Saturday, January 22, 2011

Interesting Book ... check it out.

Just finished reading 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' by Rebecca Skloot - a N.Y. Times best seller. I first heard about the book in an interview with the author on one of NPR's 'talking head' shows. I was interested in the interview and made a note of the book because during my teaching career days, I had introduced my students to karyotyping (...examining chromosomes) by ordering "HeLa" cells from Cellserv, a biotech company in the D.C. area. Students would prep microscope slides; drop fixed "HeLa" cells from various heights to 'splat' onto microscope slides; followed by staining in an assembly line process; then zooming to 1000X under a microscope to observe and count chromosomes. They could see banding on the various shaped and sized human chromosomes; as well as count the number of chromosomes in cells.

The "Hela" cells we used in lab, were cultured from the original cells removed from Henrietta Lack when she was being treated for cervical cancer in the 'colored only' section at John Hopkins in Baltimore. She died from the cancer a few weeks later in 1951. Her cells were prolific growers under laboratory conditions and have been used in cancer research & teaching for many years. The extended Lack's family recieved virtually no explaination or recognition of the significants of this cell line that has and continues to contribute so much to our understanding of cancer, genetics, tissue culture, etc today.

After reading the story of the Lack's family, I personally was struck by the importances of good education and racial equality; two comodities readily denied the Lack's family over the decades.

It's a good, fast read and available in the Pioneer Library system.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Low Budget Good Deeds

Yesterday while finishing a 12.4 mile walking loop, I noticed a letter in the snow along side of Blue Cut road. I stopped, picked it up and found it was from a local resident, stamped and addressed to someone at a correctional facility in NYS. I have no idea who the individuals whose names were on the letter are and tucked the letter into my wind breaker pocket, then proceeding on towards home. While starting up the hill on Marbletown road out of Newark, I stopped to visit with an elderly man trying to reattach his mailbox with bare, white fingers in the 20F temperatures. He was having a difficult time threading the nut & washer through the mailbox mounting frame to the stove bolt with numb fingers. I helpped him complete the job, but not before my fingers became very numb too. He thanked me before I finished walking the remaining 1.5 miles home to dry out the letter and get it into Monday's mail pickup.

PS - "Who was that masked man? ...Hi! Ho! Silver!"

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Looking Back at 2010

Another year has come and gone. While out walking today I thought about the year past and made the following estimates about the occupation of my time over the last 365 days. I would like to think that my preoccupations around the home and our travels were environmentally friendly. With the completion of yesterdays' walk into town to pick up a few non-domestically produced items for our New Year dinner today; I completed my goal of walking/backpacking 1500 miles in 2010. [I also cashed in $37.50 worth of returnable cans/bottles picked up along the road side in and around Marbletown.] Checking the odometers of my rusty truck (... missed 'cash for clunkers') and our car, I noted that we drove a combined total of 14,039 miles; less than the USA average for a couple in our age group*.