Cluster Map

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pollyanna is back for a visit

Remember Pollyanna?
Pollyanna has become jealous of Titan, who has had a chance to blather at you.  She would like to celebrate Succot with you.
Image result for succoth

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Pollyanna  hopes that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.


Yogi Berra (1925-2015) , one of baseball’s greatest catchers and characters, who as a player was a mainstay of 10 Yankees championship teams and as a manager led both the Yankees and the Mets to the World Series —but who may be more widely known as an ungainly but lovable cultural figure, inspiring a cartoon character and issuing a seemingly limitless supply of unwittingly witty epigrams known as Yogi-isms — died on Tuesday. He was 90.
He may or may not have said all the things attributed to him and he certainly was no fool or dummy.
Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015) played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) (1946–63, 1965), all but the last for the New York Yankees. An 18-time All-Star and 10-time World Series champion as a player, Berra had a career batting average of .285, while compiling 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is one of only five players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. Widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

He was also an astute businessman and a supporter of many causes. He supported the Yogi Berra learning center with the idea to teach children important values such as sportsmanship and dedication, both on and off the baseball diamond.

He is famous for many malapropisms most of which are apocryphal. He himself said "I never said the things I said." We link you  to a collection of quotes or non quotes. RIP Yogi, you exemplified worthy values both on and off the field. Mike Luckavich puts it well:


The Pope is doing a good job of rattling the cages in the US and making people look at themselves.

Cheers Your Holiness! says Pollyanna.


Thanks to Judy who posted this article on Facebook. It appears that Israel is a major focus of research on the medicinal use of cannabis. Researchers come from other countries to work in the relaxed atmosphere. Israel's approach to cannabis is more liberal than those of most countries, but it is far from a free-for-all. The drug remains illegal for recreational use (although there are signs that this may be changing). Israel also refuses to export cannabis to other countries, despite plenty of interest.
Many researchers consider that this kind of balanced approach may be an important factor in why cannabis research in Israel is taken seriously; the herb is treated as a drug that needs to be studied in order to be safely used, just like any other.  We cannot but be reminded of the cancer patient who was told by his oncologist that he could get cannabis to alleviate the effects of the chemotherapy. His reply-"Doctor, I am 56 years old. Where were you 40 years ago when I really needed you?" Titan recently discussed cannabis and Shakespeare.


Of course, we cannot go without a rant. Pollyanna  chooses to rant about the status of women and girls in Burkina Faso. Imagine not knowing that sex could make you pregnant. Imagine finding out how to prevent a pregnancy only after you’d had your third or fourth child. Now imagine being refused contraception – the pill or condoms – just because you don’t have your partner’s or in-law’s permission. This is the reality for many women and girls in Burkina Faso today. Even if they have permission, they may not have enough money to pay for it: emergency contraception can cost as much as one-fifth of your monthly income if you are earning minimum wage. The consequences of these barriers to contraception are unwanted, unplanned and sometimes risky pregnancies. In the end, women and girls are denied the right to make crucial choices that belong to them – an abuse of their sexual and reproductive rights. Pollyanna asks you to open the link and to take action to end this sorry state of affairs. She also would like to link you to an interview on gender equality with  Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the  UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN  Women.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women


Far too often, students and the public, fall into the trap of believing that the conventional wisdom at any time on any subject is the full extent of knowledge about that subject. The truth is that the gaps in our knowledge, be they in medicine or in physics or whatever, are the engine that drives our curiosity and motivates our efforts to carry out research in order to learn more. In a NYTimes article, Jamie Holmes makes the case, with ample references, for the need to emphasize the interface between the unknown and the known. In our experience, the Voyager, Galileo and Cassini spacecraft projects confounded our expectations and the old received wisdom in an wonderful way. Yes, Titan, we hear you chuckling out there...


Pollyanna brings you reviews of the film Ex Machina by Alex Garland. This is a challenging sci-fi that we intend to see.  The Guardian gives us a discussion by Mark Kermode and Metacritic  sums up the reviews of 42 critics, most of them positive.


Tim Parks reviews the latest translation to English of a collection of stories by Antonio Tabucchi (1943-2012) in the NY Review of Books. In the process, as a translator of Tabucchi, he draws on several other books to fill in the background on this interesting writer. Tabucchi was a major figure in the anti-Berlusconi camp. He also would have no truck with the attempts to rehabilitate Italy's Fascist past. Interviewed in La Stampa he declared that: "This correction of history which is frequently produced by a rich, cynical society, totally insensitive to moral questions, is repellent to me … I think that fascism is a great historical wound which is not yet healed." Pollyanna says a great Amen to that.
David Clifford/4SEE/Redux Antonio Tabucchi, Lisbon, Portugal, November 2011


What IF? What if the Earth were made entirely of protons, and the
Moon were made entirely of electrons?

—Noah Williams WOW! Nothing like this has ever come up in What If?
and it is about as destructive as you can imagine, but fun to think


Woody Allen, writing in the New Yorker over 40 years ago, introduces us to a different kind of call girl, with a university degree  and the kind of stimulation that you never find elsewhere.



Saturday, March 28, 2015

Pollyanna goes to Canada and the USA

Pollyanna has gone through an election campaign and its aftermath and now would like to get on with her life and yours. We shall presumably get a right wing government based on 67 out of 120 members and we shall see how well these idiots can really run a country. Maybe. if the public gets a good look at them not hiding behind some scapegoat such as Lapid, we can hope for an awakening. Pollyanna also announces that she, Titan and YandA are going to Canada in order to come out of Egypt and there will be no blogs until late April. Enjoy your respite. All four of them wish all their readers a happy and kosher Pesach. We wish all our Christian friends and readers a Happy Easter.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.


Pollyanna refers you this week to  the African Wildfife Foundation. Their mission:The African Wildlife Foundation, together with the people of Africa, works "to ensure the wildlife and wild lands of Africa will endure forever." In addition to the link given above to the Foundation Web site, Pollyanna offers you also a link to the Charity Watch analysis of the society. We think this charity is  worthy of your support.



Pollyanna mourns terrible and unnecessary loss of life. Seven children of one family died in a fire  in their home in Brooklyn a week ago  Friday. The mother and one daughter who managed to escape are in critical condition in the hospital. The children were taken to Jerusalem for burial. The  father is naturally distraught and no one can blame him. Yet, one must ask why there were no smoke detectors in the living quarters of the home and why a defective hot plate was left on overnight. He was away from his family for a Talmud study retreat. The poor man must be racked with guilt.. This is not the first fire in Brooklyn connected with observance of the Shabbat. It is wonderful to trust in the Lord, but one also needs to be competent. The tragedy has sparked a lively discussion of Shabbath safety. J.J. Goldberg in the Forward points out the dangers in observance. Certainly this is not a time for bashing the Orthodox, but more care should be taken with Sabbath observance.


An Airbus 320 of Germanwings (a subsidiary of Lufthansa) collided with a mountain in  the French Alps on Tuesday while en route to Dusseldorf from Barcelona. All 150 people on board perished. It is one of the worst air disasters in recent history and initially was inexplicable. The aircraft was flying in perfect weather and there were no distress calls from the crew. The plane crashed after an eight-minute descent from 38,000 feet.When French air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane at 10:53 a.m., it was flying at just 6,000 feet and it flew into the mountainside shortly afterward. The terrain in that region reaches heights well over 6,000 feet.

A rescue helicopter over the French Alps near the crash site of the Airbus A320 on Tuesday. Credit Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters
Among the passengers there was a class of 16 German high school students and two teachers, who were returning from a study program near Barcelona. It has now come out that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, locked the captain out of the cockpit and crashed the plane deliberately. It is hard to imagine why and it is doubtful if we shall ever know.

Loss of life is terrible and the loss of young life is the worst. Pollyanna weeps.


British Army pallbearers carried a coffin containing the exhumed remains of King Richard III to his final resting place: a marble tomb next to the altar in Leicester Cathedral. Credit Matt Short/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The skeletal remains of Richard III were reburied this week in Leicester Cathedral. He was killed at Bosworth Field in 1485 in the battle that led to the Tudor dynasty founded by Henry VII. He is still a controversial historic figure and the question of his guilt in the murder of his two nephews has never been fully resolved. In the meantime, we see him laid to rest with the final words of the Archbishop of Canterbury. “We have entrusted our brother Richard to God’s mercy,” he said, “and we now commit his human remains to the ground, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”


Exams that can determine a future for a person are far too often the motivation for massive cheating. Academic and educational institutions try to fight against it,but often the scale is too great. In India a new level of cheating has caused a major scandal to erupt. Family members scaled the walls of buildings in which the exams were held and over 300 people were arrested in Bihar province. Near riots took place as police were forced to evacuate the area by firing in the air. It is obviously a societal issue of massive scale and the government will have to address it, if they really want to preserve the integrity of the education system.
View image on Twitter
India Today         @IndiaToday
300 arrested in anti-cheating operations in 


Former star NFL safety Darren Sharper has pleaded (or plans to plead) guilty or no contest to rape and sexual assault charges involving nine women in four states. But thanks to his plea agreements and parole laws, it appears that he will end up serving only 10 years in prison for all those crimes.
Pollyanna thinks that this is outrageous as do many other progressives including one of his former teammates.
Sharper with attorney Leonard Levine.
One year per rape--give us a break.

BIRTHDAY PAUL ERDOS March 26 1913-September 20, 1996. 

Erdos and Terence Tao
In this 1985 photo taken at the University of Adelaide, Erdős explains a problem to young mathematician Terence Tao — who was 10 years old at the time. Photo by Wikipedia
He was one of the great mathematicians of the last century. During his stay in Israel in the 1950's, we actually heard a lecture from him. He was in many ways an eccentric, but his genius was beyond dispute.



We have promised to keep you up to date on the Dawn-Ceres news.


It appears that Ceres may be spewing water from a geyser as do Europa and Enceladus. If this works out, Ceres will join the club of objects in the solar system that may harbor life or have done so in the past.  Curiosity, the rover on Mars, has come up with more indications that, in the past, Mars may well have supported life. Stay tuned.
Curiosity rover on Mars
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, shown at the John Klein drill site, has found signs of nitrates, compounds that could have provided essential nutrients to living things, if they ever existed on the Red Planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Pollyanna likes this stuff.


Ruth Schuster, writing in Haaretz, tells us that a porcupine, innocently making a burrow in an archeological site, came up with a perfectly preserved oil lamp from the Roman-Byzantine period, about 1,400 years ago. Alas, it was confiscated by human archaeologists before the poor critter could sell it to a collector. Read all about it.
The Byzantine-era lamp found by a porcupine at Horbat Siv (IAA)
The Byzantine-era lamp found by a porcupine at Horbat Siv. Photo by Israel Antiquities Authority


Over the last century various challenges have been raised against Einstein's Theory of General Relativity and they have all failed. The problem is that the theory is not consistent with Quantum Mechanics and one or both will have to be modified. The Grand Unified Theory is the Holy Grail of physics. A new study, led by Tsvi Piran of the Hebrew University, a former student of ours, has provided another buttress for General Relativity in that it shows that photons in a vacuum have the same speed, regardless of their energy. One of the models that tries to reconcile General Relativity and Quantum Theory postulates a "foamy" structure of space-time. The result obtained by Piran and his team shows that if such foam exists it is on an impossibly small scale and the larger bubbles predicted do not exist. Cheers Tsvi!
Photo credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The different energies of light from a gamma ray burst arrived


There is no new What If? this week, so we will go with the latest Solar System prediction by Randall. Indeed, the Mars Rovers are wonderful.

Squirrel astrophysics is also of interest.

Squirrel Plan


We know people who blame Isaac Newton whenever something falls inconveniently. It apparently held in his lifetime as well:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Mar/25/2015

Below the Beltway used to be a feature of the Washington Post and Pollyanna loved it. Gene Weingarten still writes it now and again and here is the latest with which we identify strongly.

WuMo do a great job of making Shakespeare relevant to our times, both with Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet..

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pollyanna gears up for elections

Pollyanna is with you again. Purim and Women's Day have passed and we are now waiting for spring to show up for real. In the meantime we gear up for an election which may or may not lead to a real change in policy and priorities. In this fractious country, no one has ever won a majority and coalitions of one type or the other have always governed, for good or for ill. It appears that the Herzog-Livni ticket is leading and Netanyahu is limping. We shall wait and see.
Haaretz Daily Cartoon - 12/03/15
Note Bibi limping and Sheldon Moneybags pushing

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.


Pollyanna refers you this week to Latet Tikva לתת תקווה or To Give Hope, the National Center for Children's Health Care in Israel. LatetTikva was established in 2002 as a nonprofet organization that aims at giving hope and assistance to children, the ill and the needy, and their families. The Web site shows you a large variety of their  projects and of course has a donation tab. It is a most worthy cause and has the appropriate financial transparency and responsibility.
Being happy at Schneider Children’s Hospital

Being happy at Schneider Children’s Hospital


Pollyanna refers you to a posting by Reporters without Borders. To mark International Women’s Day, Reporters Without Borders pays tribute to ten women journalists from the four corners of the globe, ten women with different backgrounds who have told us about their jobs, their commitment and the specific challenges and dangers they face in the course of their work. Pollyanna recommends strongly that you read this story of these brave women and join her in saluting them. You may click on each image to read the story of the woman shown.
  • Khadija
  • Brankica
  • HlaHla
  • Farida

  • Noushin
  • Solange
  • Mae

  • Marcela
  • Zaina

  • Fatima


France is in mourning and Pollyanna sympathizes deeply. Ten French nationals, including three Olympic stars, were killed in the collision of two helicopters at the site in Argentina where they had gone to film a reality show. Profiles of the sports figures are given in the link.
The most famous victims are:
Camille Muffat, 25
Camille Muffat with her gold medal from the London Games.
Camille Muffat with her gold medal from the swimming competition of the London Games.   Photograph: Niviere/Chamussy/Sipa/ Rex
Alexis Vastine, 28
Alexis Vastine, pictured in Paris.
Alexis Vastine, pictured in Paris.   Photograph: Reau Alexis/Sipa/Rex
Florence Arthaud, 57
Florence Arthaud
Florence Arthaud, known as the ‘fiancee of the Atlantic’. Photograph: Baltel/Sipa/Rex

Here is the actual collision as filmed on a phone camera:


 The famous British fantasy writer died this week at age 67 after a prolonged bout with Alzheimer disease. He is best known for his Discworld series, although we liked his Good Omens  novel best. An obituary is given in the Guardian.
Sir Terry Pratchett
Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld series had a huge fan following

Randall mourns him with the rest of us:

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett



Pollyanna is livid about the report that over 700 women have been killed in Tanzania because of allegations of  "witchcraft."  Many victims are elderly, vulnerable or marginalized -- or own property that greedy relatives seize after accusing of witchcraft. Often the targets are young widows since the husband's family wants to grab the property while young women who are seeking liberation are also in danger. We quote an observer “Rebellious, economically independent women who insist on their right to speak freely, to choose a spouse, to plan their pregnancy, to be active outside of the home, come and go without prior authorization etc., fall into this category of people accused of witchcraft. In short, women who suffer from social exclusion as a result of witchcraft allegations are usually women without support, who constitute a burden on the family, or women who refuse to comply with their socially-sanctioned roles and status."

But while some are killed, falsely accused of black magic, others are murdered by the "sorcerers" themselves: scores of people with albinism have been killed and their body parts cooked up for spells, that are used for good luck, even by politicians seeking election.

The issue is discussed in detail on the AWID website and it makes chilling reading. The government has been most ineffectual on cracking down on these practices. Pollyanna calls upon human rights organizations to take steps to apply pressure to African governments to be more proactive in this area. We note that a search for witchcraft allegations on the new tarted-up Web site of Amnesty International had no results. The UN High Commission for Refugees has published a detailed paper on the subject since many accused  "witches" flee and become refugees.


Chelsea Manning in an op-ed in the Guardian calls for accountability and prosecution for torture offenses committed by CIA and Defense Department people under the cover of high government officials.  As she writes "It is important to hold the officers, supervisors and, to a lesser extent, the politicians involved in creating and executing these programs, accountable. To let their horrific actions go unanswered would send an awful message to the world: it is wrong to torture and mistreat people, except when those doing it have the supposed blessing of the law and with the permission of high-ranking supervisors and politicians."

An actor demonstrates the "banana" method of torture.
An actor is seen demonstrating the "banana" method, one of several standard torture techniques reportedly used by the Shin Bet during interrogations of Palestinian prisoners. (file photo) Photo by AP
In view of recent disclosures of torture in Israel in Haaretz and the disclosure that a doctor participated in torture, the issue brought up by Ms Manning transcends the US context. Haaretz has protested the increase  in the use of torture in an editorial, which certainly will influence all ten readers of the newspaper.


As we all know the US is one of the few countries where maternity leave is not mandated by the central government. It fits in with executing people, not providing universal health services and union-busting as a norm. Now the Vodaphone company has announced a new maternity leave policy worldwide that is extremely enlightened. A mother gets 16 weeks paid maternity leave and then for the next six months works for 30 hours a week for full pay. The Washington Post approves strongly and so does Pollyanna.


In 1971 Eli Avivi and his spouse Rina
Eli Avivi in 2006
President Eli Avivi, photographed in Achzivland in 2006
decided to secede from Israel and to found a mini-state of their own called Achzivland. This is an idyllic place where people can just hang out and enjoy life. It occupies the space of an abandoned Arab village on the coast, near the Lebanese border.

 Map of Achzivland
Of course, the government gave them a hard time for many years, but now some level of accommodation has been reached. The BBC tells the story and it is something nice to read, a salute to the individual in this overly conformist world. The place has been known and mapped since ancient times. Here is a relatively modern example:
Akhziv on the map of Abraham ben Yaakov (ca. 1695)

Akhziv on the map of Abraham ben Yaakov (ca. 1695)



There has long been discussion about the existence of life outside of Earth, somewhere in the universe. In a recent discussion on Public Radio International (PRI) the idea is raised that it might be more profitable to seek life on the moons of planets in the habitable zone of a star than on the planet itself. If the planet is Jupiter-like, i.e. a gas giant, a moon might be a more hospitable environment. The article is based on a radio interview with astronomer Sarah Ballard, the NASA Carl Sagan Fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle and  others.  The interview itself is embedded in the article. Pollyanna recommends it to you.


The Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres on Friday March 6. The NASA link tells you the whole exciting story.
 Facts about protoplanet Ceres.
Ceres may be regarded as a fossil remnant of the early Solar System and should have much to tell us about how all of our worlds came about. Pollyanna and Titan will continue to update you about the project. It was nice to read an interview with an old friend, Chris Russell from UCLA, about the Dawn mission of which he is the Principal Investigator.


Henry Kissinger, at age 90+, has come out with a new book on the World Order. (Penguin, 2014). He sums up a great deal of history and  explains the historic scope of the challenge to the political future of the world. It has been extensively reviewed and discussed and should certainly be of great interest. As Jessica T. Mathews writes in the New York Review of Books  the book " a learned, thoughtful, often fascinating global tour through the various clashing views of world order that are present today and go as far back as the fourth century BC. Its perspective throughout (even for events that occurred more than a millennium before the negotiators met) is the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years’ War. The book’s center of gravity is eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe. Its heroes are “great statesmen,” specifically Cardinal Richelieu, Klemens von Metternich, and Otto von Bismarck, about whom Kissinger has written admiringly for many years. "They deserve the highest accolade because they had to know where [their] strategy is leading and why…[and] act at the outer edge of the possible…. Because repetition of the familiar leads to stagnation, no little daring is required.""
FP/Getty Images Henry Kissinger meeting with Zhou Enlai during his secret trip to China, July 1971

Pollyanna also directs you to a review by Hilary Clinton in the Washington Post and by John in the NYTimes.


WHAT IF? asks:  I saw a sign at a hot springs tub saying "Caution: Water is hotter than average" with water at about 39°C. Although they were presumably trying to say "hotter than the average swimming pool," this got me wondering: What is the average temperature of all water on the Earth’s surface, and how does that temperature compare to 39°C?
—Graham Ward

Randall gives a nice answer except that we saw an error. He said that the air temperature is that determined by heating by sunlight. Not really exact, since as we know the atmosphere is transparent to the visible solar spectrum (which is why it is visible since we evolved to see through the atmosphere). What happens at the surface is that the ground absorbs the solar energy and then heats the lower atmosphere by conduction near the surface and then by turbulent transfer up to about 100 km altitude.  Indeed, the source of the energy is the Sun, but the heating is indirect. Above 100 km the atmosphere is heated directly by absorption of ultraviolet solar radiation (thank you ozone for shielding us). Otherwise his answer is fine.

Some have asked why we bother with a personal trainer at gym. WUMO have the answer.

Yes, Grandpa and Cynthia share our tastes:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Mar/10/2015

Why everyone loves Big Pharma:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Mar/09/2015