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Three score and ten or more

Sunday, March 23, 2008

One of the things about being a coot is that the aging process has side affects. One of the most pleasant, and one of the most challenging is grandchildren. When they first arrive they are such a blessing. I know that I am not the first to have ever said "If I had known how much fun, and how much easier grandchildren are, I would have started with them." But I said it and I, well sort of, meant it.

I have great-grandchildren now. One them came to see me a month or so ago. I am embarrassed to say that I hadn't seen the little five year old at all, till my daughter showed up with him in tow. It was such fun getting acquainted, and his swift little mind just took in everything. When he saw the pool in the back yard, he just HAD to get his swimming suit and jump in. To those who are unfamiliar with the fact, even in Georgia, jumping into an unheated backyard pool is not a thing to do in February, but he was determined so, dip net in my hand, I let him go. He went down the first two steps, stopped a moment, then jumped out with the comment "I think I have to take a break now". We assumed that this was the conclusion, but he dried himself off moved back to the step and down he went till he touched the bottom of the pool in the shallow end. He danced a moment then called it a day with a loud "That's enough."

We had planned for his coming and had set aside a cowboy suit (chaps and vest) that had been made by my wife's mother some forty years ago. He put them on, and wandered through the house posing at mirrors, and was so pleased that we decided to finish the outfit off by taking him to Wally World for a cap-gun (shades of political incorrectness) and a cowboy hat. We had no trouble with the cap- gun, and lucked upon the last cowboy hat in stock, in red no less.

After we got home is was no time before he learned that, after the greeting "Howdy cowboy," his reply, after tipping hat back with his thumb or the gun barrel, which ever was handiest, was "Howdy Ma'am"

We were tickled to find that after his return home, for the first several nights he slept with his cowboy suit and boots on (Hat and gun above the pillow. When I started this post, his mother, my granddaughter was deathiy ill in the ICU of the local hospital with some of the results of her diabetes and her mother (my daughter) was sobbing to me over the phone. She is somewhat better now and is home taking care of the boy. Her sister, (the other granddaughter in this case) is also ill. Though she is under twenty, she has already had her gall bladder removed and they are testing her for everything. At first they thought she had leukemia, then some rare unidentified blood cancer, and now they are testing for some kind of protein in the blood (not in the cells) which I don't understand at all. She has two little ones who are healthy and cute but for my Florida granddaughters themselves it never seems to rain but it pours.

We are now in the State of Washington where we came to see three of the other grand kids performing in the musical Annie, (there are four, but one was not acting in the play) and where I came to make a little money with one of my sideline businesses.

We saw two performances. The first was a little shaky, the second one was very exciting. I was very proud of my grandchildren and had a good time. Like every grandfather, I think that my grandchildren are special. The four who live out here are so darned active in so many things that there isn't much time to rest and relax. The oldest is a high school freshman who has performed major roles in four or five musicals, is on his school robotics teams (they build robots for special purposes in a nationwide competition), is getting straight A's in school has been on the track and wrestling teams at his school, and is training to compete in ballroom dancing competitions. He also breathes in and out on a regular schedule and is generally a nice kid.

His younger brother is also talented, sings and acts in musicals (my influence as theatre teacher is a little pervasive in the family), is a wrestler, plays the trumpet, and has a somewhat serious self image problem.

The two little sisters eight and six years old who were in Annie are something else. The eight year old, besides acting and singing and dancing is a poet and a mini-intellectual who, when we arrived was curled up on the sofa reading The Six Wives of Henry the Eighth,but in the middle, she shifted to one about Mary, Queen of Scots. When I asked her why, she said something on the order of "I would expect women to have more sense."

She wrote her grandfather and grandmother each a poem for Easter,

To Grandmother:

I give you a cup

I give you a flower

As long as you live,

I will be with you every minute, every hour.

To Grandpa,

Nest the eggs,

Make some more

As long as you love me

I'll love you more.

Hey they don't scan completely and it aint Shakespeare, but she's eight years old, and it still made an old coot weep a little. I wish I could find the one she wrote for school. It was impressive. A month or so ago, she came home and told her parents that she had a project she had to do on Owls. She worked almost every night for two weeks gathering material on owls, with charts of diet, living schedule, how the eyes worked, and she wrote a paper aas well as made a poster with a picture of an owl in a cartoon surrounding. On the poster she stated that the main foods of the owl were snakesickles and mousekebobs.

She took the project to school and turned it in to her teacher, who hung the poster in the school library. The kicker came when the teacher called to tell my daughter in law that she had never been given the assignment. She had begun the project because she didn't think people paid enough attention to owls, so she thought she would do something to make them pay attention

Her six year old sister is nothing like her. She is as smart as her older sister but the most total individual. She will be a blonde cheerleader (no matter what color her hair is at the time,) but she is not to be underestimated. She is a total independent who has to be checked each day before she goes to school because she thinks it is silly that people think that they must wear socks the same color and matching shoes. (She has been known to wear an oxford on one foot and a boot on the other, sometimes, deliberately on the wrong feet. She reads fashion magazines (not all the way through) and may, if in the mood may go to school wearing a ballet skirt and tights or a long dress that was a costume for her role as a London beggar in Annie, and she is stubborn enough that if she doesn't wear what she likes she may have to be carried manually to school. On the other hand, she never forgets ANYTHING whether academic or personal.

I still sometimes think that there ought to be a way to skip the children and start with the grandchildren. (The best thing about them is that a grandparent may spoil them terribly and then send them home for the parents to cope with them.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Law of Unintended Consequences

I seem to remember from my high school physics class a theorem or axiom stating that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I don’t quite know how to transfer this to my gut feeling that this theorem relating to physical forces carries over into almost every thing that people do, and this is most reflected in so many of the unintended and unexpected results of our actions.

I was watching TV the other day and saw a commercial for an organization that asks people to contribute ten dollars so that mosquito nets can be procured for children in Africa that can provide some degree of protection from the mosquitoes that spread malaria, dengue fever and a variety of terrible illnesses throughout the tropics, and particularly throughout Africa. These diseases have had a terrible affect for centuries, and early in the twentieth century a solution was found in the development of an insecticide DDT. Through use of DDT in many countries the scourges of malaria and the other diseases spread by mosquitoes were virtually eliminated. Sometime thereafter, biologists began to notice that the populations of many wild birds began nto shrink, and research proved that the birds preyed upon mosquitoes and were preyed upon by other birds and species. The DDT was causing the shells of bird eggs to crack and decay. A widespread ban on the use of DDT came about, and we now have a restoration of the bird population, and a commensurate, but not unexpected reinsurgence of mosquito born diseases.

I am not about to make the moral choices involved in these occurrences, but they are not unlike many of the choices that we make in politics in biology, in religion, in all sorts of different situations.. We were warned for many years that industry, the spread of nuclear armaments and a variety of other modern actions were bound to lead to global cooling. I still remember a movie shown in one of my high school classes entitled NUCLEAR WINTER. Now, in widely publicized writings we are being warned of global warming caused by many of he same activities that we were told would bring global cooling.

No one really has a clue if human’s activity really affects the globe, or whether global warming will have negative or positive effects if we do. We do know that Britain has multiple sources of both peat and coal, and that the need for warm houses and prosperous factories in England during the last century created what was known as London fog (mostly coal smoke) which had a negative(and unintended, and in fact unrecognized) effect on the health of many Englishmen, but historians will be needed to evaluate how much that London Fog contributed to the spread of the Bristish Empire or what other unintended consequences my have come from that.

As it refers to global warming, I have read a fair amount of material which indicates that the last global warming period (which humans had no recognizable part in) brought about great prosperity in northern Europe where previously unknown or ungrown crops made the area nearly self supporting. At the same time, we are given to believe the deserts of Northern Africa nearly doubled in size causing a total shift of tradition and trade in those areas..

Now we are seemingly trying to have an intentional effect on global climate. If we succeed, will Europe become colder? Will the Sahara become temperate? What effects of natural warming might be reversed. We have already begun to face the economic effects of our efforts to prevent global warming. The emerging, and in come cases burgeoning market for ethanol as fuel has raised the food prices for millions. As grain is fed to automobiles the cost of bread and grains fed to humans has increased as has the cost of beef and milk and butter and cheese and all those products that come from feeding grain to livestock.. Most of us who partake in these changes have been shocked at the number and types of such unforeseen (at least by most of us) consequences.

What do we do, attempt to reverse what has been done? Not likely. Try to foresee the consequences and prepare for them (remember this essay began with UNFORSEEN CONSEQUENCES, and I , for one, do not foresee the foreseeing of consequences as a likely success. I think we need to recognize that whether we attempt to control them or not, phenomena always modify our lives and our world. The world is full of evidence of extinct animals and species. Who knows what our world would be like if they had not become extinct (certainly we wouldn’t be making gasoline out of their remains –oil-). Who knows what affect will be the result of our current passion to prevent the extinction of any species (limiting the extension of power projects and irrigation to protect a miniature suckerfish in the northwest).? It may be the key to extinction for us, who knows?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Momentary reflection from an old coot.

I got up this morning to get ready for church, showered and dressed- somewhat slowly. I can't help occasionally being frustrated that it takes me longer to get my shoes and socks on (and the medicine, and the examination of the toes, etce.) than it takes Janet to get completely dressed (of course with her arm still in a sling and with a flex cast on her broken wrist with a lot of pain in the arm, I have to help Janet get dressed too. I will have to confess that shampooing her hair in the shower, which she can't do yet is one of my chief pleasures each day). AS fast as we can go, little things come along to irritate. I grabbed a nice white shirt, slipped it on and became aware that it had French cuffs. There is nothing wrong with that, for years I wouldn't buy a dress shirt that didn't have French cuffs, but lately I just haven't worn them often. I had to shuffle things to find my jewelery box (moving does that) but when I opened it, I had the sudden shock that I get from a drawer full of single sock (I have explained in the past why I think they are bastard socks) In my box were twenty three single cufflinks. There was only one matched pair of cufflinks in the box. Where are the others??? Are all those singletons the result of theft. Did some of them get away, escape to a more exciting jewel box?? Is there something wrong with my eyesight or my perception that every cufflink had a mate and I just couldn't see them.

Rather than try to solve the mystery, I just took the single pair of ram's head cufflinks, put them in my French cuffs and took Janet off to church. Now it is evening. I have removed my shirt and the pair of cufflinks sits there before me on the computer desk. Do I dare go place them in the cufflink box, or will one them escape, forcing me, (gasp) to take my next foray into public with French cuffs and mismatched cufflinks. Even worse, as I return these to the box, will I open it and find twenty one pairs of matched cufflinks smiling wickedly at me as if to say "Hah! fooled you didn't we. Maybe I ought to just toss this pair in the drawer and forget it. I can give all my French cuff shirts to Goodwill. Hmmmmm? This takes some thought.