If there’s a future

Think of the humans you turn to when sad, when afraid, when happy, when angry. The ones who listen to you vent and love you anyway. The ones you most relate to because of shared pain and injustice, shared love and laughter. If you’re a woman, your circle is likely female.

In the year I was born, only 40% of undergraduates in America were female.1 Today, 60% of undergraduate degrees are earned by females. In my organic chemistry courses, almost 70% are female. Future doctors and scientists. This is so commonplace today that we take it for granted, but every right women currently have was fought for by our mothers and their mothers. It was not bestowed on us. It was demanded.

There’s a funny Mary Poppins song that goes, “Though we adore men individually…” and “Our daughter’s daughters will adore us, and they’ll sing in grateful chorus…” and “Womankind, arise!”

Women fought for the right to vote, to own property, to go to school, to divorce, to run for office, for birth control, to be Secretary of State and Vice President and serve on the Supreme Court… We’ve made so much progress but still, we are underpaid. Still, men strive to control us. What are men afraid of? Do they think if(when) we take over, we’ll mistreat them as we have been mistreated for hundreds of years?

Do they fear revenge?

That’s it. That must be it.

But is it?

Men do not understand women any more than we understand them. Their drives and our motivators don’t line up. Yet they think if they don’t hold us at bay, we’ll take all their imagined power. (I didn’t intend this post to take me down this path, but such is the nature of the writing process–the path always meanders.) Such supposing about what ifs led me down a winding path to write a dystopian novel a decade ago. The story began from fear. Shootings in schools and on college campuses were becoming more common until one day my daughter hid for hours on campus while police hunted down a shooter who’d killed a cop. That day, the future came for me. What could not touch my heart came too close. From that fear a story grew where females found a way to protect not only each other, but also saved the world from destruction by men, by taking over.

It’s just a story. Just fiction. But a story from the opposite perspective from Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE. Instead of women held down, men are taken to their knees, subdued, and controlled in every conceivable way. Take a look at my book, INFINITY LINE, for a horrific tale of single-gender control in a future that’s exclusively female. It’ll remind you how much you individually love your husband, brother, father, and friends. And maybe it can shake up some men to a perspective that females have incessantly fought against for our entire lives and would never wish on anyone.

Available in paperback or Kindle version from Amazon.

start at zero and add

When you have nothing, you want everything. Girls at school had pretty clothes, a lot of them. And shoes. All new and never worn by anyone else. Some even had a car, their own bedroom, and a weekly allowance. I had a job.

I also had mentors. A couple teachers who pushed me. A counselor who looked at my scores and sent me through a door I had not considered to a degree I’d never heard of. What does an engineer even do, and why are they so well paid?

An engineer solves problems. Differently named engineers solve problems in areas like construction or aeronautics or biomedicine or electronics or mechanics or computer science or chemistry.

They are so well paid because their work is so vital and so few can survive the four-year degree–one which is not handed out like candy. Earning that degree proves their worth. Supply and demand are tipped in their favor.

Of course, their jobs require them to work 60 or more hours each week for 40 or more years for their salaries. They work in groups, under deadlines, to fix problems and to back up sales teams who make impossible promises without comprehension, or to stop a bridge from collapsing, or to verify the physics of a future structure, or to regenerate nerves, or to test new medicines, or something else to make life easier on the rest of us. They enjoy the challenge and the like-minded teams of problem solvers. They share credit, learn from mistakes, and shoulder blame. The world rides on their ideas.

Start from your current position and chart a course to what you need. Do you want to teach, create, invest, build, help, lead, share, bake, farm, distribute, coordinate, repair, nurture, and improve the world? Don’t wait for the government to solve your problems with money collected from taxes taken from other workers or you may very well spend your whole life waiting and complaining and end up in that exact same position, pointing your angry finger, after 40 years.

worry capacity

There is a cool demonstration science teachers do in general chemistry classes where we fill a clear cylinder with water to the top and then carefully add paperclips one by one. Students count the paperclips as they are dropped in until the water spills over the edge. When we’re really careful, we can add dozens and maybe a hundred paperclips before the water molecules break free of their hydrogen bonds (intermolecular forces where the electron deficient hydrogen on one water molecule is strongly attracted to a lone pair of electrons on an electron rich oxygen on an adjacent molecule; like the molecules are holding hands; like molecular magnets) and spill over in a stream of molecules.

Those hydrogen bonds work together to keep the water molecules touching and in the liquid state. All of life depends on hydrogen bonds. Don’t get me going. I seem to have lost my point. Hold on. I’ll remember in a sec.



Oh, yes. There’s the thread. The final breaking point of those strained hydrogen bonds when the bubble of water hovering above the cylinder finally flows is analogous to the breaking point of worry when we exceed our capacity to keep the lid on tight. Emotions flow. We cry. We lash out. We hurt for the sake of others. The overflow can happen while we sleep. Dreams wake us up and remind us of the stresses we tamp down all day long. COVID. Work. Family. War. While our side of the world points away from the sun the other side of the world bombs each other. Capacity exceeded. The camel’s back can’t take even one more tiny paperclip.

spring break perspective

From the relaxed energy well of spring break, we (professors and our students) sit at a local minimum in an intermediate state of stability. We can look back along the energy diagram path that brought us here, up and up and up to where our most recent transition state must surely be, but we cannot see that apex, a point where the first derivative of the semester energy function (and thus the slope of its tangent) equaled zero; we have slid down so fast. We remember that unstable transition state position as a sleepless, foodless, chaotic time of breaking and forming bonds, when we peered over the edge of the drop that brought us here. In our current spring break intermediate state, we are well-rested, fed, and relaxed, hence stable. If we dared to peek ahead to the next transition state, we’d see it has a much higher activation energy than the last TS, and there is no hope of seeing beyond it to the end of the semester, though we know the river of time will drag us there kicking and fighting to keep our heads above water.

TWL: the end

I like hellos better than goodbyes, beginnings better than endings. This is the last Tuesday with Laurie. It will be very hard for me to stop my weekly commitment, but I’m doing it. This is the end. I’m retiring my COVID reporting post.

The end of my little Tuesday writing habit is not the same as the end of our global pandemic.

When I first heard the term endemic, I thought it meant the end. I was wrong.

Renaming the pandemic an endemic means we have surrendered. The human race missed its chance (or maybe never had a chance) of beating this contagious shape-shifting virus. Humans are weary and have given up. In the endemic we’ll just live with coronaviruses. We will each ride our own raft making decisions for ourselves and only ourselves and will no longer be expected to consider how our actions affect anyone else. This will be a huge and uncomfortable shift for many, a relief for others, and will go utterly unnoticed by those who cultivated such inward facing perspectives for the entire pandemic.

Here’s your last data on this Tuesday from this Laurie.

As of 2/22/22, almost 6 million humans have died from complications due to COVID-19, almost 1 million of them Americans.

Worldwide, 427 million people have contracted COVID-19, 79 million of them Americans.

Sleeves were rolled up for 10.4 billion doses of vaccine.

This week the omicron surge in America decreased by almost 40% again: only 0.6 million new cases. We seem to be heading for a well-earned break (before the next surge).

Mask mandates are relaxing. Spring is coming. We are hopeful but no longer naive. My state has decided to stop reporting case numbers and to reduce testing in March. Others have already done this, and more will follow. This will help it seem like case numbers have dropped, but we won’t be certain.

Here are your last graphs from this Laurie. Stay well.

All data reported in these 110 weeks were collected from Tuesday 7:20 pm EST data updates on the Johns Hopkins COVID Dashboard.