Death Barged In

Pia’s birthday was last week. I didn’t call her or send a card or bake a cake. Such efforts would have fallen on deaf ears, because she died six years ago in January. Pia was the older sister I’d never had, and she’d welcomed me into her life with apricots and a warm pot of […]

Can’t We All Just … ?

Recently, based on the well-established if-Netflix-made-it-then-it-must-be-awesome principle, I have been watching the show Lillehammer. (This principle is firmly based in the orange-is-the-new-black correlate, the house-of-cards theorem, and the Derek postulate). Like all the Netflix shows, it’s pretty good. But unlike some, it’s only pretty good. It’s about a New York wise guy who ends up […]

How an internet quiz put me in my place

I am from nowhere. Until my husband told me this — stated it as a fact, like “it’s raining” or “the sky is blue” — I’d never had a truthful answer to a question that has always given me pause: where are you from? “You’re from nowhere,” Dave said. His words hit me like a […]

I Regret the Error

Happy 2014, the year after The Year We Broke the Internet. Last week, in a gloomy essay in Esquire, Luke O’Neil wrote that publications old and new have abandoned basic reporting—and worse, their basic concern for the truth—for the sake of speed and splash. “Big Viral, a Lovecraftian nightmare … has tightened its thousand-tentacled grip on […]

Holiday Review: An Open Letter to Yosemite National Park

Dear Yosemite: I am a long-time user of your fantastic park, stunning natural resources, and free public bathrooms. As a recreational rock climber, I have frequented your grounds (and used your clean and welcoming bathrooms) many times over the past 20 years, often dodging payment by coming in late at night and sleeping in odd […]

Guest Post: Talk to Them, Just Talk to Them

Scientists, policymakers, FDA officials, industry spokespersons–talk to my science journalism students! Yes, they haven’t received their masters degrees yet from New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP); and yes, most of them are newbies to the profession. But you shouldn’t ignore their emails or make them send reminder messages two or three […]

Physicians Who Do Harm

First, do no harm. It’s a commandment often incorrectly attributed to the Hippocratic oath yet it provides an ethical foundation for modern medicine. The American Medical Association’s principles of medical ethics begins, “A physician shall be dedicated to providing competent medical care, with compassion and respect for human dignity and rights.” But what happens when a […]

Guest Post: Not Ready For Their Close-Up

We have a lot to learn about “Nom nom nom.” Consider the user comments for a homemade YouTube video called “Cute Kitten says ‘YUM YUM YUM’ while eating.” They include “That is one Happy cat :),” “Awwww,” and “MELTING IN HAPPINESS.” Only a few recognize the meaning of the growling noises as the cat eats from […]