Cluster Map

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pollyanna greets the autumn season

Pollyanna is back, and hopes that all have recovered from the Jewish and Muslim holidays. Now we can all have some peace and quiet until Hannuka and Thanksgiving barge in together. In the meantime, as you can see below, our colleagues in the scientific community are back at work.  Broadcasting of The Big Bang Theory resumes in Israel on Saturday night and we welcome back Sheldon and the gang.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Now that a year has gone by without Miriam, 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.

This week it is Pollyanna's turn to promote a charity. Her choice is Reporters without Borders, a France-based international non-profit, non-governmental organization that promotes and defends freedom of information and freedom of the press. The organization has consultant status at the United Nations. The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has joined them in the role of "ambassador".
Ai Weiwei – ambassador for Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders has two primary spheres of activity: one is focused on Internet Censorship and the New Media, and the other on providing material, financial and psychological assistance to journalists assigned to dangerous areas. Its missions are to:
  •   monitor continuously attacks on freedom of information worldwide and denounce any such attacks in the media;
  •  act in cooperation with governments to fight censorship and laws aimed at restricting freedom of   information;
  • morally and financially assist persecuted journalists, as well as their families; and offer material assistance to war correspondents in order to enhance their safety.
Pollyanna recommends a visit to their Web site, linked above.  She thinks it is worthy to support their causes and to donate to support their activities.

All over the world people, especially children in the Third World suffer and die because of vitamin A deficiency. A genetic modification in rice replaced one of the genes intended to produce beta carotene. The original gene, which makes an enzyme called phytoene synthase, came from the narcissus flower, and was replaced with one from maize that is far more efficient. It produced 20 times more beta carotene, the molecule from carrots that combines with a second molecule of itself once inside our bodies to make a molecule of vitamin A, The GMO rice has been steadfastly opposed by Greenpeace and other environmental organizations. Indeed we have long been negative about GMO mainly because of Monsanto and their foul manipulations to make farmers dependent on them. If this is a real benefit for people suffering from vitamin A deficiency, perhaps we should rethink our position on GMO and look at things on a case by case basis.. What do you think?

As you all know Pollyanna rants about matters concerning women and girls. Now she is ranting about the people, mostly women and girls, who were victims of the Rana factory building collapse and the more recent Aswad fire that killed 10 people in Bangladesh. The Guardian reports that this factory was not included in the work safety inspection plan.

The main beneficiaries of the cheap labor in unsafe conditions in Bangladesh are Western companies. Buyers of clothing made in Aswad include Wal-Mart ("George" clothing line), Gap, UK's Primark, and two Canadian companies ── Hudson's Bay Co. and Loblaws Inc., owner of Joe Fresh. Many companies have signed on to a compact to inspect work safety in Bangladesh, but Walmart and Gap have come up with something much weaker. Gap has issued a pious press release, but so far only 6% of the victims of Rana Plaza have been compensated. Pollyanna is far from glad, in fact she is furious and suggests that we all think a bit before buying brand name clothing from companies that risk the lives of their workers for filthy lucre.


Carolyn Porco brings us northern hemisphere springtime at Saturn and gives us a peek at the lake region. With northern spring in full swing, the liquid methane and ethane seas and lakes that are found in Titan's north polar region have finally come under the watchful gaze of Cassini's remote sensing instruments. Infrared images reveal new clues about how the lakes formed and about Titan's Earth-like "hydrologic" cycle, which involves liquid hydrocarbons rather than water.(Image Advisory can be found here.)  Pollyanna's brother Titan has some cool stuff.
Dark Lakes on a Bright Landscape (NASA Cassini Saturn Mission Image)
Dark lakes on a bright landscape

At least we do not expect the lakes and seas on Titan to be full of fish. Alas, the Pacific Ocean here on Earth is apparently equally dead. An Australian sailor saw no marine life and tons of rubbish on a 37,000 km voyage from Australia to Japan. The sea is overfished and garbage and debris make sailing an obstacle course. It is indeed tragic that we have so badly fouled our nest.

The practice of phubbing, i.e. messing with your smart phone and ignoring the real person you are with has become an epidemic. Hadass, bless her, has raised this issue in her blog (alongside) and refers us to an Australian site that deals with the phenomenon. Indeed phubbing can be quite obnoxious, but we cannot avoid thinking of people who cannot interact otherwise, such as our dear beloved Raj and his sweetheart Lucy. For them, a texting date in a library is just perfect. Of course, even they have  reached the point of speaking to one another, despite her habit of escaping via the window of the ladies' room.

We are great fans of Stilton cheese, one of the brands of "walking" cheeses that we love for breakfast. We are now told that the owner of a pub in the town of Stilton has been ordered to refrain from using the name of the town for the cheese he makes there. It is a technical issue having to do with EU naming rules. Stilton cheese is made in certain counties, none of which contains the town of Stilton, where it was said to have been invented in the 18th century. Weird things happen. Good luck Mr. Pubmaster McGivern.

We are sure that most of you have seen one production or the other of the musical Fiddler on the Roof, based on the Tevyeh story cycle by Shalom Aleichem.

Sam Falk/The New York Times

Rehearsals for the 1964 Broadway debut of “Fiddler on the Roof,” with Zero Mostel pulling the cart. He sometimes clashed with the show’s director and choreographer, Jerome Robbins, standing to the left onstage. (Both won Tony Awards for the show.)

It describes life in the late 19th and early 20th century Jewish towns in the Pale of Settlement in Czarist Russia. We saw it in 1964 in its pre-Broadway run in Washington. It was a colossal success. Thank you Richard for calling our attention to this article in the NYTimes giving a bit of the history of the production. Zero Mostel was superb as Tevyeh. Indeed he was a marvelous actor. We also saw him in the role of Pseudolus the slave in A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum. Here we see him as Tevye asking God to make him rich.


 The ESA Rosetta spacecraft is en route to a rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. It was launched in 2004 and in August 2014 will meet the comet and drop a lander on the nucleus.
Rosetta mission milestones 2014-2015
 In a few months, in January, it will be aroused by a command from Earth to end its hibernation and to start warming up for its task. In the nine years that it has been in space it has executed a convoluted orbit that includes three flybys of Earth and one of Mars to get the boosts needed to make the trip. See the video in the link. Thanks to Ray for bringing these details and the link to our attention.

An ancient tomb dating back to about 2500 BCE has been found near Cairo. It appears to be that of the doctor who took care of the royal family. The region where it was found south of Cairo is a known ancient burial site for the pharaohs of the very early dynasties. We have visited Egypt and indeed the necropolis areas in which the ancient kings are buried are most impressive.
A picture taken on October 22, 2013 shows Egyptian hieroglyphics on a 4,000 year old tomb which was discovered by archaeologists in Abusir on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital, Cairo
Entrance to the tomb

Samantha Harper asks What If, If an asteroid was very small but supermassive, could you really live on it like the Little Prince? The answer is nice.

Dilbert discovers that courtship in the Facebook era is not easy at all:
Dilbert Cartoon for Oct/20/2013

and then there is perception :

At the last EMMY awards ceremony, the MC opened by explaining to the younger people that television is something that you watch on your telephone. Indeed, the world is changing but also remaining the same:
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Oct/25/2013

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