Friday, December 26, 2008

The Great Ice Storm of 2008

Life, as I knew it, changed dramatically on December 11th during an outrageous ice storm here in Rindge, New Hampshire. All through the night we heard cracks like gunshot as limbs bent and snapped under the weight of the ice and snow. The lights flickered on and off several times before going out completely.
In all my 59 years I have never lived without electricity for more than a day or two. Even when I went camping, I stayed in places that had showers with hot water...and it was summertime.
This was something totally different.
We had no electricity for nine days and no phone for six days. Having no electricity meant having no heat, lights or running water.
Unfortunately we don't have a wood stove or fireplace, so we were reduced to using a kerosene heater to try to keep the house warm enough to prevent the pipes from freezing. We turned the heater off at night so we wouldn't accidentally die of carbon monoxide poisoning while we slept. When I'd wake up in the morning, the house would be 42 or 43 degrees Fahrenheit. Chilly to say the least! In the evenings, we'd run the heater, make coffee, soup, and hot chocolate over Sterno cans, and light candles everywhere. The warmest we got the house was 56 degrees.
Our neighbors have a generator and generously allowed all the neighbors to use an outdoor faucet at their house for water. Still, it meant hauling water in jugs and buckets at all hours of the day and night.
For a day or two, living life as though we were in the 19th Century was not only challenging; it was also a bit romantic. By day three; it got old.
Talking about being sent back in time doesn't really do the experience justice. I don't know if I'm capable of articulating what I lived it felt...
I'll try again later...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A letter to Marion Stoddard

Dear Ms. Stoddard,

This is an "open letter" that I posted on my blog and intend to send to you. I hope you don't mind my making my personal letter to you public, but I hope after you read through it, you'll understand and excuse me.
You don't know me, but I used to live in Groton on Hayden Road about 20 years ago. I joined the NRWA after attending a lecture on the life of indigenous turtles. I was drawn to the lecture because I had observed Box Turtles and Painted Turtles crossing my yard to get to the swamp across the street.
I believe I bought a couple of books on turtles after the lecture and also joined NRWA.
There was construction going on at the end of Hayden Road and the construction crews killed many of the turtles in the road. Someone in the neighborhood put up Turtle X-ing signs, but I don't think it helped much.
When I actually caught a turtle in the process of crossing the road, I would stop my car and guard its passage.
This ridiculous behavior gave me plenty of time to think. Mostly what I would think about was that, based on their size, some of these turtles were probably about the same age as I was at the time. I'd also wonder if the turtle survived crossing in one direction, would it make it going the other way?
These turtles had been crossing that same ground for as many years as I'd been on the Earth. They had survived the change from a few cottages and farmland to the first couple of housing developments. Now, they were being decimated because they couldn't change their paths or their habits.
I wonder if any of the turtles I saw cross the road are still alive?
After joining the NRWA, I learned about what you did to bring the Nashua River back to life. The legend at the time was that in mid-life, you looked for a cause, a purpose to your life, and decided that you would bring the Nashua River back to life. What an inspiration!
I have often thought of that lesson. I'm still looking for my legacy cause and hope I will find the strength and passion to serve it well. I've had causes, but not the legacy one yet.
I still consider myself mid-life, though I'm 59 years old. To be completely honest, I feel bewildered by the expectation of people in my industry that I'm close to retirement. I started a graduate program in computer science at Fitchburg State when I was 53. I did it to maintain relevance in my field. It hasn't helped my career very much but I really enjoyed it. Now, if I could just finish my thesis...
I'm struggling with who I am now. Am I more or less? Am I like the turtle who just HAS to keep crossing the road; threatened with being mowed down by forces never encountered before?
I have always written as a form of therapy, but it has usually been informal with no particular topic as the focus. When I moved to Rindge, NH in 1999, I joined the Monadnock Writers Group. I confess that I am mostly a "writer groupie," but lately I've been doing a lot of writing. Probably a reflection of how disturbed I am with my situation.
I started blogging partly as a way of exploring writing and partly to prove to myself that I can still be "relevant." So far, I think only my daughter actually reads my posts, but I'm enjoying the process thoroughly.
In the process of writing and feeling a bit discouraged by a futile search for a better job, I thought of you. Or should I say, I thought of you as the legend I'd heard about.
I decided that I would research and write about women who took up a cause or realized a major accomplishment beginning later in life. I figure I might learn something that will make me feel more hopeful and just going through the exercise will be inspiring. I plan to write about you and Doris Haddock to start.
When I actually started doing online research, I realized that you were far from being middle-aged when you started. I estimate that you could only be 35 years old. So, it's not exactly the story I expected; an empty nest, a search for a cause and fulfillment.
But, as I thought about it, the story seemed even more wonderful. It seems, from what I read, that the cause found you. The time wasn't convenient; you had young children. You and your family made sacrifices for the Nashua River.
Then, I had all these questions. Did you THINK you were middle-aged at 35? Is that how the legend started? Who was Marion Stoddard before she moved to Groton? Were you interested in the environment as a young person growing up?
I hope it's not an imposition to ask these questions? You may reply either by email or by calling me. If you prefer, you can post a comment to my blog at:
Thank you so much in advance for any consideration you may give my request.
Pat Martin

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

You HAVE to watch this video!!!

My friend, Bobbie, sent it to me...just at the right moment. non-Millennials need not apply

Well, I wanted to write more about Marion Stoddard...and I will. I just came up with so many questions...what did she do before she got married and had children...where did she grow up, etc? So, I wrote to the NRWA asking for more information. They may answer me...or I may have to find people in Groton who know her better than I did. I will get back to her story.

Tonight, I'm not feeling my usual optimistic self. Tonight, I feel every bit my age and discouraged.

I've been hounding to include disability rights in their top agenda items. I mean, they did start with some issues that they felt were not negotiable: End Homelessness, End the War in Iraq, etc. (the official site of the Obama-Biden Transition Team) has had disability rights in the top 24 from the beginning. is supposed to be the companion citizen site. Except it's not. is the 'Y' generation or Millennials site for social entrepreneurship. It took me a lot longer than it should have for me to get the hint. The site is designed to be the voice of a generation....not mine.

I don't mean to bad-mouth them. I think the discussions and humanitarian drive...and problem solving is terrific. I like the writing and the issues (except for not including disability rights), but between Alex Steed's FEATURED blog and the age of all the bloggers; I realize that the site is NOT for EVERYONE.

I wrote both to Ben Rattay, the 28 year old founder, and Alex Steed, the 25 year old blogger. Rattay has never answered me and Steed carefully explained that while there MAY be older people like myself using the Internet for Social Activism, he was interested in helping HIS generation find their identity and wasn't interested in speaking with anyone but Millenials about Online Activism.

I guess the fact that I feel disappointed means that I really liked the site.

Take a minute and go to:

It's not that we're old, Alex. It's that we're not young (white, rich, christian, straight...yeah) and so don't fit into your "club." Of course, I'm being facetious, but until you've experienced ageism or sexism, you probably wouldn't understand what I'm talking about.

So, that's why I'm feeling rather down tonight. The concept behind really appealed to I feel like an idiot for getting all charged up and sending my "idea" to all my contacts. Yeah, I probably won't get kicked out, but I'll be aggressively ignored.

Now that I've got this off my chest, I think I can move on...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Marion Stoddard of Groton, MA

I'm starting this pretty late at night, so it will probably just be a first installment.
I first heard of Marion Stoddard when I was living in Groton, MA about 20 years ago. I'd just joined the Nashua River Watershed Association (NRWA) because I was fascinated by the turtles that crossed through my yard on the way to the swamp across the street. The NRWA was hosting a speaker on the types, habits, and lives of indigenous turtles.
Of course, it turns out that my memory of the life of Marion Stoddard, isn't especially accurate. I'll tell you my impressions before I tell you the actual facts of her accomplishments.
I heard that at one time, back in the sixties and seventies, the Nashua River was dead. It actually ran in different, blue, and green, depending on what dyes were being used in the factories upstream. There were no fish, no life, and the river stank so badly that there were actually signs warning motorists of the horrible smell along Route 119.
Marion Stoddard had just moved to Groton with her family and lived by the banks of the river.
Marion decided that, if it took her the rest of her life, she was going to bring that river back to life. She organized people, found grant money, and built the organization:
She also saw the river cleaned up. Today, aged 80, she still plays an active role in NWRA and enjoys kayaking in the Nashua's clean clear waters.

My impression was that she took up this cause in mid-life, after her children were grown. I understood that it became her "raison d'Etre," her legacy.
In fact, Marion Stoddard's children were still quite young when she began her quest forty-five years ago.
Well, it's getting late and my Internet connection seems to be getting slower. Here's the link: I think she was in her mid 30's when she began her campaign to save the river. Not nearly middle age by today's standards.
I'll write more about her tomorrow night. Good night!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Going commercial...?

Well, this is probably silly stuff. As far as I can tell, my daughter is the only person who has ever read this blog.
Still, because I'm convinced that a lot of the issues that face people who happen to be over 50, non-white, female, or disabled has to do with how they are represented in the mainstream media and advertising; I've decided to try an experiment.
Google AdSense offers to help you earn money blogging by allowing ads to run on your site. They say that the ads will reflect the content of your blog. I signed up the other day, but understand that it will take 3 days to a week before my account is activated.
I can't wait to see what products and services will be suggested for my blog. It better not include Depends!!!
Speaking of blogs...
I started a campaign on to promote disability rights as the last frontier of civil rights on their website. Thankfully and the Obama-Biden transition team's agenda has disability rights on the front page of their agenda site as part of their top 24! See and then click on disabilities (after admiring that it is right there with the top 24 items) to go to
I've been pretty disappointed in the response to my campaign. I emailed a link to 150 people in my contact list, asking them to forward it on to their networks; only 23 votes so far. Jeesh! Either I'm just unpopular, didn't word the message properly, or my friends don't read their emails.
If you get a moment, this is the url for my cause: Please vote to move this cause up on the agenda. Comment if you like it or if you think I'm full of beans. I'm not proud, but I do want to be effective.
I also applied to for a part-time position as a blogger. I asked to be a voice for disability rights. It really does seem like a long-shot, but I figured I'd give it a whirl.
One of the neatest things I discovered online today was Josh Blue's blog. It's pretty low-key, but powerful. He's a comedian with cerebral palsy (CP) who won the "Last Comic Standing" contest last year. He's hysterical! His blog is sponsored by United Cerebral Palsy and is part of their "Life without Limits" campaign. Visit it if you get a chance:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Help Wanted: Energetic Network Workstation Administrator

This is something I wrote to the Keene Sentinel's editor:

This article is not about the election. It’s about what happens after the election.
Once the ballots are cast, the choice is made, and victory declared, we still need to lift our country out of the mess it’s fallen into.
The cure for all that ails us will not come only through legislation or pretty speeches; we will need to work together and make sacrifices as generations of Americans before us have done in times of crises.One area of concern is Social Security.
At 59, I could retire in three years. My Social Security payments would actually be sufficient for my needs, even if I take early retirement.My health care needs are already met by virtue of being a veteran enrolled in the VA health care system.
And yet...
I began a master’s program in computer science at the age of 53. I’ve finished all my classes, but still have to finish my thesis (I have a tendency to procrastinate ... sigh). My grade point average is 3.83. I’m not saying this to brag, only to make the point that my brain seems to be functioning pretty well and I can be competitive with people decades younger. I didn't start a graduate program at 53 only to retire at 62.
And yet ...
I recently applied for a job in Peterborough as a network workstation administrator. The basic requirement was an associates degree and two years of experience.There was a code word in the job advertisement though: “Energetic.” My guess is that it actually means young.
I received a phone call from the company during which I was told that my resume “stood out.”I explained that I was looking for an opportunity to expand my experience in IT and was so happy to receive the call.
Unfortunately, a few days later, I received a letter stating that they appreciated my interest, but would continue their search for the “right” candidate.
Twenty years ago I would have been a shoo-in for that job.
I have to ask: Does it make any sense to discourage older workers by denying them opportunity, by assuming that they are unwilling or unable to make significant contributions to the workplace?
We are faced with the dilemma of baby-boomers, expected to live longer and be more active than any generation we’ve ever known, retiring 10 to 20 years earlier than is necessary and drawing on the Social Security system. Current projections show that the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted by 2042.
I suspect that sometime well before that, young people will become very upset with a system that they are expected to pay into without any hope of return.
I know that people experience age differently and for some people early retirement is a necessity. I am not criticizing them. Nor am I proposing that the age for eligibility for Social Security be increased.
I’m just saying that if I’m physically and mentally able to continue working and making contributions, why make it miserable for me and my cohorts?
Why treat us as if our only career path is to wind up a greeter at a Wal-Mart?
It annoys me enough that I’m tempted to just give in and fill my life with diversions and let Social Security pay for my extended vacation.
And yet ...
It seems to me that the patriotic and responsible thing to do is for older workers, who are able, to continue contributing to our society, boosting our economy and paying into the system so that if our children should need it, the money will be there.
For that to happen, the workplace needs to become a bit “older worker” friendly. My sincere hope is that this letter will help start a public discussion of ways to retain and reward older workers with opportunity and a sense of relevancy in a culture that glorifies youth.
Yes, youth is glorious, but as Browning said, “... Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid! ....”
Posted by Patricia Martin on 11/08/2008 @ 05:50PM PST

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Breaking a hero worship hurts us all.

I know most of the people who read this blog will disagree with me.
This is going to sound like heresy.
I won't be able to give a full argument to support my theory...and I know all it can ever be is a theory. All I can do is present a few situations and my own perspective.
Have you ever heard of Rosalind Franklin? How about Watson and Crick?
Well, if you know about Watson and Crick, you should know about Rosalind Franklin. The Nobel Prize for solving the structure (though not all the mysteries) of DNA was awarded to Watson, Crick, and Wilkins. Wilkins was a British researcher who worked with Rosalind Franklin, PhD. Wilkins shared the credit, if not the fame, of Watson and Crick. Since Rosalind Franklin died 4 years before it was awarded, she was not eligible for the prize.
You'd think it would be big news that a woman was an ESSENTIAL contributor You'd think the mainstream media would want to help us encourage our sisters and daughters to reach for the stars.
Indeed, it seems to be quite the opposite. I'm not saying the male researchers around Franklin deliberately minimized or lied about her contributions. From my own experience as a woman engineer, I can imagine that their gender biases were so deep that they really didn't see her work as being of significance...even though they helped themselves to it liberally.
Following the lead of the scientists, the media simply made Franklin a postscript to the story.
I was a senior in college before I ever heard about Franklin.
Now let's talk about that icon, the nearly mythological symbol of genius; Albert Einstein.
If you've never heard of Mileva Maric Einstein, I wouldn't be at all surprised. My own husband rolls his eyes when I bring up her name. Mileva was in school with Einstein and wound up as his first wife. It was a very sad relationship in many ways as his parents never thought she was good enough for him...and he didn't have the guts to stand up to them. Did I mention that Mileva had a limp?
You can read all about how she failed her exams and left her career behind when she married Einstein at It makes me laugh a little bit. I once received a grade of 50% on a four problem mid-term exam. The professor actually smiled at me as he handed me the result. I just took it and said, "Thanks!" In truth, I was shocked because I was sure that I had two right and thought I would get partial credit for the other two which I hadn't finished, but had most of the work done.
This professor wasn't satisfied. In front of the whole class, he asked me what I thought of my in "What do you think of that?" I replied that professors can use discretion in grading and that I just expected that sometimes I'd win and sometimes I'd lose.
I probably don't have to mention that this professor had a STATED problem with having me in the Electrical Engineering department. I passed the course anyway...with a C+.
I suspect that part of Einstein's genius was that he recognized Maric's genius while the other men around her did not. I do believe that Maric helped Einstein with his theories.
Okay, so what's the harm in all this? Let's suppose for a moment that Maric was a major contributor to Einstein's published theories. She didn't ask for credit, did she? (Who will ever know really?)
Then there's the matter of Einstein giving his wife the Nobel prize money...authorities say that it was commonplace for divorced winners to sign over the money to an ex-wife (yeah...really). Still, if you know anything about Einstein's behavior toward Maric throughout her life, you might find it terribly uncharacteristic of the fellow.
Still...who does this hurt? Women...hmm...probably.
Well, here's another little myth. I've heard over and over again that if you haven't invented/published/painted your crowning achievement by the time you're 30; you've probably passed your moment. Einstein is often cited as being incredibly productive during those crucial young years...and then it's just massaging the ideas and being generally regarded as the world's greatest mind after that. Those critical years of his greatest intellectual contribution just happen to coincide with being married to Maric.
So, is it possible that two untruths have been perpetrated on an unsuspecting and worshipful people with the lionizing of Einstein and burying of Mileva?
1.) Women are not capable of soaring intellectual achievement.
2.) Einstein (and by extension all brilliant people) peak in their mid to late 20s.
From where I sit, those untruths tell me exactly why a career in technology was so tough when I was young and nearly impossible as I've gotten older. Even worse, I have moments when I think perhaps I'm the one who is blind to her own "natural" limitations!
I'm not sure what I'll blog about next...? I'm thinking I'll do a little research on people who began doing amazing things well into their later years.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Boomer Generation

I'm watching PBS "The Boomer Century." Lewis Black is ranting about how we didn't reach our potential...or even make the changes we were so sure we would when we were the same age as the Millennials. For instance, weren't you certain that when we were finally in charge; marijuana would be legal, there would be solar-powered everything, we'd be making love not war? Guess again!

I really took issue with Alex Steed of and his blog about the Millennials. I was offended by the assumption that high-tech tools are the province of the young. I still think it's wrong, but I guess I can understand that desire to find a shared identity. To read Alex's blog go to

It's hard not to be offended by the idea that after a certain age, a person can no longer be considered hip. On the other hand, watching PBS' "The Boomer Century" makes me cringe...all these people who look well into "middlescence" chasing viagra, botox, and growth hormone injections to stay young, seem to have missed the point of youth. To me, it seems as though they are trying to look the same age as the Millennials, but are preoccupied with anything but BEING young. There's something very grim about it all. Where's the joy and sense of discovery we associate with youth? Why are the "oldies" our music now? Sure, I like the old songs, but I love Duffy and The Killers too. Isn't youth about looking forward and having big dreams...defining the latest big thing?

Then again, when all the advertising and programming we watch leaves us feeling that if we don't buy botox, we're on our way to using depends, I can see how we find ourselves at sea...eyes on the horizon...looking back to where we were with longing...and forward with dread.

I guess one answer would be to stop buying all that crap...stop watching so much tv...go back to school...take up a cause...change the world!

Next time, I'm going to talk about Einstein, his wife, and the possibility that one of our most widely held beliefs about intellectual/cognitive prime time could be based on a myth.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Boston Legal - December 01, 2008

Did you see last night's "Boston Legal?" (December 1, 2008) It included a case on behalf of Betty White's character. They sued the networks for not offering programming for people over 50. It really resonated with me...especially since "Boston Legal" is in its last season. I am so disappointed to see it end. I loved its topical episodes.

I really feel that a lot of the issues I face with getting hired and being treated fairly at work has to do with the media (our #1 educator on social issues).

People 45+ make up over 37% of the US population... What sense does it make to not reflect our faces in the mainstream media and advertising...except for Viagra and medical problems (Seabond, Depends, etc.)...all in all a depressing reflection of who we are. No wonder we can't get hired!

Oh, and while we're at it...where are the 37.5 Million people living with one or more disability? Let's make some changes!!!!