As anyone who has attempted to grow a vegetable garden can tell you, tomatoes can be some of the most rewarding, frustrating, challenging, and, at times, infuriating plants to grow. They can be temperamental, even fragile, and sometimes you can do absolutely every single thing correctly (or almost correctly) and you still lose your crop. There are bugs, fungi, worms, viruses, bacteria, blights, rots, and everything else in the world that can kill the plants, the fruit, or both.
In fact, at times I’m surprised there are enough tomatoes successfully grown in the world for us to have things like ketchup or pasta sauce.
In case you can’t tell, this year’s been a rough one in the garden.
One of the earliest memories I have, so early that it is more an impression than a memory, is the smell of warm donuts in the morning. I’ve written about this before for National Donut Day, but this first memory is a very important one. You see, when I was young, real young…like two or three… my father was in the US Navy and he was away from home a lot. Sometimes he was gone for weeks or even months at the time, especially once he was stationed on the USS Enterprise (CVN-65). But when he came home, it didn’t matter how tired he was or how long he’d been gone, one of the things he always did was go and get donuts for breakfast.
So that smell of warm bread, sugar, and chocolate frosting began to mean more than just a sweet treat to me. It meant home, and family, and as I grew older I recognized it for what it really was; the simple and consistent reflection of a deep and steady love of a dad for his family.
Today is Easter, the holiest day in the Christian faith, a day celebrated by billions around the world as the day that God gave himself for the sins of the world. As a Christian, born and raised in the faith, Easter has always been a big part of my life. I remember grudgingly waking up super early as a kid, when it was still dark and cool outside, and dressing in my best Sunday clothes that Mom had ironed and pressed the night before. We would pile into Granddaddy and Nanny’s silver Pontiac Parisienne, a steel land yacht that seemed to stretch for a mile and a half, and make our way down the little one lane dirt road to “the highway” and then on to the small brick church where the Presbyterians in our small farming community gathered. We’d stand outside in the cold, shivering, as our preacher, Dr. Dawes Graybeal, read passages from the Bible about the women who went to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty. Now, as an adult, I see that same wonder and amazement on my kids’ faces when they hear those same verses.
Easter has always been a holiday that centers around hope, rebirth, and the comfort that is found through perseverance through suffering. And today, perhaps more than any time in the last two thousand years, the world NEEDS that message. But in the past few days and weeks I’ve seen more people talking about where we are worshipping rather than what we are worshipping, and that is a problem.
Poster advertising the WW2 Victory Garden program
On December 7th, 1941 the United States was hit by the Empire of Japan in a surprise attack on our naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii–the date that will live in infamy. Though every moment of our lives is a dividing line in time, few moments are as clear a dividing line in the history of the world as that moment. It was that surprise attack that launched the US full steam into World War 2, started the research project that would eventually unlock the power of the atom, and destroyed one of the darkest, most evil creations of man’s history, the Nazis. There’s no question that like other major historical milestones (the detonation of the first atomic bomb, the assassination of JFK, or the attack on 9/11 to name a few) the world was suddenly divided into the “before” and the “after” of that event, and nothing would ever be the same.
We are currently living through one of those milestone events in history. Continue reading
When astronomers use some of the most powerful telescopes in the world (and orbiting it) to peer into the heavens and see the stars what they are really doing is taking a trip into the past. The light from many of the stellar bodies that scientists focus on today has been coursing through the cosmos for millions, if not billions of years. So what the astronomers see today is light that left those stars, galaxies, quasars, pulsars, etc. a long, LONG time ago, and often from a galaxy far far away.
In a very similar way, the numbers that epidemiologists use to describe an active epidemic or pandemic are not reflective of the current situation, but rather reflect the past–how far into the past depends on the virus or disease in question.
A lot has been written lately that compares the new SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, to the much more common and more familiar seasonal influenza virus that causes the dreaded flu. Personally, I think this is a very bad comparison, and one that should really be avoided at all costs, but it seems everyone from politicians to pundits to people in my friends lists is using the flu as the benchmark to measure by, so who am I to argue with consensus. So, let’s compare the experience Italy has had thus far this year with seasonal flu and COVID-19, and see which one is truly a bigger deal. Continue reading
In the Spring of 1918 a strain of Influenza that had never circulated in the human population before popped up in a group of soldiers training to fight in WW1 in Kansas. They took the virus to Europe with them. At first the infection was limited to the camp where the soldiers lived, and it killed a few hundred people. Not much of entry for a sickness that just a little less than a year later would sweep around the globe killing somewhere between 50 and 100 million people worldwide. Viruses are like the thermonuclear weapons of the biological world. They are mysterious, can strike without warning, and have the potential to cause destruction on a truly terrifying scale.
If you’re a child of the early 80’s like me (born in ’81) then you may also have enjoyed the X-Files when it was on the Fox networks in the early 90’s. For me, the X-Files was one of my favorite shows of all time, and it still is. This show was the first that I can remember that really explored the limits of the weird, creepy, nerdy, and, at times, downright terrifying. It was awesome, quirky, and still resonates as one of the best shows that Fox has ever aired (and not immediately cancelled like Firefly…yes, I’m still bitter).
So, in honor of Halloween, I have decided to put together a brief list of some of my favorite X-Files episodes that are perfect for a marathon on this, the creepiest of days. Also, if you’re looking for a place to watch the X-Files, I know all of the seasons are currently available on Hulu and I believe seasons 1-9 are free with Amazon Prime (10-11 you can rent), and the more we watch them, the more likely they are to stay there.
Electron micrograph of Ebola virus particle
The world is currently facing the second largest epidemic of Ebola virus in recorded history. Let me say that again, the 2018-19 Kivu epidemic is now the 2nd largest outbreak of the virus behind only the 2014 West African Ebola epidemic in both total cases and deaths. Ebola virus seems to be on the way to becoming an endemic disease in Africa which could pose a serious threat to humanity. The more a virus like Ebola circulates in the human population, the more likely it will mutate and become more dangerous; not just to the areas of Africa traditionally plagued by Ebola, but potentially to the rest of the world as well. Continue reading
Years ago I started a collection of historical poetry that focused on the historic first summit of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. After I lost an entire computer’s worth of files and work, I set that collection aside for a while to work on other projects, but always planned to revisit the Everest poetry.
Here’s a sneak peek at what some of that will look like… The first poem in the collection… Why We Climb Continue reading