It doesn't happen often, but whenever my just-turned-four-year-old does complain about naptime—which starts off, generally, with him lying on a bed, under a quilt, in a quiet room, cuddling with Top Management—I always think the exact same thing, every single time: that, right there, is proof positive that the male of the species has something very, very wrong with it.
So Top Management is having a crisis because she's a writer and that's what creative people do.
No problem. I've been a (theoretically) creative person for 20+ years and, much more important, in addition to being married to a legitimate artist, I've been an editor for much of that time and have dealt with creative people and I get it. I know how these things go. I know that it's not unusual for even the most creative of creative people to hit a wall, for whatever reason, and worry that they've lost it, that this isn't working out, that they're never going to be able to do anything worthwhile again, that that's it, it's all over. Usually, a little talk gets them off the ledge and a (generally very productive) day later, it's as though it never happened and I mean that: often I think that just a day later they literally don't recall feeling so deathly despondent no more than one day earlier.
So Top Management and I talk but it's the witching hour, as she used to call it. It's the evening, and the kitchen needs to be cleaned, the dinner dishes done, homework overseen, hair washed, laundry folded and put away, kids slammed into bed, the whole shebang. So I listen for ten minutes but then I just, I have to go, I really do, but I promise to come back in just a bit and angst with her some more.
Fifteen minutes later I walk in, things semi-taken care of, temporarily. "I'm ready to be understanding!" I announce heroically.
She slowly and silently looks up at me as though I've got three heads, one of which is speaking Mandarin, another Swahili and the third vomiting blood. "What's wrong?" I asked, actually worried for the first time.
She just keeps staring for a few more very long seconds. "I'm writing," she finally manages to mutter, after painfully switching from the right hemisphere to the left in order to be able to process and answer my question.
All righty then.
Man, I'm good.
My wallet's falling apart. My wallet seems to always be falling apart, even though Top Management is wonderful about getting me a new wallet every seven or eight years, whether I need one or not. Within a few months, it seems like the new one's in only slightly better shape than the old one. I don't know why it happens, really; it's certainly not like my wallet gets used much.
Trying and failing to find my library card earlier today—although, inexplicably, I noticed I still have my Virginia library card, which expired five years ago—I stopped and looked at the only thing in my wallet I really love.
It was Easter Sunday 1997. We were in the hospital; our oldest, Max, had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia eight days earlier. We didn't know it then, but we'd be in the hospital with her for most of the next nine months.
Two of my brothers, the ones who lived within four hours of us, had left their families before dawn to come spend Easter with us—this despite the fact they'd done the same thing one week earlier...and that despite the fact that I'd initially told them not to come. Knowing me better than I knew myself, they ignored me and had left before dawn to spend as much time with us in the ICU as they could.
A week later, we were out of the pediatric intensive care and in a regular room on the pediatric oncology floor. The staff had tried hard to make Easter as enjoyable as possible for their Christian patients—a large percentage of the patients, maybe even a majority, were Jewish, Muslim or Hindu, giving the playroom an amazingly New York melting pot feel—and holding an Easter egg hunt for nauseated little bald kids hooked up to IVs with pretty limited portability is no mean feat.
My brothers arrived bearing far too many gifts and gave Max far more laughs in a few hours than she'd had in a week; Max was always an unusually serious baby, and almost the only uncontrollable bellylaughs we'd ever seen her have were courtesy her beloved uncles.
Back then Max wouldn't even try candy, but she was happy to sort Skittles by color for hours, and her parents were more than happy to be the ones eating the Reese's eggs for her.
The hospital kitchen was open, of course, and brought a tray up but there was little to nothing on it Max was interested in, and that went double for the rest of us. So we ordered in from the only restaurant open on Easter: a Chinese restaurant, of course.
It was fantastic. Max was happy, the food was tasty, and for a few minutes the terror went away, at least a little.
The nurse came in to change Max's IV. Noticing the unopened fortune cookies, she said, "Aren't you going to read your fortune?"
"Oh, no," I said seriously. "I had a fortune cookie the night before Max was diagnosed and now she has cancer. I'm not doing that again."
The nurse's eyes got very wide before Top Management hit me and explained to her that I had an odd sense of humor.
After she left, Top Management and my brothers and I had our cookies, reading our fortunes aloud. They were the usual pleasant platitudes, common sense advice.
"Aren't you going to open Max's?" my brother asked, looking at the last cookie left on the bed.
I shrugged. Max didn't eat cookies, so I didn't see the point.
"All right," he said, grabbing the cookie. "I'll do it. Here you go, buddy, this one's yours."
He broke the cookie in half and took out the slip of paper. He started to read it out loud, then stopped. He handed it to the other brother, who looked at it and said, "Oh my God."
They handed it to me.
I'm not a superstitious guy, in general. But other than taking it out today to scan it, I've had it in my wallet every second since.
It's now permanently stuck to the photo we took of Max a few weeks later, also always in my wallet. The photo was taken right before we cut off her ponytail, as her hair was falling out. Behind her you can sorta see, if you know what one looks like, the blue IV pump that she spent much of the next year hooked up to, as well as the bedrail that had to always be up, as she was considered too young to be allowed to sit on a bed without rails. On her neck is the bandage she got the first night in the hospital, when they stuck a tube in what I think was her carotid.
When we first read that fortune, we were still weeks away from learning that Max hadn't actually been handed the death sentence we'd thought, still weeks away from being told by the head of oncology that it was possible for her to be cured, and not just have her life extended by a few more years.
In an hour I'm heading to the airport to pick Max up; she spent the summer about 1200 miles away, in Austin, at an intership at a software design firm. In my pocket as I drive will, of course, be my wallet. And in my wallet will, of course, be that fortune she got so long ago, fifteen years now, back when an extra five years seemed wildly optimistic. Do I think the fortune had anything to do with it? I do not. But I am also never, ever letting it go.
The tub has been draining more and more slowly over the past few weeks. So with a heavy heart, I take off the drain cover. I don't even need a flashlight or a snake. I just reach in and pull out and pull out and pull out a mass of hair which finally reveals itself to be about the size of a baseball.
"What is that?" the six-year-old asks, properly horrified.
I look at all the long, long hairs making up the wretched clump and even in its state of semi-putrifaction it's clear that once upon a time the hairs had been a golden blonde.
"That," I sigh, "is love."
Why, just look at all that golden blonde love, simply biding its time.
I had planned to write more today about the largest welfare bill in history. For instance, did you know that President Ronald Reagan once said:
''If you had a stack of $1,000 bills in your hand only four inches high, you'd be a millionaire. A trillion dollars would be a stack of $1,000 bills 67 miles high.''
EPA won't limit rocket fuel in U.S. drinking waterWASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency has decided there's no need to rid drinking water of a toxic rocket fuel ingredient that has fouled public water supplies around the country.
EPA reached the conclusion in a draft regulatory document not yet made public but reviewed Monday by The Associated Press.
The ingredient, perchlorate, has been found in at least 395 sites in 35 states at levels high enough to interfere with thyroid function and pose developmental health risks, particularly for babies and fetuses, according to some scientists.
The EPA document says that mandating a clean-up level for perchlorate would not result in a "meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public-water systems."
The conclusion, which caps years of dispute over the issue, was denounced by Democrats and environmentalists who accused EPA of caving to pressure from the Pentagon.
"This is a widespread contamination problem, and to see the Bush EPA just walk away is shocking," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate's environment committee.
Lenny Siegel, director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight in Mountain View, Calif., added: "This is an unconscionable decision not based upon science or law but on concern that a more stringent standard could cost the government significantly."
The Defense Department used perchlorate for decades in testing missiles and rockets, and most perchlorate contamination is the result of defense and aerospace activities, congressional investigators said last year.
The Pentagon could face liability if EPA set a national drinking water standard that forced water agencies around the country to undertake costly clean-up efforts. Defense officials have spent years questioning EPA's conclusions about the risks posed by perchlorate.
The Pentagon objected strongly Monday to the suggestion that it sought to influence EPA's decision.
"We have not intervened in any way in EPA's determination not to regulate perchlorate. If you read their determination, that's based on criteria in the Safe Drinking Water Act," Paul Yaroschak, Pentagon deputy director for emerging contaminants, said in an interview.
Yaroschak said the Pentagon has been working for years to clean up perchlorate at its facilities. He also contended that the Pentagon wasn't the source of as much perchlorate contamination as once believed, noting that it also comes from fireworks, road flares and fertilizer.
Benjamin Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for water, said in a statement that "science, not the politics of fear in an election year, will drive our final decision."
"We know perchlorate in drinking water presents some degree of risk, and we're committed to working with states and scientists to ensure public health is protected and meaningful opportunities for reducing risk are fully considered," Grumbles said.
Grumbles said the EPA expected to seek comment and take final action before the end of the year. The draft document was first reported Monday by the Washington Post.
Perchlorate is particularly widespread in California and the Southwest, where it's been found in groundwater and in the Colorado River, a drinking-water source for 20 million people. It's also been found in lettuce and other foods.
In absence of federal action, states have acted on their own. In 2007, California adopted a drinking water standard of 6 parts per billion. Massachusetts has set a drinking water standard of 2 parts per billion.
Oh sure. Lots to write about. I could write about the dear soon-to-be-departed (but not soon enough) Gonzo and the way he tried his darnedest to demolish the Department of Justice...and did a heckuva job of it. We could wallow in the schadenfreude brought on by the hideous spectacle of United States Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and his "wide stance."
But we’ve got more pressing matters. Much, much more pressing.
Thank Allah one man is brave enough to tell the truth about this horrific scourge.
Man, how awesome is the stuff you can buy at Home Depot these days?
I gotta say, though, I'm not much of a Do It Yourselfer. I don't think I'd trust myself with one of these babies.
A minivan’s kinda a big vehicle. Not as big as, say, an 18-wheeler or an SUV but, still, you know. Big.
So how is it that a small interior light can run down the battery in twelve hours? I mean, for pete’s sake, a pair of C batteries can power a bulb this size for about four hours. How can a minivan’s battery not do triple that without breaking a sweat?
I suspect communist influence somehow.
Heard this on the way home. How sweet. You know, for something so awful and creepy:
Embrace lasted for 5,000 years
Skeletons show death's tender side
By Ariel David
ROME -- Archaeologists have unearthed two Neolithic-era skeletons locked in a tender embrace that were buried outside Mantua -- just 25 miles south of Verona, where Shakespeare set the star-crossed tale of "Romeo and Juliet."
Buried between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, the prehistoric pair are believed to have been a man and a woman and are thought to have died young, as their teeth were found intact, said Elena Menotti, the archaeologist who led the dig.
"As far as we know, it's unique," Menotti said Wednesday. "Double burials from the Neolithic are unheard of, and these are even hugging."
The burial site was located Monday during construction work for a factory building near Mantua. Experts will now study the artifacts and the skeletons to determine the burial site's age and how old the two were when they died, she said.
Luca Bondioli, an anthropologist at Rome's National Prehistoric and Ethnographic Museum, said double prehistoric burials are rare -- especially in such a pose.
The find has "more of an emotional than a scientific value." But it does highlight how the relationship people have with each other and with death has not changed much in thousands of years, he said.
The bodies, which cuddle closely while facing each other on their sides, were probably buried at the same time, possibly an indication of sudden and tragic death, Bondioli said.
He said DNA testing could determine whether the two were related, "but that still leaves other hypotheses; the 'Romeo and Juliet' possibility is just one of many."
The news story I heard also mentioned that it’s possible he was killed first and, so’s they could be together for all eternity, she was then sacrificed and buried with him. You know, to keep him company. How sweet. And ghastly. [Kind of like being married to me prolly is.]
Apparently, police, having still not ruled out foul play, are interested in questioning a Mister William Shakespeare, aka, Willy the Shake, in connection with the case.
So. The normally redoubtable Karen said of a math problem she and her daughter were working on:
Here's how my daughter and I would both respond to the following problem in her math book:
Larry ordered 3/8 of a pizza. He gave Pat 1/3 of his pizza. How much of a pizza did Pat get?
She and I would both say this sort of thing:
"Do you think Pat is a guy? Or his wife? And why would someone order 3/8 of a pizza? That's ridiculous. I might order by the slice, but never in fractions. Pat must be a guy friend, because Larry certainly would give his own wife more than 1/3 of 3/8 of a pizza. Are you hungry? Let's get something to eat. Then maybe we could write a story about a hungry mother and daughter who abandon math, join forces to open a pizzeria and hire people to do all the stuff that makes them lapse slowly into comas ... i.e., the measuring, the math ...."
I am astonished at Karen’s gapular thinking.
Clearly Pat is a female, because if you have three slices of pizza and two people, one and only one with a Y chromosome, then the He in this equation is clearly going to eat two of the pieces and leave but one for the XXer, jamming both of his slices in his mouth as quickly as possible, if necessary. He’ll look at his beloved wife and decide that she’d want him to have twice as much pizza, and that by eating two slices and leaving her only one, he’s actually making her happy—indeed, performing a good deed. Doing her a solid, as they say.
Whereas if Pat’s a guy friend, the math problem would have made mention of the fistfight the two of them got into over that final piece and how the police had to be called and how they both ultimately ended up on C.O.P.S.
But it didn’t say anything about that. So Pat’s clearly a female.
And that’s where I get stuck. I had to ask Max for help solving the actual problem. Just one more illustration of how and why females are ever so much better.
And now I’m hungry.
I really, truly, honestly do not get this.
I mean, jeez louise, never mind that this seems to be a product in desperate search of a market, and about as purely necessary as a pet rock. And let’s ignore for the moment the fact that five years really doesn’t seem like a long enough time to study something like this—for pete’s sake, Dolly the Sheep was only cloned ten years ago: does it really seem likely this science has been perfected yet?
But no. Let’s break it down even further:
Is there anyone out there who isn’t simply creeped out by this idea?
Cloneburger with cheese, please: Cloned critters get FDA ok
Fans of cloned meat and dairy products -- c'mon, we know you're out there -- rejoice! The US government declared today that food products made from cloned animals is "safe to eat," and probably won't require labeling to disclose the fact:
After more than five years of study, the Food and Drug Administration concluded that cloned livestock is "virtually indistinguishable" from conventional livestock. FDA believes "that meat and milk from cattle, swine and goat clones is as safe to eat as the food we eat every day," said Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine.
Oh, and here’s the answer to my question:
For food that does come from clones, the Food and Drug Administration is unlikely to require labels, officials said.
Ah, yes. In other words, no. there’s no one who’s not utterly skeeved by this notion.
Therefore we shall hide it.
Cloning companies say the technology would be used primarily for breeding and not for steak or pork tenderloin. Thus, consumers would mostly get food from their offspring and not from the clones themselves.
Still, some clones would eventually end up in the food supply. As with conventional livestock, a cloned bull or cow that outlived its usefulness would probably wind up at a hamburger plant, and a cloned dairy cow would be milked during her breeding years.
Oh. Okay. Because I’m quite confident we can correctly predict what problems might conceivably (so to speak) pop up in a clone’s great-grandkid.
Or, hey! Here’s an idea! Why don’t we stick to the way things have, you know, pretty much always worked? Boy cow meets girl cow, they have cowlets, cowlets grow up and we eat ‘em.
A fairly decent system, seems to me.
‘Course, I’m not a cow.
But then, I’m also not a money-grubbing bidnizman drooling over this new-fangled cash cow. So to speak.
I heard this on the news during my evening commute yesterday. It was on one of them crunchy NPR stations I love, so I couldn’t believe my ears—the story seemed more likely to come from The World Weekly News or its internets equivalent, WorldNet Daily.
I googled every permutation of the story I could think of when I got home, but couldn’t find anything. I started thinking it was some ghastly aural hallucination on my part.
And then this morning it pops up.
Ukraine babies in stem cell probe
By Matthew Hill
BBC Health Correspondent
Healthy new-born babies may have been killed in Ukraine to feed a flourishing international trade in stem cells, evidence obtained by the BBC suggests.
Disturbing video footage of post-mortem examinations on dismembered tiny bodies raises serious questions about what happened to them.
Ukraine has become the self-styled stem cell capital of the world.
There is a trade in stem cells from aborted foetuses, amid unproven claims they can help fight many diseases.
But now there are claims that stem cells are also being harvested from live babies.
Wall of silence
The BBC has spoken to mothers from the city of Kharkiv who say they gave birth to healthy babies, only to have them taken by maternity staff.
In 2003 the authorities agreed to exhume around 30 bodies of foetuses and full-term babies from a cemetery used by maternity hospital number six.
One campaigner was allowed into the autopsy to gather video evidence. She has given that footage to the BBC and Council of Europe.
In its report, the Council describes a general culture of trafficking of children snatched at birth, and a wall of silence from hospital staff upwards over their fate.
The pictures show organs, including brains, have been stripped - and some bodies dismembered.
A senior British forensic pathologist says he is very concerned to see bodies in pieces - as that is not standard post-mortem practice.
It could possibly be a result of harvesting stem cells from bone marrow.
I have to confess, I don’t know much about the reputation of the BBC—is it a New York Times or Wall Street Journal, an institution with political leanings but generally high standards, or more like a New York Post, an institution with a surplus of leanings but a deficit of high standards?
I hope this turns out to be a sick hoax. This is beyond horrific.
18 Tricks to Teach Your Body
Soothe a burn, cure a toothache, clear a stuffed nose...
1. If your throat tickles, scratch your ear!
When you were 9, playing your armpit was a cool trick. Now, as an adult, you can still appreciate a good body-based feat, but you're more discriminating. Take that tickle in your throat; it's not worth gagging over. Here's a better way to scratch your itch: "When the nerves in the ear are stimulated, it creates a reflex in the throat that can cause a muscle spasm," says Scott Schaffer, M.D., president of an ear, nose, and throat specialty center in Gibbsboro, New Jersey. "This spasm relieves the tickle."
2. Experience supersonic hearing!
If you're stuck chatting up a mumbler at a cocktail party, lean in with your right ear. It's better than your left at following the rapid rhythms of speech, according to researchers at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. If, on the other hand, you're trying to identify that song playing softly in the elevator, turn your left ear toward the sound. The left ear is better at picking up music tones.
3. Overcome your most primal urge!
Need to pee? No bathroom nearby? Fantasize about Jessica Simpson. Thinking about sex preoccupies your brain, so you won't feel as much discomfort, says Larry Lipshultz, M.D., chief of male reproductive medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine. For best results, try Simpson's "These Boots Are Made for Walking" video.
4. Feel no pain!
German researchers have discovered that coughing during an injection can lessen the pain of the needle stick. According to Taras Usichenko, author of a study on the phenomenon, the trick causes a sudden, temporary rise in pressure in the chest and spinal canal, inhibiting the pain-conducting structures of the spinal cord.
5. Clear your stuffed nose!
Forget Sudafed. An easier, quicker, and cheaper way to relieve sinus pressure is by alternately thrusting your tongue against the roof of your mouth, then pressing between your eyebrows with one finger. This causes the vomer bone, which runs through the nasal passages to the mouth, to rock back and forth, says Lisa DeStefano, D.O., an assistant professor at the Michigan State University college of osteopathic medicine. The motion loosens congestion; after 20 seconds, you'll feel your sinuses start to drain.
6. Fight fire without water!
Worried those wings will repeat on you tonight? "Sleep on your left side," says Anthony A. Starpoli, M.D., a New York City gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at New York Medical College. Studies have shown that patients who sleep on their left sides are less likely to suffer from acid reflux. The esophagus and stomach connect at an angle. When you sleep on your right, the stomach is higher than the esophagus, allowing food and stomach acid to slide up your throat. When you're on your left, the stomach is lower than the esophagus, so gravity's in your favor.
7. Cure your toothache without opening your mouth!
Just rub ice on the back of your hand, on the V-shaped webbed area between your thumb and index finger. A Canadian study found that this technique reduces toothache pain by as much as 50 percent compared with using no ice. The nerve pathways at the base of that V stimulate an area of the brain that blocks pain signals from the face and hands.
8. Make burns disappear!
When you accidentally singe your finger on the stove, clean the skin and apply light pressure with the finger pads of your unmarred hand. Ice will relieve your pain more quickly, Dr. DeStefano says, but since the natual method brings the burned skin back to a normal temperature, the skin is less likely to blister.
9. Stop the world from spinning!
One too many drinks left you dizzy? Put your hand on something stable. The part of your ear responsible for balance -- the cupula -- floats in a fluid of the same density as blood. "As alcohol dilutes blood in the cupula, the cupula becomes less dense and rises," says Dr. Schaffer. This confuses your brain. The tactile input from a stable object gives the brain a second opinion, and you feel more in balance. Because the nerves in the hand are so sensitive, this works better than the conventional foot-on-the-floor wisdom.
10. Unstitch your side!
If you're like most people, when you run, you exhale as your right foot hits the ground. This puts downward pressure on your liver (which lives on your right side), which then tugs at the diaphragm and creates a side stitch, according to The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Men. The fix: Exhale as your left foot strikes the ground.
11. Stanch blood with a single finger!
Pinching your nose and leaning back is a great way to stop a nosebleed -- if you don't mind choking on your own O positive. A more civil approach: Put some cotton on your upper gums -- just behind that small dent below your nose -- and press against it, hard. "Most bleeds come from the front of the septum, the cartilage wall that divides the nose," says Peter Desmarais, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Entabeni Hospital, in Durban, South Africa. "Pressing here helps stop them."
12. Make your heart stand still!
Trying to quell first-date jitters? Blow on your thumb. The vagus nerve, which governs heart rate, can be controlled through breathing, says Ben Abo, an emergency medical- services specialist at the University of Pittsburgh. It'll get your heart rate back to normal.
13. Thaw your brain!
Too much Chipwich too fast will freeze the brains of lesser men. As for you, press your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth, covering as much as you can. "Since the nerves in the roof of your mouth get extremely cold, your body thinks your brain is freezing, too," says Abo. "In compensating, it overheats, causing an ice-cream headache." The more pressure you apply to the roof of your mouth, the faster your headache will subside.
14. Prevent near-sightedness!
Poor distance vision is rarely caused by genetics, says Anne Barber, O.D., an optometrist in Tacoma, Washington. "It's usually caused by near-point stress." In other words, staring at your computer screen for too long. So flex your way to 20/20 vision. Every few hours during the day, close your eyes, tense your body, take a deep breath, and, after a few seconds, release your breath and muscles at the same time. Tightening and releasing muscles such as the biceps and glutes can trick involuntary muscles -- like the eyes -- into relaxing as well.
15. Wake the dead!
If your hand falls asleep while you're driving or sitting in an odd position, rock your head from side to side. It'll painlessly banish your pins and needles in less than a minute, says Dr. DeStefano. A tingly hand or arm is often the result of compression in the bundle of nerves in your neck; loosening your neck muscles releases the pressure. Compressed nerves lower in the body govern the feet, so don't let your sleeping dogs lie. Stand up and walk around.
16. Impress your friends!
Next time you're at a party, try this trick: Have a person hold one arm straight out to the side, palm down, and instruct him to maintain this position. Then place two fingers on his wrist and push down. He'll resist. Now have him put one foot on a surface that's a half inch higher (a few magazines) and repeat. This time his arm will cave like the French. By misaligning his hips, you've offset his spine, says Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Results Fitness, in Santa Clarita, California. Your brain senses that the spine is vulnerable, so it shuts down the body's ability to resist.
17. Breathe underwater!
If you're dying to retrieve that quarter from the bottom of the pool, take several short breaths first -- essentially, hyperventilate. When you're underwater, it's not a lack of oxygen that makes you desperate for a breath; it's the buildup of carbon dioxide, which makes your blood acidic, which signals your brain that somethin' ain't right. "When you hyperventilate, the influx of oxygen lowers blood acidity," says Jonathan Armbruster, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at Auburn University. "This tricks your brain into thinking it has more oxygen." It'll buy you up to 10 seconds.
18. Read minds!
Your own! "If you're giving a speech the next day, review it before falling asleep," says Candi Heimgartner, an instructor of biological sciences at the University of Idaho. Since most memory consolidation happens during sleep, anything you read right before bed is more likely to be encoded as long-term memory.
…but not “what?”
Have a guy follow you into the men’s room.
Vaguely notice as he goes into a stall.
Definitely notice when you hear him say, “Huh…that’s weird.”
And in what’s I think a physically rather improbable feat, earlier today I couldn’t help but notice, unfortunately, that there was…uh…well, I'll just come out and say it: there was urine on top of the urinal in the bathroom.
I can’t quite wrap my head around that one, some legendary film stars notwithstanding. I mean…that’s one hell of a bad shot.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…the water’s awfully cold—and it sure is deep. I know. I know.
Okay, this is really weird.
I’ve had tinnitus for over a year now—at least, I’ve noticed it for that long, although I don’t know when it really started.
But you may have heard about that new ring tone that only teenagers can hear, so they can notice when they get a call on their cell phone, or a text message, and us dumb grown-ups’ll be none the wiser, right?
Well, this guy devoted a page to hearing tests. Or, more accurately, towards lots of different frequencies to see where your hearing loss starts.
It’s really interesting. And if it’s on the up-and-up, I think I’m pretty weird. Yeah, I know—news, right?
So here’s the thing: I can hear all the tests up to and including the 17,000—in fact, most of them are darn uncomfortable, so consider yourself warned about that. But I can’t hear 18,000-20,000 at all. Yet I can hear the 21,000 and up again just fine. Kinda odd, no?
My ears hurt even worse now. Lovely.
Anyhoo, I’m off to roll up one trouser and unroll the other, I think.
Some of you may have already known about this. Being bereft of cable, however, I still get most of my news by Pony Express.
As though we didn’t have enough to worry about, what with Iraq falling apart, plans to hasten the end of the world by nuking Iran, Big Brother listening in on our every phone call and reading our emails (hey, I didn’t ask for all those Viagra ads to be sent to me! Although, actually, the breast enhancement spam? Yeah, actually, I did request some of those. What can I say? I’ve always been self-conscious about my lack of impressive accoutrements; it’s a societal thang), and the likelihood that your ISP will shake you down to ensure you get your recommended daily dose of Left of the Dial, now this:
The Grizzly-polar bear hybrid was a hybrid animal discovered on Banks Island, Northwest Territories, Canada, reportedly in April 2006.
The bear was shot by an American hunter. Later, officials took interest in the creature after noticing it had thick, creamy white fur, typical of polar bears, as well as long claws; a humped back; a shallow face; and brown patches around its eyes, nose, back, and one foot, which are all traits of grizzly bears.
A DNA test confirmed that it was a hybrid. It is currently the first documented case in the wild, though it was known that this hybrid was possible and other ursid hybrids have been reported in the past.
The media has refer to this animal as Pizzly, Grolar Bear, Grolar and Polargrizz; however, there is no general consensus on the use of any one of these terms.
Okay, I can’t help it. I’m simultaneously somewhat horrified and reluctantly amused that we discovered this rare new beast because someone shot it.
Personally, I like "pizzly" best, and "grolar" is good too, but why stop there? "Polzzly" certainly has potential—it's really fun to say: go ahead, try it out—and "grizzlar?" "Grizzlar" is good. "Grizzlar" is really good. Maybe sounds too much like a bargain-basement steak joint, but is that so inappropriate?
Okay, these photos totally wig me out. The whole concept is so straight outta a sci-fi flick.
Technology, man. I think I’m at slightly more tech-savvy than the average bear (although probably not the average llama or the average pastafarian piratefish), but there are times I feel like the tribe from that old Saturday Night Live skit:
"It is a good idea. But it is a new idea. Therefore we fear it. Therefore we shall reject it."
So this piece bums me out a bit. I’ve often pontificated that music is the greatest of all arts because it’s the least necessary. Arts such as painting are really just more developed versions of cave drawings, and sculpture just takes that into three dimensions. Arts which use language—drama or poetry, for instance—are just more developed versions of "bear come eat."
Ah, but music—what’s the point? There is none. How does it help out species survive? It doesn’t. It just makes that survival way more pleasant. It gives that survival meaning.
Or so I used to spout. Turns out that, as so often happens, I was wrong. I know, big damn surprise.
Caveman Crooners May Have Helped Early Humans Survive
March 31, 2006
In Steven Mithen's imagination, the small band of Neanderthals gathered 50,000 years ago around the caves of Le Moustier, in what is now the Dordogne region of France, were butchering carcasses, scraping skins, shaping ax heads -- and singing.
One of the fur-clad men started it, a rhythmic sound with rising and falling pitch, and others picked it up, indicating their willingness to cooperate both in the moment and in the future, when the group would have to hunt or fend off predators. The music promoted "a sense of we-ness, of being together in the same situation facing the same problems," suggests Prof. Mithen, an archaeologist at England's Reading University. Music, he says, creates "a social rather than a merely individual identity." And that may solve a longstanding mystery.
Music gives biologists fits. Its ubiquity in human cultures, and strong evidence that the brain comes preloaded with musical circuits, suggest that music is as much a product of human evolution as, say, thumbs. But that raises the question of what music is for. Back in 1871, Darwin speculated that human music, like bird songs, attracts mates. Or, as he put it, prelinguistic human ancestors tried "to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm."
Some scientists today share that view. "Music was shaped by sexual selection to function mostly as a courtship display," Geoffrey Miller, of the University of New Mexico, argued in a 2001 paper. But like Darwin, he bases that conclusion on the belief that music has "no identifiable survival benefits." If a trait doesn't help creatures survive, then it can persist generation after generation only if it helps them reproduce.
Studies in neuroscience and anthropology, however, suggest that music did help human ancestors survive, particularly before language. In "The Singing Neanderthals," which Harvard University Press is publishing today, Prof. Mithen weaves those studies into an intriguing argument that "language may have been built on the neural underpinnings of music."
He starts with evidence that music is not merely a side effect of intelligence and language, as some argue. Instead, recent discoveries suggest that music lays sole claim to specific neural real estate. Consider musical savants. Although learning-disabled or retarded, they have astounding musical abilities. One savant could hardly speak or understand words, yet he played flawlessly a simple piano melody from memory despite hearing it only once. In an encore, he added left-hand chords and transposed it into a minor key.
"Music," says Prof. Mithen, "can exist within the brain in the absence of language," a sign that the two evolved independently. And since language impairment does not wipe out musical ability, the latter "must have a longer evolutionary history."
In the opposite of musical savantism, people with "amusia" can't perceive changes in rhythm, identify melodies they've heard before or recognize changes in pitch. Since they have normal hearing and language, the problem must lie in brain circuits that are music-specific.
More evidence that the brain has dedicated, inborn musical circuits is that even babies have musical preferences, finds Sandra Trehub of the University of Toronto. They listen longer to perfect fifths and perfect fourths, and look pained by minor thirds.
If music is indeed an innate, stand-alone adaptation, then evolution could have nursed it along over the eons only if it helped early humans survive. It did so, Prof. Mithen suggests, because "if music is about anything, it is about expressing and inducing emotion."
Particular notes elicit the same emotions from most people, regardless of culture, studies suggest. A major third (prominent in Beethoven's "Ode to Joy") sounds happy; a minor third (as in the gloomy first movements of Mahler's Fifth) provokes feelings of sadness and even doom. A major seventh expresses aspiration. The absence of a third seems unresolved, loose, as if hanging, adds jazz guitarist Michael Rood, 17 years old.
The fact that listeners hear the same emotion in a given musical score is something a Neanderthal crooner might have exploited. Music can manipulate people's emotional states (think of liturgical music, martial music or workplace music). Happy people are more cooperative and creative. By fostering cooperation and creativity among bands of early, prelanguage human ancestors, music would have given them a survival edge.
"If you can manipulate other people's emotions," says Prof. Mithen, "you have an advantage." Music also promotes social bonding, which was crucial when humans were more often hunted than hunter and finding food was no walk on the savannah. Proto-music "became a communication system" for "the expression of emotion and the forging of group identities," argues Prof. Mithen.
Because music has grammar-like qualities such as recursion, it might have served an even greater function. With music in the brain, early humans had the neural foundation for the development of what most distinguishes us from other animals: symbolic thought and language.
Incidentally, there’s no link and no attribution because someone sent it to me. I Googled the piece but couldn’t discover the author’s name. Editorial note: it wasn’t me.
I’ve always wondered if hearing a minor third as sad was a cultural thang. I’m fascinated to know it doesn’t seem to be and am going to try to learn more about that.
The Bean loves minor thirds.
So do I.
I don’t think Max or The Rose can hear the difference.
I don’t think The Boy can hear them at all.
I can’t sing them.
Top Management can.
The jury is still out on young Britney. She can certainly kick, though.
Glaciers Disappear in Before & After Photos
By Bjorn Carey
LiveScience Staff Writer
24 March 2006
Glacier National Park might soon need a new name.
The Montana park has 26 named glaciers today, down from 150 in 1850. Those that remain are typically mere remnants of their former frozen selves, a new gallery of before and after images reveals.
All arguments about global warming aside, now is a time of clear retreat by age-old ice packs in many locations around the world. Some retreat just a few inches or feet per year, but others are melting faster than a snow cone in Texas.
80 feet per day
Montana might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of glaciers. Elsewhere, however, the situation is similar.
The Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound, the world's fastest-melting glacier, slides into the ocean at a rate of 80 feet per day. This tidewater glacier is up to 3,000 feet thick, but it has thinned up to 1,300 feet in places during the past 25 years, and researchers say it's stretching like taffy. Each year, it dumps 2 cubic miles of ice into the sound.
In Greenland it's not uncommon nowadays for glaciers to recede several miles in one year.
Fast or slow, the melting is usually a gradual process compared to, say, a flooded, rushing river. But sometimes glaciers can weaken to the point where they suddenly, and noisily, collapse. One dramatic example of a quick break is the Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica (this collapse also revealed a surprisingly thriving underwater world).
Along with glacial melting, permafrost around the globe is turning to mush, causing ground to simply collapse.
All this melting might lead one to believe that land is being freed up, but a new study suggests just the opposite. Melting glaciers, a result of global warming, could cause sea levels to rise as much as three feet per century, submerging coastal regions.
Summers in parts of the Arctic could be ice free in the next 100 years, which could prove daunting for the existence of polar bears.
Closer to home
Ice in Glacier National Park is also disappearing.
In 1997 the U.S. Geological Survey began the Repeat Photography Project in the Montana park to compare how glaciers have changed over the last century. Photographers returned to locations where old-timers had taken photos long before they could possibly have imagined their scientific value. Locating these vantage points was the trickiest part of the project, as some required extensive off-trail hiking.
The before and after pictures [Gallery] released this week are dramatic—all that remains of some glaciers are big puddles. Others have simply faded away to expose bare mountainsides. The images were taken at similar times of year under similar conditions.
Based on the pictures and global recession rates, scientists predict that the park will be glacier free by 2030.
While global warming gets most of the blame for glacier recession, soot pollution from automobiles and industrial chimneys might also play a role. Clean, shiny ice reflects sunlight and remains cool. But dirty, soot-covered ice absorbs more warmth from the sun, causing a glacier to melt more quickly.
Tribute Glacier Facts
About 10 percent of Earth's land is covered with glaciers.
During the last Ice Age, glaciers covered 32 percent of land.
Glaciers store about 75 percent of the world's fresh water.
Antarctic ice is more than 2.6 miles (4,200 meters) thick in some areas.
If all land ice melted, sea level would rise approximately 230 feet (70 meters) worldwide.
© 1999-2006 Imaginova Corp. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
If you go to the site itself and read the article there, you get to see the horrifying photos of what used to be actual glaciers in Glacier National Park.
It’s like we’re an entire planet of spoiled rich little brats who simply can’t be arsed to take care of the presents we’ve been given.
Major thanks to the Llamabutchers for this, one of the finest pieces of writing I’ve encounted in quite some time.
Reflections On The Tiny Lizard That Scurried Out Of My Way As I Was Heading To The Shops Yesterday Afternoon Or, On Being The Wrong Size
So here's me, 175cm tall and eighty kilograms, and here's my fellow vertebrate, all of two inches long and weighing maybe a gram.
Which led me to musing. With all the problems of the world becoming overcrowded and resources running out, wouldn't things be better if we were smaller? What really counts is our brains, right?
So, we replace our brains with self-assembling nanotech (or possibly quantum) systems that are a thousand times more computationally efficient. That means that for the same level of intelligence, we only need one thousandth the amount of brain - and one thousandth the body mass to support it. Which means a thousand times less impact on the environment.
Since we'd be ten times smaller (lengthwise), we'd each want one hundredth the living area we currently do. That means that with current crowding levels we could increase our world population to 660 billion while consuming just one tenth our current resources.
This has obvious advantages: With 12 billion Japanese, the amount of anime produced would be huge. Blockbuster movies like The Lord of the Rings would be a dime a dozen, thanks to the massive new audience available.
There's other, less obvious rewards. Ever fallen and hurt yourself? No more! It will be impossible to hurt yourself just by tripping over something - your centre of mass is only three inches off the ground. And while your bones and tendons are now a hundred times weaker, they only need to support one thousandth the weight, so they are proportionally ten times stronger.
And the downside? Well, JBS Haldane wrote about this nearly eighty years ago. One is temperature regulation; we are warm-blooded and need to eat to maintain our temperature. As much smaller creatures, we would lose body heat much more rapidly, because the ratio of surface area to volume has increased. But that's a fairly straightforward problem for an advanced civilisation; we already have reverse-cycle air conditioning. (And clothes, for that matter.)
You can go to the original site to read the entire thing, and I most highly recommend that you do. Good, good stuff, boy. My life is a bit better for having read this.
There is freaky. There is scary. And then there is this:
Ohio Company Implants Workers With ID Chips
And in Ohio, a private video surveillance company called CityWatcher has embedded radio transmitter ID chips into two of its employees.
It is believed to be the first time U.S. workers have been electronically tagged for identification purposes.
Privacy activist Liz McIntyre said "There are very serious privacy and civil liberty issues of having people permanently numbered."
The company has planted the electronic chip into the upper right arms of two employees. The implants ensure that only those two employees have access to a room where the company holds security video footage for government agencies and the police.
The "radio frequency identification tags" are made by the U.S. company VeriChip. The technology allows a company or government to permanently track anyone embedded with an ID chip.
As a big fan of privacy and security, I’m glad that this company is taking serious steps to make sure those thing are being protected.
But I’d really, really, really rather these weren’t the steps. As the Chicago Tribune put it:
One indisputable answer in our increasingly technological society is that anything that can be done eventually will be done. And millions of RFID chips already are in use in the United States to track everything from pets to livestock to research animals to packages shipped by truck.
Implanting them in humans is just one more step. In 2004 the federal Food and Drug Administration approved an implantable microchip to store medical information right on a patient's person, as a means to reduce errors and improve treatment. About the same time, the attorney general of Mexico began use of implanted chips to control access of officers to high-security offices.
Ultimately, of course, government and the courts will be called upon to decide whether such technology constitutes an invasion of personal privacy and the right to free association.
Use of the chips was entirely voluntary in the Cincinnati case, but what if workers at, say, a large warehousing operation, were required, as a condition of employment, to have similar implants so the boss could keep track of them?
Most Americans would probably balk at such a requirement, but many also would be surprised to know that the Constitution does not include an express right of privacy.
A series of court decisions over the years have construed rights of privacy from the Bill of Rights as, for example, in the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees security of "persons, houses, papers, and effects" against unreasonable search and seizure under the law.
Some legal thinkers, however, including a couple now inhabiting seats on the U.S. Supreme Court, contend that no general right of privacy exists.
In the final analysis, a person's privacy is probably as much a matter of expectation as anything, and substantial vigilance will be required by the American public to maintain a right that is, or should be, more than skin deep.
This seems like such a precarious step onto that slippery slope. This is just way too sci-fi/Orwellian. It just feels so wrong.
People frequently find it hard to believe Top Management when she explains that I’m a hermit. "But he seems so normal and friendly!" they’ll exclaim, or so she reports—not being there, I wouldn’t know; I was almost certainly, sensibly, at home. Of course. That’s why we bought a house. So we’d have somewhere to be. Why intentionally put yourself in debt for the next thirty years and then not even use the thing that’s got you totally screwed financially? And they think *I’m* odd…
So Top Management has taken to explaining about the somewhat difficult nature of her husband within minutes of meeting people for the first time, in order to minimize the awkwardness later when they want to actually talk to him. That is, me. The reclusive one. The recluse. Hi.
But the thing is, I really like people—I do. A lot. In fact, I like people so much that I want to actually talk to them, ask them questions and hear the answers, to try to find out what they really think about things, what they believe in, what they like and dislike. And experience has taught me that there is almost no chance to learn any of that stuff at a crowded neighborhood get-together. Which doesn’t mean neighborhood get-togethers aren’t fine things. Because they clearly are, and lots and lots of folks clearly love ‘em. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so dadblamed many of ‘em. So they’re ducky inventions. They’re just not for me. Not my scene, dude.
I was quite pleased, therefore, to read the following article a few years back in the March 2003 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. I offer it here as a service to those who wish to suss out other oddballs such as me in the hopes it will lead to Peace, Love and Understanding.
Now leave me alone.
Caring for Your Introvert
The habits and needs of a little-understood group
by Jonathan Rauch
Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?
If so, do you tell this person he is "too serious," or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?
If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren't caring for him properly. Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people (I am not making this up). If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.
I know. My name is Jonathan, and I am an introvert.
Oh, for years I denied it. After all, I have good social skills. I am not morose or misanthropic. Usually. I am far from shy. I love long conversations that explore intimate thoughts or passionate interests. But at last I have self-identified and come out to my friends and colleagues. In doing so, I have found myself liberated from any number of damaging misconceptions and stereotypes. Now I am here to tell you what you need to know in order to respond sensitively and supportively to your own introverted family members, friends, and colleagues. Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts. It pays to learn the warning signs.
What is introversion? In its modern sense, the concept goes back to the 1920s and the psychologist Carl Jung. Today it is a mainstay of personality tests, including the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.
Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses."
How many people are introverts? I performed exhaustive research on this question, in the form of a quick Google search. The answer: About 25 percent. Or: Just under half. Or—my favorite—"a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population."
Are introverts misunderstood? Wildly. That, it appears, is our lot in life. "It is very difficult for an extrovert to understand an introvert," write the education experts Jill D. Burruss and Lisa Kaenzig. (They are also the source of the quotation in the previous paragraph.) Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They are as inscrutable as puppy dogs. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion. As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood. They listen for a moment and then go back to barking and yipping.
Are introverts oppressed? I would have to say so. For one thing, extroverts are overrepresented in politics, a profession in which only the garrulous are really comfortable. Look at George W. Bush. Look at Bill Clinton. They seem to come fully to life only around other people. To think of the few introverts who did rise to the top in politics—Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon—is merely to drive home the point. With the possible exception of Ronald Reagan, whose fabled aloofness and privateness were probably signs of a deep introverted streak (many actors, I've read, are introverts, and many introverts, when socializing, feel like actors), introverts are not considered "naturals" in politics.
Extroverts therefore dominate public life. This is a pity. If we introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place. As Coolidge is supposed to have said, "Don't you know that four fifths of all our troubles in this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still?" (He is also supposed to have said, "If you don't say anything, you won't be called on to repeat it." The only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself.)
With their endless appetite for talk and attention, extroverts also dominate social life, so they tend to set expectations. In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. "People person" is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like "guarded," "loner," "reserved," "taciturn," "self-contained," "private"—narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality. Female introverts, I suspect, must suffer especially. In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty.
Are introverts arrogant? Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts. Also, it is probably due to our lack of small talk, a lack that extroverts often mistake for disdain. We tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking, which is why their meetings never last less than six hours. "Introverts," writes a perceptive fellow named Thomas P. Crouser, in an online review of a recent book called Why Should Extroverts Make All the Money? (I'm not making that up, either), "are driven to distraction by the semi-internal dialogue extroverts tend to conduct. Introverts don't outwardly complain, instead roll their eyes and silently curse the darkness." Just so.
The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still, we endure stoically, because the etiquette books—written, no doubt, by extroverts—regard declining to banter as rude and gaps in conversation as awkward. We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts' Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say "I'm an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush."
How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice? First, recognize that it's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation.
Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don't say "What's the matter?" or "Are you all right?"
Third, don't say anything else, either.
All material copyright The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
To you, sir or madam, I give my most heartfelt thanks.
I speak, of course, to whomever designed the self-activating sinks now found, as in so many other fine establishments, in the spotless restrooms of Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital. I do not speak, for reasons of propriety, of the equally handy (so to speak) self-flushing urinals. I am given to understand the full-service models in the stalls operate the same way, but as I never, ever go in one of those, I have no way of knowing whether or not this information is true. Not that I would ever doubt Top Management in any way, of course, but as I don’t believe she has bodily functions as normal people do, living as she does most of the time on a higher plane of existence, it is unlikely she has first-hand (so to speak) knowledge of the subject and, generous soul that she is, is simply repeating what she's heard.
Anyhoo, oh benevolent and sanitary designer, I am in your debt eternally.
And if you could now do something about reversing the hinges on the restroom doors, so you don’t have to grab the hideously filthy and germ-ridden door handle in order to exit immediately after purifying your hands, well, that’d sure be swell.
So there’s been a lot of talk about how we’re entering perhaps a critical phase in world history (what else is new?) and an impending energy crisis (true) and how we now pretty much have no choice but to turn/return to nuclear power (debatable).
Of course, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl really made some folks kinda squeamish about the whole nukes thing and, on balance, I don’t think that’s unreasonable. If you’ve read any of the follow-ups on Chernobyl especially, it’s somewhere well north of horrifying. Who would willingly, gladly open themselves up to that possibility, were there any choice?
But, as usual, I don’t just piss and moan (although I certainly do that too), I also happen to have a solution, because I’m a can-do kinda guy (as long as publishing deadlines aren’t involved). And since my brainstorm will make neither side happy, but both sides about equally unhappy, it’d actually work (and never happen). So how’s that for a set-up? Well, here ‘tis:
If we must have nuclear power in this country—and I’m enough of a realist to say that if folks aren’t going to give up their SUVs or computers, then indeed it’s possible we must, at least to some extent—then I propose the following: every major executive from any energy company that owns and/or operates a nuclear power plant must live, with his immediate family, within five miles of a nuclear power plant. Relocation costs and a housing stipend, within reason, can even be part of the deal.
But as it stands now, most power plants, nuclear and otherwise, are located in areas where the per capita incomes are…well, to put it politely, they’re not in what most executives would consider "nice" neighborhoods. There are, of course, some exceptions…but, nationally, not many. And even some of the exceptions can be misleading: the one that was near us in Queens, for instance. Sure, the houses in the immediate area went for pretty good sums o’ money: say, $200,000. But a mile away the house prices were double that; it’s all relative, baby.
We can change the unfair nature of the way things are currently structured *and* be pretty much guaranteed safe nuclear power. Because if the entire board of directors lives with their children within five miles of a nuclear power plant, you can be damn sure safety is truly going to be Priority Number One, even over profits—and what are the odds on that happening otherwise?
An addendum to Monday's entry. Maybe it's not so much the "duh" category as the "ugh" category. It's not that the parents are ignorant, it's that they don't care about the children because, well, the children are unattractive. This just in:
A headline yesterday in Science Times was jolting: "Ugly Children May Get Parental Short Shrift." As Nicholas Bakalar wrote: "Canadian researchers have made a startling assertion: parents take better care of pretty children than they do ugly ones."
Researchers at the University of Alberta observed that at the supermarket, less adorable tykes were more often allowed to engage in potentially dangerous activities - like standing up in the shopping cart or wandering off. Good-looking children, especially boys, got more attention from their parents and were kept closer at hand.
"When it came to buckling up, pretty and ugly children were treated in starkly different ways, with seat belt use increasing in direct proportion to attractiveness," the article said. "When a woman was in charge, 4 percent of the homeliest children were strapped in, compared with 13.3 percent of the most attractive children." With fathers, it was even worse, "with none of the least attractive children secured with seat belts, while 12.5 percent of the prettiest children were."