Thursday, October 8, 2009


I think I'm a creative person, though for the longest time, I didn't. At least, I didn't think about it all when I was young, and through high school up until this summer in college, I never considered myself an artist. And I still don't.

That's my point now, though. I always considered creativity to be the ability to come up with something out of nothing with no more than a thought, to create art, to draw, to paint, to write lush prose and transcendent poetry - but that's not what it is. Creativity is the ability to make something new, that's true, but the definition of new doesn't have to include spontaneity. So what exactly is creativity?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Ambulance Down in the Valley

A speaker in my Public Health class read us this poem at the end of his lecture. I think it is a brilliant and funny representation of prevention vs. cure in health care, still applicable today despite being written in 1895. Laugh, but also take heed!

Joseph Malins

'Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke, and full many a peasant.
The people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally.
Some said "Put a fence 'round the edge of the cliff,"
Some, "An ambulance down in the valley."

The lament of the crowd was profound and was loud,
As their tears overflowed with their pity;
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day
As it spread through the neighboring city.
A collection was made, to accumulate aid,
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave dollars and cents--not to furnish a fence--
But an ambulance down in the valley.

"For the cliff is all right if you're careful," they said;
"And, if folks ever slip and are dropping,
It isn't the slipping that hurts them so much
As the shock down below--when they're stopping."
So for years (we have heard), as these mishaps occurred
Quick forth would the rescuers sally,
To pick up the victims who fell from the cliff,
With the ambulance down in the valley.

Said one, in a plea, "It's a marvel to me
That you'd give so much greater attention
To repairing results than to curing the cause;
You had much better aim at prevention.
For the mischief, of course, should be stopped at its source;
Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally.
It is far better sense to rely on a fence
Than an ambulance down in the valley."

"He is wrong in his head," the majority said,
"He would end all our earnest endeavor.
He's a man who would shirk this responsible work,
But we will support it forever.
Aren't we picking up all, jut as fast as they fall,
And giving them care liberally?
A superfluous fence is of no consequence
If the ambulance works in the valley."

But a sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be much stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice and pen,
And while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.

Better guide well the young, than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling,
"To rescue the fallen is good, but 'tis best
To prevent other people from falling."
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley
Better put a strong fence 'round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Hope, then disappointment. Every season.
Oh Bears...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Clear Sky

Tonight was the first time the stars had ever been so clear.

Today was a special day. A seven-year-old Sally stood in front of the school to share her dreams. "I want to be an astronaut," she began reading from her essay. The distinguished guest beside her had piloted two of NASA's missions already, and was here to visit his old elementary school. "I want to see everything that's out there."

Surely life hadn't seemed so simple back then, even to a second grader?

"Cool, I get a flightsuit!" exclaimed the exuberant fifth-grader. The first day of Space Camp was exhilarating, a flurry of goodbyes to parents and hellos to new friends and teammates. There was so much to learn for the Rocket Bowl on the last day. Team Intrepid was certainly going to win that competition. But in the meantime, there were simulators to try - the MMU, the 5 degrees of freedom chair, the 1/6 gravity chair. Space shuttle missions - Sally was going to be a mission scientist. And the zero-g wall! So much to do!

By seventh grade, the dream of becoming an astronaut had been pushed to the back. The desire was still there, but there were other things in the world that were so much more interesting. Friends, sports, and among academic subjects science, especially biology. But when night fell, she could still stare at the stars and watch for satellites, remembering what not so long ago was her only dream.

On the flat roof of a houseboat in the middle of the lake, surrounded by friends and family, fifteen-year-old Sally lay snug in her blanket. "Ooh, did you see that one?! That was a huge meteorite!" She smiled at the excited chatter of the six-year-old twins and scanned the sky for more, feeling more content than she had in a while. There was no light pollution out here in the middle of nowhere.

The stars had come to mean other things besides her dreams. They represented time spent with her dad, laying back in deck chairs in the wee hours of the morning, stifling yawns as they peered through the power lines for any signs of the Leonids.

When she was having trouble with adjusting to a new life in college, when she couldn't quite make it into whatever you tried out for, when work was getting tougher, sometimes all she needed was a friend to walk with her. At midnight, through the middle of campus, to try and find a terrace she had seen once before from which to gaze at the stars. She had to beware the sprinklers turning on as she walked through the grass, but otherwise, it bestowed a measure of comfort, a feeling of having your problems melt away. Honestly, they were so insignificant when you looked at the size of the universe and everything that could be happening - anything was possible out there.

Sally gazed out the window as the shuttle spun in its slow tango with the earth, bringing its partner into view. What were the chances? A neuroscientist was needed to study the effects of freefall on the brain? But it felt right, like this was where her choices had been leading her whole life. The stars were certainly clear tonight.