Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu Confirmed Here

According to the Boston Globe, swine flu has been confirmed in both Kennebec and York Counties. Also, I have it on good authority that WHO will raise the pandemic threat level to 5 on a 6 level scale at 3 p.m. EST.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A New Old Star

No, this is not another Tom Petty post, though I am always up for that. It has nothing to do with Maine that I know of, and is only news to those who care about the big picture. The biggest picture.

This is about a real star, actually the death of a really old star, the oldest star ever seen. By seen, of course, I mean felt or sensed by a NASA satellite. This object, according to Harvard astrophysicist Edo Berger, is 13 billion light years away and was born moments, astronomically speaking, after the Big Bang. The Big Bang is estimated to have occurred 13.7 billion years ago, so this star's death throes, gamma waves--like the rings 'round a pebble thrown into a still pond--have traveled through the majority of the known universe until rolling over a Gemini observatory last week.

From the article, Berger said, "I have been chasing gamma-ray bursts for a decade, trying to find such a spectacular event. We now have the first direct proof that the young universe was teeming with exploding stars and newly-born black holes only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang."

Gamma-ray bursts are the universe's most luminous explosions. Most occur when massive stars run out of nuclear fuel. As their cores collapse into a black hole or neutron star, gas jets, driven by processes not fully understood, punch through the star and blast into space. There, they strike gas previously shed by the star and heat it, which generates short- lived afterglows in other wavelengths.

So last week we saw some ancient afterglow. That's getting to be all some of us can count on.

[H/T to Stan who clued me in to the obvious difference between light years and years. D'oh!]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Local Swine Flu Brief

About half an hour ago, 1300 Sunday, the Department of Health and Human Services declared a Public Health Emergency in the U.S. and the Centers for Disease Control have recommended that schools think about closures. (Don't have a link for that yet.)

Maine is uniquely situated in that most of our students have been out of school for the last 10 days and are set to reconvene tomorrow. Many of these kids and/or family members have been out of state some returning within hours of coming back to school.

If Mainers were prudent, we would declare an additional three or four days off to shake out the incubation period and reduce the potential disease vectors.

When I checked with Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Tim Pellerin, whose cell phone number is on his voice mail, he had not heard anything from DHS or other emergency organizations. Knox County Director Ray Sisk apparently takes weekends off. Emergencies never happen on the weekend you know.

Update: Ray Sisk returned my call this afternoon around 4 p.m. and sounded thorougly organized. He is staying in contact with the State Epidemiologist Dora Mills, describing her as "a practical person," and seemed to have all the latest information. He said he had just gotten off the phone with the Five Town (Camden-Rockport) Superintendent Pat Hopkins and that he was available for anyone needing information.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Blogs for Crabby English Teachers

Again, I have made no time for actual writing. Nevertheless, my now constant Twitter feed put me onto the "Blog" of "Unnecessary Quotation" Marks. Have a look while I go searching for blogs of inaccurate antecedents, illogical conclusions, sentence fragments and vague generalites.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Drive By Blogging--PR and Social Networking

Please accept my apologies, Dear Reader, for the quick hit. Teaching has sucked the extra time out of my day. In case there is any doubt, this is a good thing, though our little blog has suffered.

Writer Kay Liss and I did a presentation on PR for Maine Media Women last weekend. Kay gave the nuts and bolts and I provided some links and bytes, defending the proposition that virtually all PR is moving to the web. Low and behold, in case any of the MMW writers are lurking, here is an article supporting my notion.

As soon as it is up, I will link to the Lincoln County News article about the presentation.