What is local and what is global?

Several years ago there was a yellow haze in the air, noticeably different from anything I had seen before. It was very fine dust from the Gobi desert. It had crossed the Pacific Ocean. Amazing. The desertification in China showed up as air pollution in Seattle.

A funny thing happened when we went to the moon, we learnt that is wasn’t made of cheese…and we saw the earth from another point of view. I really believe that change of view was the most pivotal event that has happened in my lifetime. With our own eyes we saw that there is one earth, and from the moon it doesn’t look all that big. I was 7.

What changed? Our perspective. We really are on a tiny life supporting island in a beautiful, but harsh and shockingly empty, universe. .

Long before the moon landing Blaise Pascal wrote:

L’homme n’est qu’un roseau, mais c’est un roseau pensant. Il ne faut pas que l’universe s’arme pour l’ecraser. Une vapeur, une goute d’eau suffit pour le tuer. Mais quand l’universe l’ecraserais, l’homme sera encore plus noble que ce qui le tue. Parcequ’il sait qu’il meure et l’avantage que l’universe a sur lui. L’universe n’en sait rien.*

Man is but a reed, but he is a thinking reed. It is not necessary for the universe to arm itself to erase him. A vapor, a taste of water is sufficient to kill him. But when the universe erases him, man becomes more noble that that which kills him. Because he knows he is dying and the advantage the universe has over him. The universe knows nothing.

I learned that by heart in my high school French class. In my head it was always connected to pictures of space. Especially those with the earth in them. My personal favorite is call “earthrise”. That photo sends chills down my spine.

We are so interconnected. Our communities can consist of people around the world…and the world doesn’t seem as big as it once did. I spent an hour just hanging out with my son in China last night, a QQ video chat about this and that. It was nice.

I worked in the space industry. I’ve looked at more rivets than most can imagine, over-driven, under-driven and just right driven. Small gouges in very thin pieces of metal had to be analyzed to make sure the aluminum skins could still do their part. We were involved in getting satellites into orbit. Many of them, on some level all of them, were communication satellites. I suppose that is almost the ultimate local-global connection: small rivets that makes communication around the globe possible. Was I talking to James via a satellite I helped, in my own small way, to launch? I rather hope so.

I also hope that they help other mothers connect with their children, and other family and friends, old and new, all around this beautiful, and fragile blue marble of ours.

 

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Think Global, Act Local.”

*This quote may not be perfect, I wrote it from memory and translated it myself.

The (Not so) Easy Road

The “carriage way” along the top of the Great Wall of China was used to get people and messages across China easily.

Carriage Way on the Great Wall at Mutianyu
Carriage Way on the Great Wall at Mutianyu

 

Yes I went up. I am in the top photo, my dad took the picture. Yes, it was nerve wracking. Being afraid of falling doesn’t necessarily make you a coward, just cautious.

Cee’s Which Way Challenge and Look up, look down challenge, as if the climb wasn’t challenge enough!

What makes us who we are?

Plants that reproduce by division are clones. They do not all wind up the same. How they come out depends on the circumstances in which they are planted: acid soil, a rocky area with little room for roots, shade cover. The list of variables that affect the outcome goes on and on.

Before cloning there are several questions I would ask.

At what age would the clone come into being? I was always fascinated by the idea that kids who skipped crawling had trouble learning to read. The occupational therapists would teach them how to crawl and then they could go on to learn to read.

So much of what one can do is dependent on experiences and how they shape us physically and mentally, apparently crawling created connections in the brain needed to read, even though the two activities do not bear similarity. How many connections like that do we not know about?

Also, how mistaken can we be about what is important? Parents with kids who are early walkers are usually thrilled, they don’t care if junior skipped the, seemingly inferior, crawling stage.

If a clone came into being at age two, what would they miss of the experiences that make us able to do the things we can? What about age five? Would they ever be able to do “simple” things like walk, speak, understand speech, read, write, do arithmetic?

Another question is how much of who I am is from genetics, and how much from my life experience?

“Nature versus nurture” is what they used to call the debate (they may still, but I don’t hear the phrase any more). Studies with identical twins separated at birth was the gold standard. When I was in college I did a paper about mathematical ability in women versus men, and I poured over article after article that talked about identical twins separated at birth. It made me wonder how many of these could there be? Even in my pre-parental life, I did not think that there would be that many sets of twins separated. Would I give up a child? Was there a higher incidence of giving up one child because there were two and they were the same? Did they do all these studies on the same sets of twins? Were those twins professional study subjects? If they were, wouldn’t that skew the results?… Would a clone digress as easily as I do?

A personal example: I fell off of our bulkhead when I was three. (I still have a scar, although it has faded to the point that only I see it.) I am afraid of falling. It is different from a fear of heights. It stands to reason that a clone would not have that same fear. How much different would a clone’s life be without that fear? Also, scars and other physical defects change how people respond to you. A clone without a scar might have had a different experience of people. Maybe a clone of me would be bold, comfortable with people and politically astute. Maybe my clone would be ridiculously successful.

On the other hand how much of my bookishness and subsequent learning was from not being bold and comfortable around people? Maybe my clone would have been a high school drop-out. I have a sister who was cute, bold and popular and she was.

As I see it there are too many questions and not enough answers to go for the cloning thing…but maybe that is my fear of falling talking.

This post was inspired by the moving post “Would Cloning Erase Me?”

“Beautiful Children”

That was the whole post: two words and the picture above reduced to transmit “quickly”. It was a Facebook post.
The two boys, alot of the kids, had never seen anything but a text book and the brightly colored books about the world we brought to them fascinated them. Their teachers really liked the books as well. They came into the library during breaks and after school.
The only place I could find sufficient reception for the Safaricom modem was out in the compound. it took about a half an hour to send and it was hot. The juxtaposition of the modern technology with the sleeping dog and chicken strutting by tickled my funny bone. Young man in the blue shirt is my “baby”.
Mid-day in Mulundi-even the dogs are sleeping.
Mid-day in Mulundi-even the dogs are sleeping.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Blogger in a Strange Land.”

A Quilt on the Table…Waiting for Shoes to Drop

I looked up the source of “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Wiki-something-or-other says that it comes from early industrial age tenements where the walls and floors were thin. You could hear your neighbors getting ready for bed and when you hear one shoe hit the floor you know another will soon.

It is used two ways:

  1. to defer action until another matter is finished or resolved
  2. to await a seemingly inevitable event, especially one that is not desirable.

Two shoes have dropped, on different sides of the bed. We have two crises pending in the family. Both are inevitable. The exact details of the crises are not clear, but sooner or later both situations will result in an unpleasant, stress-filled crisis (if we are lucky it will be one crisis each, but I am not optimistic). It is hard to live like that. Not wanting the crises, but knowing they are brewing and that the people who could make the situations better will not. I have no say in the matter but will, inevitably, be called on to pick up the pieces and try to put them back together.

The phone call or calls may come in the next few minutes or the next few months. Every time the phone rings I flinch, then stiffen my spine and answer.

What is wrong in this picture?

Quilt block in the 54-40 or fight pattern, shades of purple, blue and aqua.

 

Enough pouting, how do I stay sane waiting? I find sewing therapeutic. I get to touch fabric, enjoy color and create something, it takes focus, but on something I enjoy…and I have some control over the outcome.

So I decided to make a quilt, in this case I decided to finish a quilt I started over a decade ago (bonus points toward sanity). Quilts do take on a life of their own sometimes. So it isn’t always as controlled as one might think, and this one was no exception.

I made the star blocks over a decade ago after having read a book about color. I don’t remember the theory or philosophy that lead the the choices, but I still love the colors. Every so often I have brought the blocks out, but have never figured out how to put them together. I finally decided to float the stars in a midnight blue sky instead of trying to make a pattern.

Since I started the quilt so long ago and didn’t have a clear enough plan when I started, I did not have enough of the right fabrics to finish the project. The fabrics I used are no longer available and even the basic colors are not in vogue (royal blue seems to be in, not midnight, since when is midnight blue unfashionable?) so finding fabrics cohesive with the color scheme was a bit of a challenge. The fabrics I got to finish things up were not quite what I had in mind when I set out, either to make the quilt in the first place or when I plotted how to finish it this time, but I think the quilt will actually be better than I imagined.

It is coming together now. Having one thing come together, even if it is just a quilt, helps me cope with the stress of waiting for the inevitable crises. Problem is that there are only so many quilts one empty nest can hold.

I wonder if my hobby of putting different bit of fabric together to form a project is related in some way to why I always seem to get the calls?

This post was inspired by the post “Just a Stick in my Spokes” on the Miss Understood blog.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite

Weifang, where my son lives has one major claim to fame: the International Kite Festival. They love their kites.

You can buy your own set of wings:

Several colorful butterfly kites hanging on a wall in a kite shop.
You can buy your own set of wings. Kite shop in Weifang, China.

I had a serendipitous backwater experience in Weifang last spring…I got to fly a kite with an older Chinese man who did so as a hobby. Even though we could not “understand” each other we somehow understood each other.

Meet Mr. Xu Xue Lian and his butterfly kite:

 

With your feet on the ground you’re a butterfly in flight, with your fist holding tight to the string of your kite.

Chinese man holding the reel of kite string flying a kite.
With your feet on the ground you’re a butterfly in flight.

Send it soaring up through the atmosphere:

Kite soaring beside a tower.
Soaring up in the atmosphere.

(it is a Chinese city so the air isn’t clear!)

Oh, let’s go…fly a kite!

 I couldn’t believe it when he handed me the controls ! I think he wanted to share with me the exhilarating feeling of controlling the kite so high up in the air. I have never experienced anything like it. And he had a really good time playing with the camera (one more advantage to having an inexpensive easy to use camera!)

I learned his name because a young woman who spoke a little English and worked in a nearby coffee shop was out walking in the park during her lunch hour and stopped to chat.

 

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