May 11, 2013 archive

On This Day In History May 11

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

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May 11 is the 131st day of the year (132nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 234 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1934, a massive storm sends millions of tons of topsoil flying from across the parched Great Plains region of the United States as far east as New York, Boston and Atlanta.

At the time the Great Plains were settled in the mid-1800s, the land was covered by prairie grass, which held moisture in the earth and kept most of the soil from blowing away even during dry spells. By the early 20th century, however, farmers had plowed under much of the grass to create fields. The U.S. entry into World War I in 1917 caused a great need for wheat, and farms began to push their fields to the limit, plowing under more and more grassland with the newly invented tractor. The plowing continued after the war, when the introduction of even more powerful gasoline tractors sped up the process. During the 1920s, wheat production increased by 300 percent, causing a glut in the market by 1931.

The Dust Bowl, or the Dirty Thirties, was a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands from 1930 to 1936 (in some areas until 1940). The phenomenon was caused by severe drought coupled with decades of extensive farming without crop rotation, fallow fields, cover crops or other techniques to prevent erosion. Deep plowing of the virgin topsoil of the Great Plains had displaced the natural deep-rooted grasses that normally kept the soil in place and trapped moisture even during periods of drought and high winds.

During the drought of the 1930s, without natural anchors to keep the soil in place, it dried, turned to dust, and blew away eastward and southward in large dark clouds. At times the clouds blackened the sky reaching all the way to East Coast cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. Much of the soil ended up deposited in the Atlantic Ocean, carried by prevailing winds, which were in part created by the dry and bare soil conditions. These immense dust storms-given names such as “Black Blizzards” and “Black Rollers”-often reduced visibility to a few feet (around a meter). The Dust Bowl affected 100,000,000 acres (400,000 km2), centered on the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and adjacent parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas.

Millions of acres of farmland became useless, and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes; many of these families (often known as “Okies”, since so many came from Oklahoma) migrated to California and other states, where they found economic conditions little better during the Great Depression than those they had left. Owning no land, many became migrant workers who traveled from farm to farm to pick fruit and other crops at starvation wages. Author John Steinbeck [ later wrote The Grapes of Wrath, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and Of Mice and Men, about such people.

Underestimating those on the fringes…

This is the first report I have seen that is a little more than canned hash on the horrors faced by Michelle Knight in her still young life.

ELIZABETH SMART, kidnapped in 2002 at the age of 14 and rescued nine months later, has said that her strong family relationships and community ties helped her heal from the horrors inflicted by her abductors.

So I feel great worry for Michelle Knight’s recovery.

Well you might.

Left unspoken and unanalyzed is the treatment by cops and prosecutors and judges – in your name, that preceded the dozen years of captivity and brutalizing by a psychopath.

“I just wish that my daughter would reach out [to me] to let me know she’s there,” Barbara Knight told the Today show Wednesday.

Lord, the cluelessness of a woman who expects her daughter, who has been to hell and back, to make the first effort at reunification. And who presumes her daughter is “angry at the world,” as if she’s some kind of snippy adolescent.

The rest of us can be released because we have identified the designated scapegoat.

Charlie Gallagher reminded me [of another case] when I called to chat with him about the Cleveland case. Gallagher is the former assistant district attorney who prosecuted Gary “House of Horrors” Heidnik, who kidnapped, raped and tortured six women in his North Philly basement.

“Of those women, only one was reported missing by her family,” says Gallagher. “The rest lived on the streets. They weren’t going to be missed.”

Michelle Knight was not living on the streets, was not even allowed to be counted among the missing, was apparently tortured further by her psychopath captor for the lack of concern for her absence compared with the others.

This reminds me of a vaguely remembered memo by an innocent man freed from prison after many years by evidence that needed only to be examined.

After the celebrations ended and the balloons were all popped and the bands stopped playing and the crowds dispersed, the man was left isolated in a small, barren apartment with little to occupy a now lonely, friendless, restricted and useless life.  He began to have thoughts he was worse off than when he was in prison.

Best,  Terry

Late Night Karaoke

Not the sucrose we ordered III

So, to my mind, here’s where we get down to the nitty gritty of animal intelligence.  Reflexes.  Built-in, hard-core reflexes.  You might think of them as the prototypical, monosynaptic “knee-jerk”, in which the doctor lightly hammers the tendon below your kneecap, which stretches specific muscular stretch receptors, which send a signal to the spine and back to “stiffen up,” mainly for automatic postural purposes outside of your cognitive grasp.  Hence the leg kick, outside of your normal cognitive grasp. The knee-jerk reflex is simply a way for you to keep upright without your having to think about it, an unexpected load occurs on one side, boom, you’re good.

Now, there are reflexes, and there are reflexes, depending on your definition, the knee-jerk being a fairly low-level event.  Then there are locomotor reflexes, involving multiple oscillators, for example, that aid walking, as opposed to just standing upright, even though both levels are integrated.  Within this level are neuronal circuits controlling ambles, trots, gallops, etc., whether in horse or turtle or man.  So-called “fictive locomotion” studies, wherein neuronal recordings from dismembered turtles on ice are made, demonstrate this.  

Then the coordination of reflexes occurs at the level of “fixed action pattern,” or what others preferred to call “modal action patterns,” because while reliable, the exact order of behavior is not engraved in stone.  Classic examples from Tinbergen and Lorenz include seagull egg-rolling-toward-the-nest and following behavior when, e.g., neonatal ducklings imprint upon any available moving object, even if that object is no more endearing than a dangling and moving tennis shoe, as if it were a parental device.

Next up in the hierarchy of reflexes from Tinbergen et al is Timberlake’s Behavior System, which is really a mash-up of Tinbergen and Pavlov, even tho’ Joe Steinmetz, one of the great bunny eye-blink researchers of all time, and a great chairperson, said with some admiration in his eyes that Timberlake was a “maverick.”  Ho, ho, ho, Joe.  I love you, but he’s only a maverick to you strict Pavlovians.  Not to me.  

In Timberlake’s system of reflexes, animals gravitate toward their central topics of needs:  Feeding, Flying, Fucking, Orientation/Migration, etc., and evocation of a system, Feeding, Parenting, Defense, e.g.,  results in some semi-orderly evocation of motivational states that orchestrate subsequent behavior sub-routines of reflexes, such as, food handling and ingestion, focal search for food, and more global searches.  

I studied the next level of reflex, what I now provisionally call the global action pattern, one reflex that functions over not instances, or minutes, or hours, but days.  And nothing will do but an example to describe it.

But this following description, I believe, goes a long way toward describing Monsieur Greer’s point.  

Random Japan

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A team of Japanese researchers has used an MRI to “successfully decode dreams by measuring brain activity during sleep.” It’s the first time scientists anywhere have been able to “read dreams.”

A cinema in Nagoya is planning to go “4-D” by allowing moviegoers to “experience wind, sprays of water, scents, light, fog and even soap bubbles.” We’re particularly excited about the bubbles.

After objections from the municipal labor union, officials in Nara ditched a plan to keep tabs on city workers via an ID authentication system “based on blood vein configuration.”

A letter carrier in Chiba who was arrested for stealing 2,100 pieces of mail said she did it because of “stress over her work.”

Obama: Privacy For Me But Not For Thee

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

SOPA Reddit Warrior photo refresh31536000resize_h150resize_w1.jpgThe New York Times revealed in an article by Charles Savage that the Justice Department is preparing legislation that would allow the FBI to wiretap online communications with far greater ease:

The Obama administration is weighing a proposal that would fine companies that do not comply with wiretap orders. An earlier proposal by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would have required all companies to build in this capacity from the outset – a costly mandate that critics worried would stifle tech innovation and small businesses.

Attorney Albert Gidari Jr., who specializes in representing technology companies, told the Times: “We’ll look at lot more like China than America after this.”

Albert Gidari Jr., who represents technology companies on law enforcement matters, told the NYT, “We’ll look a lot more like China than America after this.” Gidari further stated, “that if the United States started imposing fines on foreign Internet firms, it would encourage other countries, some of which may be looking for political dissidents, to penalize American companies if they refused to turn over users’ information.”

The Raw Story notes:

It’s not clear yet if the White House will send this proposal to Congress, but if they do it’s sure to ignite another major debate on Internet freedom and privacy rights not unlike the struggle over network neutrality and the push-back against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

And according to the Department of Justice, “warrants? we don’t need no stinking warrants:”

The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI believe they don’t need a search warrant to review Americans’ e-mails, Facebook chats, Twitter direct messages, and other private files, internal documents reveal.

Government documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union and provided to CNET show a split over electronic privacy rights within the Obama administration, with Justice Department prosecutors and investigators privately insisting they’re not legally required to obtain search warrants for e-mail. The IRS, on the other hand, publicly said last month that it would abandon a controversial policy that claimed it could get warrantless access to e-mail correspondence.

The Fourth Amendment is apparently irrelevant to Mr. Constitutional Law Professor.

The fight to protect the Constitution from Barack Obama and his Justice Department continues.

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Dukkah: Nut and Spice Mixes for Seasoning and Snacking

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I gave you a recipe for dukkah, a Middle Eastern nut and spice mix, a few weeks ago. In that recipe I sprinkled it over the ingredients in a rice bowl. I’d made much more dukkah than the recipe called for, and found myself snacking on it until I ran out. Now it’s my favorite snack. I sprinkle some into my hand or into a ramekin and eat it by the pinch. Dukkah has so many of the attributes of a snack food – crunch, a little bit of salt (as opposed to a lot of salt), spice. I realized that very little salt is required when the salt is combined with spices and ground or chopped nuts and seeds to give your palate that hit of snack-food pleasure. And it occurred to me that dukkah could also fit the bill as a low-sodium seasoning for all sorts of dishes.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Peanut Dukkah

This dukkah is great with vegetables and with pita, and on its own as a snack.

Dukkah-Dusted Sand Dabs

This dukkah recipe can stand in for flour as a coating for fried fish or vegetables.

Pumpkin Seed Dukkah

This mildly spicy, nutty dukkah is good with Mexican food, particularly in quesadillas.

Bruschetta With Chard or Spinach, Poached Egg and Dukkah

This recipe adds coconut to the dukkah, to introduce some sweetness to the nutty/spicy mix.

Hazelnut Dukkah With Fennel Seeds and Mint or Thyme

Some versions of dukkah, like this one, are herbal as well as spicy.

Friday Night at the Movies

The Secret of the Seven Sisters

Al Jazeera

26 Apr 2013 13:12

On August 28, 1928, in the Scottish highlands, began the secret story of oil.

Three men had an appointment at Achnacarry Castle – a Dutchman, an American and an Englishman.

Four others soon joined them, and they came to be known as the Seven Sisters – the biggest oil companies in the world.




Professional groups and others file amicus brief in Maine equality appeal

 photo maines_zpscff443b4.jpgSeveral social welfare groups have joined an amicus brief in the Case of Doe v. RSU 26 (formerly the Orono School District), which has been appealed to the Maine Supreme Court.  The Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Maine Chapter of National Association of Social Workers and the Maine Psychological Association have joined with the Trans Youth Equality Foundation, the Maine Women’s Lobby, and the Downeast and Southern Maine chapters of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to file a brief in the case, which involves a transgender girl (now publicly identified as Nicole Maines) who was forced to stop using the girl’s restroom at her Orono elementary school in 2007.

When she was in the fifth grade, Susan Doe (as she is identified in the suit), was forced to use a separate, staff-only restroom after the grandfather of another (male) student complained that she was a boy and shouldn’t be allowed to use the girls’ restroom.

Nicole Maines has identified as a girl from a very young age and dressed, acted, and looked like a girl.  She is now 16.

The thought of me being a boy just kind of makes me cringe.  I couldn’t do it.  So I would always wear the turtleneck shirt as long hair.  I was always into the girl characters of everything.  That’s how I rolled.  I was like, yeah, I’m a girl.  I don’t think I could be a boy.

–Nicole Maines, 2011