Cluster Map

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pollyanna with birthdays and more

Pollyanna  is making her way through the week of birthdays in the family, three in six days, one per generation.  The ages reached were


and 81
 and she is enjoying herself. She herself is pushing 100, but book heroines age very slowly.
Today Pollyanna wants to show you a new aspect of solar system beauty, Comet Hale-Bopp that came near the Earth in 1997, discovered independently by Hale and Bopp in 1995.
Comet Hale-Bopp, C1995 O1, sports two tails here, a blue ion tail and a white dust tail. 
Both tails are formed by material ejected from the nucleus, which is mostly water ice and dust. The ice is heated by the comet's approach to the sun, and it sublimates, going directly from a solid to a gas, bypassing the liquid form. As the material from the nucleus is ejected it forms a gigantic cloud around the nucleus which we see as the coma. It then separates into the blue ion gas tail, and the dust tail.
There is a tragic story connected to Comet Hale-Bopp.  The  mass suicide of 39 members of a cult knows as Heaven's Gate was linked to the comet.  They believed that there was a spacecraft in the wake of the comet that was going to whisk them away from the Earth.  It is a pathetic story.  It also brought out of the woodwork all kinds of  UFO buffs who swear that the US government is hiding information about alien contacts.  ET call home!!
Last week Titan mentioned the passing of Whitney Houston briefly.  We would like to add a few comments and links.  She had a turbulent life, but she left a legacy.  We append a biography and embed a video of her signature song I Will Always Love You.

It is sad that her life may have ended because of drug abuse.  We append a list of her YouTube instances and invite you to listen again to that golden voice.  Lord rest her.  I often wonder why so many stars, not only in music, but in sports, film, theater, whatever, die young, burned out and exploited to death.  Think of Marilyn Monroe for a moment.   David Zirin touches on it in his comments on her death.
We are glad to see that medical services in Afghanistan are showing some improvement as as reported by Justin Forsyth of Save the Children.  Nonetheless, terrible things are happening to children in that sad country including recruitment as  fighters and suicide bombers. 
In addition, girls are used as payment for misdeeds of elders and protection of family honor.  The ghastly custom of baad is described in detail in a New York Times report.

Andrea Bruce for The New York Times

Shakila, 10, was abducted and held for about a year as part of a traditional Afghan form of justice known as "baad."
Pollyanna is glad to share with you the news that a forced eviction
Amnesty's Makmid Kamara received a distress call from activists in Port Harcourt @Amnesty International
in a neighborhood in Port Harcourt, Nigeria was stopped at least temporarily because of an Urgent Action taken by Amnesty International.  It shows that there is a point in protesting human rights violations.  Read the details.

Pollyanna as usual has a rant about abuse of women, in this case how Orthodox Jews treat women, be  it the back of the bus, the prohibition to sing in public, the isolation of women in the public sphere or the attribution of impurity to the female persona per se.  Yossi Sarid points out to us that the extremism that we see today is not an aberration, but the true nature of Jewish Orthodoxy.  Read and raise your voice in disgust.

Pollyanna is pleased to call your attention to a new Web site that links up the sites concerned with the presentation and status of women in mass media.

We are told in a study reported in Science News that a shot of alcohol can be helpful to our scientific and artistic endeavors.  Getting a buzz from booze  may boost creativity.  Men who drank themselves tipsy solved more problems demanding verbal resourcefulness in less time than sober guys did, a new study finds. This is a real result reported in a real scientific journal Consciousness and Cognition..  The result is most interesting, but was known in ancient times, as seen in the worship of Bacchus, the God of Wine.
Reni, Drinking Bacchus 1623

We quote a from a  history of alcoholic beverages:
"Alcoholic beverages date back to the very early part of man's history. Many archaeologists believe that wines made from grapes have existed for more than 10,000 years and that drinks such as mead and beer have existed for even longer. Throughout its history, alcohol has been used socially for many diverse purposes, such as calming feuds, giving courage in battle, sealing pacts, celebrating festivals, and seducing lovers. Historians speculate that prehistoric nomads may have made beer from grain and water before learning to make bread. The Celts, Ancient Greeks, the Norse, Egyptians, and Babylonians all have records of production and consumption of alcoholic drinks. Alcohol was included in the Egyptian burial provisions for the journey to the afterlife."
With regard to seduction via alcohol, Robert Benchley strongly recommended the "fuddle-duddle" method with the caveat that the seducer should remain sober enough to perform.  The great American poet Ogden Nash wrote "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker" while Shakespeare warns "Drink, sir, is a great provoker of three things . . . nose-painting, sleep, and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes; it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance."  Macbeth 2. 3
Bacchus (vd. The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce Bacchus, n.: A convenient deity invented by the ancients as an excuse for getting drunk.) himself managed quite well with Ariadne
Bacchus and Ariadne, 1520-3: Titian’s masterpiece has been endlessly drawn upon by artists down the centuries
 and we may be sure that wine played a role.  We refer you to a compendium of quotes about alcohol which you might find edifying.  We like the idea that, as stated above, prehistoric nomads may have made beer from grain and water before learning to make bread.   Priorities indeed!

Galileo Galilei (born February 15, 1564-died Jan. 8, 1642)

was an Italian scientist who supported Copernicanism, the idea that earth orbits the sun. Galileo defended his views in "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems." For doing so, he was tried by the Roman Inquisition, found "suspect of heresy" and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. His findings changed our world view for all time.   Our intellectual debt to him is enormous.  For our book review we refer you to Dava Sobol's Galileo's Daughter , reviewed in the New York Times by Alan Lightman(link is problematic) and also by Laura Sorensen at a literary Web site . It is worthy of note that books dealing with the motion of the Earth were removed from the Index of the Catholic Church in 1822, a true salute to modernism.
Bob Park calls our attention to the issue of scientific fraud.  On Sunday, February 12, the CBS series 60 Minutes reminded us of the largely unfulfilled promise of television to expose the foolishness and fraud that diminishes our brief lives. If you did not see Sunday's program I urge you to obtain a copy. Much earlier, many of us had followed with growing wonder the news on television as Dr. Anil Potti reported amazing progress in tailoring chemotherapy to a patient's own genetic makeup, with remarkable results. However, as the science community often tells the public, it's not a discovery until it's been independently confirmed. The willingness of researchers to open their findings to the entire scientific community is what gives science its success and credibility. In this case, it could not be confirmed and may be one of the biggest medical research frauds of all time. Unfortunately, it was not the first time that Duke University had fallen victim to foolish and fraudulent science.  The broadcast is  excerpted here.
This week we had Valentine's Day which is one of the ways corporations get their hands into our pockets.  We link you to  an article from The Nation dealing with love and economics by Samhita Mukhopadhyay who is the Executive Editor of and the author of Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life.   Hadass was born on Valentine's Day and my suggestion to name her Valentina was brutally vetoed.  Pollyanna agrees with the veto retroactively.  In Saudi Arabia, celebrating the day can get you into big trouble with the religious police.  The King of Saudi Arabia appears to model himself himself on Gilbert and Sullivan's  Mikado with firm legislation against flirting.  Our friends at XKCD found the holiday difficult to resolve this year.

Certainly we do not think much of a relationship that depends on buying things for one another.  
Whatever we may think of these manufactured "Days" be it Mother's, Father's, Valentine or whatever, they are no worse than the various nationalistic "Days" that are cooked up to make us patriotic.  Nationalism is best described by a quote attributed to (but not confirmed) Jules Renard" A nation is defined by a false history and hatred of its neighbors."  He is also credited with the statement that a cold in the head causes less distress than an idea, which is alas true.
We are regular readers of the The Nation and find it very relevant.  We received this about the history of the struggle against racism in our email and would like to share it with you.
The Nation's editors -- starting with its abolitionist founders -- have always provided space for those persistent and too-often lonely voices inveighing against the evils of racial injustice. In this archival slide show, we present a small sampling of articles highlighting issues of race and civil rights from The Nation's past 147 years with original contributions by Martin Luther King, Jr, Langston Hughes, Howard Zinn, James Baldwin and many others.
A film entitled The Lady has been released.  It is a biotopic dealing with the life of Aung Sung Suu Kyi of Burma.  The film has had mixed reviews, both down  and up.  It is not yet available on DVD, but I hope that will happen soon.
If any of you have wondered why both Pollyanna and Titan try to end their blogs with something humorous, here is a good reason, again from  Jules Renard:
"We are in the world to laugh. In purgatory or in hell we shall no longer be able to do so. And in heaven it would not be proper."  If there is a Heaven and we are there, we certainly intend to laugh.  Of course, we are told that in Britain it is not considered proper to tell jokes on Wednesday, because by Sunday the Brits will have caught on and laugh in church, which is inappropriate...

Then we have Twitter which is sometimes to the point and sometimes a showcase for group idiocy.  XKCD gives us an example about how a panic can spread via Twitter; (click on image to enlarge)

This bit from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is only funny up to a point.  Anyone who has seen kids (vid. our grandkids for example) with video games can appreciate where the limit lies. Click on image to enlarge.

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