Friday, February 14, 2003

MICE HAVE TWO NOSES! For your Valentine's Day amusement --

Researchers have discovered that mice, when deciding whether to mate, use an essential but unexpected organ: a “second nose” that figures out gender, status and even if romantic feelings are mutual. The more familar nose may tell an animal where food is, but a separate organ, called the vomeronasal organ, opens up a different world of perception...

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

CLARIFICATION: Gary Farber brings to my attention an important clarification about the Petr Ginz moonscape drawing which was carried aboard the Columbia by Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon.

Although the mainstream media has invariably neglected to mention this, the original drawing has not been lost with the Columbia. Col. Ramon carried a copy of the drawing into space. The orginal artwork is still in the Yad Vashem archives.

The Yad Vashem (literally, "everlasting name") Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority press release, which Gary cites, vaguely explains that "Ramon took a replica of the drawing, produced according to NASA specifications."

To that, I will add one other thing which, I think, begs for clarification as well:

In scouring the earlier Yad Vashem press releases for details, the media has also picked up the word "murdered" -- routinely repeating that young Petr Ginz was "murdered" at Auschwitz. Among the Jewish people, the meaning of those juxtaposed words could not be clearer -- but in the heartland of America, I'm not so sure. Outside of historical context, it may sound to some as though Ginz was merely a victim of circumstance -- the regrettable consequence of hanging with a bad crowd, or making enemies of the wrong people in prison.

At the risk of seeming overly sensitive, let's all please understand that "murdered at Auschwitz" is not the same thing as "shanked at Rikers" or "executed at Alcatraz." Not remotely the same.

NON-STORY OF THE DAY: While Josh Marshall intones, ominously, that "There will be an announcement this afternoon ... that will -- temporarily at least -- shake up the Democratic presidential race," the non-story has already hit the wire services:

Sen. John Kerry was diagnosed with prostate cancer on Christmas Eve. His nascent Presidential campaign will be suspended for about two weeks while he undergoes surgery and aftercare treatment. The expectation is that he'll be "back at work" in a couple of weeks.

Why this turn of events should in any way shake up the race, I haven't the foggiest. If anything, Kerry should now be seen as the stronger, healthier candidate among his peer group of aging political hacks and opportunists. While the rest of the Democratic field is running around with prostates that might explode at any moment, Kerry is now statistically the least likely to succumb to prostate cancer while in office.

What I'm still waiting to hear from Kerry's spokespeople is a satisfactory rationale for his candidacy, regardless.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

BIBLIOPHILES REJOICE! It's not that I especially hate having's proprietary "Customer Service Algorithm" telling me what it "thinks" I'd like to read. In fact, it's very often right. But there's nothing like wandering through the narrow aisles of a real New York bookstore, and stumbling across something I didn't even know I wanted to read until it called out to me.

Happily, that biblophile's paradise lost, Coliseum Books, will reopen in two months, at 11 West 42nd Street -- across from the New York Public Library.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

WHAT WAS LOST: Elsewhere, you'll be reading and hearing a great deal about the seven brave men and women who perished this morning -- and, elsewhere, you'll no doubt be seeing many angry chattering men and women, shouting to be heard over their colleagues about where to place the blame.

And elsewhere, you'll find the conspiracy theorists scripting their comforting narratives, secure in the knowledge that nothing bad ever happens due to human error or incompetence, finding fingerprints of the Permanent Shadow Government all over the telemetry data -- which, not by coincidence, has already been seized and secured.

But if you've wandered onto this page. pause for a moment to remember Petr Ginz -- a 14-year-old Jewish boy whose moonscape drawing might well have been a cover sketch for an issue of Amazing Stories in 1942. Instead, it was drawn for his own amusement while he lived for two years in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, prior to his execution at Auschwitz. Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon carried this drawing aboard the Columbia.

From the Yad Vashem press release:

The moon landscape depicted in Petr Ginz’s drawing attests to his aspiration to reach a place from where the earth, which threatened his life, could be seen from a secure range. Even more so, the picture reveals a young man who, in addition to his other talents, was both a researcher and scientist full of optimism that science precedes all and would ultimately bring a remedy for humanity.

Speaking to the New York-based American Society for Yad Vashem from the Houston, Texas Space Centre where he is in training, Ilan Ramon said, “I feel that my journey fulfills the dream of Petr Ginz 58 years on. A dream that is ultimate proof of the greatness of the soul of a boy imprisoned within the ghetto walls, the walls of which could not conquer his spirit. Ginz’s drawings, stored at Yad Vashem, are a testimony to the triumph of the spirit."