A death defying month (or how I avoided demise via Shigella, Disneyland, and Creative Writing)

Well, maybe the post title is a little on the hyperbole side of things.

Anyway, many apologies for being more or less absent from this blog for the last couple of weeks. As usual, the end of term chaos is partly to blame, but basically the last month or so has been especially time sucking due to the three things mentioned above.

Still, I guess in many respects, it has been death defying in a way…

Firstly, the last week or so, my youngest has been dealing with a bout of Shigella. This is a bacteria infection that can be fairly nasty (in the bowel movement and serious dysentry department), and is also noted for being notoriously contagious (oral contact with as few as 1 to 10 bacterium is enough to pass it on), especially amongst children who tend to be less experienced in the toilet training and washing hands department. Here is what it looks like in a stool sample (from wiki):

In any event, although my son obviously has a very symptom mild form of the infection, I’ve been stuck at home for the last little while, which will continue for at least another week (kids can’t return to school or daycare, until the infection has been cleared and tested for). It’s even contagious to the point that our local hospital followed up and asked where we had been the last little while, which brings me to the second death defying item in the title.

Number two: Disneyland! Yes, we were in Disneyland for about a week, and had a great time. I’ll be writing more about disneyland in the upcoming days/weeks, because whilst it was a marvelous (though exhausting) holiday, it was also eye opening in a “this place represents a lot of what is wrong with the world from a commercial and/or sustainability” angle. To be frank I was morally torn with the place, at times, but admittedly not enough to not enjoy the obvious glee that my kids experienced whilst there.

In any event, I’m glad I didn’t check out this wiki page before going. This is a page devoted to injuries, accidents, etc that have happened on the various rides at Disneyland. It would actually be hilarious reading if it wasn’t so horrible at times. Worth checking out (but maybe after your visit). For a taste of the wiki entry, here’s the bit that I found most amusing regarding an incident at Space Mountain:

On August 14, 1979, 31-year-old Sherrill Anne Hoffman became ill after riding Space Mountain. At the unload area, she was unable to get out of the vehicle. Cast members told her to stay seated while the vehicle was removed from the track. However, other ride attendants did not understand that Hoffman’s vehicle was to be removed, and sent her through the ride a second time. She arrived at the unloading zone semi-unconscious. Hoffman was subsequently taken to Palm Harbor Hospital, where she died seven days later after being in a coma. The coroner’s report attributed the death to natural causes, due to a heart tumor that became dislodged and entered her brain. A subsequent lawsuit against the park was dismissed.

Apparently not always the happiest place on earth…

My daughter with two Disneyland characters. Clearly, genetically modified, but appear to be made for good and not for evil.

And last on the death defying list, there was two weeks of creative writing, in so far as a project I was involved in known as the Science Creative Literacy Symposia. I’ve written about this previously, but in case you’ve forgotten, this was a newly developed outreach program headquartered at my lab, that:

is designed to provide an engaging outreach experience for students at the Grade 6/7 level. Here, the intent is to combine elements of science exploration with expository creative writing with the aim of fostering skills in written literacy, scientific literacy, as well as develop appreciation in interdisciplinary connections.

How was this death defying? Well maybe it’s not. If you take a look at google to gleam some answers, you don’t get too far. For example, if I type “death by creative writing,” (surprise of surprises) one does get any proper result for that phrase (mosty stuff about writing about death scenes). This, of course, means that this here post will inevitably rank highly for such a search term in the future.

There, already a blogging action item and a small claim to web fame, and I’m only back for a day.

Related Topics


David (@ng_dave) is Faculty at the Michael Smith Labs. His writing has appeared in places such as McSweeney's, The Walrus, and boingboing.net. He plans on using Terry as another place to highlight the mostly science-y links he appreciates. In fact, if you liked this one, you might also like his main site generally - this can be found at popperfont.net.