Friday, May 29, 2015

Lousy @WholeFoods shopping trolley

One of the things I try to do in this blog is document products that break prematurely.  One such product is a shopping trolley that I bought from Whole Foods about a month ago.

One thing that has happened is that the sleeve that holds the drawstring has pulled off.  Here you can see where I've improvised a bunch of safety pins, held closed with gorilla tape, to hold the draw string.

Another thing that has happened is that the rectangular piece at the bottom of the trolley, which is there to give the trolley structure and hold the cargo off the wheels, is breaking through the fabric.   Here you can see where I have put gorilla tape over the corners, to keep protect the corners where the holes are and keep small objects from falling out.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Marble Hill Train Station

Before I moved to Tarrytown, NY, I lived in New York City.  The whole time I lived in New York City, I never heard of the Marble Hill Train Station.  After I moved to Tarrytown, I learned that it is a transfer point to the NYC subway system (#1 Line) from the Hudson Line of MetroNorth.  Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people transfer there every day.

Here's a picture from the Broadway Bridge.  You can see the station, down by the Harlem River, with four flights of stairs leading up to the street.

Here's a very short YouTube video I made of this spot 

There are another three flights of stairs to get up to the #1 subway, as it's an "EL" there.  Here is a picture of the additional three flights of stairs to get to the subway.  

There's no elevator.  This is probably the least handicapped accessible train station and transfer point I've ever heard of.  The people who transfer there have to be in good shape.

Not very PC 

On the other hand, it's an amazingly beautiful place.  It overlooks the Harlem River to the south.

Here's the Broadway Bridge from the station.  It's a bridge that can rise up like an elevator on the towers to let boats, through, tho it's rare that they do it, because the #1 subway goes over the bridge.  One time I did get stuck for a long time on the #1, because the bridge was up.

The north side, which is blasted out of the rock, is also picturesque.  Maybe you can see from the width of the roof how very narrow the single platform is at this station.

When I sit on the platform and look to the river, I feel like I'm on the porch of a resort, looking at the water.

It's sort of an anachronism, not having an elevator -- but perhaps that comes with the territory of having such great natural beauty.

So I just thought I'd tell people about it.


I'm just fascinated with this place. Here's another video


Addendum 230408

I found an interesting historical article that includes some information about the Harlem River and Marble Hill

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

NYC campaign to stop moms from co-sleeping with infants.

I am very upset about The New York City  campaign to stop moms from sleeping with their babies described here

They are dead wrong about this and are hurting children, possibly even killing them.

Co-sleeping helps prevent SIDS see

Co-sleeping also facilitates night time breast feeding. Moms who have to get up to breast feed get more tired and are more likely to stop.  I found this from personal experience having breastfed one baby who did not co-sleep and one who did.

Breast feeding is very important to infant health  Making babies sleep separately from moms is putting them at risk of early weaning, when they should be breastfed exclusively until age six months and with supplementation at least until age two.

The City is grouping together unconnected information about sleeping accidents in a misleading way. Yes, blankets and pillows can suffocate a child.

I cannot believe that a sober mom will roll over on her child. Sober moms learned not to roll over on their children when pregnant and continue to sleep very lightly for the rest of their lives, because of the concerns they develop for their children. If you have moms who roll over on their babies, I suspect they are usually drunk, high or lying. It is wrong to stop moms from sleeping with their babies due to these questionable instances.

I am particularly concerned that moms who are not using alcohol or drugs are going to be labeled as child abusers for sleeping with babies, when in fact that's the best thing for the baby.

I believe that the New York City campaign is putting babies at risk of SIDS and early weaning -- and not really addressing the issue of young moms who are chemically dependent and therefore endangering their children. I implore them to stop this misguided action.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A bio I wrote about my mom back in 2005

I didn't put this up on the Internet before, because I don't think my uncle would like it, so please don't show it to him.

Eleanor (“Hephy”) F. Barschall was born September 2, 1921, the third of four children in the home of  her great grandmother, Phoebe Folsom.  Phoebe’s home was located in Llewellyn Park, in West Orange, NJ. Llewellyn Park was a gated community that was also home to Thomas Alva Edison.

Hephy’s grandmother, Carolyn Saltus Folsom, was a descendant of Amasa Wright, who originally subdivided the Chicago loop, paving the way for it to be developed.  This grandmother died at age 28, so Hephy’s father, Henry Lloyd Folsom, was raised by his maiden aunt, Eleanor, who became Hephy’s namesake.

Eventually the junior Folsom family moved into their own home. Hephy’s childhood was notable because she very nearly died of celiac disease.  She was one of a handful of children who first profited from the discovery of the cure, which involved a diet of bananas, thus eliminating gluten, which the sufferer is sensitive to.  During Hephy’s illness, the fearsome Phoebe declared “I don’t want that dying baby in my house.”  While Hephy recovered from the celiac, she did suffer from a sensitive stomach all of her life.

Hephy attended Miss Beard’s School, now called Morristown-Beard.  It was then a small, tightly knit girls’ k-12 school, which her sisters also attended.  When Hephy was 77, and attending her sister’s memorial service, her nephew, Thomas Saunders, showed her a photo of her sister Charlotte’s Beard graduating class.  Hephy was still able to recite every member of her sister’s class by first, middle, and last name.

Hephy went to Mt. Holyoke College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, majoring in economics.  She was also selected May Queen in her senior year because of her startling beauty.  Hephy also got a master’s degree in education from NYU, her first co-ed educational experience.

For a time, she worked in the family business, a sporting goods company, Folsom Arms. [I later learned that the gun that killed JFK originated in the successor to this company]  

Hephy had the inspiration to broaden the hunting focus of the business to skiing equipment.  Sadly, her father refused to allow the change, because he had tried that during the Depression and failed.  This decision may have prevented the business from becoming another L.L. Bean.  After a while, Hephy was replaced by her younger brother, the male heir.  Ultimately, the business failed, possibly doomed by sexism.  While she did not keep up her hunting, in her home, she proudly displayed the grizzly bear rug that was her best hunting trophy from her high school hunting days, until it began to fall apart.

During WWII, Hephy worked in coding at General Electric.  That job ended after the war, because, naturally, the jobs had to be given back to men.  Hephy retained a lifelong love of word puzzles, such as crosswords, scrambles and the decoding games in the newspaper.

Hephy became a teacher.  Hephy was proud that one of her first teaching assignments was in a racially integrated school in Montclair, NJ.  Hephy later told the anecdote that her African American pupils had been instructed by their parents not to sing songs by the celebrated, racist songwriter, Stephen Foster.  Hephy apparently still had the class sing “Old Black Joe,” one of his songs, and the African American pupils very much enjoyed the naughtiness of singing a song that their parents did not want them to sing along with their white teacher and fellow students.

In 1949, Hephy decided to go on an adventure in what was then still the Wild West.  She took a teaching position in Los Alamos, NM, where she taught the children of the brilliant physicists who had worked developing the world’s first nuclear weapons.  There, at a square dance, she met her future husband, Henry “Heinz” Barschall, one of those physicists.  In Los Alamos, she developed a lifelong passion for craft items made by the native peoples of the Southwest.

She eventually married Heinz in 1955.  By that time she had officially become an old maid, her father having declared that any woman who was not married by age 30 was either ugly or stupid.  Hephy was neither, but marrying Heinz was a bold move.  Heinz’s ancestry was Jewish -- though he had been raised Lutheran -- and he had come to this country as a refugee from the Holocaust.  Hephy’s father was deeply anti-Semitic.  The premature death of Hephy’s father – a heavy smoker – in 1954 at age 66 made the decision to marry Heinz easier.

Hephy moved to Madison, WI in 1955 to live with her new husband, who was now a professor at the University of Wisconsin.  Heinz did not like the name “Hephy,” which came from the Hephalumpf in Winnie the Pooh, so Hephy became Eleanor in Madison.

Eleanor had two children, Anne in 1956 and Peter in 1958.  Eleanor found the move from Los Alamos, the loss of her career, and caring for toddlers traumatic.  She suffered from severe depression for years.  In her family, children under age 4 had been given to Irish nannies to be raised. Cooking and cleaning were done by servants.  Her mother never learned to boil an egg until age 45.  Eleanor wanted to do these things herself, with her own hands, but she found tasks that might have seemed simple to other women very stressful.

Eleanor took comfort in her music.  She was a gifted classical pianist, delighting in playing all the most complex 18th and 19th century pieces on her baby grand piano.  Eleanor also had a fabulous lyric soprano voice.  She was a devoted participant in the church choir at St. Andrew’s church and in the Madison Symphony Chorus for at least 30 years.  Heinz was interested in music too, even though he could not carry a tune.  They used to take a bus into Chicago to hear the opera.  They did this even in advanced age, despite not getting home until 3 a.m.

Once her children were in school, Eleanor devoted herself to volunteer work. She felt it would be wrong for her to take a paying job away from someone who needed the money, when Heinz was making enough as a professor to support the family.   She knew how to live frugally.  She used the same Christmas decorations for 40 years.  She saved and reused wrapping paper and plastic bags.  

She loved the League of Women voters, which built on the feminist traditions she had learned at Mt. Holyoke.  Eventually she became vice president of the League for Dane County.

She also enjoyed lobbying government on issues that concerned her.  One of these was nuclear power.  Unlike so many other activists in this area, she believed fervently in this technology, because the fuel was plentiful and renewable, and because there was no smoke to pollute the air.  She was convinced that the nuclear waste issues were manageable.  She may have been influenced in her passion for this issue, because Heinz was a physicist.  She may also have been influenced by another of her lifelong passions.

From the earliest age, she loved hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Her family was very outdoorsy, with her father being a hunter and her mother being a hiker.  The areas above tree line in New Hampshire were always chilly, even in summer, and were therefore a popular destination before the days of air conditioning.  The tallest mountain, Mt. Washington, has an old, coal fired locomotive that still carries tourists up and down.  Eleanor could not understand why so many people wanted to use that old thing, belching black smoke into the air, when one could get to the top on foot.  Also, the eastern mountains continue to suffer miserably from acid rain and other pollution caused by smoke from Midwestern power plants burning fossil fuels, which might have been replaced by nuclear power.

Her interest in the outdoors and the environment also made her an avid bicyclist in Madison.  She took a volunteer position on the ped/bike committee for the city of Madison.  She was elected chair of that committee, which put her on the Transportation Commission of the city, still as a volunteer.  She loved participating in the planning of the pedestrian and bicycle paths that now grace the city.

After Anne and Peter moved out, Heinz and Eleanor launched on an impressive travel program.  They visited a tropical beach location every winter, between academic semesters.  Every summer, they chose some other destination including Peru (their favorite), the Middle East, the rainforest of Venezuela, New Zealand, the Jasper National Park in Canada, Africa, Switzerland, France, Italy, Alaska, and so forth.  Eleanor also visited New Hampshire to go hiking every summer.

In old age, after Heinz’s death, she suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, stenosis of the spine, and deteriorating vision.  She was cared for in her home by a staff that gave her the best care that has ever been seen on this planet.  Her caregivers included Pat _____, Jennifer Scott, Connie Golden, Chris Ruppelt, Sharon Flanagan, Sherry Schoer, Chris Stuesser, Wendy Hutton, Sharon Huggins, Janet Bauer, Cindy McCallum, Barb Carrick, Ginny Wickman, Jackie Luyet, Barb Lanser, Kelly Leatherbury, Elena Ehlert, Amy Magnussen, Jane Wright, and Roxane Dachman along with a number of others.  For nine years, these dedicated women turned what might have been a depressing situation into a happy and fulfilling home life, where Eleanor continued to go to the opera, the symphony, the Arboretum, Olbricht Gardens, Eldercare, restaurants, the Dances of Peace, the farmer’s market, and innumerable other outings.  Her family would like to extend a special thanks to this staff for their outstanding and creative service, always punctuated by love, empathy, and good humor.  Eleanor developed the endearing habit of patting everyone on the butt.  Remarkably no one took offense at this gesture.

Eleanor died December 12, 2005 of congestive heart failure and pneumonia.  She was survived by her brother, Hank Folsom; her children Anne and Peter Barschall; three grandchildren: David and Joseph McKenney-Barschall and Mai Ly Cohen Barschall [another grandchild, Tariku Cohen Barschall, joined the family posthumously]; and eight [sic, nine] nieces and nephews.  In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory can be given to the Randolph Public Library, 101 US Rte 2, Randolph NH 03593; or the League of Women Voters of Dane County. [this originally referred to the building fund of the Randolph Public Library, but the new library has been built, so that's not the right place any more]

Pictures of Eleanor:

In the 1990's

In the 1970's with my father

In the 1950's (probably pregnant with me)

1943 (college photo)



I recently became aware of a book called Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy.  I got the book and looked unsuccessfully for anything about my mother -- or about the coding program at General Electric.  I communicated with Liza Mundy about my mother's involvement with this project.  She didn't have my mother's name or anything about a coding project at General Electric.  I gave her a link to this bio, which I think she read.  
I remain mystified.  My mom said she lived in a dormitory after graduating college, which is mentioned in the book.  She also was very smart and had a teaching degree, so she would have been the sort of woman they would have wanted in this program.  
I conclude that there were aspects of the coding program that Liza didn't discover when writing her book. Also, it's possible that my mom was told to say that she worked for General Electric, when really she didn't.
Addendum 210531

Mom had celiac as a baby.  Her teeth were damaged by that.  Eventually she got the front ones capped.  I think this was before she got them capped.  Photo from 1933

I think this was her HS graduation picture

Mom told me that she smoked briefly in college, because she felt peer pressure to do so.  She said she was very relieved after college, when she felt she no longer had to do it.  She's the only person I ever met who not only didn't get addicted to tobacco, but actually hated smoking and was glad to quit. This is a rare picture of her with a cigarette.  I think this was taken at the family island in Nova Scotia.  

Mom & her family always vacationed in NH, mostly in Randolph, where I still go.  This is a photo of her hiking with her sister, Charlotte, and friend, Dolly Ogiliby (sp?)

Mom was one of 4 kids.  This is a picture of her with her family, when her youngest sib was a baby.  She was the 3rd of 4.  She's on the far right. Carol & Charlotte were older.  Hank, the baby and only boy, was much younger -- 6 years as I recall.

Mom grew up in a house with servants.  I think that this photo shows one.  Mom's in the center, and her sister, Charlotte, who she was closest to, was on her left.  When Mom had dementia, she called me "Charlotte."

Mom played piano until she got Alzheimer's.  This is a photo of her as a teen with her sister, Charlotte.  They look to me like they're at the piano.   I got photoshop recently.  I used the healing brush a lot on this photo.

I can barely remember my maternal grandmother other than her final two years where a series of strokes left her basically a vegetable, but here, when I was a baby, she looked good -- mom on the left.

Here I am with mom at about age 1 or 2

Mom with her sibs around 1950

Mom with her sibs 1973


addendum: 230112

When I first wrote this biography, my uncle Hank, my mother's younger brother, was very angry. He didn't want negative things said about his father, like anti-Semitic, racist, and sexist.  He mentioned that his father loved his daughters very much and set them all up in some kind of career -- and gave them lots of presents. Later, when he calmed down, he admitted that it was true that my grandfather had these prejudices; but he loved his father and wanted him remembered lovingly.  

That's important, I think, for today, this idea of loving people whose opinions one doesn't agree with.

Also, when I went to work for Kenyon & Kenyon as a young attorney, I worked for a partner named Paul Heller.  I have a vague recollection of asking him what his father did for a living.  I think he said something about a horrible sporting goods store.

When I brought up the anti-Semitism, my uncle brought up that Folsom Arms had a Jewish employee, Mike Heller.  By that time, Paul Heller, had died in a tragic accident, being hit by a truck during a bicycle race.  I never got a chance to ask him whether his father was that Mike Heller.

Obviously, having a Jewish employee didn't necessarily make my grandfather not anti-Semitic -- but I suspect that that Mike Heller, if he was as attractive as Paul, may have had a big influence on the fact that my mother was willing to marry a person of Jewish ancestry.   My grandfather, who we referred to as "Bapa," tho other family members called him Pop, apparently said that my father was very assimilated -- or something like that -- which may have been some kind of grudging approval.  

I don't think my mom was strong enough to cross her dad, if he hadn't died prematurely.

My dad supposedly proposed to my mom 4 years before she accepted.  She was indecisive.  She was never sure she loved him.  She eventually agreed, because she felt that this was her last chance to have children.  She was 34 when she married.  

In any case, it was a long courtship, so my maternal grandfather definitely had a chance to meet my dad.  

Another thing that I haven't mentioned above, but which seems sort of topical now, is that I believe my mother was bi-sexual, tho suppressed that.  She told me that she thought it was normal to be attracted to same sex people in high school or when young.  

One of her best friends in Los Alamos, when she was teaching there, was a woman who called herself "Johnny (sp?)" Stokes. My mother once said something about doing a good job at keeping that relationship platonic. Still, she remained friendly with Johnny, who also married a man and had kids, but stayed in Los Alamos.  I did meet Johnny once and my recollection of her now -- if I would use my more current vocabulary, which I didn't have then -- is that she had a demeanor that I would now call "butch."  They could really have both been Lesbian and suppressed it.  All lost in the sands of time, of course, because they would never have been public about such a thing.

My friends recently told me, to my surprise, that they thought I was much prettier than my mom. I had always thought she was exceptionally beautiful.  She was even elected May Queen once at Mt. Holyoke.  When I looked at a picture of her graduating class, I thought she was clearly the most beautiful in the class. My friends said something about her being slightly mannish in her looks.  Was she butch also?  I never saw it, myself, but kids don't always see their parents clearly.

Another thing that I want to add is that I saw a picture of my mom as a baby when she was in the throes of celiac -- and she looked like a starving baby: bloated belly, spindly limbs, just like when we see starving children in Africa.  She really did almost die. She was saved by a diet of bananas.  I suspect she may have had some PTSD from that childhood experience.

She often had insomnia from coughing as an adult.  She thought it was allergies.  I think it was likely GERD, because when I got insomnia from coughing in my 40s it turned out to be GERD.  She did eat some gluten as an adult.  I gather than now doctors do not recommend that celiac sufferers *ever* eat *any* gluten, even if they can tolerate small amounts.  She also did have frequent digestive issues, as I recall, even as an adult.

I often wonder how her life would have been different if she had had something like Prilosec, which I took for many years -- and could sleep.  Insomnia was a huge curse for her.  There are photos of her with enormous bags under her eyes.  She was often agitated or tearful, which I think was likely due to insomnia.  

She took Benadryl to help her sleep, because she supposedly had "allergies."  Now, they've associated Benadryl with Alzheimer's in some studies, as I understand it.

I did some research about celiac when my kids were younger.  I didn't start them on wheat until they were over a year old and then had them tested for celiac.  Fortunately, they both tested negative, tho the blood test they got was only considered 85% accurate.  

In my reading, I read that when one child in a family is diagnosed with celiac, there is often a sibling who is undiagnosed, but shorter than the other siblings and suffering from frequent digestive issues.  That sibling would have undiagnosed celiac.  That perfectly describes my aunt Charlotte.

Also, my maternal grandfather's mother, Carolyn Saltus, died at age 28 of what was then diagnosed as intestinal tuberculosis.  I am suspicious that it was really celiac.  

My reading also indicated that celiac is a generation skipping disease, which would have made my mother a likely target.