Cluster Map

Friday, August 31, 2012

Pollyanna winds up August

Pollyanna is happy to be back with you and will try to lift a bit of the gloom left by brother Titan's rants from a week ago.  She agrees with him totally, but her job is to try to raise the morale a bit, so let us have a try. First a few details.
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.

Pollyanna would like to call your attention to our weekly Human Rights blog and to ask you to act on the cases listed there.  She would also like to link you to our daughter Dr. Hadass Eviatar

who is running for the Canadian Cancer Society and would appreciate your donations.  All four of us, Pollyanna, Titan and YandA are requesting that you click and give.

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, died this week at age 82. Whatever some of us might think of manned spaceflight and the circus-like atmosphere surrounding it, the Moon landings represented a watershed for mankind and certainly great courage must have been required to participate in the program.

 Indeed robots are much better than people at carrying out scientific missions in space, but the romance of human beings off the planet is apparently necessary to hold interest and to keep space science funded and moving along. Armstrong was indeed a "reluctant hero" and did not try to make political or personal capital out of his achievement. We are now getting a rehash of all the gossip of why he rather than Aldrin was chosen to be commander and to be the first out of the spacecraft, all of which is irrelevant. We say, Rest in Peace, Neil Armstrong. We append an obituary from the Guardian.

Before we get on to the good stuff, there are a few issues relating to the rights of women and girls that Pollyanna would like to sound off about.  As you all know, when these matters come up she can be as ranty as brother Titan and makes her voice heard.  The first is the call for the ratification and implementation of a treaty to abolish prostitution.  It sounds utopian and impractical, but the criminalization of the customer side has reduced prostitution by 50% in Sweden.  The global campaign to criminalize clients of prostitution, otherwise known as johns or punters, is being driven by Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France's minister of women's rights.   Please read the article and sign on.
The second issue is the demand for accountability of the government of Brazil for  the tragic and entirely avoidable death of Alyne da Silva Pimentel, a poor pregnant Afro-Brazilian woman who was repeatedly denied timely quality medical care.
It has been more than a year since the  United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) struck a blow for women worldwide when it recognized—in the first preventable maternal death case to go before an international human rights body—that governments have an inescapable obligation to guarantee maternal health services to every woman regardless of her circumstances.  During that time the Brazilian government has done nothing to live up to its obligations under CEDAW.

We are delighted to announce that we are moving to the congregation's new location at the corner of Beckman and Dizengoff Streets.
Erev Shabbat Service every  Friday at 18:30.
Shachrit Le’Shabbat at 09:00.
Please come and rejoice with us

Pollyanna wants to thank our colleague Dr. Carolyn Porco for the latest release of beautiful color images of Saturn from the Cassini spacecraft.  Here is a  picture of Saturn with Titan naturally getting in front of the camera.

 In the second shot, he is put in his place by the real big guys, the rings...

You are invited to go to the link and revel in the beauty of nature.

Here we start from the fascinating and sublime and end up with the silly and ridiculous.  Bear with us please because even the latter will make a point. Bonobo monkeys are very closely related to us and are known both for their intelligence and their very active sex lives.  Researchers at Haifa University (unabashed plug, our daughter Zohar is a professor there) have found that bonobos are capable of making stone tools far more varied in purpose than previously known, reaching a level of technological competence formerly assigned only to the human lineage.  The article is fascinating.  Since the video in the article did not come up, we are showing the youtube of Kanzai using tools

OK, interesting, even fascinating.  In 2009 Gene Weingarten reported in his Below the Beltway column on research on human sexual responses that showed that while men have predictable responses to erotic images, women are turned on even by pictures of bonobos mating.  Gene engages in a rather amusing discussion with  Gina Barreca, the feminist scholar.
Poor Gene, outcourted by an ape

 Later, the Washington Post found it necessary to apologize for the piece, lest someone think that women are being compared to giant apes.  We think that this is carrying PC'ness too far and a little humor can be allowed, especially since Gina's responses on female sexuality put the male half of the species in its place so well-"It's simple recognition. Every woman's sexual history includes at least one bonobo. "Oh, look, that's Vinnie from ninth grade!"" So, dear friends, let us drop all the hypersensitivity and learn from Gene and Gina how to laugh at ourselves a bit.  We can comfort ourselves that we do not live in Monkey's Eyebrow, Toad Suck, Bad Axe or Embarrass, or any such place.

In a study of the effects of cannabis on mental ability, an international team found those who started using cannabis below the age of 18 - while their brains were still developing - suffered a drop in IQ.  One might think that smoking the stuff at any age is an indication of an IQ deficiency to start with, but that might be unfair re young teenagers who lack the maturity to see ahead and comprehend the implications of what they are doing, possibly under peer pressure. We wonder what sort of argument can be brought to deter teenagers from doing this to themselves. Health type arguments fail with respect to tobacco smoking.  Someone should come up with a way of making these harmful activities uncool and unpopular.

 Way out there, about 290 million light years from here there exists an interesting and somewhat anomalous black hole known to its friends as HLX-1..  Its brightness varies with a period of about 366 Earth days, a coincidental result of the orbital parameters of the star that orbits it and from which it grabs some material whenever the star gets close enough. There should be many such objects out there, similar to HLX-1, which is 10,000 times as massive as the sun and the only known specimen in its weight class. Middleweights like HLX-1, which should be numerous, are intermediate between the supermassive black holes at galactic cores — as massive as billions of suns — and the featherweights with just a few solar masses.   The source of its light is an unresolved question and astronomers are having fun coming up with theories.  Hit the link above and read all about it.
HLX-1, the only known intermediate-mass black hole (circled), hovers above the plane of a nearby galaxy, as seen in this Hubble Space Telescope image. Astronomers are debating the source of the light coming from the area around the black hole.NASA, ESA, S. Farrell/Sydney Institute for Astronomy
While we are on topic with astronomy, we are told that Kepler, the orbiting telescope designed to look for exoplanets, has come up with something really wild.  Less than a year after the announcement of the first circumbinary planet, Kepler-16b, NASA's Kepler mission has discovered multiple transiting planets orbiting two suns for the first time. This system, known as a circumbinary planetary system, is 4,900 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

 Pollyanna agrees with everything brother Titan had to say last week about the mob violence on the streets of that oh! so holy city, Jerusalem.  She would like to point out, however, that the use of the English loan word "lynch" to describe what happened is inappropriate.  The word lynch is a transitive verb: (dictionary)
 Definition of LYNCH
: to put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal sanction
— lynch·er noun
The associated noun is lynch law
Definition of LYNCH LAW
: the punishment of presumed crimes or offenses usually by death without due process of law
According to our guru Michael Quinion, the term derives from the name of a person or persons in the USA in the 1780's during the Revolutionary War.  What happened in Jerusalem was simply mob violence and terrorism, with no connection to any presumed offenses. None of this pedantry detracts from the monstrous nature of these disgusting actions.
 This week's question deals with soul mates--what if each of us had one soul mate assigned to us by random chance at birth.  Randall delivers a rather chilling scenario.  Let us stick to life as it is.
We all love the Swedish chef, but what do they think of him in his native country?
Is this guy the inspiration for the Swedish Chef?
Courtesy Lars "Kuprik" Bäckman/The Jim Henson Company.
 For those who live in symbiosis with a dog, such as our Murphy, we offer empathy with Dagwood:

 Pollyanna and Titan, as she approaches 100 and he approaches 4.6 billion, have empathy for those who are growing older by the day
  and for anyone who has a smart phone or is thinking of buying one (att. Yosefa)
Finally (you must be fed up with us by now) we present a few statements by NBC commentators at the recent Olympic games that they probably would like to retract:
1. Weightlifting commentator: This is Gregoriava from Bulgaria. I saw her snatch this morning during her warm up and it was amazing.

2. Dressage commentator: This is really a lovely horse and I speak from personal experience since I once mounted her mother.

3. Gymnast: I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father.

4. Boxing Analyst: Sure there have been injuries, and even some deaths in boxing, but none of them really that serious.

5. Softball announcer: If history repeats itself, I should think we can expect the same thing again.

6. Basketball analyst: He dribbles a lot and the opposition doesn't like it. In fact you can see it all over their faces.

7. At the rowing medal ceremony: Ah, isn't that nice, the wife of the IOC president is hugging the cox of the British crew.

8. Soccer commentator: Julian Dicks is everywhere. It's like they've got eleven Dicks on the field.

9. Tennis commentator: One of the reasons Andy is playing so well is that, before the final round, his wife takes out his balls and kisses them... Oh my God, what have I just said?

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