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10.20.16: Melting Ice, Shifting Sand, Mouse-o-Pause, & 10-Minute Writer's Workshop

Martin Cathrae via Flickr CC

When asked about what it was like to live with Alzheimer's disease, Donald Burke said, "like standing on melting ice." Today, a husband and wife dig into the metaphor to find meaning.

Also today: how is it that humans can send rovers to Mars and 3D print organs, yet still not control rats?  For thousands of years, humans have been losing the battle against the vermin that destroy crops, spread disease, and proliferate on an almost unimaginable scale. We're learning about a tech-startup run by a biologist Buddhist who may stumbled into a cruelty-free solution  - rodent birth control.

Listen to the full show. 

Melting Ice, Shifting Sand

In the winter of 2009, retired general contractor Donald Burke of Weare, New Hampshire was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Over the next few years, he and his wife Marjorie chronicled their life together, knowing that it would change. In journals, poetry and prose, they wrote about outings  in the countryside, night terrors and falls, and the emotional tides and memories going in and out.  When asked, he said the disease was like standing on melting ice - Marjorie uses a different analogy:  "shifting sand."

That’s the name of their book Melting Ice, Shifting Sand: One Couple's Journey With Alzheimer's Disease.  Marjorie joined us to talk about their journey together, and the process of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's.  

Melting Ice, Shifting Sand

Music and Memory

The arts can be a path to connect with people who suffer from forms of dementia. This story, from producers George Drake Jr. and Craig Shank and the podcast Everything Sounds, explores that idea more deeply. 

You can listen to this story again at


Humans and rats have been fighting over territory for millennia. Rats destroyed crops and reserves in the agrarian age. They spread the bubonic plague, wiping out 25 million people in the middle ages. They proliferated in sewers and garbage as cities grew. No, they cannot liquefy their bones, but they can squish through tiny cracks, bite babies, poison food, and in their short - one year - lifespan, create a shocking number of little rats, who make more little rats, and so on.

Even after centuries of attempting to exterminate them with traps, dogs, cats, and chemicals - it looks like rats are winning. Or maybe not. Jordan Kisner wrote in The Guardian about a promising new biotech solution that is neither cruel nor toxic to pets or other creatures. 


10-Minute Writer's Workshop: Singer-Songwriter Josh Ritter

In this episode of the 10-Minute Writer’s Workshop, singer-songwriter, musician and novelist Josh Ritter. Ritter’s songs draw deeply from the narrative traditions of American and Scottish folk music he studied after dropping out of the neuroscience program at Oberlin. 

You can listen to this episode again here: 10-Minute Writer's Workshop: Singer-Songwriter Josh Ritter

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