Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Daily "Near You?"

Valparaiso, Indiana, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"How It Really Is"

A Look to the Heavens

“Young star cluster M16 is surrounded by natal clouds of cosmic dust and glowing gas also known as The Eagle Nebula. This beautifully detailed image of the region includes fantastic shapes made famous in well-known Hubble Space Telescope close-ups of the starforming complex. Described as elephant trunks or Pillars of Creation, dense, dusty columns rising near the center are light-years in length but are gravitationally contracting to form stars. Energetic radiation from the cluster stars erodes material near the tips, eventually exposing the embedded new stars. Extending from the upper left edge of the nebula is another dusty starforming column known as the Fairy of Eagle Nebula. M16 and the Eagle Nebula lie about 7,000 light-years away, an easy target for binoculars or small telescopes in a nebula rich part of the sky toward the split constellation Serpens Cauda (the tail of the snake).”

- http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap080719.html

John Updike, Author: "Requiem"

It came to me the other day:
Were I to die, no one would say,
“Oh, what a shame! So young, so full
Of promise — depths unplumbable!”
Instead, a shrug and tearless eyes
Will greet my overdue demise;
The wide response will be, I know,
“I thought he died a while ago.”
For life’s a shabby subterfuge,
And death is real, and dark, and huge.
The shock of it will register
Nowhere but where it will occur.

— John Updike, "Requiem"

"John Updike, the kaleidoscopically gifted writer whose quartet of Rabbit novels highlighted
a body of fiction, verse, essays and criticism so vast, protean and lyrical as to place him in
the first rank of American authors, died on Tuesday in Danvers, Mass.
He was 76 and lived in Beverly Farms, Mass."
- http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/28/books/28updike.html?ref=opinion

"Women Have Nightmares, Men Dream of Sex"

"Women have more nightmares than men, a British researcher says, but men are more likely to dream about sex.Psychologist Jennie Parker of the University of the West of England asked 100 women and 93 men between the ages of 18 and 25 to fill out dream diaries, priming participants before dreams occurred to record them. The research was part of her doctoral dissertation. "My most significant finding is that women in general do experience more nightmares than men," she said. "An early study into dreams led to my discovering that normative research procedures into dream research often considered the structure of dreams, but that there is a gaping hole in terms of academic study that investigates emotional significance in the analysis of dreams."

Women's nightmares can be broadly divided into three categories: fearful dreams (being chased or life threatened), losing a loved one or confused dreams, Parker said. Parker corroborated participants' dreams with actual life experiences and found that the anxieties about past occurrences reoccur many times as "emblem" dreams. "It is these emblem dreams that are particularly significant," Parker said. "If women are asked to report the most significant dream they ever had, they are more likely than men to report a very disturbing nightmare. Women reported more nightmares and their nightmares were more emotionally intense than men's."

Men's dreams contained more references to sexual activity, Parker said, and men reported more actual intercourse, while women reported more kissing and sexual fantasies about other dream characters. Women's dreams also were found to contain more family members, more negative emotion, more indoor settings and less physical aggression than men's dreams, Parker said. Men made more references to attacks, or serious threat, but reported fewer verbally aggressive or covert acts of aggression. Men's and women's friendly behavior in dreams was the same; most often they reported helping other dream characters.

In a comparison of pleasant versus unpleasant dreams among men and women, Parker found that men and women were more likely to be victims of aggressive interactions in unpleasant dreams than they were in pleasant dreams. "In pleasant dreams the dreamer was more often the aggressor," Parker said. "Women had more unpleasant dreams than men and unpleasant dreams contained more misfortune, self-negativity and failures."

A lecture by former UWE researcher Susan Blackmore gave Parker a moment of epiphany that inspired her to examine more closely the stuff that dreams are made of, she said. "My own nightmares had two reoccurring themes, one concerned standing on the beach at Weston Super Mare, my home town, when the tide suddenly goes out very fast and returns as a huge tidal wave that is about to engulf me," Parker said. "The other dream includes a dinosaur roaming the streets at night and looking in at my window. I wondered if my experience was common amongst women."

- http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/090129-nightmares-women.html

Be Careful What You Wish For...

"It hurts to find out that what you wanted doesn't match what you
dreamed it would be." - Randy K. Mulholland

What's a "HENRY?" Wall Streeters Defend Bonuses

"Getting between a broker and his bonus is like getting between a schnauzer and his lunch bowl. He may not bite you, but you are going to smell his breath. “People come here because they want to work hard and get paid a lot for working hard,” one investment banker said Friday as he wended his way, lunch bag in hand, through the World Financial Center. “I think there’s a disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street.”

That certainly was the case this week when Main Street learned that, despite the craters of a down economy, Wall Street bonuses were more than $18 billion last year — roughly what they were in the fatty, solvent days of 2004. The media hollered, the president scolded, and ordinary people checked their wallets. But downtown, in the caverns of finance, the moneymakers shrugged and took it on the chin. It is a complicated thing, they said, to apportion compensation in a bear market. First of all, profits do not stop; they often ebb. Second of all, losses move unequally, so the law of the jungle should still apply: you eat what you can kill. “My bonus is ‘shameful’ — but I worked hard to get it,” said John Konstantinidis, a wholesale insurance broker, lunching Friday at Harry’s at Hanover Square.

“I’m a HENRY,” Mr. Konstantinidis added. “High Earner but Not Rich Yet.” Nonetheless, it was rather remarkable on Friday how many white shirts denied getting a bonus altogether when they were asked. Indeed, if the data obtained by reporters in the district was any measure, there is no telling where that $18 billion really went.

What can be told, however, is that President Obama is substantially less popular on Wall Street this week than he was last week. Words like “outrageous,” “shameful” and “the height of irresponsibility” — especially when applied to a man’s paycheck — tend not to make you many friends. “I think President Obama painted everyone with a broad stroke,” said Brian McCaffrey, 55, a Wall Street lawyer who was on his way to see a client. “The way we pay our taxes is bonuses. The only way that we’ll get any of our bailout money back is from taxes on bonuses. I think bonuses should be looked at on a case by case basis, or you turn into a socialist.” That, indeed, was a recurring equation: Broad strokes + bonuses = socialist.

“It’s a very slippery slope to go down,” said another insurance broker as he waited to be seated for lunch at Cipriani Downtown. “A blanket statement like that borders on” — you guessed it — “socialism.” There were, of course, those downtown who were disgusted by the thought of this year’s bonuses, though they were mainly wage earners like Ashton Johnson, 32, a courier who was chatting outside the Stock Exchange with a buddy wearing a sandwich board reading, “We buy gold.” “It definitely is ‘shameful,’ ” Mr. Johnson said. “With the fact that stock is going down, they shouldn’t be paid so much.”

Meanwhile, around the corner, Larry Meyers and Gerard Novello, who work for an Italian securities firm, ducked into a Mexican cantina for a drink. It was Mr. Meyers’s 43rd birthday, and he ordered the tequila. “On Main Street, ‘bonus’ sounds like a gift,” he said. “But it’s part of the compensation structure of Wall Street. Say I’m a banker and I created $30 million. I should get a part of that.” “There’s got to be a better term for it,” he added, turning to Mr. Novello. “Earned income credit?” he wondered aloud.

- http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/31/nyregion/31bonuses.html?_r=1&ref=business

"Confidence"

"This is a beautiful and spectacular shot of Oreamnos americanus (mountain goat), that rupicaprid extraordinaire, going to another part of the mountain by leaping over a gap at Comeau Pass located in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA." Photographer: Robb Rice

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Look to the Heavens

“Have you ever seen the band of our Milky Way Galaxy? In a clear sky from a dark location at the right time, a faint band of light becomes visible across the sky. Soon after your eyes become dark adapted, you might spot the band for the first time. It may then become obvious. Then spectacular. One reason for a growing astonishment might be the realization that this fuzzy swath contains billions of stars and is the disk of our very own spiral galaxy. Since we are inside this disk, the band appears to encircle the Earth. Visible in the above image, high above in the night sky, the band of the Milky Way Galaxy arcs. The bright spot just below the band is the planet Jupiter. In the foreground lies the moonlit caldera of the volcano Haleakala, located on the island of Maui in Hawaii, USA. A close look near the horizon will reveal light clouds and the dark but enormous Mauna Kea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. If you have never seen the Milky Way band or recognized the planet Jupiter, this year may be your chance. Because 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, an opportunity to look through a window that peers deep into the universe may be coming to a location near you.”

-http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap090127.html

The Daily "Near You?"

Helsinki, Southern Finland, Finland. Thanks for stopping by.

Patrick Overton




“When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and
take a step into the darkness of unknown, we must
believe one of two things will happen. There will be
something solid to stand on, or we will be taught how to fly.”
- Patrick Overton

Paulo Coelho, "19 Statutes for Being Human"

1] All men are different. And should do everything possible to continue to be so.
2] Each human being has been granted two courses of action: that of deed and that of contemplation. Both lead to the same place.
3] Each human being has been granted two qualities: power and gift. Power drives man to meet his destiny, his gift obliges him to share with others that which is good in him. A man must know when to use his power, and when to use his gift.
4] Each human being has been granted a virtue: the capacity to choose. For he who does not use this virtue, it becomes a curse - and others will always choose for him.
5] Each human being has the right to two blessings, which are: the blessing to do right, and the blessing to err. In the latter case, there is always a path of learning leading to the right way.
6] Each human being has his own sexual profile, and should exercise it without guilt - provided he does not oblige others to exercise it with him.
7] Each human being has his own Personal Legend to be fulfilled, and this is the reason he is in the world. The Personal Legend is manifest in his enthusiasm for what he does.
8] The Personal Legend may be abandoned for a certain time, provided one does not forget it and returns as soon as possible.
9] Each man has a feminine side, and each woman has a masculine side. It is necessary to use discipline with intuition, and to use intuition objectively.
10] Each human being must know two languages: the language of society and the language of the omens. The first serves for communication with others. The second serves to interpret messages from God.
11] Each human being has the right to seek out joy, joy being understood as something which makes one content - not necessarily that which makes others content.
12] Each human being must keep alight within him the sacred flame of madness. And must behave like a normal person.
13] The only faults considered grave are the following: not respecting the rights of one’s neighbor, letting oneself be paralyzed by fear, feeling guilty, thinking one does not deserve the good and bad which occurs in life, and being a coward.
14] We shall love our adversaries, but not make alliances with them. They are placed in our way to test our sword, and deserve the respect of our fight.
15] We shall choose our adversaries, not the other way around.
16] All religions lead to the same God, and all deserve the same respect.
17] A man who chooses a religion is also choosing a collective manner of adoration and of sharing the mysteries. Nevertheless, he alone is responsible for his actions along the Way, and he has no right to transfer to religion the responsibility for his steps and his decisions.
18] We hereby declare the end to the wall dividing the sacred from the profane: from now on, all is sacred.
19] Everything which is done in the present, affects the future by consequence, and the past by redemption."

-Paulo Coelho

"Joe Smith- Isn't It the Truth?'

"Joe Smith started the day early, having set his alarm clock (made in Japan) for 6 am. While his coffeepot (made in China) was perking, he shaved with his electric razor (made in Hong Kong). He put on a dress shirt (made in Sri Lanka), and his designer jeans (made in Singapore) and tennis shoes (made in Korea).

After cooking his breakfast in his new electric skillet (made in India) he sat down with his calculator (made in Mexico) to see how much he could spend today.

After setting his watch (made in Taiwan) to the radio (made in India) he got in his car (made in Japan) filled it with gas (from Saudi Arabia) and continued his search for a good paying job.

At the end of yet another discouraging and fruitless day checking his computer (made in Malaysia), Joe decided to relax for a while. He put on his sandals (made in Brazil), poured himself a glass of wine (made in France), turned on his TV (made in Indonesia), and then wondered why he can’t find a good job in America." - Author Unknown

Oscar Wilde



The reason we all like to think so well of
others is that we are all afraid for ourselves.
The basis of optimism is sheer terror.”
- Oscar Wilde

"How It Really Is": The Environment

Hermann Hesse

"For example, there is a species of butterfly, a night-moth, in which the females are much less common than the males. The moths breed exactly like all animals, the male fertilizes the female and the female lays the eggs. Now, if you take a female night moth- many naturalists have tried this experiment- the male moths will visit this female at night and they will come from hours away. From hours away! Just think! From a distance of several miles all these males sense the only female in the region. One looks for an explanation for this phenomenon but it is not easy. You must assume that they have a sense of smell of some sort like a hunting dog that can pick up and follow a seemingly imperceptible scent. Do you see? Nature abounds with such inexplicable things. But my argument is: if the female moths were as abundant as the males, the latter would not have such a highly developed sense of smell. They've acquired it only because they had to train themselves to have it. If a person were to concentrate all his will power on a certain end, then he would achieve it. That's all. And that also answers your question. Examine a person closely enough and you know more about him than he does himself."
- Hermann Hesse, “Demian”, 1919

A Moment With Nature

"To him whom contemplates a trait of natural beauty, no harm nor despair can come. The doctrines of despair, spiritual or political servitude, were never taught by those who shared the serenity of Nature. For each phase of Nature, though not invisible, is yet not too distinct or obtrusive. It is there to be found when we look for it, but not too demanding of our attention." - Henry David Thoreau

"Bloody Monday"- The Human cost

"The headlines tell the story. My hometown paper played the news relatively mildly as "Layoffs Spread to More Sectors of the Economy"; the Washington Post chose the slightly stronger, "Layoffs Cut Deeper into Economy"; the Los Angeles Times picked "Deluge of Layoffs Hits U.S. Economy"; the Indianapolis Star, "50,000 New Pink Slips Pile Up"; and the San Jose Mercury, "Bloody Monday: U.S. firms slash 50,000 jobs." At a news conference, the new president rattled off selected names from the all-star line-up of companies that were tossing out bodies and shutting down lives: "Over the last few days we've learned that Microsoft, Intel, United Airlines, Home Depot, Sprint Nextel, and Caterpillar are each cutting thousands of jobs. These are not just numbers on a page. As with the millions of jobs lost in 2008, these are working men and women whose families have been disrupted and whose dreams have been put on hold."

Meanwhile, the one-day estimate of the number of layoffs, depending on how you were counting and whether you were speaking nationally or globally, rattled around the world—more than 40,000, 50,000, 55,000, more than 60,000, 71,400, 76,000. Whatever way you cut it, these were staggering tallies that give the phrase "Bloody Monday" new meaning in our world. Add in the possibility that the flood of foreclosures might possibly be even larger than imagined and "bloody" is no longer just a metaphor. Increasingly, the "bloody" layoffs and "bloody" foreclosures lead to "bloody" facts on the ground by economically distressed and desperate Americans; the bloody count of extreme acts is likely to rise for a long, long time to come.

The body count is still rising. For months on end, marked by bankruptcies, foreclosures, evictions, and layoffs, the economic meltdown has taken a heavy toll on Americans. In response, a range of extreme acts including suicide, self-inflicted injury, murder, and arson have hit the local news. By October 2008, an analysis of press reports nationwide indicated that an epidemic of tragedies spurred by the financial crisis had already spread from Pasadena, California, to Taunton, Massachusetts, from Roseville, Minnesota, to Ocala, Florida.

In the three months since, the pain has been migrating upwards. A growing number of the world's rich have garnered headlines for high profile, financially-motivated suicides. Take the New Zealand-born "millionaire financier" who leapt in front of an express train in Great Britain or the "German tycoon" who did much the same in his homeland. These have, with increasing regularity, hit front pages around the world. An example would be New York-based money manager René-Thierry Magnon de la Villehuchet, who slashed his wrists after he "lost more than $1 billion of client money, including much, if not all, of his own family's fortune." In the end, he was yet another victim of financial swindler Bernard Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

An unknown but rising number of less wealthy but distinctly well-off workers in the financial field have also killed themselves as a result of the economic crisis—with less press coverage. Take, for instance, a 51-year-old former analyst at Bear Stearns. Learning that he would be laid off after JPMorgan Chase took over his failed employer, he "threw himself out of the window" of his 29th-floor apartment in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Or consider the 52-year-old commercial real estate broker from suburban Chicago who "took his life in a wildlife preserve" just "a month after he publicly worried over a challenging market," or the 50-year-old "managing partner at Leeward Investments" from San Carlos, California, who got wiped out "in the markets" and "suffocated himself to death."

Beverly Hills clinical psychologist Leslie Seppinni caught something of our moment when she told Forbes magazine that this was "the first time in her 18-year career that businessmen are calling her with suicidal impulses over their financial state." In the last three months, alone, "she has intervened in at least 14 cases of men seriously considering taking their lives." Seppinni offered this observation: "They feel guilt and shame because they think they should have known what was coming with the market or they should have pulled out faster."

Still, it's mostly on Main Street, not Wall Street, that people are being driven to once unthinkable extremes. And while it's always impossible to know the myriad factors, including deeply personal ones, that contribute to drastic acts, violent or otherwise, many of those recently reported are undoubtedly tied, at least in part, to the way the bottom seems to be falling out of the economy. As a result, reports of people driven to anything from armed robbery to financially-motivated suicide in response to new fiscal realities continue to bubble to the surface. And since only a certain percentage of such acts receive media coverage, the drumbeat of what is being reported definitely qualifies as startling."
- Nick Turse, http://www.motherjones.com/commentary/tomdispatch/2009/01/
desperate-times-and-desperate-measures.html

Carl Sandburg, "Time"



"Time is the coin of your life. It is the only
coin you have, and only you can determine
how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let
other people spend it for you."

- Carl Sandburg

"Vertical Descent"

Now THAT'S talent! Photo snapped at Ptarmigan Cirque located in Kananaskis Country,
Province of Alberta, Canada. Photo credit: Phil & Thai (Picasa Web Albums user phil.bakes)

"Shameful Corporate Greed"

"In 2008, "the brokerage units of New York financial companies lost more than $35 billion." According to a report by the New York state comptroller, these companies simultaneously doled out an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses, "the sixth-largest haul on record" and the same amount as distributed in 2004, "when the Dow Jones industrial average was flying above 10,000, on its way to a record high." Reacting to the news, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs characterized the story with one word during yesterday's press briefing: "Outrageous." "Whether it's government or the financial system, we're not going to be able to do what is needed to be done to stabilize our financial system if the American people read about this type of outrageous behavior," Gibbs said. When the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) was passed last September, Congress made a show of limiting executive pay. President Obama will have to strengthen TARP and other financial regulations to make a real impact on outrageous corporate malfeasance.

PRESIDENTIAL OUTRAGE: Obama made it clear yesterday that he was frustrated by such corporate greed. While meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Obama condemned the "shameful" Wall Street bonuses. "That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful, and part of what we're going to need is for folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility," Obama said emphatically. In a way, the banks are holding the American people hostage, as they "find themselves in the difficult position that if they don't provide help, the entire system could come crashing down on our heads," Obama said. He added that Americans, "are serious about their responsibilities. I am too in this White House. And I hope folks on Wall Street are going to be thinking in the same way."

OUTLANDISH PURCHASES: The shameful bonus report was just the most recent proof of Wall Street's irresponsibility. Last week, as former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain was agreeing to resign from Bank of America, news broke that he had spent more than $1 million redecorating his office, including paying $800,000 for a celebrity designer and spending $87,000 on an area rug. All this while Merrill was collapsing -- the bank reported a loss of $15.31 billion in 2008 -- and the newly merged Merrill Lynch-Bank of America was requesting more aid from the government. Thain had also doled out $4 billion in executive bonuses to favored Merrill employees just before the merger. Just last week, the Treasury Department agreed to give Bank of America $20 billion in additional aid. Separately, it was revealed earlier this week that Citigroup was in the final stages of purchasing a $50 million private jet -- after receiving $45 billion in public TARP funds this fall. After the Thain scandals, the Citi jet seemed to be the final straw for Obama. "Secretary Geithner already had to pull back on one institution that had gone forward with a multimillion-dollar plane it purchased at the same time as they are receiving TARP money," Obama said exasperatedly. "We shouldn’t have to do that, because they should know better." The jet deal for Citigroup has since been canceled.

FIXING THE PROBLEM: Obama believes that the initial TARP legislation "failed to live up to the expectation that all of the American people had for it," in terms of reining in executive compensation, Gibbs said yesterday. "That's why this administration and this economic team are taking the time to evaluate how we move forward." Also yesterday, the congressional panel that oversees TARP recommended that financial regulators "consider revoking bonus pay for executives of failing institutions needing government help." The panel said the threat of losing bonuses might help executives "avoid excessively risky behavior." Susan Reed, a CBS business correspondent, had another idea: "A more productive way to distribute rewards is by only awarding company stock. This would keep employees mindful of the risks they are taking to their organization and would tie their company’s performance to their own. ... And it would require employees and managers to shoulder their own risk." One indication of how seriously the Obama White House will address the problem of "outrageous" executive pay is former Fed chairman Paul Volcker's role as an economic adviser. Last November, he "blamed excessive pay packages for leaving the world with a 'broken financial system,'" condemning a system full of "tremendous rewards and payment of magnitude for presumed success and not much penalty for failure." - americanprogressaction.org

"If Life Is Water..."

"The End of the World As We Know It?"

“Yes it is. The end of the world is unavoidable. It is scientifically proven that as soon as the Sun burns out all the hydrogen it will explode into a supernova and the Earth as we know it will be pulverized. There is no question if the end is real. Everything that has a beginning has an end. That is not the real question. The question is not how are we going to die, but rather how are we going to live.

I believe it was Camus who said: "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy." Once you have settled that question there is no other thing left to do but live.

So how are we going to live?
Is it unavoidable that corporate greed and political corruption should rule the world while enlightenment and decency should suffer and wither?
Well, it is all up to you.
Yes, you have the power to determine the future of this country, the future of this planet.

The so called powers of this world are actually powerless without you.
You are the ones that plant the crops and put the food on the tables.
You are the ones that build the houses and the roads.
You are the ones that build the guns and that fight the wars.
Without you the rich and powerful would die of starvation.

Yeah, that is nice BS you might say, so let me ask you:
Would the banks and the lenders have succeeded in raping the Americans house market, if millions of people would have not bought into the financial scam of the sub prime lending?
You see nobody has put a gun to anybody’s head to buy a house that they could not afford, or to get a second mortgage they did not need.
Who is putting the corrupt politicians in power year after year, after year?
You do. And you know what they say: “You fool me once, shame on you. You fool me twice shame on me”
Who is fighting the wars? I don’t think the rich and powerful are spilling their blood for the protection of democracy and cheap oil. Do you?

So you see it takes two to tango.
Evil needs ignorance and ignorant people in order to succeed; because frankly, evil is very weak and cowardly, and unless it finds the suckers to do its deeds it is pretty much helpless.
Something to think about when you feel helpless, used and abused.”

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Daily "Near You?"

Redmond, Washington, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

Human History: "Cave Art"

Horse, c. 15,000-10,000 BC, Lascaux, France

“Cave or rock art consists of engraved or painted works on open air rocks or on the floors, walls and ceilings of caves, some of them in deep and almost inaccessible crannies. They were created during the Upper Palaeolithic period (40,000 to 10,000 BC), and the best were done by what we call the Magdalenians (from the name of a site), peoples who flourished in Europe from 18,000 to 10,000 BC. Such works have a unity, and can be described as the Magdalenian art system, the first in human history. it was also the longest, lasting for more than two thirds of the total time when humans have produced art.

In any history of art, then, the Magdalenian system must occupy a place of importance. Alas, of all the forms of art practised on the planet, it is the one about which we know the least. But our knowledge is by no means derisory, bearing in mind that the first cave art was only discovered in the 186os, and it was not until 1902 that it was accepted as a fact by anthropologists and art historians. By the end of the twentieth century, there were 277 agreed examples in Europe, 142 in France, 108 in Spain, 21 in Italy, 2 in Portugal, 2 in Germany and 2 in the Balkans. Unfortunately, most of these works of art are extremely fragile. When a cave is 'opened', and the conditions which enabled paintings to survive are altered, deterioration can be rapid. The superb paintings found at Bédeilhac in the Pyrenees during the First World War disappeared completely within six months of the cave's discovery. Thus except in places where expensive air conditioning has been installed, caves are no longer open to the public. Even the Altamira Cave in Spain, finest of them all, is now open only to small parties for brief periods. Scholars themselves find it difficult to gain admission. Some of these works are photographed but the camera gives a poor idea of their nature and quality. Some are difficult to see anyway: the best part of Altamira has to be studied lying down. Hence inaccessibility is a real and growing obstacle to unlocking the secrets of the Magdalenian art system.

However, here are a few items of knowledge on which we can build, beginning with subject matter. Cave art portrays human hands; large numbers of animals in different activities, including various species, such as the woolly rhinoceros, which are now extinct, and a few which were extinct even at the time they were painted; geometric figures and signs. Humans are also portrayed but these instances are rare. Next we come to methods and materials. The earliest and most rudimentary images are finger drawings in soft clay on the rock surface, the artist following the example of claw marks made by animals. Then came engraving, by far the commonest method, using flakes of sharp flint and in some cases stone picks. Different types of rocks, and rock formations, were used to give variety, add colour and produce depth, so that some of these engravings are akin to sculptural low reliefs. Fine engraving is rare and late. Clay engraving on the cave floors has usually been obliterated by the feet of modern visitors, but some good examples survive. Finally, and most impressively, we get painting. The first colours were red, iron oxide (hematite, a form of red ochre) and black (manganese dioxide), though black from juniper or pine carbons has also been discovered. White from kaolin or mica was used occasionally. The only other colours available to Magdalenian painters were yellow and brown.

However, great ingenuity was displayed by artists. At Lascaux we have found pestles and mortars in which colours were mixed, together with no less than 158 different mineral fragments from which the mixtures were made. There seems to have been no shortage of pigment large lumps have been found at some sites. Shells of barnacles were used as containers. One master employed a human skull. Cave water and the calcium it contained were used as mixers, and vegetable and animal oils as binders. The artists had primitive crayons and they applied the paint with brush tools, though none has survived. All kinds of devices and implements were used to aid art. Important lines were preceded by dots, which were then Joined up. Sometimes paint was sprayed. Stencils were used. Blow pipes made from bird bones served as tubes for applying paint. By these means, the more experienced Magdalenian painters were able to produce polychrome art.”
- http://artchive.com/ftp_site.htm

For fun, use your imagination to play with the imagery evoked by this drawing. Drawn perhaps 15,000 years ago, what kind of person drew this image? What kind of society did they live in? What kind of climate and environment did he live in? What might have been the motivation to draw this figure? Clear your mind, and allow yourself to visualize the responses. Across 15,000 years of time the human who drew this horse is directly communicating his vision to YOU with this drawing...

Bob Moawad, "An Amazing Journey"

“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours - it is an amazing journey - and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.” - Bob Moawad

"And then the fight started..."

My wife sat on the couch next to me as I was flipping channels. She asked, 'What's on TV?' I said, 'Dust.'
And then the fight started...

My wife was hinting about what she wanted for our upcoming anniversary. She said, 'I want something shiny that goes from 0 to 150 in about 3 seconds.' I bought her a scale.
And then the fight started...

When I got home last night, my wife demanded that I take her someplace expensive... so, I took her to a gas station.
And then the fight started...

After retiring, I went to the Social Security office to apply for Social Security. The woman behind the counter asked me for my driver's license to verify my age. I looked in my pockets and realized I had left my wallet at home. I told the woman that I was very sorry, but I would have to go home and come back later. The woman said, 'Unbutton your shirt'. So I opened my shirt revealing my curly silver hair. She said, 'That silver hair on your chest is proof enough for me' and she processed my Social Security application. When I got home, I excitedly told my wife about my experience at the Social Security office. She said, 'You should have dropped your pants. You might have gotten disability, too.'
And then the fight started...

My wife and I were sitting at a table at my high school reunion, and I kept staring at a drunken lady swigging her drink as she sat alone at a nearby table. My wife asked, 'Do you know her?' 'Yes,' I sighed, 'She's my old girlfriend. I understand she took to drinking right after we split up those many years ago, and I hear she hasn't been sober since.' 'My God!' says my wife, 'who would think a person could go on celebrating that long?'
And then the fight started...

I took my wife to a restaurant. The waiter, for some reason, took my order first. "I'll have the rump steak, medium rare, please." He said, "Aren't you worried about the mad cow?" "Nah, she can order for herself."
And then the fight started...

A woman is standing nude, looking in the bedroom mirror. She is not happy with what she sees and says to her husband, 'I feel horrible; I look old, fat and ugly. I really need you to pay me a compliment.' The husband replies, 'Your eyesight's damn near perfect.'
And then the fight started.....

I tried to talk my wife into buying a case of VB for $29.95. Instead, she bought a jar of cold cream for $7.95. I told her the beer would make her look better at night than the cold cream.
And then the fight started....

My wife asked me if a certain dress made her butt look big. I told her not as much as the dress she wore yesterday.
And then the fight started.....

A man and a woman were asleep like two innocent babies. Suddenly, at 3 o'clock in the morning, a loud noise came from outside. The woman, bewildered, jumped up from the bed and yelled at the man 'Holy crap. That must be my husband!' So the man jumped out of the bed; scared and naked jumped out the window. He smashed himself on the ground, ran through a thorn bush and to his car as fast as he could go. A few minutes later he returned and went up to the bedroom and screamed at the woman, 'I AM your husband!' The woman yelled back, 'Yeah, then why were you running?"
And then the fight started.....

Saturday morning I got up early, quietly dressed, made my lunch, grabbed the dog, and slipped quietly into the garage. I hooked up the boat up to the truck, and proceeded to back out into a torrential downpour.The wind was blowing 50 mph, so I pulled back into the garage, turned on the radio, and discovered that the weather would be bad all day. I went back into the house, quietly undressed, and slipped back into bed. I cuddled up to my wife's back, now with a different anticipation, and whispered, 'The weather out there is terrible.' My loving wife of 10 years replied, 'Can you believe my stupid husband is out fishing in that?'
And then the fight started ...

I asked my wife, "Where do you want to go for our anniversary? " It warmed my heart to see her face melt in sweet appreciation. "Somewhere I haven't been in a long time!" she said. So I suggested, "How about the kitchen?"
And then the fight started...

My wife and I are watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire while we were in bed. I turned to her and said, "Do you want to have sex?" "No," she answered. I then said, "Is that your final answer?" She didn't even look at me this time, simply saying "Yes." So I said, "Then I'd like to phone a friend."
And that's when the fight started...

Hat tip to thegreenman, http://www.webexpo.org

Astronomy: "Milky Way Bigger Than We Thought"

"Take that, Andromeda! For decades, astronomers thought when it came to the major galaxies in Earth's cosmic neighborhood, our Milky Way was a weak sister to the larger Andromeda. Not anymore. The Milky Way is considerably larger, bulkier and spinning faster than astronomers once thought, Andromeda's equal. Scientists mapped the Milky Way in a more detailed, three-dimensional way and found that it's 15 percent larger in breadth. More important, it's denser, with 50 percent more mass, which is like weight. The new findings were presented Monday at the American Astronomical Society's convention in Long Beach, Calif.

That difference means a lot, said study author Mark Reid of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. The slight 5-foot-5, 140-pound astrophysicist said it's the cosmic equivalent of him suddenly bulking up to the size of a 6-foot-3, 210-pound NFL linebacker. "Previously we thought Andromeda was dominant, and that we were the little sister of Andromeda," Reid said. "But now it's more like we're fraternal twins." That's not necessarily good news. A bigger Milky Way means that it could be crashing violently into the neighboring Andromeda galaxy sooner than predicted — though still billions of years from now.

Reid and his colleagues used a large system of 10 radio telescope antennas to measure the brightest newborn stars in the galaxy at different times in Earth's orbit around the sun. They made a map of those stars, not just in the locations where they were first seen, but an additional dimension of time — something Reid said hasn't been done before. With that, Reid was able to determine the speed at which the spiral-shaped Milky Way is spinning around its center. That speed — about 568,000 miles per hour — is faster than the 492,000 mph that scientists had been using for decades. That's about a 15 percent jump in spiral speed. The old number was based on less accurate measurements and this is based on actual observations, Reid said.

Once the speed of the galaxy's spin was determined, complex formulas that end up cubing the speed determined the mass of all the dark matter in the Milky Way. And the dark matter — the stuff we can't see — is by far the heaviest stuff in the universe. So that means the Milky Way is about one-and-a-half times the mass had astronomers previously calculated. The paper makes sense, but isn't the final word on the size of the Milky Way, said Mark Morris, an astrophysicist at the University of California Los Angeles, who wasn't part of the study. Being bigger means the gravity between the Milky Way and Andromeda is stronger. So the long-forecast collision between the neighboring galaxies is likely to happen sooner and less likely to be a glancing blow, Reid said. But don't worry. That's at least 2 to 3 billion years away, he said."
- http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/Harvard-Smithsonian-Center-for-Astrophysics/photo//090105/
480/94b8f6c62a2e4b9581ac32fc40a974a0//s:/ap/20090106/ap_on

The Scale of the Economic Crisis


"For decades central banks set monetary policy according to nonsensical beliefs about credit expansion. The inability of the Fed to stop the current crisis via emergency lending to banks demonstrates that Fed policies are a failure. This movie reveals the scale of this disaster."- YouTube

"Nuggets from the 'Net"

"Life is Cheap", by Argentum Vulgaris

"I was born and raised in New Zealand, I had a comfortable first world upbringing and childhood. I never had an empty belly, always had shoes on my feet (my mother insisted), I had clean clothes and school. 1992, I decided I would go to Europe; I never got there. I did, however, get as far as Brazil. While Brazil was not my destination, it was a planned stop over. And I stopped over, I have been stopping over for the past 16 years. I never got to Madrid.

I arrived in Rio de Janeiro not knowing a word of Portuguese (not now, that will be another post) and in my first few days I discovered that you could do wonderful things here like: buy beer on the beach (you buy or sell beer on the beach in NZ and all hell would break loose!), so I figured that this was about as close to paradise as I would ever get, why go further? Now, I had heard that Rio was fraught with dangers for the tourist, so I was very careful. Didn't take much cash on the street, was always circumspect as to how I waved my camera around, and was suspicious of everybody who spoke to me without reason.

This included three urchins who had become aware of my routine of an afternoon visit to Flamengo Beach. One afternoon I was later than usual, and bumped into them returning as I was going. They immediately turned and accompanied me back. On the over bridge that crosses the highway, they in sign language pointed out a man half hidden in the trees, and through sign language I got the message that this was a thief and he had a gun.

Okay the boys took me via another path than my usual to avoid the apparent unpleasantness of being robbed. At the beach, I sat with my meagre belongings, towel and camera in cheap plastic bag along with enough money for some beer. The boys stripped off and were splashing happily in the mild surf (Flamengo is inside the bay), I drank beer. All very pleasant in the sun. The boys came out of the water and said it was my turn for a swim, they would stay and look after my things... Now I figured I was for the shake down. They would "look after" my things. And they did. While I swam keeping a wary eye on the beach, they played in the sand. I had enough, I dried off in the sun and put my shorts on over my swim suit. The boys introduced themselves, Alex who was the older, 15, Fabio, 12 and Antonio,11.

We headed off as a group back to Catete where I was staying. On the way they pointed out the robber again hidden in a different place. As we neared the square, they left me to go back to my hotel. Later that night, I had my dinner at a restaurant with tables on the wide footpath. The trio found me, I invited them to sit and have something to eat. We talked. Hah, talked? They talked, asked questions, I couldn't answer them. They were obviously used to having fun with "gringos" and the language barrier. They didn't eat that much, I was surprised and when they left the waiter put all the remaining food in a "doggie-bag", they thanked me and left. I watched them go, had a few more beers and went back to the hotel.

I was not prepared for the next day. Waiting to catch a bus to Copacabana, I was about to go exploring as a responsible tourist should. Two of the boys found me there at the bus stop. They greeted my like a long lost friend. Then the following sign language conversation...

"Where's Fabio?" Asked by counting fingers and pointing at them.
"Oh, he's dead!" Replied by a finger across the throat.
"What?" Disbelief.
Alex pointed over to the shops, where they slept under the shelter, pointed a finger at his head and said "Pow!"
"Where?" I asked
"The rubbish men threw him in the rubbish truck."

The bus came, I didn't get on. The boys went off somewhere as I headed back to the hotel. I had had my first lesson on the value of life here in Brazil. A boy who looked after my things, laughed at and with me, who had eaten my food just the day before was dead. And, nobody cared. I did, I cried for him, the same tears that are welling in my eyes as I am looking at the blurred keys not knowing what to type now."

Argentum Vulgaris is the author of several blogs which are unique in visual design and expression, offer deeply insightful posts about the "human condition," as well as entertaining and informative posts on many other matters. Do enjoy the blogs of this fine author and human being.

"How Do I Tell Them?"

“How can intelligent people act as if they are so ignorant? Act as if nothing is going on that won’t just work itself out… believing the MSM and the talking heads… seeing the job losses, financial failings, retiree’s pensions disappearing… shops and long lived companies closing their doors in bankruptcy… home after home for sale or foreclosure. “It’s just a rough patch.” (To them, while to most of the world dabbling in reality, it is far worse than any “rough patch”) “This comes and goes” and this country “always turns itself around”, etc.

Earlier this week, I sat with engineers who aren’t simpletons in any form or fashion, yet, they seem oblivious to the depth of the danger our country is really in. They are in some false optimism in the face of all evidence and fact. I have had conversations with those who deny any real problems, just because Alabama is having a pretty good go, at least temporarily, while the rest of the country is suffering (it is only a matter of time).

They call my attitude defeatism. Maybe. I call it realism.”

- BuelahMan http://buelahman.wordpress.com/

President James Madison

“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

“History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling the money and its issuance.”

“All power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from, the people. That government is instituted and ought to be exercised for the benefit of the people; which consists in the enjoyment of life and liberty and the right of acquiring property, and generally of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. That the people have an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform or change their government whenever it be found adverse or inadequate to the purpose of its institution.”

“The highest number to which a standing army can be carried in any country does not exceed one hundredth part of the souls, or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This portion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. ... Besides the advantage of being armed, ... the existence of subordinate governments ... forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. ... The governments of Europe are afraid to trust the people with arms. ... Let us not insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion that they would be less able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual possession than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors.”

- President James Madison

France Seethes, American Sheeple Cower

"A mass one-day strike by public and private sector workers in France is set to severely disrupt transport, hospital and education services. Hundreds of thousands of workers are expected to take to the streets to demand more government action to protect their jobs and wages. Three-quarters of French people and all the main trade unions back the strike, which was organised by eight unions.

Air France flights will be cancelled and train services will be disrupted. The protestors are demonstrating against the worsening economic climate in France and at what they believe to be the government's poor handling of the crisis. Ok, we have seen the government of Iceland fall, now we are seeing the citizens of France rise up in protest of their governments ineptitude.

Why do Americans languish upon their butts while the worst crap to come down the pike is rammed into them without a whimper? Has this truly become the land of the Sheeple? Has the hope for "Change" blinded so many eyes that they have no clue as to the shenanighans being pulled to give those responsible for the financial problems even more wealth at our expense? Have Americans lost their balls? Has too much sports and MTV changed our population into a huge flock of bleating sheep? Or is it cowering in fear of our out of control government?

What will it take to wake this slumbering bunch of sissy's into real men (and women)? I don't know if I want to be around for the answer, for the pandemonium that will ensue will be everything we have prepared against. It will surely test our mettle. For now though, I feel safe knowing the sheeple cower in their homes, keeping Martial Law at bay (not Marshall Law)."
- http://selousscouts.blogspot.com/

"How It Really Is"

Economist Nouriel Roubini: "Nowhere to Hide"

"Global stock market declines are increasingly correlated and emerging economies will follow developed nations into a “severe recession,” according to New York University Professor Nouriel Roubini. Roubini said economic growth in China will slow to less than 5 percent and the U.S. will lose 6 million jobs. The American economy will expand 1 percent at most in 2010 as private spending falls and unemployment climbs to at least 9 percent, he added.

“There is nowhere to hide,” Roubini, an economics professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business who predicted the financial crisis, said from Zurich in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “We have for the first time in decades a global synchronized recession. Markets have become perfectly correlated and economies are also becoming perfectly correlated. This is not your kind of traditional minor recession.” Roubini said the U.S. government should nationalize the biggest banks because losses will exceed assets, threatening to push them into bankruptcy. The banks could be privatized again in two or three years, Roubini said. The professor reiterated his prediction that U.S. financial losses will more than triple to $3.6 trillion and that global equities will fall 20 percent this year from current levels.

“Nobody’s in favor of long-term ownership of the U.S. banking system by the government, but if you don’t do it this way, you end up like Japan where you kept alive for a decade zombie banks that were never restructured,” he said. “That’s going to be much worse. It’s better to clean it up, nationalize it and sell it to the private sector.” Japanese policy makers hesitated in addressing a banking crisis in the 1990s and then struggled to revive growth and fight deflation in what is known as the “Lost Decade.”

Roubini recommended holding cash or short-term government debt and said high-yield bonds are cheap relative to U.S. stocks. In July 2006, Roubini predicted the financial crisis. In February of last year, he forecast a “catastrophic” meltdown that central bankers would fail to prevent, leading to the bankruptcy of large banks with mortgage holdings and a “sharp drop” in equities. Since then, Bear Stearns Cos. was forced into a sale and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. went bankrupt, prompting banks to hoard cash and depriving businesses and households of access to capital.

The world’s biggest economies are sliding deeper into recession as the fall-out from the global financial crisis hobbles manufacturing output and punctures consumer spending from New York to Beijing. The U.S. economy probably contracted at 5.5 percent pace in the fourth quarter, the fastest in 26 years, a survey of economists showed."
- http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aryXdRCs.Tow&refer=home

Republicans Vote Against Stimulus Plan

Washington (CNN) "House Republicans, above in caucus, voted
unanimously against the President's proposed stimulation plan."
And they'll wonder why the GOP will be the minority party for the next 30 years...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Daily "Near You?"

Bristol, United Kingdom. Thanks for stopping by.

Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost

Albert Einstein, "Only Two Ways to Live Your Life"

A Look to the Heavens

"The APEX Telescope in Chile has produced a spectacular, high-resolution image of jets and lobes emanating from the supermassive black hole at the center of Centaurus A, our nearest giant galaxy. The galaxy is located 13 million light years from Earth and is actually the combination of an elliptical galaxy merging with a spiral galaxy. It has a very active star forming region and is a strong source of radio radiation emitted in the form of jets.

The image is the first taken of the black hole at submillimeter wavelengths, revealing the radio jets of subatomic particles being ejected at about half the speed of light. The lobes north and south of the central dust disc can also be seen. The glow to the lower right of the galaxy is the shockwave created by the lobe colliding with the surrounding gas. The image is a composite made up of images taken with different instruments at different wavelengths. The Chandra X-ray Observatory imaged X-ray wavelengths, and the MPG/ESO Telescope brought out the background stars and dust disc."
- http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/

Why Do We Get Sleepy?

"Scientists know we need sleep, but they don't know exactly why, and they've been pretty clueless about how the brain decides when to sleep. Some of the mystery has been put to rest. A new study of mice finds that brain cells called astrocytes fuel the urge to sleep by releasing adenosine, a chemical known to have sleep-inducing effects that can be inhibited by caffeine. The longer a person or animal is awake, the stronger the urge to sleep becomes. This is known as sleep pressure. Prior studies pointed to adenosine as a trigger for sleep pressure. The chemical accumulates in the brain during waking hours, eventually helping to stimulate the unique patterns of brain activity that occur during sleep. The new study found "adenosine from astrocytes clearly regulates sleep pressure," said study team member Michael Halassa of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.

It is the first time a non-neuronal cell in the brain has been shown to influence behavior, Halassa said. Unlike neurons, astrocytes do not fire electrical spikes, and they are often thought of as simply support cells. "This research could lead to better drugs for inducing sleep when it is needed, and for staving off sleep when it is dangerous," said Merrill Mitler of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the federally funded National Institutes of Health. The research is detailed today in the journal Neuron.

The scientists flipped a genetic switch in the mice to block the release of adenosine and other chemicals from astrocytes. The researchers then deprived the mice of sleep for short periods, and evaluated them with behavioral tests and by recording brain activity. Mice subjected to the genetic blockade exhibited less sleep pressure than control mice. Following sleep deprivation, they did not need as much compensatory sleep, and during the early phases of sleep , they had patterns of brain activity consistent with low sleep pressure. Further studies of the newfound sleep mechanism in mice could help reveal why people need sleep at all, the scientists said."

- http://www.livescience.com/health/090128-why-sleepy.html

"Sauntered Vaguely Downward"

"Anyone reading this blog might be forgiven for thinking that I’m rabidly anti-human. A species traitor I may be, in some respects, but I really don’t believe that humankind is inherently evil.

The evil things we do are of course distinct from a natural state of evil, as it were. The two are entirely different.

Take a new born human child, and tell him for at least 6,000 years that she’s base, filthy, born to commit evil and in fact has evil built in to the nature of hir being. Surprise, surprise when that child not only fulfills the expectation of evil, but goes on to exceed that expectation.

So it is with humans – told from cradle to cradle that we’re sinful creatures (and separate, moreover, from the rest of creation) in need of a saviour, and behold, the prophecy comes true.

Humanity is not born evil. We are not sinful creatures who stand in need of divine rescuing. We have taken a wrong turning in our journey, this I see is true. One of the mistakes we made was accepting the patronage of saviour gods.

We are animals. When we still listened to our bodies, and learnt from the rest of creation – sometimes seen or envisioned as the Goddess – we were as inherently ‘good’ as any other animal, living embedded in the warp and weft of our Mother.

We’ve not so much fallen as sauntered vaguely downwards to the place where we now stand upon the almost-ruins of our home, dioxins in every mother’s breast milk and toxins in the very land, sea and sky we claim to revere, people dying from cancers directly caused by our degrading and toxifying of the environment, the rest of nature limping on crippled feet in our wake, and stupidly asking ourselves how we could have come to this.

It is not the saving grace of a father god sacrificing his son that we stand in need of, now. We stand in need – in dire need – of a waking-up, a rousing from the hypnotic state we’ve bumbled around in for thousands of years. A clearing of the mind and of the vision before the mass media assimilates us all.
Will we get there? Who can say?
Certainly not me."
- Aquila Ka Hecate, http://aquilakahecate.blogspot.com/
Aquila Ka Hecate is an Anarcho-Primitivist Shaman from Johannesburg, South Aftrica.

"How It Really Is"

"Oetzi" the Iceman: "Death from Multiple Attacks"

“Oetzi, the 5,000-year old man whose frozen body was discovered in a glacier in the Alps in 1991, may have been attacked not once but twice in his final few days, German researchers said on Wednesday. It was known that Oetzi, the oldest ice mummy ever found, was shot in the back with an arrow but scientists at Munich's LMU university have now concluded that he may have survived this, if only for a few minutes or hours at most. And in addition to his being whacked with a blunt object just before Oetzi's 46-year existence in the Neolithic Age ended, he also sustained a nasty gash in his hand several days earlier, the LMU said.

"We are now able to make the first assertions as to the age and chronology of the injuries," said Professor Andreas Nerlich, who led the study. "It is now clear that Oetzi endured at least two events resulting in injury in his last days, which may imply two separate attacks." The new research, done together with the Institute for Pathology in Bolzano, Italy, is also giving science critical new information about life more than five millennia ago, not least from his equipment, the LMU said. His copper axe, for example, reveals that metalworking was already much more advanced in that era than was previously assumed, and his body gives many details as to his diet and state of health.

A recent study by researchers at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich and published in Intensive Care Medicine concludes that Ötzi was attacked at least twice during his final few days of life. He had an "older" wound (on his hand where there was a deep and severe gash) and two "newer" wounds (both on his back: the site where the arrow struck him and a bruised area nearby where he was struck by a blunt object).

According to the researchers who analyzed previous studies and conducted their own, the condition of the hand wound "clearly indicated that the laceration must have been survived for at least several days." A few days later, he died after he was shot with an arrow. The researchers write that the two back wounds "suggest a wound age of the back lesions of less than few hours survival time." For a long time, scientists believed that the Iceman was a hunter who was killed by another hunter's arrow in a mountain valley and managed to climb up the mountain where he died. The primary evidence for this theory was the type of plant material found in his stomach which suggested that he had been in a specific mountain valley. However, a recent CAT-scan revealed that his arrow wound involved a major artery. According to Bolzano Hospital pathologist Eduard Egarter Vigl (who has studied the Iceman over the years), this indicates that he pretty much died very near to where he was attacked and wounded, since he would not have been able to take even one step before the enormous loss of blood from such a wound killed him. Oetzi's body was found in an astonishing state of preservation in the eastern Alps near the Austrian-Italian border in 1991 thanks to 5,000 years in the deep freeze.”
- http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/01/28/oetzi-iceman-death.html

100,000 Year Impact of Climate Change

"According to a simulation of planetary warming trends, failure to drastically cut greenhouse gas pollution within the next half century could choke Earth's oceans for the next 100,000 years. With warmer temperatures reducing its ability to absorb oxygen, much of the water would become barren and lifeless. Oceanic food chains could be profoundly disrupted. "What mankind does for the next several decades will play a large role in climate on Earth over the next tens of thousands of years," said geochemist Gary Shaffer of the University of Copenhagen.

This is because, according to climate scientists, it will take at least that long for natural processes to remove fossil fuel emissions from the atmosphere, giving long-term consequences to humanity's short-term habits. Shaffer's team modeled two likely sets of emissions, as forecast by the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Under the first, known as the B1 scenario, nations move relatively rapidly towards a carbon-neutral global economy, with greenhouse emissions peaking by 2050. This would result in circa-2100 temperatures about 6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than now. Though terrestrially dramatic, such a rise would, according to Shaffer's calculations, produce long-term ocean warming peaking in several thousand years at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Such a rise would fall well within the range of ocean adaptation. But if countries continue to burn fossil fuels until they've become prohibitively expensive — the A2, or "business-as-usual" scenario — then atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will increase until the century's end. Planetary temperature could rise by 12 degrees Fahrenheit within that time, triggering oceanic warming of at least 5 degrees Fahrenheit over the next several thousand years. Current ocean ecosystems would be unable to sustain themselves.

"Oxygen minimum zones could expand by 10 or 20 times. And the ocean would, in addition to having low oxygen, have a very different ecosystem," said Shaffer, lead author on the study published Sunday in Nature Geoscience. "It would affect the ability of the ocean to produce fish, shellfish, the types of things that people eat. It's not just oxygen: it's a switch in ecosystem structure."

As with any simulation, uncertainty surrounds the ability of Shaffer's model, developed by the Danish Center for Earth System Science, to precisely anticipate the outcome of the planet's complex and intertwined geological, biological and meteorological processes. According to Andreas Schmittner, an Oregon State University geochemist and co-author of a study that simulated ocean oxygen levels for the next 2,000 years, Shaffer's team's model relies on "a number of strong assumptions." "It does not simulate changes in ocean circulation," he said. "The assumptions made to account for ocean circulation are therefore questionable."

Shaffer acknowledged that the simulation was relatively low-resolution compared to those used for near-future, locale-specific predictions. But when primed with historical climate data, the model successfully reproduced climate changes measured since 1765. It also paralleled Schmittner's comparatively short-term projections. "It reemphasizes the valid point that global warming will lead to a decrease in ocean oxygen levels with potentially adverse consequences for marine life," said Schmittner.

University of Virginia marine biologist Robert Diaz, an expert on oceanic dead zones, said the "results are are exactly in line with what I would expect for long-term patterns in ocean oxygen." Shaffer's team assumes that ocean circulation will be weakened by increases in high-latitude temperatures and rainfall: Because water becomes less dense as it warms, surface layers will be slow to sink, delaying the normal cycle of surface turnover and oxygen absorption. This is, Shaffer acknowledged, by no means certain. The converse effect — an acceleration of surface sinking and circulation — does not appear to have taken place when the last Ice Age chilled planetary waters. But even without a circulation slowdown, warm waters will absorb less oxygen, and the effects could be catastrophic.

Depleted surface life, said Shaffer, will reduce the amount of nutrients falling to deep waters and the ocean floor. Since most bacteria that break down organic material require oxygen, they'd be replaced by nitrate- and phosphorus-fueled bacteria. The plankton that normally feed on them — and form the basis of marine food chains — would starve. The simulation also makes another assumption: that methane ice now buried under ocean sediments won't melt. Should that happen, some of the methane — a potent greenhouse gas — would bond with free oxygen, further choking oceans. The rest of it would bubble into the atmosphere, further warming Earth. Neither do Shaffer's projections account for the affects of ocean acidification produced by carbon dioxide-saturated water — a phenomenon that, independently of temperature changes, wreak havoc on coral reefs, crustaceans and shellfish. "You put those together and you have a potent mix," he said.
- Brandon Keim, http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/01/futureoceans.html

Jean-Luc Picard


"Someone once told me that time is a predator that
stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe
that time is a companion who goes with us on the
journey, that reminds us to cherish every moment
because they'll never come again. What we leave
behind is not as important as how we live it.
After all, Number One, we're only mortal."

- Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Kahlil Gibran, "On Children", Re-Post

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

-Kahlil Gibran, "On Children"

Yes, that's me on the day my son was born. On the right are him and his fiancee, who are getting married next month. Where did the time go? It really does go by faster as you age, weeks and months vanish, seasons seem like weeks, irreplacable, precious, then gone forever. That's the natural order in the "Circle of Life", though most of us rarely think about it in that way. But sometimes a life event, like their upcoming marriage, stops you in your tracks, and you think deeply, and realize that, for all the heartaches, struggles and pain of our daily lives, the countless frustrations, grief in losing others we love, the great successes and the crushing failures- in the end it was all worth it. And the next generation carries Life forward, to places we can't go, and that, too, is as it should be, and good, very, very good...