Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Curious Incident of the Rabid Mouse On The Neighborhood Listserv

I’m on one (well, really more than one) of those neighborhood electronic bulletin boards. Recently someone posted on the board asking for help rescuing an injured mouse found in their garage. Surprisingly this didn’t elicit nearly as much conversation about the desirability of saving the mouse as I thought it might. (Given the recent issues in my office, I’ll admit to being not entirely supportive of mouse rescue operations.) 

What did result was a bit of back and forth about mice and rabies. Someone noted that they’d been told mice carried rabies. Given the mouse population around here, that could be cause for panic. Several people (including me) posted the CDC advice about rabies in rodents which notes that they are rarely found to be infected and there are no known cases of human transmission from rodents. No need to panic about mice as a reservoir of rabies, right?

Nope. Pretty soon someone posts a link to a paper on rabies in rodents and lagomorphs (bunnies, I didn't know that either). I read the paper. There are no reported cases in mice. Not in more than 15 years. The authors do comment on this: "The small body size of most other rodent species likely results in higher mortality rates from injuries sustained during altercations with rabid mesocarnivores and may contribute to the rarity of smaller rodents reported as rabid." Good, so again, no need to panic about the mice as reservoirs of rabies, right?

Nope. I get schooled in science: '"never been known to..." does not mean "impossible"'. True, but since you can't prove a negative, this isn't a helpful statement. Given the size of the mouse population and its proximity to humans, that rabies has never been observed in mice, let alone be transmitted mouse to human says really, there is no need to panic about the mice as reservoirs of rabies.

Apparently if you want to worry about rodents and rabies, you should direct your attention to groundhogs, which account for 90% of rodent rabies cases. Which makes me wonder, is Puxatawney Phil vaccinated for rabies? 

The whole exchange reminded me of the "What to Expect When You are Expecting" books which listed rabies under "Common Childhood Illnesses." There are fewer than 5 cases a year in humans in the US. Sadly there are closer to 60,000 deaths per year from rabies world-wide, half in children. 

Photo of presumably non-rabid marmota monax (groundhog) from Wikipedia.

Friday, October 16, 2020

How to cook

A poem found by stirring together one part reheating instructions, two parts installation instructions and an ad for a local garden.

How to cook

Activation is available by running

        I’m running late
        Dinner in minutes
        How many minutes?

Full of advice
        One quarter teaspoon of saffron harvested at the equinox.
        Stir twice, counterclockwise.
        Drizzle with oil pressed from sun kissed olives, salt, pepper ground fine.

Contents HOT
        Contents under pressure
        Do not heat a closed vessel.
        Turn right, turn right, turn right, turn left.
        Turn around.


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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Mathematical Morning Musings

It's not yet 8 a.m. I'm in the bathroom washing my face, Math Man is getting ready to get in the shower. He turns to me and says, "So if you take the partial derivative of r with respect to x...well, actually the second partial derivative..." 

"Where r is the square root of x squared plus y squared plus z squared?" wondering if he is really talking to me, or just thinking aloud.

"No, no, just x and y," he clarifies.

Unbidden the chain rule flowers in my brain, 2x times a half...divided by the square root, right and then we'll need the product rule. We don't keep a white board marker in the bathroom, despite its inviting plethora of glass surfaces. I'm not sure why, there's one in the kitchen and in the downstairs bathroom, where math gets inscribed on the panes of glass in the door and on the mirror. We have a glass sheet screwed to the wall in the downstairs hallway for the purpose. But I digress...

"Does it surprise you that it blows up?" wonders Math Man.

"Oh, no...that derivative shows up in some operators."

Sweet talk between lovers in the morning.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Falling into the ocean

"Preaching about prayer is like falling into the ocean. We cannot touch the ocean floor; we are overwhelmed by the vast sea around us. We come up flailing our arms, gasping for breath and struggling to stay afloat. No matter how hard we try, we cannot reach the depth and the breadth of prayer, but we continue to be buoyed by prayer even as we explore its mysteries." — Lewis F. Galloway in Feasting on the Gospels (Luke, volume 1)

I feel entirely seen.