1000 Words: Sometimes…

…I just don’t know.

What I do know this moment is I screamed at the radio this AM. That’s something I haven’t done in years, at least since November 2016 when…, well, you know what happened in November 2016.

Today the news, about as disturbing but more immediately tragic for a group of parents, relatives, friends, neighbors and compassionate others, was all about a yet another loon with a high-powered firearm offing a half dozen innocents in a Nashville, Tennessee school. Three adults and three nine-year-old students caught lead because some personification of evil couldn’t think his way past whatever previous slights or insults have been dominating his warped brain for the last few years.

News coverage of such events has become boilerplate: the horror, the details, interviews with law enforcement officials, a statement from the president, “not much is known at this time about the shooter.” If, indeed, AI should become the new standard replacement for human reporters, mass shootings will be the repetitive story it will cover as well or better than its flesh and blood predecessors.

Anyway, the radio. The human anchor covering this latest carnage had to, had to, ask the human reporter on the scene the single most annoying question posed during the fallout from any kind of horrifying misfortune: “How,” she asked, “are the people of Nashville dealing with this tragedy?”

I snapped. It’s long been a bugaboo for me. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gritted my teeth when, listening to a report about, say, an apartment fire that claimed the lives of several children and the reporter asking the neighbors or even the parents, “How do you feel about all this?”

Is that taught in J-school? I’d been under the impression that “news” was something extraordinary, meaning had those neighbors or parents replied, “This block’ll be better off without those bratty little bastards,” that would be news. Getting the grieving to say they’re grieving, to admit their lives are shattered just now, that it’s doubtful they’ll ever get over the trauma, well, that’s given, for pity’s sake.

The reporter may as well have asked the person, “In which direction did the sun rise this morning?”

Here we are again. This is piling on. Not only do we have more guns than people in this benighted holy land, not only do far too many people believe guns are the answer to every problem imaginable, not only do we lap up two-fisted shooters on movie and TV screens, not only does one of our two major political parties pander to the Gun Fondlers of America all the while flipping the bird to the weakest, lamest, most unfortunate among our sisteren and brethren, and simultaneously shrieking to high heaven that the single most pressing issue facing our great nation today is a few men dressing as women but, dammit, here’s another woeful tale of children — nine-year-olds — being slaughtered in their classroom. It’s too much, I tell you.

The straw that broke my patience’s back was that radio reporter asking, “How are the people of Nashville dealing with this tragedy?”

I bellowed, “They’re sad, you fucking idiot!”

The cat jumped. The windows rattled. The Loved One called out, What’s going on?

Despite the fact my hands were sudsy and soaking wet from washing the morning dishes, I grabbed at the transistor radio (yes, I still have a transistor radio; two of them, in fact) and flipped it off as dramatically and emphatically as possible, considering the act only entailed my forefinger moving the on-off switch a few millimeters to the left. There!

Every once in a while, I take a deserved break from the news. My sanity depends on it. And thus begins my latest hiatus from rotten news, fucking idiot reporters, and any mention of the man who made headlines in 2016.

Okay, lemme redirect things around here. One of my passions, as all loyal Pencillistas know, is science. Now, I respect and revere scientists. That is, their work in their respective scientific sub-fields is worthy of esteem. I do not uniformly or universally respect scientists as human beings. In fact, far too many of them are or have been…, well, jerks.

The prime examples are James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins, who won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of the helical nature of the DNA molecule, perhaps the basic building block of life as we know it. The three stood on their heads to deny their colleague, Rosalind Franklin, her fair share of the glory. Franklin was the one who actually eyeballed the structure of the molecule and described it to the other fellows. But, being men, they patted her on the head and ran off to grab all the plaudits.


The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) reports that fewer than 30 percent of the world’s scientists today are female. “Numerous studies have found that women in STEM fields publish less, are paid less foir their reserach and do not progress as far as men in their careers,” the UIS report states.

That all said, let’s celebrate the most recent female to win a Nobel Prize in one of the STEM fields. Last year, Carolyn Bertozzi of Stanford University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, shared the Nobel in Chemistry for her work in both “click” and bioorthogonal chemistry.


Her Nobel mini-bio reads:

Chemists strive to build increasingly complicated molecules. For a long time, this has been very time consuming and expensive. Click chemistry means that molecular building blocks snap together quickly and efficiently. Around 2000, Carolyn Bertozzi started utilising click chemistry in living organisms. She developed bioorthogonal reactions which take place inside living organisms without disrupting the normal chemistry of the cell. These reactions are now used to explore cells, track biological processes, and improve the targeting of cancer pharmaceuticals.

Let’s celebrate even more the currently anonymous grade school girls who might learn about Bertozzi and hope to become scientists one day.

North Carolina fifth-grader Aubrey Slaughter wins her school’s science fair for her “Movement & Power: Homopolar Motor” Display.

One thought on “1000 Words: Sometimes…

  1. -bill says:

    Though I felt the need to check for a Philly shooting, just in case…

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