A Visit to the Library! And a Restaurant!

On Monday I saw an announcement in our local paper that two branches of the Tacoma Public Library would be opening for timed-entry, in-person browsing beginning the next day. One of those two is a local library for us, so this was a not-to-be-missed opportunity.

A quick click to the library web site revealed that there will be four different times each day: noon, 1:00, 5:00, and 6:00, each lasting for 45 minutes. By the time I got there, the first two time periods for Tuesday were already filled, so I signed us up for 5:00. 

Yesterday, I was twitching with excitement by the time we got to the library. When they opened the door and I walked through, my eyes filled with tears. I immediately went for the new fiction section, where only a few books remained (and none of those were titles that I at all recognized). This was somewhat disappointing, but, hey, we were AT THE LIBRARY!

I had forgotten how small this library branch is, but, hey, we were AT THE LIBRARY! So I soldiered on. In the children’s section I found The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while. And in the large print section stood a copy of Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman. 

2 books: The Island of the Blue Dolphins and Something in the Water

I hadn’t planned to spend the rest of my reading time this month with these two books, but, hey, they are actual library books checked out AT THE LIBRARY. So there we are. This whole experience didn’t require anywhere near 45 minutes.

Yesterday was a beautiful spring day here in the Pacific Northwest, so we got to see the trees in flower in the parking lot.

flowering trees in parking lot

Back in the car, my husband announced that he wanted to stop at Oddfellas, one of our favorite local eateries, for dinner on the way home. When I asked if he wanted to order online for pickup, he said no, that he wanted to go inside and sit down to eat—and drink, of course, because Oddfellas offers a large selection of draught beers.

Restaurants in our area are now allowed to open at 25% capacity. Odfellas is small. When we got there, the only other diners were a couple of women eating and chatting at a table along the back wall and a solitary man sitting at the bar. We took a booth well removed from them. While we were there, two or three other couples arrived. There was enough room for all of us to be more than appropriately socially distanced.

But, as much as I enjoyed my pizza, I also felt ambivalent. My husband and I both had our second dose of COVID vaccine more than two weeks ago, but I fear that if people start to mingle in public again too soon, there may be another upsurge in COVID-19 infections.

So we won’t be eating out routinely now, and we’re certainly not going to Disneyland any time soon. But for a couple of hours yesterday evening, I felt almost like a normal person again.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Roger Mudd, probing TV journalist and network news anchor, dies at 93 – The Washington Post

As a top Washington reporter for CBS and NBC, Mr. Mudd changed political fortunes with his direct questions.

Source: Roger Mudd, probing TV journalist and network news anchor, dies at 93 – The Washington Post

On This Day, March 8: International Women’s Day marked on March 8 for 1st time – UPI.com

On March 8, 1914, International Women’s Day was observed on March 8 for the first time and would go on to be marked on this day annually.

Source: On This Day, March 8: International Women’s Day marked on March 8 for 1st time – UPI.com

Vaccinated!

My husband and I both got our second dose of COVID-19 vaccine yesterday. I’ve waited to post in case either of us experienced any of the reactions to the second shot that I’ve been reading about.

Last night we each had a very slight bit of soreness in our arm, but that had disappeared by this morning and neither of us has had any further reaction. A few friends who also got their second shot yesterday reported a slight fever and low energy today, but nothing serious.

This article reports that there are still questions about the results of getting the full dose of vaccine, but both my husband and I, being over 70, were happy to get vaccinated.

And here’s the short-sleeve shirt I wore to vaccinated:

T-shirt that says "Yes, I do have a retirement plan. I will be reading more and more books."

I hope that all of you are staying healthy and warm.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Snow Day!

We don’t get much snow, except for occasional flurries, here near sea level on the coast of Washington. So when a storm hits, we make the most of it. Yesterday afternoon through this afternoon we got about 10 inches, which is quite a lot for this area.

The Seattle Weather Blog noted that 8.9 inches that fell at Seattle Tacoma International Airport on Saturday was the fifth-snowiest single day at that location, and the most snow on one day since 1969, when nearly 15 inches fell there.

The Seattle Times

The last time this area got a significant amount of snow was February 9, 2019, when about 5 inches fell. We were traveling in the southern hemisphere then and missed it, so we took full advantage of this storm.

Weather Service tweet about snowfall in Seattle area

My husband went out to get the mail while snow was still falling.

man standing in snow, waving, while snow continues to fall

houses, bushes, and trees already covered as snow continues to fall

Once the snow stopped, we got all bundled up and went outside to take some photos.

We have several lion statues like this one around campus, but they were all camouflaged today:

lion statue nearly covered by snow

One of the reasons we moved into Franke Tobey Jones Retirement Community was to avoid having to do chores like mowing the lawn and shoveling snow. We are very lucky that we have such a dedicated staff here. They got to work immediately:

snow plow on driveway

Because we had plenty of warning that this storm was on the way, we were able to lay in enough supplies to last us for several days. Our outdoor photography trip reminded us of our childhood in New England and was a welcome break from the seemingly endless routine of the past 10 months.

Wherever you are, we hope you are safe, healthy, warm, and well supplied.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Take a peek inside the world of longtime Seattle-area book clubs

I met most of my best friends at book group. Here Moira Macdonald, arts critic for the Seattle Times, features the stories of some local book groups that have been discussing books for more than 30 years.

The Pandemic Has Erased Entire Categories of Friendship

It’s easy to focus on the people we’ve most missed seeing during our extended period of lockdown: our families and closest friend. But here Amanda Mull thinks of all the more amorphous groups of people she’s been isolated from: fellow patrons of the local sports bar where she used to watch the big games, co-workers with whom she chatted in the communal kitchen, workers at the local coffee or sandwich shop.

Lately she has realized “I missed all of those people I only sort of know.”

Brain scans, surveys help scientists paint neural portrait of loneliness

Loneliness has always been a potential problem for people whose friends begin to die as they age, but the social isolation of the pandemic has increased its effects. This article reports on research results that researchers hope may increase their understanding of how loneliness affects the brain. “Understanding the ways loneliness influences brain structure and neural patterns could help researchers develop remedies for these problems.”

They met in high school. Fifty years later, the pandemic helped them realize they belonged together.

I always love finding stories like this one. My husband and I met in high school and will celebrate our 50th anniversary in June. Betty and Peter’s story, told here, is a bit different from ours but still heartwarming. And it’s good to hear of positive results brought about by COVID-19.

6 Groundbreaking Facts About Elizabeth Blackwell, America’s First Woman Physician

In 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. A few years later her younger sister, Emily, also became a physician. Together, the Blackwell sisters forged the path for women to become doctors.

Elizabeth Blackwell’s autobiography is one of the works I wrote about in my dissertation on life stories. Last month saw the publication of a new book about Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell: The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women—and Women to Medicine by Janice P. Nimura.

‘Tapestry’ at 50: How Carole King ‘bet on herself’ to record a singer-songwriter classic

album cover: Tapestry by Carole King

I haven’t had a turntable for about a thousand years, but I still have my original record of Carole King’s album Tapestry, which turns 50 this year. Here’s the story of its making and historical significance.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

‘People in their 80s and 90s are bloody brilliant!’ Kate Mosse on writing – and being a carer

“The bestselling historical novelist has had a productive lockdown – reading 250 books and writing two, all while caring for her elderly mother-in-law.”

Historical novelist Kate Mosse was “one of a number of novelists commissioned by the Wellcome Trust to write about issues of social or medical care.” The result is An Extra Pair of Hands, to be published later this year. Mosse based the book on her experiences caring for, first, her mother during widowhood and, second, her mother-in-law during the current lockdown. 

Can You Treat Loneliness By Creating an Imaginary Friend?

I began reading this article thinking that it would discuss how many people, even adults, may have felt the need to create imaginary friends for company during this time of social isolation. But I was wrong. 

Here Jim Davies, professor in the Department of Cognitive Science at Carleton University, discusses tulpamancy:

Over the last several years, a community of people, interacting mostly in online forums, like Reddit, have discovered a way to create something like imaginary companions as adults. This process is known as tulpamancy, and the people who engage in it call themselves “tulpamancers.”

The process involves the creation of a tulpa, an imaginary companion who is thought to have achieved full sentience. “In other words, this is a benign hallucination.”

Davies writes, “What is interesting to me about this phenomenon, which is only now beginning to be studied scientifically, is the reason that people decide to create a tulpa in the first place: Most often they do it to relieve loneliness.” He imagines several situations in which this practice might serve a useful function.

James R. Flynn, Who Found We Are Getting Smarter, Dies at 86

“A philosopher who moved into psychology and studied I.Q., he showed that as society grows more technical, human intellectual abilities expand to meet the challenge.”

I offer this piece not specifically for the obituary, but rather for the history and significance of Dr. Flynn’s work in isolating and understanding the field of intelligence testing. His work has continuing importance.

Remote learning isn’t new: Radio instruction in the 1937 polio epidemic

We all know about the use of remote learning during the current pandemic shutdown. Here Katherine A. Foss, professor of Media Studies at Middle Tennessee State University, tell us “This is not the first time education has been disrupted in the U.S. – nor the first time that educators have harnessed remote learning. In 1937, the Chicago school system used radio to teach children during a polio outbreak, demonstrating how technology can be used in a time of crisis.”

Hall of Fame voters pitch a shutout as character questions muddle Cooperstown debate

I’m a big baseball fan, and I’ve been interested over the past several years how the media and fans have reacted to the problem of performance-enhancing drugs in all sports. I was not surprised to hear of the recent vote that kept former MLB players Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling out of the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. In this article for the Washington Post Dave Sheinin examines how the voting works, including an explanation of how “the so-called character clause” in the voting instructions works.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

I’m signing off as TV critic, but here are six shows I’d happily watch again

Hank Stuever wrote this piece when stepping down as TV critic for the Washington Post. I like it for its description of how television changed during his tenure as critic:

TV, which once seemed a manageable part of the cultural diet, became all-consuming. Netflix released its first big streaming hit, “House of Cards,” in 2013, and the steady supply of TV programs that I once jokingly thought of as an open fire hydrant instead began to resemble a tsunami. The customs of TV were upended: where to watch it, how to watch it, how much of it to binge-watch at a time. Also, new manners: how to talk about it, how not to spoil it for others.

Stuever ends with his list of “shows I reviewed that I would totally watch again.” I thoroughly disagree with the first on his list, “’Twin Peaks: The Return’ (Showtime, 2017).” My husband and I loved the original show but thought that this reboot was a thorough waste of time. However, three of the others he lists were total winners with us: The Americans, Lost, and Mad Men.

Turning the Page on the Year

“If ever there were a new year that called for a new notebook, this would be it.”

Dr. Perri Klass admits that she loves notebooks even if she’s not as diligent in writing in them as she’d like to be. I used to write in a journal just about every day, but for about two years, when we were traveling extensively in early retirement (and hopefully we’ll be able to do that again some time), I let myself fall out of the habit. (Yes, it’s much easier to let a habit lapse than to build a habit in the first place.)

But I’ve been building up the old habit over the last couple of months and intend to do much better this year.

You’re Not Listening. Here’s Why.

“There’s an unconscious tendency to tune out people you feel close to because you think you already know what they are going to say.”

Kate Murphy, author of You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters, says that while researching her book, she “earned something incredibly ironic about interpersonal communication: The closer we feel toward someone, the less likely we are to listen carefully to them. It’s called the closeness-communication bias and, over time, it can strain, and even end, relationships.”

There’s some good stuff here, including a possible explanation for “why people in close relationships sometimes withhold information or keep secrets from one another.”

No, it’s not weird to talk to yourself. Mental health experts point to pandemic, unrest as possible reasons

“Experts say [self-talk is] common and that, with the added stressors of a pandemic alongside protests over police brutality and race relations in America, self-talk can be a way to feel control in a world that offers individuals very little.”

Why Do Dwarves Sound Scottish and Elves Sound Like Royalty?

My husband and I had just finished three evenings of watching the extended versions of Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy of Lord of the Rings when the photo of Gimli the Dwarf popped up in my email. I had thought about the language of dwarves and elves during the films (the extended versions are LONG movies) and was therefore interested in reading how these fantasy dialects had originated. 

We have J.R.R. Tolkien to thank for the way these characters of fantasy speak. Tolkien, who has a philologist, “would create languages first, then write cultures and histories to speak them, often taking inspiration from the sound of an existing language.” 

Undecided On Getting A Covid-19 Vaccine? Beware Of These Two Cognitive Biases

Dr. Joshua Liao explains how availability bias and confirmation bias may influence our decisions about getting a coronavirus vaccine.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown