Power in Hidden Figures

Some time ago Dan and I saw the movie Hidden Figures, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.  It’s about three brilliant African-American women who worked at NASA in the 1960s.  Did I say worked?   They were actually the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: astronaut John Glenn’s launch into orbit.  It was a stunning achievement that turned the Space Race around, electrifying the world.

The story is based on three real-life math whizzes who just happened to be African-American women. Real-life in that the main character is both black and a woman. (The position was considered a herculean achievement for a white woman, but for a woman of color, it was impossible.)  Black and a woman, and she paid the price for being both.  Yet she had pulled it off.  And instead of resulting in a dull, good-for-us movie, it is an easy-to-watch, well-written message assuring young women that anything is possible, and  for those of us who remember those days, a well-deserved affirmation of our claims.

I give it triumphant 10!

“You have to be taught to be second class. You’re not born that way.”

Lena Horne

 

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An Autumn Visitor

My friend Marci was sitting on her deck, sipping a cup of just perfect coffee as she enjoyed the pallet of autumn leaves at their height of color.  She was tired, and with good cause.  She had just finished covering her patio table with a tarp, which she had tied down tightly  with a rope wound around it several times. Marci took another sip, and that’s when she noticed the visitor.  

But what was that white stuff coming out both sides of the visitor’s face?  Marci did a double take and looked more closely.  The visitor had chewed all the loose ends off the rope, and carried them off for her nest!  She made three trips, then sat up straight and tall to thank Marci for the building material.

(Thank you, Marci!)

“If you like affection, then about one in three squirrels makes an excellent companion.”

Bernhard Goetz

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To There and Back Again

Funny how glibly  I can say, “Oh, yes.  I’ll be away for a couple of weeks, but I’ll keep up with my posts.”

Good idea.

Best of intentions.

So hard to accomplish.

At least it is for me.  Especially when I am away on a work assignment.  As I was while I was in India writing a quick turn-around book.

Lots I could say about my dear friends there.  A project I was pleased to be doing.  My time at the Indian police department.

Oh, I didn’t tell you about that, did I?  It was my fault.  I know I have absolutely no sense of direction.  It’s a family curse.  But I badly needed a walk.  And I was only going to a clutch of shops a couple of blocks away–had Hyderabad been arranged in blocks.  I couldn’t possibly get lost–except that while  I was poking around the shops, for some reason, the way I had come got blocked off.  Still, all I had to do was go up a couple of lanes and cut back down.  Except that it didn’t work.  I was lost.  Without the address of the place where I was staying. Without knowing the language.  With the sun beginning to set.

Never mind the whole ordeal.  (Yes, I did pray. Passionately!) I finally did what I would have told my children to do.  I found the police department–not an easy task!  I thought they would have a directory of the city’s inhabitants.  But when I asked, the policemen looked at me as though I had lost my mind.  “In this city?” onr asked incredulously.  “There are 20 million people here!”

I declined a late lunch–three times.  And I Insisted I was not a missionary, just a writer.  They Googled me and when one of my novels about India came up, they decided I should write a mystery and have them as the heroes.

Well, I did make it back–thanks to Facebook and  a good friend in the next city with a listed contact number.  (Thank you, Vijay!  You are my real hero!!)

The End

“If we were to just accept we’re not so different from each other, we wouldn’t feel so alone.” 

~ Nicole Williams, Lost &  Found

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Seeing Is Not Believing

Dear readers:  I apologize for the half a post this morning.  I have no idea what happened, but please come back and give it a second chance.  Thank you! 

 “Seeing is believing.”

That’s what I was always told.  Maybe because my parents hailed from Missouri, the “show me” state.  Or maybe just because it’s common sense.

But that was before so many in our country accepted the ridiculousness of “alternate facts.”  Before we watched a taped tirade followed by the tirader stating with a straight face, “I never said that.”  Before pictures could be altered by a grade-schooler, and older kids thought it was totally okay to get their homework done early by plagiarizing other people’s work.

That was before I looked at the snacks I’d laid out to take on the plane with us as we began our trip to India and was confused by what I saw.  A Milky Way Dark–my favorite–and a Spunow bar.  Say what?  I’d never heard of such a treat… If it even was a treat.  Maybe Dan got it to surprise me.  Maybe… but I had better things to do than speculate about candy bars.  So I turned to my unwashed dishes and got to work.  When I was almost finished I looked back at the perplexing candy bar and saw what you undoubtedly saw long ago…..  It was the Mounds bar I had gotten for us to nibble on.

How different things look when we straighten them out and look at them as they really are.  It’s true with candy bars.  It’s even truer with newspaper and magazine articles, with T.V. reports, and with anecdotes that get passed along from one to another to another.  If you don’t want to reject a Spunow candy bar because you have no idea what you are really getting, turn it around and examine it.  If it seems suspicious, put it back on the shelf and get on with your day.

Same with words from a reporter.

Or even a president.

Better slip with foot than tongue.      

Ben Franklin (1706-1790)

 

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Non-Farmer in the Dell

I’ve never considered myself a farmer.  Sure, I plant a garden each summer.  Even I can grow lettuce and tomatoes and green beans and such.  But a farmer?  No.  Except  when I’m watching over my sister’s place for her.  Except when I’m caring for her goats and chickens and gathering the eggs.

But even then I’m not a real farmer.  I know that for sure because I don’t know the answers to farmer-type questions.

What does  one do when an old goat dies?

What does one do when stubborn hens have a secret escape hatch and you can’t find it?

What does one do when squirrels snatch away the eggs faster than you can run from one nest to the next?

What does one do when the animals all seem to snicker at the phony farmer?

I have no idea. Which is why I know for positive sure that I should stick to lettuce and tomatoes and green beans in my own backyard.  (Okay, maybe I’ll take in a kitten, but it will have to grow up to be a city cat.)

But here’s what my short stint as a quasi farmer taught me: I can do anything I have to do.  Anything! 

And that feels really, really good.

Looks like Bugsy and Martin, who showed me how to live like someone left the gate open :)

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Mending Our Mosaic

I’m not into Twitter, but I must say, I really do admire a convicting point expressed in few words. Especially when those few words are expressed by someone who has earned the right to speak them.  Let me show you what I mean:

King Baudouin I of Belgium, who died in 1993, made this astute observation:

“America has been called a melting pot, but it seems better to call it a mosaic, for in it each nation, people or race which has come to its shores has been privileged to keep its individuality, contributing at the same time its share to the unified pattern of a new nation.”

Okay, I agree he could have exchanged a couple of those commas for well-placed periods.  But he was a king, so he was used to doing things his way.  But here’s what I wonder:  Would King Baudouin say the same thing were he to travel across America today?  I can’t know, of course, but I do doubt it. That admirable mosaic is seriously cracked—in some places, it’s broken in pieces. We no longer seem to value much in people we see as different from ourselves.

While you’re pondering Baudouin’s words, let me give you a couple of other quotes to ponder along with it:

“Hatred is a stimulant, but it shouldn’t become an intoxicant.”

Martin Amis, English Novelist

What does hatred as an intoxicant mean? If you have to ask, you must have been asleep for the past several years.  Here is one of many deadly reasons this resonates in the USA:

“We have created a Star Wars civilization with Stone Age emotions.”

Biologist E.O. Wilson

Did I hear someone murmuring “fake news”?  Well, here’s one for you, my doubting friend:

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

American Astrophysicist/Astronomer

 Almost the last word, but not quite.  One more:

“When will we ever learn?  Oh, when will we ever learn?”

Songwriter Pete Seeger

“Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”

 

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My Dad, the Wisdom Keeper

According to an old Yiddish saying: “Old age, to the unlearned, is winter. But to the learned, it is harvest time.”

All week that bit of wisdom has been running through my head.

Yes, I do know why. It’s because all week I have been with my 98-year-old father. He needs so much care… more than I can give by myself. I can’t lift him alone. I can’t catch his breath for him. I can’t make him eat when he isn’t hungry, or drink water when he isn’t thirsty. I can’t still his anxieties. And I cannot give his questions answers that satisfy him.

But I can tuck him into bed the way he likes—with his toes covered, and the blankets secure but not too tight. And I can kiss him and tell him how much I love him. And I can tell him funny stories of my five siblings and myself as little kids, though I’ve told those stories many times before. And I can listen to his stories, though I could easily recite them with him. But it doesn’t matter whether it’s the first time we hear a funny family story or the 100th time. They are always hilarious to us! I can sing old hymns with him, too…or to him when he is overcome with tears. And I can thank him for being the very best father he could be.

My father, born and raised in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, gifted me with a wonderful gift of wisdom and experience, and also a rich faith. I can show my gratitude by becoming a Wisdom Keeper myself and passing that legacy on to those who look at me and only see advancing age. We need Wisdom Keepers in our families and in our homes. We desperately need them in our churches, too, to remind us of the road traveled by those who went before. And we badly need them in our country where wisdom seems to be in such short supply.

We need Wisdom Keepers lest we forget.

“One starts to get young at 60, but then it’s too late.”

~Pablo Picasso~

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Reader Asks: Will Trump Put Coal Miners Back to Work?

Kentucky Blog reader Bonnie Lee wrote: “Why don’t you write about President Trump’s promise to get our coal miners back to work?” 

OK, Bonnie Lee, I will.  That was a compelling campaign line, but as a promise?  Well, let’s look more closely at the reality of such a promise.

  • Economic Reality: Compared to other fuels that generate electricity, coal simply isn’t competitive.  Not with natural gas cheaper, cleaner, plentiful, highly efficient, and US produced.  As the cost of coal power goes up and up, it’s competitors – not only natural gas, but also renewables such as wind and solar – continue to go down. More and more, utility companies are including these carbon-free sources into their portfolios and dropping coal plants. In 2015, wind and solar power made up two-thirds of all new electricity-generation in our country. In some areas, they are cheap enough to compete with natural gas.
  • Geology: In central Appalachia, the easily accessible coal seams are gone. Which means coal operators there must search out ever harder-to-reach reserves. Which means coal from there is more expensive and the mines less productive.  No one blames the miners, Bonnie Lee. It’s a reality of geology.
  • Climate change: You told me you don’t believe in climate change. Well, you are in the minority, Bonnie Lee.  The world certainly does. Which means even if we insist on mining our coal, those other nations won’t be buying it. Not long ago, Canada, the sixth largest market for U.S. coal, announced it would phase out its own coal plants by 2030 so it can meet its commitment under the Paris climate agreement.
  • People are demanding clean energy: If large U.S. corporations want to see their businesses grow, they are must find zero- and low-carbon electricity. In order to power their data centers by “green electrons,” companies such as Amazon, Google, and Apple are investing in their own renewable resources.  Others – such as Procter & Gamble, Toyota, and Walmart – have varying goals of getting all or most of their electricity from renewable sources. Energy providers will have to if they want to do business with these large companies.

These things are dimming the future of U.S. coal, Bonnie Lee.  It isn’t over-regulation by the EPA. It is true that the EPA has spoken out loud and clear against mountaintop removal coal mining, though.  And with good reason, given that it involves blasting the tops off mountains and dumping huge amounts of dirt and mining debris into rivers and streams.  And, yes, it’s true that the EPA wants to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Good for them for looking out for us.

Consider this, Bonnie: In 2014, the U.S. coal industry employed 76,572 workers, fewer workers than Arby’s (80,000), the Dollar Store (105,000), or J.C. Penney (114,000). Even if there were as many coal workers as there were 25 years ago (131,000), the coal industry would still employ fewer people than retail shoe sales (224,000)!

Instead of looking back and wishing, Bonnie, let’s join hands and encourage our government to spend the time, money, and energy scheduled for a lost coal industry fight to instead train mine workers for 21st century jobs.

“Nowhere are prejudices more mistaken for truth, passion for reason, and invectives for documentation than in politics.”

John Mason Brown

 

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Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall

 

Winter is an etching,


 

 

 

Spring a watercolor,

Summer is an oil painting,

 

And Autumn a mosaic of them all.

~Stanley Horowitz~

 

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To Believe or Not To Believe?

Standford University researchers, in their study of the “fake news” stalking our society,  found that 82 percent of the kids in middle school could not distinguish a real news story posted on a website from a “sponsored content” post submitted by a business.

What will our future be like?

“It’s impossible to know anything for certain, not even what we have lived.”

Javier Marias

Novelist

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