A Forward Thinking Government

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In the U.S.? You have got to be kidding. Possibly with a new president but I will not be holding my breath. Wealthy, established interest groups trump long-term change every time. Even when the writing is on the wall our leaders have found a way to deny, deny, deny.

Not so in Holland. The impact of climate change matters when it causes water levels to rise and much of your country is below sea level. As recently reported on NPR, Holland is trying a couple of innovations to help cope with the coming reality.

In his report as part of an ongoing series on climate change titled “In a Strategic Reversal, Dutch Embrace Floods” reporter Joe Palca raises a question we should be asking of our leaders.  ” How do you get people to focus on an enormous but slow-moving threat?”  (He was referring to the very gradual phenomena of the rise in sea level.) First, Holland is evolving from its decades old strategy of  building strong barriers to keep the water out. The Dutch government “has decided to lower the dikes in about 40 parcels of land, allowing them to flood when the rivers rise. This will take the pressure off existing dikes farther down river.”

Palca found it interesting to have a government more interested in the effects of climate change than the general public.  How different than a government that toadies to big business and changes policy with every poll.

The second thing happening in Holland is that “architects are designing a new Holland that will float on water, and the Dutch government seems willing to try out the scheme. Innovation being supported by the government? What a concept.

Who knows if any of this will keep Holland from becoming Atlantis in 100 years. I just like the fact that they have recognized a future problem and are investing today in the solutions. As a country we have so much to learn.

Its Like A Heat Wave

It hit close to 40 degrees today after a week of zero. I thought about going to the beach.

Words, Words, Words

In July and Augustof last year I shared some of my favorite rarely used words. Having recently watched the movie version of My Fair Lady I was inspired to do so again. If you are wondering what MFL has to do with words you have not seen the musical or read Pygmalion. Rather than explain this to you I suggest you check out one or the other. Personally I recommend Shaw despite the great words and music of Lerner and Loewe. I provide a taste at the end of the post.

On to the words (definitions from Dictionary.com):

  1. interlocution. conversation; dialogue
  2. nuncio. a diplomatic representative of the pope at a foreign court or capital: equal in status to an ambassador 
  3. succour. help; relief; aid; assistance
  4. obfuscate. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy
  5. panoply. A splendid or striking array: Ceremonial attire with all accessories: Something that covers and protects
  6. protean. readily assuming different forms or characters; versatile
  7. brining. a salt and water solution for pickling
Now enjoy the following excerpts from My Fair Lady. The first version is performed by the incomparable Julie Andrews who was a hit as Eliza at age 20 on Broadway but passed over for the movie version so that a luminous Audrey Hepburn could star. However Audrey wasn’t much of a singer so Marnie Nixon, the singing voice for all non-singing actresses in movie musicals. The second version is from the movie but with Audrey’s voice not Marnie’s. All I can say is that Julie was robbed.

Seventeen. Happy Birthday Davide. Part 2

Today I have a seventeen year old. Wow. Normally for me this would be a time for me to think about and wax nostalgically about what he was like at 2 and a half when we met (a cute story to be shared later), the early fatherhood years, watching him grow and how much harder the teen years have been for me than all the years that preceded them.

Maybe later today. Right now I am waxing nostalgically about yesterday. It was a coming of age day for all of us.

Yesterday the three of us drove 100 miles to go visit Marquette University with the idea of exposing Davide to a variety of schools. The campus visit was good in that we got a feel for the physical presence of MU, the academic opportunities and the pros and cons of being at a college in the middle of a moderate sized city as opposed to out in some rural area. The day was enhanced greatly by spending time with a distant cousin who is on campus as a soph. With him Davide attended his first college class, a large lecture, and received more insight to MU and being in college generally than we could have imagined.

Yet the time together in the car provided the memorable moments. We do not make nearly enough quiet time together as a family. We occasionally will share dinner together actually at the table, but more frequently our varied and full schedules keep us from being together or dinner is in front of the TV. More meaningful communication happened in that car yesterday than has happened in  long time.

I have been concerned about my relationship with my son. Strong feelings about how poorly we have been acting and talking to each other have been brewing for a long time. Some of this is the natural evolution of parent/child relationships as teens strive for more independence and parents endeavor to provide the right balance of both freedom and guidance. We had gotten way past this evolutionary level. While my wife and I tend to focus on what we felt are Davide’s shortcomings, I  also knew that his actions are intertwined with his perceptions of how we treat him.

Bottom line is that he listened, not merely heard but actually listened. We did a better job of sharing our points of view in a way that helped him listen. He spoke. We listened.  Emotions were shared. Understanding ensued. It was a family growth moment.

It is amazing how much this car ride made us happier and feel better.  I do not believe in epiphanies that change forever the relationships between people. However, this feels like a grand step forward.

I think that I am going to have to schedule more long car rides. Even if we have no particular place to go.

Seventeen. Happy Birthday Davide. Part 1

A letter to my son.

It was a year ago that I had a chance to tell you how much I thought of you at 16. It is now a year later and I find my mind wandering to memories of you and of us, father and son. I wanted to share some stories so they are written down for all posterity.

Let’s start with our first time together. A couple of weeks after your mom and I met I came to pick the two of you up for our first date. She did not have a sitter and I saw no reason to wait for another time. After all there were several 2 year olds in my life at the time.

I rang the bell and when the door opened your mom hardly had time to say hello when you boldly took me by the hand, clutching a book in the other, and declared, “read to me”. We walked to the couch and read. Next on to the local Borders to listen to jazz. You mostly ran circles around our table while I tried to make conversation with your mom. By the end of the evening I was not entirely sure about your mom but you had won me over.

Thirteen months later we all became a family. I now had the two things most missing from my life, a wife and a child. It was a hard transition for all of us at first. You were in a strange house and missed being with Nana and Grandpa. I had immediately gone from being this guy to play with to being your dad. We both had a lot to learn about the father/son relationship. Still do.

We made the it. In those early years you and I played together. I was awful at soccer. By age 4 you were better than me. At least for several years we had baseball.  Given the chance you could spend all day playing catch. It amazes me now to look at our small backyard and realize that we were able to play there a long, long time ago. Your arm quickly outgrew the yard. Then at some point you outgrew me as I could no longer handle your strong throws.

I do not know if you remember the time, you must have been about 5, you threw the ball out of the yard I retrieved it and threw it back to you a little too hard. The ball hit you in the face. You where standing behind the bushes as I raced back to see if you were hurt. You looked at me, said something kinda like, “you are not my dad” and stormed into the house. You would hardly go near me for the almost two weeks. Those were some of the hardest and saddest days of my life. We got past that too.

So many things about you are popping into my head that this letter will become a book if I try to write them all. Let me hit some of my highlights.

Getting you ready for bed when you were young was my time. We might take a bath together, squirting each other, play with toys and laughing. Getting clean has never been so much fun since. The bed time stories I made up. Some of your favorites were the ones about the boy and the magic llama, the two German Shepard’s and their families, the knights of the round table and the three friends. Then there was the time we made the huge tower. What a project. That was when I learned how rule bound I was as a dad. You wanted to experiment and try putting pieces together your way. I insisted we follow the detailed instructions. With your son, remember to let him try different things and use his imagination as I should have with you. There will be lots of time later to follow directions.

School. You grew a lot in school. I wish I had found a way to help with your homework that would not have left us both angry. I understand why you do not look for my help now. I tend to be judgemental rather than supportive. Please accept my apology. On he other hand, the high standards that I hold for you I hope you hold for yourself. You are a bright and capable young man.

Lets see. What to talk to you about next. Sports. what else. you have natural talent and excelled at whatever sport you tried. While baseball and soccer have become your school sports, lets not forget the hours spent with basketball, ping pong, flag football, track, badminton and whatever else I forgot. I wish I had been good enough to coach you in something as your mom did in soccer. I know you think I have missed a lot of games, and I have, but I have also seen more hours of you playing some sport than I could ever count.

These teen years have been hard for me. They started so well with the wonderful performance you gave at your Bar Mitzvah. I love that you and your friends will still occasionally pull out the DVD and watch it.  

Once you decided that hugging and kissing your dad was no longer appropriate I lost a big part of the way I connected to you. I am a touchy kind of guy who wants to show affection through hugs and kisses. My dad was not that way but I picked it up from my mom. I am glad that you seem to be relaxing the rule a bit. When you woke up on your seventeenth birthday today you came over and we hugged. Thanks for that.

In about a year and a half you will go away to college and our relationship will change forever. You will be much more in charge of your life. This will be both good for you and a little hard for me. I hope that I have done my part to prepare you. Be patient with me as I get used to it.

Next year I will add more stories from the middle of your life. For now just know that I love you and am proud of you.

0,-1,-2,-3

The sequence of temperature readings as I drove to work this morning.

Mercury Via MESSENGER

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I visited the NASA website for the first time today. My intent was to check out the pictures of the planet Mercury. The picture above is one of the better ones of Mercury’s craters taken at a distance of about 12,000 miles. ( I wish I had a telephoto lens to match that.)

Why explore Mercury?  For me personally, I am a sucker for understandable science with a particular fascination for planets.  For NASA scientists, they are exploring interesting parallels and differences to Earth. Possibly a better understanding of Mercury could help us better understand the creation of our planet. Both planets are terrestrial planets as are Venus and Mars but it is by far the densest of the four. Of the four, only Earth and Mercury have magnetic fields.   For more detail on the interest in Mercury click here.

Mercury would be an fun vacation spot for lovers of either hot or cold weather. Temps range from 427 degrees Celsius (800 degrees Fahrenheit) on the parts facing the sun to  -183C (-300F) on the part away from the sun. Think of the tan one could get on the sun side. You would however need a suntan lotion with a rating of 1M or so.

The NASA site is O.K. but not as cool as I had hoped. A couple of the videos I watched were at a grade school level. I’ll keep searching for content targeted to the intelligent yet non-scientific adult. One would think that the agency that sends vehicles throughout the solar system would have a rich and fascinating site. I guess that it may be appropriate for them to spend their scarce funds on things like making sure that the space shuttles do not blow up.

One last picture of Mercury. This one was a close up taken a mere 3,000 miles from the planet. The surface definition is enhanced in this view. More to come as MESSENGER will leave the planet’s orbit but return to Mercury in September of next year.

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