Buoy the population of the soul
Toward their destination before they drown
~ Robert Pinsky
March 2024
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Hanging Noose Delta Blues

Some news stories are too disturbing to ignore. This should make you write to your congressman or senator, especially if you live in Louisiana. Here is a Kafkaesque joke (as reported in the New York Times):

"A shouting match ensued when he dismissed the hanging of nooses as “kid’s play.”

“I’ve hung nooses around my neck as a child,” he said.

“Well, you didn’t pull it tight enough,” Ms. Jones shot back."

WTF! Why the hell didn't this story make to the front page of every newspaper!!!


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News From Atlanta Airport

Sitting in Atlanta airport, for a flight that keeps getting delayed by the minute, I found myself scanning the Google News aggregator, where I read this story on the decline of common bird populations in USA. Few highlights:

"• 20 common birds have lost more than half their populations in the past 40 years • Birds in decline: Northern bobwhite, field sparrow and boreal chickadee • Factors: Agriculture, habitat loss, pesticides, invasive species, global warming • Health of a bird population often a harbinger of health of other wildlife, humans"

This story comes to my attention on an evening where I spent discussing the shore birds, including two kinds of ducks, I saw on a walkabout last weekend in the Upper New York Bay, with my friend Tom, who had taught me much about North American birds. It also makes me reflect on the ecological transition that my childhood neighborhood in India went through as it got increasingly urbanized. I now realize that the times of idyll in those years of my childhood and youth roughly ended around the time when the common sparrows stopped nesting in the skylight vents, the cawing of crows was rarely heard, and the sight of squadrons of green parrots in flight become less and less common.

Even though the agonist in me wants to believe that absence of bird calls to embroider childhoods will lead to a diminishment of their magic, the cynic in me chimes in to say, "Who the hell notices birds anyway? Not the kids with their eyes glued to video game consoles!!" That said, if you are a home owner, please follow this suggestion vis-a-vis your totally useless and expensive lawn:

"You don't have to have a lot of land, just a corner of your back yard for native plants," he said.

The berries on native dogwoods, for example, provide a food source for migratory birds. And he suggested that bird lovers not cut down flowers in the fall, instead leaving them up as groundcover for birds in the winter and as a source of seeds. Introducing just a few native plants to perfectly manicured, sterile back yards can make a huge difference, Butcher said.


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Sell Me An Egg Or Two?

Reproductive medicine fascinates me for the weird trajectories of futures it seems to encompass, and the myriad ethical and philosophical puzzles it poses around what it means to be human. After all, this is human ingenuity veering almost into the Frankenstein territory. So, on idly scanning the front page of New York Time, this story touching on the debates around payment of large sums of money to young women for giving up their eggs caught my attention. The story began with the economics of "donating" eggs:

"Though many egg donors derive great satisfaction from knowing that they helped someone start a family, the price of eggs has soared in recent years as demand has increased, and the sizable payments raise controversy. A survey published this month in the journal Fertility and Sterility, “What Is Happening to the Price of Eggs?” found that the national average compensation for donors was $4,217. At least one center told the authors of the paper that it paid $15,000. Many centers did not respond."

While clearly large sums of money are involved in the upstream of the "egg supply chain", what this article doesn't tell me, and what I would like to know, is what are the costs for a recipient of these eggs? If I will have to take a guess, such procedures would cost, perhaps, 10x the price of the eggs, i.e., say $100,000. This would lead to the hypothesis that folks who can afford to pay such prices to have quasi-biological children* obviously have serious incoming cash flows, and perhaps comes from the "power couples who want to have kids late in life" demographic. And it would also explain the part of the article, which I found most odius:

"Meanwhile, advertisements recruiting students from elite universities to donate promise tens of thousands of dollars, and donor agencies have sprung up, appealing to would-be parents with online videos and photo galleries of donors."

It is a no-brainer that dem folks who are shopping would prefer an Ivy League egg over say some ghetto egg. Yet given the language employed in this snippet of speech by someone, who had donated egss thrice, and who supposedly finished graduate school

"“They all think I’m crazy,” she said. “If the topic comes up, and I tell friends I’ve done it, they’re like: ‘Why? Oh my God, aren’t you afraid you have a baby out there?’ They’re so stunned and shocked.”

Then she tells them how much she was paid. “And then they go, ‘O.K., I understand now, that’s cool,’ ” she said. “People understand the money.”"

I think "educated" eggs wouldn't make much of a difference in the end anyway.

* If I ever find myself in this situation, and still want to bring up children, adoption is the route I shall take.


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