Rounding Up Zebras

Sometime during that first week of medical school, I learned that the world belongs to horses.  Except when DH has a bloody nose: he has leukemia.  Or I have a headache: glioblastoma multiforme …  or cysticercosis.  Now, The Kid is coughing: yup …  swine flu.

I remember skipping over the Reagan era — I was in college, then graduate school, then medical school.  The internet was not ubiquitous; DH used the old DARPANET as part of his graduate work, and completely underestimated the possibilities.   Me — I had my first encounters with computer while using LOTS.  It was an experience mercifully aborted as I realized I hated being with a bunch of geeks at 2 in the morning.  Then I had a Mac, which I used for churning out a truly awful “bodice ripper.”  The Mac didn’t last long — it probably died of embarrassment after that romance novel.  The point is — the Reagan era was not a happy time for liberals — or for the country, for that matter — but I didn’t know that because I didn’t live in a world of instant news.

So now the WHO has advanced the swine flu problem to phase 4 — and I can’t help knowing that because I spend way too much time on the computer.  The doctor in me thinks it’s  a real problem almost certain to become a HUGE problem, but I also have  faith in the medical community.  And yet I am absurdly unnerved by all the up-to-the-minute news, the doomsday headlines, the painstaking accounting of cases.  I remember when AIDS began, and newscasters would give that same accounting of the number of deaths.  When did they stop counting?  At 50?  At 100?  When people no longer could — or wanted to — absorb the numbers?

The Kid is coughing, and I try to think my way out of my fears.  I take comfort in that I  apparently survived the 1968 Hong Kong flu pandemic — a pandemic I didn’t know about until yesterday.

Cry Me a Rivulet . . . .

In the email today,  forwarded comments from a reviewer about a project I have been working on for the National Park Service.  This project has been shunted all over the map, and in medical parlance, really should have a huge DNR sticker slapped on it.  As a measure of its importance to NPS and the original instigator — who was at least a superintendent at the time and has since been promoted — it has been sent on to a “science communication assistant.”  Or as DH so elegantly put it, some flunkey.

Anyway, among the comments (occasionally useful, frequently inane):

At times the language is common, in other places it is folksy (see page 21: “Bison: Once upon a time,….”), in others it is scientific (see your highlights) and some of it I just had to look up (see page 5: rivulets and garroted).

Fair enough about the inconsistent language; I can certainly clean it up so that it is uniformly “common” — after all, the work is meant for the general public.

On the other hand . . . .  This woman does work for the National Park Service (Yellowstone) as a science communication assistant. Would that be a degree in science (Dr. Science — he knows more than you do …  he has a Master’s Degree … in science!)? A degree in communication?  A degree in assisting?  DH thinks her title means she writes press releases, but I think she might be related to those people who write about the latest medical research without telling you about important stuff like sample size and study design.  Whatever it is she actually does, she writes for a living.  And quite frankly, I am appalled that she would even admit to not knowing the definition of a “rivulet.”

I suppose I should be grateful that she owns a dictionary.

But the line of the day belongs to DH (a member of the General Public who does NOT write for a living):

“She works for the National Park Service?  You mean my tax dollars are paying for her?”

Lower Education: Rant, Part II

We received an automated telephone message from the principal of The Kid’s school, inviting parents to a “special parent-teacher conference” to talk about ways to improve the school’s educational goals.

I am, of course, offended by the idea of the conference. It’s very simple, really: the way to improve the school’s educational objectives is to do what you say you’re going to do. For example, on the school district academic standards list for 5th grade, the kids were supposed to understand major events in U.S. history through the Civil War.

“I bet she doesn’t know anything about the Civil War,” I said.

“Oh, I’m sure she knows who fought whom,” DH asserted.

And from upstairs (nothing wrong with her hearing), The Kid yelled, “The Confederates and the Union!”

“Well, OK, but which side wanted the slaves?” I asked.

“The Union!” she replied confidently.

So here we are now, end of 6th grade, and The Kid is supposedly well-versed in major events in Canadian and Latin American history.

“Which empire exerted the most influence on Latin American history and culture?”

“The French,” she tells us.

What had she been doing in class, we wondered.

“Well, the homework is this map of South America, and we’re supposed to glue a spice or food that begins with the same letter as each country on the map.”  She paused, then added helpfully, “The teacher said hands-on activities are important in learning things.”


My daughter is a straight A student.

My daughter has been accepted into the middle school Honors program.

Someone is delusional (and no, it’s not The Pig).

Guinea Pig with treat

Guinea Pig with treat

Things of Beauty

The Henry James sentence of the day, from “Travelling Companions,” 1870:

I steeped myself with unprotesting joy in the gorgeous glow and salubrity of that radiant scene, wherein, against her bosky screen of immortal verdure, the rosy-footed, pearl-circled, nymph-flattered victim of a divine delusion rustles her lustrous satin against the ambrosial hide of bovine Jove.

I love Henry James.

Other Things of Beauty:

HydroElectric: The Solar Electrician

HydroElectric: The Solar Electrician

They came, they mucked around on the roof:



Dragged a few of these up there:

Solar Panel

Solar Panel

Fun specs for the geeks

Fun specs for the geeks

The Last Solar Panel

The Last Solar Panel

And about 5 minutes after the system went on:

Solar Inverter: German engineering at work

Solar Inverter: German engineering at work

Wonder what Henry James would have had to say about it all.

Will Run for Dessert

“Don’t step in front of a bus,”  DH said.  He passed on this gem from The South Beach Heart Health Revolution, written by a cardiologist who believes people with high HDL should be more worried — assuming they want to worry at all — about dying from accidents rather than heart disease.

About 12 years ago, I had these numbers:

Terrible HDL

A decade or so later, after falling off the couch:

Bad Lipid Numbers

Running, dessert — a great combination.