Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Expressing Gratitude - inspired by Chris Kalman

I recently received an e-mail from the writer, climber, rock-star man - Chris Kalman. He presented a gratitude list and recommended doing it for yourself. I have let this blog collect quite a lot of dust over the last several years. So much has happened in my life since Tom Paine's Ghost had its hay day; marriage, job, cross-country moves, procreation. Perhaps a gratitude list is a good way to reboot things here at TPG. Here goes.

1.) Family - This one is amplified by the most recent addition of our first child - Atlas Malkolm.  He'll be three months old at the end of June.  The love I feel for my son grows every day with the addition of each little giggle or groan to his vocabulary.  So far being a father is better than I dreamed it would be. I miss him when he's sleeping.  Watching my wife bring him into the world was the most intense experience of my life as I am sure it is for many birth-partners out there.  I am grateful that I had two parents who loved me as I grew and wanted all the best things to happen to me.  I am grateful that I knew three of my grandparents and I am grateful for this new family of ours here in western Virginia.


Atlas Thinking (Photo credit Evelyn Amos)
2.) Freedom to find new things.  Finding novel information; songs, drawings, paintings, and especially perspectives, is something I really value. I sometimes feel that in the age of streaming services, which would have us all think we are free to decide among endless choices, I get stuck in the algorithmic ruts and actually have less and less autonomy when it comes to deciding what goes into my eyes and ears. Every day I try to scratch beyond what is offered to me by the electronic content curators to seek new obscure content. Content the creator wanted me to experience, not the movie studios, record labels, or the newspaper publishers. I am grateful that I have the drive to seek novelty and the freedom to search for it.

3.) My memory. As I age and lose people close to me I cherish memories more and more.  Though this can take an unhealthy turn when I get too attached to items that have sentimental value I think using old cassette tapes, photos, sound and image files to help remember people is OK.  Many times just telling the stories of their lives, preparing and eating foods they loved is enough to bring their smiling faces right back in front of me.

4.) Bicycles - Riding my bike to and from work still feels like a subversive act in the climate justice realm. I feel like I'm hacking a system designed to force me to drive. No matter the weather, floating down a hill on a bike always makes me feel invigorated.  I'm grateful I know how to ride and can afford to own and maintain my bikes.

5.) Career - Whenever I think of the value of having a career I think of this line from The Desiderata poem by Max Ehrmann


"Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time." 

Having a major component of life that needs to be taken seriously keeps me focused, provides for our family and helps maintain a rhythm to life. I am extremely fortunate to hold a job I love.  I'm 36 and this is the first time I have felt satisfied with my professional standing as a college-level educator.  

6.) Good Food - A few days ago I made an extremely simple brunch for myself and my wife. I microwaved Amy's black bean burrito and on top put fried eggs, and sliced ripe avocado with salt and pepper.  It was a totally spontaneous meal made up as we were all out of bread.  It was one of those meals where I grunted 'mmmh' repeatedly.  One of my two eggs was actually a duck egg from Glade Road Growing farm down the street from our house. My wife got two chicken eggs mainly because it was a double yolker! I think the eggs were so good because they were local and had likely been eating fresh summer greens when they made those orange gooey yolks.   Those moments of simple yet complete gastronomic euphoria are the best! Thank you, farmers, thank you sun, thank you chickens and ducks!


7.) Humor - This one is intertwined with my memory as I can't think of anything funny without thinking of my father - the pun master - always stringing words together to make a joke no matter how small. " You know why lawyers love bananas? Because they have a lot of appeal!" I'm not as funny as some of my siblings but laughing at an endless line of references to inside jokes sitting around a table is one of the greatest scenes I've had the privilege of experiencing.  I want more of that in my life.  (If you want to laugh right now - watch this)

8.) Community - I've struggled with this one living the nomadic life of a young adult in America in the age of gig-work and employee churn.  I value the idea and the small roots we've begun to set down here in Blacksburg, Virginia. I felt like I had a genuine community in Fort Collins, CO where I lived for many years. But after I moved away to Atlanta for two years, then back to Fort Collins I felt the weight of Heraclitus' words whooshing past - "You can never step in the same river twice."  I realized college towns are places where community ebbs and flows. This makes me sad. At my age, I don't think I'll ever have that idealized version of hometown community I've always romanticized about.  Thinking of my grandfather - Charles "Puffy" Guertin - as a pillar of his community, volunteer fire department leader, known and respected as an archetypical local of Lakewood, NY. On the flip-side, through all my moves I have made connections with people that persist to this day and I stay connected to many online.  I was just helping a friend from the UK plan a visit in the fall.  Cheers and gratitude to old friends scattered around the globe!

9.) Wilderness - Walking in the woods was a morning ritual I shared with my Dad and sisters growing up. Watching the sun shine through the leafless maple trees on cold December mornings on the little trail behind our house will always stick with me as my first real appreciation of nature. This backyard tradition would balloon into an obsession with getting into the wild when I was in college and in my 20s.  Hiking Mount Washington in New Hampshire with my best friend, sister Betsy and her then-boyfriend Stew when I was 16 really kickstarted my outdoor enthusiasm and it continued to grow with an out-west road trip at 19 with Betsy and younger sister, Katie. Highlights came in North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah (Colorado would come later for me when I got into graduate school at Colorado State). Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota was my first National Park and holds a special place in my mind for the lasting inspiration it left with me.  It has been a privilege to spend as much time as I have roving the American West, hiking on the Rockies from Montana to New Mexico. I can stand in awe of a glacial lake or a desert butte for hours and to this day I often look at the pictures from my travels. A memory of sharing the views at the Island in the Sky viewpoint in Canyonlands National Park with my friend Craig come to mind. As he stared at the sunset tears from a sense of overwhelmed happiness streamed down his face and I was reminded of how lucky we are to be able to witness such beauty here on this wonderful planet of ours. 

10.) Creativity  - By their prolific practice of painting, knitting, sewing, and building, my mother and her mother imbued in me the confidence to create.  Though I have had long quiet periods in my life with little artistic creation I have always kept a flame of creativity lit somewhere inside me.  Lately, I 've been inspired to paint again, build another little free library, take more photos with intention, and absorb more art for the sake of being moved to create art.  In the newly released documentary about Bob Dylan's 1975-76 "Rolling Thunder Revue" present-day Bob Dylan says to the camera 

"Life isn't about finding yourself or finding anything. Life is about creating yourself, and creating things."


I am grateful for all these things and so much more. I have an extremely full life and want to share it.  Thank you for reading.  If you feel like writing a gratitude list let me know.  I want to read yours too!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Why your internet sucks

It was a privilege to vote for municipal internet in Fort Collins in 2017. So happy it passed. I now live in Blacksburg, VA and am feeling the pain of the Comcast Cartel as Hasan Minhaj describes it.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Decoding Watson on PBS

I would like to thank John Kwok for alerting me to this new PBS documentary about James Watson, the controversial co-discoverer of DNA structure. I was tagged in a post about it on Facebook by John who saw Professor Ken Miller of Brown University share a link to the film. I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Miller's assessment of the documentary. It is unafraid in confronting the racism and sexism of Watson while allowing the story of the discovery of the double helix to shine.

I must add one note. Though the story of discovery is certainly abbreviated, I think it worth mentioning one character who is left out in this telling.  Jerry Donohue, an organic chemist from Wisconsin of whom few have ever heard. Donohue provided a crucial course correction right before Watson put the puzzle together (The Double Helix pg. 120).  Watson had been using cardboard models of the four nitrogenous bases that constitute DNA. He made these flat cut-outs based the structures published in The Biochemistry of Nucleic Acids by J. N. Davidson.  Watson was using the cardboard models to try and conjure how the bases might fit together to form a helix (which he knew must be the structure from Rosalind Franklin's famous photograph 51.) However, these cardboard models were misshapen. Homologous oxygen atoms poking out from the thymine and guanine models were in the enol (O-H) rather than the keto (=O)  form.  Jerry Donohue pointed this out and only then could Watson make the key observation that adenine pairs with thymine just as guanine pairs with cytosine. It was as though Donohue passed him the ball on the one-yard line!

When I read Watson's The Double Helix for the first time last year I was startled to learn about Jerry Donohue and hope he is also remembered for this serendipitous correction!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

It's a Wonderful Trump! [SNL Cold Open]

Unbelievable response from the most vacuous President in American History!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Frances H. Arnold Nobel Lecture

If you are or know a graduate student, pay particular attention to this starting at around 17:55.

Australia's Mega-Battery Win (Financial Times)