Three Weeks in Australia

By Natalia Ketaren

image1The Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell National Park, Victoria, Australia. Photo credit: Natalia Ketaren

After almost three years of being away, I was returning home for a summer Christmas. The last time I visited, my days were spent lazing in parks and beaches along Port Phillip Bay, dinners at trendy Melbourne joints with balconies where we could smoke and drink and of course, I did plenty of shopping. Coming home was all about catching up with friends and family, just… hanging out. However, this trip would be different. My American boyfriend was coming with me and he had never been to Oz. So this time around, it was fewer everyday indulgences and more sightseeing. Here’s a little of what we did and saw.

Week 1 Victoria

Melbourne is the most populous city in the State of Victoria and the second most populous city in Australia, behind Sydney. Melbourne is Australia’s business epicenter. It’s the fashion capital and the music capital of Australia. It is a sporting city, home to major tennis tournaments, the home of cricket Australia and the birthplace of Australian Rules football. Australia was declared a Federation under a tree in Melbourne’s botanical gardens. Five of the country’s most prestigious universities are located here, not to mention numerous others. Thus, it’s not surprising that the birthplace of Gough Whitlam carries a great worth in Australia and its citizens harbor abundant city pride. Whenever I visit my hometown, here are a few things I reacquaint myself with:

Food and Drink

Melbourne is known for its rich food culture, thanks to years of global immigration. My staples every time I visit are:

A good parma at Mrs. Parmas on Lt. Bourke Street or the Leveson Hotel in North Melbourne. Pho on Victoria Street, just after Hoddle Street in Richmond. It doesn’t really matter where you go, this street is lined with Vietnamese restaurants and you’re sure to get good pho and spring rolls when you’re here. Crispy pork at China bar near the corner of Exhibition Street. A souvlaki and chunky fries cooked in olive oil at Stalactites on Exhibition Street. Pizza at D.O.C pizza on the corner of Drummond and Faraday Street serves authentic Roman style pizza. Fish and chips down Acland Street in St. Kilda. Be sure to go to the shop closer to the Barkly Street end. Chips with gravy, dim sum, chunky spring rolls and potato cakes, available at Charcoal chicken chain stores all over Melbourne and coffee.

Coffee is a Melbourne institution, which serves some of the best coffee in Australia. The city is packed with little lane ways strewn with cafes and coffee houses, serving alongside coffee and tea, amazing desserts and delicious sausage rolls and meat pies.

Melbourne nightlife is forever changing. Drinks in Australia are expensive, where, on average, it’s $10/pint of beer and $20/cocktail. No tips required in the service industry, but the going is still quite dear. Rooftop bars in Melbourne can be quite fun. Our go to on the trip is Rooftop Bar on Swanston Street in the city center. They do very nice Pimm’s cups and champagne cocktails in the summertime.

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Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes

Part VI: Fritz Albert Lipmann, 1953 Prize in Physiology or Medicine

By Joseph Luna

From Ra to Apollo to Huitzilopochtli, the ancients were onto something by worshipping the sun. Alongside water, no other entity was as important for the agricultural harvest or for predicting the seasonal movements of wind and life-giving rain. But the precise means by which the sun can be said to nourish took over two millennia to figure out, most of it concentrated in the past 200 or so years, when chemists began to ply their trade to biological problems. Why do plants need light? What happens when a caterpillar, a cow or a human eats them? In other words, how does “food,” for any organism, really work? The answers to these questions lie in the study of metabolism, and biochemists in the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century were wild about these problems.

Fritz Lipmann was among them. Born in the east Prussian capital of Königsberg in 1899, Lipmann came of scientific age during some biochemically exciting times. After receiving an MD in 1924, Lipmann changed course and joined the laboratory of Otto Meyerhof, the discoverer of glycolysis and 1922 Nobelist, at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute in Berlin. In the Meyerhof lab, Lipmann worked alongside Karl Lohmann (the discoverer of adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP)) and Dean Burk (the co-discoverer of biotin). Working upstairs was Otto Warburg, who in 1931 would win a Nobel Prize for his work on cellular respiration. And in Warburg’s lab was Hans Krebs, for whom the citric acid cycle is named, and who would later share the 1953 Nobel Prize in chemistry with Lipmann.

The driving question for these biochemists at the time can be summed up succinctly: what was the chemical basis for energy production and consumption in living organisms? By the late 1920s, it was increasingly clear that ATP was a major energy currency in the cell, but the precise means by which it functioned, as both a fuel and as a building block besides how it was made in the cell, were unknown. After a year exploring this problem in P.A. Levene’s laboratory here at Rockefeller, Lipmann moved to Copenhagen to work with Albert Fischer where he studied the end product of Meyerhof’s glycolysis: pyruvic acid.

This “fiery grape” metabolite was interesting as a molecular fork in the road of sorts for an organism: in the absence of oxygen, pyruvic acid undergoes fermentation to make a limited but finite amount of energy before winding up as lactic acid. This is essentially what happens when yogurt or sauerkraut is made. But in the presence of constant oxygen, pyruvic acid does something different: it becomes oxidized and fed into the citric acid cycle to allow continuous production of ATP. In other words, energy production requires continuous breathing, or “respiration.” As a biochemical fulcrum between reactions associated with death (fermentation) or life (respiration), it’s easy to see how this molecule might’ve fascinated Lipmann in the 1930’s. Most of the above was known by then but questions remained. Lipmann noticed that in order for pyruvic acid oxidation to make ATP, some inorganic phosphate was always needed and biochemically used up. Where did this phosphate go? Using radioactive phosphate and adenylic acid, a precursor of ATP, Lipmann observed that pyruvic acid oxidation resulted in radioactive ATP. He had traced the movement of an inert phosphate to the main energy molecule in the cell. This process, now generally summarized as oxidative phosphorylation, is the means by which any organism on this planet that breathes makes energy.

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Culture Corner

Book Review: My Struggle Book 1, by Karl Ove Knausgaard

By Bernie Langs

For several months I had heard chatter about an extraordinary set of books written by an eccentric Norwegian chronicling his life in the minutest detail. There was even one nighttime commute home on New Jersey Transit where I sat and watched a man reading the book in the seat across from mine and I pondered questioning him if it was worth the effort and time to take it on.

My Struggle Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard ended up being a fantastic book and the much-discussed overly detailed remembrances came across to me as the natural power of observation of an extraordinary, unique and creative mind at work. The dynamics of any family are complex, emotional for its members, and more often than not, extremely difficult, and the manner in which Knausgaard presents his family’s relationships teaches harsh and true lessons while keeping the reader absolutely glued to the page. By focusing on nuances and detailed moments occurring decades in the past, one begins to sense the writer’s blurring of fact and fiction, in this case, the loss of distinction between memoir and embellished storytelling. Knausgaard still remained true to the message he wishes to impart.

The landscape of obscure locations in Norway forms much of the backdrop to Knausgaard’s recollections. Fjords, the sea, and even watering holes are present as are the constant reminders of the cold and the snow of the Nordic region. Yet all of that is natural to its natives, while remaining fairly exotic to the readers of the book, who can marvel at names of people and places they can’t even begin to try to pronounce.

Although this first book of many in the series of My Struggle focuses on periods of the author’s time as a boy and teenager, he does jump to other times of his life and we see how the characteristics he displayed early on take on permanence as an adult, and not always in a flattering way. Certain insensitivities as a youth grow into a manner of emotional coldness and removal as an adult that Knausgaard is all too aware of and in some way, ashamed to have allowed to have blossomed.

The underlying key to much of this is clearly revealed to stem from the personality of his father and their odd and complicated relationship. The book moves along and builds to become a flood of emotions based around this man, whom we first meet in the early pages as stern and confident, physically alive but in many ways “not there” emotionally. We then learn of the author’s father’s devolution into a broken individual who becomes an obese, out-of-work alcoholic who has lost contact with his sons and who dies a miserable death.

Here is Knausgaard early in the book discussing his father and “how great the difference was between our days. While my days were jam-packed with meaning, when each step opened a new opportunity, and when every opportunity filled me to the brim, in a way which now is actually incomprehensible, the meaning of his days was not concentrated in individual events but spread over such large areas that it was not possible to comprehend them in anything other than abstract terms.”

When reading My Struggle, I began to think to myself, “This is why I read.” Trying to explain why one chooses to read a difficult book for pleasure can be likened to trying to explain why one walks. You just do it. But it’s more akin to why one takes on a difficult walk or a hike through tough terrain for no real reason except to “get there” and “there” not being a physical destination, but an exhilarated or even spiritual state of mind. While reading books by writers like Knausgaard, Kraznahorkai or Vladimir Nabokov is a struggle, it is somewhat comforting in that they ponder the big questions that dog us all with impassioned urgency and dazzling creativity. The urgency is often driven by the belief that life is fleeting so we better get to pondering and figuring it out as soon as we can. The creativite portion remains, oddly and ironically, the fun and the adventure of it.◉

What is Traditional Irish Soda Bread for $100, Alex?

By Aileen Marshall

Saint Patrick’s Day is coming up and that means there will be sales for corned beef and cabbage and traditional Irish soda bread. I myself, of Irish decent, only became aware of Irish soda bread as a young adult. I went through several recipes given to me by friends and family, before I settled on one that got many good reviews from the recipients. Most of the recipes I’ve come across over the years call for raisins, caraway seeds, nuts, eggs, butter and sugar. I knew that the real Irish soda bread was very plain, that the sugar was to cater to American tastes. But as I did the research on the history of traditional bread for this article, I was surprised at how far off what we eat on Saint Patrick’s Day is from the original Irish soda bread.

Why is it called soda bread? This bread, and others known as quick breads, use baking soda instead of yeast to make them rise. Most recipes today use buttermilk, but the traditional recipe calls for sour milk. The sodium bicarbonate, which is the chemical name for baking soda, and the lactic acid in the buttermilk or sour milk combine to form a gas, carbon dioxide. The released gas bubbles are what cause the bread to rise.

The early American colonists during the 1700s noticed the Native Americans using what was known as potash to make bread. Potash is actually potassium carbonate, which works the same as sodium bicarbonate. This is the first recorded use of a carbon-ate in cooking. The first known soda bread recipe was published in the United States in 1796. The book, American Cookery, noted it as a way to make fast and inexpensive bread. In 1817, an editor of a London magazine was challenged to come up with a recipe that used poor wheat flour. Poor wheat flour is also known as soft wheat flour or cake flour. The flour mostly used in this country is hard wheat flour, which has higher gluten content than its counterpart. The London editor’s recipe called for soft or poor wheat flour, mealy potatoes, salt, water, baking soda and muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid). Without the potatoes, this is a basic traditional Irish soda bread recipe. Yet it was an Englishman who first published it.

The earliest reference to a soda bread in Ireland was printed in 1836 in the Farmer’s Magazine of London. It said a writer from the Newry Telegraph of Northern Ireland had sent in the recipe using, “wheaten meal, salt, super carbonate of soda, cold water and sour buttermilk.” The instructions were to make it in a covered Dutch oven or frying pan, over a moderate fire, putting some coals on top. This is the way most Irish remember traditional soda bread being made. So it seems it may not have started in Ireland, but it had developed as a means to make an inexpensive bread. It is very plain compared with the version most of us know today. Around 1840, baking soda became cheap and easily accessible in Ireland. In 1850, the Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medicine stated “Due to the failure of the potato crop, a large quantity of bicarbonate of soda was employed by the poorer classes in the preparation of bread.” The version we know today would more likely have been made for company and was called a tea cake. The addition of raisins make it what the Irish would call “spotted dog.”

If you are so inspired as I have been, here is a recipe for traditional Irish Soda bread, courtesy of the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. A bastible pot was equivalent to what is known today as a Dutch oven, a large heavy pot. It was meant to be placed directly into the coals, since in those days very few Irish had an oven.

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New York State of Mind

This Month Natural Selections Interviews Denny Espinoza, Environmental Assistant, Laboratory Safety and Environmental Health.

Interview by Melvin White

How long have you been living in the New York area?
I moved a lot before the age of 5, all within New Jersey. However our last move was to New York when I started kindergarten.
Where do you currently live?image2
Only the best borough of course! Queens baby! Jamaica to be exact.
Which is your favorite neighborhood? Why?
I enjoy walking aimlessly in Forest Hills especially in the spring months.
What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city? And underrated?
Carriage rides. Those things are cruel to the horses at the expense of looking “romantic”. I don’t get it.
What do you miss most when you are out of town?
Noise! I try to visit my family out in Pennsylvania a few times a year. It’s obviously slow motion out there and very enjoyable when I need a break from the bright city lights but I couldn’t entirely quit the daily, fast paced morning commute.
If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be?
That would have to be minimum wage. Every day, NY gets more expensive to live in.
What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?
Now that depends on the season and whom I am with. Believe it or not, I enjoy shopping.
How do you feel about Metrocard fare hikes?
The metro card price hike still hasn’t affected me the way majority people would think. The way I use public transportation, I break even. Sometimes I go out of my way by lending it out to others.
So, bike, car, or subway?
If I could, I’d bike to work but it’s just not possible. The whole idea of bike rentals is pretty awesome though. Any way to save money.
What is the most memorable experience you have had in NYC?
It was during the winter when I was in college out in Harlem years ago. An apartment building was on fire and I freaked out because I’ve experienced a house fire when I was 13. I ran to the scene and was informed that a movie was being filmed on that corner and that I might be in the movie. Maybe that was said for me to calm down but I spaced out for the moment.
If you could live anywhere else, where might that be?
I really don’t think I’d want to move out of NY. The sports scene, the Broadway shows, the pizza! It’s incomparable!
Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker?
Absolutely! 1,000%. I mean, I have the accent.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

By George Barany and Marcia Brott

George Barany is a Rockefeller alum (1977). Marcia Brott is a human genome researcher by day, wordsmith by night. Both are currently at the University of Minnesota. For more about this specific puzzle, including a link to the answer, visit http://tinyurl.com/wonderlandpuz. More Barany and Friends crosswords are at http://tinyurl.com/gbpuzzle.

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Life on a Roll

By Qiong Wang

A year ago, I took a road-trip in Spain, a beautiful country with rich culture and cheerful people. Nerja, a pearl setting on the Mediterranean shoreline, is the one I chose to document first.

Nerja is known by another charming name, “Balcony of Europe.” A piece of cliff taps into the Mediterranean. The view from the cliff top is absolutely stunning and peaceful.

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Nerja is a typical Mediterranean town, decorated by crowded white houses sitting irregularly at the waist and foot of mountains. It has beautiful shorelines, evergreen palm trees, abundant fruits, and pleasant temperature. Nerja is so lucky to have it all, thanks to the fabulous Mediterranean climate. In Nerja, I couldn’t see traffic or feel any stress. Life just seems so simple and content. Although I have never been to the fictional Shangri-La, I imagine living in Nerja must be like living in that earthly paradise.

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2015: Chinese New Year of the Sheep

By Peng Kate Gao

If I have to name one day of an entire year that I wish dearly to be with my family-on-the-other-side-of-the-planet, it’s the Chinese New Year. Also called Spring Festival, it is the most cherished and celebrated holiday in China, as families reunite to ring out the old year and celebrate the coming new year. According to the Chinese Animal Zodiac, every year is associated with one of twelve animals: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. On February 19, 2015 we say farewell to a previous year of the Horse, and welcome the beginning of a year of the Sheep.

The myth of Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year celebration has a long history, dating back over 4,000 years. According to ancient legends, it began with a mythical beast called Nian. Nian was a ferocious monster with a gigantic horn and sharp teeth. It lived in the deep sea all year long, but once every year it would crawl out of the water to wreak havoc on villages. Every year on this day, villagers, young and old, would flee deep into the mountains to hide from Nian’s attack.

One year, while the villagers had started their rush to the mountains, an old beggar came through the neighborhood. An elderly grandmother gave him food, and warned him to hide so as not to be harmed by Nian. The beggar laughed and said that he could chase Nian away. Surprised and hesitant, the old woman left on her own.

At midnight, Nian arrived in the village. It was pitch black everywhere, except for the old woman’s house, which shone brightly with candle and lantern light. The monster bounded towards the house, but stopped short, trembling at the sight of a piece of bright red paper on the door. Suddenly, firecrackers began to explode. Terrified, Nian ran away from the village.

When the villagers returned the following day, they were surprised to find that everything was safe and sound. The old woman told the story of the beggar. Noticing the red paper on the door and the remnants of candles, lanterns, and firecrackers, the villagers suddenly realized that Nian feared the color red, bright light, and loud noises. Rejoicing in relief and excitement, they celebrated. Wearing new hats and clothes, they visited family and friends, and congratulated each other on the prospect of a peaceful year ahead.

Since then, every year on the day that Nian would appear, families adorn their doors with red paper, set off firecrackers, and light candles and lanterns in their homes. The next morning, which marks the start of a new year, people visit their relatives and friends, with festivities lasting for 15 days. This tradition of gratitude and hope has continued till today.

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For Your Consideration – And They’re Off! Edition

By Jim Keller

I maintain that the Oscar race can be likened to a horserace where each studio bets on its thoroughbreds and hopes that they can at least place at the end. The studio is the owner, the public relations department is the jockey, and the horse is the actor or film in the analogy. Here we thrust those roles I’ve discussed in the three-part Ones to Watch edition under a microscope to separate the nominees from the contenders and to identify the power players for each studio. I’ve also included my rankings as they stood on Oscar nominations eve—the number in parentheses indicates my placement following nominations. I chose the maximum ten nominees for Best Picture and all categories reflect five nominees. The top five in the table were my nominee picks, those that fall outside of that were outside chances that I had listed.

In the September issue, I examined the Best Actor race. Here are the roles I discussed and where the candidates ended up five months later…

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Selma – The Movie

By Susan Russo

Ava DuVernay has made a movie, based on the true events depicting the 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, that still resonates today. With a cast led by David Oyelowo, a young British actor, playing the role of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this movie is a testament not only to King’s determination, but his brilliance as a leader, his
sacrifices, his family, his disparate but loyal followers, and his belief that non-violence was the only way to accomplish the major goal of voting rights for African-Americans throughout America. King met with leaders of many factions, such as Malcolm X, a radical leader, whom he convinced (in the movie) not to appear at the march, and members of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), persevering in his belief that only non-violence would prove to be the most effective way to make his and his followers’ dreams a reality. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had recently passed, outlawing segregation, a great victory for human rights, but King believed that true equality for all Americans would never be achieved without the right to vote. Selma was chosen as a rallying place to begin the marches to Montgomery, the capital of Alabama. (Selma was a town in which more than 50% of the population was African-American, but fewer than 1% of that population had been allowed to register to vote, due to the all-white registrars’ arbitrary requirements). In one memorable scene in the movie, Annie Cooper, a non-violent activist (played by Oprah Winfrey), when demanded to by the registrar, recited the entire Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, gave the correct number of circuit court justices in the county (67), but was rejected because she could not give all their names (!) This movie highlights many of the people who planned the marches with King Ralph Abernathy, leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), leaders of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), and Andrew Young, Jr., who, still living at 82, helped to draft the Voting Rights Act, was a leading activist, and later became an American ambassador. Another march planner was John Lewis, who today is a Congressman (prominently seen in attendance at President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 20, this year.) Other notables depicted in the movie were President Lyndon Johnson (played by British actor Tom Wilkinson), whom Dr. King met, spoke, and negotiated with a number of times about the marches and voting rights. Other major characters in the movie were Coretta Scott King, his wife and mother of his four children (played by a British actress, Carmen Ejogo) and Alabama Governor George Wallace (played by another Brit, Tim Roth.) Some notable American actors in smaller parts were Cuba Gooding, Jr., playing a lawyer, Martin Sheen, playing a judge, and Giovanni Ribisi, playing a presidential advisor.

It is a movie filled with moving scenes of real people in moments of confusion, fear, tension, wrangling, human frailty, humor, hope, and triumph. The determination of all the marchers is ennobling. The long marches, with men, women, students, and children dressed for church (as in the 1950’s), but carrying suitcases, bedrolls, and food packages, is a testament to courage, resilience and determination. The images of armed police and state troopers with gas masks and night sticks, horses and whips are frightening, and the assaults on the unarmed people are almost unwatchable, as are the depictions of people on the sidelines cheering the fray. The director also utilized actual newsreel footage of the attacks, which is devastating. The violence of the first march was shown on black-and-white TV, and the outrage felt by many Americans led to white people joining the second and third marches. The U.S. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

The original script of the movie was written by English writer Paul Webb in 2007, with additional revisions of the final script by the director, Ava DuVernay. Among the producers of the film were Pathe U.K., Brad Pitt, and Harpo Films (founded by Oprah Winfrey). The production cost $20 million, which, in Hollywood, is considered a modest amount for a major movie.

Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes

Part V: Wendell M. Stanley, 1946 Prize in Chemistry

By Joseph Luna

IMG_4686In 1898, a Dutch botanist named Martinus Beijerinck faced a naming conundrum. He reproduced an experiment first performed six years earlier by Russian botanist Dmitri Ivanovsky, who found that a disease of tobacco plants causing a mosaic discoloration of their precious nicotine laced leaves could be transmitted to a healthy plant in an infectious manner. Moreover, like his predecessor, Beijerinck found that after passing through a filter too small for any known bacteria to pass, the juice of infected plants could still be used to infect healthy tobacco leaves. This was a puzzling observation, since any attempt to see the infectious agent under a microscope turned up nothing. Ivanovsky concluded that there must be a tiny living bacterium, smaller than any known, which was responsible for the disease. Beijerinck on the other hand wasn’t convinced and wanted to call this infectious agent something else to reflect its non-bacterial nature. After what must have been some hand wringing, he settled on an old Latin word for “slimy liquid” and named the new agent a virus.

For the next three decades, exactly what a virus was presented a tantalizing mystery. Viruses behaved as if they were alive, they grew and could adapt, and yet some were so small that they approached the sizes of proteins, or other macromolecules that clearly weren’t alive. So which was it? Alive or dead? Beijerinck, for his part, didn’t have a definitive answer, but set a vital tone by referring to viruses as contagious living fluids (“contagium vivum fluidum”). Until the 1930s, as the roster of plant and animal diseases caused by viruses expanded, attempts to categorize them on the basis of size were used to justify the living (i.e. large) from the non-living (i.e. small). Still, others thought this essentialist idea might be missing something entirely.

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Roses are Red, Violets are Blue

By Aileen Marshall

Esther_Howland_1850Valentine’s Day, also known as Saint Valentine’s Day, is celebrated on February 14. It is the day that couples customarily show their love for one another. People give their loved ones cards, flowers (usually roses), candy (usually chocolate), or a romantic dinner. If you are well off, you may get or receive jewelry as your Valentine’s Day gift. It is a traditional holiday, but not a government holiday, so businesses are still open.

Valentine’s Day was originally known as Saint Valentine’s Day. It was a feast day in several Christian churches. Yet, the origin of the saint is murky. There were at least three different Saint Valentines, and not much is definitely known about any of them. The two legends seem to have melded to make up the origin of the holiday tradition. One was the Bishop of Terni, in Italy, who died around the year 270. The other was also a Roman priest, who was executed in 496. The legend says that Roman Emperor Claudius II felt that married men were too distracted to make good soldiers, so he outlawed marriage for them. Valentine performed marriages for them in secret. He was jailed and sentenced to death for this crime. While he was incarcerated, he supposedly healed the blind daughter of his jailer. On the night before his execution, he sent her a letter, signed “Your Valentine.” This is how the association of Saint Valentine and romantic love began. Interestingly, some Saint Valentines are also considered the patron saints of beekeepers and epilepsy.

Some sources say that the church naming Saint Valentine’s Day was an attempt to Christianize the pagan festival of Lupercalia, an ancient Roman festival of fertility, celebrated around February 15. Besides slapping the hide of a freshly slaughtered goat on young women of the city to ensure fertility, the single women would put their names in an urn, and the single men would pick a name to be paired off with for that year.

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Life on a Roll

By Qiong Wang

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Hong Kong is a world-famous metropolitan city setting amongst mountains and islands. The city runs like a high speed metro train, arriving and departing from one destination to the next, non-stop. The city is known for its vibrant finance and real estate business, expansive stunning skyline at Victoria harbor and delicious cultural local food. Beneath all the luxury enchanting veneer the city displays are the local hardworking humble people who live a rather simple life on each corner contributing their entire lives generation after generation.

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Into Africa: Spotlight on the Rockefeller University Employee Art Exhibition

By Qiong Wang

image2Living in New York, most of us often find ourselves trapped inside concrete jungles, busy and occupied all the time. Sunshine and the view in the distance from our windows are often blocked bluntly by another building. On the subways, we look down, napping or playing with cell phones, avoiding eye contact. We talk fast, walk fast, eat fast-food and couldn’t go through a day without our caffeine shot. Slowly, we start to forget the world outside, a world that is organic and original.

One day, I stopped by the Employee Art Exhibition on my way to get lunch in the Weiss lobby. A series of acrylic paintings caught my attention. There was a vivid giant lion head about to leap out of the paper with his fur standing on end and both eyes gazing ahead; a baboon mother watching her baby playing in the grass; an elephant enjoying his shadow in the river with his ears wide open and a majestic giraffe sticking her head above and over tree leaves against the blue sky. I was very impressed by the painting’s details, the strokes, the color, the light and shadow, and the background. More so, I could feel there were feelings and stories behind these paintings and I was compelled to find out more about them. On the 13th floor of Weiss, I met up with the artist, Dr. Bruce McEwen, a distinguished neuroendocrinologist, in his office.

image3 Acquired somewhat from his heritage, Dr. McEwen has enjoyed drawing since his childhood. He started painting about 15 years ago, starting with water colors. In recent years, he fell in love with acrylic painting. His paintings in the exhibition were inspired by his wife’s wonderful photography, which was also on exhibit. Both Bruce and his wife, Dr. Karen Bulloch, are talented artists who make a variety of art pieces in their leisure. In the summer of 2014, they went on safari in southern Africa with a group of scholars. Being a travel lover, I immediately became fascinated with their safari experience. It was the couple’s first trip to Africa and a trip like never before. They had never been in such close proximity to hippos, rhinos, lions, giraffes, and even at the mercy of a charging elephant. The reality of seeing these animals, Dr. McEwen said, was surreal, completely different from visiting a zoo. It felt like Jurassic Park. In the safari park, the couple was covered in dust every day. Tourists were tucked in the back of open trucks covered only with metal fences. Wild animals could care less about human presence, especially when there are prey in sight. It seems quite certain that they assume the leading roles, and tourists are just extras. Locals have to learn to co-exist with these wild animals, protecting themselves and sharing resources. It is a real eco-system, a world where hyenas tear a giraffe apart and share dinner among themselves.

image1 Unfortunately, these animals’ real enemies are not themselves, but humans. To date, there are still many greedy, selfish slaughterers out there killing elephants for bloody profit. Bruce told me that the safari security personnel were equipped with guns not to protect visitors per se, but to defend wild animals against any illegal hunting.

What struck the couple most and brought them to deep reflection and awareness is the extreme gap between rich and poor and the importance of the middle class. They visited several village schools made of adobe and wouldn’t soon forget the expression of excitement on the faces of those school kids when given a soccer ball. “They were all very smart,” Dr. McEwen said, “We don’t realize how much we have.” As a matter of fact, Karen, a fantastic photographer, captured and documented some precious moments of their school visit on film, which were also on view as part of the exhibit in Weiss lobby. The couple has made and kept a connection with local schools there and they sincerely hope their continuous outreach arrives soundly in the hands of those in need in the future.

image4My conversation with Dr. McEwen had to end, but it lit up my dream of Africa. Although seemingly a far-reach right now, one day it can happen, and it will happen. Once deeply enchanted by the classic film Out of Africa, I can’t wait to step into Africa, to soul-search, to feel, to perceive and to understand simple happiness in life.

 

The Pursuit of Vocation

By Peng Kate Gao

Work is love made visible.

−Kahlil Gibran

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, in his brilliantly written book The Happiness Hypothesis, summarized three ways that people generally view their work: a job, a career, or a calling. A job is what people do to earn money and to support their families. A career is what people do to achieve higher goals, such as advancement and prestige. A calling, on the other hand, is for those who find their work so intrinsically engaging and fulfilling that they do it for the sheer love of it. These people usually would continue to work even without pay, if they suddenly became very wealthy. They would have found their life’s vocation.

How do we find ours? In many ways, this is an age-old question. Two and a half millennia ago, Confucius advised, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Nowadays in industrialized western society, where individual autonomy and achievement are farmers among the highest priorities, this question seems even more urgent. As Apple entrepreneur Steve Jobs, remembered as much for his passion as his success, once said, “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” This type of sentiment has always created mixed feelings in me. I am deeply moved and inspired, but at the same time confused and even frightened, as one question burned in my mind: what is my burning idea and would it be strong enough to motivate me to the end? For a long time, I thought my passion was out there, like some great truth, waiting to be found.

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For Your Consideration – Ones to Watch, Vol. 3 Edition

By Jim Keller

Ah, the Best Supporting Actor and Actress races, such tenuous categories where one can know everything one week and nothing the next. Take last year’s Best Supporting Actress race for example—who could’ve guessed that frontrunner Oprah Winfrey would be snubbed on Oscar nomination morning? The New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC), the National Board of Review (NBR), the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), and the American Film Institute (AFI) have announced their respective winners. Meanwhile, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Hollywood Foreign Press (Golden Globes) have announced their nominees. These announcements serve as the starting gun for the second leg of an unusually wide open Oscar race. Nowadays the race begins in August with the Telluride Film Festival, but I digress. By the time this article is published various other critics groups will announce their awards/nominees and a consensus will begin to take shape. As I said, anything can happen in these races and the third leg is yet to come. So while the would-be contenders are out in full-force kissing babies and making appearances, let’s examine the Best Supporting Actor and Actress races in this third of the three-part series.

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New York State Of Mind

This Month, in closing out our Ten Years of Natural Selections celebration Natural Selections reprints an interview with Frank Schaefer, Assistant Director, Laboratory Safety and Environmental Health. Country of origin: USA. The original interview was published in the December 2004 issue.

How long have you been living in New York City?

35 years (all my life).

Where do you live?

Richmond Hill, Queens.

Which is your favorite neighborhood?

Bayside, Queens because of the quiet surroundings and its proximity to the Long Island Sound.

What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city? And underrated?

The most overrated thing about the city is Times Square. It is just too crowded and if you ask me… A waste of electricity. The most underrated thing about NYC is its people. I think New Yorkers are very willing to help one another and don’t get enough credit for the good they do.

What do you miss most when you are out of town?

When I’m out of town, I generally miss running through the trails in Forest Park and a slice of pizza from Alfies.

If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be?

If I had the power to change anything, it would be eliminating trash from the streets by enforcing laws that prohibit littering. It’s irritating to see people throw trash from New York State of Mind their cars onto the street. It’s not only an aesthetic issue, but a problem for the city’s wastewater treatment plants as well.

Describe a perfect weekend in NYC.

Sunny in the upper 80’s. I’d start the day early with a long run and then spend the afternoon with my wife and children watching the horses run at Belmont Park, and win of course. In the evening we would barbeque in our backyard with family and friends.

What is the most memorable experience you have had in NYC?

Watching the Mets make it to the World Series in 2000 by beating the St Louis Cardinals at Shea.

If you could live anywhere else, where would that be?

I would like to live in South Florida.

Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker? Why?

Absolutely, I’ve lived and worked here all my life.

Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes

Part IV: John H. Northrop, 1946 Prize in Chemistry

By Joseph Luna

So far in this series, it seems as if we’ve focused on foreigners. For a young institution like Rockefeller in the early 20th century, it took time for original Nobel level work to emerge, and so it’s not too surprising that the first three visits to Stockholm was for work done before the recipient arrived at Rockefeller, and in far off places: France/Canada, Austria, and the great state of Missouri. That changed in 1946, when two Rockefeller scientists won Nobel prizes in Chemistry, the elder of whom was a true New Yorker, a Yonkers born and Columbia University-trained, eighth generation Yankee, named John Northrop.

His biography borders on Rooseveltian: John’s father, a zoologist, was tragically killed in an explosion two weeks before young Jack was born in 1891. His mother, a trained botanist, raised him alone in Yonkers and taught at both Columbia and Hunter College. With a mother deeply interested in nature, Jack’s young adulthood was spent largely outdoors, quite a feat for a city boy. He hunted and fished, was at home on a horse or in a canoe, and loved to travel. His youthful adventures took him as far as the American southwest, where in 1913-14 he spent time prospecting for gold along the Colorado River. World War I halted that.

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Checkers’ Mate!

By George Barany and Daniel Silversmith

George Barany is a Rockefeller alum (1977) who currently lives in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, where he has known Daniel Silversmith, a practicing clinical psychologist, since 1999. For more about this specific puzzle, including a link to the answer, visit http://tinyurl.com/checkerspuz. More Barany and Friends crosswords are at http://tinyurl.com/gbpuzzle.

Get this month’s puzzle here!

Culture Corner

An interview with famed vocalist and vocal coach Dorian Holley (Part One of Two)

By Bernie Langs

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Looking over the resume of Dorian Holley, one marvels at the long list of names of the biggest successes in popular music for whom he has served as a back-up vocalist, background singer, or studio recording partner. He worked, for example, as a featured vocalist for tours by James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. Rod Stewart had him along for the Vagabond Heart World Tour as did Don Henley (of the Eagles) for his Inside Job World Tour. He has recorded with dozens of artists, including Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Elton John, Babyface, and Randy Newman. Holley has been the vocal coach and Assistant Musical Director for American Idol on television for almost a decade and was the lead singer for the house band on The Late Show with Jay Leno. He also finds time to work as a vocal instructor at the Los Angeles College of music and teaches performance classes there. But he is perhaps best known for his back-up vocal work with the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson and, in particular, his involvement in the scheduled This Is It performances that would’ve been held in London, England in 2009 if it weren’t for Jackson’s untimely death.

Holley is working hard to break out as a solo performer and appears live in the Los Angeles area club scene. His voice is silky smooth, soulful, and his depth of musical knowledge shines through in his melodic phrasing on his recent recorded materials.

I recently sent Holley ten questions about his work. The first five below are general and about his career. The second five focus on This Is It / Michael Jackson and will appear in the February 2015 issue of Natural Selections.

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