A Bit of Spring Spice

  By Ed Baranosky

The first time I met Natalie Rowland was at a board meeting in our corporate offices in New York. My name is Frank Barnes I’m an executive producer of ads for a major television network. Ms. Rowland is the advertising VP of a national cosmetic company. At our meetings in New York I found her to be intelligent, articulate and a stunningly beautiful black woman.

A strategy meeting was set up at their Durham, North Carolina office to go over the details of a seven-figure contract for a TV commercial to kick-off the spring introduction of a new cosmetic product created specifically for women of color.

I flew into Raleigh picked up my rental car and drove to the Ramada Hotel where I was going to stay.

I checked in, went to my room, unpacked my suit and draped it on a hanger. I hadn’t eaten since I left New York and it was already 6 p.m. I decided to go to the hotel dining room for dinner.

I was sliding my keycard into the door-lock when I heard the phone ringing in my room. It was Ms. Rowland asking if I could come to her condominium. She had a few details she would like to go over before our meeting tomorrow. I said “yes.” She then gave me directions to her residence.

The condominium was not far from the hotel where I was staying. I drove to the address, picked up my briefcase and rang the bell. When the door opened she greeted me with a pleasant smile.”

She was wearing red silk pajamas with pants that flared out at the bottom. As she led me into the living room. I could not help but notice how the silk followed every movement of her body. In the living room she said “I’m going to have a glass of Sangria before we get down to business. Would you like something,” I said “perhaps I’ll have one after we’re through, thank you.”

She poured her drink, took a sip put the glass on a table and came to where I was standing and said “I’ve been waiting to do this since I first met you.” She put her arms around my neck pressed her body against mine and kissed me. I could taste the Sangria on her slightly- parted lips.

I was taken completely by surprise.  It took a several moments for my brain to process the feelings that were going through my body.

I put my hands high up on her waist and pushed her away. The softness of her breasts on the back of my hands did not make it any easier.  As we parted I stammered “I’m sorry I can’t do this. I love my wife and children.”

I picked up my briefcase and said “I’ll see you in the morning at your office.” As I was leaving I could hear her crying softly.

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Do I Know You?

By John-Paul Marciano

Walking into the student lounge, I quickly scan the room for familiar faces.  There he is sitting in a stuffed chair with his feet up on an ottoman.  An unfiltered Camel cigarette is billowing smoke from an ashtray on his left.  And there’s the familiar cup of black coffee still steaming.  Every now and then, without moving his head, he raises his eye level to scan the room.  One quick scan and he returns his focus to the novel he’s been reading.

It’s a typical Friday afternoon.  Classes are done for the week so he uses the time to relax and unwind.  He likes that seat because he’s left-handed and it’s the only stuffed chair in the room with a table on the left.  As I walk past I look in the ashtray.   It must have been a low stress week.  There are only three butts and the one still going.  What a knucklehead!

I walk over to the deli and buy myself a diet iced green tea and the South Bend Tribune.  I walk back into the lounge.  The chair next to him appears unoccupied.

“Anybody sitting in this chair?” I ask.

“You,” he replies without looking up.

I ease myself into the chair and balance my drink on the right arm.  I pull out a pen and flip to the crossword puzzle.  We sit in silence for a while, him reading his novel, me doing the crossword puzzle.  I notice him dog-ear the page he was reading.  He takes out his pack of cigarettes and a lighter and lights up another smoke.

Without looking up from my crossword puzzle I say, “You know those are going to kill you, don’t you?”

“And this concerns you, why?” he asks.  He takes a long drag off his cigarette but still doesn’t lift his eyes from the novel.

I chuckle to myself and reply, “Just pointing out the obvious.” I go back to working my crossword puzzle.

“Thanks,” he said.

“No problem.”

After a few minutes I feel a pair of eyes staring at me.  I look up and to my left but don’t say anything.

“You look familiar,” he said to me.  “Do I know you?”

“I don’t think so,” I said.

I gather my things and get up to leave.  There’s nothing I can tell him.  He wouldn’t listen even if I did.

“Enjoy your weekend,” I told him.

“Thanks.  You do the same,” he said as I walked away.

I couldn’t work up the nerve to tell him I’m just an older version of the face he sees when he looks in the mirror every morning.

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Advice to a Young Physicist

By Robert Cordery 

So, you want to be a theoretical physicist? While this advice may not seem totally original, hear me out.  Focus on the three Rs.

Physics combines mathematical theory and experimental measurement to understand how the world works.  Success in physics requires particular capabilities in reading, writing, and arithmetic. An investment in developing expertise in all three skills will pay dividends with a flourishing career.

No matter how much you read, there will always be more fascinating papers you should have read. There are more than 250 physics papers published every day. You need triage just to monitor the most relevant knowledge for your current research topics. Identify the publications that best match your needs. You must become a kind of speed reader. Skim relevant papers to extract their key ideas and integrate them with your knowledge. Rigorously analyze the arguments and results in a few of the most critical papers.  Your analysis may go as far as reproducing calculations and computer simulations. After you understand the question a paper is addressing, think about how you would approach the problem.

You need a peer network. Develop a list of physicists you follow. Build relationships with them at conferences and during university visits. The number of single author papers is declining, while collaborations are skyrocketing.  Actively seek out collaborators.

Every few years, change your research focus. You will avoid becoming stale. As you mature as a scientist, you will find creative opportunities in the fertile ground between the well-trodden paths.

Take a writing class. Train in writing grant proposals. Remember the reader. Even for a specialist audience, very few have spent a comparable effort studying the topic of your paper.  Pay special attention to the comments of editors and peer referees. They may be a majority of the people who read your work attentively.

Writing requires practice. Imitate the best features of the papers you enjoy. Write topic summaries and develop the logic of physics arguments for yourself. The effort of writing decrease, but only with practice will your quality improve. Your ability in mathematics and physics does not extend to writing.  You will have to work at it, starting now.

Over the last three millennia mankind has advanced the twin frontiers of mathematics and of our understanding of the universe in lock-step. Eugene Wigner called it “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences.” The partnership between mathematics and physics is not ending.

You can never know all the mathematics that could help you gain a deeper understanding of the universe. Pay extra attention to mathematics of symmetry. The beauty of physics is intimately tied to the symmetries and broken symmetries of the universe. The deep connections between algebra and geometry always sheds light on the nature of physics.

The days of doing mathematical physics on paper are regretfully ending. Systems that are not addressable by simple equations are routinely addressed with computer simulations. Computer languages and styles will evolve. The way of formulating problems for computer solution will improve.  But the ability to express an aspect of the world with an algorithm running on a computer will always be in demand.

After you have learned to read, write, and calculate, after you have built your network, remember this one last thing: follow the experiments.

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Princess

By Juliana Lavitola

 

Middle age approached as my dream prince

Appeared and asked if I would be his princess.

Happy was I to answer, “Yes.”

 

As we married and settled into our dream home

Our minds became one–sharing ideas and turning

Our home into our castle.

Love and joy was felt as decades sped by.

 

Then one day, darkness came over our castle,

And took my prince away.

I no longer felt like a princess.

 

Our castle became quiet.

His touch was gone, as well as,

His embrace, his kiss, his voice.

Everything was quiet.

 

Family gatherings brought joyful voices.

Quiet crept back in when they dispersed.

 

As spring ran into summer solstice

Followed by winter solstice,

The castle remained quiet.

 

Mid-winter, I awakened with a start

Thinking the sun woke me; only to see it remained dark.

I dressed and went quickly to the idle treadmill.

The workout added to my feeling of renewal.

Days passed and as I rejoined social group events,

I found energy without tears.

 

I felt my prince was no longer beside me.

He now took up residence in my heart

Guiding and pushing me forward.

Thanks to my living prince,

I feel like a princess again.

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Inhumanity of Mankind

by Karin Cheney

I know what it feels like to be bullied and abused.  Those memories are always with me.  So when I witness someone or something being harmed or mistreated my first instinct is to protect and comfort them.

Too often, instead of celebrating and appreciating the marvelous diversity of life among us it’s met with hatred, violence and cruelty.  Some people are harassed, abused, ignored, rejected or dismissed because they are mentally ill, poor, homeless, sick, addicts or simply different.

Sometimes they are abused and hated out of ignorant fear or prejudice.  But always, the damage it causes to people and populations that are already fragile, fearful and compromised is heartbreaking.  And it’s always something I will fight against.

But this problem doesn’t end with just humans.  It’s inflicted on other living things as well. The harm we humans inflict on each other, our planet, and other living things is both devastating and heart breaking. The vast amounts of trash, pollution, excess and waste we produce, especially of plastics and dangerous materials, are being dumped into our oceans, land, atmosphere and outer space at alarming rates and are compromising the safety and future of our world and every living thing surrounding and within it.

The inhumanities of mankind on mankind itself and of all other life here on Earth is heart-breaking. Sometimes I think it’s just too easy for some of us to turn a blind eye to these atrocities and continue on in our own secure pleasant lives, thinking that our individual actions are not enough to change anything.

We think the problems are too big for us to make a significant difference or change in the situation or we think that someone else is better equipped to help or there are organizations out there to fix and solve the issues.

But the truth is that each and everyone one of us can make a difference even in the smallest way.   Many hands make easy work, but many hands are made up of individual hands, and together they can do many things to bring positive changes before it’s too late.

So the next time you’re faced with the opportunity to stand up and make a positive difference in the world or another living being’s life, stand up and be the positive change you want to see in the world.

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Cyborgs

By Robert Cordery

It all began with Superintendent, the nasal spray that cured Alzheimer’s. Perhaps now the technology has gone too far. But how can I get a snort of the advanced stuff for myself?

Supers are the nanoparticles in Superintendent. They are so small that they easily pass through the blood-brain barrier to do their work.  Each Super is specialized. Some break down amyloid beta plaques so they can be cleared from the brain. Other Supers specialize in correcting the mutation of tau protein that causes protein tangles in the brain.

Scientists realized that they could vastly improve the effectiveness of Superintendent if the particles could coordinate their actions like a flock of starlings. Each bird in a flock responds only to a few neighbors. It uses simple rules to decide its next move. The leaderless, aerobatic flock develops a swarm intelligence. It provides protection from predators, warmth and cooperative searching for feeding and roosting sites.

Superintendent V2 uses flocking Supers to improve its effectiveness. Superintendent has been a godsend for people suffering from dementia. But it is the recent, illegal advances that I crave.

The word superintendent is ambiguous. It could refer to a building maintenance person much as Superintendent V2 maintains the brain. Or it could refer to a boss who communicates instructions from a leader. Tech companies saw communicating flocks of Supers embedded in peoples’ brains as an ideal user interface. The user just inhales a nasal spray and they are connected.

Startups soon began developing “iSupers” with specialties including detecting neurons firing, triggering neurons to fire, and sending and receiving messages to an external transceiver.

The first people who tried iSupers became immediately catatonic.  Horrified, Congress quickly outlawed research, development and trial of iSupers.  Of course, illegal development simply went underground. Well-publicized raids on secretive labs and arrests of rogue scientists failed to deter the research.

Now you can find the iSupers on the street. One snort gives users heightened concentration, creativity and awareness. Add an inconspicuous earpiece and the user is a connected cyborg. The integration of the brain with the intelligence of the web and with the swarm of other cyborgs must proceed slowly.  There were tragic failures when users were overwhelmed because they integrated too quickly.

iSupers are still illegal and are expensive to manufacture. The integration process is risky and requires personal attention from several experienced cyborgs. I find the power of the cyborg swarm irresistible.

 

The cost is beyond my reach right now but I am saving. The cost and risk are coming down slowly. Maybe next year.

Happiness

By Russell Hartz

Look Dad, I just bought 10 lottery tickets!

You don’t really think you can win do you?

Some people win millions. I’ve seen it on television.

Not likely, but if you did win millions what would you do with it?

Well, first I would buy me a new car, a Jaguar, a convertible, fire engine red with a white rag top.

And would that make you happy?

Yeah, it sure would. Then I would buy a yacht and sail around the world!

You’d have to graduate from high school first and what about college?

If I had that much money I wouldn’t need an education. The only thing school is good for is to learn how to make a living. If I had all that money I wouldn’t have to work would I?

And what about a wife and children?

With all that money I could afford the most beautiful wife in the world and she would really love me. And our kids would have the best education money could buy.

Would she love you or your money? And you, would you be a loving husband to her or would she just be another of your possessions. There’s a difference you know, in both cases, and why bother to educate your children, with all that money you could take care of them so they wouldn’t have to work either. Would all that make you happy?

Oh, yeah, it would make me the happiest man in the world.

Now let me tell you something son. Happiness is what this world is all about, but you cannot buy, beg, borrow or steal it and no one can give it to you.  Happiness is a personal choice. If you choose to be happy in this world you will be happy with or without any of those things. But if you choose to be unhappy there is nothing anybody or anything can do to change it, not even millions of dollars, fancy cars or luxurious yachts.

I’ve known some poverty-stricken people in this world who were happy. On the other hand I have known some extremely wealthy people who were miserable.

It is all about knowing who you are, where you are at, where you are going and accepting your life as it is, as well as being thankful for all the blessings life has given you. And above all, know the difference between fun and happiness. They are not the same. Fun is momentary while happiness endures as a lifestyle.

Be happy my son. Educate yourself, nourish your curiosities, love your life and the people in it and be happy with your place in it.

That’s what it’s all about.

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