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Just don't bug me

I’m here today to stand up for the rights of bugs everywhere. From an early age, I have been a voice in the dark for insects you mainly see in the light. I’m talking about the good guys: crickets, lady bugs, and my favorite, the praying mantis –– those guys that don’t cause you pain or eat your garden plants. I have been known to lovingly pick up a cricket from our family room carpet in a tissue (to my wife’s horror) and carefully carry it outside to a safe haven. They hurt nobody and to my thinking deserve a break.

But when it comes to the other ones –– mosquitoes, flies and stinkbugs in particular –– I’m not Mr. Nice Guy. Armed with our battery-operated, tennis racquet-shaped zapper, I will dispatch these pests when they dare to encroach upon our backyard deck let alone enter the sanctity of our home. Why, just the other day, in an office building, I quickly disposed of a cockroach that was sitting comfortably on a hall carpet.

Nothing fishy about this big event

Fish tacos. Nick Croce. Normally, when someone mentions San Diego to me these rather disparate words come to mind. There’s nothing mysterious about my thinking of fish tacos: Rubio’s in San Diego features them and they’re super. It seems that after first tasting a fish taco in San Felipe, Mexico, Ralph Rubio returned to San Diego to hand-craft his own recipe and introduced America to the fish taco in 1983. I can tell you first-hand that he did a heck of a job crafting.

Why the city reminds me of Nick Croce –– now that’s a little more esoteric. I used to work with a man by that name, and I always think of him when I pass by Croce’s restaurant on Fifth Avenue in San Diego. I’ve never set foot in the place, but I vow to do so in March. Why March?...

A new wake-up call

I may be the only person in North America –– maybe even the world –– who can make this statement: I have no desire to drink coffee in the morning. I don’t need it to wake me up, and I don’t crave it. In fact, I have another distinction, though not as rare. On workdays I don’t eat breakfast. I’m just not hungry early in the day and I don’t run out of gas before lunch.

Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy a good cup of coffee with dessert at dinner sometimes. My wife likes it more than I, though, but if she even has a cup of decaf after 10 a.m., she maintains that she won’t sleep that night.

So the bottom line is that you probably won’t be seeing the Bernstein family featured on a coffee commercial on TV.

Something to get your teeth into

A friend of mine is, to my thinking, a sommelier of black licorice. I’ve lost track of the number of brands he has given me to try. The smoother the better, he says. I have, as you probably know, fairly strong opinions about food and drink. But I must say that when it comes to black licorice (there are favors like strawberry, but my friend does not acknowledge them), I have trouble differentiating among the good and the bad.

Their most noteworthy characteristic is this: They all get stuck in your teeth. With all of the advances in food science, you’d have thought they’d have fixed that problem. They seemed to have done a pretty darn good job smoothing out peanut butter, so why not licorice?

The licorice problem, then, makes an item in this week’s ACS Weekly PressPac very intriguing to me. It seems that scientists have discovered medicinal properties of licorice root.

This information bubbles to the surface

I’ll always remember my first champagne toast. The Dodgers, my favorite Major League baseball team, had just won the World Series. My best friend and I lifted our champagne goblets, clinked them, and drank the contents –– ginger ale. It was our first toast, to be sure, but being kids, we couldn’t go to the liquor store, so ginger ale had to do. And it did.
In the years that have passed, I have always reserved champagne for special occasions. I have not, however, limited my intake of carbonated beverages. I like carbonation and, I should add, I hate poorly carbonated soda or, even worse, flat glasses of beer. If you want a flat drink, try water, that’s my philosophy.

After sharing that nugget, you won’t be surprised that I was fascinated to watch a super American Chemical Society Bytesize Science video that was released today.

Out darned spot!

For those of you who know about my notoriously poor memory for names and such, the following short tale will seem like a fabrication, but I assure you it’s not. Actually, the tale itself isn’t so remarkable, but that I remember full details from one day when I was about 10 years old –– now that’s the amazing part!

While at summer camp in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, our group took a trip to nearby Tanglewood, the home of a popular annual summer music ...

How sweet it is!

My connection with rubber tires dates back to my childhood, those days before I was old enough to drive. On weekends, my parents and I would go to one of several beaches in Connecticut not too far from our home. In the trunk of our car, next to the picnic basket, was something I loved: a large black inner tube. In those days, car and truck tires had inner tubes, flexible circles of rubber into which you pumped the air.
When we got to the beach, I would grab the tube and run to the ocean. It was my first boat. Actually, it was my only boat. My family never had one. Probably one reason was that my mother never learned to swim and never ventured farther than a few feet into the water.
Jump ahead a number of decades and I am driving my car in New Jersey, and I see what looks like a trillion used tires piled up in a lot beside the highway. As much as I loved those inner tubes, it bothered me to think of the effect that tire disposal might have on the environment.  And then, this week, I read an item in the ACS Weekly PressPac that made me smile again…

Here's something to chew on

My friend Roy is not going to be happy about this. In fact, I, myself, am not very happy about what I’m going to write in the next sentence. My favorite Major League ballpark hot dog is the (drumroll!) Fenway Frank, produced courtesy of the Boston Red Sox. And if that weren’t bad enough, here’s more: I have eaten the fabled Dodger Dog and the Fenway Frank is in another league.
The problem is that I am a lifelong Dodger fan and, even worse, Roy is such a fan that he has an L.A. Dodgers’ website. Boo to me. But I can’t help it. During one of our ACS national meetings in Boston last year a group of us went to a game at Fenway and one bite out that Fenway Frank and I was a goner. What a wonderful smokey flavor! I know virtually all Major League teams have good franks (there’s the Braves’ Georgia Dog, the Rangers’ Big Dog, the Yankee’s yummy Nathan’s Frank and so on). But I have never, ever eaten more than one dog at a game, until Fenway. So Roy, please forgive me.

The not-so-sweet smell of success?


Some people think they cause warts (they do not). Others like to enter them in jumping contests. Still others don’t like the feel of them: They are kind of slimy. Kids sometimes like to imitate their sound.

Me, I’ve never had very strong feelings about them one way or another. Sure, they do broadcast that weird croaking noise and they don’t smell too nice, but, in my humble opinion, the frog generally minds its own business. So I can take them or leave them. But something you should read in this week’s ACS PressPac definitely takes these croakers to a whole new level. Trust me on this.

It seems that some of the nastiest smelling creatures on Earth have skin that produces the greatest known variety of anti-bacterial substances that hold promise for becoming new weapons in the battle against antibiotic-resistant infections, scientists are reporting. Their research on amphibians so smelly (like rotten fish, for instance) that scientists term them “odorous frogs” appears in ACS’ ...

The American Chemical Society's Office of Public Affairs' new pressroom blog highlights prominent research from ACS' 41 journals. It includes daily commentary on the latest news from ACS' weekly PressPac, including video and audio segments from researchers on topics covering chemistry and related sciences. The blog also covers updates on ACS' awards, the national meetings and other general news from the world's largest scientific society.