Catherine Pierre normally speaks to you from this page. But she recently gave birth to a second adorable daughter, so I have shepherded this issue of the magazine into print as interim editor. As an admirer of the late Steve Jobs, I amused myself by thinking of my temporary title as iEditor.
A substantial portion of this edition of Johns Hopkins Magazine has to do with memory, a subject that has been on my mind lately as I observed the effects of dementia on my recently deceased 90-year-old father. In conversation, he could forget what he asked five minutes before. But he could recite poetry that he had memorized 83 years ago in the second grade. Last March, when I drove him around his hometown of Cambridge, Ohio, he pointed out the houses of all his grade-school teachers. His brother told me he was right every time.
For the magazine, senior writer Michael Anft dug deep into the memory research of Johns Hopkins scientists for his story “Forgetting of Things Past.” The importance of this work is conveyed by a single sentence from the story: “If we lose our network of memories—of whom we relate to, where we’ve been, our predilections, our past—we lose something else: our selves.”
Memory plays a role in “Paying Attention to Distraction,” because when working memory, “the mind’s scratch pad,” becomes overloaded by the myriad distractions of contemporary life, our ability not just to focus but to think may be impaired. In “Unboxing History,” senior writer Bret McCabe, A&S ’94, reports on a Johns Hopkins initiative to study and catalog the archive of the Afro-American, one of the oldest family-owned, continuously published newspapers in the country. As Bret notes, the material stored in carton after carton at the newspaper forms a deep memory of the African-American community in Baltimore.
We did not devote our entire feature section to the various ways we remember. Assistant editor Kristen Intlekofer provided our cover story, the succinctly titled “Stop That,” a collection of 10 things many of us do in the name of health without realizing we might be doing our bodies no favor. This is Kristen’s first feature story for Johns Hopkins Magazine, and we were pleased to put it on our cover. Good job, Kristen.