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The Summer of COVID

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What’s better than an early morning barefoot walk along a deserted beach? The sand rubbing away rough skin, the tang of the ocean, the whoosh of the waves… all contribute to a feeling of deep peacefulness — temporary, but still restorative.

Here a few scenes from this week’s excursions, plus a useful hack at the end.

The starfish returns

After years of decimation by disease, we’re finally seeing a resurgence of glorious orange and purple sea stars.

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Nature’s patterns

Sand crabs create patterns that suggest a rose and its leaves. Others mirror a grove of trees.

Some plants grow anywhere

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Ducks: They’re just like us — calm on the surface, paddling furiously to stay afloat

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A surreal beachscape

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Summer hack: How to keep sand from sticking to feet

First of all, why does it stick? Sand is highly hydrophilic (“water-loving”), i.e., water molecules attach to each grain. This creates tiny water channels that attract additional moisture from anything that’s even slightly damp.

What to do? Shake a little baby powder on your feet. It’s even more hydrophilic than sand, so the grains should fall away. Also, the powder is less sticky and any residue is more easily brushed off when you leave the beach.

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Good News Monday: Bad and Good Women Get What They Deserve

First up, breaking news: Amy Cooper, the white woman in Central Park who called the police on a Black bird watcher, will be charged with filing a false report, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Ms. Cooper will be arraigned in October.  If convicted — which seems likely since the incident was captured on video and went viral — she could be given a conditional discharge or sentenced to community service or counseling rather than jail time. (Counseling seems like an excellent idea, regardless of any other punishment.)

On Memorial Day, Ms. Cooper who’d been walking with her dog, encountered Christian Cooper (no relation), a Harvard graduate and bird watching enthusiast, in the Ramble, a semi-wild part of the park where dogs must be leashed.

Mr. Cooper said that he asked Ms. Cooper to leash her dog, and when she refused, he attempted to lure the dog with treats, hoping to compel her to restrain her pet. (Pet owners don’t like strangers to offer treats and usually leash their dogs to avoid this.) The encounter then got ugly when Ms. Cooper decided to call 911 and tell them that an African-American man was threatening her life.

That’s the Bad Women part of this report. Now, let’s celebrate more illustrious women.

On a more positive note, this year marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the long-overdue right to vote. In honor, The National Trust for Historic Preservation is currently crowdsourcing locations where women made history.

Savingplaces.org directs visitors to a number of distinctive destinations, including the house where Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting in 1872, the First Ladies’ Museum, Frederick Douglass’ D.C. home, which Helen Douglass and the National League of Colored Women worked to save, the first secondary school for women, the home where the initial Girl Scouts meeting was held, and many others. They’re hoping to receive hundreds of suggestions.

[pixabay.com]

To Be or Not to Be

We were excited: Our first live performance since COVID hit! Even the thought of wearing masks throughout the evening was bearable, although the prospect of a musical featuring 80’s pop music was far less appealing to my husband than to me. C’mon– big hair, Bananarama, what’s not to like?!

So off we went on Friday afternoon for the hour drive to Eugene, OR for “An Officer and a Gentleman“, planning for a 5 pm arrival in time for a 6 pm dinner reservation and 8 pm curtain.

We get halfway down the highway when a text message pops up that the performance is canceled. No reason given. We pull over so I can call the hotel and plead with them not to charge the full night’s fee since this is the only reason we are coming to town. They are very nice and say I can reschedule for a different day. OK.

Then I get a new message: They are adding a Sunday performance just for those of us Friday ticket-holders. No need to change anything; the tix will be good. Yay! I call my new best friend Emily at hotel reservations and rebook for Sunday. OK again.

We get home, put the overnight bag in the closet, and look forward to tonight. Ha. Wait.

Yesterday, I get another message: the ENTIRE weekend run has been canceled due to COVID. Someone (or many someones) are sick so there will be no performances at all. They’ll “let us know” if they can reschedule. My gut feeling is that, even if they do, the production is doomed to a run of bad luck to match those 80’s mullets and big shoulders.

Our hotel is now scheduled for a January performance of something called “Waitress“. Wish me luck.

Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

French Fashion Update

While at FSH, a sales associate showed this to multiple customers

Happy weekend, everyone! I’m so delinquent in posting but here are some quick style observations from our recent trip to Paris and Bordeaux.

  • Almost everyone wears scarves, all nonchalantly slung about the neck
  • Patterned tights, no opaques
  • Ankle boots are popular, especially worn with short skirts (if you’re young, that is)
  • The Right Bank of Paris seemed to be mobbed with frenzied shoppers. Is this due to being sprung from the pandemic jail and finally being able to travel? Many post-pandemic events requiring new wardrobes? A lack of interest in museums, restaurants or architecture?
  • Black, black and more black. Except for head-to-toe camel. Or grey.
  • For that casual, old-money look, a battered Kelly looks far more chic than the brand new version
  • Big Birkins still look like suitcases
  • Lots of hats, e.g. cloches, but not berets.
  • Jewelry: The look is several delicate chains layered together. Women of every age wear multiple rings — especially on the second and fourth fingers. No big diamonds or other flashy pieces — the French prefer understatement

As some of you may know, I am a sucker for almost anything Hermès. Though I was dismayed by the crazy mob of shoppers at the Rue Faubourg flagship: Nearly every woman was sporting either a Birkin or a Kelly and it seemed to be the necessary accessory to get anyone to pay attention to you. Although the sales assistants have explained that production of the most in-demand styles is down due to Covid so that “nothing” is available, I did spot one woman purchasing both a Constance and a Kelly, with a stack of boxes suggesting that she was just getting started.

I did buy a lipstick.

Luckily, there is the secondary market. And if you already have more than enough bags and baubles, the following item is available online at Ann’s Fabulous Finds for a very reasonable $5,500. Surely this will be snapped up ASAP!

Yes, a designer hard hat.

Meanwhile, the flagship Chanel still boasts the original staircase, which is worth a visit even if you’re not shopping.

Don’t Talk While I’m Interrupting!

If you didn’t grow up on the US East Coast or belong to one of the ethnic groups mentioned, you may wonder why their conversational style is so different from your own.

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Deborah Tannen for The New York Times 9.25.21

Ms. Tannen is a university professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and the author of many books on conversation, gender and other topics, including “You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation.”

Interruption — the offense of stealing the floor when someone else is talking — has become the grand larceny of conversation.

Many viewers applauded Kamala Harris’s justified rebuke of Mike Pence during the vice-presidential debate last year, when she repeatedly insisted, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.” Her protests — and his verbal intrusions — had particular resonance because of increasing awareness and research showing that men interrupt women far more often than the reverse.

It seems self-evident. Starting to speak before another has finished violates their right to the floor. In formal contexts such as political debates, it breaches the rules. In casual conversation, it is simply rude.

But it’s not so simple. As a linguist who studies the mechanics of conversation, I’ve observed and documented that beginning to talk while another is talking can be a way of showing enthusiastic engagement with what the speaker is saying. Far from silencing them, it can be encouragement to keep going. That’s a practice that I call “cooperative overlapping.”

As offices and schools reopen, and we venture into more in-person social gatherings, we’re having to relearn how to have conversations: how to start them, how to join them, how to get the floor and keep it. On screens, it’s relatively easy: Click on the raised-hand icon or signal with an actual hand, and you’ll be invited to speak when the time is right. But when talking with others in person, how do you show you have something to say without seeming rude? How do you handle it when you feel interrupted?

These challenges are emotionally loaded, because talking isn’t only about communication; it’s also about relationships. You may resent — or dislike — those who speak over you. And being accused of interrupting when you didn’t intend to feels terrible. It could come as a relief to know that what might be going on is cooperative overlapping.

The concept was recently plucked from my academic writing and thrust into public discourse when a journalist, Erin Biba, tweeted a TikTok video in which a user named Sari shared her excitement over discovering the term in my book “Conversational Style.” Many expressed their relief that the “interrupting” they had been criticized for is a recognized supportive conversational move: “Ahhhh omg it feels so validating to hear this has a name!” tweeted the entrepreneur and writer Anil Dash. “I really struggle with talking over people (I understand many experience this very negatively) but it’s an incredibly difficult pattern to change because it’s literally how I grew up communicating enthusiasm & support.”

Indeed cooperative overlapping, like all conversational habits, has cultural roots. It is learned the way language is learned: by hearing others talk while growing up. I first identified the conversational move — and its misinterpretation — while analyzing a dinner table conversation I had taken part in, along with five friends. Three, including me, were from New York City, two were from California, and one was from London.

By transcribing the two-and-a-half-hour conversation, timing pauses and noting when two voices were going at once, I saw that we New Yorkers often talked over others. When we did this with another New Yorker, the speaker kept going, undeterred or even more animated. But if we did the same thing with a non-New Yorker, the speaker stopped.

Someone overhearing the conversation or reading the transcript might think it obvious that a rude interruption had occurred: Someone began speaking while another was midsentence, and cut them off. But based on close analysis of the entire conversation, I could see that the awkwardness resulted from differing assumptions about overlap.

Cooperative overlapping is a particularly active form of what I call “participatory listenership.” All listeners must do something to show they haven’t mentally checked out of a conversation. If they don’t, the speaker will have trouble continuing — as you know if you’ve ever talked to a screen full of motionless faces, or a roomful of blank stares. Signs of listening can range from nodding or an occasional “mhm” or “uhuh” (or a shower of them); to a murmured “I would’ve done the same thing”; to repeating what the speaker just said; to interjecting briefly with a similar story, then yielding the floor back. Even true interruptions, if they’re mutual, can rev up the conversation, inspiring speakers to greater conversational heights. The adrenaline makes the mind grow sharper and the tongue more eloquent.

Anthropologists and linguists have described overlapping talk as enthusiastic participation in various cultures around the world: Karl Reisman for Antiguans; Alessandro Duranti for Samoans; Reiko Hayashi for Japanese; and Frederick Erickson for Italian Americans, for example. And people from many other backgrounds, including Poles and Russians, Indians and Pakistanis, Armenians and Greeks, tell me they recognize the practice from their own communities.

Of course, not all members of any regional or cultural group have the same style. And those who grow up in one environment then move to another can get rusty. One of the New Yorkers at the dinner I studied told me that he’d lived in California so long, he had to struggle to stay part of the conversation. But he’s still a New Yorker: His California-born-and-bred wife often accuses him of interrupting her.

It’s when conversational styles clash that problems arise. Those who aren’t used to cooperative overlapping can end up feeling interrupted, silenced, maybe even attacked — which clouds their minds and ties their tongues. The Californians and the Londoner in my study felt that the New Yorkers had “dominated” the conversation. In a way, we did, but not because we meant to. From our perspective, the others chose not to join in. Cooperative overlapping is part of a conversational ethic that regards perceptible pauses as awkward silence, to be avoided by keeping pauses short — or nonexistent. Those of us who converse this way often don’t realize that someone who wants to speak might be waiting for a pause to join in.

Once, when I was talking about this study on a radio talk show, a listener called to say she identified: After she and her husband had hosted a great dinner party, he would accuse her of hogging the floor and shutting him out. “He’s a big boy,” she said. “He can speak up just like me or anyone else.” In the background, her husband’s voice explained why he couldn’t: “You need a crowbar to get into those conversations!” His metaphor was perfect: If the pause you expect between speaking turns doesn’t come, you really can’t figure out a way to break in.

Not all overlapping is cooperative. It can really be intended to dominate the conversation, steal the floor or even to undermine the speaker. But understanding that talking along may be cooperative can make our conversations better, as we return to in-person socializing and work. If you notice someone has been silent, you might count to seven before beginning to speak again, or invite them to speak. If you’ve been waiting in vain for a pause, you might push yourself to jump in. And if you feel interrupted, try continuing to talk, instead of stopping.

If “Don’t interrupt me” is sometimes a reasonable request, so is “Don’t just sit there! Please overlap — cooperatively!”

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/25/opinion/interrupting-cooperative-overlapping.html

Good News Monday: A Little Goes a Long Way

Finally back home after three weeks of travels. Now that I’m not taking long walks through Paris, etc., and the weather’s turned rainy, I’m heartened by the following article.

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Just 5 minutes of movement every hour can undo harms from inactivity

OCTOBER 29, 2021 by Study Finds

LONDON — Has life indoors during the pandemic left you more inactive and fighting off the “COVID 15”? You’re not alone. COVID quarantines have dramatically lowered the amount of physical activity many people usually get through simply socializing outdoors or by going to work. Now, researchers from King’s College London say getting up and moving around for just five minutes every hour can help people shake off their pandemic inactivity.

The team compared the levels of physical activity in people suffering from genetic muscle disorders, such as muscular dystrophy, prior to and toward the end of quarantine. The participants consisted of adults with a variety of physical capacities, ranging from very mobile to needing assistance to move. The study also included 41 people in wheelchairs, who studies frequently overlook, according to the team. The results, according to the researchers, are applicable to people with a variety of capabilities since COVID isolation or switching to remote work disrupted many individuals’ normal schedules.

During the year-long assessment, accelerometers gauged the level of physical activity prior to quarantine in 2019 until the end of quarantine in 2020. These sensors recorded the duration, regularity, and degree of movement in four different categories: robust, mild, low, and sedentary.

Throughout the pandemic, results showed a considerable drop in the degree of physical activity participants got each day. Individuals, on average, were engaging in nearly an hour and a half of mild exercise each day prior to quarantine. As a result of the confinement, people spent an average of 25 minutes less each day on low activity tasks and moved less often (11% less per hour) during the day.

Being physically active is about more than just working out

Due to last year’s restrictions on traveling, outdoor recreational activities, and large gatherings, the study finds people spent less time doing light activities and moved less often in general. Since this daily light activity isn’t necessarily exercise, it’s hard for people to notice these minuscule changes in daily light activity. Despite one’s health status, moderate exercise and frequent activity during the day both play a role in better health outcomes.

“Even people who don’t do much exercise have been impacted by lockdown inactivity. During COVID-19 lockdown, our study detected an extra hour per day of inactivity in disabled and independent adults with neuromuscular diseases. Moving less is detrimental to health. Reduced activity can be especially harmful for those with neuromuscular conditions, disabilities or advanced age,” says lead author and neurological physiotherapist Sarah Roberts-Lewis in a university release.

“The reduction in light activity measured in this study is likely to be similar for anybody whose daily routine has been restricted by lockdown. Based on our findings, we suggest people move their bodies for 5 minutes each hour during the day. Additionally, spend 30 minutes each day doing some extra light activity, like yoga or chair exercises. The World Health Organization activity guidelines state ‘every move counts’; they provide suggestions about light activities suitable for all abilities. Simple changes can help with reconditioning during and after lockdown,” Roberts-Lewis concludes.

This study appears in the journal BMJ Neurology Open.

Good News (Wednesday) About a Killer

No, not the manhunt for suspected murderer Brian Laundrie; this is about a development that could save millions of lives.

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) has just endorsed the first-ever vaccine for malaria, which is especially lethal in sub-Saharan Africa.

Malaria is one of the oldest and deadliest infectious diseases, killing about half a million people each year, including 260,000 children under age 5.

The new vaccine isn’t just a first for malaria; it’s the first one developed for any parasitic disease. Mosquitos, be warned!

Photo by Darius Krause on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Gettin’ The Boost

Another adventure in the ongoing saga,Tales of Covid. Despite all the perky reassurances that our initial Pfizer shots were still “highly” effective, whatever that means, Dear Husband and I were eager to get a third shot as soon as possible.

Breaking news Friday was that the Oregon Health Authority would follow the CDC’s Thursday booster recommendation for us 65+-ers as well as the immunocompromised and workers in potentially perilous industries.

Actually finding somewhere to do it was a bit more challenging. The first stop was a nearby RiteAid drugstore, where the apologetic youngster at the prescription drop-off told us they were waiting for the OR pharmacy board to also get on board so nothing was likely to happen any time soon.

Next stop: the Internet, to check availabilty through our local healthcare system. Although phone calls and attempting an online appointment proved futile, the walk-in urgent care clinic seemed poised to administer boosters, so off I went first thing Saturday morning while DH stayed behind to watch football and await my report. I expected long lines of eager seniors brandishing canes and face masks, but the clinic looked quite deserted.

I wasn’t optimistic, since the receptionist chirpily showed me a now-out-of-date notification that only mentioned the immunocomprised with an eight-month timeline for eligibility. But, to her credit, when I pointed out the smaller line reading “some people who received the Pfizer vaccine may get a booster six months after their second dose”, she allowed me to sign in. One of the few times that vagueness has been a benefit!

While waiting to be called back, I was happy to see two pairs of 20-somethings arriving for their second shots. The message is finally trickling down that the vaccine is a) effective and b) necessary if we’re ever going to beat this thing.

One quick jab, one sore arm, and several headaches later, I feel poised to rejoin the world with a bit less anxiety. DH, who received his booster Saturday afternoon, had more severe side effects — fatigue, soreness, headache, and feeling “flu-ish”– but is on the mend.

Photo by Bruno Scramgnon on Pexels.com

Another Sad Cautionary Tale

Wishing that those who spread misinformation and/or continue to cause harm to others by refusing to get vaccinated would be held accountable.

Bride-to-Be, 29, Who Was Fearful of Getting Vaccinated Dies of COVID: ‘Misinformation Killed Her’

Samantha Wendell’s funeral will now be held at the church where she had planned to have her wedding. By Julie Mazziotta People Magazine

Samantha Wendell

Samantha Wendell | CREDIT: BLAKE-LAMB FUNERAL HOME

A 29-year-old Kentucky woman who was fearful of getting vaccinated died of COVID-19 after missing her wedding while hospitalized with the virus.

Samantha Wendell had spent nearly the last two years planning her wedding to fiancé Austin Eskew, obsessing over every aspect of the big day, NBC News reported. The surgical technician from Grand Rivers had put off getting vaccinated, worried that her plans to have three or four kids with Eskew wouldn’t be possible after she heard false information from her co-workers that the shots led to infertility.

She “just kind of panicked,” Eskew, 29, said.

The Centers for Disease Control, OB-GYN groups and health experts have emphasized that the COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility and are entirely safe for hopeful or expecting moms. “It is just not true that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is associated with infertility in either males or females,” Dr. Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, previously told PEOPLE.

RELATED: Unvaccinated Pregnant Nurse and Her Unborn Baby Die of COVID: ‘It’s Hard to Accept’

Wendell ended up changing her mind on getting vaccinated as the delta variant spread through the U.S., and decided that she and Eskew should get inoculated before their honeymoon in Mexico. She made appointments for them for the end of July, but after her bachelorette party a week prior, she started feeling sick and tested positive for COVID-19.

“She could not stop coughing,” Eskew, who got it too, said.

Neither of the couple had preexisting health conditions, and Eskew’s symptoms were mild. But Wendell continued to deteriorate and was hospitalized in August. She spent six weeks in the hospital, and five days before their planned wedding date of Aug. 21, Wendell was put on a ventilator. Just before, she asked doctors if she could get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“It wasn’t going to do any good at that point, obviously,” her mother, Jeaneen Wendell, said. “It just weighs heavy on my heart that this could have easily been avoided.”

Good News Monday: A Me-Too Solution in Nature

Female hummingbirds imitate males — to avoid harassment from doting mate-seekers

by John Anderer (studyfinds.org)

ITHACA, N.Y. — The “catcall” is as outdated as it is cringeworthy. Interestingly, however, a new study finds human females aren’t the only ones who have to deal with unwanted advances. Researchers report that many female hummingbirds display the same bright colors as males — all to help avoid unwanted behaviors from males looking for a mate.

This research focused on white-necked Jacobin hummingbirds living in Panama. Over a quarter of studied females had coloring usually associated with male hummingbirds. Researchers say these colors keep doting males from harassing females with common behavior such as pecking or body slamming.

“One of the ‘aha moments’ of this study was when I realized that all of the juvenile females had showy colors,” says first study author Jay Falk, currently a postdoc at the University of Washington, in a media release. Mr. Falk led this research when he was a part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. “For birds that’s really unusual because you usually find that when the males and females are different the juveniles usually look like the adult females, not the adult males, and that’s true almost across the board for birds. It was unusual to find one where the juveniles looked like the males. So it was clear something was at play.”

Male hummingbirds leave flashy-colored females alone

Male white-necked Jacobin hummingbirds are known for their bright, distinctly flashy color patterns, usually characterized by beautiful blue head markings, and a bright white tail and stomach. Adult females, meanwhile, aren’t as colorful, usually displaying more muted tones of gray, green, and black that work much more efficiently as camouflage.

As children, even females display vibrant colors before seeing their markings grow more muted with time. However, among the juvenile females studied by researchers, around 20 percent retained their bright colors well into adulthood. As of today, study authors can’t say exactly how or why this occurs in some female hummingbirds. It may be genetic, environmental, or entirely up to choice. That being said, researchers do conclude that whatever the mechanism, the purpose is to help avoid aggressive male behavior and harassment during feeding and mating.

“Hummingbirds are such beloved animals by many people, but there are still mysteries that we haven’t noticed or studied,” Falk explains. “It’s cool that you don’t have to go to an obscure unknown bird to find interesting and revealing results. You can just look at a bird that everyone loves to watch in the first place.”

In an experiment, the research team placed stuffed hummingbirds nearby and watched as real hummingbirds interacted with the fakes. Sure enough, males primarily harassed the fake birds with muted color patterns, and left the others alone. Additionally, most females only have bright colors as children, which is of course not a time when mating is even possible.

In the future, study authors would like to use this work to help research how differences between males and females develop across other species.

The study is published in Current Biology.

Jacobin hummingbird
This image shows a male-like female white-necked Jacobin hummingbird being released after capture and tagging. (Credit: Irene Mendez Cruz)

The Lint Trap

Am I the only person who has managed to do laundry for decades without learning that occasional white spots or streaks on dark clothes are caused by too much undissolved detergent? Please don’t embarrass me by replying, “Well, duh, everyone knows that!”

Anyway, I know this now. And while I was emptying the lint trap today — today being laundry day around here — it occurred to me that we often accumulate little unwanted specks of debris in our psyches, too.

Mental “lint” accumulates when we’re exposed to too many little bits of negativity. It could come from the news. The jerk driver who cut you off. A chance remark by a nasty neighbor or co-worker. It could even be a self-deprecating thought that makes us doubt our own worth.

And, just like doing our laundry, we need to regularly empty our mind’s lint trap and start afresh. At least once a week.

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