Monday, January 3, 2011


I rarely make New Year’s resolutions. I prefer a different way for self-improvement. My resolution on January 1 was to write another book starting on January 1. This I have started. My working title is MY HEROES: FIFTEEN PEOPLE WHO COMPOSED MY LIFE. I wrote the introduction, the table of contents, and a chapter on “Hermann Muller taught me how to be a scientist.” I started with what I know best and those five years (1953-1958) are wired into my memory. This is not a psychoanalytic analysis nor is it a meditative way to know myself. I believe we are a composite of influences from people and events and I chose fifteen people who are plastered, with my gratitude, into my psyche. You’ll learn more about them as I churn out chapters. For the Muller chapter (provisionally Chapter 9) I discuss the PhD experience and what the mentoring relation is like for a budding scientist.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Blog 13 -- Annabel Begley-- our first great grandchild

Annabel Cristi Begley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on May 2, 2010. For Christmas we got a lovely picture of her which we put on the mantle of our fireplace. She smiles at us in her pretty red Christmas dress. She is the fourth generation of Carlsons in the United States going back to my father coming here about 1925 from Stockholm, Sweden. She is the fifth generation of Vogels in America, my mother’s parents having come to the US about 1892 from Tarnapol, Ukraine. On the Miller side she is the eighth generation since John Miller was born in the US in 1795. On the Dawald side Annabel is eight generations removed from Michael Dawald who lived in Pennsylvania about that time. Annabel is related on both the Miller and Dawald side to Andrew Babcock who was born in England in 1731 and who came to the Colonies with his brother and fought in the Revolutionary War. He and his brother were blacksmiths and helped make the “great chain” near Kingston (later the West Point military academy) that stretched across the Hudson River and kept the British fleet from moving north to Canada. That puts Annabel at the ninth generation since the Babcock connection to the Revolutionary War. It will now be up to her mother Vanessa to relate her to the families of the Woodwards and Begleys.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


When I was in high school, I read aloud to a blind teacher before classes began. It was like having a private tutor introducing me to the classics of Western Civilization. One of my favorite readings was Montaigne’s essays and he inspired essay writing that I have done since 1997 as a series of 300 Life Lines columns in North shore Long Island newspapers. I used a gift card Nedra gave me for Christmas and purchased Sarah Bakewell’s "How to Live or a Biography of Montaigne". In it she describes about 20 different ways Montaigne tried to answer that challenge using quotes from his essays and providing a historian’s background to his life and times. It is a thrill to read and she brings out the personal charm of Montaigne’s life. He was unpretentious, knew his limits, had enormous empathy for others, and managed to survive in one of the most difficult times in French history as the Reformation led to bloody civil wars between Protestant Huguenots and counter-Reformation Catholics.