Preventing the next Orlando — the Cumulative Act Effect

Experts in risk analysis have a model they use to describe the dynamics of disasters and our efforts to prevent them.  It’s called the cumulative act effect, or more frequently (and popularly) the Swiss cheese model.  In short, it imagines the systems we put in place to prevent accidents and disasters like layers of Swiss […]

Politics and Wonderland

With election season in full swing, the word “caucus” has become ubiquitous in the news.  I first learned the word when I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, many, many years ago. ‘What I was going to say,’ said the Dodo in an offended tone, ‘was, that the best thing to get us dry would be a […]

Give Blood, Save Life. Be Mad!

The very first time I donated blood (right after my 18th birthday), one of the other donors arrived wearing a sweatshirt with “Dracula” emblazoned on the front.  (I think it was the logo from the 1979 movie starring Frank Langella, but thirty years on, I can’t be certain.)  I shared my amusement and admiration with […]

First World Trade Center Bombing — an “It Was 20 Years Ago Today” text post

[Posted at the “It Was 20 Years Ago Today” site (, the Starlight Teahouse message board (, and my Facebook page (] Twenty years ago today, a truck bomb exploded in the underground garage of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.  It destroyed several levels of the garage, killed […]

Farewell to the Friend I Never Met

I lost a friend this week. She was a friend I had never met, and in fact I didn’t even know what she looked like – until I got the letter announcing her death. But nevertheless, Patt Griffin was a friend — a kind and generous friend, and it feels strange to be saying goodbye.  […]

One Person’s Intractable Dandruff Is Another’s Golden Opportunity

… or, is that price gouging on the Internet or American Capitalism at its finest? I have very stubborn dandruff. For a while, tea tree oil shampoo (a recommendation from a stylist) was enough to deal with it.  Then I went through several flavors of ordinary dandruff shampoo: the salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione (Head & […]

3s of Me for 2/2011

Do if you want, no big deal. (All references to tagging apply to the echo of this post in Facebook Notes.) If you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with the 3’s of YOU. At the end, choose 26 people to be tagged. You have to tag me so really you just […]

Beliefs and Beginnings

I love history. I consider myself an amateur historian — that’s what the It Was 20 Years Ago Today podcast is all about. I listen to a few podcasts that have to do with history; one is the remarkable series A History of the World in 100 Objects, presently up to episode number 88. An […]

New Year, New Plans

It is the beginning of a new year, the beginning of a new decade (as some reckon it), and a shade over five months since I posted anything here.  I wasn’t going to make a New Year’s resolution (having been pretty dismal about such things over the years), but a couple of days into January, […]

Memeage catchup, two of three

(Tagging instructions included for the Facebook echo) I was tagged so now … you’ve been tagged ! It works like this: you are supposed to write a note with the 3’s of YOU. At the end, choose people to be tagged. You have to tag me. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to […]