H is for Holm

Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.

Dorothy Parker

Eleanor Holm, gold medalist and world record holder in the backstroke, was a modern woman. Or a disgrace, take your pick.

She was the Ryan Lochte of her generation, guilty of conduct unbecoming to an American Olympian. Or she was the Megan Rapinoe of her day, unstinting in her sense of self and forthright in demanding the right to be treated fairly. However history judges Eleanor Holm, she was a hell of a gal.

Eleanor Holm, far left, with the team at 1932 Los Angeles before winning gold in the backstroke. Photo from Seattle Museum of History & Industry.

Oh, Is It Really Bedtime?

Holm was a teenaged swimming phenom of 14 when she placed fifth in the backstroke in the 1928 Amsterdam Games. She went on to earn a gold in the 100 meter backstroke in Los Angeles 1932 and, with world records in the 100 and 200 under her belt, she seemed poised for more gold in Berlin. She had not lost a race for seven years.

In July 1936, she boarded the ship crossing the Atlantic with her team and her husband, bandleader Art Jarrett. Already intrigued by what they used to call “show business,” Holm sang with Jarrett’s band (in a skimpy bathing suit) and acted in tiny parts in early Warner Brothers movies. She hung with the in crowd and was invited to parties with Helen Hayes and other A-list celebs.

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What to Expect for Christmas

‘Tis the season, right? What is it a season for? This week’s Share Your World has made me consider what happens in December–

Long Lines

Lines at the mall, lines for parking spaces, lines at the post office, grocery, freeway exit… it’s a wonder that there aren’t more instances of Holiday Rage. People are more tolerant than usual, except for line cutters… grrrr… bring back public stocks for line cutters! To me, lines at Christmas most often mean people want to get things for other people, which means lines are rooted in good intentions. That can’t be bad. Except for line cutters, who need to go back to kindergarten.

photo from Getty images

Christmas Cards in the Mail

Do you enjoy receiving Christmas cards through snail mail? 

Love getting cards. And letters. It’s going out of style. I especially enjoy getting the photos of people’s kids who are growing up so fast. I like holiday letters, too, because even writing more than one paragraph or 500 words is going out of style. I send long rambling letters, and if you got one and you didn’t like it, sorry. Usually, people say positive things which compels me to write the following year. The long letters are what got me started writing these blog posts. If you don’t do it, there’s no black mark against you, but if you do, ten brownie points. I got a card today from a volunteer agency, which was nice, especially because it was personally signed. Yay cards!

photo by kajmeister

Requests for Money in the Mail

It used to be catalogs filled the mailbox this time of year, but I think charitable solicitations are starting to outnumber them. Unfortunately, this is a case where No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. Give generously! But when you have to give your address, which you do for tax purposes, then you’ve sealed the fate of your mail carrier and your recycling bin during December. Guilt is powerful, too. Tossing them out always reminds me of the characters in “A Christmas Carol”…”At this time of the season, we think of those less fortunate….” and Scrooge says, “Are there no prisons? are there no workhouses?” or something like that…. *shudder*. Hmmm. Maybe it’s time to cough up a little more money to the local food bank…

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Icarus Reborn

The Parker Solar Probe, photo simulation by JHUAPL in Nature.com.

In the decade that I grew up, Americans went to the moon. Then, we flew reusable planes into space, a couple of which turned into spectacular disasters. Since then, most of NASA’s activity has been relegated to the back sections of newspapers or museums. Astronauts dying have a tendency to turn off people’s appetite towards science. Add in the politics of government financing, and when you can’t even agree to spend money on providing food or medicine to people, then funding decade-long programs to shoot a few people off towards a distant planet seems pretty impossible.

But a couple of stories this week in those science sections caught my eye, and I am pleased to report that NASA, as well as international space exploration, is alive and well. Humans have been going into space, one small research grant at a time. Well-played, NASA.

Barbecue Spacecraft

What’s the fastest human-made object that’s ever traveled? The Parker Solar Probe zipped near the sun in September of this year at 213,000 miles per hour. In comparison, the escape velocity of rockets leaving earth is only about 30,000 mph, which is still hundreds of times faster than we’d experience in a plane. Parker, which was named for University of Chicago (my alma mater) scientist Eugene Parker, who first hypothesized about solar winds, was launched two years ago to explore the sun. Apparently, it’s finding out some really cool things.

Of course, the probe has to get very close to the sun to do this, and in its third dive around Sol, Parker was about 15 million miles out—halfway between Mercury and the sun. Plans are for it to make another couple dozen circuits, which should generate speeds nearly twice as fast and bring it twice as close. On the surface of the sun, the temperature runs around 10,000 o F, although at the corona, the thin covering around the sun, the temperatures can be millions of degrees, up to 300 times hotter. Parker won’t get quite that close, but it’s built to withstand up to 1400 o C, which is steel-melting territory.

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Zombies, Reese’s & Candy Corn Will Live Forever

What kind of candy would zombies eat? Photo at SFFuncheap.

The Halloween holiday, Samhain, dates back centuries to Celtic festivals, and many cultures pay respect to the line between living and dead. In contrast, zombies and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are only about fifty years old, while candy corn is a little older, dating back to the 1880s. All of them reflect a fascination with blurred lines, with candy and people that cross over, which explains why candy corn, Reese’s, and zombies are so popular and will likely remain so for decades.

Love It or Hate It

A recent Monmouth University poll suggested a sharp divide in American attitudes about Halloween. 45% said that the October festivities were among their favorite holidays. Another 53% don’t particularly like it at all. That kind of polarization isn’t surprising in today’s divided populace, although who doesn’t like dressing up in costumes or eating candy? (Answer: lotsa people).

Who could do this to a child? Photo from huffpost.

Know what else divides the populace? Orange. Not the orange head you might be thinking of, but the orange and yellow corn syrup and earwax combination known as candy corn. As Lewis Black and others have pointed out, it’s neither candy nor corn.

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Here Comes that Rain Again (Day 13 of Left Coast Mosey)

I’m ba-a-ck…

We took a three day pause from our three week trip around the northwest to cavort with my brother and family in Sammamish, a foresty suburb east of Seattle, wherein I ate all of my popcorn allotment for the remainder of 2019. Downton Abbey and Ad Astra, both highly recommended.

Our first day on the road again, we drove south to Portland, but the long way, around Mount Rainier. Spoiler alert: it rained steadily all day so that we did not see Rainer. Not a whit. It begs the question of whether it was worth spidering around all the curves and loops in fog and clouds when we couldn’t see the main attraction. Why not just take the interstate?

Above the Clouds

The rainy roads around Rainier. Photo by kajmeister.

The weather is the weather, especially in the Northwest. While residents often tell you that it really isn’t as bad as the statistics say, and that it’s great when it’s sunny, the region is famous for rain. On this trip, we lucked out on a lot of clear skies in Victoria, Tofino, and along the coast, so time’s up. It’s just going to rain, as it often does.

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