Capitol Hill Briefing

On July 9, I had an opportunity to present Why Rural Matters 2013-14 on Capitol Hill with my colleague and friend, Daniel Showalter. Since I was in Albuquerque visiting, I had to leave July 8 (E’s birthday!) to fly through Dallas to DC. Things were going well…

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until we got to DC and had to circle for 45 minutes, then get diverted to Dulles (from National) then back to National, and finally forced to land in Richmond, VA where we were deplaned, hosteled for the night, and finally put back on a 737 to fly the 20-minute route to National. We learned after landing that the cause was a nasty storm system in DC. My hotel room was at American Airline’s expense and was mostly okay except for the carpet being soaked by a leaky air conditioner.

We landed 10:30AM July 9 and I promptly took the Metro from National to the offices of Rural School and Community Trust (getting there around 11:30). Daniel brought my suit from Ohio and I used a bathroom stall to change into the suit. Then it was a quick lunch and on to Capitol Hill.

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We entered the new Visitor’s Center and registered for our talk.

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The briefing was hosted by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Representative “GT” Glenn Thompson (R-PA). You can see Rep. Thompson’s remarks on the floor of the House here:

Thompson introduces Why Rural Matters 2013-14

We were pleased to have his support and the briefing was well-attended and went well.

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After the briefing, I hopped into a cab for National Airport, and flew to Dallas. Our landing was slightly delayed by the President and First Lady’s visit to Dallas (they have to manage airspace around the president’s “luftilla.” On landing, we found out that our flight to Albuquerque was first delayed, then delayed, then delayed, and finally rescheduled for the next morning. Because there were NO beds in Dallas hotels, they added beds to the concourse area of the airport and I spent the four hours catching 20 minutes of sleep.

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I got to know my fellow passenger on both flights very well. I finally landed on July 10 back in Albuquerque and was glad to not have to travel by air until August. The briefing was a success even if travel was frustrating. 

 

The Athens Kleins in Albuquerque

After going to Hawaii, E returned to Albuquerque with Grandma and Grandpa to find Jenny, H, and K there with Bob. I’ll post pictures mostly with brief captions…

Bindy
Bindy poses for her close-up.

 K required no time whatsoever to get along with Bindy. K delighted in touching Bindy, playing with Bindy, chasing Bindy… Now Bindy is so old, that she delighted in K’s bedtime mostly, but also seemed to find her inner-dog-child when K would throw the ball for her.

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 K also had fun reconnecting with Grandpa and Grandma.

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There was much fun in throwing the ball for humans too.

We visited Grandpa Tuthill in Los Lunas and he introduced K to his little burro in the front yard. At first, K was skeptical.

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But K soon grew close to the little burro though I think she may have been looking for the pedals to make it go.

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We had a nice visit with Aunt Teri, seeing her at lunch and then also at Grandpa T’s.

 

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Another nice aspect of my time in Albuquerque was that I was able to engage in a mini-retreat-like experience by visiting the Albuquerque Zen Center for morning zazen, and twice to go to the Bodhi Manda Zen Center in beautiful Jemez Springs, NM for some meditation and soaking in the natural hot springs. Both sangha’s were gracious and welcoming. My deepest bows of gratitude to Seiju and Hosen.

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The individual pools of water ranged from hot to scalding and all of this results from natural geothermal hot springs in the canyon.

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While there, Kenzie used the Sutra House to catch up on her meditation.

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Much gratitude and love for family and friends in Albuquerque.

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The Fourth

E. is in Hawaii,

E. on the Big Islandwith grandparents, cousins, and aunt/uncle, looking at beaches,

IMG_0855climbing on lava with her Uncle Mike,

IMG_0836ziplining,

IMG_0854 IMG_0856 IMG_0844and visiting amazing waterfalls with her cousins.

IMG_0849 IMG_0850Meanwhile, only today, after three days of living in the New Mexico windtunnel, has Bob been able to get outdoors to sit on the patio and read and write. Last night, I captured this photo with my iPhone.

IMG_0838Tonight, my view is this.

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While back in Athens, Jenny threw a surprise party (as in, surprise, it’s a party) with a bunch of cool folks who gathered to watch Athens’ fourth of July parade.

IMG_0845 IMG_0846So for now, the family is separated by more than 4400 miles, but all are well and by Monday, that distance will be 0.

 

The Flower

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. – Buddha.

Expectations are dangerous things. Much of the anguish we experience in life arise from desire and the mismatch of our expectations with what happens.

Truth be told, I’ve been daydreaming a lot about what the “visible” world may look like through the Enchroma lenses. I’ve set some high expectations given what I’ve read about people having goosebumps and visceral reactions. I want that. I want to feel the seen.

But I also know that expectations aren’t always fulfilled. In fact, I’ve had similar expectations for a set of glasses to provide such visceral reactions. When I was much younger, I donned the awkward red-cyan 3D glasses to watch objects burst from the screen in 3D movies. Then, as now, I wanted the goosebumps; but they never came. The color separation, called “anaglyph 3D” depended on red in such a way that the shark never jumped out of the screen, and the explosions stayed put. Worse, I watched a movie that seemed out of focus, with ghosted images throughout.

Anagylph 3D image showing red-cyan color separation.
Anagylph 3D image showing red-cyan color separation. Source: Wikipedia.

If user accounts of the Enchromas are to be believed, then I want to see a rainbow. I want to look at the Southeast Ohio tree lines that begin rolling hills at the edges of corn fields. I want to look at the tables full of produce at the Athens Farmers’ Market. I want to see the chattering pair of cardinals, whose yard I cut and bushes I trim, in full vibrancy. I even want to see the traffic lights I’ve been going through, mostly successfully. A bit farther afield, I’d like to look at the Sandia Mountains in my native Albuquerque, to see the crowning limestone layer at dusk and judge if the reddish hue from which it gets its “watermelon” name is deserved.

With my overactive imagination, I’ve taken this to an extreme, realizing that a plate full of delicious lettuce salad with tomatoes and beets, may, through the Enchromas, appear like something from another planet. It could be revolting (you eat that? that’s what I’ve been eating? –runs to bathroom with hand over mouth–) It could be radically different but truly disappointing. As in the case of the blind who have enhanced listening and touch, it may be that my enhanced dependence on contrast, shape and texture are diminished by using the Enchromas. (The obvious difference being that I can take the Enchromas off and the blind rarely can actively regain their vision). I take my rapid sighting of birds of prey blending into the background as a near-superpower. I don’t want a kryptonite for that.

Incidentally, I’ve gotten over the cost. For now. The only small piece of using that as a counter-balance for my decisions is the, “what if I drop them, scratch them, break them?” questions. The $10 Walmart polarized shades I wear right now are wonderful in that I don’t care about damaging them. There’s a certain expectation that gets sedimented in items we’ve paid a lot for–it’s the expectation that the lastingness will match the investment–and this too can be a source of anguish. I will have to deal with that carefully and one day at a time.

But the Buddha’s “simple” flower wasn’t just a flower, and is far from simple. Similarly, the act of seeing goes beyond light hitting the eye–it’s about pursuing enlightenment actively, reflecting on the unending depth of simple things too often ignored. The Enchroma journey is not dissimilar, and offers an opportunity and technology for revisiting the taken-for-granted, the status quo. It’s made me think about my world. In conjunction with my sabbatical leave, it’s been part of a life-changing process of reexamination and rediscovery of what I see, eat, think, and do.

Status: Shipped.

Language Games

When people learn I’m color-blind, this usually prompts them to play the “what color is this?” game. They quickly point to random objects and ask, “what color is that? how ’bout that over there?” They rarely see the futility of this. I tell them the word (e.g., “red,” “orange”) that I was taught to say (as were they) in referring to that color and either it matches the one they were taught to say or it doesn’t. When I’m “wrong,” the person usually says, “interesting!” as if they had just made an earth-shaking discovery. The really deep thinkers in the bunch usually end with something profound in a voice like Cheech (or Chong): “Isn’t it wild to think that what you see as red and what I see as red may be, like, totally different?”

Yep. Profound. And one reason why they sell so many foreign-language dictionaries: the primary way we communicate is through language so the objective nature of the object or quality being discussed is subject to the vagueness of that language. 

My father-in-law had a much more nuanced game in looking at Alex Wade’s strawberry example and he’s the first person in a very long time to seriously challenge my thinking on the differences in what we see. He asked me to point to all of the strawberries (individually) in the picture (either one since they look the same to me). The revelation: he was able to see one strawberry that I couldn’t see. It’s hiding in a patch of darkness that makes it invisible to me though likely hard for others to see.

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That one (in the yellow circle). In brief, the realization for him (and me) is that the amount of available light affects the ability to distinguish the colors. I knew this subconsciously but had never thought that it was in this picture. The usual “what color is this?” game had long ago convinced me that if language was our only means of discussing our individual perceptions of color (I am not an angstrom meter), the discussion was pretty much over.

So I choose shirts that pretty much go with any pants (so I’m told) and when faced with the need to describe to someone a color, I use a technique that has served me well. While in Lowes or Home Depot, I grab a few paint chips and memorize a few of the color names. I choose names that suggest emotion more than color. If the color looks somewhat reddish-orange-ish-pink-ish, I call it “dessert sunset.” Other good choices, “sea foam,” “cafe latte,” and the like. People are very impressed and since the titles are so meaningless, they don’t usually contradict you.

So … I decided to order the Enchroma glasses (Explorer in Silver). After I put them on, we can still play the “what color is this game” to the same end. You and I won’t be able to compare colors. I (underscored and bolded) will be able to compare with and without and likely resort to describing the experience in terms not unlike the paint-chip strategy. But that’s just a labeling game and the labels I apply to colors and how they differ from yours is not and should not be the most exciting part of this journey of discovery. How it changes MY perceptions of the world is the interesting part of the road ahead. It’s deeply personal but you’re still invited to share. 

In the next post, I’ll consider my expectations, large and small. It will be about dreaming about the possibilities.

Order Status: Processing…

Color, Language, and A First-in-a-lifetime Choice

On August 15, 2013, David Pogue wrote a blog post about Enchroma’s new lenses that correct for color blindness. His conclusion: “[I] was floored. I mean, I had a visceral reaction to what I saw.” But he also concluded that $600 was too steep a price to bother keeping them.

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(image: www.enchroma.com via nytimes.com)

Comments from others (posted on Enchroma’s site) describe a similar visceral reaction and talk about goosebumps. The language in Pogue’s blog is atypical. Though he is always informative and entertaining, he generally maintains a journalistic detachment in his writing. Not so in his August 15 post where his language is emotional and descriptive. 

The highlight came on Day 4 of my tests, when my kids discovered a rainbow arcing across the sky, pointing and exclaiming. I looked. With my own eyes, I could barely see it. Maybe there was a soft arc of yellow, but that was it.

Then I put on the glasses. Unbelievable! Now I saw two entire additional color bands, above and below the yellow arc. It was suddenly a complete rainbow. I don’t mind admitting, I felt a surge of emotion. It was like a peek into a world I knew existed, but had never been allowed to see.

Commenters on Pogue’s site spoke of crying while reading his blog post. Most expressed disbelief that he would find $600 too expensive, given the cost of corrective lenses for other eye maladies. Others, though, felt that their color-blind world was their world and not deficient at all. 

What about Bob?

I am red-green color blind. I am a “strong deuteranope.” It’s who I am because it is the way I was born–with my M cones somehow different from the majority of the population. It was not a choice, it was me.

And that’s how things were until Friday when I read about the glasses and Pogue’s (as well as his readers’) experiences and thoughts. Though expensive, I could afford the glasses. But would I want them? I certainly don’t need them. Would they make my experience of life and the world better? How? Worse? How?

Being open to the choice involves seeing the color blindness that was/is WHO I AM as a deficiency– SOMETHING I HAVE (or worse: something I suffer from). Deuteranopia becomes something to correct. Let’s not underestimate the gravity of this as a “mere” language game (who I am vs. what I lack vs. what I suffer from). This is all about language, as it turns out. Absent human interaction and the need to communicate, the distinction between whether the chair is brown or green might not matter. The supermarket manager provides the food I eat, so I’m not going to die from eating the wrong color berry. I know which light is which on the traffic lights (the bright gray light means go, the middle yellowish light means go faster, and the other light means stop).

Rather, when I tell Jenny that her phone is on the “green sofa,” only to find out that it is chocolate brown, we’ve now spent four extra breaths describing something that two non-color “deficient” folks would have spent one on.

That said, I know where the hawk is while driving down the road, and she can’t see it. It’s in the trees, there! Sure, I don’t know if it’s a Cooper’s Hawk or a Red-tailed Hawk, but I see it long before others. Likely resulting from my greater honing of pattern-recognition, contrast and shape dependence, and other things that accommodate for lack of color distinction. Would Enchroma’s lenses compromise my ability or enhance it? Not sure, but it doesn’t feel like a deficiency in that light.

The next post, I will talk more about the weekend I spent deciding whether or not I should order a pair of the glasses. In the meantime, if you want to know what I see, the most helpful distinction I’ve seen is at vischeck’s site (I’m a deuteranope) and in particular at the strawberries in Alex Wade’s example. If you are not color-“deficient” like me, the two pictures will look identical or very nearly identical. A description of the phenomenon with the color spectrum and a simulation is less accurate (as I perceive it) though it gives some explanation of the phenomenon and science behind my sight.

 

 

August Summary

In the spirit of catching up to October, here’s my shot at August.

The big memory in August was a local vacation that the family took. After Bobcat Student Orientation wrapped up, we packed the van and headed first to Columbus where H and Bob saw Wilco in concert.

Wilco in Columbus
Wilco in Columbus at the Lifestyles Community Pavilion

From there, we headed north to Toledo, Ohio. No, really. Toledo is an amazing family town.

H and E at the Toledo Art Museum
H and E at the Toledo Art Museum.

Despite making the top ten list for “deserted cities,” it retains great family resources.

Toledo Art Museum Sculpture
Toledo Art Museum Sculpture

The Toledo Art Museum is a world-class art museum that exists primarily because of the generosity of the Libby (of glass fame) family. The museum therefore includes a newly-built glass museum that has a demonstration studio where we watched someone blow a vase.

After that, we went to the Toledo Mudhens baseball game and stayed for 14 of the eventual 19 innings. We had hoped to see the fireworks after the game, but were unable to last until the 1AM finish.

Lets go girls
Lets go girls. Toledo Mudhens games

The following day we ventured to the Toledo Zoo. Another surprise — this town knows how to engage families. The only family treasure we didn’t visit (yet) is the Imaginarium Science Museum.

Gate at Toledo Zoo
Gate at Toledo Zoo.
Giraffe
Wanna neck?
Bald Eagle
Balding?

 

Our herd
Our herd.
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Baby elephant cools down at the Toledo Zoo.

After our day-and-a-half loving Toledo, we ventured to Catawba Island in Lake Erie, where we enjoyed East Harbor State Park, and a peaceful retreat that included boat rides, good food (and bad), swimming in the lake, bicycling, and watching Vacation movies.

H on the beach
H on the beach at East Harbor State Park.
E and K on the beach
E and K on the beach.
K in the water
K in the water.
Jenny H and E
Jenny H and E at the break.

The wonderful thing about East Harbor is that you can walk out into the water for several hundred yards and never experience more than 2-3 feet of water. It was perfect for the entire family.

E smiles
E smiles.

A very special thanks to our neighbors for loaning us their beach house and making this relaxation possible. This trip was a welcome respite before the start of Ohio University’s first semester in decades.

July Summary

I know we’re talking about July in October, but it was a memorable July. The last days of June were marked by powerful “Derecho” storms from which we lost power for 2.5 days (we were the lucky ones).

Derecho Storm
This sucker packed a punch.

We lost a cherry tree:

The Derecho storm took out this tree.

But a few days later, we were already outdoors, enjoying a hike through Hocking Hills State Park. The remnants of the storm were apparent,

Storm damage at HHSP
Storm damage at HHSP

but so were the beauties of the state park, including waterfalls,

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HHSP waterfall on the hike.

and the enhanced beauty of the hikers 😉

Grangie
Grangie at HHSP
Bob and Jenny
Bob and Jenny at HHSP
E and K at HHSP
E and K at HHSP
K in the pond
K in the pond at HHSP
K in the pond 2
K in the pond 2
K in the pond 3
K in the pond 3

This hike was a peaceful pause in anotherwise chaotic July. July was tough to get through. On July 4th, later that day (of the hike), while entering a backyard party and holding K, I was attacked by a dog and this kept me off of my feet for a few days and off running even today (several months later).

It took nearlly nine days to restore power to all customers in the Athens area. Interestingly, the local Krogers store dimmed the lights to reduce the pull on the power grid.

Low Lights at Kroger
Low Lights at Kroger during the Derecho aftermath.

Unexpectedly, most people I know prefered shopping in this atmosphere. Product choice was deliberate rather than promoted by bright lights. Moreover, the usual Muzak that makes me want to hurt someone was turned off.

Later in July, both H and E celebrated birthdays (15 and 12).

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Jenny and E share a hug at E’s birthday.

Bob and three area teachers traveled later in July to Washington, DC to attend a How to Run a Math Teachers’ Circle meeting sponsored by AIM.

MTC team
MTC team in front of the soon-to-be scaffolded Washington Monument.

We saw the usual sites (White House, Capitol), but also the new Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial:

MLK Memorial
The new MLK memorial is stunning and seems to “move” even as you are moved by it.

And though I did not grab any photos of it, I saw for the first time what is my favorite memorial of them all (right after the Lincoln Memorial, that is)– the FDR Memorial. Unbelievably beautiful in the way it paints the story of FDR’s contributions and the state of the world at the time. Wow.

 

 

 

Headed West with Dan and Judy

Mid-June, H & E headed West with Dan, Judy, Denny, and Karen. Sort of.

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They started by touring the Natchez Trace, one of America’s oldest and most historic pathways taken by early Native Americans, later settlers, and lately tourists. It is home to some spectacular scenery.

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Judy read plenty before the trip and served as a guide, pointing out the area’s many geologic featuers, as well as some cultural history. Below, she demonstrates to E how the early settlers brushed their teeth.
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as well as what happened when one of the settlers left the hose on in the middle of the cypress forest:
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To dry out, they headed west, across Texas, then into southern New Mexico where they visited Carlsbad Caverns.
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“Carlsbad” comes from the German meaning “Mammoth Cave is a puny hole in the ground.” If you scratch your screen on the picture above, you can smell the guano.
Later they journeyed through Alamogordo to White Sands National Monument, to gain sympathy with hot dogs left too long on the grill. It was a lot of fun running down the sand dunes…
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…until reaching the bottom…
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where they realized that they then had to go up the dunes.
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until they ultimately collapsed and Dan gave up and went back down.
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Tired and hot, they spent the night in Socorro, New Mexico where they did not see the VLA (otherwise known as the “Very Large Array”)
Image of VLA telescopes
which is a giant radio telescope that is searching outer space for Jenny’s relatives.
H & E report having a terrific time, and Dan, Judy, Denny and Karen say that the rest of the trip it felt like there was a part of their caravan missing.
The following day, H & E arrived in Albuquerque, tired, and ready for part two of their adventure. Meanwhile, in Athens, Jenny and Bob put K to bed and the blog continues at httd://xxx.parentsleftalone-xxx.com/ which links directly to httd://www.watchingoldpeoplesleep.com/