Thursday, January 31, 2008
Travel agency OssiUrlaub.de said it would start taking bookings from Friday for a trial nudist day trip from the eastern German town of Erfurt to the popular Baltic Sea resort of Usedom, planned for July 5 and costing $735.
Canadian surgeons have made a serendipitous discovery. While using deep brain stimulation to try suppressing the appetite of a morbidly obese patient, they inadvertently evoked in the patient vivid autobiographical memories of an event that had taken place more than 30 years previously. They also found that the electrical stimulation improved the patient's performance on associative memory tasks.
These unexpected findings raise the possibility that deep brain stimulation could be used to treat patients with Alzheimer's Disease, and the research team is now beginning a small clinical trial involving 6 patients who have been diagnosed with that condition.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an invasive technique involving the implantation of an array of electrodes into the brain. The implant, which is usually attached by thin wires to a small battery which is itself implanted under the skin near the collarbone, acts as a " brain pacemaker" - it emits regular electrical pulses, which activate or inhibit specific regions of the brain.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
There is, I think, a grace that comes by violence from the gods
seated upon the dread bench of the helmsman.
These two lines, which appear early on in Agamemnon, the first play of the Oresteia trilogy, are extraordinarily pertinent to our overall understanding and interpretation of this particular play, because they simultaneously resurrect the underlying theme of justice and reflect the semantic ambiguities, which are so prevalent throughout the play. We are even warranted in thinking of this passage as a key, permitting us to enter one of the rooms—one of the interpretations—that has been built up after a careful and exhaustive study of this play. We must, however, be guarded against and self-critical towards the themes, meanings, and interpretations we extract from the play, because our modernist lens often distorts the true and essential character of the play—with regards to the historical context it was originally written and meant for. That said it is necessary to first dissect the passage into two significant parts, before we move onto an overall and overarching interpretation and explanation of what the play is about: both explicitly and implicitly.
The first important part of the passage that needs to be addressed is found in the string of words 'a grace that comes by violence'. This phrase immediately triggers a lexical hiccup in our minds, since 'grace', which roughly defined is an endowment of fortune/favor, usually by divine entities, is not commonly associated with coming about through the means of violence and calamity. In Agamemnon, however, this idea of suffering being for the betterment of mankind is a repeated conviction. In lines 176-178 it is suggested that it is the ignorant who, having disobeyed the gods' will, become disfavorably familiar with suffering—the gods' preferred method of teaching man a lesson, to hopefully be learned from. “Justice always defeats Hybris in the end”, says Hesiod in a passage from Works and Days (218f.), and goes on to say, “it is only the foolish man who learns by suffering.” Thus, as Hugh Lloyd-Jones puts it, in summation “the wise man, it is implied, understands that it is foolish to defy the will of Zeus; the foolish man who fails to understand when he is warned, will learn only when disaster teaches him” (p. 38). If Lloyd-Jones is correct in his interpretation of this passage—and I will concede that he is, based on the grounds of his own scholarly dedication to and familiarity with the topic in general and this play in particular, of which I, confessedly, lack excessively—then it is this concept of justice that we must base the rest of our analysis of the play upon. Out of constraint of space I will just briefly mention one important question that this concept of justice contributes to and complexifies.
One of the central questions that is often asked by scholars who have read the play concerns Agamemnon's guilt, more pointedly, is Agemnon responsible for the fate that befalls him, or is he merely an ill-fated puppet helplessly serving and fulfilling the will of the gods? If Lloyd-Jones' interpretation of Aeschylus' concept of justice is correct, that suffering/misfortune occurs by disobeying the will of the gods, then it would seem Agamemnon suffered needlessly, and was merely a sacrificial pawn in the gods' or, more accurately, Zeus' divine strategy. Is this, then, the correct interpretation of the interaction between divine and human justice? That the former trumps the interests of the latter, for the goodness and ultimate betterment of the latter? It is difficult to say, with confidence, that this is the case, and I unfortunately do not have the luxury of space to elaborate further on what my answer to this particular question is.
The second part of the passage which requires our attention (and is pertinently related to the first part and certainly contributes to our overall understanding of that part) is in the entire second line: 'seated upon the dread bench of the helmsman'. According to our author, the “helmsman's bench” is a metaphor for “the seat of power”, which implies that the gods are in charge of the reigns of the universe and thus, to borrow a metaphor from Aeschylus, are also in control of the (motivating) bit that rests in the mouths of man (and as the play reveals, man and woman alike are only all too eager to place the responsibility of their actions, decisions, and behaviors into the laps of the gods). But doesn't this conflict with the notion mentioned earlier that it is the fools who suffer whilst the wise men prosper? It would seem so, for if the gods are the captains behind the helm of destiny, what effect, if any, do the spontaneous decisions, which arise from man's conviction of free will, play on the outcomes of his ultimate fate?
These are difficult questions to answer and are made even more enigmatic by the limited means we have available to aid us in our endeavor to try and address these questions with the subtle clues that we uncover. Perhaps the reason there seems to be no clear cut answer to our questions is owed to the fact that the ancient Greeks themselves found these questions as puzzling as we ourselves do and didn't have answers, so much as opinions. My knowledge of ancient Greek culture is extremely limited, but perhaps they were just as unsure about the dynamic interaction between a man's fate and a gods' will, as we ourselves are when we try to uncover how, exactly, they saw and interpreted this dynamic. If this is indeed the case then the pursuit of answers to these deep seeded questions is a frivolous affair, because the answers we seek are, ironically, the very questions that we are asking when we read plays such as the Agamemnon (space provided to recollect the tatters of your mind which has now been blown).
Parag Khanna, of the New American Foundation thinks so. "Waving Goodbye to Hegemony"
Via the NYtimes Magazine:
At best, America's unipolar moment lasted through the 1990s, but that was also a decade adrift. The post-cold-war "peace dividend" was never converted into a global liberal order under American leadership.
So now, rather than bestriding the globe, we are competing -- and losing -- in a geopolitical marketplace alongside the world's other superpowers: the European Union and China. This is geopolitics in the 21st century: the new Big Three. Not Russia, an increasingly depopulated expanse run by Gazprom.gov; not an incoherent Islam embroiled in internal wars; and not India, lagging decades behind China in both development and strategic appetite. The Big Three make the rules -- their own rules -- without any one of them dominating. And the others are left to choose their suitors in this post-American world.
The more we appreciate the differences among the American, European and Chinese worldviews, the more we will see the planetary stakes of the new global game. Previous eras of balance of power have been among European powers sharing a common culture. The cold war, too, was not truly an "East-West" struggle; it remained essentially a contest over Europe. What we have today, for the first time in history, is a global, multicivilizational, multipolar battle.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.”It's always funny to observe just how much republicans and terrorists have in common. Terrorists want to institute shar'ia into their modern laws and Huckabee wants to institute what is essentially Christian shar'ia into ours...and this particular issue is not the only issue that both groups share a common ideology on. But it's certainly enough to make me scared of both.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Facebook has been asked to remove the Scrabulous game from its website by the makers of Scrabble.
The Facebook add-on has proved hugely popular on the social network site and regularly racks up more than 500,000 daily users.
Lawyers for toy makers Hasbro and Mattel say Scrabulous infringes their copyright on the board-based word game.
The move has sparked protests by regular fans of Scrabulous keen to keep the add-on running.
In his original study Dr Wedekind recruited female volunteers to sniff men's three-day-old T-shirts and rate them for attractiveness. He then analysed the men's and women's DNA, looking in particular at the genes that build a part of the immune system known as the major histocompatability complex (MHC). Dr Wedekind knew, from studies on mice, that besides fending off infection, the MHC has a role in sexual attractiveness. It changes odours in ways the mice can detect (with mice, the odours are in the urine), and that detection is translated into preferences for particular mates. What is true for mice is often true for men, so he had a punt on the idea that the MHC might affect the smell of human sweat, as well.
It did. Women preferred T-shirts from men whose MHC was most different from their own. What was more, women with similar MHCs favoured the use of similar commercial perfumes. This suggests that the role of such perfumes may be to flag up the underlying body scent rather than mask it, as a more traditional view of the aesthetics of body odour might suggest.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
Sexism Sill Rears Its Ugly Head, Even Right Under Our Noses and On the Very Front of Our Cereal Boxes
On a tangential (to the sexist charge) note, of all the cereal characters that you can think of, who do you think would be, in say, a steel-caged-death-match, the ultimate victor? I have my own opinion, but Id be interested in hearing some of yours. Post in the comments section below.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Friday, January 11, 2008
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Mrs. Clinton won a narrow victory in New Hampshire for four reasons. First, her campaign made a smart decision at its start to target women Democrats, especially single women. It has been made part of the warp and woof of her campaign everywhere. This focus didn't pay off in Iowa, but it did in New Hampshire.
Second, she had two powerful personal moments. The first came in the ABC debate on Saturday, when WMUR TV's Scott Spradling asked why voters were "hesitating on the likeability issue, where they seem to like Barack Obama more." Mrs. Clinton's self-deprecating response -- "Well, that hurts my feelings" -- was followed by a playful "But I'll try to go on."
You couldn't help but smile. It reminded Democrats what they occasionally like about her. Then Mr. Obama followed with a needless and dismissive, "You're likable enough, Hillary."Her remarks helped wash away the memory of her angry replies to attacks at the debate's start. His trash talking was an unattractive carryover from his days playing pickup basketball at Harvard, and capped a mediocre night.
The other personal moment came on Monday, when a woman in Portsmouth asked her "how do you do it?" Mrs. Clinton's emotional reply was powerful and warm. Voters rarely see her in such a spontaneous moment. It was humanizing and appealing. And unlike her often contrived and calculated attempts to appear down-to-earth, this was real.
Third, the Clintons began -- at first not very artfully -- to raise questions about the fitness for the Oval Office of a first-term senator with no real accomplishments or
Former President Bill Clinton hit a nerve by drawing attention to Mr. Obama's conflicting statements on Iraq. There's more -- and more powerful -- material available. Mr. Obama has failed to rise to leadership on a single major issue in the Senate. In the Illinois legislature, he had a habit of ducking major issues, voting "present" on bills important to many Democratic interest groups, like abortion-rights and gun-control advocates. He is often lazy, given to misstatements and exaggerations and, when he doesn't know the answer, too ready to try to bluff his way through.
For someone who talks about a new, positive style of politics and pledges to be true to his word, Mr. Obama too often practices the old style of politics, saying one thing and doing another. He won't escape criticism on all this easily. But the messenger and the message need to be better before the Clintons can get all this across. Hitting Mr. Obama on his elementary school essays won't cut it.
The fourth and biggest reason why Mrs. Clinton won two nights ago is that, while Mr. Obama can draw on the deep doubts of many Democrats about Mrs. Clinton, he can't close out the argument. Mr. Obama is an inspiring figure playing a historical role, but that's not enough to push aside the former First Lady and senator from New York. She's an historic figure, too. When it comes to making the case against Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama comes across as a vitamin-starved Adlai Stevenson. His rhetoric, while eloquent and moving at times, has been too often light as air.
Continue reading op-ed here
Via the BBC:
US President George W Bush has said Israel must end occupation of Arab land taken in 1967 so that a viable Palestinian state can be created.
He also urged a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue which would involve paying compensation.
This is thought to be the first time Mr Bush has publicly pressed the Israelis to give up occupied land.
And here's a great quote showing that Bush says what he means and means what he says:
"I can press when there needs to be pressed; I can hold hands when there needs to be—hold hands."—on how he can contribute to the Middle East peace process, Washington, D.C., Jan. 4, 2008
In Perú from Huánuco to Tingo Maria, where the road from the Pacific coast across the Andes finds its way towards the Amazon lowlands. This is near the top of the last mountain pass. From there, soapbox rider can enjoy a vertical 1000 meters of gravity assisted ride.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
I think a number of things are worth mentioning. The first is the overhype that is often directed at and emerges from the Iowa caucauses. Perhaps because political wonks are so eager and excited about the upcoming presidential race they have a tendency to jump to conclusions too early and exaggerate where the candidates stand, (which I think happened with Obama in Iowa). The Iowa system (on the Democratic side) is very different from the rest of the country, so Obama was perhaps the more obvious winner, because independents who may have wanted to vote for someone else, ultimately felt a stronger attraction towards Obama, instead of Hillary. The second thing is that because everyone expected Obama to win in NH, and by big numbers, it is likely that he felt he had inherited the luxury of assurance, which is a dangerous luxury in a presidential race, because it usually means they don't try as hard and are less persasive and passionate in their speeches. Hillary on the other hand appeared to be an early wreck after the Iowa caucus and their was much talk of intercamp disputes and fissures in her camp, adding to the overall feeling that Obama would be the inevitable winner in NH. Another thing worth pointing out is that Iowa signifcantly changed Hillary's approach. She opened up and showed a much more personal side that she had previously been reserving or not exposing, and people responded, as the polls would show, quite positively to this new Hillary. Also the fact that McCain did so well in NH was bad news for Obama, since McCain's main strength came from independent votes which would have, in all likelihood, otherwise gone Obama--votes which he desperately needed to beat Hillary in NH.
Even though I'm biased in favor of Obama I still think his post vote results talk was better than Hillary's, because he seemed unphased by the setback, and turned the attention off of his loss almost effortlessly, and seemed eager to continue his campaign. Hillary was obviously very excited about her win, as would be expected, but I just wasn't...so her speech seemed to lack substance.
By the way, did you happen to notice that there were youthful looking teens in the background of Clinton's NH win speech? You have to assume that was for a political purpose: to make it appear that teens were behind Hillary in NH and not, as is usually the case, Obama.
Anyways this win in NH for Hillary means the race will stay neck and neck between Hillary and Barack for a long time, and it will be much harder to say who will be the victor early on...we're, unfortunately, going to have to be patient and watch what happens without any hints.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Juno can only be described as a witty, wise beyond her years, sardonic teen, who has a decorum of seemingly irrational rationality, in that she thinks she understands the world better than her elders, which objectifies, in her mind, the choices she makes. Unable to go through with having an abortion, after visiting the Women Now clinic, Juno decides to go through with the baby manufacturing process and begins looking for a suitable adoption family. She finds an ad in one of her friend's cheap magazines, a black and white photo of a husband and wife (the former played by Jason Batemen, and the latter Jennifer Garner), and decides to pay them a visit.
Mark and Vanessa (Bateman and Garner), own a manshion in an upscale neighborhood, and though they intially come off as smug and yuppyish, Juno seems satisfied with them. However, as she will soon learn, giving a baby away to a seemingly perfect family isn't as easy as she originally thought it would be.
Halfway through, the movie takes a few winding twists and tempting turns, and finishes with a grand finale kiss, between, well I don't want to spoil it. Anyways I can't really say anymore, without giving away the ending, but I do recommend you go out and see it.
Monday, January 7, 2008
Last semester my friends suggested that I move in with them, I asked if one of them was planning on moving out, (which would explain their suggestion, since it would mean they had free space), but I was then informed that they had a 'storage room' which they could clear out, and I would then be able to move into for a mere $150 a month. I knew that I wasn't going to find a better deal than that, and, moreover, I knew all of the people in the apartment, so I said hell yes, and pretty soon I was cleaning out one hell of a mess. Once all the crap was cleared out the room seemed much bigger than it had originally appeared and living in it seemed like a humanly accomplishable feat. I still didn't have any furniture though, so I spent the majority of my day searching for mattresses, which, because of both economic and spacial limitations, was a search for something in between a single and a double (which would take up the entire room). I searched on craigslist for a while and found a liquidation sale of mattresses advertising singles, twins, doubles, queens, and kings, with prices ranging from $25-$300, and it was only .08 miles away from me. I convinced one of my room mates to accompany me and we set out on what would turn out to be a 2 or more mile trek, which was ultimately unsuccessful as the store manager soon told me that he didn't sell singles or twins because they were profitless products, which were also usually piss stained because, as he put it, "singles and twins are for children" (aka there goes your chance of getting laid buddy). So we metroed back to Atwater (the mall near our house) and I had a strange--later realized to be brilliant-- thought: 'hey, why don't I buy an inflatable mattress?' We decided to look in Canadian Tire, which is sort of the Canadian equivalent for Wall Mart, only they don't hide the fact that most of their products have been returned at least 5 times, and opened that amount if not more, as the worn out strips of tape holding each openable end of the box often evinces. I got lucky though and found that they had 3 inflatable air mattresses, one you just had to plug into the wall and then switch the inflate switch, but that one was actually out of its box, so I decided to go for the one that was foot pump inflated, and had only three strips of tape keeping it sealed.
We brought it home, took bets on whether or not the foot pump was a) still in the mattress and b) if it was, if it would work. Sure enough, against all bets, some group effort, and a lot of gesticulations resembling a country banjo jig, we finally got my mattress inflated.
It fit perfectly, but was 6 inches in length shorter than me, but it was actually surprisingly comfortable.
I got teased by all my room mates because they suggested that I would have to go through that country banjo jig, every time I brought a girl home, in order to inflate it, by which time any sexual chemistry between us would definitely be deflated...
I nabbed one of my room mates broken sliding closet door and macgyvered it into a make-shift desk (using the paint cans as a foundation),
turned an old red blanket into my curtain, and found an abandoned book shelf in an ally near by to fill out the rest of my apt room space. I personally think the room looks great and I couldn't be happier, and I think my room mates are all jealous of my inflatable mattress, because I keep catching them on it. The first night I spent here was pretty rough, since the huge window in my room wasn't yet covered by the curtain I made, and I didn't know how to work the heating, so around 6am I became so cold that I ran and jumped into my room mate nearest mine's bed. I shook and shivered for a good 15 minutes, before I was back to a healthy tepid temperature. The next night I was shown how to work the heating and was thus able to make it through the night (it was actually warm enough that I had to balance my body temperature with the ol' one leg out one leg under the blanket insulation trick to find temperaturelibrium).
The smallness of my room doesn't bother me much at all,
because our apartment is massive, especially the tv room,
so my room will basically be a place for sexing, changing clothes, and sleeping undisturbed. My room mates are all awesome, two guys and two girls--I've tilted the balance in favor of the former (which will hopefully mean that the toilet seat stays up).
Should be a great semester.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Friday, January 4, 2008
Wednesday night's bitter cold came like a giant Sominex for the tree-dwelling iguanas of South Florida.
When the temperature falls below a certain level, the large green lizards drop out of the trees and litter the ground.
They aren't dead. At least a lot of them aren't. It is as if they are in suspended animation, said Robert Yero, park manager at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne.
It was raining iguanas at Bill Baggs Thursday morning. There were a couple underneath buttonwood trees and a third beneath a sea grape. All were about 30 yards from the beach, in the coastal hammock.
"The weight of lies will bring you down
And follow you to every town
Cause nothing happens here that doesn’t happen there
So when you run make sure you run
To something and not away from
Cause lies don’t need an aeroplane to chase you anywhere."
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Pumping fists in circular rowing motion:You can't stop Barack, can't stop Barack
(I sure hope he alters the Apollo Forty Four song to those lyrics for the remainder of his campaign).
Anyways check out the piece by clicking here.
Trial 1: The experiment relies on one of the most predictable traits of rhesus monkeys: their tendency to steal food at every opportunity. Santos discovered this a few years ago when she and her colleagues were running experiments in cognition and tool use involving lemons, and frequently had to quit early because the animals stole all the fruit. The island's monkeys are supplied with food, of course, and they also forage, but to leave so much as a raisin unguarded is to invite larceny; the researchers eat their own lunches inside a locked cage of cyclone fencing.
The theory-of-mind experiment is designed to test whether the monkeys, who obsessively guard their own food, assume that people do the same. If so, Santos reasons, they should prefer to steal from people who are looking away. So Santos enlists Olivia Scheck and Katharine Jan, Yale student volunteers here for the month. They are dressed alike in blue slacks and white shirts to minimize any confounding effect from their appearance—although there are differences Santos cannot do anything about, because Olivia is several inches shorter than Katharine, and blond, where Katharine is dark-haired. In general, Santos has found, rhesus macaques prefer to steal from the shorter person, although top-ranking dominant males sometimes do the opposite, apparently just to show off.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
"Being able to identify a public toilet seat that has just been sat upon (and is thus still warm) is of particular concern to a significant number of the population. Without warning, one can easily sit upon a seat and be instantly repulsed by the trace evidence of a previous user. Conversely, if one is looking for intimate contact with an anonymous stranger without the associated awkwardness of verbal discourse, one could seek out the warm toilet seat. The decision to sit or not to sit is facilitated by the colour change of the seat: orange=cool, yellow=hot. The object retains the heat memory of a previous user and displays it as a visual marker for the next user to assess."