I just received your new and splashy magazine and I am compelled to write, not just because of the suave appearance but also because so many items in that issue have a personal connection for me.
Dale Keiger writes about Sidney Offit, A&S '50, and Kurt Vonnegut [Forefront, "Pals with Pens," Spring]. Sidney and I were both in Bob Jacobs' writing class and I still remember with fondness Sidney's enthusiasm and wit, especially when reading one of his own stories. John Barth was also in that class. I also recall that when I did not have the nerve to make the call, Sidney telephoned Ogden Nash at his home to invite him to our Pi Delta Epsilon honorary fraternity dinner. I stood to one side and listened, amazed at Sidney's charm and persuasion. Of course Nash attended, even got there early to schmooze with us at the bar.
There was also a photograph of John Astin, A&S '52 [Campus, "Astin's House," Spring]. I had the privilege of sharing the stage with John during my Hopkins days, once in Macbeth and most memorably in Our Town.
Finally, I was delighted to read "A Hopkins Guy" [Alumni, Spring] by Tristan Davies, A&S '87 (MA). He is the author of an unusual and entertaining volume of short stories, Cake. He and I corresponded frequently years ago when he did write-ups about Hopkins lacrosse games before the days of Ernie Larossa and emails. Nobody did it better.
William J. Fenza, A&S '51
I read with interest Mary Garland's comments on "Paying Attention to Distraction" in the Spring issue [Dialogue, "The Perils of Distraction"]. Clearly, when it comes to helping physicians deal with increased workload and overbearing bureaucracy, we are missing the boat.
Technology, when used thoughtfully, can be a godsend. It has revolutionized many industries, particularly banking, communications, and retail. No one today wonders if their mobile phone will work as they travel between cities.
We are entering a period in health care where our technologists in general and health care IT specifically must come to the rescue. There will be too many people to care for in an increasingly difficult environment. Those who build and fund technology must get physicians to the requirements table and learn from industries that have already crossed the technology chasm. Obviously, a lot has been learned already. Why repeat the process?
John May, Engr '86 (MS)
Trustee, Sibley Memorial Hospital
Food for thought
While the efforts of David Love to extend urban farming to the fisheries sector are admirable, it is also a dead end and a waste of his time and our JHU money [Wholly Hopkins, "Farming for Urban Tilapia," Winter 2011].
Believe me, it is almost as useless to try and raise commercial quantities of fish in a living room aquarium as it is to attempt what he is doing in the backyard. To paint this doomed effort as properly scientific research with a real potential for game-changing results is a failure to discriminate fact from fantasy. Your story did note the risks of high antibiotics, steroids, hormones, and pesticides in fish tissues absorbed in ponds and tanks (and these things are needed to ensure that the fish grow as fast as possible, consume as little food as possible—called "feed conversion ratio" in the fishery business—and avoid diseases that can and do often wipe out the entire crop in a matter of days).
As we already import such tainted and contaminated fish from Vietnam, China, and Chile, what is the advantage of repeating these cost inefficiencies and poisonous additives in a Baltimore backyard?
Tilapia is also widely regarded in the food industry as garbage fish, with among the lowest omega-3 fat content of any fish we eat. If the intent is to provide a more valuable, healthy food (protein) supply, tilapia is among the last fish anyone would recommend.
I would challenge David Love to address these very real concerns, which were only alluded to in passing in the article.
Director, KZO Sea Farms
David Love responds:
Charles Kestenbaum's letter, "Food for Thought," (Summer, 2012), contains several uninformed comments about the Aquaponics Project highlighted in the article Wholly Hopkins, "Farming for Urban Tilapia," Winter 2011.
The Aquaponics Project, developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), is not a "backyard" project. Rather, the project provides a field lab environment for the serious study of aquaponics in order to help raise awareness of, and increase the body of knowledge about aquaponics as an economic, social, and ecologically sustainable avenue for raising edible aquatic animals and plants. Moreover, the project is designed to engage JHU students, faculty, and staff members -as well as the general public --to facilitate experiential education, applied research, and job training. In addition, the project has also proven to be an important component in building the network of aquaculture enthusiasts and professionals throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Overall, by applying what we learn we aim to drive the field of aquaponics and recirculating aquaculture forward.
As Mr. Kestenbaum notes, some overseas tilapia production has been associated with unsustainable practices. However, our project follows a different path. We do not use pesticides, antibiotics, steroids or growth hormones. Instead, we are using our demonstration system to examine techniques for practical application, such as studying vegetarian and/or algae-based feeds that make tilapia healthier and more environmentally friendly to raise. We also are researching methods for capturing and recycling fish wastewater to raise crops like lettuce, kale, basil, tomatoes, which act as biofilters to clean the water.
CLF's Aquaponics Project is supported by grants and is in no way a "waste of JHU money", as Mr. Kestenbaum states, or involve funding support from alumni donations as he seems to imply.
For those who would like to learn more about the project and/or aquaponics in general, please visit our website. We also welcome visitors to the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future Aquaponics Project site located in Baltimore's Cylburn Arboretum to see first hand our approach to raising fish and produce in a 1,250 square foot demonstration-size greenhouse. We are happy to give tours by appointment to groups young and old, farmers, hobbyists, and community members.
David Love, PhD
Project Director, Public Health & Sustainable Agriculture Project
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Saving the Chesapeake
I always enjoy reading the quarterly magazine, and I noticed your note on Chesapeake Bay improvement in "Now We Know" [Winter 2011]. While I was happy to read that, on average, our bay is getting healthier, one should always keep in mind those averages of bay data do not hold true for every subwatershed. The U.S. Geological Survey has been gathering data in the entire multistate bay watershed for many years. That data reveals that the Choptank River bordering Talbot and Dorchester counties is not getting better; in fact, it is getting worse. It is one of only two rivers that the USGS has sampled over the years that shows still increasing levels of nitrogen, largely from agriculture. Other Eastern Shore rivers face the same problem. Here on the Eastern Shore, we are not yet able to celebrate improving water quality because politicians refuse to adequately address nutrient and sediment pollution from agriculture.
Jane Bollman, A&S '92 (MLA)
Those who can, do
More than 60 years ago I "ran rats" in a simple maze in Gilman Hall. A bit later, I spent 35 years fulfilling the glib prophecy, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." And I did, through teaching, come to understand more fully the value of basic science.
What a pleasure now, past my mid-80s, reading of Michela Gallagher and her associates ["Forgetting of Things Past," Winter 2011], particularly in a discipline—then psychology or behavioral science—that 60 years ago was almost entirely closed, at a doctoral level, to women.
Lewis B. Frank, A&S '50 (MA)
In "Telling Baltimore's Stories" [Alumni, Spring], we incorrectly stated Gil Sandler's degree information. His correct affiliation is A&S '67 (MLA).
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