Amazon Take Your Parents to Work Day

A couple of years ago Amazon hosted a “Take Your Parents to Work” day here at HQ in Seattle. They expected no more than a few hundred participants. Instead, 5000 parents and grandparents showed up, including people who traveled all the way from India to see where their son or daughter worked. I went to the first one, and I must say I loved it. I got to meet Sara’s team, see her work space, and in general poke around areas of Amazon usually closed to non-employees. I got a free banana at the banana stand that Amazon operates in the middle of its urban campus, not just for this event but all the time. Actually, anyone can walk up and request a banana. I got a goodie bag of Amazon branded things to take home. And Amazon generated a ton of good will.

Last year Sara was out of town, and so I missed the event. But it’s on again for this year, and Sara expects to be here. We’ re already signed up. 🙂

System Vulnerability

We assume that the systems that undergird our daily life, like airport security, are strong — at least until they are tested. As most of you by now know, a Sea-Tac employee walked up to a Horizon Airlines plane, started it up, and ran it down a runway into the air completely unimpeded. This happened while TSA screening inside the airport is driving most of us insane.

More recently, an 11 year old at a hacking convention took all of 10 minutes to break into a facsimile of a Florida election site and change the results.

I’m not sure, as individuals, what we do about all of this. Many of us lead much of our lives online: financial transactions, electronic medical records, social interactions. It’s hard to face the reality of how vulnerable we really are to someone or some group with bad intent, or even to some smart-ass 11 year old having fun.

Triumph of the Little Sunflower

Rochester friend and regular reader J. sent me sunflower seeds as a housewarming present. I duly followed the instructions on the box, planted the seeds in the small container provided, watered, gave it sun, and waited. Four of the six seeds sprouted, seemed to do well, and then their growth stalled and the tiny leaf color began to fade.

Happily, gardening friend Nicki took a look and said, “They need to be in the ground — plant them right now. They’ve done what they can do in the pot.” Hadn’t occurred to me as a gardening novice — I thought I’d notice when they looked too big for the pot, which certainly hadn’t happened. But I followed Nicki’s advice. Another gardening friend, Laurie, brought a bigger sunflower to plant next to the tiny one, for encouragement.

I was afraid I’d waited too long, too late in the summer, to plant, that nothing would happen.

Voila! The little one has now grown past the bigger one and is blooming up a storm. I’m thrilled. 🙂

The formerly little sunflower, the one I call Triumph, is on the left in the bottom pic.

The Orca and Her Baby

The Pacific Northwest orca who has come to be called Tahlequah is still carrying her dead baby, more than two weeks after the hapless calf was born, very briefly lived, and died.

The dead baby weighs 400 pounds. The pod swims dozens and dozens of miles a day. Food is scarce; that’s why the pod is having so much trouble reproducing. There is no way the mother is getting enough food to make up for the energy she is expending to hold on to her baby.

Yet hold on she does. She is not ready to let her baby go.

For all of us who follow her journey, this all feels inexplicably sad.


Film Review: RBG

There are two quite wonderful documentaries floating around right now. One is about Fred Rogers, the longtime host of the PBS children’s series Mister Rogers Neighborhood. I saw that, and loved it. Simple question for anyone who saw the documentary or knew about Mister Rogers Neighborhood from its years on TV: would you rather hang out with Fred Rogers, or with anyone from the Trump administration? There you go.

The other wonderful documentary is RBG, about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ginsburg wants to stay on the Court for another five years, until she’s 90. Please God she is able to do so.

There are many lingering sadnesses from Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016. One is that under a Clinton administration, Supreme Court nominees and federal judgeships would have reflected the fullness of American society, not the throwback conservative white men beloved by Trump and his base. I know firsthand from family members who are ardent Trump supporters that they hate being told they are trying to take the country back to the 1950’s, when white men ruled. I get that and yet — it pretty much looks like Trump’s base is most comfortable when white men rule. Just look at Trump’s judgeship nominations, and at the people he relies on in his cabinet. Then look at the women who stand blankly by his side with empty smiles and seemingly no role other than to look beautiful. I think they call it “arm candy”. Melania, anyone? Ivanka?

No one would have ever mistaken Ruth Bader Ginsburg for arm candy, even though she was beautiful as a young woman.

Ginsburg may be in the minority in the Court now, and for the rest of her tenure. But she’s not going to stand down without a fight. She was a quietly brilliant young student at Cornell, Harvard Law School and later Columbia. Unable to get a job with any major law firm in New York because law firms simply didn’t hire women, she took a job teaching law at Rutgers. She became a volunteer attorney for the ACLU, and was later named to the federal bench by President Carter. During the 1970’s, she argued cases before the Supreme Court six times, winning five, and basically changed the architecture of legal thinking to include protection of women’s rights under the 14th Amendment.

She is an icon of the women’s movement, then and now.

The documentary includes touching details about her more than 50 year marriage to Martin Ginsburg, who died in 2010. She has two adult offspring, and grandchildren who refer to her with the Yiddish “Bubbe”. She works all the time, and still has a prodigiously keen legal mind. She exercises with a trainer in the gym at the Supreme Court. She does pushups.

I feel an immense gratitude to Ginsburg, and an immense sadness that there will be no opening on the Court for the next Ruth Bader Ginsburg for decades. That means protection under the Constitution for women and minorities will certainly not advance, and may indeed retreat. Ginsburg reminds us in the film that the 1950’s were dark days too, with Senator Joseph McCarthy and his enablers finding communists hiding behind every door. She’s right, but it’s hardly a comforting comparison.

Yard Update: Old Fence Coming Down

The next big step in the yard upgrade is happening: the old white picket fence is coming down, and new cedar fence posts are being set in concrete. The new fencing goes in on Monday. I think this will greatly change the look of the yard, and I’m excited.

Here are the “before” pics. “After” pics on Tuesday. 🙂

Oprah and Weight Watchers: the Celebrity Effect

We have a celebrity presidency, the Republican base so dazzled by Trump’s ultimate reality TV rendition of Life in the Oval Office that they are willing to cast aside any and all traditional Republican positions re trade, immigration, and balanced budgets just to be part of the Trump train.

Oprah has had a similar, although more salutary, effect on the fortunes of Weight Watchers. Membership in the longstanding weight loss program had lagged, as people become more cynical about the dieting leading to sustainable weight loss. Enter Oprah, who has made the ups and downs of her weight part of her captivating life story. She agreed to become a spokesperson, and bought a big chunk of WW stock. Voila! Her advocacy, combined with Weight Watchers’ adopting a broader focus on overall wellness, has revived the fortunes of the company and added to Oprah’s considerable fortune as well.

So are we in a celebrity driven world, and do we need a celebrity to rival Trump in 2020? God I hope not. If so, it’s apparently not going to be Oprah. After a flurry of interest after her well-received Golden Globes speech earlier in 2018, there was a push for her to be the nominee of the Democratic party. Seems she’s decided that getting down into the weeds with a nasty piece of work like Trump is not what she needs. I’d have to agree. She, unlike Trump, is a genuinely successful entrepreneur worth almost 3B dollars. Her net worth is real assets, not the inflated brand value that Trump assigns to himself and his money grubbing offspring. And her name and advocacy are clearly magic with a large swathe of the buying public.

I like Oprah. She’s a multi-talented woman, smart about business. She seems a decent human being. Why would she need to add political stripes to her profile, given what U.S. politics has become?

Conscious Aging: Grilling Up a Storm

Well, I’m grilling almost every day and building myself quite the new skill set. I tried a piece of swordfish, and it came out great. Google, as Archie reminds me, knows everything including how long to grill a firm fish like swordfish or tuna. Still need a tutorial from Matt on how to do salmon — which is much less forgiving of overcooking. Overcooked salmon tastes like wallboard. 🙂

Funny shape, this piece of fish — but it tasted restaurant quality.

Give the Donkeys of Santorini a Break

The steep hills of Santorini have long been made accessible to tourists through the use of donkeys, available to ride instead of walking up. The problem? Too many fat tourists, especially those from cruise ships serving the U.S. and UK, are breaking the donkeys’ backs.

Given the size of donkeys, they should safely carry no more than 112 pounds.

Yikes, that leaves a lot of us out. I weigh more than that, and I’d be fine with being told I could walk to the top or see the view from the bottom of the hill, but not ride a donkey at the cost of harming the poor creature. How about you?

Best of My Garden: the Nicki Moment

As I’ve written about before, we’re waiting to do a lot of planting until Seattle’s very dry summer ends and rains resume. But I asked friend Nicki to create a “Nicki moment”, and she came up with this lovely planting in a big clay pot that we unearthed from all the overgrowth. I’m enjoying the colors and lush growth immensely — it’s in the back, in full view of the deck.

The idea for the Nicki moment was Jerry’s tree — the beautiful weeping cherry in the front yard at San Gabriel Drive that will always be Jerry’s tree, and which makes my heart smile whenever I think of it. This artful planting brings me the same kind of joy.