Cluster Map

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pollyanna is with you again

Pollyanna is enjoying the Olympics despite all the garbage associated with such an event.  The athletes themselves are wonderful, but the hoopla and the press noise plus the obvious exploitation (little girls on bars and other equipment look a bit like abuse victims) do leave an unpleasant taste.


Usually Titan and Pollyanna shun what Click and Clack of Car Talk call shameless commerce. We are making an exception  to plug a hotel in Yucatan, Mexico run by the daughter of dear friends and her partner. Please check out the Mayan Beach Garden Inn-Hotel if you plan a vacation in Mexico.

Gore Vidal, one of the leading writers of the last century died this week in Los Angeles at age 86.  We have ready many of his books, enjoyed them all.  Our favorite by far is Julian, the story of the apostate emperor who tried to reverse the Christianization of the Byzantine Empire. We append an obituary from the Washington Post.

Gore Vidal was famous for his cynical attitude, acerbic wit and sharp tongue.  The Guardian has gathered a sample of quotes, 26 in number, which we think are worth reading.  We like them all, especially "A good deed never goes unpunished" and one, not in the Guardian list,  “I date the end of the old republic and the birth of the empire to the invention, in the late thirties, of air conditioning. Before air conditioning, the politicians would abandon Washington in the summer; now they stay around all through the year, making mischief."

While on the topic of literature, Pollyanna is glad to note that J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame has written an adult novel that is due to come out soon.
Translation fears ... copies of the new book by JK Rowling (pictured with Harry Potter star Emma Watson) won't go out to foreign publishers in advance. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

What is strange is that, except for France and Germany, the book is being withheld from foreign publishers because of distrust of security and fear of piracy. This is unfortunate since it will result in rushed, ergo inferior, translations into other languages.  The problem is getting the book, in whatever language other than Hebrew and Arabic, onto bookstore shelves before the Christmas shopping season.  We are looking forward to the appearance in English of The Casual Vacancy which will be published on 27 September in the UK and the US. It will be interesting to see how she does outside the children genre.

While abroad we started to read Richard Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution.  We were stuck in the middle, so we went to the university library to borrow their copy.  As we signed it out, the librarian smiled knowingly and said "you do not really believe this evolution nonsense, do you?"  I wonder how she manages to work in the Life Sciences library, but we kept our comments to ourselves. The book itself is somewhat strange in that it moves backwards in time, but it is worth the read, albeit long and thick.  The Observer reviews it with the comment that Dawkins has done better, but pulls out a nugget of the importance of stars.  Of course, without stars there would be no atoms heavier than Lithium and certainly no life  'This does not imply that stars exist in order to make us. It is just that without stars there would be no atoms heavier than lithium in the periodic table, and a chemistry of only three elements is too impoverished to support life. Seeing is the kind of activity that can go on only in the kind of universe where what you see are stars.' Lovely indeed.

Studies of the after effects of a super eruption about 70,000 years ago, most of humanity was wiped out and we are all descended from possibly 1,000 breeding pairs.  Food for thought and implications for racists.

Chinese environmental protesters stand on cars in Qidong, China. (photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)
As you all know Pollyanna has strong views on environmental issues.  She also strongly disapproves of violence.  She is now of two minds about the successful stopping of a waste pipeline in China.  Indeed, the people are absolutely right, but she regrets the violence involved, in particular the beating of the policemen who were only doing their job.  It should be possible to demonstrate successfully without resorting to violence.  In the case of China, this may not be true and it is regrettable.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has just had a legal catastrophe in Arizona.  From Nancy Northrup:
"We just got terrible news from Arizona. The federal judge overseeing the Center for Reproductive Rights' case denied our request to block the most extreme abortion ban in the country.

Plain and simple, today’s decision throws out decades of legal precedent and green lights an unconstitutional law banning pre-viability abortions—with almost no exceptions. A woman facing devastating complications in her pregnancy will have to risk her health and well-being unless she is facing a life-threatening emergency.

The battle doesn't end here. ... We’re immediately filing an emergency appeal to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to prevent the law from going into effect—but we urgently need resources."
Pollyanna has donated and asks all of you to do the same.  She is really up in arms about this issue and not glad at all.
We are glad to report that the appeal was filed and an injunction granted pending trial.  Money is still very much needed.

WOODY ALLEN welcome back to good filmmaking.  We note good reviews for Midnight in Paris.  We also note that British Film Institute has anointed Vertigo by Hitchcock as the greatest film of all time, ending the 50 year reign of what is still our favorite, Citizen Kane by Orson Welles.  Your comments on this are invited.
Pollyanna thanks Richard for calling this discovery   to our attention.  We actually see gorillas breaking up traps set by poachers for smaller animals, apparently in reaction to the killing of baby gorillas by such traps. This is indeed impressive and gives us an idea of how intelligent these creatures are.


Pollyanna notes that a recent study in Africa indicates that male circumcision is positively correlated with a decrease in the incidence of HIV infection.  This point should be stressed to those in Europe who are legislating against it. Besides the attack on the religious freedom of Jews and Muslims, the objection is also fatuous from the medical standpoint.   The practice  also appears to have a positive effect on the sexual well being of female partners, but now Pollyanna is beginning to blush and we shall drop this topic.

From our friend, Michael Quinion, of World Wide Words, in his sic! section: John Pearson spotted a reader’s travel tip in the Guardian on 16 June: “The swordfish and revueltos (scrambled eggs) in particular are incredible and the wine list, concentrating on local wines from Málaga and Cádiz, never fails to disappoint.”

We have not checked out SMBC for a while.  For those who have had colonoscopies, we present

Gyroscopes are really interesting.  The old belief that the gyroscope effect kept bicycles stable has been debunked by research published in Science magazine and reported on CNET.  Nonetheless, both Pollyanna and XKCD think gyroscopes are cool.

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