Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ex-Guantanamo Inmates Aided the Underwear Bomber

A front page article in this morning's Miami Herald states as follows:

Cascading reports [hold] that . . . the plot was hatched by two former Guantanamo detainees . . .

It was my impression that, when in a war, one lets war prisoners go when the war is over.

Oh, but this isn't a war. Excuse me.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Legos: "Hard Fun"

[W]ith only two million households responsible for 50% of U.S. sales, Lego isn't everyone's idea of fun.

The reality is that Lego's appeal is generally with a niche group of brainiacs, a group that includes many adults. Another major Lego challenge is the girls market, which the company has failed to crack.

[Lego CEO Jergen Vig Knudstorp] readily acknowledges that Legos eschew instant gratification, unlike many other toys. The deep form of engagement Lego requires - almost like reading a book, Mr. Knudstorp says - teaches children to be systematic, creative problem solvers.

"Many kids can easily get frustrated with the Lego experience," he says. "We call it 'Fun, but hard fun.' "

-From a WSJ article in the Thursday, December 24, 2009, print edition, on the back page of the Marketplace section.

Guess who's grandson this Christmas got a generous addition to his already respectable and well used Legos cache?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Pre-Christmas Fun!

When decorating cookies goes awry...

And the next day, we decorated gingerbread houses!!! Very Fun!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bien Hecho, Hijos!

Texas Gains Most People in 2008-09, U.S. Census Says

“The state remains a magnet, drawing people from other parts of country who are out of work and believe their job prospects are a lot better than the places they came from,” said Bernard Weinstein, former director of the Center for Economic Development and Research at the University of North Texas in Denton.

“Let’s be clear: Texas is having a recession like the rest of country, but it’s not as bad,” said Weinstein, now an economist at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “Texas is going to pop up on a lot of radar screens as a place to relocate or expand for businesses.”

-from the linked-to article.

Arizona Honor Killing and its Home-Grown American (shall we say) Sister

These sorts of things are not reported much in the MSM. Is it me, or is it true that when they are reported it's the daughters who are killed? (Cf. here.) Not that the American un-culture can point any fingers, what with the government getting ready to tax all of us to fund abortions, regardless of gender. Are honor killings less honorable than economic killings (abortion to serve convenience) or quasi-genocidal killings (abortions for poor people, mainly those poor people of color) or, look, here it is again, sex-selection killings? I think it's all simply evil. But it puts the un-culture right up there (or down there) with Muslim fathers who kill their daughters. Nice.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mary Connects the Dots

Here. Amazing.

UPDATE: Are we seeing "fractals" here?

In ''The Artful Universe,'' (Oxford, 1995), the astronomer John D. Barrow argues that ''the arts and the sciences flow from a single source; they are informed by the same reality; and their insights are linked in ways that make them look less and less like alternatives.'' The geneticist Enrico Coen, who has just written ''The Art of Genes'' (Oxford University Press, 1999), uses painting as a metaphor to describe how organisms generate themselves. Beautiful natural patterns -- spirals, butterfly wings, rippling waves -- and their mathematical origins are explored in Philip Ball's ''The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature'' (Oxford, 1998). This writer has chimed in with ''Emblems of Mind'' (Avon, 1996), examining how music and mathematics create patterns that develop out of similar styles of metaphorical thinking.

-From the NYTimes article to which I link above.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This Greeted Us as We Drove In from our Trip

I set this plant in its plastic pot in the branches of the Black Olive tree in our front yard about 9 or 10 months ago, taping the pot in place with some clear masking tape. The florist who helps keep our office green drops by these plants now and then, after they have flowered, faded, and been replaced in reception rooms up and down the building by cute young orchids in full bloom. I take these unhappy, deflowered but living things home and give them a tree to live in. Their roots creep out of the pot and fasten on the bark, they gradually leave their pots behind, and then they bloom again. So there was one waiting for us as we drove in.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"You Only Regret Your Economies"

This wonderful truth I heard for this first time just this way at a speech given a few weeks ago by Adrienne Arsht at the National Philanthropy Day luncheon here in Miami. Ms. Arsht is a hugely generous philanthropist and patron of the arts.

She said that her father had said this to her. The idea stayed with me after the speech, but not the exact quote. So I later contacted her office and Ms. Arsht's assistant gave it to me exactly.

In searching around the internet for this quote, I came across an essay on Reynolds Price by Peggy Meyer, Librarian Assistant at Lake Tahod Community Library. Here is what Ms. Meyer said about her reading of Price's collection of essays entitled Feasting the Heart:

My favorite [Reynolds Price] essay . . . is “A Motto,” and it sums up the feeling of the entire book. He recounts the story of an Irish friend of his. This friend had just found out his mother was dying and made the journey back home. While visiting, one night he checked in on her, saw she was resting quietly, and turned to leave without disturbing her. As he was about to exit, he heard her say, “Remember: I only regret my economies.”

Reynolds Price took this as a personal motto and says he has “never regretted a splurge in my life, only my stingy-hearted choices at the sun-baked crossroads of money and passion. In love and friendship, food and travel, art and commerce, thanks and praise…I only regret my economies still.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

For Young "Men," 23 is the new 15

Says here.

Real Christmas Trees Greener? Healthier?

"Greener" says, Clint Springer, a biologist at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. Well, maybe "greener" but not necessarily healthier. "Real" trees kept for several weeks in a family's home can cause allergies, and that's a great reason to stay away from real trees for lots of people. We need some PhD's in the neglected field of "unintended consequences," people who were liberal arts majors in schools where the liberal arts are taken seriously, to help their narrowly focused engineering and applied science friends look at the bigger picture. (I would add politicians to that list too, but I despair of them.)

How Does Bone Loss relate to Breast Cancer?

Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Bone-building drugs such as Merck & Co.’s Fosamax, Novartis AG’s Zometa and Roche Holding AG’s Boniva may cut older women’s risk of breast cancer, according to two studies presented today at a medical meeting in San Antonio. See the entire Bloomberg article here. The AP article on the subject appeared in yesterday's Miami Herald here.

The link between healthy bones and cancer is suggested in this statement by Susan E. Brown, PhD, an anthropologist who first became interested in bone health, according to her bio, when her grandmother died at age 102 from complications of a hip fracture. Here is what Dr. Brown says, in part, on her website Better Bones:

An underlying metabolic acidity is a common denominator among — and a likely contributing factor to — all degenerative and autoimmune diseases. An acid condition has several adverse effects on cell metabolism, including impaired energy production, fluid accumulation and edema, and a likely increase in free radical production. Interesting enough, kidney specialists working with acid-base balance now recognize that most Americans, as they age, live in chronic, low–grade metabolic acidosis. This condition contributes to a series of health problems, including loss of bone mineral, loss of muscle mass, a reduction in growth hormone, and the development of kidney stones.

I have been reading some about the importance of the alkaline-acid balance in one's body and have discussed the matter with Mary. According to what I read, the body needs to maintain a roughly neutral pH or slightly alkaline status. Where the pH moves to the acidic side, then the body must buffer that condition to bring the body back to a healthy pH. The body does so in several ways, but two of them involve muscle loss and bone loss, as the body somehow extracts from those (and other) organs the compounds that will buffer the acidity. If one's body is chronically out of balance on the acid side, then the stress on one's system to fight back to normalcy could break down its ability to fight disease generally, not to mention permanently weaken bones and muscles.

According to what I have been able to understand about the "bone-building drugs" mentioned in these articles, they retard or protect the bones from the process of breakdown. Does that breakdown have its source in the body's pH being acidic in the first place, and is the cancer-prevention mechanism involved with these drugs mainly one of restoring the alkaline-acid balance?

What one eats has a huge impact on the acid-alkaline balance, according to Dr. Brown. Are we surprised that fruits and vegetables produce an alkaline response, where meat and dairy produce an acidic response? Could what one eats affect his or her risks of osteoporosis and cancer? In her book The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide: A Quick Reference to Foods & Their Effect on pH Levels, Dr. Brown writes that those on the typical America diet are in a chronic states of acidosis, the condition of being on the wrong side of the alkaline/acid balance.

Dr. Brown, by the way, seriously (and, to me, convincingly) questions the use of such drugs as Fasomax to treat osteoporosis.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Blue Dogs Push Back

Yes, Virginia, there are conservative and moderate Democrats. How can one be a Christian and a Democrat? I've heard that one. How can one be a Christian and a lawyer? Heard that one. How can one be a Christian and a PCUSA Presbyterian? Heard that one, too.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

On Being Well Shod in Rochester

Mary reports that she bought a pair of these yesterday. Just to walk across the street from her house to the hospital.

Food and Medicine

2500 years ago, Hippocrates, the "Father of Medicine", said to his students, "Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food". Moses Maimonides, the great 12th century physician, repeated the Hippocratic statement when he said, "No illness which can be treated by diet should be treated by any other means".


A friend of mine, years younger than I, who recently had heart surgery because of blocked blood vessals, will rely on drugs to prevent the re-accumulation of plaque rather than change her diet.

A consequence of the inevitable decline in the quality and extent of healthcare in this country, whether the decline arises from nationalization or the failure to reform the situation we have now, will be that people will re-examine the way they eat and live, they will change their behaviors, and learn to avoid disease that was always preventable. The people who do not will simply die earlier than they would have otherwise.

The cartoon above strikes very close to home. I had always considered my dear father, who died of heart disease, a "big man" - in the sense of being "big boned." I never thought of myself that way; my mother told me that her maternal grandfather (family name Jordan) was a small man, and I thought that my build may have reflected his build. But as my dad lost weight in the years before his death, his physique began to look more and more like mine, until it was mine. He was just (and I hate this word to describe such a wonderful man) "fat." He was not big boned at all. He simply "carried it well," kept his Florsheim shoes shined and wore Hickey-Freeman business suits. He always looked good to me. But he died of his good looks.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

I Would Agree that the Climate Change Evidence "is Worsening"

WASHINGTON -- Starting Monday, negotiators in Copenhagen will try to nail down all of the main elements of a treaty to curb global warming, but a final agreement won't be possible until the United States figures out what it is willing to do to reduce emissions of heat-trapping pollution.

President Barack Obama plans to visit the talks on their final day to promise that the United States will cut its share of emissions and to press for a strong agreement. The world, however, will be watching to see whether he also signals a willingness to pressure Congress to enact the law that's needed to make that happen.

Despite charges by some critics that data on global temperatures have been altered, the evidence of climate change is conclusive and worsening.

-First three paragraphs of lead article on the front page of the Miami Herald this morning. I don't agree that "the evidence of climate change is conclusive," but I certainly believe that "the evidence of climate change is . . . worsening."

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Sub-freezing in Certain Parts Elsewhere this Morning


"The Road to Stalingrad"

The object of the present work [The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin's War with Germany: Volume One, by John Erikson] can be set down briefly enough: it is designed to investigate the kind of war the Soviet Union waged, the nature of command decisions and the machinery of decision-making, the course of military operations, Soviet performance in the field and the economic effort behind the lines, the emergence of Soviet 'war aims' - beyond mere survival - and, finally, the Soviet style of war. In sum, it is an attempt to probe how the Soviet system functioned under conditions of maximum stress: from this point of view it is less military history per se and might more properly be regarded as a form of social history.

-from the Preface

A reading of the preface indicates that this must be a most well-written and powerful work, as it is reputed to be.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

More on Tebow and McCoy

I exchanged emails with my Gator friend Sam about the Texas/Texas A&M game and the Florida/FSU game, that is, about Tebow and McCoy. Here's what he wrote:

I watched the Texas game myself. Colt McCoy has more talent than Tim Tebow, as did the Oklahoma quarterback in last year's BCS national championship game. Tebow's major asset however is not his football talent. It's his leadership coupled with his will. One feeds the other. He is able to bring out the best in his players, both on offense and defense, just by being with them on the field. He is able to bring out the best in people wherever he goes, whatever he is doing, just by being there. Someone on ESPN the other day said it best -- that a player who does not have the greatest skill in college football has single-handedly changed the game. Last Sat, before the UF-FSU game, UF had its annual senior day. All schools do it -- an opportunity for the seniors to be introduced one by one for the last time. He came out on the field crying in front of 91,000 screaming fans. Yet not one person thought that he was a sissy or less of a man. And even with all that emotion, he proceeded to play a great game, accounting for 5 touchdowns before the coaches took him out of the game as a show of good sportsmanship.

I'm thankful that he played here and that I had the opportunity to watch him play for 4 years. I expect him to be a great leader of men wherever he goes. And people will be better for his just being around them.