The new normal

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“Oh, the humanity,” cried Herbert Morrison, as he watched in horror as the giant airship, the Hindenburg, burst into flames at its mooring. The year was 1937, and Morrison’s words still echo down the decades. As the disaster unfolded in front of him, Morrison exclaimed, “…it’s falling, it’s crashing! Watch it, watch it, folks! Get out of the way, get out of the way! … Oh, the humanity… This is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed.” Eighty-three years later, uttering … click below for more!

Dandelions and civilization

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Whenever I see a lawn with dandelions, I think, “This is the home of civilized people. This is the home of people who care about the environment and their community. This is where bees are welcome.” When I see a monoculture lawn, bereft of weeds or dandelions, I think, “Here is the home of an anti-social family; a place where life is restricted, wildlife discouraged; where community and the environment don’t matter.” I feel the same when I see a … click below for more!

Hegseth, hand washing and social media

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Fox News host Pete Hegseth has said on air that he has not washed his hands for 10 years because “germs are not a real thing”. That’s the headline you read on dozens of media sites and shared throughout social media (this one from BBC News). Instant reactions (mine included) were “ewwww…” followed by negative comments on Fox News in general. But when you stop to think about it, could it be true? Can someone actually go a decade without … click below for more!

Local media is letting us down

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Rule number one in The Elements of Journalism is: “journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.” Number three is “Its essence is a discipline of verification.” Keep those two in mind as you read this. I recognize that local reporting is not always the same calibre as the investigative journalism we expect from national media, but in my view (and experience as a former reporter and editor), blindly accepting claims about health, wellness or science without questioning, let alone confirming … click below for more!

What is science? It’s not this stuff.

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Recently in a Facebook post, two of us were squabbling in typical Facebook-fashion over “alternative medicine” and related treatments (many of which came into the discussion as links to pseudoscience and/or charlatan’s websites). As is my wont, I continued to debunk these with links to actual medical sites and discussions on the topic from health services, universities and real doctors. The other person posted a link to a piece that had Dr. Nuzum – a naturopath*, not a medical doctor, who … click below for more!

The slow death of reading

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To me, one of the most depressing stories to come out of 2018 was posted in The Guardian, last August. Its headline read, “Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound.” Its subhead reads, “When the reading brain skims texts, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings or to perceive beauty. We need a new literacy for the digital age.” As an avid reader who has a dozen books or so on … click below for more!

Natural selection simplified

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I was startled by the simplicity of the forumla. Stephen Jay Gould, the late eminent paleontologist, biologist and historian of science, summed up Darwin’s basic theory of natural selection so eloquently and so succinctly that it rocked me back on my heels. It was something even a diehard creationist could understand (assuming he or she wanted to try…) First there are three basic facts Gould states about life and living creatures: All organisms produce more offspring than can possibly survive; … click below for more!

The greening of shaving

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But my brother Esau is an hairy man, but I am a smooth man. I recall those lines from a Beyond the Fringe sketch first released in 1964 (see below).* And so it was in my family: my brother was the hirsute Esau to my near-hairless Jacob. I didn’t need to shave until my late teens and even then it was iffy. That was in the late 1960s when sideburns and moustaches were the rage. By the time I could … click below for more!

Oumuamua: just a piece of rock

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If you can watch the whole bit of this piece of New Age woo hoo without flinching or giving up, you will likely shake your head at the utter, mindless gullibility of humankind. And it’s not even political. But by now you know the Net is crammed full of conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, food fads, creationism, homeopathy and other claptrap. And you already have seen how the wingnuts can easily bend and twist everything, taking stuff out of context or simply … click below for more!

The dogshit dilemma

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We have a problem with dogshit. Well, all municipalities do, of course, but ours is increasingly evident: it’s everywhere. And with the growing popularity of pets and our growing population, it’s becoming worse.* How do we deal with it? We pick it up, of course, as we dispose of it in our own garbage bins or in those provide by the municipality downtown or in our parks. That’s not merely what the bylaw says we have to do: it’s what … click below for more!

Ollie and pet rescue

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We are suckers for the face of a cat at the window, a hungry cat, a cold cat, a lost cat, a cat someone has abandoned to fend for themselves and is doing a poor job of it. The pleading eyes, the rough coat, the quiet shiver in the rain or the cold. How can you turn away from that and still call yourself human? Ollie, our latest addition to our household, was one of those faces, quite recently. We … click below for more!

The meaning of dreams

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Jack Kerouac woke up most mornings in the 1950s and scribbled into a bedside notebook what he could remember of his dreams. Characters from his novels interacted with fantasies and real life events. The result was eventually published in 1961 as his Book of Dreams; 184 pages of mostly spontaneous or stream-of-consciousness writing, as this excerpt shows: WALKING THROUGH SLUM SUBURBS of Mexico City I’m stopped by smiling threesome of cats who’ve disengaged themselves from the general fairly crowded evening … click below for more!

Hypergraphia

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An article in the September, 2016, issue of Doctor’s Review looks at the curious, compelling affliction called hypergraphia: the obsessive need to write. I never knew before this that there was an actual illness of this sort. As someone who is often driven by a deep compulsion to write, I am both curious and a little afraid to learn more. And of course, I turned to the internet. Curious because I always want to learn, especially when it’s something that might touch … click below for more!

Neanderthals: a love story

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Squat, hairy, broad shoulders, a big nose, beetle-browed with a low forehead. As Blind Willie McTell wrote in his classic song, Statesboro Blues, “I know ain’t good lookin’, but I swear I’m some sweet woman’s angel child.” That line might have been written for early Neanderthal cousins. First described as dim-witted and brutish, our more recent assessment of them is far less critical, especially of their tool-making and culture. But even the most complimentary of modern descriptions still make them … click below for more!

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