On a Beach Walk: #63 (Mars)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Good morning. The day is bright. The sky is clear and blue. The only clouds I see are on the distant horizon. Not many hours ago, stars filled the dark sky. Ancient civilizations thought of stars as twinkles attached to a dome that vanished by day, but today we know they are present behind the sky’s blue veil.

Probably everyone has wondered if life is elsewhere in the seemingly vast, endless void we call space. After all, our sun isn’t the only sun in the universe. Earth is located in the sweet spot of our solar system – but with many other suns, other sweet spots exist for life as we know it.

On the other hand, we humans are self-absorbed with ourselves thinking we are the center of everything. Let us not forget that at one time we said the Earth was the center of the universe with everything revolving around us and our planetary home. That was the prevailing thought of the time until new knowledge changed that view – although acceptance took time. Yet, some still embrace this notion.

Yes – today I want to think outside of Earth’s atmosphere. As my feet travel on this soft sandy, I wonder about the surfaces on other planets. Whether looking beyond the wild blue yonder or wondering as we watch the twinkling in the night sky – we wonder.

Although the song is not about this topic, the Moody Blues’ lyrics, “I know you’re out there somewhere” makes me wonder about life elsewhere. Does it exist? If so, is there any commonality with life on Earth? Then again, we could be the only life in the universe, and wondering about space is a gift for being human.

Life as we know it needs food, water, shelter, and something to breathe. Our needs are based on carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and phosphorous, which are the key substances (but not the only) that compose not only us, but all life forms.

I think about these needs in terms of space travel to a neighboring planet. Venus had water at one time but no longer does. Besides, it’s too hot. Mars is another neighboring planet – and those beyond it are too cold.

Mars – the red planet – a visible star with a reddish tint. Mars – 250 millions miles away – an eight-month journey. The technology to get there exists, and is being further developed. Technology for recycling materials during the journey and on the planet exists.

Technology to use the frozen carbon dioxide of Mars exists – as is protection from the solar radiation. But I wonder: Can the human body endure the journey? Can the human body endure that planet?

Some say the human trip to Mars is inevitable – even by 2040. Others say it’s a dream. Yet, we cannot forget these three important factors: 1) Earth is our most suitable home; 2) Colonizing Mars will not save us from ourselves here; and  3) Exploration is in human DNA.

From our migratory ancestors to early explorers; from the Vikings to European explorers as da Gama, Magellan, Hudson, and others of their time – from visiting the North Pole and the South Pole to climbing Mt. Everest – from diving deep into the sea to landing on the Moon – Yes, humanity wants to explore because humanity wants to know.

While we dream of Earth serving as the home base for that futuristic trip into the sky I see above, let us not forget that we also have the opportunity to appreciate what we have and take care of it.

On this day as I walk the beach, I dream – even fantasize about a possible future. Thinking about Space – the final frontier – “To go where no man has gone before.”

Earth is my home – actually our home. Earth is where we find the flat plains of grain, the rolling hills of green, and the tall mountains with majestic peaks. However, my feet are moving on the fine sand of this coastal community. After all, I like walking the beach for it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: #62 (Food)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Looking across the water is a reminder that life lives below surface. A large variety of fish, shrimp, clams, oysters, scallops, and more. Of course the listed ones are commonly available food for us to eat. So I wonder, “What’s for dinner?”

Is an ongoing question for you? We ask it, but also laugh about this seemingly eternal question. Although our time at the beach is away from the normal routine of home, “What’s for dinner?” ever looms in our midst. So, why not, I’ll think about food today.

All of us have a variety of likes and dislikes. Some of us are risk takers when it comes to trying different foods, others have a limited menu of preferences. So food: What is it? Why do we need it? When it comes to food, what do living things have in common with each other?

Food – that basic need for all life forms. All the organisms of the sea and the beach need food for the same reasons as people – for nourishment – for the nutrients that either provide energy, act as a building block, or assists in a process. Yes – that’s what carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals are all about.

Food – think of all the cookbooks available – let alone online resources of recipes – all forming a collective of bountiful offerings of culinary delights. Yet, most people limit themselves to a rotation of less than 20 recipes.

Food – Think of the times of our settlers when most ingredients were grown in their own gardens or by other locals. The farmer’s markets of today carry on the tradition of locally grown products, which also seems to carry a greater importance outside North America.

I think of today’s large grocery stores – endless aisles of canned and packaged products that are complete with preservatives, fat, sodium , sugar, and more. Therefore, much of today’s cooking is an act of combining various boxes and cans into a final product.

On the other hand, the food industry today provides fresh fruits and vegetables from throughout the world – a luxury less available during my youth – oranges from South Africa – grapes from Chile – after all, bananas are not grown everywhere.

I think of a time when families ate an evening meal together – and even a more grand meal on Sunday afternoon – whereas today our lives are more on-the-run causing us to yield our food preferences to frozen and packaged products or a wide variety of fast-food establishments.

Today’s life offers many restaurants of a variety of styles and prices without a messy kitchen – well, at least not ours. I find it interesting how cuisines differ not only from country to country, but also from region to region within a country. The fried plate of everything and anything is more common in the US South and the US North. The dishes of northern Italy are different from those of the south.

I think of the abundance of natural food in nature – the corn with its husk but without a label because corn is corn. Let us not forget that corn is a plant – a living thing that also needs food just like we do and for the same reasons. Green plants make their own food by photosynthesis because they can’t catch it or kill it. Animals hunt for food because (and unlike the green plants) they can’t make their own. Whether an organism catches food or makes its own, food’s end result is the same.

Light from the sun is the initial energy source driving photosynthesis, but there are also organisms living in the darkness of the deep sea that can make their own food without the presence of light – but they use the sulfur gases venting into the water from Earth’s core as the energy driving their food production process. Nature’s design is so grand.

It seems food is more complex than many realize, but thinking about food makes me hungry. Besides, it’s lunchtime.  But for now , I continue moving toward the condo because walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On Thanksgiving 2018

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The most important decision each person makes in live is the choices they make of the people around them.

No matter the age – as children, teens, young adults, adults, and elders – the importance of the choices is the same.

No matter the place – work, school, neighbors, organizations, and more – the importance of the choices is the same.

No matter our choice of hobbies – dance, photography, travel, bicycling, knitting, blogging, or more – the importance of the choices is the same.

For Thanksgiving 2018, I am thankful for all the good people who have been around me all my years – my hometown, college, neighbors, work, church, conferences, dance, vacations, family, and many more – and that includes the good people in blogging.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Returning this weekend for Act 2 of Pronouns 2: The Musical featuring songs with Mine in the title. Curtain goes up at 1:00 AM (Eastern US).

On Containers

 

Why is the astronaut in a space suit?

I always enjoyed asking that question to biology students. Knowing the knew the answer is one thing, but the question and the crafted discussion was a setup of what was to come. After all, I wanted to expand their view of the situation and use the discussion throughout the entire unit (3 chapters).

The space suit serves as a barrier between two environments – one suitable for the human body, and the other quite harsh – therefore, the space suit is a container similar to a can of vegetables on the grocery self.

The body within the space suit is also a container with a barrier separating different environments on each side of the barrier. Within the human body are several cavities – open spaces that are sealed spaces for organs. For instance, the chest cavity is sealed with a protective barrier to play an important role in inhaling and exhaling. Yes, another container within a container that is inside the protective space suit.

Tissues and organs (composed of tissues) are not only within the cavities, but throughout the body. Tissues are composed of two or more different types of cells working together in a common function. Surprise, surprise, surprise – cells are also containers because each cell has a protective barrier (cell membrane) separating two environments. It is through these membranes that essential materials pass through to reach their site of need for processing. Through these same membranes, the waste removal process occurs.

Cells contain individual parts with specialized functions. Are you surprised to know that many of these parts are covered with protective barriers separating two distinct environments?

Substances continually pass in and out of the cell through the membrane. Some of these movements occur naturally without the cell expending energy. On the other hand, some movements require energy to occur.

Cells are the reason we take in oxygen from the atmosphere and return carbon dioxide. Cells are the reason we eat. Cells are the reason the heart pumps blood throughout the body to transport nutrients and carry away wastes. Cells are the reason we go to the bathroom. Cells are the reason all vital activities exist.

Cells have to survive in order to reproduce. Cells require food and eliminate wastes. Cells must interact with their surrounding environment. Cells require amino acids to produce proteins. Cells contain DNA to serve as the code of life not only for itself, but for the organism as a whole. As Bruce Lipton (scientist) states, “In reality, a cell is a biological mini-me compared to the human body. A cell has every biological system that you have.” …. now, that is quite the container.

On a Beach Walk: No. 32

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Today is my birthday – February 17th – which is a good day to reflect on my life. I think about different people.

I think about my mother. A kind, gentle woman who came to America at age 26 with a 3-month old, knowing only my dad, and not knowing English. In time she learned the language well enough to converse with customers, visitors, friends, family, and neighbors.

I think about growing up in a small town in the rural Appalachian part of Ohio. Different times there then than today. I had wonderful friends in that isolated, small world. Good times with good people in a good place at a good time.

I think about my college days – a four-hour drive from home – a place that providing great times and a beginning for my career. The place that I established many long-term friendships. The place where I met my wife of 40+ years. Yes, we are called Falcon Flames.

I think of my teaching career – such an important, challenging, difficult, frustrating profession. My career was one of two halves – time when I thought I knew how to teach and times when I knew how to teach for learning. (past post?)

I think about my years in training development. Wish I could have done more of it – then again – I needed the last half of my teaching career to guide it.

I think about 40+ years of marriage – the ups and downs – the travels, hobbies, events, and friends – the love, support, growth, and challenges.

I think about all the people I’ve encountered in 65 years – family, friends, neighbors, classmates, co-workers, professionals, fellow church members, medical professionals, my students, dancers, cruisers, and many more. I’m steadfast in my belief that the most important decision people make in their life is the people one chooses to be around.

I think about the new world of the cyber-connections I’ve made with fellow bloggers. Many wonderful people from most US states (if not all), and from all the world’s continents. You have confirmed my belief that the majority of the world is good.

I think about those who died during my journey. From Effie, a fellow third grader, and (of course) family and friends. Those from accidents, natural causes, illness, and violence – and now I am 6+ years older than my mother when she passed.

Reflecting is an important thing to do. My birthday is a good occasion for looking at life – and the beach is as good as place as any for it. After all, walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On Buying Food

The story below is true – a story that an English Second Language student wrote and I helped edit. The story touched me enough to want to tell others. The words below are a blend of mine and his because I continued working on this story with hopes of posting it here with the original author’s permission.

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The Real Truth about Buying Food in Venezuela

Today is Friday – the day that I can buy food. Not yesterday, not tomorrow – today – Friday.

The government uses the last number of our National ID to set the day of the week citizens can buy food. My number is 27654328, so Fridays are my day, and today is Friday. I requested and received a day off from work for this day – the day I’m able to buy food.

It’s 3 AM. Time to get up to find the shortest line. Yes, some people will arrive earlier than me. Others will spend the night in line. I must be careful because a short line could mean that nobody knows if the store will have any food to sell. I don’t want to take that chance.

I’m going early because the lines will be longer after 5:30 AM, the time the public buses start operating. Some people arrive very early because they own a car. I’m lucky to ride with a friend.

It’s 4 AM. I get in a line at a store that I think will sell food. I count the people and determine I’m 225th in line. There is another line with about the same number of people who are pregnant, disabled, or older than 60 – but that’s not me. This store won’t open until 9 AM

It’s 6 AM. The trucks with foods begin to arrive. I feel lucky and grateful, but realize the grocery store may be empty. I know two other grocery stores are 6 blocks from where I now stand. I wonder if I can get a position in another line? I better walk to them to see.

Success! I’m going to walk back and forth to try to maintain my place in line for both stores.

It’s 7 AM. The second store will open in 30 minutes. Oh no, I’m wasting my time because they have no food.

I immediately return to my first line. I count the food packs from each truck, and then recount my position in line. Yes, there is enough food for 700 people and I’m 225. Even with the second line for special needs, I’m in a good place.

It’s 9 AM. The store opens. Security controls the line by letting 20 people into the store. Soon, people start organizing in groups of 20 with one person collecting all the identification cards in the group. Time passes as I wait my turn with my group, but I still think we’re fine.

It’s 12 noon. Just one group is ahead of mine, so I remain hopeful. Then I hear, “The food purchase is over. There is enough left for 10 people.” I’m stunned.

I don’t know what happened because I counted the food packs and the people. I suspect the store employees and security guards got the first chance to buy food. Some of the food was probably taken for the black market. My 8 hours in line today was a waste of time. I took a day off from work with hopes of buying food.

A lot of things came to my mind with many emotions. I didn’t know if I should laugh, cry, or yell!

How can I survive? Should I not waste my time? Should I eat more often in restaurants? Should I spend money to find food on the Black Market? As I walk away from the grocery store, I thank God because I am luckier than many others, and returned to my house for some rest.

It’s 4 PM. I awaken, but hungry. I am calm because my salary of $30 a month is much better than the minimum wage of $10 a month minimum wage.I can eat 3 times a day at a restaurant where the average meal costs $1.50.

I organize my money I have so I can eat until next Friday – the day I might be able to buy again. Maybe I’ll go earlier next week.

This is my story from 2016. I’m no longer a computer systems analyst in Venezuela. I received a tourist visa to come to the United States, a place where I wash dishes. I am happy here in the United states, but I want others to know that this is still happening to Venezuelans today.

On a Beach Walk: No. 30

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

I look out over the water thinking about my life – especially my mortality. At age 65, my life is more than half over. Probably considerably more. Will this be my last year visiting this beach or will I have 20 more visits? I don’t know. None of us know – but only time will tell.

I ponder about the future of my life in a realistic way: future travels, future health, future concerns, future thrills, and more.

I wonder who will take care of us when we are elderly (assuming we need it). We have no kids. Each of us have one younger sibling that provided us with two nieces and two nephews. We certainly can’t see any of them stepping in – especially because they may have their parents to watch over.

I don’t worry about what would my wife do if I passed away first. She’s strong and will figure out what is best for her.

I occasionally wonder about what I would do if her life ended before mine. Would I stay in the area or move? Would I spend more time in Italy to engage my Italian roots? Would I enter a new relationship? I wonder about accepting someone’s baggage so late in life and them accepting mine.

Given my life’s ups and downs, I wonder who would attend my funeral. Then again, a time will come when I’m no longer a thought to anyone – and that’s OK.

I wonder about everlasting life. Yes, I believe in God – but I don’t worry about what if that leads to nowhere. After all, what is there to lose?

Given the ups and downs in my life, I wonder who will attend my funeral. Then again, the time will come when I’m no longer a thought to anyone still alive – and that’s OK.

Even though life has many ups and downs with a future that is unknown, walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.