Graduation Gratitude

 

Having just returned from our daughter’s graduation (she received a JD & MBA from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA), I’m ready to don a summer dress and go to more.

While watching the families and friends from across the nation and many foreign countries, beaming with pride, showering their loved ones with flowers, balloons, hugs and kisses, I casually mentioned to my husband and some of our daughter’s friends that I could become a professional graduation-goer. Send me there, and I’ll sit through all the names being read, clap, cheer, and cry for your loved one.

Ok, kidding aside, I do love the traditions of academia. I love seeing the faculty wearing their colorful robes, hats, and hoods representing the many disciplines. I love the parade of banners. I love the music (in New Orleans, it was jazz. Even Pomp & Circumstance was played by a jazz band), I love standing for the national anthem, and singing along, despite being way off key, and even pretending to know a school’s alma mater song.

The graduates represent such hope and promise for the future that’s now in their well-educated heads, hands, and hearts. At Tulane, each school has its own smaller ceremony- -we attended business on Friday and law on Saturday. At the unified graduation, for all schools, undergraduate and graduate, we sat sky high in the Superdome. Apple’s Tim Cook gave the commencement address and charged the graduates with solving climate change. Congressman John Lewis was among those receiving honorary degrees. The school president introduced him as “the essence of an American hero.” After the hood was draped on his shoulders, the crowd stood in ovation.

Then there’s Robert F. Smith. While delivering the commencement address at Morehouse College, the billionaire technology investor announced he would be paying off all the graduates’ student debt, amounting to about $40 million. The nearly 400 graduates of the historically black college in Atlanta couldn’t believe what they heard, then erupted in cheers.

Smith, who’d already pledged $1.5 million to the school, asked the recipients to “pay it forward.”

Giving these students opportunities to pursue their passions without debt can only help our nation solve so many problems. Let’s continue to seek equity in education. Imagine what the future can look like.

 

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Book Festivals, Titles, & Politics

 

Harriet the Spy. A Moveable Feast. Agatha Christie.

What’s the connection?

They’re book titles and authors listed below name tags at an afternoon garden party to launch the Milford (PA) Readers & Writers Festival. https://milfordreadersandwriters.com/

I didn’t read the instructions correctly when I registered, so I didn’t list a favorite book or author. Never mind, books and writers make great conversation starters. I heard about people’s book clubs, met a high school math teacher who hardly misses any NYC play or ballet, a local newspaper editor, and a woman with an advertising agency.

A disparate group, united by a love of reading.

I shared that I’d just finished Kate Quinn’s The Huntress and  had mostly listened to it.  I had both the print book and the audio from my library, and preferred the audio—the actor who read delivered a myriad of accents, making the story authenic and move quickly. If you have any long car rides ahead,  get it.

We recently visited our son and his family in Israel. My grandchildren have embraced Hebrew. The little ones aren’t reading yet so enjoy stories, in any language. I’d brought Katy Hudson’s Too Many Carrots, and read it several times. The children then “read” it to themselves, reciting what they knew of the story in Hebrew. A love of a good story transcends language.

On NPR this morning, I heard about how book clubs in Iowa are reading autobiographies of the many candidates seeking the presidential nomination. But this isn’t your every day, wine-infused discussion. The groups meet in college classrooms and the candidate-authors answer questions via Internet. There are at least 20 titles, if you’re short on books.

https://www.npr.org/2019/05/12/722550954/iowa-book-club-reads-democrats-autobiographies

 

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Recent Reads: Non-fiction

I admit I’m a picky reader. I borrow lots of titles from my library, read a short bit, and if I’m not pulled in, back it goes. Sometimes that can lead to some lulls in my reading stash, and I’ll supplement with magazines or short story collections.

With fiction, I like a good story: strong characters, plot, and surprises. I want believable settings and solid writing. My non-fiction tastes are similar: no textbook sagas for me, but stories that happen to be true that read like great fiction. And I want to come away having learned something I didn’t know.

Two recent titles pulled me in and kept me rapt.

On a bookshelf at my parents’ house, I found a tattered copy of Simon Winchester’s The Professor & the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. Fascinating story. How this reference tome came to be in the era before electronic typewriters, let alone Internet is mind-boggling. The characters are just that—hard to believe they’re real.

I listened to Dave Egger’s The Monk of Mokha on cd in my car. There were times I had to finish a chapter before exiting the parked vehicle. It’s an immigrant story, a business story; it’s about Yemen and coffee. Filled with humor and suspense.

 

Both these books could become amazing movies.

Recently I used Just the Right Book, justtherightbook.com, to give gifts. The recipient completes a questionnaire about what they like to read and JTRB sends books based on the person’s interests. With the demise of bookstores, this is actually linked to a real bookstore, RJ Julia’s in Madison, CT. If you’re looking for gifts, I recommend trying this service. If a title isn’t what a person wants, they can exchange it with free shipping.

Happy Spring Reading! Please give me some suggestions.

 

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Beware the Hackers! It happened to me.

Friday afternoon, about 4 pm, I was wasting some time on my computer. Email, Facebook, browsing for unneeded things. Suddenly, the computer stopped; and a warning, in a deep, monotone voice said: “Your computer has a virus. Call Apple right now.” The number appeared on the screen.

The computer, a fairly old MacBook Pro that has been my loyal companion through several writing projects, was frozen.

Frankly, for a few weeks, a lot of advertisements had been popping up; downloading had become slow, and the little spinning beach ball had appeared and lingered; making posting difficult. I figured, well maybe it had a virus, or at least, needed software upgraded. But I ignored it, thinking I’d get to it in time, or hoping it would go away.

Until this weird, scary robot warning.

So I called. Immediately the phone was answered, and someone named Aaron began answering my questions, and that yes, I was experiencing viruses, and that he could fix everything.

Yay! Whether it’s the car, the dishwasher, the smart phone, or the computer, most of us want things repaired as soon as possible. And with everything being so technical, gone are the days we can attempt to fix things ourselves.

So I answered more question, divulged lots of personal information, and granted him access to my computer. I also paid for AppleCare, and figuring that I ‘d recently replaced my IPhone, a $400 package for 5 years sounded like a good deal.

He said the process would take about an hour and I wasn’t to touch anything during that time. Well, I was having a dinner party, so had plenty to do.

Meanwhile, my husband returned from playing tennis. I told him what was going on, and he asked if it was a scam. Perhaps I’d been hacked.

No, I couldn’t have. This Aaron guy had given me his phone number, and an employee ID. He even said he was based in Cupertino, CA, home of Apple.

But I started to get nervous. By around 8 pm, in the midst of dinner, I decided to call my brother in-law, Pierre, who fixes computers. A former IBMer, he started his own business consulting, repairing and educating people about their computers, and services MACS and PC’s. He said Apple would never tell you to call them, and told me to shut down the computer immediately. We agreed to connect on Saturday morning and he would be able to access the problems.

So, I’d been hacked. I was vulnerable and gullible. And paid $400 via PayPal, that is now in dispute. I hardly slept that night, both from being annoyed at my susceptibility and worrying that our personal identities had been stolen and finances wiped out.

In the morning, Pierre used a reputable app to gain access to my computer. He was able to run various virus-detecting programs, and in short, cleaned it up. I hadn’t lost any data and the bank hadn’t contacted us saying we’d been hacked. However, Pierre said it was time to replace this dinosaur, as its operating system was so old it wouldn’t accept upgrades.

We ordered a MacBook Air on line and picked it up later that day at our local Apple store. Pierre managed the transfer of data from my old computer to my new one, (it’s called migration in computer-speak), and I’m back up and running. New passwords and hopefully wiser when it comes to hackers.

So beware weird emails, phone calls, or interruptions in service delivered by robotic voices. Hang up, shut down. Then take your device to someone you trust to solve the problem.

My brother in-law wouldn’t take any payment from me. Instead, I made a donation to his non-profit that refurbishes computers and donates them to kids in need.

Here’s the link: https://www.gofundme.com/etf2c-a-cause-i-care-about-needs-help

And Pierre works remotely, internationally. Contact me if you’d like his number.

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Pass on the Plastic: Save the Planet

I stopped into a small local store recently, The Paper Pedlar. After being in the gift-wrap business since 1950, the owners are retiring and everything was 70% off. There wasn’t much left to buy but I found some boxes of taper candles, a couple rolls of wrapping paper, glider planes, pens, and eraser party favors for the grands, and a nice wicker basket that I’m sure I’ll find some use for.

I’m always a bit sad when a local store closes and this one is no exception. It’s been a reliable go-to for gift wrap, sold at a discount; paper party goods, stationery items, and gifts. I’m even sadder that the historic building is being razed, along with a few of its neighbors, for a Wawa market.

I think the owners may have tried to sell the business if they weren’t being forced out. It’s successful, convenient, and they were ever so helpful. I don’t quite understand the need for another market, as there’s a Shop-Rite next door.

Wandering around the near-empty store, I remembered the many parties where I carefully selected colorful paper plates, napkins, and plastic ware. My basement still holds many leftovers. I resisted buying more.

I’m trying to move away from single-use products. I ordered reusable mesh bags for produce and bring my own bags to the market. I have plenty of cloth napkins so they can replace paper. I’m trying but don’t feel it’s nearly enough. So many foods come shrink-wrapped, or atop unrecyclable Styrofoam trays. So many non-food items come triple wrapped in plastic difficult to remove.

Remember The Graduate, the 1967 movie, starring a young Dustin Hoffman playing a recent college graduate, Benjamin Braddock. He’s given this advice:

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it….

 There’s very little in our daily lives that doesn’t involve something plastic. And we’ve created a monster. Our reliance on plastics has pervaded the environment; many types aren’t recyclable. The story about a dead whale found with 80 pounds of plastic in its stomach should scare us all.

Last week, teenagers around the globe participated in a strike to draw attention to climate change and the environment. We haven’t been very good stewards of the Earth; I’m worried about the planet I’m leaving my grandchildren and their children. Thankfully these teenagers are taking action where world leaders have failed. Earth Day is next month. Let’s act.

 

 

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Read: Susan Orleans’ The Library Book

Run, don’t walk to your library and borrow Susan Orleans’ page-turner, The Library Book. Sure, you could download it or buy a copy. But it’s about libraries and library books, so getting it from the library seems like the right thing to do.

A devastating fire at the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986 prompted Orleans to undertake this story. And while the fire— the amount of damage, the arson suspect, the rebuilding, renovating and restocking are all part of the tale, there’s much more.

History of libraries. History of library fires. History of the LA library and its eclectic series of directors since its founding in 1926. And a love of reading and books, page after page, after page.

For non-fiction, it reads like a mystery, a romance, and a history. Orleans deftly lists statistics – numbers of books, periodicals, artworks, maps, and so on lost in the fire. She describes vividly the vast array of characters involved in the library’s story, past, and present.

There are plenty of anecdotes, each more interesting than the next. I loved the description of Ray Bradbury. Growing up in the Depression, he couldn’t afford college. So after high school, he spent the next 13 years at the LA Public Library, reading profusely, across genres, fact, and fiction. He called himself “library- educated.” With four small daughters at home, and unable to afford an office, he went to UCLA’s Powell Library to write, rented a typewriter for 10 cents an hour, and wrote “The Fireman.” Looking for a better title, he called the chief of the LA Fire Department and asked what temperature paper burns. Hence, Fahrenheit 451 was born. When the library burned in 1986, all the fiction from A-L was destroyed, including all books by Bradbury.

I’m a library lover from childhood. I remember being thrilled when I could get my own card. The general policy of public libraries is children can receive their own card when they can write their own name. I’ve witnessed this rite of passage with my children and grandchildren. I remember card catalogs, dates being stamped in the back of the book, and paper library cards. But I’m not nostalgic: wooden card catalogs have been repurposed, and I’m quite comfortable with using the online catalog.

I usually visit my local library weekly. I borrow fiction and non, travel guides, children’s’ books when I know the grands are visiting, and books on cd for the car. I love browsing the shelves with new acquisitions, sampling titles from genres I might normally overlook. I know the knitting book collection by heart and love when I search the stacks for a specific title, I end up scanning the shelves near the title, reading book flaps and backs, and borrowing even more books.

Support your local libraries. Thank your librarians. And read Susan Orleans’ The Library.

 

 

 

 

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Orchid Show: NY Botanical Gardens

The weather outside is cold and there’s still snow on the ground. Inside, it’s warm and humid, thanks to annual Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Gardens. We made our yearly pilgrimage and then ate fabulous Italian food on Arthur Ave., in the Bronx.

This year’s theme is Singapore, a city- state known for its diverse population and commitment to the environment. I’ve never been, and after the garden visit, I’m eager to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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