Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries." (Julius Caesar; Act 4, Scene 3).

Category: Science and Medicine (Page 1 of 2)

Super Bowl Sunday: Not Feeling So Super

I’m posting this before I begin to attempt to clean up and go off to a Super Bowl party.

Being a newcomer to Austin (TX) as a snowbird, I cannot afford to turn down any invitations, but I am in the throes of a head cold that has rendered sleep somewhat peripatetic and caused my nose to run.

Here in Austin, the biggest and closest grocery store is one with the name H.E.B. I have no idea what “H.E.B.” stands for, but “Help! Everything is Bolloxed!” comes to mind. On the bad side, you walk for miles trying to find anything. The store is roughly the size of a Sam’s Super Store in the Quad Cities. On the good side, the prices see far lower for most things (although the quality of the meat is suspect).

Let me be specific: all I wanted was a Coricidin type cold remedy that would staunch the runny nose I am experiencing, which, I think, I may have caught from my son, who also has a cold. I gave son Scott the last of my cold remedy medication from home and the Tylenol thing I bought yesterday does not mention stopping a runny nose. Nor has it done so.

On the bright side, I could breathe in the night, but I turned like a chicken on a spit, tossing and turning as I experienced all the fun drainage of a cold.

Two days ago, it was 83 degrees here, tying a record set in 1963. Then, it dropped about 40 degrees and spit rain. The problem (besides exposure to the virus somewhere) is that I had to go out in the spitting rain 2 days in a row, to secure the necessary vitals for a Saturday night dinner. I also wanted to purchase a painting to put on the wall of the guest bedroom, as the one I had originally seen at a store called “Tuesday Morning” had sold in one day. I like the painting and the son with the cold was going help the husband hang it on the wall of the guest bedroom IF I had it. So, 2 days in a row when I already felt sort of punk and the weather was not ideal I went out in the spitting rain and visited a minimum of 3 stores each time.

Now, I’m paying the price. Oh, well, last year there was no moisture at all in the entire month of February, so hopefully the predicted warm-up will take my cold with it.

On another front, gas here at some stations is $1.83.

As for the Super Bowl, I could care less who wins or who plays, but I would root for the underdog (Atlanta) in any contest and most certainly would do so when it is common knowledge that the Quarterback of the Patriots is a big buddy of the Trumpster. Go Falcons!

Danny Glover Accepts Visionary Award at Chicago International Film Festival

Danny Glover accepts the Visionary Award from Cinema Chicago founder and artistic director Michael Kutza.

Danny Glover accepts the Visionary Award from Cinema Chicago founder and artistic director Michael Kutza.

Danny Glover appeared in Chicago to promote the Nigerian film “93 Days” and accept a Visionary Award from Festival Founder Michael Kutza.The film “93 Days,” based on real-life events, follows the Nigerian effort to stop the Ebola virus from spreading, when it was introduced into the capital city of Lagos (21 million people) in 2014.

Director Steve Gukas and star of "93 Days" Danny Glover.

Director Steve Gukas and star of “93 Days” Danny Glover.

As Director Steve Gukas said, “This film is about our inter-connectedness. The sacrifice of a few actually saved the lives of many the world over.” The trailer looked good, so I gave the film my attention for what seemed like an interminable 124 minutes of time. The film has international distribution at this time, but no U.S. distribution yet, so my remarks about the film must wait for later.

(L to R) Producers Dotun Okahunri, Bolanie Austen-Peers, Pemon Rami and Director Steve Gukas.

(L to R) Producers Dotun Okahunri, Bolanie Austen-Peers, Pemon Rami and Director Steve Gukas.

Many of the film’s producers and stars accompanied the film to Chicago and Glover said, before its screening, “I can’t tell you how proud I was to work with my brothers and sisters in Nigeria. I can’t thank the producers and Steve Gukas enough for allowing me to be a part of this.”

Producer Pemon Rami of Chicago.

Producer Pemon Rami of Chicago.

The only United States producer on the project was Pemon Rami, who is one of the elders of black cinema and has been involved in the development of TV shows, films, music concerts, documentaries and plays for more than 60 years. He is the first African American casting director for Chicago films. When asked about his experiences helping make “93 Days,” Pemon said, “I was the only producer from the U.S. I was there for 3 months working on the film. We were in places in Nigeria that you don’t typically see. Some of the places the houses all looked like the White House!” When asked how Danny Glover became involved with the film, Rami said, “When he read the script, he wanted to be involved in a bigger way.” As it is, Glover’s part is bigger in the opening parts of the film when the crisis is being diagnosed than it is during the “solve-this-problem” parts of the film, when actor Tim Reid, playing Dr. David, took over.

ffthroughdannyglover-077When Festival founder Michael Kutza mentioned that an invitation to attend Chicago’s Film Festival has been extended on three earlier occasions, Glover vowed it would not be his last visit and said, “You know, I was in Hyde Park in New York City accepting an award just a day or so ago, and then I had a commitment with the school board there. Then I was cooking dinner for Harry Belafonte at his home the other night, at Idlewild to honor labor leaders, and at the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party on Saturday.” In other words, Glover keeps busy, and he was nowhere busier than in Chicago where he appeared in not just one, but three separate film entries.

“24 Weeks” Examines the Issue of Late-Term Abortion(s) in Germany at Chicago International Film Festival

The German film “24 Weeks” from Director Anne Zohra Berrached was screened in Chicago for 8 members of the press on Wednesday, October 5th. It is the story of a popular stand-up comedienne (think a German version of Amy Schumer) who finds herself pregnant by her live-in long-time love and manager, only to discover, several months into her pregnancy, that her unborn child will have both Down’s syndrome and a serious heart condition.

Movingly portrayed by German actress Julia Jentsch, this is not a “feel good” movie. Comedienne Astrid Lorenz (Julia Jentsch) shows every sign of being a woman on the fast track to comedy success. Onstage, she even jokes, “You can tell a decent joke and lactate,” to an adoring audience.

That is all before the couple discovers the health problems their second child will face.

Astrid’s partner, Markus Hager (Bjorne Madel) wants to go to any lengths to have this second child, who will be a younger brother to their daughter, Nele (Emilia Pieschke). The couple is preparing to accept the Down’s Syndrome baby into their lives and visit similarly afflicted youngsters, taking their young daughter. Then their housekeeper, Kati, announces that she is not prepared to stay on and help them, and they turn to Astrid’s mother, who seems to be Astrid’s last hope.

Astrid’s manager and live-in love of 8 years, Markus Hager (Bjorne Madel) is very pro-life and wants to do everything to make this second child happen.
(“It feels wrong somehow to decide whether a human being lives or dies.”) Astrid (Julia Jentsch) is initially in synch with her spouse’s wishes.

But, as time goes on, she becomes more convinced that, as she explains to their young daughter, Nele (Emilia Piescke), “I don’t think he (the unborn fetus) will have a nice life.” Accusations come her way from Marcus that she is only thinking about her career and I honestly was waiting for the entire relationship to spiral out of control. (“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” William Butler Yeats).

I was the only woman in the theater today watching “24 Weeks.”

I sensed outrage amongst the male critics present when the hospital authorities told the frustrated father of the child, “In Germany, ultimately it’s your wife’s decision. That’s the law.” Markus (the prospective father) rails against any talk of a late-term abortion, which would be achieved by injecting potassium chloride into the fetus’ heart, after which the mother would go into labor and give birth to a dead child. Markus tells Astrid, “You can’t do it. Nothing else matters.”

This is a film about life-altering decisions and the people who have to make them.

It is extremely well acted and well written (also by director Anne Zohra Berrached). The topic is still an ongoing debate in this country and will continue to be after the upcoming election. Abortion and capital punishment are always “hot button” issues; that will probably always be the case.

And, no, I won’t tell you what Astrid decides to do.

That really would be a “spoiler.”

Our Health Care System Today from Steven Brill, Who Wrote the “Time” Article

The gentleman who wrote the riveting “Time” article on spiraling health care costs recently had to have open heart surgery for an aortic aneurysm.
In the new issue of “Time,” (Jan. 19, 2015) Steven Brill shares some of his firsthand experience(s) with our health care system—specifically at New York’s Presbyterian Hospital.
I share some fascinating factoids that Mr. Brill lists in that article below:
1) We spend $17 billion a year on artificial knees and hips, which is 55% more than Hollywood takes in at the box office.
2) America’s total health care bill for 2014 was $3 trillion.
3) America’s total health care bill of $3 trillion in 2014 was more than the next 10 biggest spenders combined (Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia.)
4) There are 31.5 MRI machines per 1 million people in the U.S., but just 5.9 million per 1 million in the U.K.
5) We spend $85.9 billion trying to treat back pain, which is as much as we spend on all of the country’s state, city, county, and town police forces. Experts say that as much as half of that is unnecessary.
6) 1.5 million people work in the health insurance industry while barely half as many doctors provide actual health care.
7) The President of the New Haven Health System makes much more than the President of Yale University.
8) The President of the supposedly non-profit hospital where Brill was treated, Steven Corwin, makes $3.58 million a year.
9) A box of gauze pads costs $77 and a routine blood test can cost hundreds of dollars.

The rest of the article concerns Mr. Brill’s suggestions for “fixing” the broken system. I won’t steal all his thunder by revealing what he suggests, but all the facts above made me think of an interesting conversation I had with a journalist from Spain in the Press Room of Belmont University in Nashville just prior to the Belmont Town Hall Meeting, who was marveling at how a nation like the United States had no universal health care for its citizens.

Of course, thanks to Barack Obama, we now do have a system, which the Republicans now in power are intent on dismantling.

Obamacare may have its flaws. However, it is the best it has been for the uninsured in some time, so thanks, President Obama. And thanks, too, for the $1.99 gas I saw at the Phillips Station on Kennedy Drive tonight!

Prostate-Cancer Sniffing Dogs May Be Next Medical Advance

belgian-malinoisFrench researchers, using Belgian Malinois dogs, have discovered that that breed of dog can correctly pick out a man suffering from prostate cancer from sniffing the urine of the victims. The dogs, in 66 tests, sniffed out the sick individual’s urine from a field of 5 corectly 63 times out of 66. This accuracy is far higher than the standard PSA tests, which often given false positives.

Dogs can be trained to detect the characteristic odor of unique chemicals released into urine by prostate tumors according to Dr. Jean-Nicolas  Cornu.

This new discovery could very well signal a new way to detect prostate cancer, as there were only 3 false positives and no false negatives when using the trained canines, far lower than PSA tests.

Obama Reassures NASA Workers of Commitment to Space Program

President Barack Obama traveled to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida today (April 15, 2010) and addressed the scientists, engineers, astronauts and others gathered at NASA about his goals for the space program of the future.

Noted Obama,”It was here that NASA lunched Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, the Hubbell Telescope.” Obama, reminisced about being held on his grandfather’s shoulders in 1961 in Hawaii to observe the return of astronauts from space. He said, “I have been part of that generation inspired by the space program…As president, I believe that space exploration is an essential part of our nation.  So, today, I’d like to talk about a new chapter in space exploration.”

Recapping history and the space race we ran with Russia back in the day, Obama tried to explain that we are no longer in the position that our cold war with Russia put us in back in 1957 and beyond.  He did not, however, repudiate the space program, but, instead, repeated his commitment to NASA, pointing out that it was Bush the younger, 8 years ago, who decreed that the next 3 launches of the Challenger will be its last, due to cost constraints. That was not Obama’s decision, but George W. Bush’s.

Obama said, “I am 100% committed to the mission of NASA and its future. Because, if we fail to press forward we are ceding our imperative to press forward, and that’s part of our national character.”

Obama also went on to say, “People, for years, have neglected NASA’s mission.” He cited a reluctance to set objectives and to allocate funds and said, “All that has to change.” Therefore, Obama announced that, at a time when budgetary constraints are causing most programs to be cut or frozen, the budget for space exploration would increase by $6 billion dollars over the next 5 years. He went on to say, “NASA’s budget has risen and fallen with the political winds,” a practice which he decried.


Some of the initiatives that Obama announced for NASA included ramping up robotic exploration of space, going to Mars, launching a successor to the Hubbell Telescope and extending the life of the International Space Station.  The president announced that, at a time of freezes, NASA must work hand-in-hand with an array of private sector corporations and said, “NASA has always worked well with the private sector.” Obama said that, with new companies competing, the pace could be accelerated and that “we must build on the good work already done on the Orion endeavor.  Orion will be readied for flight right here in this room.”

Another pledge was $3 billion for research to develop a new vehicle to reach deep space.  He announced the plan to “finalize a rocket design no later than 2015 and then begin to build it.” This is at least 2 years earlier than previous plans, Obama noted. He announced that research should be made into ways to live and work in space for longer periods of time.

Said the president, “These are the questions that we can and will answer. We will not just continue on the same path, but leap into the future.”  He referred to these goals as “transformative strategies.” Noting that the Constellation program was not fulfilling its goals, he declared that the administration would take a look at it and try to improve it, but repeated, “Nobody is more committed to manned space flight, to human exploration of space, than I am.” He pledged, “We will actually reach space sooner and more often,” with the partnership between NASA and the private sector. “We will send many more astronauts into space over the next decade.”

Obama pledged to invest in groundbreaking research, to set a course with achievable milestones.  “By 2025, the first ever missions beyond the moon and into deep space” will take place. He mentioned potentially visiting an asteroid.  By the mid 2030’s he said that the United States will journey to Mars and back and noted, “And I expect to be around to see it.”

Been There/Done That:

Obama downplayed the idea of going back to the moon, saying, “Some say, moon first. We’ve been there before.” He pledged, instead, that the development of deep-space propulsion systems would be critical to the space program he supports. In poo-poohing a return to the moon, he said, “I believe it’s much more important to ramp up, and that’s how we’ll insure that our exploration will be much more in the next century than it was in the last.”

Jobs Creation for Space Exploration:

Obama pledged, 2,500 jobs along the space coast, more than under his predecessor, George W. Bush. He furthermore pledged to modernize the Kennedy Space Center. Third on his list was the promise of (potentially) 10,000 more jobs in the private sector that would be allied with the government’s space program. He did note, “Some will see their jobs end (a decision made 8 years ago) when the Constellation program comes to an end, but I have directed a $40 million initiative to develop a plan for regular job growth to be on my desk by August 15th of this year.”


Said Obama, “So this is the next chapter that we can reach together, right here at NASA.” He encouraged a “step-by-step push of the boundaries.” He urged a push for ways for people to live in space, calling it “humanity’s role in space.”

To the rhetorical question, “Why spend money on NASA, on space exploration, at all?” Obama answered:  “You and I know this is a false choice.  For pennies on the dollar, space exploration has inspired generations of Americans, creating jobs, etc….I want to say clearly that is exactly why it is important that we push limits,” but he urged “clear aims” and “a larger purpose.”

Obama called the moon landing achieved under President John F. Kennedy in 1969 “one of the greatest achievements in human history.”


He added, “Is this a beginning or an ending of the space program? I choose to believe that this is the beginning of something, not the end of something.” He repeated that the race into space helped define the United States and  that the decision to retire the space shuttle after 3 more missions was made by “W” some time ago.

I watched the live speech on the Fox news channel, and I expected to hear derision and nay saying after the inspiring speech. The paid talking head was remarkably positive towards the president’s message. However, the  “expert” that Fox hired to be interviewed (Homer Hickam, supposedly a former NASA engineer),  upheld Fox’s anti-Obama bias almost to the point of being ludicrous and laughable. Hickam said, “If you want to talk about dinosaur bones, I’m your man” as the segment wound down, which had little or nothing to do with the issue of Obama’s speech on space exploration.

Hickam’s comments included these: “I just hope the people in charge don’t mess it up so bad that we can’t fix it.” (Oh. You mean like Bush did for 8 years? We’re all familiar with that strategy.)

He claimed that Obama has “a bad team” in John Holderin, his space expert. (I was tempted to ask, “There are worse team than those assembled by “W” when in office, including Brownie and Rumsfeld?) Hickam added, “They don’t have the ability to organize a Boy Scouts’ Jamboree,” which seemed, even for Fox, to be  hyperbole. After the additional comment that, “I think the people he’s got in charge don’t have a clue,” the Hickam person held up his handheld GPS, his cell phone ( he would have held up a microwave and a flat screen televison, if he had been given more time and ones that were small enough), claiming that all of these developments came to us courtesy of NASA.

Hickam  said, “That GPS saved my life when I was out there in the desert looking for dinosaur bones” (?) and went off on a conversational tangent about dinosaur bones. I am unsure where this so-called “expert” came from or under what conditions he left NASA, but the Obama speech was really inspiring and, in direct contradiction of Hickam’s later accusation that it was “so vague,” the speech set actual deadlines for many of these space initiatives, which is something I do not remember hearing from any president since JFK. Four of them are mentioned in the paragraphs above. The speech was interrupted  by spontaneous applause by the NASA scientists and engineers on several occasions.

I spent 3 weeks in Florida in January and February. NASA workers there were understandably concerned about their futures.  This speech went a long way towards reassuring top-notch current NASA workers (Homer Hickam is not among that group).  After this speech, they should feel more reassured that their jobs are not going away. This will help prevent a brain drain of our top researchers.  Obama’s commitment to the cause of space exploration, just as his commitment to passing a health care bill, seemed real and genuine during today’s speech.

Loss of Cell Phone Can Cause Loss of Mind…for Mom

sprint-Motorola-Clutch-i465-cell-phone-1The young man on the phone asked for my daughter, with whom I had just been speaking….

Me:  “She doesn’t live here. She was in college in Nashville and now she is working there. Can I help you?”

Verizon Guy: “Well, I’m from Verizon Wireless. We noticed that she just suspended her service with us, and we wanted to ask her why.”

Me: “Well, you should really be asking me. I’m the one who paid her phone bills all these years until she graduated August 14th. What’s your question?”

Verizon Guy: “We wanted to know if she was dissatisfied with the service or….? Why did she break her contract with us?”

Me:  “The service is great. The cost could definitely use some cutting, but the service was fine. She had to quit using Verizon, because she is going to be selling Sprint phones, and they frown on their employees using another service, which I’m sure you can understand. In fact, I was hoping that this fact would give her Papal Dispensation to not have to pay the breaking off fee or something… If you want to ask her about her experiences using Verizon over the years—which have been many and varied, including losing 9 cell phones and having her phone taken away twice in high school (service suspended) for failing to maintain a “B” average…I’ll be happy to give you her cell phone number. Trust me: it will be either in her hand or at her ear or mouth 90% of the time, so it shouldn’t be any problem for her to answer…And, by the way, suspending service is really a pain in the neck. You guys should work on making that an easier process; it works like a charm.” (A pause)  I can give you her cell phone number…”

VG:  “Oh, we’re not allowed to call anyone on their cell phones. If they’re driving, they might get in an accident.”

Me: “Trust me. I just hung up. She’s not driving. She’s sitting around at her boyfriend’s eating bon bons and waiting for him to get out of the shower so she can take him to work, because his car broke down. Go ahead and call her. I’ll give you her number…but I can tell you why she quit Verizon…, which, by the way, we are THRILLED about.just THRILLED. Do you know how much money we’ll save in just a month? True, she had to pay $140 to get out of her contract, but we’ll make that up in one month or less and, from now on, she will have to pay for her own phone bill and…more importantly, her own lost phones.”

VG:  “Did your daughter have the insurance for lost phones?”

Me: “Yes, she did, but she used it entirely too frequently. Let me run this down for you….Phone #1: dropped it in the bathtub.

Phone #2: Dropped it in the toilet.

Phone #3: Dropped it in a swimming pool….

Now it gets more interesting and varied from this point on.

Phone #4: A man at Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard in Colona, Illinois called us up late one weekend night. He said, ‘A gentleman just found your daughter’s phone in a ditch outside and brought it in the store and we called the ‘home’ number.’ My husband went out and picked it up and thanked the kind man.  How did her phone get in a ditch outside a Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard in Colona, Illinois? Beats the hell out of me!

Phone #5: Left it on the counter at the Coop Tape and Record Store in Iowa City, Iowa during her freshman year in school. (That one we got back).

Phone #6: Dropped it in a Porta-Potty at the fairgrounds. (That one we did NOT get back…nor did we WANT it back.)

Phone #7: Was stolen from her glove box while her car was sitting in our driveway, unlocked.

Phone #8: Left it in a cab in Chicago…a cab that drove away. Never got it back, but picture her running after the cab like a dog trying to bite the tires. Called the cab main office. Never saw the phone again.”

Phone #9: A bus ran over it in New York City while she was there doing a music business internship.  Yes, we had the insurance for lost phones, which we always made her pay herself. Did it help? What do you think?

Now, she does not have insurance for lost phones because she chose to purchase a used cell phone on Craig list rather than pay $500, but she does get a special employee discount plan.

All the years she had her phone with Verizon, the bills were astronomical. It wasn’t until quite some time along that we found out we were paying 10 cents per text message and she had set the World Speed Record for texting. I swear to heaven, I don’t know how that many text messages can be sent in one day.  No one at the store ever mentioned that there was a better way to pay for this, so we just kept getting astronomical bills until my sister-in-law clued me in that there was an “unlimited” option that would help.

However, when Verizon had their Blackberry Storm special, we both got them. This was right after the unfortunate city bus accident in New York City. We both took them back. Neither one of us liked them. I couldn’t work it at all. I need a button or a toggle or something. That flat screen was a mystery, and who wants all their computer messages scrolled across their phone without a password? Not me, said the Little Red Hen. What’s the point of having a password if the cell phone computer messages are just there for the world? Kind of defeats that option of the Internet, doesn’t it?

My husband and I got the simplest phone they had. . I don’t text. I don’t know how to take a picture. I can just barely work the message function. Hers? With a little tweaking, she could put herself in orbit!

When we found out that she was going to be working for Sprint, we were ecstatic! I said to my spouse, ‘I’ll bet you that we save at least $150 a month on our phone bills now!’ My husband doubted my claim. It escalated into one of those old-married-couple fights over who was right. I made him get the bill from last month out. It was over $300. Her share of that bill? $157! So, we are DELIGHTED that she is now going to be paying for her own cell phone usage AND her own cell phones, on her own dime. And how much will this service cost her, with the Super Duper phone that sends the Internet to you and all that rot, with Sprint? $35. She just has to hope she doesn’t lose Phone #10.”

VG: (Suppressed laughter). “What did your daughter say when you asked her about all the lost phones?

Me: “Well…I have always said she should become an attorney, because she LOVES to argue. She believes that “the best defense is a good offense.” She always tries to ‘deflect’ criticism away from herself by going on the attack and accusing you of something, sometimes something totally unrelated.  She said to me: ‘Well, YOU lose things, too.”
VG: “What did you say to that?”

Me: “I said, ‘Yes, I lose things, but I have NEVER EVER lost a cell phone. Not that I couldn’t, but I just never have. Yet she has lost 9 phones since she began using one at about age 13, at a rate of one phone per year.  Do you know what she said then…when I protested that neither her father nor I had ever lost OUR phones?

She said, ‘Well, I use my cell phone a lot more than you do.’

What’s that got to do with LOSING the phone you claim to use more than me? Wouldn’t that make you MORE careful about hanging on to it, since it is attached to the end of your arm (or ear) permanently? (Apparently not.). See what I mean about how she should go to law school and learn to argue for a living?”

There was a long pause.

Then the Verizon Guy said….

VG:  “If she is at her home, could you give me that cell phone number, please?”

Me:  “I can, and I will.  I am delighted that someone other than me is going to have a conversation with her about her cell phone usage. Good luck with that, then.”
And I hung up.

Chicago Storm on August 4th Was Electrifying!

Lightning Over ChicagoAn update to the storm I suffered through in a basement in Bridgeport, a southwest suburb of Chicago (home of the White Sox and Mayor Daley’s birthplace) on Monday, August 4th (article posted on www.associatedcontent.com).

It was some storm! I was impressed with the lightning. I learned that, over four hours, about a half-year’s worth of lightning bolts bombarded Chicago. It was truly a historic thunderstorm, with 90,000 thunderbolts hitting northern Illinois (according to the Lightning Detection Network).

At the storm’s peak, it was detonating 800 bolts per minute. In six months’ worth of time, we usually don’t have that much lightning.

WGN meteorologist Tom Skilling (brother of the OTHER Skilling of Enron fame) said on Tuesday, August 5th, “There was no precedent for this. In every way imaginable, that storm last night was in its own league.”

The amazing thing: nobody was struck by lightning and no fatalities were reported due to the massive and truly awesome display of electrical tension, which began when positively charged ice crystals at the top and negatively charged water droplets at the bottom created a volatile mix. As the warm, moist air floated to the clouds, the powder keg exploded. Most lightning is negatively charged, but there are indications that ,during parts of the Monday storm, there was more than two and one-half times the usual percentage of positively charged lightning bolts which are more powerful.

Skilling said, “Not only were the total numbers just off the charts, but there was a disproportionate number of strokes that were positively charged. That was an especially dangerous lightning display.”

Nearly 10,000 lightning strikes were recorded in the 10 miles around Chicago’s loop, one of the highest totals ever seen for an area of that size. While there were at least 7 fires caused by the lightning hitting homes that burned down (Woodridge, Lisle, Aurora, Schaumburg, Frankfort, Barrington and Lemont) the wind did more damage. Some good quotes were obtained from employees of the Signature Room on the 96th floor of the Hancock Building. Apparently, the patrons thought it was all great good fun and filmed the bar glasses as they moved back and forth.

Manager James Kuehner said, “You could tell when the building was getting hit, because everything was bright light and thunder at the same time.”

Yikes! We almost walked over to Chinatown, but the tornado sirens did not enhance the experience, for me, so, instead, we sat on the floor of an interior hallway, away from the windows, cranking the weather radio I had just bought at the Natural Disasters exhibit at the Field Museum. (We learned that cranking it did not work that well, but putting batteries in it did.)

Chicago News and Views

    A quick look at Chicago’s news, where I now report from, tells me that there are some issues in Chicago that have not made the local Quad City newspapers. For instance, there was a shooting near the Taste of Chicago, which Mayor Daley is trying to play down as having had anything to do with that massive annual event. The cab talk is all about whether it will have a negative effect on Chicago’s bid for the Olympics. If the shooting outside Grant Park and off the Festival site doesn’t do it, then will the 10.25% sales tax deter visitors to this fair city?


     Another city vignette: a newborn baby boy was found abandoned in the courtyard of an Uptown apartment building at about 2:00 a.m. The 5 lb. Baby boy left in the 4600 block of North Beacon Street inside a grocery bag amid shrubbery was crying to save his life (which it did) in the 70-degree temperature. His body temperature had dropped to 86 degrees in the cool night air and he might not have survived if one of the apartment’s residents had not gone outside to investigate, found the child, and taken it to a nearby fire station. The child had cried for at least two hours before anyone thought to investigate, but it was after 2 in the morning.

      A third interesting story detailed how a Lake Hills man known as Edward F. Bachner IV tried to hire a hit man to kill his wife, after he had taken out a $5 million dollar life insurance policy on her. The odd thing is that the wife didn’t know about the “hit-for-hire” until she found out in court, and the method that the would-be murderer eventually settled on to do her in: Pufferfish.  I just wrote a story entitled “Pufferfish.” Who knew that Pufferfish venom is among the most deadly of poisons? Dr. Frank Paloucek, clinical expert in toxicology, says that the Tetraodontidae family of poisons (specifically, the deadly poisonous pufferfish) “would be a terrible way to die, in my opinion, because you could be very easily conscious at the time you stop breathing. You wouldn’t be feeling that you weren’t breathing, and you would be conscious of it, and you would die because you would pass out. The death is a respiratory death. Your lungs stop working and your brain loses enough oxygen for long enough, and then you’re dead.” Yup. That’ll do it. Stay away from Pufferfish. Edward F. Bachner IV had apparently pretended to be someone who had a legitimate reason for owning pufferfish poison, and he had a bunch of it! He also had 50 knives, garrotes that could be used to choke people to death, a gun, two passports, and a phony CIA badge. Wow! The Pufferfish Conspiracy has made all the papers, and I’m thinking that I was way ahead of THAT learning curve with my little story! Just so you know: “If it was a 220-pound person, you would need one-thousandth of a gram, or one-32,000th of an ounce to kill an adult” with Pufferfish poison. Another wow, there. The reason given? Marine animals have to be far more poisonous than land animals to kill their pretty, because they are operating in 3 dimensions instead of 2. (I’m not sure I understood that last part, but I’m just here to report the news of the day in Chicago by the Lake.)

      There was also a story about a 96-year-old man who has a lot of opinions (Garrison Keillor) and a happy story about a young boy who was lost for hours, but was found unharmed. That, at least, was a “happy” ending.

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