table of contents
Collected editorials

Inquiring minds really aren’t all that interested

Medical notes

I have something. I’ve had two cataracts out. I’ve had yet another colonoscopy. Apparently I’ve mono. Now it appears that I might have primary myelofibrosis. Then again I might have something else. I’ve had a bone marrow biopsy done. The results suggest that … well they suggest something, probably that I have something weird going on. The upshot is that my platelet count has gone to hell on the low side. I will report more when I know more.

Back in the old days

Every once in a while the kids start reminiscing about the old days and they keep trying to top each other. One of them will start off about he remembers when they didn’t have tractors and they had to pull plows with horses. Then the next one will pick it up with “You had plows!? We would’ve loved to have had plows. We had to scratch a row in the dirt with a stick.” Then somebody would go on about they would have loved to have sticks; they had to scratch a row in the dirt by hand. Then someone would weigh in that all they had were rocks – they would’ve died for dirt.

I enjoy listening to the kids go on just as though they were really old timers. I don’t say anything though – you see, I wouldn’t want them to feel bad. Now me, I go back a ways. Like I remember how it was before the big bang – there wasn’t any space, any time, or any matter. Talk about boring! Then the big bang happened and we got so excited. Word got around that some day we were going things like light and dark and even real atoms. We knew it would take a while, but we wanted it all right away. We were literally sick with anticipation. It was a good time to be sick – they didn’t have health care plans back then.

So when the kids go on about the old days, I just sit back and listen. Kids, you gotta love them.

Flying in America

One of the sites that I follow is slashdot.org, aka, news for geeks. It had comments on this story:
(CNN) — The Transportation Security Administration stood by its security officers Sunday after a Florida woman complained that her cancer-stricken, 95-year-old mother was patted down and forced to remove her adult diaper while going through security.
There were quite a few acerbic comments. One that I liked the best was:
America is on my No-Fly List, and has been for a good long while.

I can simulate the air travel experience in my own room by pushing my desk chair all the way up to my desk, putting a couple of boxes in front of my legs, and watching DVDs from 8 years ago on repeat. For that added authentic experience, i’ll invite two fat sweaty nerds to sit either side of me and flick peanuts at each other. The icing on the cake really is the 45 year old balding rent-a-cop sexually assaulting me at my bedroom door.

I can relate to that. Once upon a time I enjoyed flying. That was back in the middle of the last century. In the latter years of the twentieth century and the present benighted century air travel in the US has become a horror. I do not need refresher lessons on being a sardine. I do not need the TSA. I do not need to spend significant portions of my lifetime waiting in terminals and grounded airplanes. Life should be a pleasant experience – flying is not.


The online Journal of Cosmology has an interesting article on abiogenesis. Over the years there have been many speculative proposals on how life might have got started on Earth. In the past the proposals have been much longer on speculation than they have on substance. Things have been heating up in the last couple of decades. There is a lot of chemistry that has to be understood first, but they are a long way past simple speculation. The article argues for an alkaline smoker origin.

The journal is an interesting place to visit if you are interested in cosmology, astrobiology, and the origin of life. (We all are, aren’t we?) It is peer reviewed and, as far as I can, fully as good as many paper journals.

Speaking of brains

There is new hope for conservatives. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have managed to grow rat brains in a dish. When your doctor tells you that too many years of watching Fox News has totally destroyed your brain, you can get a brand new improved model. Just be careful about washing the dishes.

The Little House of Horrors on the Prairie

Some of you may be wondering why I am once again skipping issues in the summer heat. Well it’s like this. There have been a few things going on. To begin with in December I acquired some really nasty viral respiratory ailment, complete with high fever and weird stuff. In due course I got over it – or so I thought. In the months afterwards She Who Delights My Heart worried about me. That’s her job. My job is to give her something to worry about. It seems she felt that I was somewhat under the weather and not as energetic as I usually am. I disagreed. After all I am a real man, and real men don’t get run down or depressed or any of that stuff. We just suck it up.

For sundry reasons I decided to change doctors. My new doctor wanted a blood work up. That was okay with me. I had had one done last year and the numbers were all in range. Mr. Healthy Lifestyle, that’s me. Huh, so much my theories on life. This time the numbers were not in range. I was border line anemic and my platelet count was absurdly low. Remember platelet counts. Back in 2008 and 2008 Mayo was busting my chops because my platelet counts were out of range on the high side. Sometimes you just can’t win.

My new doctor sent me off to see a hematologist. Fortunately I had seen one before who had tested my platelet count and found that it was normal. This time he said it sounded like I was still recovering from a viral infection, probably mono. He had them run a test for some markers for, ah, mono. Yes, mono. Apparently bad viral infections can turn into mono. And so it was – at the overly ripe old age of 75 I had acquired the college kissing disease. Let me assure my readers that I was not kissing any colleges or even any college misses.

So that was the first strike against me. I like to think that I am incredibly healthy for someone in my condition. As my readers may recall, Deborah and I are engaged and expect to be married August 27 of this year. This is not as simple as it may sound. We have decided to live together happily ever after in Chez Harter. Each of us has a lot of stuff. Somehow we have to combine our possessions. This is not easy. We now have a storage unit. Sniff! More than that, Deborah insisted on a certain amount of "minor" remodelling. This involves things such as tearing out a closet in my office, adding an enclosure for a washer and drier in the existing bathroom, converting the utility room into her bedroom, and putting in a new bathroom off of her bedroom. Little things, nothing major you understand. Oh yes, a brand new front door. Deborah has wanted a new front door for years. It’s actually rather nice.

Naturally she wanted to get started on all of this right away. Didn’t happen. First we had to get rid of winter. Winter and the Spring from Hell lasted well into May. Eventually the weather relented and thus began a season of remodelling. Friends, sisters, spouses of sisters (thank you Lois and Anna), plumbers, electricians, and carpenters trouped in and out. Studs were erected (that’s not what you think), holes were drilled in studs (also not what you think), walls were rocked and mudded, old lights were taken down, new lights were put up, switches and outlets appeared in new and strange places, cement floors were torn up and redone, plumbing was installed, etc. I did my part, mostly by staying out of the way.

Oh, yes, then there was the matter of redoing the grounds. This is a beautiful place when it is kept up. Someone said that it looks like a park. That’s when it’s kept up. In the last couple of years we had let it slide a lot. The besides of which the last couple of years have been hot and steamy. Everything that could grow like mad did grow like mad. We have been planting stuff, trimming stuff, weeding, removing errant bushes, distributing ground clear where needed, and mowing grass.

Deborah planted a wonderful vegetable garden and a delightful herb garden.

To be honest, Deborah has done most of the work on the grounds. I helped, but there is a little problem. I’m not talking about the mono. This is the year when it was time to remove my cataracts. Ten years ago the eye doctor said, “you’ve got some small cataracts started.” I said, “What do I about them?” He said, “Nothing. Wait for them to grow bigger. They will. Some day they will need to be taken out.” I waited. They grew. I’ve had my cataract encrusted biological lens taken out and replaced by spiffy artificial ones. Just call me the bionic man. I like to tell people that I didn’t like what I was seeing on TV these days so I’ve gotten new eyes. Doesn’t seem to help.

The point of this little medical diversion is that the eye doctor laid down the law: Avoid gardening, no grass mowing, and avoid dust, particularly sawdust and joint compound dust. Life is like that. There is still a lot to do but it is all coming together.

Oh yes, 100 degree heat doesn’t help. As for web sites, you’re kidding, right.

Science! We don’t need no steenking science.

So sayeth Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Marilyn Eisenbraun. Actually she didn’t quite say that. What she wrote in court documents opposing efforts to free a wrongfully convicted man was “Science does not trump the testimony of individuals.” This even though eyewitness identification is well known to be unreliable.

Not clear on the concept department

The clipping to the right supposedly appeared in a San Francisco newspaper. I expect it did. If it didn’t it should have. It’s open to question whether the author was serious or not. There are people in this world who have a warped sense of humor. That is a good thing. Perhaps the author of that little ad put it in because there are people who really think that way, and he was poking fun at them. On the other hand there really are people that think that way.

One of the consequences of what we laughingly call civilization is that we humans have created artificial environments around us. We are biological creatures within the biosphere but we live within the technosphere we have created. As a result people are knowledgeable about technology but not so much about the simple facts of biology.

After all, if twinkies are made in completely automated factories, why not hamburger?

In the watch what we do, not what we say department

“The Justice Department shows no sign of rethinking its campaign to punish unauthorized disclosures to the news media, with five criminal cases so far under President Obama, compared with three under all previous presidents combined.”

This page was last updated August 6, 2011.

table of contents
Collected editorials