Radically Redefining the American Holiday Calendar

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Photo by David Holifield on Unsplash

American Jews have many wonderful winter traditions. We light candles, sing songs, recite prayers, visit family, give gifts, fry foods savory and sweet, and kvetch about the December Dilemma. In fact, although candles, blessings, and songs all have the trappings of religion, hand wringing is the only practice tackled with true religious fervor.

The “December Dilemma” can best be defined as the feelings of isolation, invalidation, and deprivation experienced by those trying to observe a non-Christian religion in the midst of an overwhelming Christmas season. …

The Strange Reverse Politics of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain

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Photo by Peter Feghali on Unsplash

Any casual student of the American democratic experiment would be forgiven for believing that our country’s wacky electoral college system is an accurate description of state identity. Every four years, the TV networks depict the electoral college map with clearly defined blocks of bright blue and red. Although this shorthand, first utilized in 1976, provides a useful graphic for understanding election results, it also provides a false narrative about the connection between the popular vote and the electoral college.

This is not to say that the individual states do not have defined histories, symbolism, songs, stories, and pride. But our modern political system is more a rural vs. …

The Future Painted in Blues and Reds

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“Blue Fluid Acrylic Painting” by markchadwickart is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

As I sit here only days away from the U.S. presidential election, wondering whether I will be drinking to celebrate or drinking to drown my sorrows (the drinking part is a given), I can’t help but wonder if elections are exercises in true indeterminism or simple predestination. In other words, does anything we do amount to a hill of beans? I suppose it depends on how one defines political momentum.

The Myth of Political Momentum

Political momentum is one of those handy terms overused and poorly defined by the media. Typically, it refers to short-term momentum, actions happening in the present tense, measured through political polls. …

A Hot New TV Drama Coming to My Imagination Near You

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Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash

When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a scientist, mostly because both my parents were scientists, and I understood the career path. I loved science, I loved visiting their research labs, and I presented kick-ass projects at the local science fair.

At no time in my youth did I plan to become a Medical Science Liaison. It was never on my radar.

MSLs are non-sales pharmaceutical representatives that build scientific rapport with key medical opinion leaders, serve as scientific peers and resources within the medical community, provide internal and external training, and support clinical trials. The first MSL role was established by Upjohn Pharmaceuticals in 1967, and by the late 80s, many companies required MSLs to hold doctorate degrees, such as MD, PharmD, or PhD. A job that required an academic background, exotic travel, and a willingness to talk nothing but science seemed tailor made for me. …

Is there a better way to review vegan restaurants?

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Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

I am done with black bean burgers. Over. Finished. Kaput.

Sure, early on in my vegetarian life, finding a black bean burger in a standard Americana restaurant was a coup. It was an actual vegetarian meal, not simply a weak combination of salads or sides. Black beans were almost exotic in the pinto-standard Midwest. But that was many decades ago. Now, every black bean burger I see, even a good one, reeks of tokenism. It tells me this is the best you’re going to find in our carnivore establishment.

I first became vegetarian in Boulder, Colorado, where ovo-lacto and vegan meal choices were simply part of the culture. In fact, in 1995, a resident of Boulder successfully sued a local pasta restaurant for claiming their marinara sauce, which had anchovy paste, was vegetarian. We vegetarians had clout. We had influence. But by the time I moved to Indiana by way of Minnesota, it was back to black bean burgers. And salads. …

Using Data Visualization to Explain the Dangers of a COVID-19 Herd Immunity Approach

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“Flu Genome Data Visualizer” by blprnt_van is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

Let’s face it, Data Overload has teamed up with Math Anxiety. These past six months have been exhausting, but on top of the sickness, death, poverty, and restrictions, I fear the American public is also tired of numbers. COVID-19 has brought us a non-stop onslaught of statistics: infection rates, mortality rates, case-fatality ratios, demographics, and prognostications. Even data enthusiasts like myself now hide under the bed every time we see the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard.

From the depths of this informational swamp, the Great Barrington Declaration reared its ugly head.

A Dangerous Permission Structure

The Great Barrington Declaration is an open letter written and signed by three medical professors from Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford. It recommends that only those people at highest risk of dying from the disease isolate themselves to be protected from infection, while the rest of society goes about their business as usual, albeit with “simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick.” The declaration was sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian free-market think tank headquartered in western Massachusetts. The institute is part of an organizational network funded by Charles Koch, a far right wing billionaire known for promoting climate change denial and opposing regulations on business. …

Can old college traditions save romance?

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Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

“Love is one of those bonds which enable people to function and societies to flourish.” — Thomas Sowell, 1996

I recently came across a disturbing statistic. Marriage rates have dropped for the last 40 years.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it wasn’t until I saw charts beautifully rendered by data science guru Dr. Randal Olson did I fully appreciated the danger. Olson compiled marriage and divorce rates from a century and a half of data from the CDC National Center for Health Statistics. …

Your Perfect City is a Market Analysis Away

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About three and a half years ago, as we were nearing the end of our fifth decade, my wife and I were discussing our retirement plans for the distant future. Indiana had been our home off and on for three-quarters of our lives, but this conservative Midwest state had started to feel stale despite a deep familiarity, memories of childhood, and proximity to friends and family. I reminded my wife that she once wanted to live in New Mexico. “That was when we were living in Colorado,” she said. “And then we moved to Minnesota, and I remembered that I liked the color green.” Well, I suggested, how about Minnesota? Too cold. The south? Too conservative. East coast? Too brusque. California? Too expensive. …


Zev Winicur, PhD

Medical Science Liaison in the pharma industry. Former technical writer, science writer, and market research analyst. General data enthusiast.

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