WILLIAMSTOWN — Some years ago, a visitor from Tennessee stood in the early morning sunlight of a September day in front of the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield and talked about the weather.
“Nice and crisp,” he said. He had it right, and his remark recalled a description employed by the late Whitney Stoddard, a professor of art at Williams College, who singled out as “twig days” those on which the chilled, dry clarity and purity of the air combined with autumnal light to produce high-definition views of individual twigs on the branches of trees. He had it right, too.
As someone who tends to run hot, I’ve come to appreciate twig days deeply. Nary a bead of perspiration crosses my brow for their duration, which I fear will be lessened and, eventually, rendered nonexistent by climate change.
For today, though, I’m cool. I’m also lucky: Unlike the thousands of Floridians who are facing down what threatens to be a lethal storm, I’m now surveying a shining green landscape under a nearly cloudless sky.
Last week, Florida was featured in this space in connection with its governor’s decision to send some two dozen asylum-seeking migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. I proposed that he be encouraged to continue such policies, largely for economic and moral reasons.
That opinion has not changed, but it now carries a postscript: May the benefits of wisdom, courage and generosity descend on Florida with a force more powerful than the weather.
‘The myopia generation’
An article in the October issue of The Atlantic magazine explores possible reasons why so many more people are myopic (nearsighted) now than they were in the 1970s.
“In the U.S., 42 percent of 12- to 54-year-olds were nearsighted in the early 2000s — the last time a national survey of myopia was conducted — up from a quarter in the 1970s,” Sarah Zhang, a staff writer at the monthly magazine writes. “Though more recent large-scale surveys are not available, when I asked eye doctors around the U.S. if they were seeing more nearsighted kids, the answers were: ‘Absolutely.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘No question about it.’”
The problem appears to be worldwide: Zhang cites a study that predicts that “if current trends continue, half of the world’s population will be myopic by 2050.”
Although the cause may seem obvious — much-increased use of phones, tablets and laptops — convincing proof is hard to come by.
“For every study that shows the effect of near work on myopia, there’s another study that doesn’t,” Thomas Aller, an optometrist in San Bruno, Calif., told Zhang.
The question is vexed, she writes, noting the plethora of conflicting information she sifted in her research of the subject.
For a time, beginning in the 1960s, genetics were thought to play a role, but “scientists have moved past [that] faulty assumption,” the article reads.
Following a thorough summary of current diagnostic and clinical procedures and treatments for myopia, Zhang concludes that options and explanations are few and far between.
Readers who seek definitive answers may be disappointed, but Zhang’s thorough journalism and clear, candid prose guarantee a knowledge-boosting good read.
A note from the kitchen
High grocery prices have encouraged this foodie to seek pastures considerably less green (as in “folding green”) while shopping.
As a slow cooker fan of many years, I view these energy-saving devices as essential kitchen equipment. The recipes designed for them tend to be uncomplicated, a strong point of recommendation for busy people who may be short on time and/or cash. “Set it and forget it” are bywords around here: One of our three slow cookers is often on duty.
Observing that bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs sell at prices that don’t shock the conscience, a search of recipes for them was undertaken.
The following, published by author “Fox Valley Foodie” and tried with repeated success over several months, is presented here:
With salt, lightly season six thawed bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. (Salt may safely be omitted if desired.)
In a small bowl, mix a half-teaspoon of paprika and a quarter-teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder and oregano. Add a dash of cayenne pepper.
Sprinkle the mixture over both sides of the chicken thighs.
Arrange the chicken in a single layer at the bottom of a six-quart slow cooker, skin side up. Turn on low and cook for four hours. Chicken should surpass 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.