much like the tax collector, can always find you. You might just as well stop trying to hide because it’s pointless. What’s going to happen is going to happen. If it doesn’t kill you, it’ll make a great story.

Somehow I’ve gone in less than a year from “who’s that” to frequent honoree of awards … inspiring and brave and wise. Getting awards is all about finding someone … or someones … who don’t know you well enough to realize what a jerk you are.  I mean really … does anyone who you know close up and personal ever give you an award? No, right? That’s because they remember that time when you had one brandy Alexander too many and danced on the table … or that other time when while passing something around, you fainted dead away and had to be dragged to your tent by three big guys and a fork lift. These people love you, but they don’t give you awards. Intimacy precludes formal honors. Moreover, anyone who ever met my second husband or my first boyfriend could never find me inspiring. Perhaps if there were an award for it, I could be a cautionary tale, a warning to not do that!

Too much stuff

Mike sort of reminds me of me. That’s probably how come he has gotten a lot of awards from me and will get more. He doesn’t just write about movies. He writes about life. His life, and just any old life. He thinks about stuff. He’s had a hard time and I suspect that 2012 will never be marked in his mental landscape as “one of the great years.” Mike has managed to survived the worst life could throw at him and while he isn’t thrilled with it, he’s found ways to cope without whining and can apparently still laugh. Around here, that’s an achievement worthy of note. Somewhere, he got the message that life is neither fair nor easy. For anyone.

Inspiration comes to me from so many places, but oddly, the comments I write to Mike on his posts have, at least half a dozen times, morphed into posts of my own. He has a knack for saying stuff hovering on the edge of my consciousness that while I’m commenting to him, I realize is something I’ve been meaning to write.

Then, there are the books I read, the shows I see on the telly, current events, the weird stuff that happens at home to me and friends, and the way the light filters through the trees. The difference between something that gives me a migraine and something that inspires me can be razor-thin.

Doggy ChristmasBeing told that I’m an inspiration is an inspiration. It means someone still listens to me and I have not yet become completely irrelevant. The older one gets, the more the fear of irrelevancy stalks us. Not just me, but whole generations who were shakers and movers and now find themselves as designated “old people.” In our society, we don’t honor old people. We just shove them away and try to ignore them. Blogging lets me continue to be a part of the world and to still have a bit of impact on it. I’m not going to shake up the establishment, but I might just inform, inspire, awaken a few minds … or at least make someone who’s having a bad day, smile. That’s something.

All of you in my blogging community inspire me. I read your stories, poems and look at your pictures. You make me want to do more and be better. If I can do a little of the same for you, then I am glad.

I’m going to pass this honor to a few of the usual suspects, a couple of surprises … and suggest that any and all of you with whom I am regularly in contact, whose blogs I follow … any of you could equally well be recipients of this or one of the (I’m losing track) other awards I still need to deal with. Truly, if I hadn’t so recently received another of these so that I could take the post I wrote for it and redo it, I’m not sure I’d have been able to deal with this today. Christmas is near, my project deadline is breathing down my neck, my family has gone completely wacko and all I’m eating are homemade cookies which is unlikely to make me a more attractive or healthier person, but wow, they taste great.

Happy whatever you celebrate. Celebrate everything, why don’t you? Rejoice that you are alive, because you have a friend, a roof over your head, and maybe something to eat. Forget for a while all the problems and craziness because it won’t forget you … it’ll be there, waiting, when the party’s over. Love you all!!

The rules of this award are:

  • Display the award logo on your blog
  • Link back to the person who nominated you.
  • Tell us at least seven things about yourself that you would like to share.
  • Nominate other bloggers for this award and link to them. I am not going to set a specific number. I know how difficult it can be to keep coming up with dozens of new nominees and rather than burden you all with having to find in a single batch so many blogger, I will suggest that as you find worthy blogs you would like to honor, pass the honor to them, then let them pass the honor along as they find worthy recipients. No need to rush!
  • Notify your chosen bloggers of their nomination and the award’s requirements.

Seven things about myself that I haven’t explicitly said before (at least not where anyone could hear me) are:

  1. My second husband was a moron. I have no idea why in the world I married him. I will never understand. It may have had something to do with drugs and sex.
  2. My favorite shows are reruns. M*A*S*H is the best.
  3. I have a back so bad and a spine so damaged there’s no medical name for it.
  4. I make killer chile.
  5. I’m still waiting for the mother ship to come and take me away ala Cocoon so I can be young again.
  6. My first IQ test showed me to be a genius of the highest order. I was 11 years old. It’s been all downhill since. Now, I’m lucky if I can remember my name.
  7. Before settling down to writing, I was going to be a pianist. Which is how I completed a full major in music before realizing that I’m not good enough to be a musician, at least not classical. But once upon a time, I was pretty good.

My nominees (the envelope please):

For my friends to whom I’ve already give several awards (you know who you are!) and who live in fear of getting another, you are doomed. If I missed you this time, trust me … I will get you on the next round. And if you like any of these awards, feel free to just take the award, pat yourself on the back, and pass it along. It really is all about sharing. Share and be glad!