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Showing posts from February, 2021

FIELD NOTES: The Confounding Case of Elisa Lam

The human brain has a fantastic ability to find patterns and connections in seemingly unrelated things. This ability has given us mathematics and engineering, taken us to the moon, and found cures for many of the diseases that plague us. But it also occasionally sees patterns and connections that aren’t there, makes us vulnerable to fakes and frauds, and fuels ridiculous conspiracy theories.  My father was an avid reader, but his choice of reading material often left a little to be desired. He loved the tabloids, and there were always copies of the National Enquirer, Weekly World News, and National Star around the house. While he never gave many indications that he bought into the conspiracy theories that were those publications’ stock and trade, he seemed to enjoy reading about them. Being the late-60s, the dominant conspiracy theory of the day revolved around the assassination of President Kennedy. One especially “spooky” article I remember detailed the weird coincidences between the

FIELD NOTES: Personal challenges

The inclement weather the past couple of days relegated me to working in the garage, so I decided to “tune up” my bicycle for the spring. I replaced the tubes, tire, and brake pads last year, so all I needed to do was lube the chain and make a few minor adjustments. In truth, I do this more out of habit than necessity. These days, I probably ride that bike 50 miles over the course of a year. It wasn’t always that way. During my past couple of years in Ohio and my first few years in North Carolina, cycling was my primary exercise. I easily logged 40 or 50 miles per week during the warmer months. In my early Carolina days, my office was in a nifty building on U.S. 74 near Matthews called The Quorum. The back door of The Quorum opened onto a set of stairs that led down to McAlpine Creek Greenway, and a couple of us would bring our bikes and ride for an hour or so after work. At some point that summer, we decided to enter the Breakaway to the Beach fundraiser for multiple sclerosis. It was

FIELD NOTES: Grand taste. Less filling. Mostly legal.

This month’s Popular Mechanics features an article on the “science of making low-alcohol beer.” It turns out low-alcohol and no-alcohol beers are gaining popularity as craft brewers jostle for position in a crowded market. The less-alcoholic brews appeal to young, health-conscious drinkers who see them as lower-calorie options with less impact on their active lifestyles. Craft brewers have devised methods for making products ranging from .5 percent to 4 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) that are almost indistinguishable in taste from their higher ABV counterparts. That wasn’t always the case. On Sept. 23, 1980, I turned 18. In Ohio, that qualified me to enter the exciting world of legal alcohol consumption. Sort of. Ohio was one of a handful of states that clung to a Prohibition-era law that allowed the purchase and consumption of 3.2 percent ABV beer by 18-year-olds while restricting regular beer, wine, and liquor to those 21 and older. The Cullen-Harrison Act, signed about 10 months be