Monthly Archives: April 2019
What A Difference A Night Makes
Recently I’ve been having some irregular sleep patterns. I’ll go to bed and fall asleep promptly, but then wake up only a few hours later, with heart pumping and mind racing. When that happens, it’s hard to fall back into the REM cycle quickly, and I’ll inevitably toss and turn for as much as an hour, fretting all the while that I’m losing out on sleep that I need and will never make up.
But last night I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, slept through the night without any nocturnal wakefulness, and arose feeling refreshed. When I went down to make the morning coffee the birds were chirping, I unloaded the dishwasher with a happy feeling, and the coffee tasted richer and better than ever.
There’s no doubt that sleep is therapeutic on multiple fronts. The National Institutes of Health reports that, physically, the changes in breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure that occur during a good night’s sleep help to promote cardiovascular health, and while you sleep hormones are released that repair cells and control your body’s use of energy. And although the physical aspects of sleep are significant, the mental aspects are even more important. Getting your 7 or 8 hours of sound sleep enhances mood, alertness, intellectual functioning, and reflexes, while chronic sleep deprivation can lead to depression and anxiety disorders.
Knowing all of this, why doesn’t the human brain always do what is necessary to allow everyone to get their share of shuteye? Unfortunately, things don’t don’t work that way, stresses and concerns at work and at home can interfere with the sleep cycle, and then the lack of sleep and the irritability it produces can have a compounding effect on those stresses and concerns.
That’s one of the reasons why getting a solid night of slumber time after a few night’s of anxious restlessness feels so good. You may not be making up for lost sleep, but it’s comforting to know that your mind and body are back to their normal cycles — at least, until the next round of stresses and concerns hit.
Like A Dog In The Rain
Recently I went for my morning walk on a blustery, rainy day. As I was walking along, struggling with my umbrella in the gusts and grumbling about the cold, crummy weather, I saw a raincoat-clad woman with a dog. The woman also looked peevish about the rain and wind.
The dog, however, was undisturbed. It clearly recognized that, as a four-legged creature without clothes, rain slickers, or opposable thumbs capable of gripping an umbrella handle who was subject to the walking schedule and whims of its human companion, there really wasn’t much it could do about being out in the rain and the wind at that moment. It obviously needed to get out, walk, and answer the call of nature. And so, it just went about its business, as usual, without concern about the fact that it was getting soaked.
I was struck by the dog’s placid expression and its contrast with the stormy looks on my face and the face of the dog’s owner. There were no snarls or bared teeth — by the dog, at least. The dog, who was powerless to do anything about its situation, was imperturbable, while the humans who had total control were letting the bad weather bother them.
It was a very zen-like moment, and it made me realize that, in the right situations, there is value in following the dog’s example: don’t worry about what you can’t change, accept your circumstances, go about your business, and when you get back to that safe, dry, warm place . . . shake it all off.
On Thursday, drivers on U.S. Route 31 in Grand Haven, Michigan confronted one of those moral dilemmas that ethicists love to discuss. A fellow driver somehow forgot that he left a cash box containing $30,000 on the bumper of his car. As he drove on the highway, the box fell off the bumper and opened on impact with the pavement, and the thousands of dollars in cash spilled onto the road and into the air.
And thus, the ethical thought experiment met reality: if you were driving one of the following cars and saw the money on the road — where you were out in the open, surrounded by total strangers, where no cameras would see your conduct and no criminal consequences were likely to attach to what you did next — what would you do?
In this instance, other drivers immediately started stopping, scooping up the money, and driving off — conduct that, incidentally, caused a traffic tie-up on Route 31. Of the $30,000 in the cash box, only $2,500 was immediately recovered and returned to the owner. Since Thursday, police have appealed for drivers who pocketed the loot to probe their consciences and turn in the money. Only some have done so. Two teenagers turned in $630, which would sure seem like a lot of money to a kid, and one woman turned in nearly $3,900. The police commended them for their honesty. However, most of the money remains unrecovered.
Over the years, I’ve found wallets and car keys and credit cards and other valuable items, and I’ve always returned them immediately because I’d like to think other people would do the same with an item I misplaced. But before I hurt my shoulder patting myself on the back, I also recognize that I haven’t been in desperate need of money on those occasions, either. If you were at the end of your financial rope and suddenly saw hundred dollar bills on the Route 31 asphalt, would you do the honest thing — or would you think that your prayers had been answered and drive off with fistfuls of money without a second thought?
The Accordion Factor
Today the Cap City half marathon and 10 K comes German Village. When the runners, walkers, and rollers reach Schiller Park they’ll be serenaded by a guy in lederhosen playing an accordion — because this is German Village after all.
It is a scientific fact that hearing accordion music makes you run faster.
The other day we were putting the finishing touches on a brief when an apostrophe argument arose. We needed to indicate the possessive for an individual whose last name ended in s. So, the question was, should it be “Mr. Jones‘ car” or “Mr. Jones’s car?”
I always use the former construction, but the Jersey Girl was adamant that the second construction is the only permissible approach. As is so often the case with grammar matters, the dispute became heated, passionate positions were staked out on both sides, voices were raised, and the Soccer Star, another member of the team on the case, heard the argument and came from a nearby office to enter the fray. From there, the dispute escalated quickly, and if it had continued one of the participants probably would have been seen galloping away from the area with a trident lodged in his or her back. But, because we needed to get a draft out the door, I yielded to the Jersey Girl’s resolute insistence that we must go with “Mr. Jones’s car,” and permanent injury was avoided.
Many people don’t really care about grammar, but for those who do correct usage is a very important issue. And one of the reasons that the question of precisely how to show that the car belongs to Mr. Jones is a point of great dispute is that there is no universally recognized right answer. Some authorities take the position that, whenever a possessive is used with a word ending in “s,” an “apostrophe s” must be added, others say that only an apostrophe should be used, and still others acknowledge that there is no correct answer and the key thing is to be consistent.
I prefer the use of the apostrophe only in this situation, because I think “Mr. Jones’s car” looks clunky. In addition, when I read and write I admittedly tend to sound things out in my head, and the Jersey Girl’s approach with its multiple back-to-back sibilants leaves me hissing like a snake.
Still, it was interesting to see how much people can care about grammar. And there’s nothing like a good grammar fight to get the tridents flying!
How Old Is “Too Old”?
This week former Vice President Joe Biden formally declared his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. He joins a very crowded field of politicians vying for the chance to square off against President Donald Trump in 2020.
Joe Biden is 76 years old. He was born on November 20, 1942; if he were to be elected, he would be 77 on Election Day, and 78 when he takes office. Bernie Sanders, who is another candidate for the Democratic nomination, is 77 years old and, being born on September 8, 1941, would be 79 on Election Day in 2020. If either of those candidates won, they would easily set a new record for the oldest person to be newly elected to the presidency — a record now held by the current occupant of the White House, who was a mere 70 when he was inaugurated. (The oldest President to be elected, period, was Ronald Reagan, who was 73 when he won reelection in a landslide in 1984 — a record that would be obliterated if the 2020 race turned out to be either Trump-Biden or Trump-Sanders.)
There have been some old Presidents in American history — some good, some not so much — and clearly people’s perceptions of what it means to be old in our current day are changing. As average life spans increase and medical care, diet, fitness, and general attention to health improve, some people argue that aging is really all about a state of mind, and “60 is the new 40.” And no doubt Biden and Sanders will produce medical reports that show that they are healthy, active, vibrant, and ready to handle the demands of an incredibly taxing job.
Still, Biden and Sanders are really pushing the presidential age envelope into uncharted territory. How will people react when, as Election Day nears, they really ponder the prospect of an 80-year-old President? No doubt people will be looking carefully at all three of the septuagenarians — Trump, Biden, and Sanders — for signs of age-related physical feebleness and mental slippage. Age is something that can’t be hidden, and one serious memory glitch during a debate could be all she wrote for a candidacy.
I don’t think it is improperly ageist to wonder about how age affects fitness for the Oval Office. In 2020, we may be answering the question: “How old is too old?”
Nick Bosa, Leon Trotsky, And Editing Your Own History
Nick Bosa is a very talented former Ohio State defensive lineman who will be participating in the upcoming NFL draft. He’s also someone who’s been a regular user of social media and Twitter, where he’s expressed some opinions that other people disagree with — such as saying Black Panther is the worst Marvel movie, calling former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began the movement of players kneeling during the National Anthem, a “clown,” and expressing support for President Trump.
But, as the NFL Draft Day nears, and Bosa is being considered by teams for one of the very first choices in the draft, he’s begun scrubbing his social media presence and Twitter feed and deleting the tweets and comments that might be deemed controversial and, conceivably, might affect his ultimate draft position. The New York Times recently published an article about Bosa’s effort, and whether his more contentious views would make any difference in where he is drafted, anyway.
It’s an interesting aspect of today’s social media universe that allows users to do what the Soviet Union did after Leon Trotsky became anathema to Stalin and the other Communist leaders: edit history, and carefully remove the blackballed (and eventually assassinated) Trotsky from official records and photos, the better to present the correct, sanitized “official history” of the Russian Revolution and the early days of the U.S.S.R. Through the miracle of modern computer technology, users who regret their past ill-advised tweets or Facebook posts can go back and change them or delete them entirely, and hope that nobody notices, or cares, or kept some kind of record of the prior statement. Nick Bosa’s scrubbing effort is newsworthy, but how many other people — people who are getting ready to run for office, people looking for special jobs, or people who just aren’t comfortable with something they said before — are going back and reshaping their own on-line histories, to delete anything that might be a problem in the future?
Of course, Trotsky disappeared from the official version that Soviet children learned and Soviet leaders espoused, but it didn’t change the reality of Trotsky’s existence, and records kept outside of the Soviet Union just exposed the whitewashing effort. People who are editing their own social media histories similarly have to hope that somebody, somewhere, didn’t keep a copy of the controversial tweet. If you are a political candidate who’s done a scrub job, I expect you’d always be a little uneasy, wondering whether a screen shot of the disagreeable statement might turn up somehow — which might just make your editing effort look like a cover-up.
I guess the better course is to think twice before you post things in the first place.
Death At The Grand Canyon
There’s been another death of a tourist at the Grand Canyon National Park. The National Park Service is reporting that a 70-year-old woman fell about 200 feet from the rim of the canyon. The incident is the second accidental death at the Grand Canyon National Park this year and the third death by a fall in the area.
In an article on the death, Grand Canyon park staff are reported to encourage all visitors “to have a safe visit by staying on designated trails and walkways, always keeping a safe distance from the edge of the rim and staying behind railings and fences at overlooks.” That’s good advice, but it’s not exactly easy to follow. The Grand Canyon isn’t fenced in, and the lure of getting close to the edge of the rim, to take in the canyon in all of its dizzying, magnificent vastness, is hard to resist.
When we made our visit to the Grand Canyon some years ago with the boys, I remember inching my way closer and closer until I thought: “Okay, that’s really close enough.” I was probably a foot or two from the rim, like the person in the picture shown above, but it felt like I was on the edge of the precipice, and I didn’t feel the need to have my feet touching the edge so I could look directly downward. I also tried to keep the kids from going right up to the edge. If you do that, you leave yourself no margin for error, and any stumble or misstep could send you plummeting to your doom. And, if your attention to where you are carefully placing your feet is distracted because you’re taking a picture with your phone — which apparently is what happened with at least one of the fatal incidents this year — the chances of a horrible mishap are just increased.
If you make a visit to the Grand Canyon, Devil’s Tower, or other cliffs, canyons, or rocky outcropping sites out west, you immediately notice that there aren’t many fences. Fencing in the sites would not be feasible because of their sizes and configurations, and would ruin the views, besides. The National Park Service trusts people to be mindful of their own safety and to avoid taking stupid risks — but of course, the sites were developed in the days before cell phone cameras and people mindlessly moving around, without looking where they are going, to try to get the perfect shot.
The Random Restaurant Tour (XXVI)
The original Max & Erma’s restaurant was located only a few blocks from our place in German Village. It closed more than a year ago, and now the space has been “repurposed.” By day, it hosts a co-working venture, and as the cocktail hour approaches the space transitions to a place called Wonderbar that features food from Pierogi Mountain. The other day, Kish and I dropped by with the Columbus Featured Artist to check out the new spot.
The bar itself will seem familiar to anyone who went to the old M&E, because they’ve kept many of the fixtures and oddities that made the old M&E bar memorable. And yet, there is a decidedly different vibe. Whereas the M&E bar was a place where regulars camped out for the night, Wonderbar seems to attract a much younger, more diverse crowd, and the bar area itself seems a lot more energetic and more fast-paced. Many of its patrons appears to see it as a good place to stop for a beer or cocktail on their way to somewhere else, so there’s lots of movement and coming and going.
If you’re interested in pierogis or other food from Pierogi Mountain, you order from a window to and take a marker to your table to be served when the food is ready. The three of us decided to share a sampler of every kind of pierogi, and I also got a dish of shredded chicken, dumplings and gravy. Pierogi Mountain says its pierogis are great drinking food, and it’s not hard to see why: if you want to establish a solid consumed-food “base” before going all in on a few drinks, you’re not going to do much better than doughy morsels stuffed with potatoes, cheese, and other goodies and topped with sour cream. The chicken dish I got was in the same belly bombing vein. It was substantial stuff that all went down pretty well with a Wonderbar brown ale.
I have no idea how the co-working venture is going, but I’m glad to see the old M&E spot open again and contributing to our neighborhood nighttime options.
Shaking Up The Old Sock Drawer
For my birthday the California SIL got me a very colorful pair of socks. They’re socks that paint a kind of picture — in this case, a desert landscape complete with a Saguaro cactus or two and a red desert sky.
The new socks will really shake up my sock drawer, which otherwise could be accurately shown on a black and white TV set. In short, it’s a study in blacks, grays, and whites, without much of a rainbow effect. I’m not sure how my other boring socks will react to these gaudy interlopers.
There has been a bit of a revolution in men’s socks over the past decade or so, with lots of fellows showing stripes and checks and polka dots and bold hues in the ankle coverage area. I’ve been slow to get into the sock fashion game, because I’m not a very fashionable person by nature. Plus, I think that most people expect drab sockwear to go with the gray and blue suits and discreet ties that are a lawyer’s standard uniform. But times clearly are changing, and you see more male lawyers getting into stocking style and hosiery hues.
So, I’m happily going to give my desert-themed socks a try. And I’ll be interested in seeing whether bright and colorful socks have one key feature: are they less likely to get lost around clothes dryers?
Sunday At The Park (With George)
We took a walk around Goodale Park tonight. It’s a beautiful park with a lovely little pond in the northeast corner, and it was getting a lot of use tonight. I like the view over the pond, with the high rises of north downtown just visible over the treetops.
Parks add so much to a neighborhood!
Measles has been in the news a lot lately, from a recent New York City public health order requiring mandatory vaccinations in an attempt to stop a measles outbreak in Brooklyn that is (inevitably) being challenged in court, to reports of cases of measles in various places in the U.S., to scary outbreaks in other parts of the world like Europe and the Philippines.
Although measles is typically viewed as a childhood disease, getting it as an adult can be serious business. And, because measles is a highly contagious condition that can be readily communicated from one person to another through airborne droplets sneezed and coughed out by random strangers in public places — like airport terminals — it’s a concern for people who do a lot of traveling. Health care officials uniformly identify vaccination as the best defense against contracting a case of measles. But what should you do if, like me, you got that painful measles shot in the arm or the butt when you were a kid long ago, and your childhood vaccination and immunization records are God knows where? Do we all need to get another shot?
Here’s some good news: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you received the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) shot that every kid of my generation got as a matter of course, you’re in good shape. The CDC says that the measles component of the vaccine provides lifelong protection at 93 percent efficiency even if, like me, you got your shot more than 50 years ago. And if you were born before 1957, you don’t need to worry about the measles, either, because the vast majority of people living in the pre-1957 world were exposed to measles as kids and have natural immunity to the disease as a result.
It’s weird to think that, in the 21st century, Americans should be worrying about diseases like measles that can be readily controlled by vaccination, but that’s what happens when parents start getting lax about vaccinating their kids — or believing quacks who raise unproven claims about side effects of vaccination. If you’re not sure about whether you’ve been vaccinated, you really should talk to your doctor. When it comes to communicable diseases, we’re all in this together.
Domes Versus Lid
Idaho has a beautiful state capitol building. Built in the early 20th century, it is an elegant classical structure that anchors one end of downtown Boise.
Like many state capitol buildings in the United States, the Idaho state capitol building has a soaring dome that bears a clear resemblance to the dome of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The dome puts the Idaho capitol building into the clear majority of U.S. capitol buildings. By one count, 38 of the 50 states have a state capitol building with some kind of dome.
Ohio isn’t one of them. Instead of a dome, Ohio’s state capitol building has a rotunda with a kind of lid on it. Whereas the domes project lofty, aspirational sentiments, Ohio’s lid has a more practical feel to it. It’s as if the architects of the building worried that the debates within might some day reach a boiling point, and designed it so that a giant hand could reach down, remove the lid from the top of the kettle, and relieve the pressure.
Idaho’s state capitol is beautiful, as most domed buildings are. Ohio’s is pretty in its own way, but also has the benefit of being unique.
Excited About Fries!
I passed this sign on the door of a Boise gyro shop yesterday and it made me laugh. When was the last time that French fries, long a staple of the American fast food diet, merited an exclamation point? 1948? And I’m in Idaho, for gosh sakes — the potato capital of the world, where you would expect every eatery to feature spuds galore. And it’s a gyro shop, to boot; gyros and fries have been linked since time immemorial.
So the Gyro Shack is just now adding fries to the menu? There’s a back story there somewhere.