Boats, Books & Lab Girl

“My lab is a place where my guilt over what I haven’t done is supplanted by all of the things that I am getting done”Lab Girl

This is as good a place to start as any.

After yesterday’s post, I felt I had done something if only to document what still needed to be done. It didn’t have the effect I had expected, instead of accomplishment, I felt intimidated.

Yesterday’s post was also different in that usually I write a draft, upload the photos I want, then edit the next day, add pictures and post. But yesterday, I was in a hurry and wrote and posted within an hour, with minimal editing, thus you can see how my mood changed even in the course of the writing as evident in the last line.

After a number of bright (only spotty rain), warm (temps in the 60’s) days here in the south and east of Ireland, yesterday dawned like a winter day, dark, cloudy, steady drizzle.  Actually, typical pre-warm frontal weather, the result of an inverted trough, the low pressure system being to the south and the warm front moving in from the ESE.

Dauntless is not my lab, but it is an instrument in that lab. It facilitates me being in nature, good or bad, hot or cold.

The worse the weather, the more I have this need to put my face into it.  Certainly having to go to the bathroom, to pee, every few hours drives the need to go out there and check the elements, though the phrase to hold on for dear life, has no exaggeration at that point.

I’ve been trying to determine the best way to talk, to write about books that have a profound influence over me. I know many of my readers like the boating adventures and may not care about my soliloquys about life. So if you have any suggestions that I can get to work with WordPress, email me. I have made some additional pages, but don’t like the look so far.

Though it seems I have a wide interest in things, that interest really revolves around two main cores, science and history.  Thus my interest in Paleoclimatology, a field that a number of times in my life I considered going back to school to earn a PhD.   The last time about 15 years ago when I had just started teaching, I had attended a symposium at the National Center for Atmospheric Science (NCAR) on climate change. I was offered a very appealing opportunity, but having moved back to NYC for my mother, and having already given up a good job to do so, life prevailed.

But that Fate is what put me here now, writing this. Dauntless and I exploring the world at 7 miles per hour.

During the last month, I have been reading three books, all non-fiction, all three different, but amazing.  All three are fascinating in their own right and I have not finished any of them completely, I think in large part because I don’t want them to end:

  1. Terrible Swift Sword: The Life of General Philip H. Sheridan by Joseph WheelanSheridan

Having grown up near Sheridan Square I had a familiarity with Sheridan, yet realized I knew nothing about him other than him being a Calvary man doing the Civil War.  Then, just before leaving NYC this past March, I realized that the gold statue across from the Plaza Hotel at the SE corner of Central Park was also Sheridan.

So when I came across this book and in the opening pages was captivated by how much I did not know I knew I had to keep reading!  As obvious as it sounds now, Sheridan as Corps Commander, was the first to use infantry and cavalry as a combined weapon.

Also, the insights one learned about other personalities of the war, e.g. How effective Custer was, or how Meade although in total disagreement, when told by Grant to support Sheridan, actually did so, unlike so many other generals of the war who let their jealousies get in the way.

  1. Half Moon by Douglas Hunter about Henry Hudson who explored New York when he was supposed to be searching for the Northeast Yes, Northeast, as in above Russia, with a crew that spoke Dutch and he didn’t, in a boat only 20 feet larger than Dauntless.Hlaf Moon_
  1. And last, but not least, Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. A beautifully written book by, and about, a woman who lives for science. Wonderfully written because of the language she uses and her ability to relate the mysteries and explorations of science in a profound and moving way for a layman.  Thus my opening quote.

Science is about making connections that most don’t or can’t see. Like science, my lists are more than lists of things I must do.  They are maps of things to learn and things to practice. It’s what keeps me awake at night. The puzzle in the sky that is multiple realities, that makes it rain on your side of the hill, but not mine. Or the three prong plug that can run two different lights. They seem different, but are the same.

Thanks for listening.


Amazon links to the above three books:






Climate Change, Immigration & Peter Pan

Peter Pan, yes, the story of someone who did not want to grow up. Having reached that magical age of awareness, he/she was now perfectly content to freeze that reality forever.

"Rene" the Bar in Budoia
“Rene” the Bar in Budoia.  The only changes in 40+ years are the owners.

These days, as I walk around my small little village of Budoia, population 2500, it is as it was when I first moved here to Italy 40 years ago, so I am reminded how things change and how they remain the same.

Nowadays, even in the smallest villages, it is not uncommon to see Africans and Chinese, here and there going about their daily business.  The Chinese are running many of the bars, where Italians get their coffee, newspapers, aperitif, etc. during the day, from dawn till late into the night.  Probably why the Chinese prosper, as the long hours no longer seem to appeal to the younger European generation. There are also Romanians and others from the Balkans, but Africans and Chinese stand out for obvious reasons.

With all the angst of the refugee crisis and immigration in general, I realize that for the 40 years I have been coming to Italy, I have always seen Africans here, even in small towns like Budoia. Chinese are a more recent phenomenon, first appearing in the outdoor markets 20 years ago and now in significant numbers in the bar business.  I have heard no complaints about the quality of their coffee and at least here, there is an acceptance that speaks to human migration.

Now, let’s rewind a bit.

From reading this blog, many of you know that Dauntless was docked right next to the Viking Tower in Waterford.

Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city and was founded by the Vikings (actually Danes) in the 9th century. It was taken over by the Anglo-Norman invaders in the 12th century and was one of the most important ports in Ireland until just recently due to its deep water port.

Waterford is the only town in Ireland that kept it’s Viking name.  A few hundred years after its founding, The Anglo-Normans came to Waterford to kick the Vikings out, who in turn had dislodged the few Celts who lived there.

Who were these Anglo-Normans?  The Anglos were made up of Saxons, originally from Saxony in Northern Germany and Engels (from whence we get the name “English” and the language), who came from the area of northern Germany, Denmark (from where the Vikings came from) and a bit of Friesland Northern islands north of Germany and Holland). The Normans of course were from Normandy, the NW corner of France.

So, these groups of people from northern France and Germany, after a stopover in England, decided to kick the Danes/Viking’s out of Ireland or at least Waterford, since it was a good place to be.

Now the Vikings who had settled Waterford, really liked Waterford.  It was much warmer and nicer than where they came from.  So when the English/Normans pushed them out, they didn’t move far, just up the road about 3 miles north of town, to a neighborhood called Ballybeg.  Now, what is interesting about Ballybeg nowadays, is the number of times I was warned about the “that neighborhood”.  I’m guessing that people in Waterford have been talking about “those” people in Ballybeg for the last 900 years. The fact that Waterford kept it’s Viking name, which means large port and the Celts also called it, “Lairge Port” speaks to the fact that even after the Anglo-Normans arrived, the Vikings were more assimilated than replaced.

In fact, a recent issue of the BBC History Magazine talks about how the Vikings may have assimilated as much as raped and pillages over the years, throughout the northern world.  Who knew?

So to look at it as dispassionately as possible, as we go back in time, when did migration/immigration start? Yesterday? Last year? 10 years ago? 100? 1000? 10,000? With Columbus? With …? Get the picture?

Immigrants are so labeled by those who migrated before them. Humans have been moving to find better climates, better food, better jobs, better lives, for at least 200,000 years.

Now related to all those humans, is that this week 190 countries have “struck a deal over that weekend that ushers in a broad, new international effort to wind down the fossil fuel era to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”

Being an Atmospheric Scientist myself, I marvel at the thought that mankind thinks we are so powerful.  Much like Prometheus bringing fire to humans. But with that fire, we also got evils.

Clearly, the planet is warming.  Mankind’s activities have clearly warmed the planet over the last 10,000 years.  We are presently about 2 degrees above the Ice Age temperatures.  And that’s my big rub, had humans not existed, what would the temperature be now?  Probably close to Ice Age temperatures, probably colder, as the inter-glacial period would have been ending, thus ushering in a new, 5th Ice Age.

Now, everyone of course, knows that 56 million years ago, the planet was 5 degrees warmer than today and there were no ice caps, with forests extending from the farthest north to Antarctica.

My point being that the planet has been far warmer and far colder.

Humans are a part of the environment, just as the whales or birds in the sky. With the rise of agriculture and industrialization, the planet has warmed and will continue to do so; without it, we could not have supported the population the world now has.

We also may have averted the 5th Ice Age.

No matter.

We can all sit back and marvel at the hubris of people today.  For having warmed Earth, the two degrees necessary for life to be successful; we now want to stop the planet warming and further interfere with the climatic processes that have been going on for over 4 billion years.

That’s hubris.

We want industrialization with only its benefits and not the disadvantages.  A warmer planet with more CO2 in the air will grow more food crops, but for those who are not hungry, that’s not a consideration.

Why do we differentiate between a political and economic refugee?  Evidently, we as a society have already decided that starving to death is a better outcome than being thrown in jail for one’s beliefs?

Migration was OK until it wasn’t. We can’t allow further migration because we, who have already migrated, are happy with the status quo.

The climate has always been changing, but now we must stop it. Why, because we like it just so.

I wish our society were debating these issues.

We can’t see the forest for the trees. So let’s cut them down.

But then, now, having re-read this countless times before posting; I see a third option:

We tackle those subjects we have no control over because it diverts attention from the true everyday tragedies that we do control and cause. Like Bread & Circuses. 

If we concentrate on changing the temperature 100 years from now, nobody pays attention to the hundreds dying every day from being denied basic human rights!

WOW. That’s too cynical for even I. So let’s just give them the benefit of the doubt.

We have chosen this moment to freeze in time.  Just like Peter Pan.