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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Seattle vs China

There is nothing shabby about Seattle... at least, nothing much. Seattle is an amazing city for many reasons. (Spoiler alert: Some of what you read here I have said before... so you forget. The new stuff is really worth it.)

But Seattle has its hiccups. Have have a look at The Macefield House that sits surrounded on three sides by much larger commercial buildings.

Mrs. Macefield, in her 80's, refused to sell to developers, even for a million dollars. It was her home and she intended to keep it. So they build around her. She lived there as they built and lived there til she died at 86. She was a great neighbor with not much grass to mow.

And here's where Seattle does it better than China... because they let her do it. When China built the Three Gorges Dam--the world's largest hydroelectric power plant--across the 3,915 mile long Yangtze, it raised thousands of miles of river by more than 30 feet displacing 1.3 million people. The project was so large that some scientists feared the displacement of so much water might cause a redistribution of weight that could alter the earth's rotation on its axis and spin us off to eternity... like Buzz Lightyear. Didn't happen though--phew!

China has many of its own 'Macefield houses' which it calls 'nailhouses.' Unlike the Macefield house, when dollar offers were rejected, China tore them down. And there were many.

So "Take that China!" Even with 1.3 billion people, you're no Seattle. Eat your heart out.

Seattle is America's most educated city--more than half of its 675,000 residents hold a college degree. It boasts the highest per capita ballet attendance too. Its Columbia City zip code is the most diverse in the nation boasting 59 different spoke languages.

This reputedly gray, rainy city sells more sunglasses per capita than any other major U.S. city. It also has the largest percentage of library card holders in the nation (80%) and residents spend double the national average on books every year.

Seattle recycles EVERYTHING from lawn debris to food leftovers. There are regular garbage and recycle pick-ups and if you are not in recycling compliance (they spot check), you are warned twice... then fined! No plastic bags in stores either.

It has a well run, heavily used public transportation system with environmentally pure buses that run on schedule. Commuters can check live on-time performance of their bus on line. And all buses have well-used bike racks--Seattle has more people who commute to work on bicycles than any other U.S. city. And it also has an impressive 24-hour ferry system--the largest in the U.S and its #1 tourist attraction.

Seattle has neighborhoods... really neat neighborhoods, many of which are eclectic in the mix of houses, ages and styles. And trees of all kinds. It has the largest houseboat population east of the Orient.

Everything is green and abundant lush landscaping crowds the sidewalks in some areas. Seattle has a wonderful year-round climate for trees, shrubs, plants, grass, etc. Average December/January  temperature is 47/38. July/August averages 76/57. Believe it or not, Chicago, Dallas and Miami get more rain per year than Seattle. Much of the precipitation in Seattle is mist. I was standing outside talking to someone and without realizing it, the ground beneath me was dry but everything else was damp. It could rain all day in Seattle and measure only .10 of an inch while Miami could get a 7 inch dousing in an hour. Go figure.

Seattle has the Pike Place Market, Space Needle, a new waterfront 175 ft high Ferris wheel, an abundance of museums and other great tourist stuff. On a clear day you can see Mt. Rainier, the Cascade and the Olympic mountain ranges and always beautiful water. Seattle residents seem to have a certain elan you don't see elsewhere. Would Bill Gates live there if it wasn't great?

But as I've said before... the best reason Seattle is best is because my daughter lives there.

PS: The house, which some have said was the model for the wonderful movie UP, will not has as rich an ending. Heirs have decided that without Mrs. Macefield, the house will go... and be replaced with a much less imagined four-story grey building without a history of anything.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ballet is for sissies. Oh yeah?

The truth? YOU WANT THE TRUTH? You couldn't handle the truth! If you are into ballet, you couldn't survive unless you were tough as nails and twice as determined.

That's Misty Copeland. author, entertainer, and American ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre, one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States. She is also a wit with an engaging personality as she demonstrated on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, the best and wittiest radio hour on NPR every Saturday and repeated on Sunday. 

In 2007, Copeland became only the third African-American soloist in the first two decades of the American Ballet Theatre and at 32 now, she is one of the best in the world.

I believe the ballet is a beautiful art form and while I am reluctant to see another Swan Lake I marvel
Jennifer Beals
at the grace and skill of the dancers. Not to brag, I have seen Black Swan, Billy Elliot, Flashdance and, though contemporary more than ballet, The Alvin Ailey Dancers. Oh, and I am happily a Facebook friend of Amber Skye Forbes.

I have even met Flashdance's Jennifer Beals just to show how strongly I am in the art. She was giddiously triumphant just after that Flashdance role and had a few young friends with her in a New York restaurant. As she walked buy, I congratulated her performance and she laughed and said "Oh, I'm not her," which caused her friends to giggle as she probably whispered "What a treat," which sounded in the din, strangely like "What a creep."

The New York City Ballet which has now performed "The Nutcracker 2,342 times offered these statistics on what it takes to be a dancer:
  • 460 over-the-counter pain pills consumed by the company in a week
  • 334 Band-Aids used by the company per week
  • 35 seconds for 16 dancers to change from leotards into dresses during Ratmansky's Namouna, a Grand Divertissement
  • 5,805 Altoids consumed backstage during a year-long season
  • 50 lbs of fake snow dropped during a performance of The Nutcracker
  • 40 hours of corps member dance time per week
  • 7 feet 7 inches: the length of Maria Kowroski's arabesque from fingertip to toe
  • 4 ft average height of a male dancer's jete leap
  • 18 minutes 35 seconds of the bows and curtain calls for principal dancer Wendy Whelan's farewell performance last year
  • 2 days: the average lifespan of a pointe shoe
  • 8,500 pointe shoes used in a season

So don't ever say ballet is for sissies unless you first walk a mile in her shoes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

An athiest's Superstitions... WHAAAT?

ˌso͞opərˈstiSH(ə)n/  noun
Excessively credulous belief in and reverence for supernatural beings.

What do they do with the 13th floor in many buildings and what happens to all the people who work/live there? As luck would have it, they call it 14. Phew!

All buildings tall enough actually do have a 13th floor of course... but we don't call it that because 13 is unlucky. And Friday the 13th is the most unlucky day. Why it is considered unlucky is conjecture but one popular thought is that there were 13 people present at the Last Supper on the 13th of Nisan (Maundy Thursday), the night before Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified. Put them together and voila! Get it?

Thank God it is Friday or we might celebrate Easter Wednesday and wouldn't that seem odd?

But since superstition involves some belief in the supernatural, why are some supernatural non believers superstitious? To put it another way, would an atheist step on a crack and break his/her mother's back... or crack a mirror and get seven years bad luck... or knock on wood to keep bad from happening? But many do says the research,  even without anything to lose. Go figure.

The Science of Superstition, an article in a recent The Atlantic magazine reflects on why so many of us, atheists and other non-believers as well, are inclined to attach a higher purpose to natural events.  In his article, Matthew Hutson, author of the The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking says "No one is immune to magical thinking."

Physicist and Nobel Prize winner Neils Bohr was asked if he believed that the horseshoe he'd hung at his country home was lucky. "Of course not," he said, "but I understand it's lucky whether you believe in it or not."

Young children from both believer and non-believer homes prefer explanations like "Maggie's house burned down to teach her not to play with fire anymore." As we age we know that isn't true, but we still seem to attribute such things to bad luck or fate or 'something.' It's hard to fathom that bad things just happened for no reason at all.

"In a study... self-identified nonbelievers began to sweat when reading aloud sentences asking God to do terrible things. ('I dare God to make my parents drown.') Not wanting to 'tempt fate' they stressed out just as much as believers did."

"Subconscious religious belief seem to increase when we are reminded of our own mortality as in 'There are no atheists in foxholes.'

"Magical thinking is not just a result of ignorance or indoctrination," says Hutson, "it appears to be a side effect of normal, socially adaptive thinking.

"Fear is another driver of irrationality. In a British study of non believers, subjects were told to imagine an encounter with a self-professed witch who offered to cast an evil spell on them. An observing scientist speculated that about half of the group would accept the hex without concern, yet each of them said that, personally, they'd decline the offer."

Of the eight separate and independent studies used in this article, observation seemed to show that one of the few true avenues to atheism may be autism: "The more autistic traits a person had, the less likely he or she was to believe in God." Try telling that to scientists who, among their peer group show only one in three (see last post) believe in God.

As for me, I am still captivated by magic and more joyful believing IT IS truly a happening when an assistant is sawed in half, knock on wood.

Oh, and by the way, I really did see a GHOST when I was seven-years-old. I REALLY DID!