Long-Copy Digital Content/Articles

 News kiosk at night, Piazza San Polo, Venice. Photo: Amy Bown

News kiosk at night, Piazza San Polo, Venice. Photo: Amy Bown

I have written articles and long-copy content for a wide range of clients. Here are three examples. 

The Harley School--Feature Newsletter Article

Visitors in the Undiscovered Country

 With Harley’s Hospice Program, Students Learn Life Lessons From The Dying.

We ask that it be not proud. We refuse to go gentle into its good night.  It is a country we all have a passport to, but none of us thinks we’ll ever really go there. 

For most of us, death is an abstraction, but Harley students are confronting it firsthand. Taught by Bob Kane, Hospice 101/102 is one of Harley’s most popular courses. “Today, society shields people from death," Bob says."This program helps students see dying as natural and a reality. It’s not pretty sometimes, but there’s a truth to it.  For most students, the fear of death starts to fade away.”

Before they go into a hospice facility, students have intensive classroom preparation on death and dying. Once there, their duties include turning beds, wiping brows, and dispensing medication if they're of legal age. Sometimes their most important job is simply to be present. Harley senior Sawyer Jacobs says, “My biggest trepidation was about starting a conversation with a dying person, but that isn't what they're looking for. Mainly it’s about being there and letting them know they matter."

Bob Kane says: “Nothing you talk about in normal social circumstances fits with the dying. There’s no pretense, no games, no agendas. All they want is for you to listen and honor their existence. It is the most powerful part of the program for students and patients alike."

What do students do when the inevitable happens? Rashid Duroceau says, “When my patient, Virginia,  died, I was shocked by the the finality of it.  We all cried and hugged, then sat together as a class and talked about our feelings." Bob says, 'Because students were present for the dying process, they could accept Virginia's death more readily. They had no qualms about kissing a dying woman goodbye. They didn’t feel any kind of revulsion or discomfort." 

Still, death is a big subject for a teen to handle. Bob monitors his students' psychological well-being and constantly checks in with how they're feeling.“I always ask them if they'd rather go back to the land of the living. There is no badge of honor in sticking with it. In fact, it takes more character to look inside yourself and admit that it’s too much. But so far, everybody has continued on.”

Harley is one of the few schools in the country where young students do palliative care. Bob says, “All we hear about kids today is cell phones, drugs, and how entitled they are. The fact that these young folks do this says a lot about them." He wonders what impact such a life-changing experience will have on their futures. "Will they be more compassionate and honest about the realities of death? Will they be able to help others come to terms with it? Will they end up in helping professions?"

No one knows, of course. As Bob says, “We don’t do this to get the answers. We do it because we love the questions.”

Cornell University--Native Digital and Website Article

The Art of the Search: How Cornell Revolutionized Web Retrieval.

A song is earworming in your head and won't go away. You know it was played on“Breaking Bad” during Walter White's death scene (oops--spoiler alert!).  You only know three words from the lyrics. You type “my baby blue” into Google, and a few seconds later, the song comes up with a link to YouTube and a bio of the band, Badfinger.  

This kind of “tip of your tongue” search, where you enter only vague or partial information, would have been unheard of ten years ago. But due to Cornell’s pioneering work in information retrieval (IR), web searches have become as fast and intuitive as thinking.

Cornell alumnus Amit Singhal, ’97 says, “We're just getting started.” The director of Google search since 2000, Dr. Singhal is credited with innovations such as autocomplete (finishing a word when you type in the first letters); universal search (entries from other search engines); voice search and translation; and the Google search app for mobile devices. By creating algorithms that conform to the way humans naturally speak and think, Dr. Singhal is continuing the legacy of his Cornell mentor, the late Professor Gerard Salton.

The “father of modern digital search” and co-founder of Computer Science at Cornell, Professor Salton led the team that developed Cornell’s SMART Information Retrieval System in the early 1960s. Before SMART, information retrieval was based on the Boolean algorithm, where the query had to exactly match the words searched. The Boolean system could not rank entries according to relevance. Users had to type in search strings with the terms AND, NOT, and OR.  So if you were searching for the Badfinger song, you would have to input “baby AND blue”, and then cull through a database of documents listed arbitrarily. Since there are thousands of songs with the words “baby” and “blue” in them, Boolean logic would present the proverbial haystack to anyone searching for that particular needle. 

Professor Salton’s SMART system changed the game. Based on a vector-space model, it retrieved documents that had similar characteristics to the search word and ranked them by best or partial matching. Salton's team also developed concepts such as term-weighting, which evaluates text relevance, dictionary construction, automatic text processing, and the “relevance feedback” loop. This paved the way for site ranking based on search popularity and the growing field of SEO (search engine optimization) analytics.  Search tools that are second nature to us now-- such as keyword searching and clicking on hypertext links---—are largely credited to Professor Salton and the Cornell team.  

At Google, Dr. Singhal and his team are continuing Professor Salton’s legacy in ways he would have never dreamed of. Today, both Google and Cornell are exploring the next generation of Web searching, which focuses not just on matching words, but on replicating the way human minds make connections and associations.

Google’s search architecture of the future will replicate three human activities: answering questions, having conversations, and anticipating needs. Knowledge Graph is a database of the 500-million most-searched-for people and topics in the Google universe. It enables the search engine to make associations and understand questions using conversational language. Google is also designing algorithms that can connect associations between the search engine and the user’s own world.  Dr. Singhal says, “At Google, we want to help you make the most of your day. We believe that you shouldn’t be spending your time searching, but living your life.”

University of Rochester Medical Center--Online Newsletter Article

 The Power of  "Pixie Dust" 

An Old Wartime Practice Finds a New Role in Fighting Infection.

During the Civil War, doctors sprinkled powdered sulfonamides directly into surgical wounds to assist in sterilization. More than a century later, a young army doctor named Robert Molinari also used this technique while stationed at Kosovo. Today, at the University of Rochester Medical Center, he is again on the frontlines, using this "old trick" in the ongoing battle against surgical infection.

For patients who are particularly vulnerable to infection, Dr. Molinari boosts their standard antibiotic regimen by sprinkling powdered Vancomycin directly into the surgical site before closing the wound. Bombarding the site with "pixie dust", as powdered Vancomycin is nicknamed,  dramatically reduces the chances of infection. If this sounds "low-tech" or even a little crude, it is a common practice among surgeons today. However, Dr. Molinari is one of the few to have published results about its efficacy in professional journals.

At the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting this year, he presented findings that are promising, though not conclusive. In 1,512 of his cases that used powdered Vancomycin, the infection rate was only 0.99 percent, compared to a national average of approximately 2.1 percent among 108,419 patients in the national database of the Scoliosis Research Society. “Our infection rate is not zero percent, which would be ideal,” Dr. Molinari says. “But no matter how you look at it, our rates are below the national average, and many surgeons are adopting this technique.” Dr. Molinari says that he would like to have his findings confirmed in a large, randomized, multi-site study.

Vancomycin is one of the most powerful antibiotics in treating deadly infections such as Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus, or MRSA. Since strains of staph are notorious for colonizing on foreign objects inside the body, patients with orthopaedic implants are particularly vulnerable. A sprinkle of Vancomycin, in addition to standard antibiotics, can be an effective deterrent against infection. It is also one of the cheapest, costing about $4.00 a gram. Dr. Molinari says, “Our data shows it works, but our findings have to be further validated by a case-controlled study." Clearly, for his patients, a sprinkle of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

 

 

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