Opting out

collecting propsOn our way back from Martinsburg, a quick loop stroll to Hog Rock in Catoctin Mountain Park. Leta is collecting bits of bark for some indeterminate future project.

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Give it up

Washington City Paper‘s annual guide to giving back in 2015.

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Hooked me with the first simile

“The White-Breasted Nuthatch,” by John Foy.

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The best part is when he stops for gas

This showed up on VH-1 this morning. It’s easily the dullest, lamest video that the 80s has to offer.

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Upcoming: 44

Ezekiel J. Emanuel has written the truly provocative “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” His thesis, to chop the article down to an elevator speech, is that he’s rather certain that when he reaches that age he will no longer be a creative, contributing member of society, but only a consumer of health care services.

… over the past 50 years, health care hasn’t slowed the aging process so much as it has slowed the dying process.

And for Emanuel, what seems ethical for him to do at that point is to refuse major treatments and let nature take its short, brutal course.

I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop.

I find a certain affinity with Emanuel. Like him, I fear the loss of faculties; for me, to be bed-ridden and watching endless daytime TV would be miserable. I think we differ on the milestone. Eighty sounds like a nice round number, but let me get back to you as that time post looms.

On the other hand, consider what Fred Jones (88 years old) has to say. He’s one of a half dozen elderly New Yorkers that John Leland has been talking to. Jones is one of the unlucky folks who has too much income to qualify for government subsidies, but not quite enough to afford services that would make his life more comfortable. He’s sort of trapped in a rent-controlled $300-a-month Crown Heights walkup; if he were to move, he’d be priced out of the market. Nevertheless,

Mr. Jones was not dismayed. He never is. “Oh no, I don’t have any money worries, thank God,” he said. “I have none. My only money worries are, keep the ladies away from it.”

* * *

I asked him when in his life he was happiest.

“Right now,” he said without hesitation. “I have health problems, but it’s been going on a long time, so it’s secondary. But I think happiness really is what’s going on at a particular time. I used to think happiness was something that somebody brought to you. But happiness, as opposed to enjoyment, is when you are doing something and you are elated.”

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Some links: 74

A mini-roundup of bird-related links:

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Starring the Wood Duck

A visually stunning one-pager by Alexandra Class Freeman on the Duck Stamp from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s new Bird Academy.

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Under pressure

Callan Bentley turns the screws on a diamond anvil cell. Pressures inside the cell, a little gizmo smaller than a snow dome, are on the order of 60 GPa. He writes:

  • 60 gigapascals is therefore a pressure equivalent to about 2100 kilometers of depth in the planet – most of the way through the mantle, though not quite to the outer core (which is at ~2900 km depth).
  • A pressure cooker cooks at 0.0001 GPa.
  • Your car’s tires are inflated to a pressure of 0.0002 GPa (2 bars, or ~30 psi).
  • 60 GPa is a lot more than 0.0002 Gpa.

(Sorry, but I had to go to that song.)

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Nicholas Kristof’s gift suggestions for the upcoming holiday season: none of them require a trip to the mall on Black Friday.

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300,000 relays

James Somers explains something that I should have understood before: why they call it an interlocking.

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Winners and Losers

Winners and Losers is an intriguing agon of words, a novel way to open up personal storytelling. Scripted and performed by Marcus Youssef and James Long, both of Vancouver, B.C., with breakouts of improvisatory riffs and a quick game of ping-pong, the work is a rapid-fire debate over the question of who, or what, is the biggest winner.

Warming up with a quick assessment of what they had for dinner last night, they move on to topics like whether Canada or the U.S has handled its First Nations/American Indian issues better. Digging most deeply, they confront one another: is James or Marcus the more worldly wise, the better father, the more successful person?

It’s key to their argument that you have to consider the resources randomly doled out to each of us when we commence this Checkered Game of Life. Through a bit of mental martial arts, a dominant culture like the U.S. can be seen as weak. (To physicalize this line of reasoning, the two men engage in a brief [we hope, choreographed] bout of wrestling.) Perhaps they explain it best in an interview with Woolly:

MARCUS: Doing the show in DC is a dream. You guys live in the centre. Of an empire. Holy winner. And we feel like winners just for being invited–that’s the Canadian way. But is your empire in decline? Seems like it. Then who’s the bigger loser? You guys, for an electoral system entirely about raising unimaginable sums of cash over an absurd length of time? Or the rest of us, for paying far closer attention to your endless electoral sideshow than than what’s actually going on in our own countries?

The stories they tell are sometimes hilarious, sometimes chastening (Marcus once worked in a hospital laundry, sorting through the fouled sheets of the departed), sometimes a little crazy (James’s set piece in a dive bar about swapping insult jokes with a First Nations man recently released from prison). Embellished? Perhaps. But it makes a good story.

James and Marcus are marvels of the improvisatory “yes-and” even when the requirements of the piece call for a “no-but.”

  • Winners and Losers, created and performed by Marcus Youssef and James Long, directed by Chris Abraham, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington
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Shouting through the storm

John Adams chats with Renee Montagne about his works, old and new.

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He had me at the mbira

If your cellphone rings in the middle of a John Cage concert, Paolo Angeli knows what to do with it: he’ll fine some way to wedge it into his baritone guitar.

A musicologist’s wet dream.

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Happy homeowner dance

before 2after 2I am taking a moment to enjoy my new windows (right). No more cracked-glass, peeling paint windows (left) that don’t open, don’t close, and don’t seal out the cold air and dust.

before 1after 1And the scary kitchen window with the busted sash that needed a stick in the track and a shim under the lock to stay closed and secure? Gone!

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Linus vindicated

The Great Pumpkin rises again over Silver Spring. Thanks, Charlie!

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