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Seema Kumar, assistant director of public affairs at the Whitehead Institute, was one of the regular Franklin-to-Boston train commuters quoted in a February 6 Boston Globe article on the group, which was also featured on the CBS Early Show on March 29.

The article offered the history and daily musings of the passengers who've formed the Train Gang, which sits together each weekday and has bonded over the years.

"Each member has a regular seat, nickname and role. And together, they have their own daily rituals and amusements," wrote Judith Gaines. "As Seema Kumar, 35, of Franklin, the regal and sharp-tongued 'Princess,' observed, in a time of electronic, anonymous communication, the group is a traveling support group, humor club, and 'a face-to-face, real-life rolling chat room where you can say what you want, without much fear of the consequences..."

Ms. Kumar is a member of a small but elite group with much competition for admission. As one member said, "We had people sitting two or three rows back, just waiting for someone to get pregnant or die or leave so they could get a seat at the table."

The article added: "'The people in this group would not normally hang out together or even know each other,' said Kumar... But they have forged an entertaining connection on the commuter rail, and they intend to keep on riding for a long time. 'If I have a choice, I wouldn't commute any other way,' she said."


Graduate students Rob Pinder of computer science and Larry Baskett of aeronautics and astronautics decided to share a little sunshine with the MIT community.

"We were talking about all the things that go wrong in the world today and we wanted to do something to make it better," said Mr. Baskett. "The sun hadn't been out in a couple of weeks, so we brought some sunshine into Lobby 7."

On May Day, the two Tang roommates, with a little help from Adam Hendriks, another aero/astro graduate student, offered free lemonade from their makeshift lemonade stand, a Lobby 7 bench covered with Mr. Baskett's beach towel. Wearing Hawaiian shirts they bought at the Garment District in Cambridge, they gave away about 100 cups of lemonade.

Some of the takers were a little skeptical. "A couple of women who came by flat-out refused to believe there wasn't something up our sleeves. But hey! One of them took lemonade anyway," said Mr. Baskett.


��������� In an April 4 New York Newsday story on fear of flying, Professor Arnold Barnett of the Sloan School stressed that such anxiety should be taken seriously. "The first thing is not in any way to make fun of these people. Their worst fears relate not only to death in a crash, but a horrible kind of death."

Nevertheless, Professor Barnett found in a recent study that "even if you flew once a day on a domestic jet, you could go 32,000 years on average before dying in a plane crash." Writer Henry Gilgoff noted that "still, Barnett remains more comfortable in his living room than on a plane."

��������� The government should set hacker security standards for the Internet, argued writer John Simons in a February 28 article in the New Republic. However, "the companies will never do it," Jeff Schiller, network manager in Information Systems, told Simons. "We have seat belts in cars because the government mandated them, not because companies thought they were a great idea." The New Republic article was reprinted in publications including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

��������� "It's the deepest theft," said Professor of Biology Jonathan King on gene patenting in a March 19 story by Kevin Coughlin of the Newhouse News Service. "These are our genes, evolved over hundreds of millions of years of one species on Earth. Homo sapiens. The notion that someone owns your genes is an egregious misappropriation of our own biological heritage."

��������� "I consider this the beginning, not the end," said Institute Professor Emeritus Franco Modigliani in an April 17 story in the Christian Science Monitor about that week's dramatic drop in the stock market. Writer David Francis reported that Modigliani, who received the 1985 Nobel prize in economics, "sees the Wall Street bust as 'a needed, healthy correction.' He expects prices to fall further before stocks reach a reasonable fundamental valuation."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 10, 2000.

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