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Neil deGrasse Tyson Teaches Us How To Be Smart And Still Have Fun

A couple of nights ago my friend Scott and I took in a live event at the Landmark Theater where the one and only presenter was the fabulous Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium in NYC. His first question from the stage was “Do you people know what you’ve come to hear about?” It turns out I wasn’t the only one wondering about that, since I only remembered that he was coming and that we bought our tickets last fall.

deGrasse Tyson as cartoon

It turns out the tentative title of the event was The Best And Worst Science in Movies and Commercials. I’m glad he went in this direction because I’ve watched a lot of his lectures on YouTube over the years and even though I was ready and happy to hear him talk about all that same stuff again it was great knowing he’d put together something new. I also noticed that we weren’t the first people getting this lecture as one of his slides showed he’d presented it in Kentucky.

He covered a lot of movies and commercials, although he beat up on one of my favorites, Armageddon, only giving it credit for one true science fact. What I found really interesting is that I only knew half the movies he talked about and not a single commercial… which were mainly beer commercials. None of that mattered though, since he made all of his observations pretty funny and relevant.

He made a very interesting statement early on, something that I, as someone who likes to write and has two video channels, can use in a different vein. He said that it’s always better to know the science of something you want to show before you either try to keep things accurate or want to go in a totally different direction.

As an example he used a clip from one of the Expendables movies (none of which I’ve seen) where the character of Dolph Lundgren says something that he reports as Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity when in actuality it was his Second Law of Thermodynamics. The thing is, Lundgren the person would have known the line was incorrect because he had a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in chemical engineering. Truthfully, not knowing the film, I’m sure there was meaning somewhere, but I understood his point. lol

Of course there was one story I was expecting and it’s the one he closed with, that being his interactions with James Cameron about the stars and sky being wrong in the movie Titanic. I’m not going to tell the story here; instead I’m going to let him tell it:

All in all, it was a great night of science, laughter and fun. I was sorry I missed the last time he came to this area in 2014 because I was out of town, but after seeing him this time I know I’m going to work hard to see him if he comes back this way again.

Mom Is Alive Thanks To Crouse Health

Suffice it to say that my life has been turned almost upside down since my mother moved in with us back near the end of January. One true way of seeing that is that this is the first post I’ve written on this blog since the end of my 31 days in a row of posting on this blog in January.

It’s been a period of acclimation and adjustment for all of us, and a period of restless sleep. Every day is a new challenge and a new lesson on dealing with a a parent with dementia. I’ve had some mental highs and lows, but other than my two main blogs I haven’t felt like writing anything else. Last week I thought I might finally be ready to get back to work and writing… until…

My mother had a heart attack! Didn’t see that one coming, and as it turns out, women manifest symptoms slightly different than men. It took my wife and I almost an hour to realize Mom was possibly having it instead of some serious indigestion after Mom finally announced that she hadn’t eaten the breakfast I’d made her (she’d thrown it away and we didn’t know) and mentioned that her chest hurt (which she hadn’t indicated earlier) that we finally called 911 and got the ball rolling.

The ambulance was at the house within 5 minutes. Then came the police, firetrucks, a fire marshall… I’m not totally sure of all the people in the house but not counting my wife and I there were 12 people there, and 7 or 8 of them were in Mom’s bedroom; that’s saying something. It took maybe 20 minutes to finally get Mom on the ambulance and the ride to the hospital was mentally taxing, even though the driver drove slower on Route 81 than I normally do.

We went to Crouse Hospital because that’s where my wife and I used to work and that’s where our doctors have admitting privileges. In this case it was an emergency, so ER docs handled the early part and a cardiologist, who happened to be in the hospital making rounds, was summoned. We were given information at each step of the process and, luckily, my wife understood everything that was being said (I understood about 75% of it, being in health care finance).

Eventually the doctor came out and told her Mom officially had a heart attack but that it would easily be taken care of. They took her downstairs to the cardiac surgery area and my wife and I stayed in the waiting area to see how things were going.

This is the amazing part if you ask me; from the time we called 911 until the end of the surgery it was all over in less than 3 hours. Mom was feeling better, as they’d placed a stent in her heart that they put in by going through her wrist… and she was awake the entire time! That’s just amazing; who says our health care is bad in America?

I’m not going into many details in this post, as I really just wanted to think Dr. Anil George, who performed the surgery, all the people in the emergency room of Crouse, the ambulance unit (sorry but I don’t know who it was) and the people who watched over Mom the two days she was in the hospital. Imagine that; a heart attack and back home in 2 days!  

31 Days In A Row; What I’ve Learned…

Today is the final day of 31 straight blog posts in Syracuse Wiki. This time around it’s been a bigger challenge for me than it’s been when I’ve done it on other blogs, and I decided to talk about the process and things I’ve learned overall on the journey.

1. Real life can get in the way… if you let it

January blogging challenge

Real life tried to get in the way as of the 23rd of the month when my mother fell in her house. This led to doing a lot of thinking and changing of options and, eventually, we moved Mom into our house… and she’ll be here as long as we can take care of her properly. I began on the 21st by talking about meeting a social worker who showed me the light and set me on the path just before Mom fell, then a few days later talked about situations and processes which eventually led to our deciding to move her here.

It was during this time that I could have dropped out of this writing challenge, since I was the only one doing it, but I got lucky in that I’d written some posts ahead of time and had evenings when I could find the time to write some posts when they were needed. Not every post I put together will be considered for the NY Times 100, but at least I was able to fulfill my own challenge to myself.

2. Writing a local blog is tough when you don’t get out much

One of the reasons I decided a few years ago to branch out into other topics here is because, even though I’ve lived here a long time and like going out to restaurants often, I really don’t leave the house all that much, especially in winter. I also tend to keep going back to the places I like, whether it’s restaurants or entertainment. The only entertainment I allowed myself during the month of January was when I went to see the movie La La Land, and I did a video about it instead of writing about it. In case you’re interested…

Not counting this wrap up article, 15 articles were specifically about central New York, and 3 others were personal stories of mine, all related to my time in the area. That equates to 60% being about local events and such, and I’m going to consider that a success. Still, it also tells me that I really do need to get our more… which I’ve just made a much harder chore since Mom pretty much needs 24/7 care; I’ll have to see how I can work around that.

3. Traffic increased dramatically, but…

Doing this experiment showed me a couple of different things. One, per Google Analytics, my traffic numbers jumped over 300% from the previous two months, which was pretty exciting. I promoted the posts mainly on Twitter, but many of them I also got to promote on Facebook and one of them on LinkedIn because the content fit pretty well.

At the same time, I saw my Alexa ranking drop to the point of nonexistence… which didn’t make any sense, knowing that my traffic increased. It made me do a quick audit of all my sites and I realized that all of them had been dropping in Alexa rank for about 2 months while traffic had either increased or stayed the same. Thus, I was able to conclude that, as my friend Chuck says, Alexa is worthless as a ranking tool and Google Analytics is definitely the way to go.

4. More traffic means more comments

I hadn’t gotten a comment on this blog since September, but I got quite a few, by comparison, in January. The funny thing is that only two people who commented were from the area, and only one of them I didn’t know. The other comments came from people outside central New York, and I knew one of those people (friends are valuable, aren’t they lol).

Comments aren’t necessary but they’re always nice to have. They offer their own type of validation and encourages you to keep writing. People can also be very nice, as I’ve gotten a lot of positive support for making the decision I did with my mother.

5. Niche has its place but content has its place also

As I look back on all the articles I’ve done this month, realizing that the most recent articles won’t fare well at this juncture, I can tell you that out of the top 6 articles I wrote, 3 of them were totally about central New York things, with the article getting the most traffic being the interview I did with Dr. Emad Rahim.

However, the next highest article regarding traffic was about blogging, and that one only came out 5 days ago. It might end up having more legs in the long run because blogging is a pretty intriguing topic, and if that proves to be true then it shows that overall reach is better when you’re trying to reach the masses than only people in your local area… for what that’s worth.

I’m going to stop there because one other thing I’ve learned over the past 5 days is that I’m never sure when Mom is going to show up; she tends to wander, but at least I know she’s not wandering outside of the house anymore. 🙂 This has been a fun journey, and it did inspire one other person to decide to give it a shot. I’ve always said that if I could get one person to do something positive based on something I say or do that I’m ahead of the game… and I am! :-_)  

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