The Many Faces of Joe

The given name of “Joe” in our family has a long history, going back several generations to my great-great-uncle Joe Mayo, son of Stephen Lacy Mayo, Sr. My great-grandmother  Anna Davis Mayo was his step-mother, and aunt.   She was only a few years older than he, which is the subject for another day.

Anna’s grandson was named “Joe Mayo” and his son was named Joe Mayo, Jr. both with the surname “Francis”.  Joe, Jr. was my oldest brother.

We could spend decades talking about all those Joe’s, relating their personalities and exploits, and some are very worth relating. For instance, Joe, Sr. was one of the most educated and wise man I ever knew, mostly self-educated. He had a simple philosophy:

SEEK THE TRUTH       APPRECIATE BEAUTY       STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE

(  For my mantra, I have added:  SPEAK THE TRUTH    EXPOSE THE LIES  )

Known as “Papa Joe” he left a legacy that has benefited his progeny, and many of his friends by encouraging their awareness, their thirst for knowledge, and their quest for fairness.

So it with a happy heart and great feeling that I wish my now 12 year old grandson a very

HAPPY BIRTHDAY     Joe-Joe 

May you grow into your destiny with the wisdom and kindness you have inherited from your namesake.

Papa

 

Arts and Sciences

At the southern end of the Shenandoah Valley lies a small metropolitan enclave know as the “Noke” for Roanoke.  It once was the headquarters of the Norfolk & Southern RR, before those offices were shifted to Norfolk. It is now a major financial services center with national banks regional offices located here. Roanoke also has several well regarded Credit Unions and local and regional banks.

Roanoke straddles the Roanoke River, and sidles up to Salem on the west and Vinton on the east. Old blood, old money, old traditions in those places.

Over the past twenty-five or so years, the Valley has grown into a cultural center of broad and varied arts and sciences to rival any larger metro area. Mill Mountain Theater is a first class professional production company on every level, and offers a variety of entertainment for every taste. MMT also spins off new and avant guarde productions, and schools for aspiring playwrights, actors and directors. As does the excellent school of performing and fine arts at Hollins University.

We are blessed with a nationally rated symphony orchestra, a similar rated opera company, and ballet companies, along with chorals groups, exceptional children theater company, and several independent acting groups of note. There are about seven amateur acting companies in the surrounding environs. All are worth the time and moeny to experience.

For sports fans, there are three major university teams within an hour’s drive, a local ice hockey team, college basket ball teams, baseball farm team in Salem, and sports leagues from bitties to adult. We have a miles long jogging  and biking trail along the river, and access to hiking trails along the Appalachain Trail just a few minutes north of town. Hunting in the Jefferson National Forest is within reach and boating and fishing await the sports minded at Smith Mountain Lake, just 45 minute =s east.

For transportation, a regional airport serves the Valley with direct flight to NYC and Chicago, and shuttle flights to Charlotte and Atlanta hubs. We will soon have an Amtrak station for passenger service as well. Roanoke is served by the airport and I-81, with major  routes south to NC on state route 220.   I-77 is just 45 minutes west and leads north and south, and hour’s ride north on I-81 reaches I-64 which goes east through Richmond three hours away, crossing I-95 and on to the Tidewater area.

The fine arts community is well represented with world know artists in residence,  and hosts a juried show each June on the Market. Thousands attend this three day event that draws artist from all over the East coast. The event is held o”On The Market” where local farmers offer their produce for sale, and our Science Museum is located. .

Public schools are rated A+ in the City and County, and we have several private academies as well, with one public school providing training in artisan skills, acting and music performance, and art.

For health care, we are served by a multitude of private medical clinics, and two major hospitals that offer medical services of all types, rated top in their class. There are medical schools as well for training, and top level trauma centers.

The Veterans Administration Health Center is located in Salem, and provides excellent care for our vets, so I’m told by my veteran family members. .

For those looking to find a great place to retire, with none of the  hassles of home ownership, there are a number of excellent facilities that offer independent living, assisted living, and full nursing care, along with rehab services.

Have I covered all the bases? If you ask, I will respond.

 

Jim

 

Virginia’s HB2 and The Day of Tears

RB2

It seems the honorable pols in Richmond want to emulate those not-so-honorable Republicans in NC who were so frightened that a transgender person might use the “wrong” bathroom, and attack someones woman, that they hurriedly passed a law that forbade such a dastardly deed.  Indeed, Virginia now has pending a measure of the same misguided nature.

Of course, there is no threat from transgender folks, and there never has been, so the solution offered is a fix looking for a problem, a scary straw man to scare the children.

Measures like this depend on emotional knee-jerks to get passed, as anyone with any thought understands that the politicians are using false scare tactics to curry favor and garner votes at the next election.  It is, at best, self serving, and at least fear mongering. But those folks who fear “the other” never quite get over their fear, and do their best to share it.

We don’t need more fear and hatred in Virginia.  It will probably be vetoed by the governor, by why waste their valuable time of such witch hunts.

Internet Services

Another bill introduced and in committee is one titled to infer that it will enhance the access of broad ban computer services in areas that do not currently enjoy that privilege by allowing those communities to create and provide those services. Apparently, what the motion’s title doesn’t say is that it favors those companies who already offer internet services in those areas at a snail pace slow, limited capacity levels that do nothing much for the users who want and need wide ban high speed networks.

It favors those companies by banning the local communities from installing broad ban services for their citizens. It protects the profits of the private companies who charge high fees for poor or limited service, buy outlawing the citizens from competing.

Wonder why?   The author of this bill has received large sums of money from those companies and their association. It looks like a quid pro quo arrangement.

Day of Tears

Our next measure before the General Assembly is the “Day of Tears” resolution. This is a stunt to officially and piously mourn  on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.  No matter that abortion rates have fallen dramatically over the past twenty years because of access to better health care, free or cheap birth control, and effective real sex ed in our public schools. But why not make it an official day?

No one uses abortion for routine birth control.. No one uses abortion because they want to. It is the last resort step to a very trying and difficult situation that has no other rational solution.

Abortions will be sought and done no matter what the law says. Always has, always will. It is just that women who have the means can afford to get their abortions done in a private, discrete place by very discrete doctors. Poor women don’t have that option. The prohibition only drives their sources underground, just like it was before Roe v Wade.

This piece of legislation just might make it out of our Assembly to the governor’s desk with votes to over ride his veto.  It will end up in the SCOTUS, of course, but by then the Court will be heavily anti RvWade.  Which is part of the plan.  It will be another test case for those conservative justices to chuckle over.

Do you wonder which political party these measures came from?  Well?

The next four years will be a circus of freaks.

Jim

 

 

Archiving 2016

The year 2016 will go down in my book as a tough time.  On balance, the good was outweighed by the awful.

We lost two this year to the Big C, after long and courageous battles. Mourning them still. Then the political world unleashed its mess on us. Then, our friend Sam suffered a massive stroke. If not for a few good things it would have been a total loss of a year.

Good things are family celebrations, concerts, plays, and sharing with good friends. We had some really great food, and a lot of just so-so stuff. And the many card games we played with our NC gang, even though us guys generally lost. (The win/loss ratio is holding at 13 to 1 in favor of the girls.)

And we moved back to the home town after 25 years away, to find that things have changed. Mostly for the better.  There are many more performing arts groups now, all very good, and some outstanding.  We are blessed with excellent talent, both on the stage and behind the scenes.  Our Roanoke based G-kids are a part of that group. Thanks to Patrick K..

The economy has improved by a big amount, based on the street traffic, long lines a the checkouts, and long waits for a table at all the restaurants. People are confident that the future is going to be better, despite what happened in November. I hope they are right.

The stock market seems to think so at least. Up until the Friday the 20th, anyway. Mad Monday is still a possibility, with global markets teetering, and China’s economy struggling. It won’t take much of a jolt to shove the entire planetary money system into the ditch, or even over the cliff, ala 2009. Hang on to your hat.

For us old folks, a severe downturn will spell disaster. We don’t have time left to recover from another GOP fueled recession. Do we cash in now and stuff the money under the mattress?  Could be a plan.

And if the new administration carries out their plans to makes “lists” of those who disagree or criticize, and shuts down the press that questions (some of us might be on that list) our assets just might be targeted.  Not a nice situation.

Leading into 2017, I’ll take a “be on guard” position, instead of “wait and see” or “whatever” stance. Too much to lose to be unwary.

Measured in total, 2016 was an OK year, in that we survived in good health, and relatively decent condition.  We’ll just deal with the rest of the stuff on a day-by-day basis.

Hang in there. Write if you get work.

Jim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red, Green, Or Rainbow Coffee Cups?

The current brougha over the color of coffee cups is interesting commentary today. Starbuckl’s chose a red cup with their logo in green for the “holiday season”, which set off a few ultra-christian commentators. Apparently, those folks don’t have much to do, maybe too much time on their hands. Their claim that red and green colors belong only to the Christian holiday of Christmas is pretty weak, as so far as I can determine, no one owns those colors.

A little research on Wikipedia gives interesting info on the celebration we call Christmas. It is a conglomeration of various seasonal celebrations going back long before Christianity was formed, and practiced as a pagan ritual for western Europe for many centuries. The green tree was prominent in Germany in celebration of the renewal of life at the winter solstice. As was the burning of candles to celebrate the return of day light.

Gift giving was a major part, but only a part, of the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, held about the end of December, including toasts and drunken revelery. We adopted those traditions in our celebrations. We also adopted the tradition of Father Christmas, Santa Clause, or one of his other monikers. The early Catholic Church wanted to include, sometimes by force, those pagans who worshiped trees and nature, so including the Winter Solstice celebrations made sense.  Converting them was a lot easier if they could keep their most treasured holiday celebrations.

Our favorite present day traditions actually come from the mid 1800’s.  Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” in 1843, and it after the publication of that story that our present day Christmas traditions came into favor. Most of the things we treasure today about the Christmas holidays were created by Dickens.

So it is with amusement, and some irritation that a few so-called “Christians” are outraged by the use of the colors red and green for decorations on a disposable coffee cup. Seems a bit silly when you know the origins of the holiday. I guess some are always looking for something to be angered about.  Just think what they would cry if Starbuck’s had chosen a rainbow for the season.  Whooee. That would be awesome.

Anyway, Happy Holidays, folks.

Jim

Studies Of Magnetic Brain Stimulation

A recent lecture by a prominent medical researcher in brain science discussed the use of MRI scans to study differences in the brains of identical twins. The study was directed toward discovery of what might show up in comparison between a sober brain, and one that is addicted, in those identical twins.

The use of MRI allowed the researchers to explore the structures and functions of the comparative brain operations in order to identify possible changes in structures that may indicate a tendency to addiction in one twin as compared to the non-addicted sibling.

MRI technology uses very strong magnetic energy fields, thousands of time stronger that any magnet you have ever known, to align molecules in the brain tissues, which are then sent a radio frequency signal that causes the molecules to change, giving off a small bit of energy. The sensors receive that energy and the computers manage them into an image for study. The MRI gives us a very clear and deep view of the soft brain tissue. The study is on-going.

Other researchers have used magnetic stimulation, transcranial magnetic stimulation, to treat severe depression, ADHD, and some other mental illnesses, with notable success. The twenty minute input of magnetic energy in specific portions of the brain, primarily the pre-frontal cortex,  altered the brain functions for up five days.  A remarkable result of non-invasive procedure using low energy magnetism.

Which made me wonder:  If transcranial stimulation with low energy magnetic stimulus alters the brain function that effectively, how does the high energy magnetism of an MRI affect the brain?  Is the brain altered by the MRI magnetism? If so, in what way, and for how long?  What about the low energy magnetic waves from ear phones over long periods of time?

Following that line of questioning, can high energy magnetic stimulus be used to “brain wash” individuals? Can MRI stimulation be used to alter brain activity? If that is possible, then perhaps we could use MRI stimulation to change brain functions of criminals to become model citizens. Cheaper than prisons.

Or maybe the “China Syndrome” is a reality after all.

Jim

PBS Series On The Brain

The current series on PBS about the brain is so interesting. I hope you have had a chance to view it. I manage to catch a few shows, and those have been enlightening.

For instance, the brain processes every nerve stimulus we receive from each of our senses through the “clearing house” portion, then recalls similar sensations stored in memory, makes a comparison to those stored memories, and alters the signals as through a filter before we perceive the sensation.  What we hear, for instance, passes through several layers of filters before we “hear” the sound. As the signal passes through the filters, it is adjusted, altered, matched with prior sounds already stored in memory, and analyzed.  Only then do we perceive the signal as sound.   The same process happens with sight, taste, touch, and smell.  My hearing is so “adjusted” that I sometimes hear MR say thing that make no sense. Until she repeats it several times. My brain is slowing down a bit, I think.

In addition, every time the filters pass through a signal, the filters are also changed, to adjust for the new information. Memories are adjusted, and new information is stored for future reference. While that is happening, our responses to the input signals return through those filters, so that the output is also adjusted and causes the filters to alter again. The changes occur continuously.

This happens in minute fractions of a second, but there is a measurable time delay between the stimulus, and our perception of that stimulus. Which means we are always behind the curve by a fraction, always sensing reality in the past.  The past is stored in memory, which is constantly being adjusted, updated, modified, and changed. Does that mean what we “remember” reflect reality, or is it something we made up?  Does our personal history really exist?

As one pundit posed, we may actually not exist except as a projection of someone’s intellect. We may be a holographic projection from another universe. Or, what you see int he mirror may not be you at all.

Jim