Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Real change in the workplace

I got the chance recently to tell a former leader what I thought about my former workplace when it came to attitudes toward research and the politics it practiced. We were together at a garden party hosted by another former colleague who seems to have managed the workplace politics better than I did. It's not that I didn't try; it's just that at some point I refused (inside myself) to compromise my beliefs and how I view dealing with employees and the jobs they do. I am totally uninterested in micromanaging employees or in forcing them to accept change just for the sake of change. I am interested in engaging them in useful and productive work and in listening to what they have to say and to teach me. The latter is important, and more leaders should try to listen better and to learn from their employees, rather than preaching to them that they are 'resistant to change', ineffective at their jobs, or treating them as though they are little more than a budget post on an accounting sheet. 

The interesting thing was that my former leader agreed with mostly everything I said, which was not the case when I was still working, and said further that attempts have been made to get current leadership to see new points of view when it comes to research policies, to no avail. Current research leadership thinks it knows best, and has thought that way for the past fifteen years. And they talk about resistance to change. My opinion--start at the top and work downward. Get rid of the heavy weight of too many leaders at the top (six levels of leadership) and focus on using the salary money saved to employ truly professional individuals who actually do useful and productive work. I reiterate, as I've done so many times in this blog before--leadership is not a career in and of itself. Being a leader in one specific area does not necessarily qualify you for all leadership positions. Current management in many places seems to think it does, and it is one of the biggest mistakes ever made during the past twenty years. How one could believe that being a top-level company executive entitles you to run a hospital department with no prior medical experience is beyond me. But tell that to the politicians who leave office and are appointed leaders of boards and companies. What experience do they have that qualifies them for these positions? The worst thing that ever happened to academic research science was giving these bureaucrats the power that they now have to wield over ordinary scientists, many of whom have simply given up and left for the greener pastures of industry. The same is true for many of the pathologists I know, who simply cannot abide the understaffing (a perpetual shortage of necessary professionals) and inefficiency of many public hospital workplaces. 

Things need to change, and if that change entails admitting that current leadership trends are simply 'the emperor's new clothes', then so be it. Admit it. Just do it. Get rid of the dead weight at the top. Hire the people needed to do the necessary jobs, who actually do the work. Stop micromanaging. In short, listen to your employees and respect their expertise. You hired them for a reason. 


Monday, August 1, 2022

Turning off the lights

It's been nearly a year since I left my workplace for the freedom of retirement. I met a former colleague for coffee this afternoon, and we ended up chatting about our former workplace. She has since moved on to greener pastures, as have I. She filled me in on the recent gossip--who has retired, who quit and where they work now, and so forth. As usually happens, we talk too about former leaders, leadership styles and bad leadership. The latter is rampant, and not just at my former workplace, that I understand. It's just that while I worked there, I was always hoping to witness good leadership in action, and I rarely got to see it. It was immensely disappointing. It always seemed as though most leaders were interested in worrying about how satisfied the leaders above them were, rarely about how satisfied the employees who worked for them were. I call it kissing ass up over in the system, a not uncommon phenomenon. 

While I was en route to my coffee meeting, I reflected upon my one year of retirement and leaving the work world behind. Do I miss it at all? No, I don't. I thought about leaving my office, which was the size of a prison cell for two people, for the last time and turning off the light switch. It's a good metaphor for retirement. I turned off the lights--on my job, my career, the perpetual anxiety, the having to deal with arrogant leaders, the stress, and the feeling of never measuring up. How good it feels to have turned off those lights in that old life. And how good it feels to have turned on new light switches in other places; how good it feels to have a new life, one that is totally unencumbered by negative feelings, negative people, and negativity generally. And if I meet negative people in any capacity, I am free to walk away from them, and I do. I am not interested in listening to them or adopting their world views, or adapting in any way to having to deal with them. 

I am free. Whenever I say that to former colleagues, they look at me in surprise. So many people tell me that they never would have thought that I would have retired early. I rejoice inside when they say that. It means I kept my poker face for the last five years I worked there, and never told people about my plans. I could plan my exit well, and I did. I could visualize the next stage in my life, and I did. I am free. It's a wonderful feeling. 


Monday, July 25, 2022

Oslo-Dalen-Utne-Rjukan-Oslo

We decided to visit several of the historic hotels in Norway this summer, and settled on Dalen Hotel, Utne Hotel, and Rjukan Admini Hotel. If you'd like more information about the historic hotels in Norway generally, you can visit this informative site: Historic Hotels & Restaurants in Norway (dehistoriske.com). We drove from place to place as we normally do; my husband maps out the routes he wants to take beforehand and some of them are roads we've never driven before that take us through parts of Norway that we have not seen before. Our route this year is mapped out here: 


















We started from Oslo, drove southwest to Skien, and then westward along the Telemark Canal to Dalen where we stayed one night at the Dalen Hotel. We've been there before and it's always nice to come back to this hotel with its unique architecture and lovely grounds. 

The following day we drove northward on our way to Utne, passing through Haukeli and over the Haukelifjell mountain area and mountain pass. Haukelifjell partially overlaps the Hardangervidda mountain plateau and is located in the Vinje municipality in the county of Telemark and Odda municipality in the county of Hordaland. Utne is located at the tip of the Folgefonn Peninsula where the Sørfjorden and Hardangerfjorden meet. We passed through Odda and Tyssedal on our way to Utne, where we stayed for two nights at the charming Utne Hotel, which is the oldest hotel in Norway (built in 1722: it was celebrating 300 years of operation this year). The hotel offered a five-course dinner each night, which we barely managed the first night; the second night we opted to eat three of the five courses before we gave up. Utne is located in the apple and cherry region of Hardanger; we were offered an apple cider package with dinner that we enjoyed, with different types of cider that accompanied the different courses, instead of wine. 

While we were in Utne, we managed a day trip to Rosendal (home to the Baroniet Rosendal), making our way there along a very narrow winding scenic road that I have no wish to drive on again--too narrow and too winding. There are spots where it would be impossible to pass an oncoming car or truck. But it was a scenic route, I'll attest to that. The visit to the Baroniet Rosendal was well-worth it; it is a  manor house from 1665 with beautiful gardens and landscapes (Baroniet Rosendal Manor House & Gardens). On the day of our departure, we took the car ferry from Utne to Kinsarvik (a half hour trip) and then drove eastward along the north end of Hardangervidda to Geilo where we ate lunch at the Hallingstuene restaurant that serves very good traditional Norwegian food. We then drove south to Rjukan and stayed overnight at the Rjukan Admini Hotel. We've been to Rjukan before, in 2015, at which time I wrote a blog post about this historic town (A New Yorker in Oslo: Oslo-Rjukan-Heddal-Notodden-Oslo (paulamdeangelis.blogspot.com). This time we stayed at the charming Admini Hotel, which we did not do the first time we were in Rjukan. This hotel offered a three-course dinner as part of the package, which we enjoyed. 

Overall, definitely an enjoyable vacation, although I will say that as I get older I have less and less desire to drive on narrow mountain roads. There can be sturdy guardrails, speed limits, mirrors and the like on those roads, it doesn't matter. I no longer enjoy winding our way high up into the mountain areas or descending from them, although the latter is preferable because I know we'll soon be back on flat ground. I prefer plateaus, farmland, and valleys. But of course you don't get the gorgeous views if you never go into the mountains, that I understand. So I compromise, but there will come a day very soon when I will simply not do it anymore. It makes me too nervous. 

In my next post I'll include some photos of this trip. 



Telling it like it is

Yes, this is the world we live in now. Either you get cancelled for something you might have said thirty or more years ago when you were young (and stupid), or you are at the mercy of certain members of the social media crowd, whose likes, dislikes, and otherwise hate-filled comments can destroy a business or a person. They don't care. But they should, because they are slowly destroying the world with their half-brained idiocy. So again, I say, thank you to Stephan Pastis for nailing this topic once again in your inimitable way. Your humor-filled criticism of some of what goes on on the internet is worth gold. 

Don't be like Bob. Bob is an idiot. 




Sunday, July 24, 2022

My new book, A Town and A Valley: Growing Up in Tarrytown and the Hudson Valley, is now published

This year has been a productive one for me so far. Since I retired last September, I've used my free time to garden and to write. I've published three books this year, all of which were years in the making. I finally finished and published my book about growing up in Tarrytown in New York State--A Town and A Valley: Growing Up in Tarrytown and the Hudson Valley. It is available on Amazon as a Kindle e-book:  Amazon.com: A Town and A Valley: Growing Up in Tarrytown and the Hudson Valley eBook : De Angelis , Paula Mary : Kindle Store                

A paperback version is forthcoming. 



Reflective compliance and non-compliance

When I was younger I was more compliant, in the sense that I acquiesced to the wishes of others rather than pressure others to do what I wanted. My will did not trump the will of others in many cases. I was like my father, interested in keeping the peace rather than asserting my own will. I'm not sure that was always a good thing, but it doesn't really matter at this point because that's who I was. I didn't really question my behavior, and my compliance did not involve ultra-serious issues, just so that's clear. Over time my compliance has evolved into a more reflective compliance; I may go along with your plans and wishes, but I choose to do so, knowingly and willingly. My compliance is no longer automatic or non-reflective. It's more a compromise with myself; if I do this now, then I will have time for the things on which I wish to focus later on or tomorrow. And I will have that time because I will it. I won't be talked out of it. It may seem selfish to some, but there is a firm desire in me now to follow that little internal voice that tells me to prioritize my goals and dreams and to not waste time. 

Because that is what it comes down to--time. Time is a precious commodity, not to be squandered on valueless things. I have no desire to be an older person who sits in front of the boob tube 24/7, aimlessly switching from one television channel to the next, desperately trying to find something of interest. I refuse to be automatically compliant with advertisers and media pundits who tell me what I should buy, watch, wear, or spend my time on. The point with all forms of entertainment and media--television, movies, radio, newspapers, social media--is to choose carefully when to let them into our daily lives and for how long. It is to choose carefully how much impact you wish them to have on your daily life. My view? Something of interest is right outside your front door. If you have your health, go for a walk in a nearby park, go for a scenic drive, take up a hobby, garden, learn a new language, spend time with a friend, travel, read a good book, or write. Too many people do not have their health, or live each day with diminishing health. Those are the people whom I think of when I consider how to spend the time that God has given me. Good health is not to be taken for granted, it is a gift not to be squandered. Those I know who do not have their health would agree and they tell me that. 

There is one other thing to consider, and that is that if you are constantly being bombarded by what the media and 'well-meaning' people throw at you and insist that you follow or absorb, you will not have the quiet time to reflect and listen to the voice of God trying to reach you. It's hard to hear God in the midst of the cacophony all around us. I have reached the point where trying to discern the voice of God is more important to me than trying to sort through the discordant voices of men. Because it seems to me that discord, divisiveness, ill will and hatred are what drive very many people, and the media reflect that and whip up the masses even more when they get the chance. As do some people whom I call the 'gloom and doomers', the ones who want to start their day (and yours) by filling their minds with all sorts of societal problems and horrors. I refuse to be led by the nose by the different forms of media and the gloom and doomers who do not have my best interests at heart. In the case of the media, their interests are purely monetary, driven by greed. I won't go down their paths. I choose my own path and follow that little voice inside of me, the one that tells me to continue on the path that I have chosen. Of course I know about the problems, I read about them, but I refuse to be compliant in the sense of giving in and giving up, stating that the world is just crappy and I can't do anything about it. I won't do that, not when there still is a lot of good in the world. It's just to seek out the good in the small places where it lives and blooms, away from the media spotlight.


Sunday, July 17, 2022

The Gifts of a Garden

I finally received a hardcover copy of my book, The Gifts of a Garden, after ordering it on Amazon. I am very pleased with how the book looks; I love the cover (designed by photographer and graphic designer Paloma Ayala, and how the book looks generally. I'm proud of it. It is available for purchase on Amazon: The Gifts of a Garden: De Angelis, Paula Mary: 9798833097694: Amazon.com: Books

I need to create a Kindle version (e-book) of the book, which will then allow me to enter it in the Kindle Storyteller UK contest. I will also be sending the hardcover version to The Frankfurt International Book Fair, which is the world's largest trade fair for books. I will do this via The Combined Book Exhibit company, which will display the book for me at the fair. As their website (Print Book Display - Hardcover Copy of Book at Book Fairs (combinedbook.com) states: 

Showcase your paperback or hardcover book at any of our worldwide book fairs we attend. Combined Book Exhibit (CBE) participates in only the major book fairs around the world. Shows include the Frankfurt International Book Fair in Germany and Book Expo/BookCon in New York City, American Library Association and many others. CBE provides many options for authors looking to display their books without having to travel to the show. CBE displays books from large, small, or independent publishers as well as self-published authors.

Marketing a book that one has published is an important and necessary job. Without it, a book won't sell, and I want my book to sell. I have written a press release about it, have advertised it on my Facebook page Books by PM De Angelis, have written about it on my blog, and have informed friends and family by word-of-mouth. It's hard to know what else to do, except to keep on repeating what I've already done in the hope that it will stimulate sales. Time will tell. 


Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Top Gun: Maverick and Tom Cruise

I went to see the movie Top Gun: Maverick today and was very impressed by it. I wasn't sure what to expect, since this sequel comes thirty-six years after the first Top Gun film. It's said that Tom Cruise held off on making the sequel; if so, I give him credit for having good instincts, because it comes at a time when society could use a real blockbuster film that draws viewers in and thoroughly entertains them. I'm talking about being entertained the way we were entertained by movies from the 1980s--'big' films, amazing flight/action sequences, little to no CGI, real stunts, decent plots and good acting. 

I preface this review by stating up front that I do not care about Tom Cruise's religious affiliations, his personal life, or how much he stands to make from this film. He made a film he believed in and worked hard personally to get it made and to actually make it. He doesn't need me to defend him against any criticism, that I know. But I thank him for making this film, because it restored my desire to go to the movies and not just sit night after night watching series and movies on streaming channels. There is something about the experience of sitting in a movie theater in the dark together with others that appeals to me and always will. I used to love going to the movies. If the movie industry can get back to making films like this, I'll be going to the movies a lot more often. I made a promise to myself that I will try to go to the movies at least once a week from now on. I prefer going to the movies rather than sitting in front of the tv night after night mindlessly flipping through the channels trying to find something interesting to watch. I'm picky, I know. I don't care. I'm 'seried-out', as in, I'm tired of watching/binging an endless series of series. What I want is to watch a really good movie, and Top Gun: Maverick fits that bill. Seeing the film also restored my faith in actors, in the sense that there are still actors out there who love what they do and it shows. They're not just going through the motions. I've got to hand it to Tom Cruise; the man just turned sixty years old and still does most of his own stunts. He deserves a lot of credit for that. You can see in his smile that he loves what he is doing; it shines through. He is a true entertainer, one of the old school, and is probably one of the last top Hollywood actors. 

Of course it takes a village to make a movie; in this case the large numbers of people involved in the collaboration between the movie makers and the US Navy. The flight sequences that Cruise and some of the other actors are involved in are incredible, and that's putting it mildly. They of course did not pilot the F/A-18 Super Hornet planes themselves (non-military personnel are not allowed to do so); that was done by Navy pilots who are experts at piloting these planes. I read online that Cruise wanted the actors to experience firsthand the stress of the immense gravitational forces that the pilots of these fighter jets experience when they fly them, so he and the other actors sat behind them in the planes for some of the flight sequences. That's what makes the experience of the movie even more authentic. The story itself is touching and nostalgic at times, especially when it refers to the original film and the death of Maverick's wingman Goose. The relationships between Maverick (Cruise) and Goose's son Rooster (Miles Teller) and between Maverick and Iceman (Val Kilmer) tug at the heartstrings and actually makes you care about the characters. And the romantic relationship between Maverick and Penny (Jennifer Connelly) is respectful and humorous. 

So thank you to the movie makers, Tom Cruise, the US Navy and everyone else involved in making a memorable and thoroughly entertaining film. Quite an enjoyable way to spend a Wednesday afternoon....

Monday, July 4, 2022

The need for kindness

I am losing faith in humanity's ability to be kind. I don't see much kindness anywhere, anymore. That may be the fault of the news media; it may be my fault for not searching out the good positive human interest stories. Part of me feels like giving up on the world and isolating myself from most of what is intrusive, unkind, aggressive and unnecessary. It may be counterproductive of me to seek 'away' from the world. In truth, perhaps my energy would be better spent trying to add more kindness to the world, because kindness is necessary in order for us to survive as a people. Without it, we will ensure our destruction. But even trying to add more kindness feels like a futile effort at times. I try to remain kind, but I can't shake the feeling of futileness that hangs over me like a heavy fog. 

I don't know that social media necessarily exacerbates the situation as I see it, but it doesn't help matters. Most of those I know on social media are decent people trying to live decent lives. And yet, some of them fall into the trap of commenting on one thing or another, and suddenly they are dragged into the trolling that goes on, that lives a life of its own long after the actual post they commented on has seen the light of day. Nowadays your opinion, if you have a reasoned one, gets lost in the severity of the response to it. You are told you should have an opinion, but if you do and it isn't the same opinion as the ruling majority in society (that have set themselves up as judge and jury), you are excommunicated. I have begun to say that the Catholic Church at least offers forgiveness for one's transgressions; that's more than the secular media and its supporters offer. You are 'labeled' and the label sticks. No forgiveness for you. This type of response merely forces those who are 'labeled' into a corner where they become even more stubborn and irascible. When I look at it objectively, it's easy to understand that when there is no kindness or attempt at understanding anywhere you turn, you choose your own survival (mental and physical) and the rest be damned. 

Not an uplifting post for a Monday morning, I know. But it is inspired by recent happenings around me. I have discovered that garden enthusiasts are not necessarily nice people; they can be unkind when it serves their purposes. Sometimes their behavior reminds me of what I saw in my former workplace, where some of the leaders harassed those they perceived as weaker than them. An unkind workplace; but now I see that the world outside its walls is also unkind. This particular situation does not affect me personally, but I don't like to see how the other party is being treated. Yet another example is from my former workplace, where a former colleague, who had a 'round' birthday together with another colleague, was not feted in the same way as her colleague; she was deliberately ignored in favor of the other colleague. You might think this does not go on in an 'adult' workplace; if you think so, I have a bridge to sell you. Another example is from my own life; I recently ran an ad on Facebook to promote my new garden book, and as fate would have it, several people responded with an 'angry' emoji. It wasn't quite clear to me why they were angry, and I commented on it in a general way, wondering if they were angry that I wrote a book or angry that I promoted it. I wished them all peace, whereby one of them actually responded in an angry way to my wishing them peace. His response made me understand that the world is truly a crazy place, full of angry people looking for ways to take it out on others. For more examples, you only need to take a look at the world news, with mass shootings in the USA and Europe, the war in Ukraine (and accompanying atrocities), the societal anger in the USA over so many things, and politicians who deliberately refuse to compromise and to take the higher road. Hatred, anger, and stubbornness prevail; they have won. I am not sure where it all will lead, but it's not anywhere good. 


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

When birds were dinosaurs

Very true. In another era, we might not have thought they were so sweet.......
(Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis)



The Beatles - Eleanor Rigby (From "Yellow Submarine") from 1966


Eleanor Rigby lyrics

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people
Eleanor Rigby
Picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window
Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie
Writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working
Darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care?
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby
Died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie
Wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved
All the lonely people (ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people (ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all belong?

Seals & Crofts - We May Never Pass This Way Again [w/ lyrics]



This song was released in 1973, almost fifty years ago. It is a beautiful song/love song and pure poetry, expressing all the sentiments that many of us have about time passing and the wanting to spend the time we have on earth with those you love. The song makes you reflect on your life and your relationships, as did so much of the music we grew up with. 

The majority of music at present is not like this. It is harsher and more superficial. Perhaps it reflects the times we live in. There are a few exceptions, but by and large commercial hits with little substance are the norm. Artists make their money and move on. Some of them are one-hit wonders. I will try and find some of the exceptions; I know they exist. 


Monday, June 27, 2022

Notes from a traveler on my recent trip to the USA

Meeting the Canadian DJ in the passport control line at Newark airport who had traveled all around the world for his job when he was younger and who ended up marrying a Norwegian woman and living in Norway. A very gregarious type, very talkative. He must have been quite the Lothario when he was single. He mentioned that he had had many Norwegian girlfriends before he married, some of whom were married themselves. Now he sounded resigned to his being 'trapped' in Norway, as he put it. 

Meeting the American woman and her daughter on the train platform at Newark airport while waiting for the Amtrak train to Washington DC. They had just returned from vacation in Copenhagen. We compared notes on Covid-19 testing in order to enter the USA again; she had paid forty dollars for two antigen tests in Copenhagen whereas I had paid ninety dollars for one test in Oslo, Norway. Norway knows how to extract money from us. 

Meeting the taxi driver from Jamaica who drove me from the Union train station in Washington DC to my hotel. The first chance he got, he showed me pictures of his daughter, her husband, and his beautiful granddaughters who live in Montenegro. He was so proud of his grandchildren. He only gets to see them once a year, and was hoping to travel to visit them next year. We talked about how hard it was to have parents in another country than where you live, especially when they get sick and old. Most of his siblings had emigrated to the USA from Jamaica, but many of them were dead now. Most of them had had government jobs. I gave him a big tip after he told me how business had fallen off due to the pandemic. DC was a ghost town now, he said, with most people still working from home. People weren't using taxis to get to their workplaces anymore. 

Meeting the hotel guest born in Nigeria who padded out barefoot to the reception area of the Comfort Inn in search of bottled water. The tap water for drinking purposes in DC leaves a lot to be desired; it literally smells of whatever chemicals are used to disinfect the water. Apparently DC uses chloramine (a mixture of chlorine and ammonia). In any case, the water does not taste good at all, and bottled water is used by most people. The Nigerian man was very friendly and told me about his college years traveling around Europe with his friends. He loved France and French food, especially baguettes. He spoke the Queen's English after having lived in London for a while, and told me "I am a proud American" when I asked him where he lives now. The hotel itself was worn down and had seen better days; for 180 dollars a night I had expected more. The staff at reception and in the breakfast room were friendly so no complaints there. But I'm glad I only stayed there one night. 

Visiting with three of my cousins while I was in the DC area: two of them (Karen and Robert) live not far from DC proper, whereas my other cousin Cathy lives in Charlottesville VA. It was wonderful to spend time with each of them and their spouses. I visited with Karen first, then with Robert, and then with Cathy. We ate at some great restaurants and had some memorable conversations. I hope to be able to visit them again in a few years. 

Taking the (very comfortable) bus from Union Station to Charlottesville VA. When I was on the bus, I saw a road sign near Culpeper VA: "Let Jesus make you a fisherman. You catch 'em, he cleans 'em". 

Listening to the busker Daniel Kepel in Charlottesville while eating lunch outdoors with Cathy and her husband Scott. Kepel played some requests, among them Bill Withers' 'Ain't No Sunshine'. A very enjoyable afternoon. 

Traveling back to New York via Amtrak. Amtrak has a 'quiet car', where no cell phone conversations are allowed. The quiet car is a dream come true for passengers like me who don't want to listen to people yack on their phones ad nauseam about nothing. I listened to music, did some reading and writing, and otherwise enjoyed the scenery until we got into Penn Station in Manhattan. 

Once I get to NY, I'm back in familiar territory. I don't spend much time in Manhattan anymore, but as I was walking from Penn Station to Grand Central Station to get the train to Tarrytown, I felt the 'rush' of the city, the good rush, the rush that makes you want to work hard and achieve. When you are in Manhattan, it's hard not to feel that the 'world is your oyster' or that 'the sky's the limit'. It's not until you've worked there a while that you see the down sides of this way of thinking. But when you're young, it's a fun place to be, and I have good memories of having gone to school and worked there for ten years. 

When I was on the bus to White Plains so that I could pick up my rental car, there was a sign in Spanish that had to do with wearing masks to prevent Covid infections. I am relearning Spanish at present and was happy that I was able to read and understand this sign with no problems. 

Once I get to the NY area, I get together with my sister Renata and her husband Tim and my dear friends Jean, Maria, Gisele, Stef and Jola. Sometimes we hang out in Tarrytown down by the Hudson River and have a picnic, or visit the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, or eat lunch in downtown Mamaroneck. This time around Jean, Maria and I visited Olana (Olana State Historic Site (ny.gov), the Hudson River home of Frederic Church, who was perhaps the most well-known artist of the Hudson River School of American landscape painters. I usually stay at Jean's house until I leave for Oslo again. Being with her is always like coming home; I feel safe. Whenever it seems as though the world is coming apart at the seams, I think of her and my closest friends and the world is alright again. 


Sunday, June 26, 2022

Collateral damage

Collateral damage. Those words keep running through my mind, especially in light of some of the recent events in the USA. The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas is one of them. Our children are the collateral damage in the obsession to uphold the second amendment at any cost and to placate the NRA. Our children don’t matter to the politicians who insist that the second amendment be upheld. They simply don’t matter. The NRA matters most. 

Our children suffer again when schools have to spend thousands of dollars on defence against active shooters, money that could be spent on increasing salaries for teachers so that our children would benefit intellectually. But our children don’t matter to the politicians who insist that the best solution is that teachers arm themselves and learn to shoot. Teachers don’t matter either to our esteemed politicians.

Ordinary folks in society are collateral damage when liberals push to defund the police and conservatives push guns on us. Many ordinary citizens don’t want to own a gun or learn how to shoot one. They also don’t want the police to be defunded. What they do want is for the police to do their jobs and that they are visible to society at large. The majority of ordinary citizens trust the police. Yes, there are bad police, just as there are bad doctors, bad nurses, and bad priests. But if the police disappear from a society, chaos will reign. It won’t be a society any of us will want to live in.

The overturning of Roe versus Wade is another recent event that will have collateral damage. Poor women will not have access to abortion if they need one. You can argue the morality of abortion all you like; the reality is that abortion, like prostitution, will exist until the end of time. Banning abortion will not stop abortion; it will simply drive it underground, as was the case before Roe versus Wade. Backroom abortions that led to infection and death. Yes, poor women will be able to travel to those states that still permit abortion, but the travel costs will not be reimbursed by anyone nor will the actual procedure. That is not the case for middle and upper class women working for companies who will cover the costs. One can argue that unborn babies have been collateral damage as the result of access to unlimited abortion and that is true. But it is also true that none of the women I know who have had an abortion really wanted to have one; they were very young and they felt pressured to have an abortion by the men in their lives who did not want to be fathers or who did not want more children. Shall we then blame the men for their decisions? Perhaps we should. Men play a big role here. 

In Europe, the liberal approach to crime has led to violent mentally-ill people being let back onto the streets of society after being assessed by teams of psychiatrists as 'safe'. There are people who have said to me that 'everyone is a potential murderer', which can explain the liberal approach to criminals; we should feel sorry for them. In Scandinavia murderers don't often get long prison sentences if they are convicted. According to Wikipedia, the longest prison sentence in Norway is 21 years, although the new Penal Code provides for a 30-year maximum sentence for crimes related to genocide, crimes against humanity or some other war crimes. Collateral damage? The poor victims of stabbings, shootings, and bow and arrow killings, along with their families and friends. Anyone who forgets the victims of such crimes should rot in hell. If that makes me a conservative on crime, then I am. I'm all for long prison sentences for murder, 40 years minimum in most cases. Because in most cases there is discussion ad nauseam about whether the criminal 'knew' what he was doing. If he or she was truly mentally ill, then they belong in a mental hospital; if not, then they belong in prison, not back on the streets to commit yet more atrocities. I'm all for rehabilitation of criminals, but there needs to be more compassion for the victims and their families, which there is not at present. 

Again in Europe, we see the collateral damage and fallout from the pandemic. Airline companies let a lot of workers go during the pandemic and have not rehired enough people to tackle the upcoming summer vacation crowds. Now the airline mechanics are on strike, as are the pilots, at least here in Norway. They are striking for more money, of course. No one cares about the passengers who had been looking forward to well-earned vacations. The situation is chaotic at best. The airline companies should have prepared better, but they didn't because it costs money to prepare better. And the companies don't want to spend a penny more than they have to, except where leader salaries are concerned. Rest assured the leaders are still pulling in big bucks at the expense of ordinary people. They will bankrupt their companies and go on their merry ways, because the only thing they think about is themselves. It is of course more complicated than this, but greed is a huge part of it. 

The world is not black and white, as much as some people would like it to be. Black and white is easy, but ultimately destructive. It leads to ‘Me against you’, ‘Us against them’. Unfortunately for the black and white folks, there are multiple gray areas and nuances in life. Compassion and empathy are also collateral damage resulting from policies and laws that do not acknowledge the gray areas in life. Intelligence and reflection are also collateral damage. We have reached the point in society where the death of intelligence and compassion is merely glossed over. Our humanity is the collateral damage.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

My new book, The Gifts of a Garden, is now published and available for purchase

My new book--The Gifts of a Garden, is now published and available for purchase on Amazon: The Gifts of a Garden: De Angelis, Paula Mary: 9798435180572: Amazon.com: Books

As the back cover of the book states--'gardening has become my passion and my form of meditation'. The text and photography in the book are my own. The book cover design (front and back) as well as the book's layout are the work of the talented graphic designer (and my friend) Paloma Ayala. I love the front cover design and I know you will too. You can find Paloma on Instagram at @paloma.photo.nature



Thursday, June 16, 2022

My new book--The Gifts of a Garden

My new book, The Gifts of a Garden, is now available for purchase in hardcover and paperback formats on Amazon. It will eventually be available as an e-book as well. 

Here is the link to the book on Amazon: The Gifts of a Garden: De Angelis, Paula Mary: 9798833097694: Amazon.com: Books

Thank you for your support!  

Thursday, June 2, 2022

My author page on Amazon

I recently published a poetry collection, Movements Through the Landscape, and I'm in the process of publishing my book about the gifts and blessings that are given to us by our gardens. It's entitled The Gifts of a Garden. Both of them are available for purchase on Amazon. I thought I'd include the link to my Amazon Author page for those of you who are interested in seeing the books I've published. 

Amazon.com: Paula M. De Angelis: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle


Thursday, May 26, 2022

School Days

When we were children, we sang along to the song School Days, at least at home. My mother was very good at finding records for children, and one of them was School Days. I'm not sure who sang the song we listened to, but the lyrics and music were written in 1907 by Will D. Cobb and Gus Edwards: 

School days, school days
Dear old golden rule days
Readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hickory stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful barefoot beau
And you wrote on my slate, "I love you, Joe"
When we were a couple of kids

There was no hickory stick to keep us in line when we were schoolchildren, just the Catholic school nuns. One look or word from them and you stopped misbehaving. There was also no rampant social media addiction to warp our minds. I don't know why I was reminded of this song today, perhaps because the reality of school days for children nowadays is anything but innocent and carefree. 

I cannot imagine being a parent or grandparent and watching young children go off to school, not knowing if you will see them again. School shootings (and mass shootings in general) have become part of the norm of everyday life and they shouldn't be. There are people I know on Facebook who always post the same thing after a school or other mass shooting--"guns don't kill people, people kill people". It's semantics. Of course guns kill people. If access to those guns wasn't readily available, there wouldn't be guns to kill people. We can argue about the differences between a handgun and an assault rifle. I know that they are not the same. Most of the shootings seem to be done with assault rifles. Why? Because the intent is to kill as many people as possible. There is no other purpose to an assault rifle. You certainly don't need one to riddle a poor animal you're hunting with a barrage of bullets. What's left of the animal after that? If you defend the right to own an assault rifle, you are part of the problem. One solution, perhaps the best, is to ban assault rifles, as they have no place in civilized society. Another is to require thorough extensive background checks on anyone who wants to purchase any type of gun or rifle, period. 

Do our senators realize that their children and grandchildren are at risk? Or don't they care? I ask that question because such shootings are unpredictable. They occur in all states, in small towns and in larger cities. Living rurally doesn't protect anyone or hinder such events. Uvalde is proof of that. Another unsettling factor in so many shootings is how the shooters post their intentions or photos of themselves decked out as if for war on social media. What is wrong with our society? Something is definitely pathologically wrong about society's love of guns. If it continues unchecked, there will just be lawlessness and random shootings everywhere in the next ten years. 

When we were in grammar school and high school, we were taught how to crouch under our desks in case of an atomic bomb attack. Little good that would have done us. Once a year we may have had that drill. Teachers and parents did not focus on it because such an attack was not a very real threat despite the Cold War and the rhetoric surrounding the use of atomic bombs. Everyone saw the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and decided that such horrific occurrences would never happen again. It can't be so difficult to see the carnage after a mass shooting and ban assault rifles as well as change the laws as to who is competent enough to own a gun. Each life that is saved has incalculable worth. Why are we arguing over this? 


Friday, May 20, 2022

More Than This by Roxy Music


More Than This by Roxy Music is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Whenever I listen to it I am transported to the past--music is an immediate portal to the past. It reminds me of my former boss at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who loved this song. I think he secretly wanted to be Bryan Ferry; he looked a bit like him and he definitely dressed like him. It also reminds me of my brother. Both live on in my memory; my brother died in 2015 and my former boss in 2020. Listening to the music and the lyrics makes me feel connected to them, for which I'm grateful. 
 

More Than This

I could feel at the time
There was no way of knowing
Fallen leaves in the night
Who can say where they're blowing?
As free as the wind
Hopefully learning
Why the sea on the tide
Has no way of turning
More than this
You know there's nothing
More than this
Tell me one thing
More than this
Ooh there's nothing
It was fun for a while
There was no way of knowing
Like a dream in the night
Who can say where we're going?
No care in the world
Maybe I'm learning
Why the sea on the tide
Has no way of turning
More than this
You know there's nothing
More than this
Tell me one thing
More than this
No there's nothing
More than this
Nothing
More than this
More than this
Nothing
Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Bryan Ferry
More Than This lyrics © Bmg Rights Management (uk) Limited