Cluster Map

Friday, January 17, 2014

Pollyanna is glad to be with you again

Pollyanna is back with you and will try to be her usual glad self except in matters where no one has a right to be glad as you will soon see.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone  by without Miriam and 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 Pollyanna has a few comments before pointing you at a worthy charity. In donating, it makes sense to take a close look at the charity. A body called CharityWatch evaluates charities in the US and rates them.

Of the approximately six hundred charities currently rated by CharityWatch, only a select number qualify for their listing of Top-Rated charities based on rigorous analysis. Groups included on the Top-Rated list generally spend 75% or more of their budgets on programs, spend $25 or less to raise $100 in public support, do not hold excessive assets in reserve, and receive "open-book" status for disclosure of basic financial information and documents to CharityWatch. Please see the Criteria section of the website for more information on the rating criteria and methodology that CharityWatch adheres to. In Israel the organization Israel Gives provides a similar service including a transparency rating on a scale of 1 to 5. The NYTimes published an article recently on giving wisely and Pollyanna recommends that you read it.
This week Pollyanna is pointing you at the Global Fund for Women which has a high rating and is especially relevant this week in the light of what Pollyanna is about to tell you in her weekly rant about violence against women and girls.

This week a new low was attained in the abuse of children, in this case a nine year old girl from Afghanistan.
Her father and brother (a Taliban member) put a suicide vest on her and sent her to blow up a government check point. The BBC interviewed her and we all shared in the shock that anyone could descend to such a level of depravity. Suicide bombing by motivated and consenting adults is in itself a crime against humanity when directed at civilians. Tricking innocent children into becoming walking bombs is doubly criminal. As Spozhai said, quoting her brother: "If you operate this on the people at the checkpoint, they will die - you will not die." But I knew it was a suicide vest and I would die too. Then he went back home -the checkpoint is just near our house." If this is what religion engenders, we want no part of it.

The founder of psychoanalysis who died in London in 1939 at age 83 was cremated and his ashes stored in an ancient Grecian urn (300BC) from his collection. His wife's ashes were there as well.
 Urn containing Sigmund Freud's ashes
Thieves broke into the Golders Green crematorium and apparently tried to steal the urn. In the process it was broken. Naturally the family are upset, to say nothing of the curators, since the urn is irreplaceable. Avarice apparently knows no bounds. We recall that during the runup to the 2008 Olympics, China was buying scrap metal all over the world and the price skyrocketed. In Israel, thieves stole the metal off of war memorials, both public and personal, as well as the wheels of the historic railway cars kept in musea. Pollyanna says shame!

Last week brother Titan ranted about refugees and the way they are treated around the world. Here in Israel we have little to be proud of in that area from the standpoint of
officialdom, but there are NGO's and individuals who are doing what they can to help these unfortunate people who are fleeing conflict and death in Africa. Pollyanna would like to highlight a person who is doing what he can to help.

Elliott Vaisrub Glassenberg is an immigrant to Israel from the US who is volunteering to teach Hebrew to African refugees and asylum seekers. Pollyanna says thumbs up to you Elliott!

Pollyanna, Titan (relay from NASA via Cassini) and YandA are confirmed fans of the Big Bang Theory sitcom. We almost feel as if the characters, caricatures as they are, belong to our family. We were therefore interested in seeing Mayim Bialik's (aka Amy Farrah Fowler) take on Israel. We did not expect her to be really political, but we expected a bit more insight from someone who is both a successful scientist and an excellent actor. Her posts on her blog describing her family in the kibbutz and Jerusalem were disappointing. She spewed out mawkish sentimentality that could have been composed  by an AIPAC hack writer: no mention of the Occupation, of the dispossession of the Bedouin population in the Negev, of the abuse of refugees, nothing but blue skies and sunshine. She appears to be as clueless as her character Amy. OK, it is her business, but she is famous and an opinion shaper and should bear that in mind.


This seems like a morbid question and out of Pollyanna's purview, but it is something we should consider since everyone eventually dies. We have living wills in which we ask that heroic measures not be taken to extend our life for an hour or a day, but who knows if the doctors, here in Israel,  will honor them. In Ireland it is said that the purpose of nails on coffins is to keep the doctors out. Yosefa sent along a NYTimes Opinion piece on how people should be allowed to spend their last days and hours. We recall when a friend of ours was dying with his family around him in Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, nurses and a technician came around with a device. The son asked point blank if this was going to save his Dad and was brutally thrown out along with his mother and siblings. When they complained the hospital management said that they were taking advantage of an opportunity to test the device. Of course no informed consent was asked nor given. In the NYTimes article praise is given to a a protocol called the Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient, which was conceived in the 90s at a Liverpool cancer facility as a more humane alternative to the frantic end-of-life assault of desperate measures. The issue is confounded now by the fact that the Liverpool care pathway is to be abolished in Britain following a government-commissioned review which heard that hospital staff wrongly interpreted its guidance for care of the dying, leading to stories of patients who were drugged and deprived of fluids in their last weeks of life. The Guardian quotes the head of the commission Lady Neuberger "What we have also exposed in this review is a range of far wider, fundamental problems with care for the dying – a lack of care and compassion, unavailability of suitably trained staff, no access to proper palliative care advice outside of 9-5, Monday to Friday."

When our mother chose to quit at age 86, she simply stopped eating and drinking. The doctors at the nursing home came running with the tubes etc. but our social worker sister persuaded them to let her die in peace and dignity. We all would prefer to die comfortably and peacefully. Our Daphne died under sedation with a crew of doctors giving electric
shocks to her heart in the hope of bringing her back probably with severe brain damage from not having breathed for who knows how long.

We would like to link you to an author, whom we have read and admired,Khaled Hosseini. His novels take place in Afghanistan where he was born and raised and can make hard reading.  In the BBC link there is a video interview with him in which he discussed identity and family as major components of his work. His first novel, The Kite Runner spent a hundred weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has sold in the millions ever since.


TRIPLE THREAT  A pulsar (left) is orbited by two white dwarfs — one close in, one farther away — in this illustration of the system PSR J0337+1715. The curved blue lines show the pulsar’s magnetic field and the blue cones show the radiation the star sends into space. Astronomers measuring this radiation will try to test general relativity, the leading theory of gravity, to unprecedented precision.
A test of general relativity is being provided by a triad of stars tightly bound together. Our galaxy is full of stellar couples and trios, But the formations and motions of the stars in PSR J0337+1715 make the system unique among those found by astronomers. The triad consists of an extremely dense, fast-rotating stellar corpse called a pulsar and two less massive dying stars known as white dwarfs. Measuring the gravitational attraction between them to high accuracy will test Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. The theory has done well over the last century and it is expected to hold up in this case as well. Good luck folks!

We have long known that quantum physics at the microscopic level is counter-intuitive in many ways. Things such as entanglement, reverse causality and dead/alive cats are not really understood and many people find this disturbing. A new school of thought called Quantum Bayesianism, or QBism for short attempts to address these issues.. It’s an approach long championed by quantum physicist Christopher Fuchs, developed with collaborators Rüdiger Schack and Carlton Caves.

We were taught as physics students that the probabilities calculated by quantum mechanics are real physical facts. But it is  not so obvious to some physicists that probabilities indeed are physical facts. After all, probabilities are just numbers, calculated from a mathematical expression called the wave function, a formula describing the “quantum state” of things like electrons or photons. There has been much philosophical discourse about whether the quantum state is something real or merely mathematical.

The issue is complex but Tom Siegfried writing in Science News does a good job of clarifying matters and we recommend his article for your perusal. Our ginger cat Schroedinger seems to take a deterministic approach to cat food and sex. He was named because he appeared in our yard on the day that Pollyanna marked Erwin Schroedinger's birthday. August 16, 2013. Google marked it as well.

WHAT IF? What if we were to dump all the tea in the world into the Great Lakes? How strong, compared to a regular cup of tea, would the lake tea be? Alex Burman The answer is what you would expect it to be.



WUMO is a hilarious comic that we fear to reproduce here because of the stern copyright warnings. We offer you the link, so go and laugh.

You must all recall these great contests in elementary school. We would usually come in first or second and always have the final round with the same Winifred who carried a dictionary in her head.  It can carry on into later life: (for the record Webster approves of both spellings)
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jan/17/2014

1 comment:

  1. the same fights arise around "focused", but spell checkers are the supreme arbiters. (American, of course.)