Friday, May 11, 2018

Pneumonia Got Me Down

Missed me? It has been almost a month since my last blog post. So a little update seems more than fitting. 

In case you’re wondering, and I hope care, you might be interested to know I have spent the last two weeks succumbing to and recovering from pneumonia. Without any proof whatsoever I am convinced I was exposed to the illness by tainted equipment an ENT specialist used to explore the recesses of my nasal cavity. Three days later I started to sleep 16 to 18 hours a day, a sure sign something was amiss as I did not cough or sniffle, though I did run a slight temperature. 

The pneumonia could not have come at a more inopportune time. I was leading a group of eight Israeli women on a three-day trip to Washington and Philadelphia as part of Shalom Yisrael’s annual program of support of deserving women from tension spots in Israel. This year’s contingent came from the region adjacent to the border with Lebanon in the shadow of the Golan Heights. 

Last Tuesday I dropped them off at the Museum of African American History in Washington before going to a walk-in clinic. An X-ray confirmed the pneumonia. I finished the 10-day Doxycycline protocol this morning. Now I’m hoping for enough energy to resume softball in a senior citizen (50 and older) league White Plains is inaugurating next Thursday for eight weekly games.  

So, what else is new? Oh, yeah, it’s Nobel prize season, so let’s be upfront right away with our biases:

Barack Obama did not deserve his peace prize, not when he won it as a counterpoint to a regressive and repressive Bush II administration, nor in subsequent years when his eloquence as the leader of the free world camouflaged drone deaths, red line faults, undocumented immigrant deportations, and acts that otherwise would have disqualified his nomination. 

The Swedish academy has a habit, a bad habit, of premature advancement of peaceful achievement. Can an award presented to Yasir Arafat and his Israeli counterparts be considered legitimate? Yes, Yitzhak Rabin died in pursuit of peace. Shimon Peres valiantly tried to achieve peace, but despite living 22 years after receiving the award in 1994, never saw peace implemented. Why? Because Arafat (and his successor) continually rejected peace offers. The trio may have deserved certificates of merit—good first step, now let’s see you sustain the effort—but not a full-fledged-world-watching ceremonial award. That comes after a lifetime, okay years, of peacemaking, not a blip in your highlight reel of death, violence and assault on all things noble and civil. 

Which brings us to Donald Trump. The excitement of a possible breakthrough with North Korea is palpable. However, it is too early to crown any of his and Kim Jung Un’s initiatives as historically peacemaking. 

One book does not make a Nobel prize in literature. One summit meeting does not mean peace is breaking out all over. Will North Korea become less repressive? Will Trump become more tolerant toward the disadvantaged, including refugees and those seeking asylum, and less tolerant of dictators like Putin, Duterte, and Erdogan? 

Better Living Thru Chemistry: Did you see the report earlier this week on the classroom science experiment in a Tennessee high school that went awry and injured 17? (

During my junior year in high school a chemistry laboratory demonstration blew up. It was quite common for our Jewish day school, Yeshivah of Flatbush, to hire retired or near retirement public school teachers to provide quality secular instruction. Mr. Nash had been hired the year before to teach biology. He was a crusty old man with a raspy voice, probably close to my current age of 69, with wisps of hair on an otherwise large, balding head. With no prior experience teaching chemistry Mr. Nash embarked on his new mission with the apparent tactic of staying one textbook chapter ahead of the class. 

The experiment of the day was to observe the reaction when water is mixed with sulfuric acid. You are supposed to add the acid to the water. But Mr. Nash did the reverse. When no discernible reaction occurred, a few students suggested he add more water. 

He did, causing a most violent reaction. The glass beaker containing the sulfuric acid exploded, sending shards across the room. Several students were injured, none seriously. There was lots of smoke and a severely bruised teacher’s ego.