Guest Post: Lost in Congo

Ever get the feeling that the whole world’s privy to a joke you just don’t get? That sort of approximates my life in the sprawl of Kinshasa. For the next year or so, my wife Anne-Claire and I will call this notorious behemoth of a failed state home. I couldn’t be happier – to live […]

Afraid of the Shark

The other day, just as I was about to go out on the water on a nine-foot piece of epoxy-covered foam, a man stopped me on the beach. “Aren’t you scared to go out there by yourself?” he said. “Because of the sharks?” I had been trying to forget about them, even though the sun […]

From Atlas to Plates of Meat

A science writer friend gave me these great nerdy baby flash cards when my older son was born. I’ve been hoarding them for myself until they got discovered last week—hoarding them both because they’re charming (and for the moment, unsullied) and because once they were spotted, I would have to start explaining what each one […]

Damn You, Predictive-Text Typewriter!

I don’t care if they’re real. I’m just grateful for the texting fails collected on DamnYouAutocorrect. Maybe a guy really did offer to cook his girlfriend “chicken vaginas” instead of chicken fajitas; maybe a mom described her toddlers as having “pornstaches” instead of milkstaches in their Christmas photos; maybe a dad told his kids that […]

Six Million and Counting

Last year, I wrote a story for Smithsonian about white-nose syndrome, the fungal disease that’s killing cave-dwelling bats in the eastern United States. Researchers told me about watching sick, confused bats flutter out of caves in the middle of winter; about entering caves literally carpeted with bat carcasses; about picking bat bones, as slender as […]

Breaking Through

This past summer, I spent two weeks sitting, working and, once, sleeping next to a hospital bed, trying and failing to communicate with my father. He had called for an ambulance on the evening of July 25 because he couldn’t breathe. With end-stage emphysema, he often couldn’t breathe, but apparently that night he was frightened […]

The Guys Talk

About an hour into a long interview, the scientist relaxes, stops using words that might look good on a funding application, and starts saying things like: “Here’s a picture of our immediate neighborhood.  Here’s the Milky Way, that’s us.  Here’s the Andromeda Nebula, that’s our nearest friend.  And there are a bunch of little guys […]

The Language(s) of Time

Time flies; it passes; it marches on. Time can be hard, ripe, rough or sharp. It can be saved, spent, managed. I make dinner reservations ahead of time, and push back deadlines. I look forward to Christmas in New York. My teenaged years are over (woohoo!). ‘Time’ is the most common noun in English, and all of […]