It was a lovely morning, and I happened to be in New York City to meet some friends. We took the subway into Manhattan and I was surprised it wasn’t more crowded. When we got to the bistro to stand in line for our lunch orders, we sent one in our group ahead to get a table since the place was just about full. My order took a very long time, and I had to jostle with others waiting for the food to come up. When it finally did, I sat down to the table and realized someone else had joined our group and I had to lean in a bit to listen. That’s when I looked up and realized no one was wearing a mask. Not even me. I startled, got very scared, and that’s when I awoke from the dream. Actually, it was a nightmare. A seductively pleasant one for a while, because it was a joy to be up and about with friends, outside, with others, conversing, doing normal things. But also, I realized as I looked back, the whole experience was a complex reversal of what’s supposed to be normal and everyday. A simple encounter produces...Read more

Kentucky Coffeetree

Today marks the ninth anniversary of my father’s death. To honor him, we planted a Kentucky coffeetree in the yard. The choice of tree species had nothing to do with my father; I had seen it in the Philadelphia area and liked its look and color. I also knew it was something of a warmer season tree than ideal for the inland Connecticut growing zone. It hasn’t struggled, however. Unlike my father, who was something of a misfit most of his life and who only rarely and fleetingly ever could acknowledge how much I loved him and still do. Milton Klein, born in Brooklyn in 1921, was something of a tech genius. He loved motors, wires, pumps and valves. By profession he was an electrical engineer, but he had been forced into that trade by his father, who demanded my dad major in electrical engineering at a prestigious free university in Manhattan he attended, the Cooper Union. My father really wanted to go into mechanical engineering but relented and spent most of his professional life designing circuit boards and stereo chassis for a variety of electronics firms. At home he could fix anything. I have so many memories of walking...Read more

Getting Testy

News the other day that a Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech firm had launched preliminary tests on a COVID-19 vaccine was enough to move the markets. Let’s hope it bodes well. But we’ve seen false starts before, so caution should prevail. The company, Moderna, is working on a vaccine that showed some encouraging results, with a trial of eight people who took the prototype drug and produced antibodies that killed off the virus in a laboratory. That was enough to boost the company’s stock by 20 percent and help move the Dow Jones industrial average by four percent. It’s early in the development of any reliable medical trials, and there’s good reason to be suspicious about what health researcher William Haseltine, writing in “The Washington Post,” called “publication by press release.” The search for quick, easy scientifically valid solutions to complex social and medical problems is understandable. Never more so than these days, when the country and the world remain in a partial state of limbo. There’s widespread uncertainty among government decision makers as to the proper course of action with a virus as elusive and as common as this one. Health officials have generally counseled extreme caution while some politicians have...Read more