Pollyanna, like the rest of us, is drenched with rain these days, but has hopes for blue skies to come.
|We will settle for this|
Pollyanna is back and would like to cheer you up by pretending we did not have an election and that the world is full of things that we can be glad about--OK, that is a Pollyannaism and that is what we do on alternate weeks. Titan did enough reality last week to keep you depressed for a few millennia. Pollyanna counters that all these troubles are small when compared to the largest object in the universe. An international team of astronomers, led by academics from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), has found the largest known structure in the universe. The large quasar group (LQG) is so large that it would take a vehicle traveling at the speed of light some 4 billion years to cross it.
Pollyanna calls your attention to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action update blog. Please click and write as called upon for people whose basic rights are being denied and violated.
TRANSLATING IS IMPOSSIBLE
Our beloved Miriam was a professional translator and taught the subject for many years at Bar Ilan University. She would often regale us with gems from her pupils or from misuse of English in Israel. Of course, they are only funny to people who know Hebrew and can understand the Sabra mind: translate back beauties such as "I felt like a light bulb in the doll house" or canned plums that assured you of "new fear of foreskin" while enjoying a cup of "tonsil-flavored" cappuccino. It was also nice to be told that your train to Tel Aviv was a collecting train to Ben-Gurion Airport until someone straightened them out. Yosefa sent us a NYTimes article by Andy Martin about translation. We are sure that Miriam would have loved it.
THE PHONE BILL
If you think your phone company is ripping you off and indeed that may be true, think of the French lady who received a bill for closing her account before the end of the contract. It came to the whopping sum of €11,721,000,000,000,000 or 11.721 petaeuros (fun to write such a word for 10^15).
Customer service told her that there was nothing to be done, but she could arrange a payment schedule. The sum is greater than the annual GDP of France and indeed cooler heads prevailed at the phone company. In Psalms 146:3 we are told "Do not trust in princes-in man who has no salvation"
אַל-תִּבְטְחוּ בִנְדִיבִים-- בְּבֶן-אָדָם, שֶׁאֵין לוֹ תְשׁוּעָה
and Pollyanna suggests that we do not trust in computers.
PRICELESS MANUSCRIPTS ARE SAFE
At one time in history (12-15th centuries) Timbuktu was a major Islamic cultural center and a trading emporium at the edge of the desert.
|Nicholas Belton /iStockphoto.com|
WELCOME BACK YAK
These Tibetan animals, the analogue of the North American bison, were hunted to near extinction in the last few centuries. It is, therefore, good news that makes Pollyanna glad to learn that their numbers are increasing in the Tibetan plateau in response to a Chinese government conservation program. They prefer the vicinity of glaciers, where food is more abundant and the herd is estimated to be as large as a thousand individuals.
|Wild yaks at foot of glacier in Tibet, Credit: Joel Berger -- WCS/University of Montana|
BEETLE ASTRONOMY OF SORTS
We humans tend to regard ourselves as the epitome of creation. It is indeed somewhat humbling to learn that the humble dung beetle Scarabaeus satyrus uses the Milky Way for navigation at night and thus finds the most direct way to bring his ball of excrement home to the family.
|Credit: Marcus Byrne|
The former PM of Israel Ariel Sharon has been in a coma for the past seven years. We are now told that activity has been detected in his brain by FMRI which is of major research interest. There is little hope that Sharon will recover, but the advances in technology that enabled these detections may enable communication to be established with comatose people. Pollyanna cannot help being reminded of the great Almadovar firm, Talk to Her.
THE WORLD OF BOOKS
Pollyanna and Titan have both been remiss in updating you about the world of literature. We shall try to compensate by bringing a few books to your attention. We start with a scholarly book on the history of sex in the Graeco-Roman world, The Joy of Sexus - Lust, Love and Longing in the Ancient World by Vicki Leon. It got in general good reviews-the reviewers seem to have enjoyed their task. It is the book of the month on the Scandalous Women blog of Elizabeth Kerri Mahon and seems to be a good read. The blog also looks interesting. After all, "Well-Behaved Women don't make History" according to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Ms Mahon hosts Vicki Leon for a guest post that details the illicit affair between Aspasia
in ancient Athens.
We next move on to congratulate Hilary Mantel for her book, Bring Up the Bodies
which became the first work to win the Costa Book of the Year as well as the Man Booker Prize. She won the Man Booker Prize in 2009 for Wolf Hill, the first book in her planned trilogy on the life of Thomas Cromwell. Bring Up the Bodies finds the chief minister to Henry VIII in 1535 after the king has broken with Rome to marry Anne Boleyn. The third book is due out next year and is called The Mirror And The Light. Mantel is yet to tire of her protagonist. She said: “He's very much a work in progress, he's got four more years to rise to the top of the tree then we'll see his very sudden fall." She feels no need to apologize for winning two prizes in one year. This year is unprecedented for the Costa Prize because women won in all five categories. This year's awards were also notable as the non-fiction prize was awarded to a graphic novel. Mary Talbot's work Dotter of Her Father's Eyes, which was illustrated by her husband Bryan, examines two father and daughter relationships: James Joyce and his daughter Lucia, and Talbot's own, a Joyce scholar.
Also recognized this year was The Innocents by Francesca Segal, which won the prize for first novel. Inspired by Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, the judges described it as “affectionate and witty”.
Sally Gardner won the Children's prize for Maggot Moon. The author was once described as “unteachable” because of her severe dyslexia and was 14 before she could read at all. She said winning the prize was an inspiration “for anyone who dreams”.
Now we move from praise to brickbats. We have enjoyed several books by Jared Diamond
|Jared Mason Diamond is an American scientist and author best known for his popular science books|
|Matrix of connectedness' … an Aborigine man at Uluru. Photograph: Alamy|
IN A LIGHTER VEIN
WHY CHASE CATS
As you all know by now, we are tenants of a dog named Murphy
who believes that he was put on earth to chase cats. We now think, thanks to a picture sent to us by Richard (thank you), that we know how he was thus indoctrinated.
We like to keep the cats around because they are useful to keep our yard free of rodents and snakes. It is not clear what the hierarchal relations are, but we manage. Indeed it is good that we had cataract operations and now can identify them:
SMBC presents a new idea for implementation in the academic community:
What If is fun this week, how to fly an airplane on different bodies in the Solar System. We can assure you that the planetary science is right.
Gene Weingarten has a not so subtle comment about what billionaires tend to expect from their trophy wives, with apologies to Lucretia who is smarter than she trys to look.
and with technology crushing Sesame Street: