Saturday, November 26, 2016

And more thoughts

* It was just a lot of togetherness. Six people plus a dog in a normal-sized house that is really set up for two people (and occasional visits from one kid or set of kids). Nowhere really good to graciously get away from noise other than by walking the dog (which I did several times).

Sometimes I feel sad about living alone, because I do tend to get inside my head a bit much and caught in the one-inch picture frame and things look much bigger than they actually are (problems are BIG problems, even if I can't throw a tantrum about them). But I'm not sure being in a packed house would be any better for me.

* My niece wasn't in to hugging people goodbye when they left, but I can understand that and respect it. I had the idea of offering her my hand to shake and she took it (I figured she knew handshaking as they take her to church with them). And that was fine with me - I usually shook hands with my aunts and uncles and cousins when I was a kid because I wasn't really a hugger.

* She must be getting ready for a growth spurt (she is tallish but slender for her age) because she was CONSTANTLY eating. It kind of amazed me. Though then again, I am used to a nearly-50-year-old appetite, where I do better eating small meals at regular times and generally not snacking or, if I do, on something like a little bit of cheese or a boiled egg. 

* The dog knows how to shake paws, and also give "high fives." He's actually a very well-behaved dog: I don't know too many dogs who will listen to a stranger when they ask him to "sit" or similar commands, but he listened to me.

* I watched a little bit of the Thanksgiving parades but I spent more time on the Chicago one - which is smaller and less glitzy and less of an ad for Broadway shows than Macy's is now. (I miss the Macy's parades of my childhood: it seems there were fewer advertisements, and there wasn't a stop every five minutes for a number from some Broadway show or some tv starlet to promote her new show. Or maybe I was more tolerant of that kind of thing, I don't know.) I mainly watched for the big balloons and they seem to get less time now. (I also wonder at the whole "advertising Broadway" thing - just how many people in the TV audience are going to pick up and go to New York City? And get tickets to a show? I'm betting, not most of them.)

On Friday I also watched part of Peoria's "Santa Claus Parade" which is apparently the oldest annual parade of this type (something like 126 years). Again, it was less fancy and less glitzy and I like that. Sometimes I think people try to make things too slick and technological and the things lose some of their heart in the process.

Or maybe I'm just getting old and I remember how things used to be in the 1970s.

* I finished "The Cornish Coast Murder" on the way up. In general, I highly recommend it: good story, it has all of the elements of those Golden Era Mysteries that make them fun: a likeable "amateur" detective (Vicar Dodd), a young couple who are in love but have some obstacle (which is ultimately removed) to their being able to marry, comic "rustics," a rural police force that varies in their level of intelligence, an interesting setting,  a victim who was probably better off dead, the horror of suspecting (for a short time) sympathetic characters, and an ultimately satisfying denouement (the vicar is swearing off crime fiction, having lived a real murder case; his doctor friend, an agnostic, admits he is willing to give the God thing another chance).

Only two minor complaints: Bude, like many first-time thriller writers uses far too many exclamation points. It maybe becomes less (or less noticeable) later on the book but at the beginning it did irk me slightly. And second - without spoiling too much - the murderer was a bit of a deus-ex-machina solution to avoid blaming any of the sympathetic characters.

* I also started the big book about the 1918 flu. This is one you have to stick with because it spends some 150 pages on the history of American medicine before it gets to the meat of the epidemic (and if the hypothesis of the influenza's origin is correct, it should really be called the Kansas flu rather than the Spanish flu).

The doctors profiled - I almost called them "characters" but of course they were real people - from William Welch to Simon Flexner to Oswald Avery (I knew a bit about Avery from some of his pnemococcus experiments, but not a lot of detail). One striking thing: many of the men and women (and yes, there are a few women involved in the story) never married, and seemed to have very limited personal lives. (The author supposes that Welch COULD have been gay but very deeply closeted, but argues that seems ultimately unlikely for lack of much evidence. And anyway: I think our attitudes towards relationships and things are different now; someone who is never involved with anyone at all is seen as deeply weird, whereas in years past, it was perhaps that they were "devoted to their careers" or of course, in the case of women, they didn't marry because they'd have to give up their careers - and also, there was no reliable way of avoiding pregnancy if you were physically involved with a man).

There's also discussion of some of the biology behind infection, and it's a good layperson's description - you maybe need a LITTLE understanding of biology, but I'm not an immunologist and it made sense to me.

And something I mentioned to my classes, and then was worried I was wrong about, but it turns out I was not misremembering: the 1918 flu was an H1N1 flu, just like the swine flu of 2009, which may have been part of the reason for the panic. (We were asked to write up plans of how we could finish up our classes, including giving finals, if the university had to close temporarily because of an outbreak. Luckily it never came here in a big way and we didn't have to, because that would have been a nightmare).

Another interesting thing: in the pre-antibiotic days, a lot of work was done on "antitoxins" for certain bacterial diseases (a particularly successful one was used against diphtheria, especially in the era before the TdaP vaccine) and Berry hints that maybe that's a useful path for researchers to follow NOW as antibiotic resistance grows.

(Also: whatever happened to typhoid as a disease? It seems that you read a lot about that in old books, but you never hear of anyone getting it any more. Is it treatable with antibiotics? Has better hygiene all but eliminated it?)

1 comment:

CGHill said...

Typhoid fever is still out there, but it's not killing as many as it used to: better treatments and superior sanitation, y'know. CDC claims that chlorine in US water supplies keeps the pertinent bacterium at bay.