Sunday, May 30, 2021

IN MEMORIAM: Robert F. Starbuck

 

IN MEMORIAM: ROBERT F. STARBUCK

 

Robert F. Starbuck died a hero in Vietnam on February 4, 1967.  Only 25, he was a sergeant of an elite RECON Marine detachment holding a hill against overwhelming odds.  He was awarded the Silver Star, one of our armed forces’ highest decorations for bravery.

 

Bob and I were football teammates, high school classmates, and friends. He was very likeable and decent.  His death must have been shattering to his family. When I learned, much later than 1967, of his death, I pondered what I could do in his memory. Moving back to Walden, I found that our high school, Valley Central, held an annual awards ceremony for members of the athletic teams. I established the Robert F. Starbuck Captain’s Award in his honor, going each year to the captain of the football team, in recognition of Bob’s leadership, courage, strength, and service to our country.

 

Recently, a memorial ceremony was held in honor of our local servicemen who died. There is never enough we can do to thank such people.

 

The story of Bob’s last battle is one of those in the book, Honor the Warrior: The United States Marine Corps in Vietnam, by William L. Myers, published in 2000. Mr. Myers dedicates his book to the nearly 15,000 members of the U.S. Marine Corps who died in Viet Nam. His dedication includes this excerpt from a poem by Laurence Binyon:

 

          But they shall not grow old

          As we who are left grow old.

          Age will not weary them, nor the years condemn,

          But at the going down of the sun and in the morning

          We will remember them.

 

We do remember.

 


 From my TING AND I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion 

 

REVIEW of THE JOY OF CHEMISTRY

 

Review of THE JOY OF CHEMISTRY: A Quick Study Guide for Kids and Beginners to Learn Chemistry

Author: Nervana Elkhadragy, Ph.D.

 


This charming little book is intended to introduce kids to chemistry. It does so partly by anthropomorphizing atoms in a fashion sometimes cuddly, sometimes wrong. Chapter 1 sets the tone, “How Are Particles Similar to People?” The book’s title is appealing, as are the chapter titles, despite their simplification.

Unfortunately, simplification runs the risk of error.

For example, the answer to a Chapter 2 question, “Which one is easier to smell from a distance, hot or iced coffee?” is given as, “Diffusion occurs faster at a warmer temperature because particles have more kinetic energy, and thus move faster. That’s why we all enjoy the smell of freshly brewed coffee.” More nearly correct is that the temperature of the hot coffee produces a higher vapor pressure in the aromatic constituents, which then diffuse in the air at the same rate due to the air temperature, as do the aromatic components from cool coffee. “Freshly brewed coffee” smells better than stale coffee for other reasons as well.

Even so, questions and answers at the end of each chapter are generally a plus for reinforcing the lessons. A shortcoming is that each answer is introduced with an exclamation about how well the student has already answered it, such as, “Nice explanation!” Condescending?

Dr. Elkhadragy’s making particles into people requires us to extend a poetic license to the author for sentences such as, “Particles are like individuals. They think and make wise decisions.” Too cute to be true.

Similarly, drawing an analogy between the solar system and an atom produces “electrons are tiny particles that orbit the nucleus at a very high speed.” Too simple by far. The discussion later becomes more sophisticated with the introduction of the concept of electron shells. All in all, the description of the atom is mostly true and informative.

Next, we have compounds, “in which two or more elements decide to make a deal, hold a contract, and stay together.” Too folksy for my taste. I awaited details of the divorce.

A former science teacher myself, I enjoyed the description of the periodic table, not an easy thing to describe clearly and succinctly. One can easily remember that the specific groups of atoms had particular characteristics, like people in certain neighborhoods.

The book has an excellent discussion of the relative reactivity of the various kinds (groups) of elements.

It is easier to understand compound formation once one knows that atoms have “goals,” one of which (except for hydrogen and lithium) is to have eight electrons in the outermost shell. Group VII elements will tend to gain single electrons and become negative ions. Groups I, II, and III metals tend to give up electrons and become positive ions. Figure 6 has an atom preparing part with an electron.

Ionic and covalent bonding are well described once one gets past the idea of an atom’s “wanting.”

In sum, this well-written and well-edited book makes a painless introduction to essential aspects of chemistry. However, before using it in one’s classroom, consider how suited it is to the age of one’s students. Perhaps middle school students are the appropriate cohort.

P.S. The author has informed me that an upcoming revision will be addressing some of these concerns, in which case I will likely be happy to add another star to this review.

 https://www.amazon.com/Joy-Chemistry-Beginners-Analogies-Examples-ebook/dp/B0942V9B3V/ref=sr_1_5?crid=23HCOBI1PX8XE&dchild=1&keywords=joy+of+chemistry&qid=1621771058&sprefix=joy+of+chemistry%2Caps%2C201&sr=8-5

 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

SOURCE OF COVID-19 (WUHAN) CORONAVIRUS

 

In an extensive article, science writer Nicholas Wade summarizes:

Where We Are So Far

Neither the natural emergence nor the lab escape hypothesis can yet be ruled out. There is still no direct evidence for either. So no definitive conclusion can be reached.

That said, the available evidence leans more strongly in one direction than the other. Readers will form their own opinion. But it seems to me that proponents of lab escape can explain all the available facts about SARS2 considerably more easily than can those who favor natural emergence.

It’s documented that researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were doing gain-of-function experiments designed to make coronaviruses infect human cells and humanized mice. This is exactly the kind of experiment from which a SARS2-like virus could have emerged. The researchers were not vaccinated against the viruses under study, and they were working in the minimal safety conditions of a BSL2 laboratory. So escape of a virus would not be at all surprising. In all of China, the pandemic broke out on the doorstep of the Wuhan institute. The virus was already well adapted to humans, as expected for a virus grown in humanized mice. It possessed an unusual enhancement, a furin cleavage site, which is not possessed by any other known SARS-related beta-coronavirus, and this site included a double arginine codon also unknown among beta-coronaviruses. What more evidence could you want, aside from the presently unobtainable lab records documenting SARS2’s creation?

Proponents of natural emergence have a rather harder story to tell. The plausibility of their case rests on a single surmise, the expected parallel between the emergence of SARS2 and that of SARS1 and MERS. But none of the evidence expected in support of such a parallel history has yet emerged. No one has found the bat population that was the source of SARS2, if indeed it ever infected bats. No intermediate host has presented itself, despite an intensive search by Chinese authorities that included the testing of 80,000 animals. There is no evidence of the virus making multiple independent jumps from its intermediate host to people, as both the SARS1 and MERS viruses did. There is no evidence from hospital surveillance records of the epidemic gathering strength in the population as the virus evolved. There is no explanation of why a natural epidemic should break out in Wuhan and nowhere else. There is no good explanation of how the virus acquired its furin cleavage site, which no other SARS-related beta-coronavirus possesses, nor why the site is composed of human-preferred codons. The natural emergence theory battles a bristling array of implausibilities.

https://nicholaswade.medium.com/origin-of-covid-following-the-clues-6f03564c038


To which I would add that regardless of the origin, the Chinese Communist Party is responsible for having allowed it to be transmitted worldwide while preventing its transmission within China, an act of biological warfare. 

Tina Su Cooper Is Recovering

Days before Tina was sent home from the hospital, I had THE TALK with two sets of doctors et al.: Tina was wholly unresponsive though clearly alive, and at this time, 45 days after her multiple strokes, there was little hope of cognitive improvement. "What do you want us to do?" The subtext was: is this life worth saving, or shall we minimize our efforts? 

I explained to both sets that Tina had recovered unexpectedly 17years ago when the choice was "home or hospice?" and again a few years ago when she was returned to us in "a vegetative state," later to recover some ability to communicate and appreciate, the classic "Come-back Kid." Though at 77,  Tina is not a kid, she is a person with possibly years of life ahead.

I instructed the doctors to do what they could medically to save her life and protect her from pain, and we would resume around-the-clock nursing for her at home. 

She returned home earlier this week, essentially unresponsive, virtually comatose, and we wondered what would result. For a grim few days, we saw a lot of sleeping, some looking around pointlessly, no response to any touch or sound.

Yesterday, that changed. Nurse Mary Wilkinson asked her, "Are you feeling better?" Tina gave a small, definite nod! This was repeated several times.

Subsequently, Nurses Mary and Heather Geib and I have asked Tina simple questions like, "Are you warm enough?" and have gotten small but definite nodding motions of her head and some change in facial expression, even a hint of a smile.

She even mouthed "hi" when encouraged to do so by Heather. 

Also new, she is moving her head to view various parts of the room. 

This was not the case just days ago.

We think that successful care of her physical health will be accompanied by some continued improvement of her cognition and communication. We are thrilled.

Our prayerful watch reminded me of a Frost poem, "Neither Far Out Nor in Deep,"

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be---
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?



We have a limited view of our mysterious life, yet we persist in hoping,
and sometimes that hope is rewarded, as is prayer. 



Tuesday, April 27, 2021

No Longer Running Away, I Discovered God's Love

 

by Helen A. Bemis

 

 

     What is God really like?

     Is He someone to fear and run away from?

     In my youth, I was constantly told to be a good girl, and all my life, I have always worked at being a “good girl,” but….

     Now, I’m told I will not get to Heaven by my “good works” but only by God’s Grace.

     In my youth, I was also told that my God was an infinite, loving God.  I found the words “infinity” and “infinite” hard to understand when I was a little girl. I still find them hard to understand. 

     What I found even more confusing is: if I committed a sin, this infinite, loving God would not hesitate to send me straight to Hell.  The descriptions of Hell not only scared me as a child but still make me shiver in fear today. 

     I looked for love.  Sometimes it was in the wrong places.  I looked to be liked, not the same as being loved, but being liked did feel good.  Yet I found that if I wanted to be liked, I needed to follow the expectations of others, and sometimes that would conflict with my beliefs.

     My solution?  Usually, I ran away.  I ran away from a God I did not understand.  I ran away from difficult decisions.  I continued to long for love, and I wanted to understand the truth of God’s love. As I slowly began to recognize God’s love as compassionate, kind, sensitive, freely given, and so much more, I started to trust in His promises for me.

     As I discovered the truth about God, I recognized His love for me, and I realized fear had no place in God’s world of love. 

     Could the problem with “love” be that we only have one word (in the English language) for love?  Actually, there are at least three forms of love: sexual love, familial love, and compassionate (sometimes referred to as the Greek agape) love.

     The New International Version of the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes love as follows:

     “Love is patient; love is kind.  It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud.  It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

     One of the places in which I found God’s presence was with Mother Nature.  I took many strolls, and through the sounds, scents, and beauty on the 200-acre farm, I felt God’s presence.

     My childhood home sat on a hill, and at the bottom of this hill was a slow-moving trout stream.  When I walked by this stream, I could hear fish jumping and frogs croaking.    

     Milk-weed plants grew along the river banks. In mid-summer, their sweet perfume filled the air, luring the bees to snuggle inside flowers.  I found the river area a peaceful place, though never a quiet place. Besides the river’s sounds, the birds sang in joy or squawked in protest when I visited its shores.  During these times, it was easy to talk with God as I walked with Mother Nature.

     After high school graduation, I attended a school of nursing.  I did enjoy learning many things at this school, but I still ran away. At first, it was by sleeping ten to fourteen hours a day. Then, after thirteen months of study, I quit nursing school. I ran home. 

     Sometimes, the unknown scared me.  Running away seemed the best decision.

     During this time, I met my future husband. However, when I told my priest that I was planning to marry a Methodist, his response shocked me, “If you marry this man, you will go straight to Hell!”

     My husband and I have had our share of problems, but I never felt myself in Hell after we married.  I felt that my husband helped me to learn how to trust God.  Our firstborn was a son.  At eighteen months, he developed Reye’s  Syndrome, a disorder that, I learned later, would sometimes occur if you gave aspirin to a child who had the flu. 

     This time, I was willing to trust God with my son’s life.  My words were very hard for me to say, but they were my most honest and sincere prayer to God: “God, I realize that my son is really Your child.  I may have no right to ask for his life, but I am asking that You heal him.  I know You always give the highest good in any situation.  I trust You. I will honor whatever You decide in this time of his sickness.  Thy will be done!”

     I had not run away.  I would not run away from praying for God’s mercy and grace for our little boy. He did answer my prayer by healing our son.

 

     Mistakenly, through the years, I fell into the trap of believing in a “vending machine” God.  If I were a good girl and obeyed the rules, God would be “good” to me. 

     I went to church every Sunday, sang in the choir, and made many friends.  The ministers were varied, and as lessons about God continued, I still felt something was missing.  My time in the choir was my personal prayer time with God.  During that time, I had a few special “God Moments,” akin to viewing beautiful sunsets or rainbows. Yet, my longing was echoed in the choir’s hymn, “Nearer My God to Thee.” 

     Then came the disturbing news: breast cancer.  Oh, I knew that it was not the death sentence that it used to be, but I WAS scared, even as I said to others, “I’m not afraid to die.”

     I did feel I had more to accomplish with my life.  Prayers at church and the stories of others encouraged my resolve to “beat this cancer,” but truly, the key for me was how I began to listen to God.  At that time, the minister’s wife told me about her breast cancer experience.  She said that she felt it was the closest she had ever felt to God, “a very sacred time.”

     As I listened to her story, I knew I wanted to feel that special relationship with God.

     Medical procedures proceeded. After my lumpectomy, I was told the good news that the cancer was not in my lymph nodes.  Yet, the doctors wanted to have me go through a regimen of chemotherapy and possibly even radiation.

     My oncologist assured me she would use a very mild form of chemotherapy.  Even so, I still became very sick.  I did not understand why they needed to give me chemotherapy if the cancer had been completely removed.

     I sought a second opinion.  This oncologist explained the HER-2 factor that had been found in the cancer.  “It’s like your body is stepping on the gas (creating a cancer-forming factor), and chances are great that you would be getting another cancer within as short a time as four years.  The drug they use to stop your body from manufacturing the HER-2 will not work unless coupled with chemotherapy.

     “They have done many trials to see the best combination for each individual.  I believe I can find the one for you that will work without the side effects that you had experienced in the past.”

      He also explained my need for radiation.  “If you were to dig the dandelion weeds from your lawn, you might see some of these dandelion weeds still grow back.  That can be the same with breast cancer.  An occasional cancer cell might still be left in your breast.  Today they can zero in on the exact area of the cancer site and eliminate through radiation any such existing cells that may still be located in this area.”

     I agreed to the treatments of chemotherapy and radiation.

     During this time, I found that sometimes I could not fall asleep, even though I was exhausted from the treatments.  However, I discovered some wonderful blessings that only came by trusting God’s care for me.  I had learned to rest my body and not worry about every little “speed bump.” I called them “speed bumps” because these concerns could shake you up or make you worry without killing you. I began to recognize that most of these situations were not worth the time to be considered. 

     My priority became to look for laughter as well as things to be grateful for.  I listened to the silence and to the delightful sounds of the world around me.  I heard the birds singing, the soft sound of the wind tickling the trees, and the buzzing of the insects. I appreciated the blue of the sky, the shape of the clouds, the bright colors in the flowers around me.  I adopted the expression, “Stop and smell the roses,” as I smelled the fragrant air after a rainfall or the lawn after it had been freshly mowed.

     I discovered a sweet and precious friendship with God.  It surprised me.  It was like discovering a very special new Friend, and I wanted to learn more about Him.  We shared comfortable silences, as when you share a cup of coffee or a moment of companionship with a loved one. But it was so much better than that.  I now understand why some say that their relationship with God can be hard to explain.

     But is God’s love real only when He grants us our wishes?  He is certainly not a wish-dispenser!  He is not a God only to be valued only when giving us our desire!  What I discovered during this time may be a hard-to-describe love, a love like a precious jewel or like a profound solace.  It is often referred to as “a peace beyond understanding.”

     I discovered my God to be a very personal God.  He knows me and has showered me with awesome love.  He does what is best for me, even if I feel that it is not good for me.  He strengthens me in my weakness and blesses me with his gifts, gifts greater than I ever imagined.

     Discovering this personal God is an experience I wish for others. It satisfies the longing we endure, and it fills the emptiness that only He can fill. 

     I found in God’s love, indescribable peace and joy. Because I discovered God’s infinite love, I realized that I no longer wanted to run away.


Helen A. Bemis is a novelist who has written over a dozen books about the fictional Upstate New York town of Riverview and about the Riverview Animal Shelter and the pets, loves, conflicts, and kindness of these country people.

I have had the pleasure of being her editor and writing coach. Her books are readily obtained from Outskirts Press and amazon.com: 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=%22Helen+A.+Bemis%22&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

Sunday, April 11, 2021

CORONA VIRUS - FROM WUHAN LAB OR MARKET?

The Covid-19, a.k.a “Wuhan,” coronavirus has killed a half-million Americans already and sickened many, many times more.

A former head of the U.S. CDC now opines it likely originated in the Chinese government’s virology labs in Wuhan; this opinion is resisted by those who usually treat CDC statements as gospel.

It makes little difference whether the Chinese lab had an accident or the local meat market got unlucky and sloppy. We know the Chinese military has been investigating viruses as biological weapons, as we did at Ft. Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, where I served decades ago.

The Chinese Communists stopped domestic travel from Wuhan once they knew (and lied about) the human-to-human transmissibility of the virus. The CCP kept it a secret and allowed international travel to spread the virus worldwide, the sin for which they deserve to be excoriated, regardless of whether the virus came from Wuhan’s virology labs or its butcher shops.

Spreading the virus worldwide was an act of biological warfare few in the U.S. dare charge, as we would have to face the perfidy of the regime and the ghastliness of this attack on the rest of the world.

Suppose something like this pathogen had spread from Ft. Detrick or Frederick, MD, while I served there. I am sure that the American and international news media would not have hesitated to blame the U.S. government, especially if it were under the Republicans at the time. They would not have suspected the local ShopRite.

The first barrage of World War III was biological. 

Now what?

 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

REVIEW of THE WOKE SUPREMACY

The book's subtitle is "An Anti-Socialist Manifesto," and the author provides just that.  

86% of the over-300 reviews at amazon.com are 5 stars, well earned.

I have listened to the book twice using my Kindle and Alexa. The book made the nuttiness of the Woke Crusade more understandable, though no more attractive. They hate possessions (except theirs). countries (especially the USA), and religion (especially Christianity and Judaism, but not Islam). If you are a white male, you are a target, as I am.

In sum, they passionately maintain there is no right or wrong, except that Trump voters were terribly wrong. Got it?

To get the book: