30, 2009 THE
SECRET OF UNHAPPINESS
know very few people, says Betsy Stevenson, who would tell
me they wish they hadnt had kids. In other words,
they wouldn't admit that they regret being parents. However,
thats at odds with her Wharton School study called The
Paradox of Declining Female Happiness. She was quoted in
Maureen Dowds column earlier this month. And what were
one thing in life that will make you less happy is having children.
conclusion applies universally. Its true whether
youre wealthy or poor, if you have kids late or kids
early, Professor Stevenson says.
from news reports, August 2015:
a child can have a pretty strong negative impact on a person's
happiness, according to a new study published in the journal Demography.
In fact, on average, the effect of a new baby on a person's life is
devastatingly bad worse than divorce, worse than unemployment,
and worse even than the death of a partner. [I suppose
thats because you can recover from those other disasters by
finding a new partner or a new job; but once you've taken on the
responsibility of raising a child, theres no escape.]
Researchers Rachel Margolis and Mikko Myrskylä, examining
how the experience of becoming a first-child parent affects the
likelihood of having additional children, found that 73 percent of
participants expressed decreased happiness after their first child,
compared to 27 percent who reported no change or an increase in happiness.
from Jane Johnson, August 2019:
are often one great source of happiness. But there's the daily
grind, less energy and sleep, the strain on finances and marriage,
the increased level of worry, guilt, frustration, stress....
The time consumed by parenting leaves few opportunities to experience
many other sources of joy, so your net happiness can be less.
THE DATE IS IN THE STARS
In a new
article, I imagine astronomers staying up until midnight on this date
38 centuries ago to watch the culmination of the Pleiades. Then
they would blow their noisemakers to signal Happy
New Year 1800 BC!
(By the way,
L'shanah tovah to our Jewish friends.)
THE CANARY NO LONGER SINGS IN THE MINE
may have heard about this.
to 50 years ago when I was in grad school, there are now 29% fewer
birds in North America! That's according to a study published
last week and described in this
Bonner, executive director of the Audubon Society of Western
Pennsylvania headquartered near me, told the Tribune-Review
that he is, sadly, not surprised.
did our continent lose three billion birds? Among other
possible causes, we've eliminated habitats, particularly
grasslands. We've also increased our use of pesticides, thereby
reducing the number of insects.
remember when I was a boy chasing the fireflies (lightning
bugs) in the back yard. Now I usually see only one
solitary firefly each summer.
remember when robins warbled to greet the dawn, and blackbirds
strutted across the lawn, and sparrows chattered in the
shrubbery. Not lately, however. It's been weeks since
I've encountered a robin. I did see a mourning dove last Wednesday.
told that when robins arrive in the spring, they sing to claim their
breeding territories, but then in the summer they seem to disappear
from our yards because they're foraging in the woods.
Nevertheless, I can't help thinking that the local birds must have
migrated back to Canada because of the warming climate.
UPDATE, NOVEMBER 14, 2019: Earl Pomerantz agrees that the
blackbirds have gone bye-bye. On our last trip to
Michiana [in July], unlike in years past, we saw no cardinals, no
scrub jays, and heard no woodpeckers tapping on nearby trees or, less
idyllically, the vulnerable exterior of our log cabin. I
dont know. Maybe, like us, they were just on vacation.
predicted this would happen. The Old Testament warns of a
coming day when the grasshopper can only drag itself along, a day
when the street doors are shut, when the sound of the mill
fades, when the chirping of the sparrow grows faint and the songbirds
fall silent. (Ecclesiastes
12:4, Revised English Bible)|
the Oberlin College Class of 2019 graduated in May, my old
classmates also got together on campus to celebrate the 50th
anniversary of our Commencement.
months earlier I had been assigned to administer a website
so that our reunion would have a presence on the Internet. The
template came from a company called Class
Creator, and the home page looked like this.
site provided a place for messages like Remember me? I'm
a retired physician now. I'm looking forward to seeing you at
the reunion! Classmates contributed pictures and other
content. There was a copy of our yearbook, plus memorabilia
from our student years and historical tidbits from the century that
did my best to drum up enthusiasm for the planned events, including
an optional day beforehand in nearby Cleveland.
Conservatory alumnus invited folks to join a chorus that would sing
Brahms on Saturday in the concert hall.
hour-by-hour schedule promoted the available activities for our
class, plus other Commencement Weekend events.
matters like registration, ground transportation, and housing were
explained on a page for FAQs. Who was planning to attend, and
which activities? There were surveys. I even included a
received many compliments on the website. Several class
leaders credited my work for our fine turnout. Of 554 living
classmates, 250 joined the site and 167 came to the reunion.
Thirty percent attendance isn't bad, considering that we're all now
at least 70 years old. Over the last half century, we've been
scattered across the country, even across the world.
course, lots of pictures were taken at the reunion plus several
hours of video, so the website now has a Scrapbook section.
the Saturday-night soirée (a buffet in the reading room of
the old library), I stood in a back corner to take the wide view above.
president Wayne Alpern thanked the many who had made the event
possible, and at the end he made a special point of thanking me.
The class stood up, turned to my corner, and gave me a standing
ovation! I was touched.
my life, I've received one other standing ovation from my classmates
54 years earlier, at an awards assembly during my senior year
at Richwood High School.
did the Tigers feel I deserved applause? See this month's 100
BUNCHING UP IN THE WIDE-OPEN SPACES
few days, I like to leave the suburbs behind and drive out into the
countryside for a relaxing cruise among the trees and fields. I
did so yesterday.
is Route 85 about five miles west of Rural Valley, PA, a two-lane
road where the speed limit is 45 mph. As usual, there's not
much traffic, but as usual, several cars seem to be traveling as a
group. Yeah, we got a little convoy; ain't she a beautiful
sight? But why?
I'm in the red car leading the pack through the winding curves,
uphill and down. I don't want to exceed the speed limit, but I
don't want to drop below it either, so I've set my cruise control for
45 mph. Other drivers who would prefer to go faster have
bunched up behind me. I keep an eye on them in my rear-view
mirror. They can't pass me, because the double yellow line
continues for miles. I've forced them to become law-abiding
citizens. Mmmwwwhahaha! (Evil laugh.)
19, 2019 YOKAY?
most common single line of dialogue in scripts seems to be the
question Are you okay? I hear it in every movie and
TV program. In the final season of The Big Bang Theory, I
counted four times in Episode 14 when someone asked Leonard whether
he was all right. Usually it was because he had sneezed rather
show, whether comedy or drama, has at least one moment in which a
character suffers an emotional or physical misfortune. (If
there were no problems, there would be no story.) Another
character sees the first character groaning in anguish and
solicitously asks, Are you okay?
March 6, 2020
blog by comedy writer Ken Levine responded to Terry Harvey's
inquiry: "Practically every show I watch has a moment
where one character asks another, 'Are you OK?' Is there any
way around this writing device that is used so often? Or is it
simply a necessary means for quickly advancing the story by
greenlighting a character to have their moment and letting the
replied, "Truthfully, Ive never thought about it, nor has
it bothered me. In real life, if you see someone hit with some
shattering news and wrestling with how to deal with it, 'Are you
okay?' seems an appropriate question. You need to hear how
wrecked they are before you can deal with them properly."
the frequent appearance of that line in scripts, I don't remember
hearing it often in real life. Well, there was one time, if
high school can be considered real life.
High School had no cafeteria. My guess is that when the
building was being designed in the late 1930s, someone pointed out
that it didn't really need a cafeteria because there already
was a kitchen and dining hall in the nearby elementary school and an
additional half-hour could be scheduled.
if we high school students wanted to eat lunch, at the start of
fifth period we'd traipse a couple hundred yards through the rain or
snow to the grade school (X). Entering that building, we'd
clatter down the stairs to the lower level, where the floor would be
wet from what we were tracking in.
day my feet slipped out from under me and I fell into a sitting
position. As I got up, someone asked me if I were all right.
answered no. I explained that the shock to my spinal column
had momentarily stunned me and I was still seeing stars. I was
not quite all right. The honest response to Are you
okay? would almost always be No, obviously I am not.
I suppose Are you okay? is preferable to the longer
alternative: I have observed that you appear to be in
some distress, and I wish to offer my sympathy and to inquire whether
I can be of any assistance to your hopefully quick recovery, okay?
also preferable to simply ignoring someone's suffering. An
Australian suicide-prevention organisation is called R
16, 2009 IS
YOUR MIDDLE NAME JEROME?
was just reviewing tomorrow nights starting lineups for the
Latrobe High School Wildcats. According to the official roster,
the defense includes nose guard Thomas Dovie and strong safety Donato
Lonigro. However, theyre better known as T.J.
Dovie and D.J. Lonigro.
young men these days call themselves something J.
Can we assume J is their middle initial? Does J stand for
Joseph or Jefferson? No, more likely J stands for Junior.
couple of years ago, T.J. Beam pitched for the Pittsburgh
Pirates. His formal name was Theodore Lester Beam, Jr., so he
should have gone by T.L. instead of T.J. But I suppose
his father was known as Ted, so people called the new little boy Ted
Junior. That soon became T.J., and that stuck.
Juniors, this is still a fairly limited phenomenon. Otherwise,
we'd have celebrities like K.J. Griffey the baseball slugger, V.J.
McMahon the wrestling entrepreneur, and D.J. Fairbanks and L.J.
Chaney the late movie stars. Famous racecar drivers would
include D.J. Earnhardt, A.J. Unser, and A.J.J. Foyt. In the
Seventies, our President would have been J.J. Carter. President
J.J.? That would have been dyno-MITE!
THE HIGH LONESOME SOUND
this date 108 years ago, what was happening in western Kentucky?
Monroe was born on September 13, 1911, on a farm near
Rosine. He learned to play the mandolin, and he went on to
become the Father of Bluegrass.
22 miles away in the town of Livermore, Vernon Thomas was already a
two-year-old. He never played an instrument, but he did grow up
to become the father of me.
town, just three miles from Livermore, has a puzzling name.
Now I can reveal its source. My article is titled Marooned
in the Bluegrass,
and it's mostly about old bridges.
11, 2009 THAT'S
NOT HOW IT WORKS
car keys come attached to a fob containing a little radio
transmitter. At the press of a button, you can remotely unlock
your cars doors.
people have gotten the idea that these devices work better if you
hold them up to your chin. They even have video
evidence. Allegedly, the oral cavity in your skull
amplifies the signal.
bogus. Where would the electricity come from to operate this
best you could hope for is an unpowered passive reflector.
Maybe the radio waves are reflected toward your car by the oral
cavity in your skull, otherwise known as your mouth.
your mouth. Radio waves dont behave like that.
They don't bounce off your body; they are absorbed by it. They
dont reflect off anything inside your mouth (except your dental
fillings, which only scatter them in random directions).
Instead, they soak into your head, as we've learned from the alarmist
warnings about cell phone radiation.
some people insist that their fobs work better at chin level.
Could this be? If so, is there a non-bogus explanation?
automobile stylists, the beltline is the base of the
windows. Above the beltline is the greenhouse
mostly glass, through which radio waves easily pass. Below the
beltline are fenders and door panels mostly steel, which radio
waves dont penetrate.
the signals from your key fob are received by an antenna (shown here
as a blue asterisk) at the top of the dashboard, essentially on the beltline.
you hold the fob up high, as this man is doing with his right hand,
the radio waves can avoid nearby parked cars and other obstacles,
pass through the greenhouse, and reach the receiving antenna.
if you hold the fob at your beltline, as the man is doing with his
left hand, youre holding it below the cars beltline.
The radio waves dont have a direct path to the receiver.
(Nevertheless, theyll probably get there by a roundabout path
if youre not too far away. Maybe theyll first
reflect off the underside of the cars roof and then bounce
around the interior for awhile.)
it from a physics major: your mouth can redirect sound waves,
but not radio waves. Unless you're an android, of course.
watching a PBS documentary about Bakersfield country music (Merle
Haggard, Buck Owens). The backstory: Okies packed up
their cars to flee the Dust Bowl for California.
hear a snippet of an old-timey song, I have a little car and
it's a Chevrolet. It is better than a Dodge or a Ford coupé.
perk up. In those days, my father sold Chevrolets!
He worked at a garage within a day's drive of Nashville.
do some research, locate the song, and add a link on this
page. It's not about an old flivver; it's about a Chevver!
4, 2014 QUESTIONS
claim that people evolved from apes, millions of years ago,
says the creationist. But if the monkeys turned into
humans, why are there still monkeys? Huh? Answer that
one. You dont have an answer, do you?
I have another question. If our family is descended from
Scottish people who emigrated from Scotland to the New World two
centuries ago, why are there still Scotsmen today? Huh?
You see, some Scots became Americans, but not all of them.
apes developed into humans, but not all of them. Look up
'cladogenesis' in your biology textbook. It's simple.
of genesis, theres a young-earth creationist group called
Answers in Genesis that denies the facts of
evolution. They operate the Creation Museum in Kentucky and are
trying to finance a replica of Noahs Ark nearby. AIG
demands that all employees abide by their statement of faith, which
among other things requires that employees believe:
only legitimate marriage sanctioned by God is the joining of one man
and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in
Scripture. God intends sexual intimacy to only occur between a
man and a woman who are married to each other, and has commanded that
no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage
between a man and a woman.
not only have the people at Answers in Genesis not read
their biology textbook. The people at Answers in
Genesis have not even read Genesis! At least they
havent read it beyond the story of Noahs flood.
clearly does not delineate Gods insistence on a single,
Abram, later known as Abraham, was Gods choice to become the
father of His chosen people. But his wife Sarai was infertile,
so he took her slave girl Hagar as an additional wife (Genesis 16:3).
Later, Abrahams nephew Lot impregnated both of his own
daughters (Genesis 19:36). In his defense, he was drunk.
Abrahams grandsons Esau and Jacob each married multiple
wives. First, Esau wed two Hittite women (Genesis 26:34).
His mother didnt get along with them and said, If Jacob
marries a Hittite woman like those who live here, my life will not be
worth living (Genesis 27:46). So she sent her other son
off to marry his cousin (Genesis 28:2). Thereupon Esau took the
hint and also married one of his cousins, Mahalath, who became
his third wife (Genesis 28:9).
Jacob duly wed his mothers niece Leah, but she wasnt the
pretty one, so he also married her sister Rachel (Genesis 29).
He eventually fathered twelve patriarchs: six by his wife Leah,
two by his wife Rachel, two by Leahs slave girl, and two by
Rachels slave girl (Genesis 35:23-26).
did not condemn any of this. He accepted these arrangements,
and the men who made them were revered.
Answers in Genesis, has God commanded his people to
restrict their sexual activity according to the standards of
18th-century America? The way youd prefer?
he has not. The answers are in Genesis.
inverted pyramid is an
eye-catching building. But the term means something else in journalism.
are taught to write stories in inverted pyramid form, so
the reader first encounters the key facts. Then he learns other
details, and finally, if he's curious enough to read that far, the background.
if the tale of an athletic contest is written in this manner, I get
confused. I want to be led through the game step by step.
How did it begin, then what happened, then how did it finish?
That's hard to reconstruct if the story starts at the end.
week in baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates lost 6-5 at Philadelphia in
11 innings. Let's analyze the game story from the next morning's online
edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
consists (after a two-paragraph introduction) of 16 disordered
paragraphs which I've graphed as a descending progression of
blue dots. The first paragraph tells how the winning run scored
in the 11th inning; I'll allow that.
the next one flashes back to reveal that the Pirates held a
4-2 lead in the 8th inning. But apparently the score became
tied later, because the next paragraph jumps forward to
compliment the relief pitcher who kept it tied into extra
innings. The following paragraph explains that a different
reliever entered in the 11th and gave up the winning homer.
the story flashes back to the 8th again. It spends four
paragraphs explaining how the Pirates lost that 4-2 lead,
followed by a paragraph for the top of the 9th when they scored
another run to tie. Next we flash back further to the
7th inning for a couple of paragraphs about how the Pirates achieved
that 4-2 lead.
the story flashes back-back-back all the way to the starting
pitcher. From there it moves forward to the 4th when he
lost his shutout, then to the 5th when the Pirates cut the deficit to
we've accounted for all the scoring, so there, in the middle of the
game, the story ends! Wouldn't it be better to tell the tale in
chronological order, as indicated by the gold line? Ah, what do