Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Crab Blogging

A little confused about the major claws

You think that this is a crab? Actually, I was informed it was a dinosaur.

This and the following were by a splinter faction that refuses to draw crabs.

Drawn by Twin 1

Drawn by Twin 2. They really do "see" things alike. One of them is blind in one eye and has no depth perception. I can't tell them apart.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Unearned Capital

It is pretty obvious why Bush and his BFF Paulson want to rush throught the $700 Billion bailout. By getting all this money from the taxpayer, those who perpetrated this insanity on us will be able to get away scot free. Here is some info from Forbes on CEO compensation. It gives a long list but this is a sample of the top 100:

(click to expand)

Please note that the annual salary goes from $17.8 million to $192 million a year.

The sum of these chaps stock holdings is $49,858 billion. (Laurence Ellison alone has $23 billion)

So, and this seems obvious, why the hell can't they bail out Wall Street instead of you and me?

I'm for maximum security prison for each and every one of them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Crab Blogging - Guest Appearance

We are pleased to present art work from the legendary Daniel of Across the Pond.

This is an excellent rendition of a blue crab (Callinectes sapidus, from the Greek calli="beautiful", nectes="swimmer", and Latin sapidus="savory")

This is Dan's "Cartoon Crab." The eyes have been brought down to the main torso and we have a mammalian mouth. However the construction of the articulated claws seems to be superior to the Real Crab above.

Crabs. The great Uniters.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Who u gonna b?


I saw this when on my surf-with-coffee this AM. Notice anything? There is no Doctor or Nurse in the list. We must all be "Health Care Managers!!!" (rates a three !)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Oh, My!



Sunday, September 14, 2008

Surely you're joking, Mrs. Palin?


The American Presidential election has gone from Broadway, to Off-Broadway, to Side Show. So, in that spirit, I note that Mrs. Palin isn't very friendly to Polar Bears:
The State of Alaska will sue to challenge the recent listing of polar bears as a threatened species, Gov. Sarah Palin said... She and other Alaska elected officials fear a listing will cripple oil and gas development in prime polar bear habitat off the state's northern and northwestern coasts.

If you are at all interested in the ongoing saga of Calamity Sarah, I suggest you go to a refreshing breeze (arctic, to be sure) at Mudflats.

End of first Act. Clap, clap, clap.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Friday Crab Blogging (a little late)

A rather "jawey" crab

This young man has potential as an artist

Note the ice cream cone. Totally out of character for the child who drew it.

An illustrated atlas

This child is telling a story, I think. I didn't have time to ask her what the black, serrated line represented

Drawn in the "Nemo" room, so of course the surfer dude is king

Why we do THE SCREAM

Oh, give me a break. The woman was CLUELESS! effing CLUELESS!
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin seemed puzzled Thursday when ABC News anchor Charles Gibson asked her whether she agrees with the "Bush doctrine."
Intentionally or not, the Republican vice presidential nominee was on to something. After a brief exchange, Gibson explained that he was referring to the idea -- enshrined in a September 2002 White House strategy document -- that the United States may act militarily to counter a perceived threat emerging in another country. But that is just one version of a purported Bush doctrine advanced over the past eight years.

And it isn't a damn dance, either.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Prince of Realpolitik

I don't know about you, but I am fascinated by Machiavelli. He lived in that mean but magical age of the mid Renaissance and in Florence, to boot. Borgias, Savonarolas, and various Medicis. There is more that went on of interest there between 1490 and 1535 than can be covered in a lifetime. (I prefer it covered by Elliot's Romola)

There is a good review of books about Machievelli in the current New Yorker. From the very get go, the review is full of topical quotes:
“Even with the most powerful army, if you want to invade a state, you need the support of the people.”
And apparently Machiavelli keeps coming back to this theme in his works. The necessity that a successful Prince has the support of his people. I gather that this means a rating of better than 30%. Oh Niccolo, where are you when we need you.

However, there was a much darker side to Niccolo, one that justified just about anything to accomplish the desired end. Surely this applies to the current bloodletting on the concourse of American politics. As the reviewer quotes:
Machiavelli did not question the use of torture for political purposes, even after he had been its victim. “When the very safety of the country depends upon the resolution to be taken,” he wrote in the “Discourses,” “no considerations of justice or injustice, humanity or cruelty, not of glory or of infamy, should be allowed to prevail.”
I guess it is sad to think that we have not been able to evade this terrible curse. Many would call it Realpolitik.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Notes on Landscape and Prospect-Refuge Theory:

Click to enlarge

I'm going to venture into territory I have no right invading other than the excuse that reading other blogs can get you to thinking about new things. Mostly, it will be tangential to Prospect-Refuge Theory. I got there by way of the Growelry who directed me to JSBlog’s: landscapes in mind.

The Prospect-Refuge Theory proposes that:
"at both human and sub-human level the ability to see and the ability to hide are both important in calculating a creature's survival prospects . . . . Where he has an unimpeded opportunity to see we can call it a prospect. Where he has an opportunity to hide, a refuge. . . . To this . . . aesthetic hypothesis we can apply the name prospect-refuge theory." (p. 73 Jay Appleton, The Experience of Landscape. London: John Wiley, 1975)

The first reason this is so interesting is that it melds the continuously emerging science of evolution with an observation on the basic ascetic drives of humans. I got sucked into evo-devo (evolutionary development) by stumbling across the blog Pharyngula one day. (This was before PZ Myers got wrapped up in his defense of atheism). He mentioned a book by Sean Carroll (Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom.) It is a little rough going but worth every second of it.

Recently my faith in evolution has been strengthed.

To make a long story short, I think that evolution of social response, in a manner similar to what Carroll and Meyrs describe for animal (including human) form, is a cogent hypothesis. I suppose that this is subsumed under the fieldof evolutionary psychology)
“Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behavior is generated by psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments.”

I wish I were a young biologist and could look forward to how this will work out over the years. In any case, Project-Refuge theory also seems like a cogent hypothesis.

Where I would like to come into this discussion is at the level of the human infant. First of all, we should note on a morphological level that human development , i.e. growth of the fetus, goes through some pretty unusual stages. We don’t, contrary to Sarah Palin’s belief, start out as little people.
This is the embryo at 26-30 weeks gestation:

At the same time that these unusual changes are taking place in the embryo (tail and all), controlled by the tool box genes, there are primitive neural networks being formed in the embryonic brain. Of course until we really sort out neural physiology, we won’t have a clue what genes control this formation. It gets into a sticky wicket (I can’t believe I just said that) that involves gene repressors, all that “extra DNA” that we thought was evolutionary detritus, and a full, secondary collection of biological concentrations and kinetics. To assume that these evolved over the eons is still pretty amazing, but it is the best theory that we have to date.

In any case, this development continues until we have the final, adult human who stands on the verge of a prospect and is a peace with itself because he/she can see for the distance and retreat in to the woods. Sounds plausible. Sounds like that is probably how it happened. But what about infants and children?

I can guarantee you that we are not born with a fully developed Prospect-Refuge mentality. While I feel certain that the neural pathways that allow the adult to express this behavior are there in some kind of Ur-network way, infant behavior is rather different as any parent can tell you.

One of the confusing aspects of human development is that we are born quite a bit before our quadrapedal relatives. The reason for this, according to “The Singing Neandrathal” is that when humans began to stand up and became bipedal, the female pelvis was narrowed, not allowing the large headed human to pass easily through the birth canal. Indeed, many cesarian sections are done for failure to progress. This occurs even though the skull bones of the infant can override significantly during birth. But, we survived rather than the Neanderthal because of our bigger brain.

(One observation is that we have probably progressed to as large a brain as we can develop evolutionarily. In other words, we might well be at a dead end as a species. A little frightening but, hey, it won’t happen for a few million years at the earliest. We are much more likely to go out with Dick Cheney’s or Sarah Palin's machinations.)

So, the first year of human life is really in an external womb. As we all know, most animals get kicked out of the nest or hive pretty quickly. Once you are out, you need to have all of your evolutionarily derived skills intact, including the Prospect-Refuge sense. It is interesting about humans, though, is that they are fearless for quite some time. Somewhere about the 8 month to one year age they start being afraid of strangers. But fear of predators? Well, who are the predators of our suburban savannah’s? For one thing they are automobiles, and I defy you to find a child who is afraid of running out in front of automobiles.

Children also seem to be fearless of heights, something one would think would be as ingrained as the Prospect-Refuge sense. (I am afraid of heights; but I relate it to an experience where my father held me over the edge of a dam to see the spillways when I was about six.)

In summary, human children take a long time to develop an appropriate awareness of their surroundings that will enhance their survival. Many would argue that teenagers in particular act as if threats were non existent. Using the counter argument that they have to “test” the enviornment in order to learn seems to defeat the purpose of built in evolutionary instincts. But, of course, no one understands teenagers.

I really like prospects. There is something that lulls the human roiling in a landscape. So, I am particularly thankful to my friend across the pond for putting me on to such interesting places as Some-Landscapes.

We definitely don’t pay attention to this in modern America. A while back I was trying to generate some interest in the powers that be at a major educational institution (where I was on the faculty) in constructing their next big building using human oriented ideas rather than a big concrete and brick box. I guess I was influenced by an article in the New Yorker on Frederick Law Olmstead and how he designed Prospect Park in Brooklyn where the vista at the top of this post comes from and, of course, Central Park. Olmstead had an intuitive feel for the Prospect-Refuge concept, and embedded it into the design of his parks and other city scapes.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Friday Crab Blogging (a little late)

The House of Cards


In is my opinion that the John McCain/Sarah Palin ticket is so fraught with deceptions, half-truths and outright lies that it will, in the not too distant future, collapse like a house of cards.

Hopefully this will be before November 4th.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

First time as Opera, second time as Soap Opera...

Update Below

The McCain campaign has shown a brilliant burst of show biz. (Let us always remember that we are not participating in politics as usual, but entertainment as usual.) Absolutely nothing they could have done, short of raising up Reagan from the tomb, would have brought as much attention as picking this small time politico from the wilds of Alaska. One that actually revels in her ordinariness. One that has so many strings attached she looks like a parachute.

But it was successful. In spite of a mature, serious, and stirring speech a week ago by Barack Obama, he has been driven from the attention of our three-second media (Sorry, Andy, it is no longer 15 minutes) by the little lady with the wandering child.

In spite of all this bluster, there are some real questions of judgement. I think that it is appropriate to question a candidate's judgement. After all, it is the lack of this quality that George Bush and Dick Cheney excel in.

Did Governor Palin, with her last pregnancy, break her waters at the Governor's convention in Texas last April?
"The governor's labor began while she was in Texas, and I do know that she got on a plane and landed in Anchorage late last night," said Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow.
This is beyond strange and brings into question exactly went on here from a medical standpoint. Here are some other items:

1. Governor Palin was 44 years old (DOB 02/11/1964)

2. She was pregnant with a fifth child. (apparently no one knew she was pregnant until she announced it at 7 months when she was not showing at all. Not to announce your pregnancy for someone who is clearly into children and not until the seventh month when she should have looked like the women pictured here or here is a bit strange. Much was made of this in a Daily Kos post which stirred much controversy and was ultimately removed. I will say nothing more about the unusual nature of this particular aspect since it has been decided that there is nothing amiss.)

3. She knew that this was a baby with Down's syndrome on the basis of prenatal diagnosis:
Trig arrived about a month early and has Down syndrome, the governor confirmed. Testing during early pregnancy revealed the condition.
Now there are at least three ways of knowing that a baby has Down's syndrome. The most accurate would be to do amniocentisis. However, given Ms. Palin's religious convictions, it is unlikely that she did this since she would not have aborted the fetus under any condition and the procedure itself leads to some potential for spontanteous abortion. The second would be a suspicion on alpha feto protein testing if the value was low (the purpose of the test is to detect neural tube defects where the value would be high.) Finally, prenatal ultrasound can frequently suggest that the fetus is a Down's baby on the basis of extra folds of skin on the back of the neck, and other findings.

4. He was 6 pounds, 2 ounces at birth, average for thirty six weeks.

5. Going into premature labor most likely involved breaking her waters and not labor pains, though we do not know.

5. Governor Palin was at the Republican Governor's Association convention in Dallas when she "went into labor." She did not go to a local hospital but flew back to Anchorage and then went to a hospital in Palmer (a town close to Wasilla where she lives, see map) to give birth. Many airlines do not allow women in labor to fly, particularly the lengthy trip to Anchorage.

Palmer is a town of 4,533 people (in 2,000). The medical center there is the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center which does, indeed, have obstetric services. However, there is no mention of either pediatric or neonatal intensive care (NICU)services. The nearest NICU would be in Anchorage at the Children's Hospital at Providence Medical Center.

Luckily, while premature (36 weeks), the child did not suffer complications at birth and it was not necessary to transport the baby to Anchorage.

Were the decisions of Governor Palin and her husband appropriate in this case?

On the face of it, the answer has to be "no." Governor Palin went into premature labor. It is hard to imagine that she was having contractions in Texas and then flew all the way to Anchorage (where there is a NICU) and then 40+ miles further to Palmer if she was having contractions. Many multips deliver babies very soon after contractions commence. There is almost no way to tell when the baby will come. Certainly there have been a number of babies delivered in taxi cabs by fathers on the way to the hospital. In sum, while contractions had hopefully not started, it was still risky to take that plane ride.

Furthermore, it was risky to go back to a community hospital when the baby was most certainly at risk for respiratory problems after birth which could possibly needed a NICU. In order to get from the regional hospital in Palmer to the Children's Hospital in Anchorage there would have to be a helicopter airlift of the sick baby. Such a procedure in itself has its risks. Even without the risks for respiratory problems there was some increase risk of neonatal sepsis because of the rupture of membranes in addition to risks specific to Down's syndrome, e.g. duodenal atresia.

In summary, it is my opinion that on the face of it, the Palins did not make a wise medical decision in this case. It is unknown why they decided on this journey back to Palmer when very good and well equipped hospitals were available in Texas and Anchorage.

One thing is for sure, I would not want Governor Palin to be making much more complex and weighty decisions as President of the United States.

(P.S. I know the title of the post doesn't really fit, I just thought it was cool.)

Update: I ran across this most interesting post on Mudflats:
A Letter About Sarah Palin from Anne Kilkenny