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30,000 Runners

081518-Marathon-finish-line

I confess that the picture above was taken last August when there were no crowds. It was the cherished goal of 30,000 runners today, including Erik.

After the Boston Marathon downpour last year, when Stuga40 was properly dressed and I wasn’t, I ordered a gigantic blue poncho and a pair of baggy rain pants from LL Bean. Today was the first day I wore the outfit. It wasn’t needed: the rain let up for the whole time I was outdoors.

Results from Boston Marathon 2019, reported by Hayden Bird at the Boston Globe:

“Men’s wheelchair: Daniel Romanchuk of the United States wins, becoming the first American man to win the wheelchair division in Boston since 1993. He’s also the youngest winner in that category ever.

“Women’s wheelchair: Switzerland’s Manuela Schär won her second Boston Marathon.

“Women’s race: Worknesh Degefa of Ethiopia won in her first attempt in Boston with an unofficial time of 2:23:31.

“Men’s race: Lawrence Cherono of Kenya won the men’s race.”

Erik, a frequent Marathon runner, had the very respectable time of 3 hours, 8 minutes, and 2 seconds.

Here I am honoring Erik’s birthplace with my Swedish regalia, standing in sunshine and expecting rain. My husband took the picture where we usually watch — in Newton, near the Marathon statues.

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Photo: Fadel Senna /AFP/Getty Images
The Sahara desert is seen creeping up on a palm field. Desertification can be reversed, but it starts with thinking big.

I’m always so impressed with people who think big about big problems. Here is a credible idea for keeping the Sahara desert from taking over more of Africa. Is it possible? Don’t know. But thank goodness for scientists who get fired up when they hear that something’s not possible!

Dan Charles has a report at National Public Radio (NPR) on how we could reverse desertification.

“The Sahara desert is expanding, and has been for at least a century. It’s a phenomenon that seems impossible to stop.

“But it hasn’t stopped at least one group of scientists from dreaming of a way to do it. And their proposed solution, a grand scheme that involves covering vast areas of desert with solar panels and windmills, just got published in the prestigious journal Science.

“Eugenia Kalnay, a prominent atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland, has been thinking about this idea for a decade. …

“Her academic adviser at MIT, Jule Charney, was among the first to describe the vicious cycle that can lead to desertification. With drought, green vegetation disappears, and the light-colored dirt that remains reflects more of the sun. This cools the land surface, which in turn means that there’s less heat driving air upward into higher and cooler levels of the atmosphere – the process that normally produces precipitation. So there’s less rain, killing even more vegetation.

“Kalnay wondered if there might be a way to revive those atmospheric currents. ‘It occurred to me that the same [cycle] would go in the opposite way, so it would increase precipitation, and vegetation, and then more precipitation,’ she says.

“And then she thought of solar panels. They’re dark, so they don’t reflect the sun’s light. Could they heat up the surface and revive those rain-bringing air currents?

“Kalnay convinced one of her post-doc researchers to create a computer simulation of an otherworldly Sahara where 20 percent of the land is covered with solar panels. The computer model also turned the desert into a giant wind farm, covered with turbines. Kalnay thought they might also help boost those beneficial air currents.

“And the simulation turned out just the way she’d hoped. It showed rainfall increasing by enough to bring back vegetation. The model showed the biggest increases in rainfall along the southern edge of the Sahara, the area called the Sahel. …

“The super solar farm she imagines is huge, as big as the entire United States. And it would generate four times as much electricity as the entire planet consumes right now. Kalmay talks of novel high-capacity transmission lines delivering power to Europe and the rest of Africa. …

“She’s used to imagining the workings of the entire planet’s atmosphere. A few billion solar panels and windmills in the desert? No big deal.” More at NPR, here.

If you imagine it, it can happen. “The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” (Some translations say “crocus.” Check out variations on the quotation here. They all amount to the same thing: imagining “the impossible.”)

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PUBLIC WORKS Musical Adaptation of William Shakespeare's
TWELFTH NIGHT

Conceived by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub 
Music and Lyrics by Shaina Taub
Choreography by Lorin Latarro
Directed by Oskar Eustis and Kwame Kwei-Armah

Featuring Kim Blanck (Femal

Photo: Joan Marcus
From left, Daniel Hall, Lori Brown-Niang, Shaina Taub, and Shuler Hensley in “Twelfth Night” at the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park. Brown-Niang’s peignoir is usually “the first to go” on exceptionally hot nights when the feathers start shedding.

On this second day of fall in Massachusetts, the temperature was only 45 degrees at 6 a.m., when I wrote this. I felt very glad that 2018’s overpowering heat and humidity were past.

I can only imagine what it must have been like for outdoor actors under fierce stage lighting in summer 2018. At American Theatre, there’s a fun article about designing costumes for actors performing in all kinds of weather.

Billy McEntee wrote, “Across the country, as actors and audiences endure rain, heat, and bugs to present and partake of free professional performances of the Bard’s classics, one group of designers has a special challenge: costume designers. …

“ ‘Designing for outdoor environments is challenging yet fascinating,’ said Ying-Jung Chen, the costume designer for Independent Shakespeare Company’s ‘Titus Andronicus’ in Los Angeles. … ‘I’ve learned a lot through each outdoor experience about fabric technology and construction techniques.’ …

“It’s the dry heat that can prove most threatening. Evenings in the summer can stay above 80 degrees in Southern California; couple that with acrobatic performances, bushy wigs, and blaring stage lights, and actors are sure to sweat through even the thinnest of fabrics. …

“But heat invites more than just exhaustion and sweat; it’s also a magnet for bugs, something that Chen had to account for when creating stage blood for her costumes.

” ‘Blood is integral to Titus,’ Chen says. ‘My recipe was successful in past indoor productions. With a corn syrup base, it’s easy to wash out, edible, and realistic. But when doing outdoor performances, the sugar-based corn syrup attracts bugs. Fortunately, the theatre company has years of outdoor performance experience and provided a great recipe that’s washable, edible, and doesn’t allure insects.’ …

“Rain is no stranger to American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisc., though the threat of precipitation doesn’t change the creative process. As costume designer Robert Morgan succinctly puts it: ‘Design first, problem-solve later.’ He’s the costume designer for APT’s ‘As You Like It’ (running through Oct. 7). …

“ ‘Shoes are covered with non-slip dance rubber,’ he says. ‘But evening dew can make our outdoor stage slippery, so at APT we add sand to paint’ to give the stage’s surface extra traction.

“As in L.A., Morgan must also consider sweltering temperatures. This includes having freezer packs on hand for actors to wear beneath their costumes and crafting a ‘heat plan.’ which is ‘meant to accommodate the actors’ well-being on exceptionally hot, muggy nights and matinees under an unforgiving midsummer sun,’ Morgan said. …

“Oppressive heat and humidity are staples of New York summers as well. After a successful first run in 2016, Andrea Hood returned to design costumes for the Public Theater’s current Shakespeare in the Park production, ‘Twelfth Night,’ a Public Works musical adaptation with songs by Shaina Taub. …

“Hood plans not only the intricacies of [the] fabrics but also how costume pieces may adjust with unexpected precipitation. ‘Fuchsia feathers often come loose on [the character] Maria’s peignoir in “Twelfth Night,” ‘ she notes. ‘It isn’t the most practical costume for an outdoor space, so if it’s raining she would likely skip that change altogether. It’s the one piece that would probably not go onstage in the rain.’

“But a light drizzle doesn’t always signal a costume adjustment, or even a cancelled performance. In fact, its effect—combined with stellar acting, of course—can be as spellbinding as any theatrical flourish, more dazzling than any stage magic.

“ ‘Last year it was pouring for the first night of tech for “As You Like It,” ‘ Hood recalled. ‘The actors didn’t get into costume at all.’ Instead they wore street clothes, covered with plastic ponchos. ‘It was wonderful,’ she enthuses. ‘By midnight there were only five actors left running a number over and over again, still managing to smile. I loved being in the audience watching them—the rain didn’t even matter.’ ”

More at American Theatre, here.

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Hours in an icy rain madly cheering family and strangers along with four grandchildren under the age of five. Erik made his best time, coming in under three hours. John looked on the web and found that Erik’s sister was the fourth woman from Denmark to cross the finish line yesterday, and Erik’s cousin was the fourth woman from Sweden. Erik’s mother waved a makeshift Swedish flag, which bled onto everything in the rain but elicited delight from unknown Swedes who also were running in the Boston Marathon.

Mile 19 in Newton was our meeting place, next to the hot-dog vendor. Suzanne got stuck on the wrong side, but the police knew this would happen and had little cards already printed out to tell people how to drive to the other side. She got there in time.

The day was a grand accomplishment for all concerned, not excluding four cold, soggy, cheering children.

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Heavy rain Friday night stunned our dogwood. I include before and after, plus a gaggle of other photos from my springtime meanderings.

The elephant mural is at the entrance to Boston’s Chinatown. The fancy light fixture is outside Trade restaurant. The fence with crocheted wheels is at the Davis Square subway stop. The fountain is next to a rose garden honoring the mother of President Kennedy, Rose. The urban birdhouse is in the Greenway. The herring gull is at Boston Harbor. The Canada Geese are too prolific. The Mudworks sign is in Fort Point. And the flowers are at Verrill Farm.

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Looking at streams swollen by yesterday’s rain, I began thinking about Scuffy the Tugboat.

“The water moved in a hurry, as all things move in a hurry when it is Spring. Scuffy was in a hurry, too. ‘Come back little tugboat, come back,’ cried the little boy.”

Remember?

A farmers market in Providence was undaunted by the rain. The farmer at the farmstand here joked that the puddle was just a matter of hydroponic gardening. In other photos, I show peonies and a sign buffeted by the storm — and a rabbit too busy foraging to worry about cameras.

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