Saturday, February 22, 2014

Our Very Own Domino Toppling

Our local art museum just held its Seventh Annual Domino Toppling Extravaganza (to offer up its official name) with (mostly) children and parents crowding in to witness 29,440 dominoes going kerplunk.  Not counting the time to design the whole thing, it took something like four "domino whiz kid" teens forty hours to set everything up.  And I'd say maybe five minutes for it to collapse after a ball was dropped down a mini-tower setting off the chain reaction.

To insure against the disaster of a premature topple, several dominoes throughout the entire set up were put aside until just before the signal was given for the toppling to begin.  As you view these pictures, then, you'll notice that some of the lines are broken.  But, be assured, at Topple Time, everything was back in place.

Looking from one end...
... and then the other

Some of the many "insurance points" where the dominoes were then set back in place just before the toppling.

The mini-tower where the ball was dropped is seen in part in the upper left corner.

Our good local videographer

What had been a spiral is in the process of collapsing

A few seconds later ... still toppling at the slightly out-of-focus point.

Everything is going fast.

We were told that this may have been a record number of dominoes toppled in the U.S. though some countries, especially the Netherlands, go in for ten times that number. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014


My maternal grandmother, the only grandparent I ever knew, was born in the decade following the Civil War.  With her birthday coming up this week, I've been thinking about her and some of the things she did (or didn't do) in her day compared to what we grandmothers do (or don't do) today.

Here's what I've come up with.

1.  She never wore trousers.
2.  She wore a light amount of lipstick and powder but never eye makeup.
3.  She never applied polish to her toes or, for that matter, wore sandals.
4.  She may never have gone out without wearing a girdle and stockings.
5.  Sometimes she had her white hair slightly blued.
6.  She rarely went to town without wearing a hat.

One of her favorite hats
7.  She never drove a car during the time I knew her but took the bus instead.
8.  She may never have voted during those years.
9.  She never drank alcoholic beverages.
10.  She never took a yoga class or firmed after age 50--or before age 50, for that matter.
11.  She never concerned herself with eating organic--everything was organic.
12.  She never did a high-five.  Or said, OMG.
13.  She never owned a TV.
14.  She cooked in aluminum pots.
15.  And, as mentioned in an earlier posting, she spoke of cars as being "machines."

She taught piano in her home until she was in her late eighties and gave an annual recital at which the boys bowed and we girls curtsied.  She was a lovely, gracious, generous person.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Some Health Choices

I was reading a piece recently about "the care and feeding of intestinal bacteria."  Oh, fun!  But, for me, it's been an important issue since I needed to load up on antibiotics to (I hope) get rid of the Lyme disease I acquired a couple of years ago.  Which left me with an inflamed gut.  No ... not fun!

So the topic has been forefront for me and I've adopted three foods in particular to re-establish what is called "a healthy microbiota."  My suggestion is that these would be good for anyone to incorporate into their regular diet.  These are three naturally fermented foods with live bacterial cultures, all to be found in the refrigerated section of a place like Whole Foods or a health food store.  (I don't go to regular supermarkets anymore, preferring our local food coop, so I'm no longer familiar with what they sell.)

1.  Raw sauerkraut.  Not the canned version.  And not to be cooked.  I like it layered (cold) on top of a toasted cheese sandwich.  Or mixed with some mayo and slathered on top of fish like a nouveau tartar sauce.  Or added to a beet salad.

2.  Miso or fermented soybean paste.  Also not to be cooked.  Good in flavoring soups--to be added just before eating.

3.  Yogurt.  Only the kind with live lactobacillus acidophilus, please.  Cow, goat, sheep milk--all are fine.

As well as helping to normalize the gut, I like to engage in the regular practice of skeletal, muscular, and energetic manipulations.  These include:

1.  Acupuncture.  Part of traditional Chinese medicine to help stimulate the body's energy/chi and various meridian points.  Particularly helpful for rebalancing the body plus lessening any pain.

2.  Reflexology.  Here, a practitioner stimulates--by applying pressure to--the bottom of the feet, using them as a map to other parts of the body.  I find it both a good diagnostic and healing tool.  (For instance, say that the part of your foot that reflects the adrenals is painful when pressure is applied.  You then know to strengthen the adrenals with appropriate foods and supplements ... and have the practitioner work on that area until the application of pressure is no longer so painful.)

3.  Trigger Point Massage.  By finding a particular muscular knot or trigger point, you can get relief to the referred pain radiating from it.  I found this technique enormously helpful when I had frozen shoulders.

4.  Rolfing.  A massage therapy begun by Ida Rolf involving forceful manipulation to reposition tissues.  It can set the entire body humming again.  The artist Georgia O'Keeffe who knew Ida Rolf had regular sessions and lived to be 98 years old.  Pretty good recommendation!

Finally, I don't own a microwave or have any smart meters attached to my house.  As for my cell phone, I only use it for emergencies.  I simply feel there's a lot of invasive stuff out there so I try to live as simply, as naturally, as healthily as possible.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Twenty-eight Minutes into the Program

View out my window

I do a lot of reading.  But every so often I give my eyes a rest and turn on the TV.  Yes, I'm using my eyes, but I can also knit or look out the window ... and I put aside my reading glasses.  Anyway, I had a sweet little movie on recently that also happened to be totally formulaic.  The early-on crisis moment in which the young woman realizes her husband is cheating on her.  The realization moment when she finds she can't stay in her Manhattan penthouse and so moves back to her parental home in New Jersey.  In fact, it was so formulaic I decided it would take just about 28 minutes from the beginning of the movie for the young woman to meet the gorgeous young man she'd end up with. When he then appeared, I looked at the clock.  It was 28 minutes into the program.  Pretty good, eh!

I imagine that screenwriters have a little chart:  Okay, now it's time to put in "screw-ball."  Now, "conflict."  Now, "resolution."  Etc. etc.  Even reality shows are edited to portray the same emotions, complaints, worries show after show.  He wants a house in the country, she in the city.  He wants modern, she traditional. 

It's all Hollywoodized ... one reason I've been watching a lot of foreign movies lately as you may have noticed from my right-hand margin recommendations.  They are much better at portraying life as it really is, whether that's infinitely more nuanced or even slow-paced.  Nor do they so consistently base their drama on formula but, rather, from the situation itself.

I recently rented that movie about the butler and was rather appalled at the liberties taken with something that was supposedly "based on true events."  There was the thing about his father being shot by the white plantation overseer who molested his mother.  Totally made up.  (I found a web-site which listed the real as opposed to the story-line events.)  The thing about him--as a young man seeking work--stealing food because he was hungry.  No.  The thing about his wife being unfaithful to him as well as becoming an alcoholic.  Also false.  The thing about their two sons.  One was involved in high-profile events offering an overview of civil rights reform.  The second was shown to go off to Vietnam where he was killed.  (The real butler had only one son who did go to Vietnam but who also came back again.)  So how many stereotypes and formulas can we count here?  Of course, after seeing it, I realized it's a message movie, not a biography as I'd assumed.

Even dear Downton Abbey can get a bit soap opera-ish.

Some years ago, I read Wallace Stegner's novel, Crossing to Safety, written purposefully, he said, to see if a book could capture a readership by being honest without needing to exaggerate, distort, or sensationalize.  By dwelling on character not stereotype.  By writing simply (or not so simply) about a friendship.  He obviously succeeded.  It's now on lists of the last century's best books.  Of course, to me, Wallace Stegner could do no wrong.  A man of integrity, he incorporated that into his writing as well.  The wisdom of quiet lives ... which does not mean that there is no illness, death, loneliness, despair, ambiguity, caution.

Anyone else tired of the bottom line (and its children, Stereotype and Formula) being so ever-present?