I got my second COVID-19 shot last weekend and gave in to unexpected lethargy. No Blog Post this week, but I’m paying attention.
See you here next week.
--Stay curious! (and safe)
President Biden signed an executive order last Sunday, to “promote voting access and allow all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy.” His Executive Order is in response to the For the People Act, (HB 1) which has moved on to the Senate.
I got my second COVID-19 shot last weekend and gave in to unexpected lethargy. No Blog Post this week, but I’m paying attention.
See you here next week.
--Stay curious! (and safe)
You’re on your own
And you know what you know
And you are the one
Who’ll decide where to go
from Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Random House, 1990
A raging controversy (in some circles) about the appropriateness of Dr. Seuss’s work has recently come back to my attention. Here’s my defense. Dr. Seuss single-handedly moved children’s literature from a focus on morals and values to a celebration of children’s innate curiosity about themselves and their world.
And today is his birthday.
Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield MA of immigrant parents on March 2, 1904.
In many ways the world was a different place. In many ways it is the same. Immigrants were flocking here from eastern and southern Europe and Russia. Now people are coming here from Central America and South America. In the 1920s, activists were fighting for civil rights for women and Blacks. In the 2020s people are fighting for civil rights for women and Blacks and people of all colors, commonly abbreviated BIPOC: Black; indigenous; and people of color.
Here’s a very short (over-simplified, maybe) timeline focusing on children’s literature:
1693 John Locke. Some Thought Concerning Education. Locke
wanted to make reading fun for children, but stay firmly
based in reality.
1865 Lewis Carroll. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Children
were moving from an economical asset (farm help, factory
workers) to an emotional asset. Parents, and society as a
whole, sought to protect the innocence of childhood through
the development of their imagination and creative play. Mark
Twain was also publishing during this time. So was Jules Verne.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri was published in 1880.
1954 John Hersey. Life magazine, May 24, 1954. “Why Do
Students Bog Down on First R? A Local Committee Sheds
Light on a National Problem: Reading.” Hersey blamed poor
reading scores on boring reading texts like the Dick and Jane
series by the Scott Foresman Company. I learned with
Alice and Jerry, published by Row, Peterson and Company,
which later became part of HarperCollins.
1955 Rudolf Flesch. Why Johnny Can’t Read. A response to
Hersey’s article, Flesch’s book was an immediate best seller
and stayed on the list for 37 weeks.
1957 Dr. Seuss The Cat in the Hat. Seuss’s first commercial
success. William Spaulding, director of Houghton Mifflin’s
Department of Education, asked Dr. Seuss to “write a
story that first-graders can’t put down.”
Spaulding's Bet With Dr. Seuss. He was allowed 225 unique
words chosen from the 348 words on the standard first
graders’ word list. The good doctor lost the bet. The Cat
in the Hat came in at 236 words. He lost a bet, but gained
a career. The commercial success of his book allowed
Dr. Seuss to quit advertising and write children’s books
But the controversy is real.
In 1998, the National Educational Association founded Read Across America. They chose to celebrate on March 2 every year, Dr. Seuss’s birthday. From its inception, RAA has been linked with Dr. Seuss. Three years ago all that changed. In 2018, the national reading celebration moved away from the Seuss canon to highlight different authors and diverse and contemporary titles.
While the move to emphasize more diversity and to be more inclusive in reading choices and recommendations is a step in a good direction, demonizing the Dr. is a step too far. Does the Cat depict stereotyped minstrel shows? Is “The Sneetches” an historical narrative that impacts present-day power structures? Or could these analyses be over-reactions to a Learning for Justice article, the educational arm of the Southern Poverty Law Center, It's Time to Talk About Dr Seuss and quoted in School Library Journal SJL: Is the Cat in the Hat Racist? ?
The American Library Association presents The Geisel Award annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year. The winner(s) are recognized for their literary and artistic achievements that demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading. The award was established in 2004, and first presented in 2006. The award that year went to Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Suçie Stevenson.
Dr. Seuss was not a sociologist. He was not an historian. He was not an environmentalist. He was not even a doctor. He took the title doctor to honor his father who wanted him to earn his PhD. He did not, but held many honorary titles. Seuss, actually pronounced to rhyme with “voice,” is his mother’s maiden name as well as his own middle name.
Detractors point to the beginning of WWII when Geisel contributed political cartoons to a liberal magazine. Since he was too old for the draft but wanted to serve, he made animated training films and drew propaganda posters for the Treasury Department. Some were racist depictions of Japanese immigrants. Most were not appropriate for children. Some of his books command an adult audience, too.
Dr. Seuss taught us to take care of our earth in The Lorax, to take care of each other in Horton Hatches the Egg and “The Sneetches” and so many more, and to allow ourselves and our children to Hop on Pop, put a Fox in Socks, and have fun with a Cat. He encouraged language-play by making up words.
Dr. Seuss was aware of his world and aware of his missteps. He advised us in Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
So be sure when you step,
Step with care and great tact.
And remember that Life’s
A Great Balancing Act.
His books will live on. American kids will continue to read.
Thank you Dr. Seuss. Happy Birthday!
-—stay curious! (and read to a child)
…I’m starting to wonder--
could anything possibly live here?
It’s dark. It’s cold.
I’ve brought this gift of chocolate cupcakes.
I don’t think I’ll find anybody to eat them.
from Life on Mars
written and illustrated by Jon Agee
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017
I’m not that much of a science fiction fan, but a short story by Ray Bradbury, “Dark They Were and Golden Eyed,” has stuck with me all these years. I remember it being about the necessity of accepting change and the inevitability of assimilation. I mention it now because it takes place on Mars.
I grew up when Ray Walston played a wacky Martian neighbor in the sitcom “My Favorite Martian.” The song “Telstar” rocketed to #1 on the music chart in 1962. The Space Race pushed reality toward the boundaries of Science Fiction. And it seemed like the whole human race was obsessed with outer space, space flight, and space travel. Reaching the moon was certainly do-able. Could a trip to Mars be far behind?
Even after the Challenger disaster in 1986, NASA continued to do its work, astronauts continued to make discoveries, but it seemed like our heart wasn’t in it. In February 2003, when the space shuttle Columbia broke up as it returned to Earth, killing all seven astronauts on board, NASA suspended space shuttle flights for more than two years while it conducted an investigation. Another successful shuttle flight was completed in 2006, but when the International Space Station was complete in 2011, the shuttle missions ended and funding became harder to get.
But just three months later, November 2011, the Curiosity rover launched its 293 million mile journey to Mars. It landed safely about seven months later.
In 2016, Elon Musk headed his SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station to resupply the astronauts. The world noticed.
Then on Saturday afternoon, May 31, 2020, NASA astronauts launched a commercially built American ship operated by an American crew from American soil. It was the first all-American mission in nine years.
Meanwhile, Curiosity has quietly been exploring the surface of Mars all this time. As of February 21, 2021, Curiosity has been on Mars for 3038 sols, or Martian days (3121 Earth days). Here’s Curiosity’s home page. https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/home/ where you can see what it’s been up to.
The goal for Perseverance, to land in the Jazero Crater, was tricky. It needed to avoid the rocks at the bottom that would surely damage the craft.
Perseverance’s safe and careful perfect landing on Mars last Thursday (February 18, 2021) at 3:55 pm EST, got the ground crew at NASA’s jet propulsion lab cheering.
Scientists think the crater is the site of a lake bed that dried up 3.5 billion years ago. There's a chance that before it dried up, it was home to some form of Martian microbial life. There's also a chance the rover instruments will be able to see a signature of that life in the rocks in the crater, like a fossil.
While NASA’s Insight rover is already probing deep into the surface of Mars, Perseverance will look for those signs of life. It will also collect and bring back rocks and soil with the intention of returning it on another mission. Scientists can study the Martian material with equipment too large and too heavy for easy transport. Perseverance's mission will last about one Martian year, about 687 earth days.
Here’s Perseverance on Mars! https://www.enterpriseai.news/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Perseverance-Mars-rover-NASA_600x.jpg
According to National Geographic and mars.NASA.gov Several spacecraft are already transmitting data from orbit: NASA’s MAVEN orbiter, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and Mars Odyssey. The European Space Agency (ESA) operates Mars Express and Trace Gas Orbiter. India’s Mars Orbiter Mission is also still orbiting and transmitting information.
The United Arab Emirates launched its probe called Hope on July 20, 2020, from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. Their goal is to provide scientists with a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere. They promise to share the data. As of last week, Hope is on a two-earth-year orbit around Mars.
China’s spacecraft also arrived in Martian orbit last week. It's preparing to send a lander and robotic rover to the surface later this year.
Everyone is working to help us Earthlings learn about the Martian atmosphere, its landscape, seismic activity, how the planet has changed over time and if life has ever existed there.
Maybe we’ll even learn a little more about ourselves along the way.
Here are the first pictures sent back by Perseverance. https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/multimedia/images/ Hover over the image to get a description. Click and see a larger image and the narrative explanation written by NASA.
--stay curious! (and look up)
… You make me want to be the best ox I can be, so I thank you again. You are the unflattering light of my life.
from XO, Ox: A Love Story
written by Adam Rex
illustrated by Scott Campbell
Roaring Brook Press, 2017
I’m not unfamiliar with the lunar year. Jewish holidays are based on the lunar calendar and each Israeli month begins with a new moon. Each month in the twelve-month year is 29 or 30 days long. To compensate for the shorter year, a leap month is added seven times during a 19-year cycle. This adjustment ensures the holidays fall during the correct season, making them seem to come “early” or “late” in the Gregorian calendar we are all used to.
The traditional Islamic calendar is also tied to the lunar cycle. Like the Hebrew calendar, the sum of their twelve lunar months is eleven days shorter than the solar year. Without the use of corrective mechanisms like leap days and leap months to synchronize the lunar calendar with the solar one, Muslim holidays occur earlier and earlier in each solar year. But that is not important. Time is time. A month is as long as a month is. Holidays occur in their appropriate month, no matter what the season.
Chinese years are based on the lunar calendar, too. The New Year begins on the first new moon after the Winter Solstice. Like the Hebrew and Islamic calendars, the traditional Chinese calendar uses a twelve-month cycle of 29- or 30- day months and compensates by adding a whole month when needed to keep the months in their proper seasons.
We recently (February 12, 2021) entered the Year of the Ox. Knowing the name of the year is only a small fraction of the complexity of the Chinese Zodiac and the astrology determined by it, though. Stars are aligned or not with each other. Particular signs can be auspicious or not, depending on many factors. The Feng Shui Institute offers an overview of how to read the Chinese Zodiac. https://www.feng-shui-institute.org/Chinese_Astrology/interpretation.html
It would be interesting, but more complex than I’m willing to consider right now, to compare a reading using the Greek Zodiac we are familiar with along side the traditional Chinese Zodiac. Just sayin’.
According to https://www.chineasy.com/the-characteristics-of-each-chinese-zodiac/, in Chinese culture, oxen are symbols of wealth, prosperity, diligence, and perseverance. They are quiet, steadfast, and methodical.
The five elements, metal, water, wood, fire, and earth, contribute to our understanding, too, and help determine how we will all fair during this Year of the Ox. This being a metal year, we celebrate the Metal Ox. Attributes of metal include firmness, rigidity, persistence, strength, and determination, self-reliance, and sophistication.
Combine the qualities of an ox with the qualities of metal, and people who are metal oxen are said to be hardworking, active, always busy, and popular among friends. Barak Obama is a metal ox.
Looking ahead to our Metal Ox year, we might expect an emphasis on metallurgy (Jewelry? Cars? Hammers, nails and I-beams?) and a focus on diligence, wealth, and a quiet, methodical movement forward.
Many traditions help usher in the New Year. Preparations begin early. On the 26th day of the previous month, festive cakes and puddings are served. They symbolize wishes for improvement and growth in the coming year. A thorough cleaning is done on the 28th day of the previous month, and welcome banners are hung on the 29th. Family reunion dinners take place on New Year’s Eve. The menu is important. Foods associated with luck, like fish and puddings as well as food that mimics gold ingots, like dumplings are often served.
Some families stay awake past midnight to welcome the New Year as soon as it arrives.
Parents give red money envelopes to their children.
People parade in the streets.
Here in the West we say “Chinese New Year,” but the holiday is celebrated in many Asian nations including Viet Nam, South Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia.
The New Year celebration culminates on the fifteenth day of the holiday (this year February 26), when the Lantern Festival is celebrated. Many cities around the world still put on massive lantern displays and fairs on the final day of the festival. Some cities shoot up fireworks.
In this year of COVID-19, most festivities both in cities and families have been cancelled or curtailed.
On February 26, I won’t wash or cut my hair. I could be washing or cutting away my luck in the New Year. I won’t sweep my house or clean anything. That might destroy the good luck that arrived just after midnight. The Chinese word for "book" (shū) sounds exactly the same as the word for "lose" so giving a book as a gift or even reading a book yourself is an invitation for loss. That will be hard for me. I wonder if reading on my tablet counts?
I’ll will wear red, a lucky color, and some jewelry to honor the metal in my life. I’ll ponder my many gifts that make me feel grateful.
-—stay curious! (and celebrate)
But he still pulled up the weeds around it every day and sprinkled the ground with water.
And then, one day, a carrot came up just as the little boy had known it would.
from The Carrot Seed
written by Ruth Krauss
illustrated by Crocket Johnson
Harper and Row, 1945
My grandmother saved her seeds from year to year and planted her whole backyard, part of her front yard, and that little grassy strip between the gravel on her driveway with vegetables and flowers. I don’t know what happened to her seeds when she passed away. I’m pretty sure neither of my aunts took them. I know my mom didn’t. So they and their progeny are lost to obscurity.
On a grand scale, forward thinkers devised a way to protect the world’s food crops from falling into oblivion. In 1996, the first Global Plan of Action for conserving and using crop diversity was adopted by 150 countries. In 2004, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was put into place to help support this global system in a sustainable way. The Crop Trust was born and its Seed Vault opened in 2008.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault houses seeds of over one million crop varieties from over 5,000 species. The seeds arrive from countries the world over and are catalogued and stored deep inside a mountain halfway between Norway and the North Pole in a $9,000,000 structure. The permafrost, thick rock, and low humidity ensure the safety of the seeds, even if the Vault loses power.
From their website, “The Crop Trust is the only organization whose sole mission is to ensure humanity conserves and makes available the world’s crop diversity for future food security.” https://www.croptrust.org/about-us/
The Crop Trust and the International Rice Research Institute signed a long-term partnership agreement in 2018. In it, the Crop Trust agrees to fully fund the essential operations of the IRRI genebank forever. From their website https://www.irri.org/our-work “IRRI works toward finding solutions for the world’s biggest challenges and contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.” They fight hunger, poverty, and inequality while working toward responsible consumption and production, climate recovery, and good health and well being.
Besides working with the IRRI and governments around the world to develop crop conservation strategies, the Crop Trust studies how we can sustain ourselves in light of population growth and the changing climate. Their Crop Wild Relatives Project is a global long-term effort to collect, conserve, and use wild relatives of cultivated crops to develop food crops that will thrive during the changes our climate is undergoing.
Crop diversity ensures food security, helps adapt to our changing climate, reduces environmental degradation, protects nutritional security, reduces poverty, and ensures sustainable agriculture. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is an insurance policy of sorts, to back up the many seed banks all over the world serving to ensure crop diversity.
My daughter sent me one of the most interesting sources for seeds. It’s not a seed bank or a warehouse. It’s a seed lending library. Located in the Concord, MA Library’s Fowler Branch, patrons are encouraged to check out a packet of seeds (5 packet limit) and grow them. They encourage, but don’t insist the growers reserve a couple of their best plants, allow them to “go to seed” and return their harvested seeds back to the library. This will help the seed lending library become self-sustaining. https://concordlibrary.org/resources/concord-seed-lending-library
Another website lists seed lending libraries from all over the world. Unfortunately, while over 80 locations are listed, you can’t search by location to easily find one close to you. https://www.seedsoftimemovie.com/find_seed_libraries It’s an interesting browse, though, and while you’re there, you can watch the Seeds of Time documentary.
During the Cold War years of the 1950s, my dad thought it would be a good idea to dig a shelter in our backyard, just in case. He didn’t do it. I’ve seen enough apocalypse movies and read enough books to know that if someone dropped a massive bomb, I would not have to worry. I’d be dead along with everyone important to me, probably.
But even if the ice melts and sea levels rise, the Global Seed Vault, at 426 feet above sea level, is high enough to be out of the water, even in a worst case scenario. And the permafrost will keep the seeds cold.
Seed samples sent to the Vault stay in possession of the country that sent them. The first withdrawal was made in 2015 by Syria who had been storing seeds since 2012. Thirty-eight thousand seeds were removed by researchers and sent to Lebanon and Morocco. The Syrian non-profit organization that contributed the seeds moved to new quarters after rebel forces took over their area of Aleppo. The organization, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) continues to deposit seeds, coming now from their new locations. They also continue to withdraw seeds, as necessary. https://www.croptrust.org/press-release/vault-continues-prove-value-world/
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is "owned and administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food on behalf of the Kingdom of Norway and is established as a service to the world community." https://www.wur.nl/en/show/CGN-seeds-in-the-Svalbard-Global-Seed-Vault-FAQs.htm In case of famine due to war or natural disaster, we'll be able to start over.
Good to know.
-—stay curious! (and plan your garden)
Bird: Everything looks spectacular from a space shuttle, I bet.
Judith Resnik: That’s true.
Bird: What’s it like, anyway?
Judith Resnik: It’s like being far away and close at the same time. Floating in a world that belongs only to you, but also belongs to everyone else.
from: We Dream of Space
written and illustrated by Erin Entrada Kelly
Greenwillow Books, 2020
It’s sometimes hard for me to see the big picture. Whether it’s deciding on the structure of a novel I’m working on or changing up my grocery shopping habits from daily trips to a weekly (or longer) plan, sometimes I get lost in the details of the trees, so to speak, instead of taking in the whole experience of the forest.
But, some people are naturally big picture thinkers.
Frank White is one. Mr. White is a Harvard graduate and Rhodes Scholar. He has a Master of Philosophy Degree in politics and, in 1987, coined the term “Overview Effect.” His book of the same name is in its 4th edition. He interviewes many astronauts and cosmonauts and reads their writings to help him describe the life-changing effect of viewing Earth from outer space or the moon. Simply put, the Overview Effect expresses a feeling of awe for our planet and an overwhelming desire to work for its protection. It becomes an almost universal mindset of those lucky enough to have experienced space travel.
Less than a year before White published the 1st edition of his book, the Challenger space shuttle exploded killing everyone on board, six astronauts and one teacher. People were questioning why we were putting so many resources, time and money as well as human life, into a program that experienced more than its share of tragic setbacks. As he tried to articulate an answer, White discovered Space Philosophy. He asked the fundamental question many were asking but no one was answering, “What is the purpose of space exploration?” His partial answer, “the Human Space Program will engage all of us as ‘Citizens of the Universe.’” That answer is more fully developed in his 2018 book, Cosma Hypothesis: Implications of the Overview Effect.
Most of us will not have the opportunity to rocket to the moon or Mars, or spend time exploring outer space. The question for me, then, is how to translate this experience for us, the everyday citizens of the universe. How to feel that awe, show empathy to our neighbors near and far, and become motivated to help Earth survive when our feet are firmly planted and gravity and inertia work to hold us here.
Even though it’s been around for over 30 years, I’ve noticed a spate of articles on the Overview Effect recently. Others must be on my wave length.
In its January/February 2021 publication, the Sierra Club quoted astronaut Ron Garan, “[Earth] looks like a living, breathing organism. But it also, at the same time, looks extremely fragile.” https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2021-1-january-february/books/big-picture-benjamin-grant-overview-timelapse
On June 3, 2020, Dave Mosher of Business Insider quoted NASA astronaut, Bob Behnken, “You see that it's a single planet with a shared atmosphere. It's our shared place in this universe.”
In the same article, Mosher tells his readers, “Psychologists say the effect isn't just a matter of idle curiosity, but perhaps an essential part of maintaining mental health on long-duration space missions.” https://www.businessinsider.com/astronauts-describe-overview-effect-seeing-earth-from-space-emotions-feelings-2020-6
Could a similar mind-set help us maintain our own mental health right here in our everyday lives? Help us spend a little more time looking outward to the universe and each other and a little less time looking inward to all those everyday problem out of our control?
And in August, 2020, https://spacecenter.org/photo-gallery-the-overview-effect/ posted a photo gallery on its blog. The images are spectacular, awe-inspiring, and worth the click.
You may not be as awed as an astronaut, you may not feel their overwhelming urge to protect our fragile home, or become more empathetic to friends and neighbors, but the change in perspective was enlightening for me!
Here’s what I wrote in this space on July 23, 2019 in a post about food waste:
“From the distance of outer space, it is easy to understand that boundaries between countries are drawn by people. It is easy to imagine oceans and jungles teaming with life. Harder, though, to remember that everything is finite.”
Everything is finite, though. And change is our only constant.
-—stay curious! (and keep looking up)
Happy Groundhog Day!!
Making the good-bye card was a hard job.
Hallie had to erase
and start again many times.
Even so, the letters were never perfect.
from: Hallie’s Horrible Handwriting
written by Valerie Tripp
illustrated by Joy Allen
Pleasant Company Publications, 2003
The first word I learned to write (as opposed to print) was “it.” I can still see itititit on line after line after line. We were taught to produce slightly right-slanted letters, to connect the up-strokes and down-strokes, and to evenly space the letters and words. We used horizontally oriented newsprint paper marked off for us with upper and lower guidelines and a dotted line between them. I usually got an A in handwriting.
For a while, not too long ago, cursive writing went out of favor in schools. Kids went straight from printing to keyboarding. Seemed like it would be more useful, but research proved that handwriting is more important than people thought and now 21 states require it as part of their curriculum again. Even states that do not mandate teaching cursive, allow it. Here’s a site with state by state requirements: https://mycursive.com/the-14-states-that-require-cursive-writing-state-by-state/#tab-con-11
While that controversy raged, I wondered how children would learn to sign their names. And how to read signatures of others. Handwriting is personal. My husband’s handwriting is almost as familiar to me as my own. I can see my mom’s handwriting in my mind’s eye. My dad’s too. I have recipes in my mom’s hand, my grandmother’s, and my mother-in-law’s. They have become precious to me.
Did you celebrate National Handwriting Day last weekend? I did! January 23 is John Hancock’s birthday and WIMA (Writing Instrument Manufacturing Association http://www.pencilsandpens.org/handwriting.php) sponcers a celebration. A page on their website tells the history of handwriting. Another one explains its importance.
While writing on a keyboard, like I’m doing right now, uses muscle memory, “[h]andwriting is a complex, cognitive process that involves neuro-sensory experiences and fine motor skills.” https://www.pens.com/blog/the-benefits-of-handwriting-vs-typing/ Several things work together in a writing experience including: feeling the paper against your pen; applying just enough pressure to make the ink flow; and engaging in the thought process to form the words.
A 2012 study published by the National Institutes of Health shows handwriting is an important factor children need as they learn to read. The ability to recognize individual letters, a crucial skill necessary for reading, is enhanced by writing those letters. Speed and accuracy in recognizing and naming letters is a good predictor for the development of reading skills. And, the study continues, the parts of our brains we use for reading are more active after we practice handwriting. This is not true for typewriting. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4274624/
And each person’s handwriting style is unique.
Graphology is the scientific study of handwriting. Discovering personality traits is its goal and forensic graphologists work to determine connections between the way a person writes and his or her personality. Taking a huge number of factors into account, graphologists can pinpoint over 5,000 personality traits. How much pressure you use, how big your letters are, how they are spaced, where you cross your ts and dot your is, if you write uphill or down, how you slant your letters, and how legible your writing is are some features taken into consideration.
Jung and Freud concluded that handwriting is a window to both the conscious and subconscious mind. Crime labs hire graphologists to help them gage whether a suspect is telling the truth, how much stress a person is feeling, how secretive or open he or she generally is. While crimes are not often solved by a graphologist alone, the analysis can point criminologists in the right direction. According to Andrea McNichol “…much of the preliminary examination of handwriting is guided by common sense. Look for the abnormalities, and make educated guesses as to what they mean.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/199211/the-lowdown-handwriting-analysis
Your signature represents the you you show the world even if it is different from the you in your private thoughts.
Legend has it that when asked why he signed his name so large, John Hancock replied, so the “fat old King could read it without his spectacles.” In those days there was no greater treason than declaring independence from the King.
John Hancock lived a gregarious life. He liked being noticed, and his signature is consistent with that. His writing slopes upward, indicating that he liked drama in his life, a handwriting trait also consistent with his personality.
Whether or not you put stock in someone’s ability to learn about you through the marks you make on a page, by taking a deeper dive into the subject you might discover something new about yourself. The library has several books on graphology and the Internet is full of articles and quizzes. Choose wisely!
I wonder if I practice some traits I like and change my handwriting, a personality change would follow. A blogger called GraphologyJunction says I can.
On second thought, I think I’m just fine the way I am!
-—stay curious! (and write a letter to a friend)
[That] day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches
And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars
And whether or not they had one upon thars.
from: The Sneetches and Other Stories
written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Random House, 1961
accessed on YouTube 1/17/21
I won first place for some lyrics I wrote back in college. A few years ago you might remember, I won third place for the challah I entered in our county fair, but that’s it. I won a ribbon at the Fair, not a metal medal. I was happy to accept it and the $3.00 prize that went along with it. (I don’t think prize money covered the cost of the ingredients, but I’d have to get back to you on that.) I guess part of the reason I don’t win much is I’m not too big on entering contests.
Lots of medals and awards are presented for many reasons. The Olympics and other sporting events like the Super Bowl and World Series, music awards including the Grammys, entertainment accolades like Oscars, Emmys, and Tonys, and Military honors like the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, and the Nobel Prizes, as well as the Newbery, Caldecott, and Pulitzer are just some off the top of my head.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is our country’s highest civilian award.
In 1963, President Kennedy revamped the Medal of Freedom, first issued by President Truman to honor “...any person ...who, on or after December 7, 1941, has performed a meritorious act or service which has aided the United States in the prosecution of a war against an enemy or enemies...(or) has similarly aided any nation engaged with the United States in the prosecution of a war against a common enemy or enemies.” (Executive Order 9586) https://ecommons.udayton.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1081&context=pol_fac_pub
Kennedy broadened the scope to include a person’s “…especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” (Executive Order 11085. See above citation.) The award is given at the president’s discretion.
Awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom is a presidential duty. No one else bestows that award. Here’s a list of President Obama’s recipients. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/campaign/medal-of-freedom Other presidents awarded the prize, too. The list is very long (well over 630) and includes in no particular order Steven Spielberg, Mother Teresa, Neil Armstrong, Jonas Salk, Martin Luther King, Stephen Hawking, Toni Morrison, Marian Anderson, E. B. White, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
During last year’s State of the Union address, Rush Limbaugh, yep, the right wing radio personality who coined the term “feminazi,” accepted this highest civilian honor from, starting tomorrow (January 20, 2021) at noon, the former president.
Last week, Bill Belichick declined the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
While I won’t dispute whether or not he deserved it (I really know beans about football, but I just found out he won six Super Bowls in the last ten years, so that’s something), fact is, he declined the honor and the medal that went with it.
The “tragic events of last week,” when pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol Building, led Belichick to his decision. He went on to say, “I was flattered … out of respect for what the honor represents… Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation's values, freedom and democracy.” https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/11/politics/bill-belichick-presidential-medal-of-freedom-spt-trnd/index.html
His refusal puts him in company with very few people. My search found three.
Dodgers catcher, Moe Berg, was fluent in many languages including German, Italian, and Japanese. During WWII he was a spy for the United States trying to find out if the Nazis were building an atom bomb. He declined the medal claiming his “‘humble contribution’” to WWII could not be divulged.”
Jacqueline Kennedy declined when President Johnson offered it to her in conjunction with President Kennedy since she worked with him to establish the design of the medal and its new parameters. She wanted to make her husband, recently deceased, the “focal point of the honor.” https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/12/us/politics/medal-of-freedom-declined.html and
Bill Belichick, well, we already know about that.
That’s it. Three.
While not wanting to appear judgmental, I disagree with this previous (I know, as of tomorrow) administration’s selection of honorees. I try to avoid quoting from Wikipedia, but this list of medal winners from the Kennedy administration forward looks pretty good. Scroll all the way to the bottom to find Trump’s list. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidential_Medal_of_Freedom_recipients
Winning is important. Being recognized for outstanding achievement is also important. Having the mettle to decline a medal, metal or otherwise, is possibly most important of all.
*mettle: the courage to carry on especially when the going gets tough https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/mettle
--stay curious! (and get vaccinated as soon as you can)
“Okay, listen. To stay in synch with the Earth’s rotation, sometimes they have to fiddle with how we keep time. So this August, we get a free extra second of future. Think about it. It’s a colossal gift. Nell, we can’t waste it. We need to catch that special second and make it officially ours.”
from: Every Single Second
by Tricia Springstubb
illustrations by Diana Sudyka
Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 2016
Since Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, and probably earlier than that, people have been measuring time. From grains of sand falling through an hourglass to the precision of a Swiss watch, we mark the momentous occasions and trivial pursuits of our lives by noting seconds, minutes, and hours.
Being more and more precise about time measurement has been a goal for many scientists. The first atomic clock was invented in 1949 by Isidor Rabi, a physics professor at Columbia University. He showed that measuring the vibrations of an ammonia molecule would produce an accurate measurement of time. His discovery has been improved on through the years, and since 1999, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), uses an atomic clock that measures the frequency of the element cesium. The clock is accurate to about one second in 100 million years. https://www.timeanddate.com/time/how-do-atomic-clocks-work.html
But as the saying goes, time is relative. When I asked about that, my mom described her understanding of Einstein’s theory of relativity. If you touch a lit match, a second seems like it will never end. But, when you watch a sunset, minutes pass without giving time a thought. I’m sure there’s lots more to it, but that definition worked for me. Actually, it still does.
And ten years into the future always seems longer than ten years ago. When I wonder where I’ll be in ten years (assuming I’m still alive!) it kinda seems like forever from now, but looking back at the last ten feels like a blink. So in my mind, time is fluid.
Turns out, time really is kinda fluid. While it takes our Earth 24 hours to rotate on its axis as we orbit the sun causing day and night, that varies from day to day. OK, only by a fraction of a second, but scientists around the world have noticed that Earth instead of trending slower, has been spinning faster lately, faster, in fact, that ever before.
Up until now, one complete rotation has taken a little longer than 24 hours (about 86,400.002 instead of 24 hours x 3,600 = 86,400). Twenty-seven seconds have been added to our clocks since 1972, about 1 second every year and a half.
Called a leap second, it is added periodically, either on December 31, or June 30, to keep our clocks synchronized with the time it takes for Earth to complete one rotation on its axis. The last one was added on December 31, 2016. Here’s a chart: https://www.timeanddate.com/time/leapseconds.html
Earth’s 28 fastest days since 1960, all occurred in 2020. https://www.pennlive.com/nation-world/2021/01/earth-is-spinning-its-fastest-in-decades-heres-how-scientists-are-addressing-the-issue.html Scientists have discovered many reasons for the fluctuation, including the pull of the moon, snowfall levels, and mountain erosion. As the snow caps and high-altitude snow continues to melt, some planetary scientists wonder how much of an impact global warming will have on Earth’s spin.
The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest single mass of ice on Earth. It is made of 30 million cubic kilometers of ice: about 30 quadrillion tons of material. It’s located between 8000 and 9000 feet (2400-2700 meters) above sea level. Every time some of that ice melts or calves into the ocean, it not only causes sea levels to rise, it redistributes Earth’s mass so that it’s closer to the central rotational axis. And just as a figure skater can control her rate of spin by raising and lowering her arms, fluctuations in Earth’s rate of spin change according to how much mass is located closer to Earth’s center of gravity. So the changes in ice and water storage on Earth may be responsible for both the current speed-up in Earth’s day, as well as newly observed wobbles in Earth’s rotation. https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2021/01/07/why-does-the-spinning-earth-speed-up-if-the-tides-are-slowing-us-down/?sh=7c851f0b343e
A leap second was scheduled for December 2020, but was not added. If the speed-up continues, some scientists predict we may need a negative leap second.
So while 2020 seemed like the longest year ever, it was anticipation that made it feel that way. Waiting for an end to the pandemic, the end to a political crisis, the end to this non-normal lifestyle, I didn’t notice Earth moving a little quicker than usual, skipping almost a whole second.
I guess time really is relative.
Mom taught me to live in the moment. We can’t change the past. We can only plan and hope for the future. It is here, right now, this moment that is always becoming the past, that is meaningful. We are allowed a finite number of seconds to live on Earth. We don’t know how many. We may even get an extra one now and then.
Do, contemplate, relax. Most important, though? Pay attention to as much as you can.
-—stay curious! (and aware)
“Help!” cried Toad.
“My list is blowing away.
What will I do without my list?”
“I cannot remember any of the things
that were on my list of things to do.
I will just have to sit here
and do nothing,” said Toad.
from “A List” in Frog and Toad Together
written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel
Harper & Row Publishers, 1972
Newbery Honor, 1973
accessed YouTube 1/3/21
Orderliness is my 2021 word of the year. I’m feeling optimistic, but I’ve felt that way before. Lists are helpful. My grocery list, on paper or in my head, is organized either by grocery aisles or alphabetically, depending on how many items I need to remember. My to-do list is usually better off in alphabetical order. When I organize it in the chronological way I’d like to accomplish the activities, very often it doesn’t work out well. I tend to write my errand lists from farthest point to the place closest to home. List making is a chore, but one that I enjoy.
My mom and my dad were not really opposites in the organizing realm, although they looked like it. Mom was a minimalist. A place for everything, and everything in its place was her mantra. Dad, well, he liked his stuff. He had collections: stamps, newspaper articles (mostly about stamps), old envelopes (waiting for their stamps to be soaked off). But he was methodical. His stacks of stuff, while plentiful and difficult to dust around, had plan and purpose. He could put his finger on anything you asked him for at a moment’s notice.
A few years ago, the Huffington Post ran an article called “14 Habits From Organized People That We ALL Should Borrow” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/habits-of-organized-peopl_n_4921454 While not really habits, these qualities are still relevant and important. Here’s my take on them. (I divided “list makers” and “sorters” to end up with 15.)
Goal oriented. They know what they want. They plan how to get it.
Optimistic. They believe the world is mostly working the way it should.
Conscientious. They have a “can-do-ness” about themselves and prefer plans to spontaneity.
Decision-makers. They’re good at prioritizing and keeping the big-picture in mind.
Not perfectionists. Good enough is really good enough.
List makers. Whether written on a calendar, other dedicated space, or kept in their heads, organized people seldom forget an important task.
List checkers. They really do the things on their prioritized lists and check them off.
Sorters. Like with like is the way organized people keep everything in its place. Knowing where to find things is a real time-saver.
Do-it-now attitude. If a task takes fewer than five minutes, an organized person will get it out of the way. Procrastination, when it happens, is sometimes inevitable.
Planners. They like to leave a time cushion big enough so that if something else comes up, it will work into their schedule. (see above)
Not afraid to ask for help. They think about time as a resource with value, and effectively allocate tasks among others so everyone can work efficiently.
Uni-taskers. Multi-tasking is a myth. Really. We think we’re doing more than one thing at a time, but that’s a trick our brains play. Actually we flip nano-second by nano-second from one task to another, taking our attention away from both. (see post from 1/1/2019)
Tuned-in to their biorhythms. Knowing the optimal time for getting a particular task done increases productivity.
Habit formers. Habits are important. Doing something without having to think about it is a real time-saver, even though it can be a creativity stifler.
Know how to de-stress. Practicing yoga, meditation, visiting a counselor, or escaping into a good book, organized people know when and how to “get away from it all.”
This is a long list. While some of those qualities are already habits, I found a couple points to keep in mind as 2021 marches on. I hope you did, too.
But, lest you think all I do is make lists, please know, I also keep my spices alphabetically arranged. (I keep a running list of those little jars that have mysteriously multiplied, too, so I don’t replace dried basil or marjoram two weeks in a row.) I have my socks separated into winter weight and summer shorties, seasonally rotated because my drawer is pretty small. My bookcases are arranged by subject, then by author, just like at the library.
And, while I’m prone to procrastination and diving into rabbit holes, I like to think of myself as organized when I need to be, mostly because I don’t like to waste time looking for stuff.
Science has shown that people who live in messy, cluttered spaces are less able to concentrate and focus. When distractions abound, our minds tend to wander. While this may be a good way to get the creative juices flowing, it really can hamper our ability to be productive.
Is habit really the opposite of creativity? I don’t think so. My habits allow my brain the space it needs to be creative. Now, where did I put my pencil?
-—stay curious! (and sort a junk drawer!)
I'm a children's writer and poet intent on observing the world and nurturing those I find in my small space .