Daily Archives: July 21, 2012

A new project on the X Blog

I’ve started a new, modest but I think good, project on The X Blog. I’ve dragged out and dusted off, and rewritten and reorganized, a selected series of essays that I wrote few years ago but were not widely read, especailly by you if you are fairly new to this blog. I’m going to be posting a few a week. The original corpus is about 40 or so essays in total but I’m combining some and it is quite possible that I’ll toss some aside as I get to them because I am trying to be selective.

Originally, these essays were written in batches, or as part of a theme, and there are several different batches or themes among them. But I realized the other day that they are also personal-historical and can be roughly ordered in relation to my own personal time line. (Hey, maybe I should post them as “events” on my Facebook page?!? Gotta use that time line thing for something!) So I’ve ordered them that way, which amuses me, though I’m sure it will mean little to anyone reading them.

I’d been planning on doing this for a while, but the impetus for doing it right now came from a conversation I had with a colleague. We are planning something that would require that we get hold of a blimp or Zeppelin or something. Some kind of airship. We’re working on that, and I’m sure you’ll hear about it if it happens. You see, the thing is, the first in this series of essays relates to blimps. And frightening nightmares and dead pets. An Nazis.

Please visit the X Blog and have a look at “Thump

My Journey Through Race and Racism

[W]hen I was a kid, everyone in my neighborhood was divided into categories along three dimensions. There were color differences (light vs. dark hair and skin), there was the Catholic vs. Protestant divide, and there was the binary distinction of whether or not your dad served in World War II. In fourth grade and again in seventh, I attended a new school and each time encountered a greater diversity of kids and teachers than I knew before, and learned about new kinds of people. At the same time, I would often visit my father at work, and during the summer he and I would have breakfast downtown at the Dewitt Clinton. Then we’d go our separate ways to our respective jobs (he had a real job…I had one of those urban make-work jobs designed to get the kids off the streets), and in these contexts, I met some adults that were different from the ones in my neighborhood.

So, over time, I learned about people who were different from me, and like anyone else, I formed opinions not just of these people, but opinions of the kinds of people I was beginning to learn about. Most of this ended up having to do with “ethnicity” and that, in turn, was shaped mainly by complexion, hair, and other physical features, and to a lesser but not insignificant degree, religion, cuisine, and other cultural traits. I was getting my identity ducks in a row. Continue reading My Journey Through Race and Racism


The smartest radio talk show in the world addresses ignorance, Sunday.

Skeptically Speaking # 174: Ignorance

This week, we’re looking at how the basic condition of not knowing things provides the motivation to keep science moving. We’re joined by Stuart Firestein, Chair of Columbia University’s Department of Biological Sciences, to talk about his book Ignorance: How It Drives Science. And on the podcast, we’re joined by Toronto attorney Adam Wygodny, to talk using the law to protect consumers from ineffective and untested alternative medicine products.

We record live with Stuart Firestein on Sunday, July 22 at 6 pm MT. The podcast will be available to download at 9 pm MT on Friday, July 27.

Details here.


[M]y heart would be racing and my breathing labored. I would be in the house, often in the basement or in the scary front hallway that was made into a dark crypt-like room for the mimeograph machine by being blocked off by a bookshelf on one end. I would hear the sound…

Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.

It was like a giant monster steadily tapping on the roof of the house, trying lazily to get my attention becuase it knew I was in there.

To escape a horrid but unspecified fate, I would have to get out of the house, and more than that, I had to make my way across the back yard to the base of the tree in the corner, where the fences met. This was the climbing tree. It was a medium-sized maple that I could climb quite high in, even as a small child. I could use it to jump into any one of three different yards (and later, as needed, retreat from said yards). I could climb into it and sit perfectly still and silent when my mother or my siblings came into the yard to do some thing, and they would finish their task and leave without ever knowing I was up there hiding. It was my escape tree, my spy tree, my safe tree. I knew I needed to get to that tree and, and then to find the hole at the base. The cage. The cage that was made out of a dug out hole at the base of the safe tree.

Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Louder. Continue reading Thump