Monthly Archives: June 2021

A Reason to Live

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Nursing homes can be dreadful places. Dr. Bill Thomas describes what he calls the Three Plagues of nursing home existence:  boredom, loneliness, and helplessness.  And that was before the extraordinary levels of isolation imposed by the pandemic.   When Thomas arrived in 1991 at the Chase Memorial Nursing Home in the hamlet of New Berlin, New York, Thomas decided he would… Read more »

It’s Time to Jump

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The notion that people can “train fleas” is just an urban legend, right? Every now and then, however, urban legends turn out to be true – and it just so happens that one of the smallest entities that might lurk in our carpets can be taught a fascinating trick. There are more than 2,500 species of this tiny, wingless insect. … Read more »


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Two weeks ago, after a moderate earthquake shook the small towns and farms of southern Illinois, geologists reminded us that the Midwest is an active seismic zone. Even though we’re used to thinking that the upcoming Big One will feature swaying skyscrapers in Los Angeles or San Francisco, it’s just as likely that Memphis or St. Louis will be the… Read more »

The Perfect Hideout

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Church is one of the best places in the world to hide. No, not from vampires, werewolves, and the walking dead.  That’s Hollywood stuff. Church is where people can avoid faith and avoid God by becoming religious. Churches are often filled with respectable people, or people who are doing their utmost to look respectable. And it was the respectable people… Read more »

A New Way of Seeing

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In 1954, psychologist Muzafer Sherif and his colleagues conducted what is now regarded as one of the most famous experiments concerning the origin and nature of conflict. The researchers invited two dozen boys to a special summer camp at Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma.  The boys, who were 11 or 12 years old, were randomly assigned in advance to one… Read more »

Up on Our Feet

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All of a sudden, everybody is dancing. Fans who are excited to be back at sporting events are dancing in the stands.  Protesters who show up for rallies are dancing in the streets.  People are dancing in TV commercials when their pizza is delivered on time, when they’re excited about their new couch, and when their car loan is approved. … Read more »

Having Everything

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“You can’t have everything,” says deadpan comic Steven Wright.  “Where would you put it?” The hunger to somehow have it all is nevertheless a central human fixation.  And we are endlessly fascinated with those who seem to have gotten pretty close. Take the Rothschild family.  Over the past 250 years the descendants of Mayer Rothschild of Germany accumulated the modern… Read more »


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Blogger Steve Goodier recently recounted an anecdote from the earliest days of international air travel. In the 1930’s, Britain’s Imperial Airways pioneered flights from England all the way to the Pacific.  Unfortunately, the company’s fleet of underpowered and undersized aircraft had to make many stops in between. One of the tongue-in-cheek expressions of the day, “If you have time to… Read more »


      Comments Off on Juneteenth

Today marks the first celebration of America’s twelfth federal holiday. On June 18, 1865, Union soldiers under the command of Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas.  He brought news of something that had happened more than two months earlier: Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered his Army of Virginia at Appomattox.  The Civil War had officially ended…. Read more »

The Right Time

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If you had a ticket to take one ride on a time machine, where would you go? Would you revisit the past or travel forward into the future? Ever since H.G. Wells rolled out his 1895 fictional bestseller The Time Machine, people have fantasized what it would be like to journey through history.  Until recently, according to physicist Paul Davies,… Read more »