The Wandering Mind

Have you ever heard of a "dirty" thunderstorm. You are about to learn!

"Mount Sakurajima erupted in Japan ... sending a plume of smoke rising more thatn 16,000 feet into the air...."

Another Summer's Mini-Reunion!   July 21, 2016 at Thalia Restaurant in Manhattan. 


In attendance: Marcia Friedman, Donna Kenton, Elizabeth Stone, Marianne Lamitola (original names preserved, in this case). Marianne and Liz  later explored the Degas exhibit at the MOMA. 


How Juno Will Reveal the Secrets of our Solar System


Continuing our search for the holy in our increasing secular holidays, let's consider the St. Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach. It was first performed on Good Friday 1727   Here's the Wikipedia header

The St. Matthew The St. Matthew Passion (German: MatthäusPassion) ...,with libretto by Picander (Christian Friedrich Henrici). It sets chapters 26 and 27 of the Gospel of Matthew (in the German translation of Martin Luther) to music, with interspersed chorales and arias.Matthew 26:1 places the first scene two days before the Passover...After a few words of introduction by the Evangelist, the first words of Christ, set as an accompagnato recitative with slow strings, contain an ominous prediction of his imminent fate. It is widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of classical sacred music. The original Latin title Passio Domini nostri J.C. secundum Evangelistam Matthæum translates to "The Passion of our Lord J C according to the Evangelist Matthew... As is typical of settings of the Passion (and originating in its liturgical use on Palm Sunday), there is no mention of the Resurrection in any of these texts (apart from indirect allusions at Matthew 27:53 and 63). Following the concept of Anselm of Canterbury, the crucifixion is the endpoint and the source of redemption; the emphasis is on the suffering of Jesus.

How is this quote from Shakespeare's Julius Ceasar related to Valentine's Day?  

Ceasar to Mark Anthony:

"Forget not, in your speed, Antonius,
To touch Calpurnia; for our elders say,
The barren touched in this holy chase,
Shake off their sterile curse."

      On Valentine's Day, both men and women have occasion to reflect on the meaning of it all, especially with respect to sex,  and to mull over our (respective) places in the universe. Since clarity is elusive, these thoughts rarely lead anywhere. In your editor's case, lacking original thoughts on the subject led us to historical examples, looking for clues from people in the past. While searchng, we found this, from the the folks over at NPR

Though no one has pinpointed the exact origin of the holiday, one good place to start is ancient Rome, where men hit on women by, well, hitting them. ...From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.

The Roman romantics "were drunk. They were naked," says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile.

The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival --- or longer, if the match was right.

The ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name of our modern day of love. Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine's Day.

Later, Pope Gelasius I muddled things in the 5th century by combining St. Valentine's Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan rituals. But the festival was more of a theatrical interpretation of what it had once been. Lenski adds, "It was a little more of a drunken revel, but the Christians put clothes back on it. That didn't stop it from being a day of fertility and love. Around the same time, the Normans celebrated Galatin's Day. Galatin meant "lover of women." That was likely confused with St. Valentine's Day at some point, in part because they sound alike.


 Do you experience with some regret, the current lack of Christmas Pagentry in public and commercial spaces?  Today (2015-12-24) Daniel Henniger  wrote about his recent stroll up Fifth Avenue, sorrowing over the absence of Nativity displays in store windows and streets; instead, he found scenes of fortune-tellers, Roman gods and concubines. 


 Henniger's article puzzled our mind. We asked, why expect retail businesses to maintain the spirit of Christmases' Past? Isn't the nourishment for our souls prepared in the kitchen of our Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples?   Following this thought, we visited the Temple of YouTube, where we enjoyed some traditional dishes. Here's one of them --  Bach's Christmas Oratorio, with libretto.

  If you want to know more about the story told in Bach's Oratorio, here is what Wikipedia has to say 

The work belongs to a group of three oratorios written towards the end of Bach's career in 1734 and 1735 for major feasts, the others being the Ascension Oratorio (BWV 11) and the Easter Oratorio (BWV 249). All parody earlier compositions, although the Christmas Oratorio is by far the longest and most complex work.

The oratorio is in six parts, each part being intended for performance on one of the major feast days of the Christmas period. The piece is often presented as a whole or split into two equal parts. The total running time for the entire work is nearly three hours.

The first part (for Christmas Day) describes the Birth of Jesus, the second (for December 26) the annunciation to the shepherds, the third (for December 27) the adoration of the shepherds, the fourth (for New Year's Day) the circumcision and naming of Jesus, the fifth (for the first Sunday after New Year) the journey of the Magi, and the sixth (for Epiphany) the adoration of the Magi.


 Do Catholics, Muslims and Jews all worship the same God? Pope Francis thinks so. The article is from Bloomberg's columnist  Noah Feldman, who teaches at Harvard Law school (and who helped write the Iraqi constitution when he worked for the Bush administration).

 "In the Middle Ages Hanukkah festivities celebrated more than just the valiant deeds of the Maccabees. For several centuries there was another hero associated with Hanukkah: Judith. The Book of Judith promised that her praise would "never depart from the heart of those who remember the power of God," and that her actions would "go down through all generations of our descendants." [].  As the picture by Carvaggio depicts, Judith had quite a frown on her face as she grabs Holofernes by the hair and, with her right hand, finishes off the Assyrian (click on the picture to get better resolution). More details, including a cheese dimension of the story:

Looking for a happier Christmas story and a more conventional woman's role?  Here Carvaggio portrays a woman in a maternal pose. But his Madonna was not what "very serious people" (as Paul Krugman might say) thought proper, and it got the painter in trouble with the law.   "Giovanni Baglione, a competing painter of lesser talent, ... who had successfully obtained Caravaggio's jailing during a libel trial, said that the unveiling of this painting 'caused the common people to make a great cackle (schiamazzo) over it.' "  We don't think that Carvaggio's defense at his trial was helped by: the Madonna's crossed legs and bare feet; the liklihood that the lady was Carvaggio's mistress; and lack of any kingly characteristics of the two characters performing this particular adoration. 


Do you remember the historical derivation of of what we now know as Santa Claus? 


And here is a little song for our New Year celebrations. We had forgotten that the Little Rascals was the re-run of the original Our Gang . The gathering depicted in the song is a reunion of the cast of the old and the new versions.

 IN "Good Cheer" Our Gang pelts innocent pedestrians with snow balls around Christmas time in a Northern city, perhaps New York. 

  We presume that visitors to our site are are in a position to judge the accuracy of this remark, reputedly by Confucius: 
"... at seventy I could follow my heart's desire without overstepping the boundaries of what was right."
And, speaking about what is right, you might enjoy this little essay, which came into our possession through a politically incorrect channel. The author apparently went to Amherst when WE went to college. He writes from the prospective of man who suffered indignities without calling them "micro-agressions."   
  • Albany Med Pathologist Makes Unprecedented Gift

    Pathologist Jeffrey Ross, MD, and his wife, Karen, have pledged $1million to the Lifeline campaign, the largest gift ever made to Albany Med by a faculty member. Dr. Ross, the Cyrus Strong Merrill Professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, said the gift was a “thank you to the institution that allowed me to become the physician, educator and scientist I always wanted to be.

    “By joining the faculty at Albany Med, I was able to become a part of a major academic health sciences center,” Dr. Ross said. “Albany Med allowed me to transition from serving as a community hospital pathologist to becoming a leader on the campus of a major teaching hospital. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to teach students and residents, oversee an administrative department, care directly for patients and conduct biomedical research—all at the same time!”

    Earlier this year, Dr. Ross was recognized for being instrumental in the development of the field of personalized cancer treatment-based genomic analysis. He has received four U.S. patents in cancer biomarkers, and he lectures around the world on cancer genomics and molecular pathology.

    The gift coincides with a milestone for Dr. Ross. This year he celebrates 25 years in his chairmanship, making him the longest-sitting pathology chair in the country.

    While Albany Med has played a major role in his professional development, it has also been a touchstone for his family. Shortly after Dr. Ross arrived at the hospital in 1989, his father, a retired dentist, began volunteering part-time in the histology lab while his mother volunteered in the thrift shop. His daughter, psychiatrist Mary Ross-Dolen, MD, worked at Albany Med in the early 2000s. His son Merrill Ross, Albany Med’s first webmaster, is the current chief executive officer of Affiliated Pathology Services. Son Michael Ross, MD, ’97, is a graduate of Albany Medical College and youngest son, David Ross, is a former senior manager in Albany Med’sInformation Services department.

    “Several of our children and grandchildren were born here,” Dr. Ross said. “It’s a remarkable institution that has touched all of us. We hope this gift will create a ripple effect and maybe inspire other employees to consider giving back to a place that has given so much to us.”

  • An article by Michael Horowitz on "returned deportees" to Tonga and SamoaAs Michael's abstract reads: This editorial focuses idiographically on Samoans and Tongans who – after expatriate tenure in the United States, New Zealand, and Australia – have been returned to their home nations. Upon and after re-entry, they are often stigmatised as drug dealers, masterminds of burglary, and/or instigators of riot.
  • The Leidenfrost Effect occurs when a drop of liquid comes in contact with a surface significantly hotter than its boiling point.

  • Start with photgraphing eyes, move on to bubbles.  How one thing leads to another. 

  • Did you like the musical My Fair Lady?  If so, we think you will enjoy this movie from 1938, based on the screen play by George Bernard Shaw. Cinegraphic details here
  • What does MURMURATION mean? 

  • European History in one Map. Borders have changed quite often.

  • How about some non-political controversy?  The below article by a fellow baby-boomer (and college classmate of some of us) is worth reflection.
  • We also suggest a re-reading of Dory Fliegel's account of our 50th.
  • New York Area Luncheon held on 9th of January 2014 drew a crowd of enthusiastic, if supra-middle aged, Wheatley aficionados.  Some photos in our galleries.
  • The hectic, recent events in the Ukraine have produced some interesting journalism (amidst much hogwash). Timothy Snyder appears well informed and passionately anti-Putin.

Professor Hansen, he with the glass eye who taught many of us World History, introduced many of us the the expression "Sick Man of Europe" to decribe the Ottoman Empire around the time of the Crimean War of 1853-1856.


Curing Malaria witha $1 paper microscope (2014-03-08). A new microscope can be printed on a flat piece of paper and assembled with a few extra components in less than 10 minutes. All the parts to make it cost less than a dollar, according to Stanford bioengineer Manu Prakash and colleagues, who describe their origami optics this week in a paper published on  The goal, as Prakash explains in a TED talk posted today, is to provide a cheap medical screening tool that could be widely used in the developing world. Because the microscopes can be printed by the thousands, they could also be used for education and field research.

Below are some whimiscal entries from your webmaster.


  • Do you have good memories of the music at Wheatley?  Leslie Shiller Fisher points us to an article in the NY Times, which might explain why so many of us feel that way..
  • Ai Wei Wei (the now famous ChInese dissident artist) lived in NY city from 1983 -1993. Here is what he saw: 




  • You'll never think of a bug in the same way. 


  • A line of careful reasoning for the legally inclined:
     Obama's justification of the killing of US Citizens is NOT due process. 

  • Paul Krugman (Blog of 10 Jan 2013)  suggests we read this, in which we learn that it'll be easy to overcome our deficit problems with just a little more taxes.
  • Crave obscurity? You are not alone.
  • As we consider the current military environment, we've a chance to learn from historical examples.  Here's a weapon that didn't work as planned.


    More details of the planning and execution of the WWII project. 





    Does Leonardo's "The Last Supper" depict Jesus at the Passover Seder?Click on the picture to see the "restored' version by a follower, Giampietri

    [Click on the picture to see a "restored" version by Gianpietrino, a member of Leonardo's "school", where it is easier to see each of the characters.]

    [One of the sources of high excitement at Wheatley was our pretty even distribution of Catholic, Protestant and Jew. That was in the late 50's and early '60s; now the mix includes Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, too.]

    Leonardo's famous painting reminds us of the close relationship between Christian and Jewish traditions. According to the Gospel according to Mark (scholars say the account in John is quite different):   "After two days was the feast of the passover, ...And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover [lamb, I suppose], his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?  And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man ..[and ask him], where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.
    And his disciples went forth ... and they made ready the passover. And in the evening he cometh with the twelve." Jesus then predicts that "even in this night, before the cock crow twice",  I'll be arrested and you all will pretend not to know me. 

    As Jesus predicted, soldiers arrested him and hauled him to prison (and his disciples pretended not to know him). Immediately the next morning, Mark relates that Jesus was executed and his body placed in a cave, protected by a big stone.  No one visits the cave on the next day. But the following day, the text indicates the body had disappeared. So, by deduction, they figure the body "rose" the previous day.

    [Your editor has no idea if the calendar back then had a "Sunday". ]


    APRIL 1. :
    This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar


    Daylight Savings Time begins March 8, 2015.  Benjamin Franklin had the idea of moving the clocks in 1784.


    A healthy and prosperous Year of the Ram, which commenced on the 19th of February 2015. 



    Everyone knows that the Chinese Zodiac is divided into twelve animalsbut did you know that   "The Chinese zodiac is also used to label times of the day, with each sign corresponding to a "large-hour" or shichen , which is a two-hour period (24 divided by 12 animals). "  So, most of us wake up at the Dragon hour (7-9 am) and get ready for rest at the Pig hour (9-11 pm).





    Considerations on Valentine's Day

    Geoffrey Chaucer (1352)
    For this was Saint Valentine's day, when every bird of every kind that men can imagine comes to this place to choose his mate.

    Ophelia (Hamlet Act 4 Scene 5) tells us what happens:

    To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
    All in the morning bedtime,
    And I a maid at your window,
    To be your Valentine.
    Then up he rose and donn'd his clo'es
    And dupp'd the chamber door,
    Let in the maid, that out a maid
    Never departed more.

    Did you watch the President's State of the Union Address?  Here is a commentary from one of America's greatest.












    Art Engoron '67 triumphed at his 3rd Annual Wheatley Alumni luncheon. It was celebrated on the 14th of January 2015 at the El Quijote restaurant, just next to the Chelsea Hotel on west 23rd Street in Manhattan.

    Although it was cold and windy outside, inside we had name tags, paella and sangria which helped warm up the already cheerful crowd.

    Attendees from the Class of '63 included:
    Elizabeth Stone, Deborah Crane, Maryann Lamitola Downey, Donna Kenton, Gary Krakauer, and Keith Aufhauser.

    Here are pictures from the event (requires Flash).  

    Another picture link designed for Apple Devices.

     If you visit you'll also find pictures of prior events and attendees.