Venturing into the Unknown

Doright Manor is situated on a small lake in a rural housing development about eight miles outside of Tallahassee, Florida. I live in the woods, and I love it. Studly Doright, my husband of 43 years, and I often joke that there are more trees in our front yard than there were in our respective Texas panhandle hometowns of Dumas and Floydada. Honestly, that’s not much of an exaggeration.

One of the coolest things about living here is our proximity to Florida State University. A 20-minute drive gets us right into the heart of the campus. Of course being the curmudgeonly people we are, we avoid FSU like the plague. If I have an appointment anywhere near the school I plot routes that will avoid busy Tennessee street with its six narrow lanes of crazy college aged drivers, even if taking said route requires me to add an additional 20 minutes to my drive. Today, however, I am purposely venturing onto the FSU campus for OLLI.

One might ask, “Who is OLLI and why is he/she worth risking one’s life for?”

OLLI is an acronym for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. According to Wikipedia, “Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes offer noncredit courses with no assignments or grades to “seasoned” adults over age 50. Since 2001, philanthropist Bernard Osher has made grants from his foundation to launch OLLI programs at 120 universities and colleges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

I’ve been aware of OLLI classes for at least a decade. When we lived near the University of Illinois I had friends who took classes through the program there, but I was still working full time. Now that I’m mostly retired I no longer have any excuses. Except–the anxiety of venturing into the unfamiliar territory of Florida State.

Yesterday (Wednesday) I performed a dry run to locate the building in which my first class will be held, even though I initially went to a similarly named building. And, even after locating the right one I never quite figured out where I’d be able to park. Guess who will give herself an hour of extra time to get there today?

You might also wonder what class has intrigued me enough that I am willing to venture out of my comfort zone. It’s one titled “The Parallel Universe of Ants.”

Studly Doright thinks I’ve lost my mind, but who do you think will have the last laugh when our insect friends begin their quest for world domination? Again:

If you don’t hear from me again after today you can blame it all on OLLI, or ants, or you can just make something up that’s suitably dramatic.

Peace, people!

Mag Lab Tour

Tallahassee is home to the one of the largest electromagnetic field labs in the world. I didn’t realize that until today when I toured the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

I was supposed to have met a member of the Tallahassee Women’s Social Meetup Group for the tour, but she didn’t make the trek out to the lab. There were plenty of others signed up for the tour, though, so I wasn’t the only visitor.

The MagLab was once located on the campus of M.I.T., until a group of researchers from Florida State University in Tallahassee joined forces with researchers from the University of Florida, and Los Alamos National Laboratory to make a successful bid for the facility. Now researchers from all over the world come to Tallahassee to conduct cutting-edge research.

Below: This decorative piece made up of magnet components is displayed in the lobby. I tried to figure out how to smuggle it out, but my purse isn’t large enough. It’s beautiful!

Below is a set of stacked magnets. If you imagined large horseshoe-shaped magnets, join the club. These are all discs, that when stacked, form a helix-type structure.

Below: The outer ring is a magnet, while the silver colored disc is a cooling mechanism. Tiny slots cut into the cooling disc allow de-ionized water to flow through and around the magnets. Because electricity powers the magnets, it’s necessary for the water to be de-ionized otherwise researchers’ findings would be shocking–and not in a good way.

Below is one of the lab cells where researchers from all over the world test out their theories using magnets. That large robot-looking thing beneath the yellow guardrail is the magnet for this cell which is in the process of being set up for a group of researchers.

The magnets are used to study energy and the environment, the foundational science of protein and disease molecules, and a vast array of other subjects. Recently researchers using the lab have discovered connections between the way sodium impacts and interacts with malignant tumors and are looking for ways to put that knowledge into practical applications.

Below is a superconductor. Cool, eh? Literally cool. The temperatures necessary to operate a superconductor are similar to what one might find on Pluto. That’s -271.3° C.

I need to take another tour. There was way too much for me to take in on this visit.

If you’re interested in reading more about the MagLab, check out the website at NationalMagLab.org. Tours are offered every Wednesday starting at 11:30.

Rally Sign

Great things were happening in Tallahassee today. 

Tim Kaine came to rally Florida voters to vote early.


Tim is a great speaker and immensely likable. The crowd was huge, so I didn’t get very close. Thank goodness for zoom lenses!

The most moving part of the afternoon, though, was seeing Gabby Giffords and hearing her say she couldn’t wait to speak the words, “Madame President.” 

Speaking clearly is still a struggle for former representative Giffords, who was shot and nearly killed by a gunman at an event in her home state of Arizona in 2011. The woman is an inspiration and a tireless fighter for common sense gun regulations. 


Below, Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly.


The energy at the rally was inspiring. Since it was held on the campus of Florida State University a great many of those in attendance were college students who were excited about casting their first votes ever.

Loved this young woman’s shirt.


Pre-rally college students discussed their plans to go vote after the rally.

The line went on and on. Everyone was pumped up. Fired up; ready to vote.

I stood in line with these three adorable students. They thought I was in my 40’s. 


I’ve already voted. I’m always overcome by emotion when I realize what a privilege it is to cast a vote in this country. Even if you are a Republican, even if we disagree, I hope you exercise your right to vote. And then we all need to be prepared to accept the results. 

This has been a divisive campaign. Harsh words have been exchanged–I’ve certainly not minced any syllables. But for my part, if Trump wins this election I will accept his presidency as the voice of a majority of the people. I would hope that he and his supporters will be as gracious if Hillary wins. 

Peace, people. Really.

Sweet Weekend, Part I

If days were desserts this past weekend would have been a fresh slice of orange sponge cake, piled high with luscious red strawberries and topped with cream cheese icing. It was that good.

After a ridiculously pleasant night’s sleep Friday night (thank you Tempur-pedic!), a refreshing shower, and a hearty breakfast I dressed and headed into Tallahassee on Saturday for the Word of [South] Festival of Literature and Music.

This marks the festival’s second year. I was in La Antigua de Guatemala last April and missed out. Not that I’m complaining. My week in Antigua was the experience of a lifetime. And from what I hear the festival saw its share of rain in 2015.

There was not even a hint of precipitation this time around, though, as authors, musicians, and artists from all over the country shared their time and talents with those of us in Tallahassee. There was something for everyone, from gospel, folk, soul, rock, and jazz on the musical spectrum and every imaginable genre on the literary side.

Cascades Park hosted the event and one had only to walk from one venue to another within the park to experience a completely new vibe. And did I mention that with the exception of two concerts  the event was free of charge? Sweet!   

I wandered aimlessly for a bit before finding a schedule of events for one of the stages.

  
The Biergarten stage was just one of five venues featuring performers. Seeing Rita Coolidge’s name on the list I hurried over to grab a seat. I had no idea who Leslie Poole and Paul Garfinkel were, but I arrived as their set was in progress and fell in love with their words and message.

  
Ms. Poole, the author of several books about Florida, read from her most recent published work, Saving Florida. I’m not a native Floridian, so learning about the efforts of women on the front lines of environmental activism in the Sunshine State was an eye-opening experience. 

Mr. Garfinkel’s engaging folk songs woven around Florida’s delicate ecosystem bestowed even greater weight to Ms. Poole’s vignettes as the two traded places in the spotlight. Their performance was a lively, thought-provoking give and take.

Leslie Poole, left, Paul Garfinkel and his accompanist.

Then the beautiful Rita Coolidge took the stage.

   

Rita, a graduate of Florida State University, read from her memoir Delta Lady, and entertained the crowd with tales of her bohemian days as an art major here. 

Rita, like all of the artists and authors, signed books after her presentation.

 

My friend Julie and her lovely mom enjoyed Rita’s talk with me. We hadn’t arranged to meet at the event; it just happened. Sweet, right?

After Rita’s presentation I had lunch at the Edison and ran into yet another friend, Cathy, who made room for me next to her place at the bar. We then hustled over to another of the stages to hear Diane Roberts read excerpts from her book, Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America.

  

Having grown up in Texas, I could completely relate to Diane’s college football obsession. This woman, a professor at FSU, is hysterically funny. If you have any love for the game you need this book. Even if you despise the game you need this book. 

I knew Studly would be getting restless, so I headed home shortly after having Ms. Roberts sign my newly purchased copy of her book. When I got home he was chomping at the bit to take the Goldwing out for an evening drive, so we suited up (“all the gear, all the time” is our motto) and rode over to Havana for a meal at a local Italian restaurant, providing the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Tomorrow I’ll share photos of Sunday at the festival. I’m still on an intellectual and emotional high after my experiences. 

Peace, people!

College Mascots

Studly Doright and I have lived in five different states, and have adopted a “bloom where you’re planted” mentality.

When we moved from Texas to North Dakota we learned to enjoy knoefla soup and rivel. In Kansas we learned to pronounce Arkansas incorrectly, and in Florida we learned to value SPF 90. In Illinois we learned the value of a college mascot.

We’re Texans, Studly and I. Having grown up near Lubbock, I was convinced that Texas Tech was the best university in the nation and that Raider Red and the Masked Rider were the absolute best mascots anywhere. They’re still close to the top of my list.

   
 
Studly was more of a University of Texas guy, so I accepted Bevo, as well.

   
 When we moved to North Dakota I attended the University of Mary in Bismarck. So I had a new mascot in my life, the Marauder:

  
From North Dakota we moved to Kansas and fell hard for the University of Kansas Jayhawk mascot. Both of our kids attended KU and Big Jay is a dandy mascot. There’s even a Baby Jay:

  
After Kansas we ended up in Melbourne, Florida, but didn’t form an attachment to any of the Florida college teams during that four year period. But when we moved to Mahomet, IL, just outside of Champaign, we quickly adopted Chief Illiniwek, proud mascot of The University of Illinois.

  
Unfortunately, the Chief’s reign as the Illini mascot ended shortly after we moved to Illinois. I promise we had nothing to do with his demise. Eight years after the end of the Chief the U of I still has no mascot. That makes me sad. I understand that Native American groups found the portrayal of the chief disrespectful, but shouldn’t we have had an alternative in place? 

We currently live near Tallahassee, Florida, the home of two universities: Florida A&M and Florida State.

FAMU’s mascot is a rattlesnake.  

   
Not exactly a cuddly mascot, but I love it! 

Florida State has Chief Osceola and his faithful steed, Renegade.

  
I understand that the Seminole people have an agreement with Florida State University that allows FSU to use the likeness of one of the most famous Chiefs in history as their mascot. It’s sad that the University of Illinois couldn’t have worked out a similar agreement with the Illini.

At any rate, Studly and I are enjoying our new mascots. Soon I want to attend football games at both FAMU and FSU. I need to see what those mascots look like in action. 

Peace, people!