Archive for June 23rd, 2009

Rachel Toor, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education (via Andrew Sullivan’s blog), examines the importance of good writing. Regardless of the field one enters, be it science or business, if you write well, you’ll always have an advantage. If you don’t write well, you might wind up scaring your patient.

Toor writes:

Even now, when I get letters from my own physician giving me the results of lab tests, I cringe. Can I really trust someone to interpret complicated data if she can’t maintain control over her sentence structure? Communication is the fundamental element of most professions. Writing, as Plato reminded us, is a risky business. It should be approached with fear and trembling. Doctors and scientists might sometimes need a reminder that they are writing for humans.

For all the complaining I do when yet another uncivil, vulgar blast comes sailing across cyberspace, I really do like reading stories like this one from The New York Times. The headline says it nicely: “Web Pries Lid of Censorship by Iranian Government.”

Here’s a taste:

Shortly after Neda Agha-Soltan bled her life out on the Tehran pavement, the man whose 40-second video of her death has ricocheted around the world made a somber calculation in what has become the cat-and-mouse game of evading Iran’s censors. He knew that the government had been blocking Web sites like YouTube and Facebook. Trying to send the video there could have exposed him and his family.

Instead, he e-mailed the two-megabyte video to a nearby friend, who quickly forwarded it to the Voice of America, the newspaper The Guardian in London and five online friends in Europe, with a message that read, “Please let the world know.” It was one of those friends, an Iranian expatriate in the Netherlands, who posted it on Facebook, weeping as he did so, he recalled.

Copies of the video, as well as a shorter one shot by another witness, spread almost instantly to YouTube and were televised within hours by CNN. Despite a prolonged effort by Iran’s government to keep a media lid on the violent events unfolding on the streets, Ms. Agha-Soltan was transformed on the Web from a nameless victim into an icon of the Iranian protest movement.

Just a brief briefing of a few things that caught my eye this morning.


Has anyone noticed anything approaching hysteria in Albuquerque? No? I didn’t think so. Me neither.

But there it was right in the Los Angeles Times. Or as Al Martinez, who used to write a column for the paper before some bean counter lopped his head off, called it: The LA (by God) Times.

The story was on Manny Ramirez coming to play a few games with the Isotopes.

The general manager of the Dodgers’ triple-A affiliate, Traub has been involved in minor league baseball for 17 years. He said he has never seen anything like the hysteria that overtook Albuquerque when news broke that Ramirez could be headed its way.


Former New Mexico representative Heather Wilson writes in The Washington Post that we have a problem with cyber-security. Wilson served on the House intelligence committee for six years. She writes in the Post:

Congressional computers have been penetrated, probably by the Chinese. The avionics system of the F-22 fighter may be compromised. Computers of our presidential candidates were hacked into — and probably not by teenagers on a lark. Last year’s advance of Russian tanks into Georgia was accompanied by the disruption of Georgian government computer systems.

These are only public manifestations of a new reality: Attacks on computer systems will be an integral element of future conflict, and the United States is more dependent on computer networks than any other nation.


Pulitzer Prize winner Leonard Pitts offers a good argument that when it comes to race, the Republican party needs to take a good look at itself.

First, he offers Sherri Goforth, an aide to a Tennessee state senator, who sent out an e-mail depicting 44 American presidents, 43 of whom are shown in dignified poses. Barack Obama is shown as cartoon spook eyes against a black backdrop.

Then there’s this:

Well, after Goforth’s e-mail, after “Barack the Magic Negro,” and John McCain‘s campaign worker blaming a fictional black man for a fictional mugging, and a party official in Texas renaming the executive mansion “the black house,” and an official in Virginia claiming Obama‘s presidency would see free drugs and “mandatory black liberation theology,” and a Republican activist in South Carolina calling an escaped ape one of Michelle Obama’s “ancestors,” it seems wholly fair to me. Indeed, overdue.


Stanley Fish considers the question in his New York Times blog:

In fact – and this is what (Sonia) Sotomayor means when she talks about reaching a better conclusion than a white man who hasn’t lived her life – rather than distorting reality, perspectives illuminate it or at least that part of it they make manifest. It follows that no one perspective suffices to capture all aspects of reality and that, therefore, the presence in the interpretive arena of multiple perspectives is a good thing. In a given instance, the “Latina Judge” might reach a better decision not because she was better in some absolute, racial sense, but because she was better acquainted than her brethren with some aspects of the situation they were considering. (As many have observed in the context of the issue of gender differences, among the current justices, only Ruth Bader Ginsburg knows what it’s like to be a 13-year-old girl and might, by virtue of that knowledge, be better able to asses the impact on such a girl of a strip-search.)

One of these days at an airport somewhere in America, a SWAT team will descend on me. I just know it’s coming.

I thought it would happen after that 10-hour back surgery in 2006, when a neurosurgeon implanted enough titanium in my back for a decent set of golf clubs. Good ones, too. Something Tiger might seriously consider.

But no alarms went off. So about a week ago, I sailed through, while a good friend got the frisk routine, and the wand routine, and the third-degree about his new knee, which involves enough metal to get everyone in a TSA shirt within a 10-square mile radius considerably exercised. Bill said it happens every time at every airport.

And now I have a new back gizmo as of Monday morning. It’s an electronic  nerve stimulator surgically implanted in the back, the theory being that the electronic signals it sends to two leads attached to the spine will disrupt the pain signals going from the lower back to the brain.

I’ve not heard anything about this fine piece of science causing  a TSA commotion.

Oh, and does it work? I don’t know. It’s too early to tell. Right now, I’d be happy to make it past airport security without leg irons.