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"I am the world crier, & this is my dangerous career...

I am the one to call your bluff, & this is my climate."

—Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)

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Saturday, February 26, 2000

Behavioral Drug Use In Toddlers Up Sharply: This report confirms many people's concerns. As a psychiatrist and the father of two young children, let me add my voice to theirs. I'm not as upset as many that the effect of the medications in subjects this young hasn't been tested. What troubles me immensely is how in the world anyone could be so confident that a toddler's overactivity, poor impulse control, or mood instability are pathological. And, if they are, isn't that what parental nurturance and containment are for? And if the parental influence is lacking, how obscene is it to think that a medication can compensate? I have written and taught about "ADHD" since I was a medical student, and in my view the more popular it has become, the less and less meaning the diagnosis has come to have, and the more and more overused it is. To our children's peril, and our society's. Update: Dr. H Klasen writes in the current issue of the Harvard Review of Psychiatry on "The Medicalization of Hyperactivity."

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40-ton boulder smashes home; little to salvage after direct hit. "I've lived here for 12 years, and for 12 years I've been
wondering when this was going to happen. When, not if. Why
anybody would build a house beneath these boulders is beyond
me."

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Son ticketed rushing father to hospital with chest pains:"... it appears McClendon violated
department policy when he stopped the family
and kept them at the scene for, Lee said, about
14 minutes. The family said it was more like 30
minutes."

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Thursday, February 24, 2000

the body politic / Germ Warfare by RUSTY UNGER (02/28/00: a long article from New York about the vehement and bitter controversy dividing the medical community about Lyme disease. First noticed in 1975 as a novel type of arthritis in Lyme, CT and determined to be caused by a tick-borne bacterium called borrelia, some maverick physicians want to alert their colleagues to their contention that the disease goes on in some cases to a persistent systemic form despite treatment. Of particular interest to me, as a psychiatrist, are reports that it may be behind certain puzzling cases of neurobehavioral symptoms. Most MDs scoff at these claims and discount case reports of patients whose deterioration has been reversed by aggressive recurrent treatment for the infectious process. "In one corner is a group of those predominantly university-based physicians who
develop drugs, receive research grants from federal health agencies, and often
advise insurance companies. They contend that Lyme is usually simple to
diagnose and easily curable with two to four weeks of oral antibiotics. Chronic
Lyme, they say, is extremely rare, not a disease but merely a group of
symptoms remaining after the initial infection is treated that usually disperse.

In the other corner stands a group of primary-care
doctors, those on the front lines who see Lyme
patients every day, and a number of other
scientists -- all of whom maintain that the illness
is far more complicated. Late-term or lingering
cases of Lyme disease, they say, may require six
months or more of oral antibiotic therapy and
intense intravenous therapy -- which some like to administer in a hyperbaric
chamber. They believe that the increased oxygen of the chamber helps kill the
tenacious spirochetes -- known as Borrelia burgdorferi -- deposited by the
blood-sucking deer tick. Burrowing rapidly into the tissues, joints, and central
nervous system, borrelia slightly resembles the syphilis spirochete in the way it
feeds, sleeps, and reproduces." Detractors have accused the more aggressive Lyme doctors of overdiagnosing and overtreating. But recently they've gone further. Several of the "Lyme literate" (as they are known by their supporters) are under investigation or have already lost their licenses. Bad medical practice or merely the unpopularity of their approach and beliefs? A case study in how illness definition has political as well as scientific influences...

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Readme Quick: Do you read too slowly, as most people who value reading complain about themselves? How do you measure up? Can you improve? The Slate reading test.

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Infiltration: Transit Tunnels FAQ: a guide to the art of exploring abandoned subway tracks and stations beneath several of our cities. Includes a discussion of the possibilities of attack by "mole people" who, in unrban legend, live in these tunnels. The FAQ includes a list of recent films featuring people infiltrating transit tunnels onscreen; I can't believe I've seen every film on the list. Infiltration is a 'zine "about going places you're not supposed to go" and a part of an urban exploration webring.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Wired notes the upsurge in weblogging:
"...For example, Memepool recently provided
links to sites for creating your own Old
Testament adventure, bubblewrap
lingerie, and entomophagy.

At the same time, Yahoo's What's New
linked to Philip Morris, Quaker Oatmeal,
and Clover Stornetta Farms.

Barger says in these days of
commerce-driven portals, weblogs are by
far the best way to explore the Net. So
efficient is the weblog circuit, Barger
estimates that anything new on the Web
will filter through the system within a
month."

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"Youíre probably wondering why I allowed you to
bang on my car, why I didnít simply drive
away and leave you sputtering in my rear-view. So let me tell you: I was
considering the possibility of opening my glove compartment, pulling out the
handgun I keep there, and sticking that gun into your mouth until you forked
over whatever money you keep in your expensive-looking riding suit. I battled
the temptation. You gambled on a strangerís decency, and this time you won." [via World New York]

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I've been pretty shaken since I learned last night about the death of a friend of mine, Phil Aranow. Phil was a beloved, deep, psychotherapist in Cambridge who wrote and taught about the integration of Buddhist theory into Western psychotherapy practice. I'd known Phil for almost thirty years since his younger brother and I became fast friends, and later roommates, the first day of college. His brother's violent murder several years after college took me down for a closer look with Phil. Although we were in and out of each other's lives, his marriage a decade later to one of my colleagues and friends at the hospital, and the birth of their first son around the same time my wife and I had our son, kept us pleasantly intertwined in spirit. I, who had found and lost my way with Buddhist teachings, was drawn to his even and mindful integration of Buddhist practice into this life. He was at the core of a group of psychotherapists, all practitioners of meditation, with whom my paths have crossed professionally in various ways in succeeding years. In recent times, as my work took me away from Cambridge and we were both busy with our families, we never got around to continuing to have lunch together as we had been doing. Phil and his family were driving to the airport last Friday night in Florida, returning from a working vacation and giving a workshop, when they were apparently hit head-on by a pickup truck. Thankfully, their two young boys are intact, but Phil succombed and his wife's condition is uncertain after surgery today. I'll be praying for her, for their children, and for the tragedy-stricken Aranow family. Phil, you'll remain on my heart....

Calligraphy: Heaven and Earth by Daigu Ryokan (1757-1831)



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Why I won't be reading Dave Eggers: I caught Christopher Lydon on NPR's The Connection talking today to this 24 year-old new literary darling and author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (for those of you that are not yet aware of the buzz, yes, that's the title, not my blurb). He also edits the literary quarterly, Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern and its net-spinoff, Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendencies. One caller to the radio talk show, fawning all over Eggers, made it sound as if his writing has single-handedly taken us past postmodernism and out the other side "to something clear and simple," or something to that effect (it turns out the caller was part of Eggers' little literary clique and a contributor to his magazine). To judge from his interview, simple at least is right! Lydon quickly realized that he wasn't going to get any scintillating answers to his questions, beyond repetitious echolalia, so he began to lead Eggers around by the nose affirming points that Lydon wanted to make in the interview. Is this what they mean by the self-referentiality they apply to his work?? (I thought I liked self-referentiality 'til now...) It was uncomfortable to see Lydon squirm to maintain the obligatory stance that his current guest was the best thing since sliced bread, and to see Eggers eating it up, despite the fact that it was probably the least self-reflective interview I've heard in a long while. Not a literary movement I'll be following, or a bestselling buzzbook I'll be buying, I'm afraid. And if another nail was needed in the coffinlid, Eggers is equated as wunderkind with NPR's This American Life host Ira Glass, to whose show he has apparently contributed. Glass is a smug self-satisfied commentator whose profundity I can't see impressing anyone more than himself. Someone has described This American Life as driveway radio -- you sit in your driveway when you arrive home, unable to bear shutting the car off 'til it's over; but, even as an inveterate NPR listener, I scramble to turn the radio off when Ira Glass comes on. (And I've written to my local NPR station saying I won't contribute to them anymore as long as they use Ira Glass' demeaning and smarmy spots, based on gleefully shaming hapless non-contributing listeners, in their fund drives.) Maybe I'm just too old for these Gen-X'ers who think they've seen and realized it all. Listening to the interview with Eggers, it seemed he emoted mostly angst about having to live up to the adulation. It was hard to see what he'd ever have to offer in the way of a second book, unless it was something spun off of that angst...(And in case you were wondering, I don't feel particularly ashamed in admitting that I don't feel particularly awful about generating a diatribe like this without reading the book.)


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Tuesday, February 22, 2000

Galileo swoops by volcanic Io
"Jupiter's strange moon Io is
literally bursting with volcanoes. Dozens of active
vents pepper the landscape, which also includes
gigantic frosty plains, towering mountains and
volcanic rings the size of California. The volcanoes
themselves are the hottest spots in the solar system
(not counting the sun) with temperatures exceeding
1800 K. The plumes, which rise 300 km into space, are so large that the Hubble
Space Telescope can see them from its low Earth orbit."

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I'm on an arts rip today, it seems. As the Grammies approach, recording companies are raking in the cash.
But record executives say they can't recall a bleaker time in pop music creativity. "They don't like the
music, they don't get it, and they're horrified that people like
Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera are becoming stars," said
Jeff Pollack, a programming consultant for more than 100 U.S.
radio stations. Are they elitists out of touch with mainstream taste? Or is mainstream taste no longer anything but what market forces make it?

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Ain't No Problem: A West Virginia linguistics professor says that heavily dialectical speech is no sign of lack of intelligence. And his detractors want his resignation.

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N.Y. arts group refuses regulations 'The New York Foundation for the Arts has pulled out of administrating a major city-sponsored art project this summer to paint and display 1,000 fiberglass cows. The city had sought to have the foundation impose a rule on artists stating: "Designs that are religious, political or sexual in nature will not be accepted."' [Arts Journal] First of all, after the wonderfully creative, zany and at times magical Chicago cows (which I was pleased to get to see), how derivative is this? I mean, why not thousands of fiberglass cats, or rats, or something? And hasn't Rudy Giuliani learned anything from the city's embarrassment in the Brooklyn Museum controversy? Update: Hew Orleans is doing fish.

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Portal of entry to the latest upgrade of the Jargon File, the canonical dictionary -- and more -- of computer/techie related terms. It also includes essays on such topics as "Jargon
Construction", "Hacker Writing Style", "Lamer-speak", and appendices that include hacker
folklore, an extensive bibliography, and a portrait of "J. Random Hacker". Netmeg.net offers one of the
better Jargon File search interfaces.

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Monday, February 21, 2000

Critics Slam Judge's No-Pregnancy Sentence: putting a womb in state custody.

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Sunday, February 20, 2000

'And here's today's space weather forecast...' "Space weather has joined earthquakes, hurricanes and gales in having official scales of severity. The worst events on the scale are accompanied by some severe impacts on human activities."

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