I never thought I'd know so much about baseball.
My son started playing Little League at seven, so in the past five years I've sat through a lot of games and had many obscure rules explained to me. The pace of the games, as well as my volunteer slots at the snack shack, gives me lots of time for reflection.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, between handing out sunflower seeds and bubble gum (no chewing tobacco allowed), I had a flash of insight: If I “played” my life like a good Little League team, I’d be less stressed and probably happier. I’m no fan of sports metaphors in the workplace and I don’t like the “Let’s beat ‘em team” mentality of your average motivational speech. But there it was: baseball, or at least Little League, as a metaphor for my life.
Use the "Cut"
In Little League, when a right fielder catches a line drive, unless he or she has an exceptionally strong arm, he doesn't try to huck it all the way to home plate. That’s because he knows he'd never make it. Instead he makes a shorter, faster throw to the "cut" -- usually the shortstop or first base -- who then gets the ball where it needs to go. Basically, the fielder delegates the out. Instead of trying to do it all, the rule in baseball is to use your help.
Yvonne Brill probably never thought she’d be the center of such a ruckus. Over her obituary, no less.
Brill, who died last month at the age of 88, was a “brilliant rocket scientist who, in the early 1970s, invented a propulsion system to keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits,” according to the New York Times.
Unfortunately, the obituary didn’t lead with that bit of news, opting instead to start off with a list of her domestic accomplishments, including her ability to make a “mean beef stroganoff.” That caused a stink in the twittersphere, and New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan responded with a column noting, “The emphasis on her domesticity -- and, more important, the obituary’s overall framing as a story about gender -- had the effect of undervaluing what really landed Mrs. Brill on the Times obituaries page: her groundbreaking scientific work.”
Another obit has been in the news lately too, for pretty much the opposite reasons. It summed up its subject, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College professor Harry Weathersby Stamps, so well that people wondered if he wrote it himself. Among my favorite lines: “He despised phonies, his 1969 Volvo (which he also loved), know-it-all Yankees, Southerners who used the words "veranda" and "porte cochere" to put on airs, eating grape leaves, Law and Order (all franchises), cats, and Martha Stewart. In reverse order. He particularly hated Day Light Saving Time, which he referred to as The Devil's Time. It is not lost on his family that he died the very day that he would have had to spring his clock forward. This can only be viewed as his final protest.”
Like many of us, Nancy Cappello began having yearly mammograms when she turned 40. In 2004, when Cappello was 51, her doctor felt a lump in her breast, only two months after a mammogram had shown that everything looked fine. The lump turned out to be a 2.5 centimeter tumor – stage 3c breast cancer, as Cappello writes on her website. Even after the lump was found, a mammogram still couldn't detect it.
That's because, like approximately 40 percent of U.S. women who have mammograms, Cappello has so-called dense breasts. On a mammogram, early breast cancers -- those that are small and haven't spread to the lymph nodes -- appear white. Fatty breasts have a darker appearance, which makes it easier to spot these cancers. But breasts that have more connective and glandular tissue, and are therefore more dense, appear whiter on mammograms. That makes the detection of small early breast cancers very, very difficult. Some experts liken it to trying to find a snowball in a snowstorm.
It always amazes me that one of my favorite foods is ridiculously simple to make. Yet I can't make it.
It's maple syrup. All I would have to do is drill a small hole in the trunk of a sugar maple tree and insert a metal tube called a spile. When the weather starts to warm up, sap flows out of the tube. Collect 40 gallons, start boiling it down, and you'll eventually be rewarded with a gallon of syrup. The U.S. makes about two million gallons of syrup a year, as far west as Minnesota but mostly in New England and New York.
To do this myself, I'd need a healthy sugar maple, 10 to 12 inches in diameter. That's about a 40-year old tree. Unfortunately, I have only one maple, and thanks to the last few storms, it's in pretty sad shape.
Since I can't make the syrup myself, I did the next best thing: sat down with a plate of waffles and put in a phone call to Matt Gordon, the executive director of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association. Here's what I learned about this year's maple syrup season, Quebec's infamous strategic maple syrup reserve, and -- no joke -- illegal syrup.
We’ve got no problem with President’s Day. George Washington? Abraham Lincoln? A day off? Awesome.
But what about the First Ladies? Hillary Clinton wasn’t the first to take an active interest in her husband’s work -- she might as have well been taking a page from Abigail Smith Adams or Eleanor Roosevelt. And not every First Lady was married to a President -- James Buchanan took his niece, 27-year old Harriet Lane, to Washington as his First Lady.
This week C-Span, working with the White House Historical Association, started airing a new 35-episode series about the women behind the men throughout 44 presidential administrations. “Every First Lady brings their unique perspective to this job,” said Mark Farkas, executive producer for the series. “If you didn’t, you couldn’t live through it.”
If you’ve got the time, why not tune in? In the meantime, here are a few of the highlights in the lives and careers of some of our fascinating and fabulous First Ladies.
Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. George was actually Martha’s second husband. She was married to a wealthy man named Daniel Parke Custis at the age of 18, but became a widower. She didn’t particularly enjoy being First Lady, writing that while many women might be “extremely pleased” with the role, she’d rather stay at home because she valued her privacy. "I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances." Wise words. Martha was also the first First Lady to appear on a U.S. postage stamp -- an eight-cent stamp in 1902.