Enter Imogen (Scene One) .. from One Third Culture Kid

My name is Imogen Lee, and I can recite all of Macbeth by heart. See, this is because my grandmother, who raised me, is always saying bits of it, and when I got old enough to read she made me read the whole thing and then we performed it together, just the two of us. It is just the two of us. After I get home from school Grandma and I are together. She doesn’t work, But don’t worry: my dad let us plenty of money when he died. I was four. Mom died when I was zero, I suppose. It was when she was having me.

Oh, but I have to tell you my story! It all started a month ago when my teacher made a special announcement.

“Class before you go, I have a special announcement. Burgundy Elementary is going to be holding a Talent Chow! In honor of our student Beth, who won ‘America’s Got Talent’ last year, we will hold our show in the same way. Four judges. One winner.

“Anyone who wishes to compete should submit their name to me by the end of the week.”

Well, nobody could talk about anything else after that announcement. We were all so excited. We were all sure we were going to win………… to be continued  Enter Imogen (Scene One)

Patriotism and Democracy

July 4th is Independence Day for the USA. Patriotism isn’t just waving the flag, it is about supporting democracy. It may not be a perfect system, but it is the best foundation we have for peace, harmonious societies, and stable markets.

Illustration by Christoph Niemann; Animation by Olivia Blanc

In this time of hyper-partisanship, this is a nonpartisan call for a concerted effort to invest in all of the institutions of a transparent democratic society:

  1. Recognition of the worth and dignity of every person;
  2. Faith in majority rule and
  3. Minority rights (equal rights and opportunities)
  4. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press
  5. Respect for the balance of powers – executive, judicial and legislative.

It seems that last one: respect for a balance of powers – executive, judicial and legislative – holds up all the rest of them. When one branch seizes power from the rest, it threatens all of our rights and freedoms.

 

from: International Idea

 This is not just an American institution; activists and leaders around the world are fighting for basic freedoms every day.  If the standard falls we must rally to pick it up. As the U.S. flag waves this week, I leave you with the words of Walt Whitman expressing the ideals on which democracy is built.

Did you, too, O friend, suppose democracy was only for elections, for politics, and for a party name? I say democracy is only of use there that it may pass on and come to its flower and fruit in manners, in the highest forms of interaction between people, and their beliefs – in religion, literature, colleges and schools- democracy in all public and private life.

Walt Whitman

Rating the Risk for Activities

The San Francisco Chronicle (6/13/2020)  asked infectious disease experts to rate the risk of some popular activities as we begin to get back out into the world. Here they are on a scale of 1 (lowest risk) to 5 (highest risk). I think it is worth sharing.

1. Staying home!


2. Swimming in a Public Pool – low, but more risk comes when you’re out of the water: are you using a crowded locker room? Are people congregating on the stairs and hall?


2. Running, Hiking or Cycling – low risk when you’re outdoors with more space between people. Give them a wide berth and carry a mask to put on as soon as you’re within 30 (!) feet of another person, on a narrow trail.


3. Picnicking with Friends – a moderate risk. You’re outdoors, but if eating, you won’t have your masks on. The risk goes up in crowded city parks. Avoid sharing food, utensils etc.


3. Staying in a Hotel – moderate risk. Wipe frequently used surfaces. The experts advise against travel as you will come into contact with more people, putting yourself and others at risk. They worry that travelers will transmit the infection to lower risk communities.


3/4. Attending a Zumba Class – high risk if exercising indoors – should be avoided. If outdoors, the risk is lowered, but physical exercise can induce heavy breathing which increases respiratory droplets as well as inhalation. Most people do not wear masks during cardio exercising so you need to double the recommended 6 foot radius.


4. Getting a haircuthigh risk but varies depending on how many people in the room, how large is the space and how long will you be there? There’s no way to have safe distancing while cutting someone’s hair. To minimize risk, avoid conversation wear a mask(!) over your nose and mouth and sanitize your hands.


5. Going out for Dinner -they rate this as the highest risk. People won’t be wearing a mask while eating and you may be sitting there for a while. Experts advise you keep your mask on while talking/listening, time your meal to avoid the crowd and sit outside!


5. Attending Large Events – another activity rated in the highest risk category, especially if indoors, talking to others or unable to maintain social distancing. Avoid.

I’m sick of staying home too but, hey I’m just the messenger.  What do you think?

THE WISHFUL, WISTFUL TRAVELERS (cont.)

Continuing our journey down the Rhine. For those of you who joined us late, Patricia and I missed this river cruise, but I’m pretending we are traveling along instead of sheltering-in-place. Join us on our armchair travels!

Day 5— Speyer, Germany
This morning we disembarked to visit the historic town of Speyer. The City’s six towers dominate the skyline and the Altpörtel, or Old Gate, is what remains of the town’s old walls.

Old Gate, Speyer


We would have loved to go to Heidelberg, but the all day tour (no doubt spending a good deal of time on a crowded bus) put us off. We’ve been traveling and sight-seeing nonstop for the six days since we left our homes. Patricia and I agree to relax on deck, sip Moselle wine and read in the lounge chairs on this beautiful day. Besides they are taking us to dinner onshore tonight.

Day 6— Strasbourg Highlights
“Another Gothic cathedral,?” I sigh….but this is one of Europe’s finest. We admire the lovely rosette window, beautiful red sandstone portal and remarkable astronomical clock.  Construction started in the 12th century and wasn’t completed until 1439.  Amazing how one generation after another took on the work of their fathers, even knowing their life work would not be finished during their time on earth.

A view of the cathedral from a tributary of the Rhine River.

The picturesque Petite France area is crisscrossed by canals and covered bridges with their defensive towers.  We stroll past quaint, half-timbered buildings that make me think more of German than French architecture–call it Alsatian.  This may be my favorite place – what about you Patricia?  I love this City steeped in both French and German culture.

Old houses on a canal

I have a story about this area – perhaps some of you read it before. Years ago, I stumbled upon a long trough and embankment that ran into the trees, not far to the east.  I realized I was standing next to an eroded trench where young men had fought and died in WWI. That discovery still gives me a chill to think of what played out there – over a century ago now.

Day 7 Black Forest
We disembark early to drive through the dense, lofty fir and pine forests of Germany’s Schwarzwald, a land of cuckoo clocks and fairy tales but also vineyards cradled in the undulating hills.  I’m not big on bus trips but the scenery is enchanting. We stop at a hotel and I choose to walk through the forest while Patricia debates whether to explore the cuckoo clocks or the glassblower. 

Hofgut Sternen Hotel, keeps Black Forest traditions  ( photo by DrubbaGmbH)

Our last stop is the town of Freiburg where I have a long lost friend who was a university professor, but Ulrich has retired and I am unable to find him. At any rate, they didn’t even give us enough time to sit with a coffee and a slice of Black Forest cake. Maybe I’m just sad that this is our last day… but that night at dinner they serve Black Forest cake or  Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.  This chocolate layer cake with cherries in the middle and whipped cream on top is delectable! A fine way to end our day.

Black Forest cake

Patricia and I are both history buffs so this is the perfect cruise for us. (Here’s hoping we can reschedule it for real next year.)

 

WISTFUL, WISHFUL TRAVELERS

My long-time friend Patricia and I have dreamed of a river cruise together and things finally fell in place for this month…. Then the Corona virus hit. All our plans and research up in smoke, but we’re still dreaming. Here is where we should be – on our vicarious trip.

Patricia and Cinda’s adventure (to be ….someday)

Day 1 Thursday: We arrive at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam – Patricia from JFK and me from San Francisco. She was already on the boat so I text her (free or cheap compared to calls when traveling), “Meet me at the Centraal Station and we’ll take a canal cruise.” First we stop to buy euros from an ATM “geldautomaten.” I use my bank card because the rates are better than with credit cards.
It’s a little rainy so we decide to stick with the covered canal cruisers. They range in price from 16- 23E@, but we decide to take the pricier one because we can hop on and hop off all day. They take us through the red light district first, then down Prinsengracht (where our handsome young guide tells us “gracht” means canal). This is a wealthy neighborhood with grand houses and the canal is charming with its many bridges. Then we float down the Egelantiergracht which is quiet and serene. We see the trams go by and we’re told they are fast and frequent.


After a stop at the famous Riksmuseum to view paintings by Rembrandt and the Dutch masters, jet lag catches up with us and we head back to the ship. There are still some handsome tulips in the gardens we pass along the way. Alas not enough time for this delightful city.

Day 2 Friday: KINDERJIK. This corner of Holland is shaped by the Rhine Delta and known for its remarkably preserved windmills. We’ve read that much of the Netherlands is below sea level, but this is nonetheless startling when we notice that the ship is actually a higher elevation than the dikes!  We get to step inside a working windmill and Patricia says, “Fabulous. So well thought out.”

 

 


Day 3 Saturday COLOGNE. We are taken to see the spectacular Gothic cathedral, which towers over the Old City. Began in 1248, it was built over the next seven centuries. The largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, with beautiful stained glass windows, it miraculously escaped the damage during World War II. We learn that Cologne has a Roman as well as a medieval history along its historic streets. The Romans built the walls of a fortress that still stand 2,010 years later, as the oldest stone structure north of the Alps.

The cathedral still dominates the skyline in Cologne, Germany

 

 

Day 4  Sunday Koblenz – Located at the confluence the Moselle and Rhine Rivers. We sail along a particularly scenic stretch of the Rhine today, looking up at turreted castles and fortresses on the hills.  We have to choose between two tours, 3 hours each: 700-year-old Marksburg Castle or the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein.

Ehrenbreitstein fortress

The history of the Ehrenbreitstein site stretches back to 1100, but what is seen today was constructed in the early 19th century to protect against the French.  Have you been there?   Our decision might depend on how strenuous & steep the walking is.  I’m leaning towards Marksburg Castle (but I guess we have time to decide, if we ever really make this cruise!) A stone keep was built on the spot in 1100 and expanded into a castle around 1117 to protect the town of Braubach.  It is one of the view undamaged castle along the Rhine. (I had a hard time finding a free image of Ehrenbreitstein and have perhaps the opposite problem with Marksburg: this video is 5min. long? But it is cute and nicely photographed.  Opps WordPress will only let me post the link  😐   -sorry.)

Help us decide- Ehrenbreitstein or Marksburg: which would you visit?

Tomorrow Speyer & Rüdesheim, then on to Strasbourg and the Black Forest. Who wants to come along?

What to Read While Social Distancing

We will soon be beginning our sixth week(!) of sheltering in place with no definitive end in sight. I thought I would have gotten through my spring cleaning and buckled down to serious writing, but I’m not getting as much done as I intended to. What I am doing is reading and missing our library, but making use of my Kindle and the local bookstore (who will run books out to your car for you). Here are a couple of suggestions to read while you’re confined at home.

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It’s been years, okay decades, since I’ve read Walden by Henry David Thoreau and this is a perfect time to pick it up.  An ode to solitude, he found joy in living a simple existence, free of the distractions of ordinary life. This was in 1854, but certainly sounds familiar today. He built his own cabin and raised his own food, while relishing introspection. He called it his personal experiment, observing the seasons and nature around Walden Pond.

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The Martian by Andy Weir is about an astronaut stranded on Mars during a giant sandstorm who must use his ingenuity to survive. You would think he was a goner when he gets knocked out, his spacesuit is punctured…. and he is presumed dead. Highly intelligent, he perseveres by thinking creatively how to grow food and obtain water. I‘ll give away no more – it is good read about imaginative solitary confinement! The Martian was made into a movie starring Matt Damon.

Or maybe you’re ready to tackle those long novels on your to-read list by the likes of Tolstoy or Follett? If you are in to fantasy… I leave it to you dear readers to make suggestions below for everyone.

Rising to the Challenge…


The San Francisco Bay became a hotspot for the corona virus and 7 counties in the area banded together to issue a “stay home order.” That was a week ago, followed only a few days later by California’s Governor Newsom ordering all residents to “shelter in place” and leave home only for essential trips. Today the state confirmed 2,382 cases (experts say there are more awaiting testing or test results) of Covid-19 zooming up from 565 last week. In our county alone the cases (86) have jumped >85% in a week. (source: Calif. Dept of Health)


We are among the “vulnerable” so my husband and I comply (as do most people.) Tomas was a little slow – insisting on Day 2,one last trip to the hardware store for wood to repair our deck; he needed a project. I’ve been doing some spring cleaning and gardening when weather permits (its unseasonably cold for March). A writing project, long on a back burner, is propped on my desk as well.


I draw some comfort from a friend who wrote “this too shall pass.” That is surely true, but when and at what cost? Epidemiologists think our local legislatures may have acted swiftly enough to tamp the worst of the outbreak in our area and a few other states.
We are lucky that we have some well-educated state governors and smart officials with moral fiber who– unlike the present US administration – listened to the experts. On January 22 Trump boasted “We have this totally under control” and a White House advisor a few weeks ago claimed “we have contained this.” How could they, when in 2018 he eliminated the National Security Council’s global health unit (our warning system for pandemics), the Center for Disease Control funding was cut by a third, and Hospital Preparedness within Health and Human Services cut by half? (Source: Time Mag.3/2020) Several high level government health positions have yet to be nominated, 3 yrs. into his term. Hence we were not prepared for a pandemic. There’s a saying “Poor planning on your part…..constitutes an emergency” …in this case on “we the people.” (Thus concludes my rant.)

Surprisingly time passes in our semi-confinement and we are not bored yet. The saving grace is we are allowed to go outside for exercise and to walk the dog.

A few days ago we went to our little “secret beach” and we were still the only ones there. Then when the sun came out, we decided to hike a local trail that often has wild flowers and not well-used in the past. That was then and this is now. The first clue was some traffic on the rural road, followed by lines of parked cars 100’s of feet from the small parking lot. With every one off work and home with their kids, they decided to enjoy nature just like us. It was strange sharing the trail with so many, but only one young guy refused to yield the 6-feet of “social distance” (in spite of my waiting and saying “excuse me”). We saw few flowers, but on the drive home I did find a field of poppies – alas on fenced private property, so we could only enjoy it from the road… but oh my!

Profusion of colorful poppies


How are you and yours faring in your corner of the world?

Happy Birthday Justice Ginsburg!

I guess I dropped out of my blog recently, while trying to decide whether to  keep it up.  But it is Women’s Month and I am watching  a CD of RBG so I am inspired to salute two women I admire.

“I ask no favor for my sex, all I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

Happy Birthday Justice Ginsburg! (born March 15, 1933 ) And wishing you many more!


RBG is a fascinating biopic exploring Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s exceptional life and career. Her early legal battles changed the world for women; she also took on a case for a single parent father and won “widow’s rights” for him. This from a tiny, soft-spoken women who somehow made her voice heard and became a justice on the Supreme Court. Here is the official trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biIRlcQqmOc

Professor & lawyer RBG, 1977 by L Gilbert

Rosalind Franklin

 Like many women scientists of the time, Franklin was robbed of recognition throughout her career. Her story is a web of sexism and rivalry.

Since I first heard about Rosalind Franklin I’ve been mad that she did not get the credit she deserved when Watson and Crick published their findings on DNA.  She was the person who “photographed” the double helix structure of DNA by x-ray crystallography.  A colleague, Maurice Wilkins, showed Watson and Crick her x-ray without consulting her. They could not have built their model without her x-ray – yet shamefully they did not acknowledge her work. In 1958 at age 37, Rosalind Franklin died of cancer probably due to her research with radiation. Maurice Wilkins was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962 along with the two men.

Franklin’s x-ray showing the double helix

There was a PSB special on Rosalind Franklin last year, but I wonder how many people have even heard of her. For more information on her life and other scientific contributions go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosalind_Franklin

This is a short tribute to these courageous pioneers in their fields, but I encourage you to delve deeper – the details are fascinating.

Who do you admire? Who are your heros?

Our Crowded Planet

The Amazon deforestation, the oceans, droughts, famines, fires, pollution, endangered species… I could write a blog on each of them. They are all linked to something few seem to talk about these days: Overpopulation.  Is this such a moral landmine that we ignore it – to our peril?  Population multiplies all of these problems.  The current global population has crossed 7.7 billion and is heading upward; growth is exponential as are the demands  our limited resources: water, land, trees, food and fossil fuels.

Here’s what Jane Goodall has to say:

“In order to slow down climate change, we must solve four seemingly unsolvable problems. We must eliminate poverty and change the unsustainable lifestyle of so many of us. We must abolish corruption. And we must contain our growing human POPULATION. There are 7.7 billion of us today, and by 2050, the UN predicts there will be 9.7 billion.” It is no wonder we despair but she ends with “I’m still optimistic…. about the resilience of nature, our intellects, social media and the power of young people.”
🙂 

 

 

  

 

Mitigating population growth would have more impact than virtually any other climate policy! Women, given the resources and the choice, will opt for smaller families. Let’s promote female empowerment, especially in the developing world. Reproductive rights are an environmental as well as a social issue.

 

  

short video

 

 

  

 

Let me end with some pictures of our beautiful world.

 

A planet worth saving.