All posts by MJ Pramik

Game-changing Travel

A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.
– Moslih Eddin Saadi

Travelers these days often meet with “unseasonal” rains, floods, drought, hurricanes, animal migrations, and more as we move about the globe. Sudden stories abound about dramas of climate change affecting creatures with whom we share this planet (See walruses’ plight, sidebar).



On my recent trip to Sri Lanka, I chose to tour at the “best time of year” (no monsoons, rain, and reduced heat) in January. However, because of massive rains and major flooding across the country a few weeks before, my trip turned out a wet one. Hundreds of Sri Lankans had lost their lives, homes, livelihoods, animals, and more. I experienced disrupted weather and roads throughout my three-week stay. I also lived through a major monsoon-like rain in Kandy, the first capital of Sri Lanka (Old Ceylon).

My safari through the Yala National Park lurched over huge watered holes in the dirt roads. The driver assured us the roads usually ran smooth, but “unseasonal rains” had recently washed out the reddish earthen surface. Flooded arenas spotted open areas, serving as watering pools for antelope and birds. Most animals had retreated into the forested areas. We did glimpse one hoopoe, an exquisite crowned bird sitting smack dab in the middle of the pot-holed track. The three-ton jeep jerked to a halt a few feet from the very confident fowl. The bird owned that muddy terrain, showing no fear of massive metal. It wasn’t the leopard I’d hope to see, but it would do. The Yala Preserve has one the highest leopard densities in the world. No such luck as the unexpected deluges weeks earlier dampened chances.

I also missed sighting a humpback or a blue whale, mammals in residence in the waters off southern Sri Lanka. Speaking later with a naturalist-ecologist from Walker Tours in Colombo, I learned why my three-hour whale-watching tour off Mirissa—the teardrop island’s southern tip—witnessed only one calamari (squid), a single lone coconut, and five whale-watching boats bouncing through rough waters. Apparently “unseasonal” rains washed tons of silt off shore. Mud-infested waters pushed the whale staple of krill out past the shipping lanes. Whale-watching tours cruise only to the shipping lanes for safety. Now I understood why my guide had been insistent on being prepared for disappointment at six o’clock in the morning. Prepared for NOT seeing a whale. Mammals and dolphins followed their meals.

Moral of the Story: For me personally, such travel experiences are a sign that I must return to Sri Lanka one day. As travelers, paying attention to climate change and creature science can enhance our journeys.

Every perfect traveler always creates the country where he travels. 
 Nikos Kazantzakis

As sea ice disappears, so may walruses

Pacific walruses require long rests between swim cycles.  These hefty marine mammals usually find respite on major pieces of sea ice or on shore.  As sea ice chunks decrease, walruses must compete with thousands of other walruses for the same spot of land. 

This land grab leads to stampedes of up to 35,000 animals, often killing many by trampling. NOAA—National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—recently documented such a pandemonium at Point Lay, Alaska.  The NOAA photos have “gone viral” at

Sea ice also serves the principal area where Pacific walruses give birth—another danger for the species.   

We must all stand alert and lobby for our fellow creatures on this ever changing planet.

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G.E.M. of Egypt: Novel-in-Progress

G.E.M. of Egypt A Novel of Ohio

By: MJ Pramik

gem-of-egypt-shovel-n-rt-40-on-rt-8-42769-phioaG.E.M. of Egypt is a novel about a Polish family caught up in the first wave of Eastern European immigrants to America in the late 1800s. Spanning four generations of the Golek family, the story relates the tragedies and hardships they face daily from crossing the inhospitable Atlantic to deadly work in the coalfields of the eastern United States. In New York and Chicago, and in quiet hamlets of Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley coal country, the Goleks endure and overcome the searing changes among the stripped-mined land of Eastern Ohio. Their belief in equal justice, family loyalty, and education for all birthed movements such as the United Mine Workers Union and worker rights. This immigration also brought people who loved the earth, who believed in stewardship, creating a path to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. Anna Golek, third generation offspring and first to receive a college degree, champions this cause. In conflict with her father, Alek, she comes to understand how he continued working in a coal mine each day, how he could profess a loyalty to the G.E.M. of Egypt, a massive earth-moving shovel that carved up and destroyed eastern Ohio. G.E.M. of Egypt also tells of the promise of earth’s renewal when working in community.

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My Greek Ancestors

Published in: Odyssey Magazine

On: May/June 2007

“I am the only Greek in my family.The fishing net draped across the front entry adds a definitive new leitmotif to my San Francisco Edwardian home. The building has a blue-tinged white luster much like the structures that cling to the angular precipices of Greece’s southern Peloponnese area of Lakonia. According to Greek lore, the fishing net, having survived the washings of forty different currents, is so pure and clear it will bless my home and guard against evil. You see, I’ve just returned from Greece and have discovered my true Greek ancestry.

The charm again the Mati, the Evil Eye, now dangles on my rearview mirror as I speed along California’s highways. The Greeks believe this talisman protects a person from another person’s bad vibe or harmful thoughts. I have obliged each of my daughters to wear the deep blue “evil-eye” charm and have secretly pinned one inside my son’s drumstick bag as well. He attends music school in New York City soon, and goodness knows, he’ll need it there. 

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Implanted cow cells ease the pain

Implanted-cow-cells-east-the-painPublished in: New Scientist

On: August 3, 1996

“Doctors in Switzerland have helped to relieve the pain of six terminally ill patients by implanting live cultured cells from the adrenal glands of cows into their spines. The cells produce a cocktail of natural painkillers, which may cause fewer side effects than drugs such as morphine.

The implants contain chromaffin cells, which secrete adrenaline and noradrenaline and are thought to play a role in animals’ “fight or flight” response to danger. But they also produce a cocktail of natural painkillers, such as catecholamines, enkephalins, neurotensin and somatostatin. The experiment was carried out by researchers from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and Brown University and the biopharmaceutical company Cytotherapeutics, both based in Providence, Rhode Island.”

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Protein and Peptide Delivery

Protein-and-Peptide-DeliveryPublished in: Genetic Engineering News 

On: November 13, 1999

“Last month, Genentech, Inc. (S. San Francisco) and Alkermes, Inc. (Cambridge, MA) reported positive results of their Phase III multi-center trial of Nutopin Depot, the first long-acting form of recombinant growth hormone. The two companies jointly presented findings at the Endocrine Society annual meeting in San Diego that showed Nutropin Deopt increased growth rates in children with growth hormone deficiency.”



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Human Genome Project Spins Off Array of Novel Methods and Technologies

Human-Genome-Project-Spins-Off-Array-of-Novel-Methods-and-TechnologiesPublished in: Genetic Engineering News 

On: September 15, 1993

“Medical therapeutic miracles remain the primary promise of the Human Genome Project (HGP). But pharmaceutical R&D does not occur in a vacuum. Several new technologies, including novel development in DNA sequencing and mapping methods and the optimization of instrumentation, are rapidly spinning off genome scientists are now involved in taking a new discovery and turning it into a financial venture. The new technology firms cover a wide “product” area with each company attempting to find its marketing niche in a rapidly evolving industry.”



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Advanced Drug Delivery Systems Peak Interest of Pharmaceutical & Biotech Firms

Advanced-Drug-Delivery-Systems-Peak-Interest-of-Pharmaceutical-&-Biotech-FirmsPublished in: Genetic Engineering News 

On: April 15, 1994

“Many biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies believe that new drug delivery systems will soon garner profits for those willing to stand by their nonconventional methods of pharmaceutical methods of pharmaceutical administration. Even biotech-produced proteins and peptides may soon find interesting avenues of drug delivery.

One of the most compelling technologies has emerged from Canji Inc. (San Diego, CA). Known for novel anticancer agents and gene therapies, Canji recently acquired a patented new technology for inserting and maintaining genes in mammalian cells.”




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Ophthalmology Times: Managing glaucoma with personalized IOP monitoring

San Francisco—Patients with glaucoma can expect both transformative and disruptive changes in the monitoring and treatment of their disorder over the next 5 years, predicted Robert N. Weinreb, MD, chairman of ophthalmology and director of the Shiley Eye Center and Hamilton Glaucoma Center, University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Dr. Weinreb delivered the first Drs. Henry and Frederick Sutro Memorial Lecture here at the 3rd Annual Glaucoma 360 New Horizons Forum.”

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Article Originally Featured on Ophthalmology Times on February 06, 2014

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Anti-Aging Medicine Meeting Puts Focus on Biotechnology

Anti-Aging Medicine Meeting Puts Focus on Biotechnology.jpgPublished in: Genetic Engineering News 

On: March 1, 1995

“With the theoretical human life span generally agreed to stand at about 120 years and a rapidly growing aging population, biotechnology companies are developing new therapeutics and methods to extend and expand a healthy aging process.

They recently met at the second annual Conference on Anti-Aging Medicine and Biomedical Technology in Las Vegas, NV, to discuss novel ways to on prevent or alleviate the diseases of aging – cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes. The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) sponsored the meeting. ”



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Toys and Their Role in Creative Play

Toys-and-Their-Role-in-Creative-PlayPublished in: Good Housekeeping

On: 1985

“Recently, scientists have begun to study children at play, looking at how it enhances a child’s creative activity and intellectual development. As a part of this research, toys are undergoing new scrutiny: Which ones will give joy and encourage creativity?”




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