From the Wire

One of the nice things about working in publishing is access to PR Newswire. Sure, I use it to see what new developments are coming in healthcare, but I quickly discovered I could receive press releases about all kinds of stuff.

I set up a profile to deliver entertainment, food and book news. Not everything that comes through is about Quentin Tarentino walking a red carpet for the release of Inglorious Basterds. Some releases are more … specific to their target audiences. Or just plain weird.

Here are some of my favorites. My comments are in italics.

NASA Astronaut, Food Scientist Available for Interviews About Holiday Feasts in Space

Because if you’re having trouble preparing a holiday feast, knowing how it’s done in zero-G will help you out tremendously.

NASA food scientist Vickie Kloeris and astronaut Sandy Magnus, who was aboard the orbiting laboratory during the 2008 holiday season, are available the week of Dec. 14-18 to discuss how the traditional holiday feast can be observed in space.

Space food has come a long way from the early days of “tubes and cubes.”

Kloeris is the manager of the International Space Station Food System. Magnus served as a flight engineer for the 18th station crew. During the three months she spent in orbit, Magnus kept a journal about her experiences of cooking in space. Her efforts to spice up food aboard the station are detailed here. Is it just me or does none of this look that appetizing?

Top Baby Names of 2009: Amelia and Aidan has released the top, most popular baby names of 2009 and the winners are Aidan and Amelia! The most popular name lists are compiled each year from the preferences of millions of visitors to the website.

What creates baby-naming trends? Anything from celebrity babies to popular literature. 

The Twilight book and movie series is also having a big influence on baby name popularity, as its character names Edward, Bella, Isabella, Emmett, Jacob, Jasper and Esme have all hit the top 100.

What? No Renesmee? I guess it’s bad enough that several hundred little girls are going to be named Esme. Or that several thousand boys and girls are going to have to spend a lifetime explaining they were named after sparkly vampires. Thanks Mom and Dad.

The full list of 100 top names of 2009 can be found on the website.

The Holidays: A Time for Discussing End-of-Life Wishes

Sure, the topic is important, but is this really the way to write a release about living wills? And, yes, this release inspired the opening image.

Following is an op-ed by David Casarett, MD:

Last weekend I was delighted to learn that I’d been spared all the usual chores that my mother assigns those of us who visit my grandmother over the holidays.  I’d escaped patio sweeping, privet pruning, cupboard organizing and even the dreaded oven cleaning.  But that sense of relief quickly turned to dismay when I realized those tasks been replaced by a single item: “Nana’s living will.”

I admit this shouldn’t have been a surprise.  My grandmother is 95, after all.  And as the only physician in our family, and a palliative care physician to boot, that’s fair enough.  Let my sister clean the oven.

But then I wondered whether my sister was getting off easy this year.  Cleaning the oven isn’t pleasant, particularly after my aunt Linda’s pecan pie erupts, coating the oven floor with a substance that resembles the concrete dome that seals the Chernobyl reactor.  But at least my sister wouldn’t have to talk with Nana about death and dying.

And really, is that what the holidays are about?  Talking with your grandmother about treatments she would and wouldn’t want at the end of her life?

The more I thought about it, though, the more I became convinced that the holidays are the perfect time to have these sorts of conversations.  What better time to make sure that everyone knows what a person’s preferences are?  And, too, the holidays are a fine time to take stock.  Many of us see relatives for the first time in what we’re usually ashamed to admit has been far too long.  So we’re more attuned than we might otherwise be to changes in a family member’s health.

But how was I supposed to broach this topic with Nana?  That was the real question.  And one that made oven cleaning sound much more attractive.


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