Letters: Fall 2010
September 3, 2010 |  by Johns Hopkins Staff

Unworthy and superficial

It is a pity that “The Big Question” [“Will the Gulf of Mexico Recover from This Spring’s Massive Oil Spill?” Summer] did not take advantage of the opportunity to interview an expert at greater length about an important issue. I hope the magazine was not trying to trivialize one of the greatest ecological accidents in our history, one whose consequences affect millions of people and cost billions of dollars.

“With such a massive release, there will be substantial harm to the ecosystem. . . . But once the source has been stopped, most of the acute damage will no longer be present within six months to a year.” The interviewer needed to explore this in much greater depth. Dr. Bouwer’s research interest concerns how microbes transform contaminants in soil and water, and he thinks microorganisms will clean up the oil spill quickly. Microorganisms exist that can biodegrade oil, since it is a naturally occurring substance. But what about the chemical dispersants that BP has introduced into the Gulf of Mexico? And the oil leak may kill a substantial fraction of the aquatic life (fish and shellfish) in the Gulf. That’s an acute effect. Aren’t they part of the ecosystem? Does Dr. Bouwer think those populations will recover in six months to a year? And this does not even get into the impact of the oil spill on the ecology of coastal areas and wetlands of the states that border the Gulf.

Surely Dr. Bouwer understands these issues. It would have been very interesting to your readers to have more detail on his opinions about them. A superficial article like this one is unworthy of Johns Hopkins Magazine.

Matthew Lybanon
Memphis, Tennessee

A serious addiction

I was extremely disappointed to read the disparaging comments by anonymous professor “Guido Veloce” about sexual addiction [“The Opposite of Sex,” Summer]. This piece was accompanied by a lurid cartoon depicting a sex addict as a slovenly unshaven individual, staring at his computer with breasts in place of his eyes. I am shocked that Johns Hopkins Magazine would publish any piece that denigrates a group of individuals seeking treatment for behaviors that are negatively impacting their lives. As a Hopkins faculty member who has suffered from sexual addiction or compulsivity for at least 17 years, I can assure Professor Veloce that whether or not sexual addiction has yet earned its place as a designated disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, sexual addiction represents an understudied affliction that, like alcoholism and other substance abuse disorders, continues to destroy the lives of thousands of individuals and their families. Compulsive sexual behavior has exploded in response to the increasing availability of pornography on the Internet. Forty-one percent of corporate employees reprimanded for abusing computer privileges at work were using pornography. One author noted that “upwards of two and a half hours per day may be spent engaging in [online sexual activity]” by workers during business hours. Professor Veloce might be interested to learn that Johns Hopkins has been a leader in the treatment of disorders of compulsive sexual behavior through its Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit and the Center for Sexual Health in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. The staff members at the Hopkins Faculty and Staff Assistance Program have assured me that my problems with sexual addiction are by no means unique in the Hopkins community.

Professor Veloce disparages 12-step approaches to the treatment of sexual addiction. In fact, four 12-step fellowships focus on the recovery of people with sex addiction: Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, and Sexual Compulsives Anonymous. Several fellowships also help the spouses and partners of sex addicts (S-Anon, COSA). SA has saved my marriage, career, and indeed my life. I know several fellows in the Hopkins community who are similarly benefiting from programs of recovery offered by S-fellowships.

Sex may remain a titillating subject. Professor Veloce may chuckle at the very serious problems of celebrities who have brought this subject into the forum of newspapers and gossip columns. I believe that Johns Hopkins Magazine would better serve the Hopkins and alumni community by publishing a serious discussion of this and other compulsive behavioral disorders which no doubt plague many of your readers, as well as the various treatment modalities which are available to help them and their families.

I regret that the stigma associated with sexual addiction in our society requires that I send this letter anonymously.

A Hopkins Professor
Baltimore, Maryland

Remembering Reds

The article concerning M. Gordon Wolman [Wholly Hopkins, “In Memoriam,” Summer] was excellent. In earlier days, I had the good fortune of knowing “Reds” when he was an undergraduate at JHU. We were teammates on the lacrosse team. In 1949, he was our team captain. He was an outstanding playmaker and leader of our championship team.

To know “Reds” was to like him.

James F. Adams, A&S ’50
Charlottesville, Virginia

Neither lapsed nor fallen

As someone who has written in the area of Catholic religious studies for many years, I thought it unfortunate that in explaining the Anabaptist movement for readers of his excellent article on the work of Dr. Richard Kelley with Mennonite and Amish children [“The Disease Chaser,” Summer], Michael Anft referred to the Anabaptist religious leader Menno Simons as “a lapsed Catholic priest.” Why not say Simons was a “former” Catholic priest? Catholics in the past, and less often now, refer to former Catholics as people who have “lapsed,” or as “fallen away Catholics,” or people who have “lost their faith.” Those never Catholic are sometimes referred to as “non-Catholics.” This gives the word “Catholic” a weight and significance it should not possess amid the many ways men and women can exercise their beliefs. I seldom see any writer describe someone as a lapsed Methodist minister for example. In the case of Menno Simons, he did not lapse, he did not lose his faith, he found his faith in the Anabaptist movement.

Judith Church Tydings
Ijamsville, Maryland

Bees, death, and taxes

I must have missed something. What do bees tell us about climate change [“The Buzz,” Summer]? This implies global warming, but my reading suggests global cooling. Given that bees are doing well in the Southwest and not in the Northeast suggests that one should not keep trying to stick a square peg in a round hole. Grow the bees in the Southwest and help along other pollinators here in Maryland.

One thing that typically gets missed in a discussion like this is the effect of taxation. The “death tax” kills the family farm. Many of Maryland’s family farms used to keep live hives, but the “death tax” has made that land available for development. This one factor alone puts a bigger hurt on beekeeping in Maryland than any incremental change in the atmosphere. [Wayne] Esaias did mention the loss of family farms, but neither he nor the author mentioned the effect of the “death tax.” The climate change question asked in the subtitle is sophomoric and reflects badly on the magazine and, thereby, the school.

Robert A. Farmer, Engr ’70
Bel Air, Maryland

E before I, not after C

As Solomon Golomb says in the Summer 2010 issue [“Golomb’s Gambits, “The Mnemonic Plague”], the rule of “I before E except after C” for spelling the long-E sound has dozens of exceptions. Here’s a mnemonic for the most common exceptions: May neither financier seize either species of weird leisure.

Henry Harlan, A&S ’54 (MA)
Churchville, Maryland