Friday, June 27, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Fountain pens

Here's a moving entry about the use of fountain pens by Peter A. Lipson, M.D. Click on the title above to go directly to the blog post and read others' comments and add your own.

Fountain pens

Category: Medical Musings
Posted on: June 17, 2008 10:31 PM, by PalMD

I love fountain pens, but I'm far to busy for the regular ritual of cleaning, filling, etc. Most of my day is spent scrawling notes or typing on a keyboard. But there is one task for which only a fountain pen will do.

I've lost a number of patients lately. Most were in hospice, all were elderly, but it's always tough. I take care of my patients until they die, including hospice care, so I often get to follow them on the journey from health to death. Sometimes, great debility and dementia is a step on that journey. I've taken to writing short notes to the spouse of the deceased, to acknowledge the death, let them know I'm available, and remind them that I knew the patient on a personal level and appreciate the loss of a person, rather than just a patient.

I just can't type a letter like that, and using some plastic throw-away pen doesn't seem appropriate. I take a nice piece of office stationary, dip my pen, and write. After signing the letter, I turn it and blot it on another sheet.

The subtle smears that are left by my mediocre penmanship create a clearly personal document, separating it from a generic communication.

There really aren't many more important tasks. I don't mind brushing off my quirky 1957 Pelican once in a while. One must always use the proper tool for the occasion. While a patient lives, a stethoscope, clean hands, and a penlight are indispensable. After they are gone, only a fountain pen will do.

Fastest-ever flashgun captures image of light wave

* 19:00 19 June 2008
* news service
* Colin Barras

However hard you stare, you would still miss it. Researchers have found a way to generate the shortest-ever flash of light – 80 attoseconds (billionths of a billionth of a second) long.

Such flashes have already been used to capture an image of a laser pulse too short to be "photographed" before (see below).

Click the title to read the entire article.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Isolated in Amazon, Visible From the Air

From the NY Times:


Aerial photographs of an isolated community of indigenous people in the Amazon basin, near the border shared by Brazil and Peru, were released this week to show that they exist but may be endangered by illegal logging.

One picture, taken by the Brazilian government, showed two men, painted red, brandishing bows and arrows at the camera-bearing plane flying low over the dense rain forest. In another picture, about 15 men, women and children who were not painted looked up from thatched huts.

Survival International, an organization based in London whose mission is to help tribal peoples to “defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures,” said the pictures were taken as part of several flights over the thinly populated upper reaches of the Amazon, in Acre, a Brazilian state.

Some of the photographs are here.

The Brazilian government conducts such photographic operations to locate the scattered tribes and monitor their well-being. Anthropologists say the government’s practice in recent years has been to track these remote people by air or from boats, but to leave them alone.

In a statement on Thursday, Survival International quoted José Carlos dos Reis Meirelles, an official of Funai, the Indian affairs department of the Brazilian government, as saying, “We did the overflight to show their houses, to show they are there, to show they exist.”

The photographs were shot in late April and early May, but the government released them now because of growing concerns that disease and the spread of illegal logging threaten to destroy the tribe’s way of life.

Initial news reports and the statement from Survival International did not identify the tribe or give the exact location of the settlement, presumably to protect it from unwanted visits. But the reports described the people as members of one of South America’s few remaining indigenous tribes that had not had contact with the outside world.

But Robert L. Carneiro, an anthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History who has made a career of studying indigenous people of the Amazon, questioned that claim after examining the photographs on Friday.

He noted that the men wore bamboo headpieces that looked like crowns, with strips of thinly cut bamboo around their waists.

He said that attire reminded him of the Amahuaca people he lived with and studied in the 1960s. Most of them live along the Amazon’s headwaters, in Peru, not far from Acre, Dr. Carneiro said. “I’m not saying these people in the pictures are Amahuaca, but they could be,” he said. “Or they are a closely related group.”

Monday, June 02, 2008

Bob Dylan motorcycle crash a myth?

Sky News: Bob Dylan crash
Bob Dylan crash
Updated: 09:44, Tuesday June 3, 2008

A new book, written by Dutch painter Jan Cremer, claims that Bob Dylan's motorcycle accident in 1966 is a myth.

In his book, Cremer states that the infamous accident never happened, saying he saw Dylan during the detoxification process.

Dylan was known to have used drugs and his disappearance for almost two months fuelled questions about what happened to him.

Cremer also writes about his life, as well as his time mixing with other pop icons.