Sunday, December 28, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Speaking of ridiculous nonsense -- and why not? -- we have Harvard scientists concluding that happiness depends on the contentment of friends of friends, or neighbors you may not even know.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
New Haven Register
· Science Editor 1986-2008
Wrote weekly Health/Science page consisting of feature story and column, Gray Matters. Selected and edited wire copy for page, and assigned art. Supervised two reporters, assigned and edited their stories. Covered Yale University, Yale School of Medicine, University of Connecticut, Wesleyan University and other local colleges and universities. Also wrote daily and Sunday stories.
· Environment Reporter
Covered state and federal departments of environmental protection. Issues included solid waste, hazardous waste, and Superfund sites. Followed enforcement of federal and state laws.
· Transportation reporter
Beat included state and federal transportation departments, condition of bridges, highways, mass transit, Mianus River Bridge collapse, state DOT policy.
· West Haven Reporter 1979
Responsibilities included city government. Series of stories on municipal corruption led to resignation of police chief, and city treasurer pleading guilty to felony involving illegal loans.
Fitchburg – Leominster Sentinel and Enterprise 1976-1978
· Covered police and fire departments, community development block grants, wrote features, took photos.
Boston University 1975-1976
Received Master of Science degree in print journalism. Wrote master’s thesis on life and career of Upton Sinclair. Wrote additional thesis on Social Darwinism and development of American newspaper design. Courses included news and feature reporting and writing, communications law, survey of foreign press. Covered Middlesex Superior Court and wrote for school publication Boston Courier.
Washington University in St. Louis 1971-1975
Bachelor’s degree with honors in English Literature. Wrote honors thesis on Andrew Marvell political symbolism. Also took courses in biology, mathematics, astronomy, linguistics, vertebrate paleontology, philosophy, European history and art history.
University of Chicago Laboratory High School.
Able to explain complicated subjects clearly and on deadline in clear concise writing.
References and awards on request
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Where do all of these memories lie? And how do you know if the MRI is picking up fresh guilt, or childhood shame?
Monday, September 8, 2008
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
They looke cute, they're harmless, and for goodness sakes, they're not even real bears! They're cuddly! They're the apotheosis of innocence and all that is good.
Well, for the taxonomically challenged, yes, Panda bears are bears.
Specifically, they are Ailuropoda melanoleuca, "black-and-white cat-foot." That's a genus within the family Ursidae, which includes grizzly bears, black bears, polar bears, and the spectacled bear.
Pandas are generally herbivorous, although they will eat fish, rodents, honey, eggs, and other non-plant goodies when available. See if you can find a photo of panda teeth. Major canine action.
But if you were out in the forest, you'd be better off running into a panda than a grizzly. However, keep in mind that pandas are as non-domesticated as their brothers and sisters in the zoo.
That doesn't mean, however, that pandas are docile do-gooders. Gu gu, a panda at the Beijing zoo, reportedly gnawed the legs of a 15-year-old boy that entered the bear's cage last year. The Beijing News reported that Li Xitao "had both legs gnawed to the bone."
Yogi and Booboo never did that.
Check You Tube and you can find videos of a panda trying to pull a man into the 300-pound bear's cage. Bad panda!
There reason there aren't more run-ins between humans and pandas is that people are basically driving pandas to extinction so that they can grow rice or build factories.
Pandas should be protected, not because they're adorable, but for the same reasons that any species should be rescued from oblivion. Nature is a continuum, and taking out pieces could have unexpected effects.
Moreover, they have the innate value of all life, and it's not up to us to decide what lives and what dies.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Microsoft XP isn't a barrel of laughs — except for one feature.
Microsoft engineers put some games into the operating system. Not games like "find the missing DLL" or "Where's the error in the registry," although those can give you hours of enjoyment. Not enjoyment, really, more like barely controllable rage.
No, these games are called games and they're actually games. Solitaire, battleship, a few other ones, and pinball.Pinball games for computers are generally crummy. The ones for Mac OS X are worse than that; they seem to have been designed by apes with low self-esteem.
The Windows pinball game is pretty good. The physics and speed are good, meaning that the ball moves and bounces like a real ball. The other element is how fast the ball rolls down the playing field. Here too, Windows pinball is fine.
Consequently, it is possible to waste incredible amounts of time tapping the z and / keys to operate the flippers, aiming at targets, and generally keeping the ball in play.
But, what's going on here (other than putting your job or marriage in jeopardy)?
Are you really playing pinball? No. You are using a simulation of pinball. The simulation and the real thing are pretty similar. They involve moving your index fingers. On a real pinball machine you would be compelled to stand.
Most other computer or video games are also simulations. Most of the simulations are of activities you could not or would not engage in, like killing, crashing cars, flying fighter planes, and performing various sports.
These non-pinball games depend on manipulating symbols. "O" fires a missle, "X" is a kick to the head, and so on. All actions are mapped onto a controller with about a dozen controls. What are our brains actually doing?
Once the controls are memorized and become second nature, we translate an action into a push button, which changes values in the program and makes an action happen on the screen.
So we think the game is the simulation, while really, the simulation is happening in the brain.
Will humans eventually shun the real world and manipulate symbols, instead?
Or are we almost there?
This should click your skepticism meter up a few notches. The cities reviewed seem to get their water from different sources, which is problematic.
Take the drinking water in Southern Connecticut. For the most part is comes from reservoirs and is treated.
But let's back up.
Drugs end up in drinking water because people (and animals) take them and tiny amounts are eliminated in waste. This waste is then filtered, treated with chlorine, and pumped out. Now, if the effluent goes into the source of the water, as it might in Chicago, it seems plausible that drugs could be identified in drinking water.
We, on the other hand, get out water from reservoirs. This means our drug-containing waste is treated, sent to Long Island Sound, evaporates, and falls as rain. Some of the rain lands in the reservoirs, but a larger proportion seeps in after being filtered through organic materials in the forrest floor.
After going through this process, how many molecules of drugs, or drug metabolites could remain? By the way, there are plenty of other chemicals to ponder. Chlorine reacts with organic material to form trihalomethanes.
Then there's sodium, barium, strontium 90, lead, copper, and even a smidgen of uranium. The water is also tested for bacteria. All of these chemicals, and more, are regulated and cannot exceeed federal standards.
The water also may contain dozens of unregulated compounds, such as radon, chloroform, and a bunch of additional organic chemicals that result from reactions with chlorine.
At any rate, it seems unlikely that minute amounts of anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants, hormones, antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors, and the rest, end up in treated reservoir water.
And if undigested drugs end up in drinking water, they cannot be in copious amounts. Modern instruments can find parts per trillion or even less. It's probably possible to find almost anything in water if you look closely enough.
It is said that in every glass of water, there are a few molecules that passed through Napoleon. And also, presumably, from every other person. This claim has to do with the enormous number of molecules in a glass of water.
Turns out the number is something like 10 multiplied by itself 24 times. This is orders of magnitude larger than the number of sand grains on the world's beaches.
If you want to worry about water, worry about bacteria, protozoans, and other microorganisms that have struck water systems in the past.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Ice is clear.
It's not black. "Black ice" refers to ice that is difficult to see because it is in a thin layer over asphalt, which is more or less black.
Not that black ice wouldn't be interestingl. Imagine black snow. When you awoke after a storm, it would still be quiet, noise muffled by the snow. But it wouldn't look bright outside. It would look darker than usual.
Then, when you peered out of the window, everything would be covered with black. Tree branches would be coated in black. It would look like soot, or the sand on a volcanic beach. Or dirt.
Black snow would also change the world. Rather than reflecting heat, black snow would absorb it. The snow would melt more rapidly. There might not be glaciers, or polar ice caps. (There might not be any of those in a few years, anyway, but that's a different story.)
The climate would certainly be a little different with black snow. Also, black snow would have to be produced from black water. The oceans would be much warmer. The color of clouds? Black? Gray?
All because of black ice.
So let's cool it on that.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Don’t count on it.
Certainly, it will be smoother for you than for him. You’re watching. He’s watching, too, from inside, through an undefinable mental haze.
You can leave his room after a few minutes when watching becomes too uncomfortable.
He can’t. He lies with the pain, perhaps one of the only feelings or emotions that he still possesses.
Being with him is slightly terrifying because you’re never sure when he may awaken. He groans, cries, tries to rip off bandages and throws punches at nurse’s aides. That’s not easy to watch.
His once brilliant mind helped determine the best ways to isolate plutonium in 1944. He then spent decades studying photosynthesis and chlorophyll. Now his brain is somewhere else.
It started a few years ago. As Alzheimer’s disease progressed and choked and tangled his neurons, he started to lose himself and his encyclopedic knowledge, his sense of humor, his irritability, his warmth, his fearfully bad temper.
At first, he could tell that something ominous was happening. But there’s no way to stop it. Every time you see him, his decline is appalling. He stops recognizing his offspring.
He thinks strangers are in his apartment. Who are those strange people? No matter how often he is reminded that they’re his children, he feels threatened.
For a while, you’re convinced that you can somehow jog his memory. Maybe a photo.
Some incontrovertible proof that you are his, and that he will understand in a burst of rationality. Then, you finally realize that he’s disappearing, going somewhere solitary and strange. After 95 years, he’s leaving and never coming back — but, he doesn’t know that. Does he?
Eventually, you avoid catching his eyes, fearful of how he may react. Or maybe you do not want to see the vacancy behind his gaze. Or the fear.
He is relocated to the floor with the demented people. He has two broken hips made of tenuous bone too thin to repair. Two broken ribs. They’ll never heal.
"Dr. Browner," whom you never see, is convinced against all evidence that he is improving. He’ll be fine in no time! Of course, he can recognize food!
No, he won’t. No, he can’t.
You want to find Dr. Browner to ask him what he’s thinking and perhaps grab and shake him by the collar. What’s his plan? He gives nurses orders and vanishes.
Meanwhile, the patient is weaker, weaker and increasingly unhappy. He moans. Can he please be made more comfortable? Just ease the pain. That’s all the family wants. They plead. They cry.
The head nurse and the floor nurses, who dispense morphine, are following contradictory orders from the invisible doctor and the hospice nurse.
In books, the person with power of attorney handles the Browners and nurses with a firm hand. No one has a firm hand now. But you help to straighten out the heartbreaking mess.
Soon, much sooner than you expect, he’s gone. Dead.
No, this was not smooth.
Did you relieve his suffering or help kill him?
His clothes still hang in the closet. He still has aftershave in the medicine cabinet. His ornate letter opener is on his desk, where he left it. The books he wrote and read wait, leaning on the shelf.
Did you allow him to die in peace, or just hasten his death?
You’ll have the rest of your life to think about it.
Friday, January 4, 2008
It would be like dividing a photon, which you simply cannot do.