Previous editions of our book had space here and there for many quotations and stories that may be too good to pass up. Besides, visitors to www.frantzmd.info may have trouble finding them scattered among the entries there. So, instead of trying to index them, here they are in quasi alphabetical order---prominent words are used instead of always the first word of the quote, in which case that word will be bold; and sometimes the author is bold. I fervently hope that all of them without attribution are original. Food for thought benefits us from frequent small feedings, but excess is not severely punished. (The author suggests that you read this section piecemeal.)
Regard addiction as like having an appendix and don’t bother with the cure until threatened by some inconvenience.
Addiction Rides Piggyback on Tolerance
Recently I was explaining to a young lady about caffeine: how it has a stereotyped withdrawal syndrome and users develop tolerance to toxic quantities. These characteristics are similar to other more seriously addicting drugs. (Tolerance permits animals to survive on an otherwise fatally toxic diet). She was interested and asked some intelligent questions, so I mentioned that chocolate contained theobromine, an alkaloid differing by only one methyl group from caffeine, and that if theobromine is addictive, it is even less so than caffeine. I also mentioned that, as far as I was aware, no one had demonstrated that theobromine addiction explained “chocoholics” or even demonstrated that theobromine is addicting at all. She brightened up a little more and became an instant research scientist.
Her response: “When I was three, I was given a puppy, who ate a little of everything that I ate including lots of chocolate. When I heard a few years ago that chocolate is poison to dogs, I figured that he had gradually acquired immunity to chocolate. Now from what we are saying it seems that theobromine is addicting and my puppy had acquired tolerance.”
I really treasure such encounters with my public. My patient’s story is probably as good evidence as exists anywhere that theobromine is addicting.
Adventure is a mixture of spirit and deed. L. W. Cerum
An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. G. K. Chesterton
“If it turns out that there is a god, I don’t think that he’s evil. But the worst thing you can say about him is that basically he’s an underachiever.” Woody Allen, expounding on the problem of evil.
(rural because they already know about hybrid corn)
Suppose that black people really are inferior. I don’t really believe that, but just for a moment suppose. In North America, you would have a hard time finding a black person who was more than about 12½% black, so instead of worrying about inferiority, you should think about hybrid vigor, creating a strain superior to either parent…. This item is dedicated to Dick Gregory who, when asked what he thought about being on President Nixon’s enemies list, replied instantly, I’m not worried at all. I’m just the token black.”
Darwin on Atolls
Charles Darwin inferred nearly 200 years ago that seamounts (submarine volcanoes) 100 meters or so below present sea level were islands during the ice ages when a vast amount of water was sequestered as ice in the continental glaciers of the northern hemisphere. The coral reefs surrounding those ancient islands were able to grow fast enough to remain at or near the sea surface as the sea level rose gradually during the melting of the ice. This surmise nicely accounts for the atolls and their lagoons that persist.
I read Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1938 and have been eagerly awaiting confirmation of his suggestion about the origin of atolls. Obviously this can be done by drilling 100 meters into these coral structures to reveal the underlying volcanic rocks. In recent decades several such holes have been drilled obtaining volcanic rocks in each instance.
The Origin of Species is the only ground breaking scientific treatise ever written for the general public. Its entire first and second printings of nearly 5,000 copies were sold in a few months. I was privileged to stumble on it as my “personal” textbook of biology at age 14 three years before taking an academic biology course. In preparation for writing this brief article, I searched The Origin of Species where the origin of atolls was explained. I was amazed to find only the following brief mention as part of a discussion of such temporary islands that may have been used as “halting places” during migrations of plants and animals across oceans en route to establishing life on newly formed islands for example, Hawaii. Here is the entire quotation exactly as Darwin wrote it:
“… I frankly admit the former existence of many islands, now buried under the sea, which may have served as halting places for plants and for many animals during their migration. In the coral producing oceans such sunken islands are now marked, as I believe, by rings of coral or atolls standing over them……”
Here is an idea about what to do with high-level radioactive waste: make it into glass pellets as the French do (they simply bury the pellets in France and hope that no one digs them up for tens of thousands of years); use the pellets as aggregate for concrete spheres; add a layer of normal reinforced concrete to make larger, stronger spheres; dump them on the steep side of a deep ocean subduction trench where they will roll to the deepest part of the bottom and ultimately be subducted into the earth’s mantle. They will remain there for millions of years, their radioactivity meanwhile becoming no stronger than the nearby ordinary magma and therefore “harmless” if their material were to be erupted as lava.
Of course some experimentation would be needed to assess the adequacy of the containment considering the time the spheres would wait to be subducted. This time interval would need careful estimation perhaps involving long-term observation of what happens to merely tagged but not dangerously radioactive similar spheres. Please remember this is a brainstorm---not a competent engineering analysis---the latter obviously outside my area of expertise.
It is comforting to know that physicists, engineers, and geologists are sifting and winnowing ideas for disposal of radioactive waste and vigorously promoting the most useful ones. Maybe this idea is not new. If I stumble on another one, perhaps even more useful, I promise to pass it on. However, we cannot win them all—see below. John A. Frantz, MD, May 13, 2005
“Nuclear worry over undersea volcanoes” from The Guardian (a British newspaper) for September 16, 2005
Burying nuclear waste in trenches that suck the ocean floor towards the Earth’s interior is a bad idea, according to a study published in Geology. Darren Tollstrup and James Gill from the University of California-Santa Cruz have shown that sediment near the Mariana trench, on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, is partially recycled back to the surface via submarine volcanoes. Using a small submarine, the researchers collected sediments from around the Kasuga seamounts in the Philippine Sea. They used chemical isotopes of hafnium and neodymium to trace the path taken by lava emerging from these seamounts. The isotopes suggested that sediments are compressed and melted to a depth of about 100km beneath the sea floor before being spurted out again in a submarine volcano.
Or would the several tens of thousands of years required for subduction to 100km depth be sufficient for decay of our nuclear waste especially that from breeder reactors and thorium based reactors that consume long lived plutonium.
The great philosophers of the Enlightenment were guilty of audacious timidity—they had the tools and opportunities to dig up the foundations of belief and turn them into mere museum pieces in the history of ideas but instead rebuilt the old religious edifice in the form of Deism.
A Battlefield Commission as Robin Hood
At age eight or ten I liberated some plaster of Paris from a dentist’s trash in our neighborhood. I was quite confident that I could easily find a higher use for it. Among other uses I made molds for casting lead objects. The most successful were buffalo nickels which were good enough to pass—even the mint date was legible. I didn’t even try to pass them, but I gave a few of them to Kimmie, our long term family maid. There happened to be a home made, illegal slot machine in near her house. And it also just happened that my nickels hit the jack pot every times she put one in. The extra heft of the lead probably mislead the primitive mechanism. Kimmie was clever enough not to use too many of them, and she split the take with me to keep them coming.
The amazing part of the story is that when my mother found out about the entire adventure, I became a hero for protecting the poor blacks from exploitation by the greedy (white) merchants. The title of this item is paraphrased from my mother. Neither Kimmie nor I received any sanction from any source and neither of us went on to pursue a life of crime, vindicating my mother’s assessment of events. All mothers are special, some more than others of course.
John A. Frantz, March 4, 2003
We have never known what we were doing because we have never known what we were undoing. Wendell Berry 1987
For a modern translation of the Bible merely dub in “accountants and lawyers” for “scribes and Pharisees”.
BS Detection. Did you ever wonder why a college graduate is required to have a major field of study? Four years of full loads of course work is not enough. A subtle benefit of in depth knowledge of at least one subject is that it permits a personal check on the reliability of sources such as newspapers and magazines. If their information in the field in which you are expert is seriously faulty, that is grounds for not trusting them in an area where you are less well informed.
When I was a child, Charles Lindbergh was rich and famous. Reporters were very anxious to quote him on almost any topic, especially politics. Why was his opinion about matters other than aviation so highly valued by the public? So be very careful about the credentials of your sources. Even Lindbergh was probably not highly qualified in aeronautical engineering.
BS can mean at least two things. MS is "more of the same" and PhD is "piled higher and deeper.”
Campus Events. If you live near a college or university, consult their web site occasionally for the calendar of campus events, a cornucopia of interesting opportunities that you couldn’t know enough to think of on your own. Let me give you an example: before web sites, we used to contribute a few dollars to the Beloit College front office meanwhile requesting to be on their mailing list of events. One of these events was a visiting actor impersonating Charles Dickens lecturing in England about his visit to America in the early 1840s. During our two year stay in Afghanistan, I had been sitting in the waiting room of the mayor of Jalalabad, presumably adjusting some medium sized bureaucratic glitch, the details of which are lost. The locals, also waiting for similar reasons, were chewing tobacco and spitting on the oriental carpet, the same image the actor in Beloit conjured up when Charles Dickens was waiting for an audience with President Polk. By this calibration, progress from being underdeveloped to becoming a developed country takes no more than 150 years.
Originally did medieval professors actually wear their caps and gowns for giving lectures and other academic duties? And did they also gradually stop wearing them except for ceremonial purposes as I have seen the nurses do? Odds are this is an example of history repeating itself with slightly different details.
Judges have continued to wear robes. In Great Britain they even still wear wigs. Is this to make them look older and wiser? John A. Frantz, M.D. January 15, 2004
Jimmy Carter is the only man who has used the presidency of the United States as a steppingstone to greatness. This was spoken by the president of Emory University while introducing the ex-president.
If the same amount of effort that is going into genetic analyses went into chimpanzee conservation and behavioral biology, not only would we save this species from extinction, but we would write the most detailed story of our past—as rich as the Bible, but grounded in science. Marc Hauser, Department of Psychology, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Biological Anthropology of Harvard University (I didn’t make up the department name, JF)
“The United Nations estimates that the cost of producing safe, clean drinking water to the entire planet—US $30 billion a year---is less than one-third the amount that the world spends on bottled water annually.” Nature 452: 288 (2008)
Fred Hoyle was an eminent astronomer and cosmologist whose life has spanned most of the twentieth century. He was an opponent of the Big Bang Theory of cosmology. Actually he coined the term impulsively while making fun of the new theory at a public scientific meeting. The new name, Big Bang Theory, caught on and was widely used to the consternation of its originators, who considered Big Bang frivolous and derogatory.
In hopes of arriving at a more acceptable name the originators of the new theory contributed to a fund of a few thousand dollars as a prize to the best submitted entry for a new name. The evaluating committee of these entries rejected all the new names and awarded the prize to Fred Hoyle who presumably had not even submitted his entry. So the Big Bang it has been ever since, a trivial but emotionally satisfying example of collegiality in science. June 8, 2002
Phi Beta Kappa Newsletter: Here's an Idea for a new intermittent department in The Key Reporter: Custom coining of new words by your readers.
I have a candidate word for which I know the proposed meaning. This idea is probably spawned by my running into "explornography" a couple of years ago. "Explornography" was coined in honor of the Mt. Everest disasters of 1996. It refers to a person with an obscene amount of money hiring someone to take him somewhere that he has no business going.
My need for another new word stems from planning a series of health columns about habit forming drugs, legal and otherwise, from a public health point of view.
This new word, "incarceromania", will mean spending an obscene amount of money jailing non‑violent people for possession of a small amount of (relatively non‑toxic) material for personal use. After all, most of them would make perfectly satisfactory citizens or even parents except for being in jail. I hope one or more of your readers will do better than "incarceromania". When I use this incipient word publicly, I will describe its origin in a footnote giving credit to the creator by name if desired.
John A. Frantz, MD Junior Phi Beta Kappa, Haverford College,1943
Computer “Psychology” Market researchers and many other specialists study human psychology in order to get along with or otherwise manipulate us. Do we need to study computer “psychology” in order to get along better with our computers? This concept first came to my attention when the computer put a red line under précis, which I had just typed. It then scratched its head and took the red line away, paused again (more scratching?) and put the acute accent on the e. To confirm this phenomenon I typed fiancée with the same result. All this happened a year or so ago. Now the accents appeared promptly without the red line step. So does computer psychology include the learning curve of computers, or was the learning that of a human programmer? I shall probably never find out for sure.
A couple of weeks ago I sent myself an e-mail from Baltimore of an article I had just composed on my son-in-law’s computer. Today when I had returned long enough to open my e-mail in order to revise the article, my computer must have thought that I was in the process of plagiarizing someone else’s work. It was stubbornly choosy about what it would let me do to my own work. After cutting and pasting, rebooting several times and with some fallow intervals, my computer finally let me have my own article. I would like to know how computers show contrition, so I can forgive it. Didn’t it realize that I could have simply retyped the article (if I didn’t happen to be lazy) and it wouldn’t have known about my “plagiarism”?
It seems inevitable that I will have many more extemporaneous opportunities to study computer psychology. If I ever decide to make a systematic study of this branch of psychology, shall I title my thesis The Artificial Psychology of Artificial Intelligence?
What is the difference between a con artist and a salesman? Answer: the quality of the product.
This aphorism occurred to me as I toured a mine 50 years ago with the chief engineer. He was my guide because I was filling in as company doctor while the regular one was on vacation. There was a great deal of interesting information such as a brick of gold worth $30,000, one month’s production of an incidental by-product of the lead and zinc operation.
Along the way he described the origin of the Gullible Mining Company (a fictitious name), a large international consortium, which operated the local lead and zinc nine. The fraudulent originators of this company were selling worthless gold mining stock. To reassure customers who chose to check up on their claim of a mining property in Saskatchewan, they had a mining claim recorded in the court house there. But the skeptical stockholders didn’t stop with a telephone check. They sent a mining engineer to inspect the property. He found no development whatsoever, but he cracked some local rock specimens with his hammer and found a rich vein of gold. Suddenly the Gullible Mining Company went “legit”. Hence the origin of my aphorism.
John A. Frantz M.D.
Corporate Personhood: Did you ever hear of a corporation pleading the Fifth Amendment? I’ll believe it when Texas executes one.
There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity. It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which man should not wish to learn. St Augustine (quoted in Freeman, C. (2002). The Closing of the Western Mind.
As neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of producing musical notes are faculties of the least use to man…they must be ranked amongst the most mysterious with which he is endowed. Charles Darwin in The Descent of Man
Nature treats all her children as she does the fields and forest; in late autumn, as the cold blast is coming on, she strips us for the ordeal that is waiting. Our steps grow slower, our efforts briefer, our journeys shorter; our ambitions are not so irresistible, and our hopes no longer bear wings. Clarence Darrow (defense lawyer at the Scopes trial)
“Modern theists might acknowledge that, when it comes to Baal and the Golden Calf, Thor and Wotan, Poseidon and Apollo, Mithras and Ammon Ra, they are actually atheists. We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.” Richard Dawkins in his Atheist Manifesto
No conservative Supreme Court or reactionary Congress or wrong headed Administration and no movement to frustrate our civil justice system can succeed. The gates of justice that sadly are being closed today to the powerless will come crashing open by the tidal wave trial lawyers can set in motion. Morris Dees (Southern Poverty Law center)
Here is a quote from Charles Darwin to his friend, Joseph Hooker about the brutal inefficiency of natural selection: “What a book a devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low and horribly cruel works of nature!”—(Charles Darwin’s opinion about “Intelligent Design”? I think so, JAF). Johannes Kepler said it very well although in a different context. “Perhaps there is someone whose faith is too weak to believe Copernicus without offending his piety. Let him stay at home and mind his own business. Let him assure himself that he is serving God no less than the astronomers to whom God has granted the privilege of seeing more clearly with the eyes of the mind.” Astronomia nova, 1609
After dealing with much difficult written material in math and science, I decided that being a slow reader enhances comprehension on the first time by. This has been a plus all my life. I get my frivolous fiction in a social reading group where we take turns reading out loud---inevitably slow enough for me to participate with no evidence of my defect showing.
There is no addicting drug in fingernail clippings.
Education of Women: A few weeks ago I dreamt that some quasi-supernatural potentate offered to grant me one wish to be carried out worldwide for the benefit of mankind---but only one wish!
In my dream I chose universal education particularly for women. This will result in doubling the numbers of very nearly fully competent human beings with consequential benefits that will make the original offer like multiple wishes. Example:
The world population problem could be well on the way to solution. How else could Ireland, Spain, and Italy be among the countries with negative population growth? This demonstrates that educating women is more important than educating the Pope.
“Our extended forecast includes global warming and the catastrophic end of the human race. But for the weekend it is looking like sunny skies, moderate temperatures, and general apathy towards environmental concerns.” Quoted from a plaque on the wall in a prison chaplain’s office!
There are two ways to live ones life. The first is to assume that there are no miracles. The second is that everything is a miracle. Albert Einstein
When God created the universe, did he have a choice? Albert Einstein
God doesn’t play dice. also Einstein
(A non-physicist but otherwise intelligent friend pointed out that these statements must have arisen because Einstein was uncomfortable with Quantum Theory and its Uncertainty Principle.)
Economic forecasting serves only to make astrology seem more respectable. John Kenneth Galbraith
Never fight evil as if it were something that arose totally outside yourself.
Communicating with Extraterrestrials
An item in the 125th Anniversary issue of Science (1 July, 2005) entitled Are We Alone in the Universe? tied up a loose end in my thinking. It described Congress in 1993 prohibiting NASA from spending public funds “looking for little green men with misshapen heads”.
Suppose we are, as some of us believe, ex officio top dogs in the entire universe. Are we thereby obligated to spend vast sums of money too large to obtain privately to send our signals to the riff-raff civilizations unable to transmit galactic signals but only able to listen for us? This is consistent with similar efforts for a couple of millennia informing our more primitive con-specifics the details of cosmic governance if indeed these details have been “revealed” to us alone. When the religious right takes over our government, we can expect many goofy expenditures such as the above.
In 2010 Stephen Hawking told us not to speak up—we might face persecution like that of American Indians.
The English mind turns every abstraction it can receive into a portable utensil. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Making people feel at home cuts both ways until you find out how they act at home.
Despite the fact that some religious believers oppose the theory of evolution, religions do evolve to accommodate new facts. Andrew Fiala (Fiala goes on to mention that scarcely anybody still believes that we are at the center of the universe or that the earth is flat.)
Mark Twain is even more concise: The only difference between fiction and nonfiction is that fiction should be completely believable.
Nate Klassy, Director of Public Works at City Hall, asked me what I thought of an article in the Reader’s Digest for July 2001 about five foods men need most and five foods women need most to enhance their health and gender-specific characteristics. My first thought was that the Reader’s Digest was hard up for copy. A more interesting interpretation is that they got it backwards: women should eat the foods for men to make them more aggressive so they run for office and we have better government, and the men should eat the foods for women to make them less aggressive so we can have fewer wars. Urban legends either way you slice it. Humor aside, good food is probably good for both sexes, and men do not get more mellow and women more assertive with age because of eating the other gender’s most needed foods. John A. Frantz, MD,The Monroe Times
Galileo reasoned that if you attach two objects together with a rope, perhaps, they should fall faster because their combined weight is greater than either one, but the lighter one, trying to fall slower as if by itself, should slow the fall of the larger of the original two. Now we have a contradiction. The new body is expected to fall both faster and slower than the larger of the original two. This contradiction, on a moment’s reflection, leads to the conclusion that all objects fall at the same speed (neglecting wind resistance). Galileo, the great experimentalist, had solved an age old problem without lifting a finger.
The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems. Mahatma Ghandi.
Generic blasphemy: Normal blasphemy is specific, you can tell what is being blasphemed, whether Allah, Buddha or the Bhagavad-Gita. With generic blasphemy all sacred entities are simultaneously invoked.
When you are praying for a miracle, be prepared to accept a second or third string miracle because varsity miracles are in very short supply. Second and third string miracles require increasing levels of cooperation to come off.
Genius is no more than childhood recaptured at will, childhood equipped now with man’s physical means to express itself, and with the analytical mind that enables it to bring order into the sum of experience, involuntarily amassed. Charles Beaudelaire, French poet – 1821-1867
When we treat people as if they were already the people who they aspire to become, we have helped them on their journey. Roughly translated fromGoethe, 1749-1832
Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary use words. attributed to St. Francis of Assisi
Guinea Pigs. On a visit to Peru several years ago among the amazing things we saw were peasant households with many guinea pigs running around more or less unsupervised. This was to provide fresh meat on short notice without need for refrigeration. Guinea pigs’ size and prompt availability were both appropriate. Apparently housewives everywhere like to be prepared for unexpected guests.
The large cathedral in downtown Lima, Peru, has a mural painting of the last supper in Spanish Baroque style. Every plate has four obvious guinea pig legs sticking up from it. On further inquiry I found that Peruvian artists had been trained by the Spanish. They had learned the technique well and had applied some local culture to the details of this painting.
Hate is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. Hasidic traditional wisdom
High Tides. So far nobody has denied that they learned spontaneously, in childhood, how to slosh bathtub water at just the right frequency to get water all over the place without half trying. The Bay of Fundy, between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, has the world’s highest tides, 40 feet or so. So the bay is like a bathtub that sloshes with a frequency of just over 12 hours and the ocean tides are like a kid doing the sloshing at that very frequency, so the water goes high, high, high. This more comprehensible than the highfalutin’ scientific explanation for the famous tides of the Bay of Fundy that the Canadians give to the tourists.
Nullius addictus jurare in verba majistra. I am not bound to swear allegiance to the words of any master. Horace
The horns of a dilemma are usually on the same bull. (Spanish Proverb)
No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come. Victor Hugo
Soon after World War II a group of Japanese computer experts were invited to IBM headquarters. The visit was quite a success at least partly because some joker at IBM had mounted an abacus in a box with a glass front, a hammer on a chain, and an inscription reading, “ In case of emergency break the glass.”
Innumeracy is the arithmetical equivalent of illiteracy. If you think a food “sweetened at no extra charge” is a bargain compared to the unmodified product, you have innumeracy. Find me such a product that is cheaper than sugar and I will concede.
“Junk” DNA: An unexpected and puzzling fact emerged from the first few genomes to be sequenced: Only a small fraction of the DNA sequences code for genes. Genes code for particular proteins destined for a specific function. The remainder was labeled “junk DNA”. It seemed that genes were not optimally designed. Early work showed that a great many genes are duplicated, coded at more than one place in the genome, accounting for some of the junk. It is emerging that this duplication may serve two useful functions. First, robustness of the genome: if a vital gene is disabled by a random mutation, the duplicate gene may permit survival of the individual organism in which the mutation had occurred. This fact was documented in yeast within a few years after its DNA sequence was published. And second, as many random mutations occur in a duplicated but no longer functional gene, a new and useful function might evolve, a possible explanation for biological diversity—even the molecular basis for Steven J. Gould’s “punctuated equilibrium” in the fossil record. Punctuated equilibrium refers to a long period of fossil record with a fairly stable assembly of species, alternating with short periods of much more rapid development of new species.
Hire a lawyer only if big money or jail time is at stake. Otherwise just wing it. You will save not only the professional fee but also the extra cost of perhaps unnecessarily cautious advice.
And insure only risks which you cannot afford to assume.
Had not man been the interested party, we could have been the fifth great ape. Richard Leakey 2005
The love of money as a possession as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease. John Maynard Keynes, 1931
Mathematics is a language in which one cannot express imprecise and nebulous ideas. . Henri Poincaré
We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we must respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.” H. L. Mencken
Motto for a Humane Society or Literacy Council. It is possible that cetaceans (dolphins and whales) are as intelligent as we are. They just didn’t have papyrus and styli to permit them to achieve literacy and its potential for transmitted culture through millennia.
Scientists animated by the purpose of proving that they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study. Alfred North Whitehead
The creation and nurture of the MBA (Master of Business Administration)
I am an alumni magazine junkie. I think it is because they deal forthrightly with current issues without having to worry too much about subscribers canceling. Recently in one of my stable of such magazines I read about a new dean of that school’s graduate school of business. I especially liked his emphasizing community responsibility.
Three or four years ago I wrote a health column about mad cow disease entitled The Biology of Cannibalism. I didn’t include the following irreverent thought in my column. “No self-respecting farmer would have thought of making involuntary cannibals out of his cattle; some British MBA probably thought it up”.
Was Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at any Speed another result of business interests interfering with technical decisions? If so, we could have been spared some current hassles more important than a deficit of constant velocity joints in the Corvair’s rear suspension. I bet the MBAs at GM were not steeped in community responsibility. It is encouraging that the trend in industry is to send some of their technical people for graduate work in business.
If any of my readers think of some further examples of MBAs run amuck, please tell me about it: email@example.com July 9, 2004
Medical Slang. In medical school our teachers insisted that we record our patients’ chief complaints in their own words. In my mid-career a “three time loser” replied to the question, ”What seems to be the main trouble?” with “Doc, everything I touches(sic) turns to excrement.” Actually he used a more expressive word for excrement. I wrote his complaint verbatim and the diagnosis: reverse Midas syndrome. Within a year or so I attended a class reunion where my classmates were talking about important and otherwise noteworthy patients. My entry was King Sadim (sounds oriental enough). The punch line “….this is Midas spelled backward and everything he touched turned to !!!!”. Reverse Midas syndrome has become standard medical slang for a three time loser, even making it to ”Letters to Editor” columns of the New England Journal of Medicine (and without my fingerprints on it).
I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me, Sir Isaac Newton:
As I was shuffling through my mind this week, a process that in my case is akin to meditation, I stumbled on the first case of multiple personality disorder. The date was 325 A.D. Have you guessed the identity of the patient? The diagnosis was made by a group of theologically minded “shrinks”. The patient was God and the diagnosis permitted several points of view to be correct, thus obviating the need to martyr quite a number of heretics, a worthy cause in itself.
This puts the doctrine of the Trinity in perspective and should expand ecumenism to include Unitarians and their ilk. Let us hope for the expansion of ecumenism to include more and more of the world’s religions, a process I have been calling transcendental ecumenism. Liberalizing of existing groups can occur simultaneously with establishing of new, more intellectually consistent doctrines, and it already happening, illustrated by how little offence I have caused by widely mentioning the foregoing.
Later I researched about Emperor Constantine and the council of Nicea in the Encyclopedia Britannica. The emperor had indeed been critical of so many early Christian martyrs and had influenced the Council in the manner inferred above.
January 31, 2000
Why are Norwegians more blond than Eskimos. June 28, 2002
Nose bleeds: Not infrequently a new patient will be sent to the family physician’s office for evaluation of high blood pressure detected in an emergency room incidental to treatment of a nosebleed. When rechecked under more calm conditions the blood pressure may not be remarkably high after all. The patient may even express gratitude to divine providence as if the nose bleed had acted like a “safety valve” in preventing a stroke. A more mundane explanation is that long before going to the emergency room the patient and his helpers had been frantically engaged in futile attempts to stop the bleeding with the development of an increasingly hopelessly frantic atmosphere. This is most likely the result if their attempts to stop the nose- bleed were accompanied by repeated efforts to clean out the blood clots. Such cleaning would be a good head start if one were trying to set a record on how long you could keep an ordinary nosebleed going.
How to stop a nosebleed: hang on for ten minutes without wiggling a finger and don’t try to clean the clots out of the nostril for half a day.
The following only seems like a joke: Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. It used to be a medical diagnosis for pathological homesickness.
You really can teach an old dog new tricks.
But plan on a dickens of a long campaign. from personal experience
The “Pediatrician” as Unindicted Co-conspirator. Why to faucets drip? Because they can’t go sni…i…i…f…f. Even some grown up kids think this is funny. It comes up in medical practice because vigorous nose blowing, like until your ears pop, may blow infected mucous through the tubes from your throat to the ear and promote a middle ear infection. So how do you explain all this to a grandma who is only satisfied with a stentorian nose blowing? You don’t. You simply hide behind your handkerchief and sni…i…i…f…f, approximating the blowing sound. The advanced conspiracy is to blow gently first, just in case of an extemporaneous inspection.
In my childhood, if you were sick enough to stay home from school, you stayed in bed. Maybe the family doctor made a house call. In those days, medicine was not as specialized as now: Our family doctor was the head of the Department of Internal Medicine at Indiana University Medical School. He talked directly to me and my mother listened in. It was never like the veterinarian talking only to the farmer. This man has been a medical role model for me. I like to think the unindicted co-conspirator approach with young patients has enhanced their future relationships with physicians later in their lives.
Perverbs, perverted, doctored-up proverbs: look at the end of this article (where there was convenient space).
People who think I don’t act my age. don’t know how much I have slowed down.
Photosynthetic Overdrive: In medical school I found biochemistry quite fascinating. We learned about how sugars and starches created by plants are processed in the animal’s digestive tract, liver and muscle; but the photosynthetic process for carbohydrate production and creation of other chemicals by plants was a “black box”. Since then I have learned some plant biochemistry that provides unexpected insights about human medicine and some incidental things that are just plain interesting. For instance, corn and a short list of other plants have an “overdrive” mechanism for getting about 15% more photosynthetic mileage out of a given amount of light compared to the rest of plant life. A cornfield in July is so efficient that, on a calm day, it exhausts all the carbon dioxide from the air in the vicinity of its leaves. Thus it grows measurably faster in a slight breeze that brings in new air with its full 0.04% carbon dioxide.
A Pill as Personal Advocate
An ample lady is eating alone in a booth
at the Bergoff in Chicago. She seems
to finish but asks the waiter for a menu.
Mortal combat with this menu ensues
until she brightens up, opens her purse,
pops a diet pill and orders pie ala mode.
Possible bad news
Due to budgetary constraints the light at the end of the tunnel is being switched off.
Author unknown (Apparently our unknown author didn’t realize that the light is daylight and free).
An apostolate is a group of clerics assembled for a specific purpose. A posse is a group of citizens assembled for a specific purpose. A sheriff’s posse on the frontier was typical. Does this make an apostolate into a posse of apostles?
Psychosis is a symptom, not a diagnosis. Compare with fever, which is a prominent symptom of many illnesses. Schizophrenia is a very common cause of psychosis. Alzheimer’s disease is an example of another disease that also occasionally causes psychosis. Patients with either of these diagnoses might hear voices that the rest of us cannot hear. When we give an anti-psychotic medication, which suppresses the symptom, we have not cured psychosis. Aspirin might suppress fever in the presence of pneumonia, but it never would enter our minds that we had cured the pneumonia.
An example from my professional past: When Thorazine, the first anti-psychotic drug, arrived on the market, I gave it to Alice, a long-term schizophrenic patient at the nursing home. She seemed to stop hearing voices. After a few months of this success, she and I were having a friendly conversation. I asked Alice, “Does Thorazine really stop you from hearing voices, or does it just help you not to talk about them?” She thought for a moment and replied, “Maybe it just helps me not to talk about them.” Thorazine had not helped to organize her life, so this was the beginning of the insight that psychosis is merely a symptom not a diagnosis.
John A. Frantz, M.D.
Q tips. Always lock the door when you clean your ears with Q tips. Some younger person might see you doing it and think that is the thing to do. Consider that you might be a role model. Besides, someone might open the door and hit your elbow.
If you decide to shape up and realize that Q tips are for cleaning deep, narrow belly buttons, let it be known that as the skin in the ear canal is replaced with new skin from underneath, the replacement takes place on a diagonal toward the outside. Thus a lump of wax sticking there will also move toward the outside taking with it any debris that happens to be sticking to it such as a fruit fly that you have forgotten about because it didn’t struggle for very long.
What’s the matter with being out of step if you are in step with reality.
A Battlefield Commission as Robin Hood. At age eight or ten I liberated some plaster of Paris from a dentist’s trash in our neighborhood. I was quite confident that I could easily find a higher use for it. Among other uses I made molds for casting lead objects. The most successful were buffalo nickels that were good enough to pass—even the mint date was legible. I didn’t even try to pass them, but I gave a few of them to Kimmie, our long term family maid. There happened to be a home made, illegal slot machine near her house. And it also just happened that my nickels hit the jack pot every time she put one in. The extra heft of the lead probably mislead the primitive mechanism. Kimmie was clever enough not to use too many of them, and she split the take with me to keep them coming.
The amazing part of the story is that when my mother found out about the entire adventure, I became a hero for protecting the poor blacks from exploitation by the greedy (white) merchants. The title of this item is paraphrased from my mother. Neither Kimmie nor I received any sanction from any source and neither of us went on to pursue a life of crime, vindicating my mother’s assessment of events. All mothers are special, some more than others, of course.
The role of a physician is frequently that of surrogate parent for adults. In this role I would much prefer to be taken in by an imposter than to fail to meet a legitimate need of one of my “children”. (An imposter might be an addict seeking a fix—a frequent occurrence in medical practice).
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Scientists animated by the purpose of proving that they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study. Alfred North Whitehead
Science doesn’t have all the answers, but it is good at spotting important questions when they are camouflaged against a background of common sense. Richard Dawkins, Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing, page 96
A Change in Scientific Dogma. During my formal education it was firmly believed that after brain development in childhood no new neurons would ever be formed later in life. Functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET scanning (positron emission tomography) show in real time which parts of the brain are activated in accomplishing specific types of mental tasks. The hippocampus, a nucleus of cells at the base of the brain, is the most active region when the brain is processing geographic memories. You might say that we store maps of our personal worlds in our hippocampi.
An imaginative researcher checked the brains of New York City cab drivers compared with cabbies from complex eastern cities such as Boston and Providence which grew like topsy from wandering colonial cow paths. NYC is laid out on a grid of streets and avenues. An immigrant cab driver can learn this map almost instantly. The hippocampus of NYC cab drivers was no larger than that of non-cab drivers, whereas those of cabbies from the complex, even though smaller cities, were the largest that had been examined at that time. This led to proof that at least in the hippocampus, adult brains actually grew new cells when needed. I like the open mindedness of science (open minded does not mean holes in the head).
How Sears Roebuck stifled the appreciation of Latin poetry. I knew a gentleman, who was so good a manager of his time, that he would not even lose that small potion of it which the calls of nature obliged him to pass in the necessary house, but gradually went through all the Latin poets in those moments. He bought, for example, a common edition of Horace, of which he tore off gradually a couple of pages, carried them with him to that necessary place, read them first and then sent them down as a sacrifice to Cloacina; that was so much time fairly gained, and I recommend you to follow his example…. It will make any book which you shall read in that manner very present in your mind. Lord Chesterton to his son, 1924
Social Medicine, The Improvement of medicine may eventually prolong life, but the improvement of social conditions can achieve this result more rapidly and more successfully. Rudolf Virchow, 1821-1902, founding father of cellular pathology and social medicine.
Your article “Size Matters” about cosmetic breast surgery in today’s paper was interesting and informative. The point about reluctance to recommend augmentation surgery in youth was well taken. The fact that this surgery seriously compromises breast feeding was not mentioned.
Human brain growth is quite incomplete at birth. Although the newborn infant can manufacture all of the special material for this growth, the extra quantities required for optimum development are supplied by human milk uniquely. Formulas for bottle feeding make only some corrections, which do not include these special brain forming lipids. A study in Cambridge, England, of breast fed premature babies showed an eight point IQ advantage compared to similar bottle fed babies.
This type of consideration is unlikely to be made by the young candidate for breast implants. Do the surgeons all discuss the consequences of implants for breast feeding with these young patients and their parents? If not, this letter may help.
Slavery is the legal fiction that a Person is Property. Corporate Personhood is the legal fiction that Property is a Person. from www.wilpf.org
Slippery Slopes. Suppose the slippery slope is an otter slide, and you are an otter doing what you oughter (say it out loud in cadence).
The vast majority of people who really benefit from wearing spectacles do in fact wear them most of their waking hours. About half of those who would really benefit from using hearing aids do wear them.
We have instincts that had survival value for our pre-human ancestors, but now should be blunted or even subverted. A primal instinct that should only be blunted can lead to AIDS and other diseases. Bill Clinton fired a Surgeon General for making a valid “blunting” suggestion too explicit.
The instinct for territorial warfare has no survival value in our time. Weapons of mass destruction have seen to that. Team sports sublimate this instinct. The enthusiasm for team sports is evolving into the military equivalent for the suggestion that cost Jocelyn Elders her job.
Please be tolerant of those among us who seem to overemphasize Super-bowl. They are either the wave of the future or emerging among us from the past—maybe they are both.
Sustainability is “Meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” from a 1987 UN conference
The best things in life are not things.
from “Confronting Consumption” M.I.T. Press 2002
The Treaty of Tripoli, officially called the Treaty of peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary states in article 11:
“As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
The treaty was signed by George Washington in November, 1796, ratified unanimously by the Senate and signed by John Adams in June of 1797, all without raising the slightest concern even about article 11.
It is remarkable how much you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.
Harry S. Truman
Twisted Timberline Trees. I have observed these trees for many decades. Almost all of them are twisted. Trees at lower elevations in a forest are seldom twisted. The majority of the twisted trees twist clockwise from the bottom up (well over ¾ of them from several regions of Colorado and north).
My explanation is that trees not in a dense stand have slightly longer branches on the south side from seeking sunlight. The prevailing westerly winds push these limbs toward the east, twisting the tree slightly. As the twisting proceeds, new limbs on the south side of the tree seek the sunlight and become the new slightly longer limbs.
What about the occasional tree that is twisted in the opposite direction?--frequently a forest fire leaves the dead phantoms standing. Those on the north side of a small grove twist counterclockwise as seen from the base because of a second mechanism that comes into play. The south limbs on these trees when alive were not only shorter because of shade from nearby trees, but also they were shaded from the wind compared to the limbs on the north side of the tree (also the north side of the grove). These north limbs grew longer as above from seeking the best sun available and were more exposed to the wind to be blown toward the east, explaining the opposite twist. Of course the twist of fallen trees has nothing to contribute to this discussion.
families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own
variously attributed to Mahatma Ghandi & Leo Tolstoy
Unnecessary questions are by definition unnecessary, but they may still be of great interest. Think of unnecessary questions as like the screen saver on your computer monitor, keeping your brain active in case you need it suddenly for some vital purpose—besides, a fixed idea is less likely to burn a hole in your screen (sic) of consciousness.
“Vitamins are Good for Arthritis” I have a friend whose wife is very much into vitamins. One Friday evening when I was tired and perhaps a little irritable, she was giving me the pitch about vitamin supplements. I replied, “Sure, Nancy, I believe in vitamins if you have arthritis of the jaw.” Her reply: “oh Doc, I am so glad you realize that vitamins are good for arthritis.” This taught me a great truth: if you say something offensive to someone who wants to like you, they may give you another chance (if you don’t blow it by frivolously explaining yourself). I bit my lip and quit while I was ahead. I have noted many lesser examples of this phenomenon since then.
Mankind has been slow in solving the population explosion except in the developed world where women are educated. Incidentally Ireland and Spain, where women are educated, have just as low birthrates as Germany and Scandinavia. Education trumps religion or ethnic status when it comes to personal decisions about family size.
When the population crunch comes the more of us are eating meat and can thereby switch to become vegetarian the fewer people will have to starve. Meanwhile, let us send teachers everywhere to educate women. Some education will rub off on the men and that will be “the icing on the cake.”
Facts are like ventriloquists dummies. Sitting on a wise man’s knee, they may be made to utter wisdom. Elsewhere they say nothing. Aldous Huxley
The law in its majestic equality forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread Voltaire, 1694-1778
We can do without extended families about as well as we can do without vitamins and minerals.
Kurt Vonnegut 2006
How are washing machines and riding lawn mowers alike? June 19, 2003
Our daughter was riding with us to St. Louis to our grandson’s (her nephew’s) wedding. The above question occurred to me as I observed her watching a man on his riding lawn mower mowing the 5-acre (approximately) lawn of his trophy house (starter castle).
When we get washing machines, most of us don’t get the full advantage of the labor saving device because we wash more stuff more often using up much of the time and effort we might have saved. Riding lawn mowers permit the same “wheel spinning” compulsion.
And when we get good roads and automobiles, many of us spend two hours per day commuting—ample time to put in quite a large garden resulting in great health improvement for the entire family.
Perverbs are doctored up Proverbs
One man’s Mede is another man’s Persian.
One man’s meat is another man’s poison.
Too many crooks spoil the brothel.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.
Many are cold but few are frozen (for sex therapists).
Many are called but few are chosen.
All jack and no work makes a dull playboy.
All work and no play makes jack (archaic
slang for money).
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
A man’s best friend is his dogma
A god’s best friend is her dogma. (sic)
Rush fools in where angels fear to tread.
Devised by a friend of a signer of The Declaration of Independence (Benjamin Rush)
Partying is such sweet sorrow (subsequent hangover).
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make ‘em think.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.
If the shoe fits, you will never find out without trying it on.
If the shoe fits, wear it.
Necessity is the mother of strange bedfellows.
A hybrid perverb.
This last one isn’t a perverb, but it is close.
An Irish pervert likes women better than he likes whiskey.
The author discovered perverbs in the mathematics and puzzles section of the old ScientificAmerican Magazine. Perverbs make a nice minor hobby. Only some of the above are original.