Saturday, December 22, 2012

Physical Education

Program from the 1960s. Can your kids or grandkids do this? Can you?


Saturday, December 15, 2012

More time, Old time

The French philosopher Henri Bergson once said, "Time is the thing that keeps everything from happening all at once." I've also seen the quote attributed to "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," but whatever the source, it's the principle that I use to understand what has happened to my father since the caulk of Alzheimer's has filled in the synapses of his brain.

To my dad, I am 5 years old and also a novelist. I am 43 years old and also an undergrad at the University of Notre Dame. I am an assistant media relations director for the Houston Astros, and I am not yet old enough to drive. I am a Little League coach in La Grange, Ill., and a Little League player in Bethel Park, Pa. I also work in advertising.

My mother knows me as all these things, too, but she understands time as an organizing principle, that I was each of these things at a different stage of my life. My father does not. To him I am all of these things at once. He lives in an unrelenting present, with no real concept of yesterday or tomorrow.

My mother is easier for him to recognize because she has always been the same, reliable thing to him. But he does sometimes offer to carry her books to class.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Let's talk about time

Kids aren't "different," that's acculturation. Is the solution to adapt to a different time horizon, or actively work to change the time horizon?

Monday, November 26, 2012

A New Religion

Dear John,

I couldn't tell if you were serious or not, but since I was, I figured I'd continue the thought here. That way I don't clutter up your space.

Of course the pigmen should be run through and put on the spit, so I'll continue the thought in that vein.

Morality has a time component. If you're hunting rabbits in the forest to eat, and being hunted by bears, you probably have a limited time frame for not destroying the world, what with self-preservation and all.

If you're a poor subsistence farmer in China, or an impoverished single mother in some shit town in Mexico, well, it's probably reasonable to have a moral time horizon of a couple generations, hoping for your kids and their kids to have a better life.

Which brings us to the wealthy class. These fuckers have the luxury of at worst an incredibly blessed existence. And yet, they seem to have a moral time horizon that can be measured in years, if not fiscal quarters.

Obviously, this is unacceptable.

So, those of us with wealth, education, and no real danger of imminent death or even long-term discomfort in any practical sense are obligated to have a longer moral time horizon.

I'd say 1000 years is a pretty good starting point for the least of us, but it's pretty unimaginative.  I'd hope a 10,000 to 100,000 year time horizon for a moral framework and planning would be a solid basis for modern, secular religious/moral life.

That way, we can start working on asteroid defense systems, colonizing Mars (a la Elon Musk,) and maintaining and enriching our environment for future generations and some sense of aesthetic beauty.

See, I think that as a species, Cnu's Edo Period stasis can't be done for its own sake, it needs a religious, visionary component.

To make a cohesive, cross-cultural value set take hold, it needs to be rooted in a great and powerful vision. With a moral framework in mind (i.e. we are colonizing space and building a stable biosphere and feeder system on Earth, social status is defined by a merit based system with these goals as the measuring stick,) you can justify lopping the heads off of loafers, liars and losers.

So, I propose a 100,00 year grand plan, with 10,000 year stage goals and 1,000 year checkpoints that define individual eras within that grand scheme.

A new religion? I don't know.

10,000 year goal: Colonize near space. Maximize genetic adaptions.
1,000 year checkpoint: Stabilize the biosphere and develop the moral authority to enforce the grand vision. Colonize the moon and Mars.

It's a start.

 p.s. Also, quite fun to write posts again instead of just repost, so thanks for telling me to fuck off!


Friday, November 23, 2012

From my deleted archives

With thanks to the cached archives of degringoglade.

This is what I thought 3+ years ago anyway...

Well, my main referrer has de-listed me (understandable, I was on hiatus) and my only other readers make me nervous (try not to log in from a military server sis, I don't want my door kicked in!). So, to all 5 of you, here's my worldview (with apologies and thanks to JMG, Cnulan, and many others)


Our standard of living is defined by energy use per capita. The more energy inputs that go into the things we consume, the richer we are, both individually and collectively.

The 'crisis' most people seem to fear, be it financial, social, or political, is basically the same complaint: someone wants to take away the energy you consume.


American political conservatives seem to be of the opinion that the energy they currently enjoy, in the form of material goods and money, are theirs fair and square. Others are trying to take this energy away, for redistribution. They object to this redistribution of wealth either on fairness grounds ("I earned it,") or efficiency grounds ("the government can only fuck it up.")
American liberals rarely address the topic of their own energy consumption, regardless of their own personal wealth. Instead, they focus on the inequality of energy distribution, or rather, they demand more inputs to bring others up to their level of energy use, while lowering the rate of extraction of energy to preserve it for the future.

Politically, both sides operate from a position of insanity. Conservatives have done nothing to 'earn' their wealth, except in the classic sense that they brutally exploit other people at home and abroad to enjoy the fruits of their labor. I would define this view as deluded accounting; pretending your outputs of energy somehow balance your inputs.

Liberals seem to think that the proper solution to inequality is to bring everyone in the world up to their (self-servingly appropriate) level of consumption, while also entering an energy stasis, only using what we consume. This basically means they expect currently unknown energy reserves to pop up and world population to decline voluntarily. I would define this view as happy-face wishful thinking.

Same story, different game. The US dollar is the worlds reserve currency. Money is not manufactured by the government, but by the request for debt by the consumer (HT). Fiat currency is indeed, a Ponzi scheme, but one that functions well for longer than a human lifetime if you do it properly, thereby ensuring that it won't upset too many people in too short a time.

So the rich guys on Wall Street made fat coin, and now your 401K in a 201K. The majority seems to believe that those who took larger share of the spoils are somehow the bad guys, and that they are in cahoots with the government.
I think Wall Street is in cahoots with the government too, but being mad at Wall Street for plundering the rest of the world and only giving you a penny on the dollar seems silly to me. You're a penny ahead, and I bet privately the Kings of the Universe feel the same way: they orchestrated the plunder of the world, and were kind enough to give you some for your assistance and looking the other way. Now you want a bigger piece of the pie. Fuck you.


The common opinion on the sites I read is that wealth disparity has gone out of control and lead to the collapse of our economy--the only way to restore prosperity is a more egalitarian society.

Um, no. Excluding brief periods over the last 100 years, the world has never been so equal for the haves and the have-nots. While all of us are much wealthier today energy-wise than the nobles of the past several millenia, the difference between the haves and have-nots is less than you'll find in the past.

We're riding high on tons of unlocked, nonrenewable energy: coal, gas & oil. As peak oil adherents say, were on the downslope for the AAA rated energy source of the three, oil.

What's the solution? If you read The Archdruid, or at least his book, you know he doesn't think it's a problem, he thinks it's a predicament. Problems have solutions, predicaments are shit that you deal with, cope with, die from--you don't solve them.

I see four things coming, either exclusively or all together.

1) Population reduction-either through war, pandemic, starvation, nuclear plant explosion, etc.
2) Explicit Empire and Fascism- before we give up our stuff voluntarily, we'll give up our notions of fairness, morality, and equality. Expect nationalism, stifling of dissent, and acceptance of plunder as a necessity. These may take the forms of racism, sexism, cultural genocide, social classes becoming social castes, or probably a big soup of all of them.

3) Nuclear power and environmental degradation- You will not accept quietly your 'energy neutral future. Even at 25% of current population, stasis energy use is basically the life of a medieval serf. Not super fun. Expect environmental laws to disappear, nuclear reactors to spring up everywhere its feasible, and much more provincialism

4) Loss of morality- Our modern morality is based on wealth, not inherent characteristics. Genetic survival is the fundamental truth IMHO, and inherent individual liberty and rights are a pretty new concept. Expect your rights to go away, expect that what you can get away with will be what's right (take one step down Maslow's hierarchy from where you are now), and expect your value as an individual to diminish as your value as a group member to grow, either as a gang member, citizen of the nation, or member of a social class.


Get over yourself. Prepare to lead/join an organized group, hoard energy and accumulate power to the largest social structure you can at any given time. Your access to energy and COMPLEX material goods will decline going forward. Select the largest social group you can effectively organize and be (secretly) ready to drop down a level to the next largest group when that one goes away.

In my lifetime? Probably best from a survival standpoint to be a fervent nationalist who also protects the interest of your social class above all others. Probably best from a moral standpoint to organize a dirt farmer collective and teach sustainable practices while building community that's resistant to external exploitation.

Are you John Michael Greer or John Wesley Rawles? For myself, I'm a little bit of both, going forward, only time will tell--maybe it's better to be Daniel Plainview.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

You can hate Ron...

But I challenge you to listen to this whole thing and disagree with more than 5% of his speech. Say that about the guy you pulled the lever for.

Yeah, the private property thing and fiat money parts have some (minor) BS elements, but you think any elected, or popular, politicians have better ideas than the ones he articulated here, you have a unique world view I welcome in the comments.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Dunning on the cognitive problem

People can be clueless in a million different ways, even though they are largely trying to get things right in an honest way. Deficits in knowledge, or in information the world is giving them, just leads people toward false beliefs and holes in their expertise...

...Psychologists over the past 50 years have demonstrated the sheer genius people have at convincing themselves of congenial conclusions while denying the truth of inconvenient ones.  You can call it self-deception, but it also goes by the names rationalization, wishful thinking, defensive processing, self-delusion, and motivated reasoning. There is a robust catalogue of strategies people follow to believe what they want to, and we research psychologists are hardly done describing the shape or the size of that catalogue.  All this rationalization can lead people toward false beliefs, or perhaps more commonly, to tenaciously hang on to false beliefs they should really reconsider.

Denial, to a psychologist, is a somewhat knuckle-headed technique in self-deception, and it is to merely deny the truth of something someone does not want to confront.
Venn Diagram of cluelessness, self-deception and denial.Graphic by Steven Hathaway Venn Diagram of cluelessness, self-deception and denial.

Clearly, Dunning believes that we are incarcerated in a prison of cluelessness.  But is there any possibility of escape? I had some additional questions for Dunning, and so we arranged to speak again.

DAVID DUNNING:  Here’s a thought.  The road to self-insight really runs through other people. So it really depends on what sort of feedback you are getting.  Is the world telling you good things? Is the world rewarding you in a way that you would expect a competent person to be rewarded?  If you watch other people, you often find there are different ways to do things; there are better ways to do things.  I’m not as good as I thought I was, but I have something to work on.  Now, the sad part about that is — there’s been a replication of this with medical students — people at the bottom, if you show them what other people do, they don’t get it.  They don’t realize that what those other people are doing is superior to what they’re doing.  And that’s the troubling thing. So for people at the bottom, that social comparison information is a wonderful piece of information, but they may not be in a position to take advantage of it like other people.

ERROL MORRIS:  But wait a second.  You’re supposed to benefit from feedback.  But the people that you’ve picked are dunderheads.  And you lack the ability to discriminate between dunderheads and non-dunderheads, between good advice and bad advice, between that which makes sense and that which makes no sense.  So the community does you no damn good!

DAVID DUNNING: You know, I think that is an issue.  Those among us who are in the 40th percentile, they’re not the best, but they’re not doing too badly.  But people at the bottom, you’re going to have to be open-minded and you’re going to have some special hurdles, internal hurdles you have to get over.  If people give you conflicting advice, congratulations, you don’t know how to choose.  Yes, it is a tricky part of the problem.

ERROL MORRISAnd aren’t there some tasks where we’re all incompetent, where humanity itself is in the bottom quartile, so to speak?

DAVID DUNNING Well, that has to be true for some tasks, right?  There are just some tasks that are incredibly hard. How many centuries have gone by, and we still don’t have world peace?  Yes, there are things that we’re just bad at.


Emphasis mine.

My Great Uncle's Coins

Maker of Type I is unknown. Type II was designed and issued by Adam Pietz, Philadelphia, PA, engraver and die-sinker. Both types were sold for presentation by families and friends to departing servicemen. They were not popular and their sales were limited.


It's a cool coin, glad it's in the collection. Looks like they sell for about $6. My great-uncle was an officer in, I believe, the Air Force in WWII, but would have been an infant in WWI.

Just a collector.

Monday, October 22, 2012


It is also true that some measure of inequality is good for an economy. It sharpens incentives to work hard and take risks; it rewards the talented innovators who drive economic progress. Free-traders have always accepted that the more global a market, the greater the rewards will be for the winners. But as our special report this week argues, inequality has reached a stage where it can be inefficient and bad for growth.

That is most obvious in the emerging world. In China credit is siphoned to state-owned enterprises and well-connected insiders; the elite also gain from a string of monopolies. In Russia the oligarchs’ wealth has even less to do with entrepreneurialism. In India, too often, the same is true.

In the rich world the cronyism is better-hidden. One reason why Wall Street accounts for a disproportionate share of the wealthy is the implicit subsidy given to too-big-to-fail banks. From doctors to lawyers, many high-paying professions are full of unnecessary restrictive practices. And then there is the most unfair transfer of all—misdirected welfare spending. Social spending is often less about helping the poor than giving goodies to the relatively wealthy. In America the housing subsidy to the richest fifth (through mortgage-interest relief) is four times the amount spent on public housing for the poorest fifth.

Even the sort of inequality produced by meritocracy can hurt growth. If income gaps get wide enough, they can lead to less equality of opportunity, especially in education. Social mobility in America, contrary to conventional wisdom, is lower than in most European countries. The gap in test scores between rich and poor American children is roughly 30-40% wider than it was 25 years ago. And by some measures class mobility is even stickier in China than in America.


Emphasis mine.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mingus Amongus

"Psychopath! psychopath!"
I'm alone in my living room and I'm yelling at my TV. "Forget rehabilitation -- that guy is a psychopath." 

Ever since I visited Dr. Robert Hare in Vancouver, I can see them, the psychopaths. It's pretty easy, once you know how to look. I'm watching a documentary about an American prison trying to rehabilitate teen murderers. They're using an emotionally intense kind of group therapy, and I can see, as plain as day, that one of the inmates is a psychopath. He tries, but he can't muster a convincing breakdown, can't fake any feeling for his dead victims. He's learned the words, as Bob Hare would put it, but not the music. 

The incredible thing, the reason I'm yelling, is that no one in this documentary -- the therapists, the warden, the omniscient narrator -- seems to know the word "psychopath." It is never uttered, yet it changes everything. A psychopath can never be made to feel the horror of murder. Weeks of intense therapy, which are producing real breakthroughs in the other youths, will probably make a psychopath more likely to reoffend. Psychopaths are not like the rest of us, and everyone who studies them agrees they should not be treated as if they were. 

I think of Bob Hare, who's in New Orleans receiving yet another award, and wonder if he's watching the same show in his hotel room and feeling the same frustration. A lifetime spent looking into the heads of psychopaths has made the slight, slightly anxious emeritus professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia the world's best-known expert on the species. Hare hasn't merely changed our understanding of psychopaths. It would be more accurate to say he has created it. 


Thursday, September 6, 2012


The metal has the highest melting point of all metals, and at temperatures over 1650 oC also has the highest tensile strength. Pure tungsten is ductile, and tungsten wires, even of a very small diameter, have a very high tensile strength.

Tungsten is highly resistant to corrosion...

Tungsten is one of the five major refractory metals (metals with very high resistance to heat and wear). The other refactory metals are molybdenum, tantalum, rhenium and niobium.

Tungsten and its alloys are widely used for filaments in older style (not energy saving) electric bulbs and electronic tubes...

High speed steel (which can cut material at higher speeds than carbon steel), contains up to 18% tungsten.


Monday, September 3, 2012

My Great Uncle's Coins

My great uncle was a really interesting guy who lived in Wisconsin. I inherited a bunch of his junk coins when he passed away and figured this is a great place to share them, a very nice intersection of art, commerce, and history. Hopefully the first in a long series, I have a lot of coins...

One of my favorites. The quarter-millennial celebration coin. I am unclear on what the 1677 date means, but it's a lovely coin.


If you click on the link, you'll notice the one I have is a master--the holes were never bored and the inlayed coin and top piece were never attached, In fact, I have extra metal all around the edge. A prototype? Very cool metal art. I like mine better than the finished versions.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Professor DD

I'll be teaching an upper division university course starting next week on the analysis of mass media messages.

Considering the wide array of quixotic and brilliant thinkers hereabouts, I thought I'd throw the comments open to topics, discussion, reference works, and classroom material to all y'all.

It is an interdisciplinary general education course in the Journalism department.

Feel free, and remember--it's a state school. Even in California, I need to keep it accessible, you crazy bunch of geniuses.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Health Interlude (and please, eat meat!)

I'm a huge fan of Steve Ilg's book, "Total Body Transformation." In the introduction, he makes a small point that continues to shape my understanding of training, health, and life.
Very simply, he notes that the word "Fit" comes from the Old Norse meaning "to knit." I can't think of a better way to describe, in the most basic terms, the goals of life...

...[consider] Ilg's insight: Fitness is knitting.

An old friend of mine who died not long ago once told me that "life is a tapestry." These threads from here and there knit together to form you as a person, and Ilg's work is a great example of this. Yoga, strength training, cardio, nutrition, and meditation are his pillars, but you also find in his work insights about life, living, and everything (with apologies to Douglas Adams).

With that in mind, I'd like to suggest a few ideas about seeing your training and fitness goals as part of a larger tapestry of life...


Friday, July 6, 2012

Circle of Life

As economic collapse and austerity settle over Europe, criminal gangs have found a lucrative trade in brokering the sale of organs from the desperate poor to the dying rich. In his New York Times feature, Dan Bilefsky opens with the story of Pavle Mircov and his partner Daniella, Serbians who are trying to sell their kidneys so that they can feed and educate their teenage children.

The sale of "kidneys, lungs, bone marrow or corneas" is rampant in former Soviet states, but it's also booming in Spain, Italy and Greece -- countries where mandated austerity has stripped away the social safety net at the very moment in which the economy has collapsed and unemployment has spiked (in Spain, youth unemployment is over 50 percent).

I really came to understand this subject better through my reading of The Red Market, by Scott Carney, an excellent book on the sale of human tissues around the world. Though it seems like Mr Carney may have to write a new chapter for the econopocalypse.
Trade in organs in Serbia is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison. But that is not deterring the people of Doljevac, a poor municipality of 19,000 people in southern Serbia, where the government refused an attempt by residents to register a local agency to sell their organs and blood abroad for profit.
Violeta Cavac, a homemaker advocating for the network, said that the unemployment rate in Doljevac was 50 percent and that more than 3,000 people had wanted to participate. Deprived of a legal channel to sell their organs, she said, residents are now trying to sell body parts in neighboring Bulgaria or in Kosovo.
“I will sell my kidney, my liver, or do anything necessary to survive,” she said.
Hunched over his computer in Kovin, about 25 miles from Belgrade, Mr. Mircov showed a reporter his kidney-for-sale advertisement, which included his blood type and phone number.
“Must sell kidney. Blood group A,” the ad said. “My financial situation is very difficult. I lost my job, and I need money for school for my two children.”


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Primers and Possibilities

So why are the developed economies in such trouble today?

Because for whatever reason, the central bank and the government have failed to take that most important first step in a sustainable recovery in the aftermath of a credit bubble:  reforming and restructuring the financial system.

It is really that simple.

The imbalance that gripped the banking system, the oversized growth of financialisation through innovations in fraudulent conveyances, is still in place.   The activity has just moved to other segments of the economy to feed a bloated and overpaid financial sector that largely unchanged, except that the names on their business cards may be different and fewer.

What we have now is an oversized financial bureaucracy that continues to suck the life out of the real economy which itself has decreased in size and is less able to carry on gracefully.

In those countries that have taken the necessary steps to cleanse the debt and corruption out of their banking systems and restore a balance that favors real growth rather than financial manipulation and speculation, there has been a recovery. Iceland is one recent example. The US in the 1930's is another very good example.

And almost every one of the protections that the people put in place in the 1930's, based on their sad experience in the financial collapse of the 1920's speculative bubble in fraudulent financial instruments, was struck down.

The approach of 'bailing out the banks' and then shifting the pain of economic adjustment from the bank management, shareholders, and bondholders to the public is not only unjust, it is also ineffective, because it merely perpetuates the problems and distortions that caused the banks to fail in the first place and makes them much worse.

The result of this is most likely to be a prolonged period of significant stagflation, if the country has a sovereign currency sound enough to continue on supporting it.  In Japan this presented itself as a prolonged period of economic stagnation but not private deprivation for some reasons peculiar to the structure of their real economy and the nature of their political system.

So here we are. What happens next will be a policy decision.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

A growing number of cities across the United States are making it harder to be homeless...

Philadelphia recently banned outdoor feeding of people in city parks. Denver has begun enforcing a ban on eating and sleeping on property without permission. And this month, lawmakers in Ashland, Ore., will consider strengthening the town's ban on camping and making noise in public.

...Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma City and more than 50 other cities have previously adopted some kind of anti-camping or anti-food-sharing laws...

Safety Interlude

I do hope this is still an interlude, and not my first post in a very long time. As I type, nobody knows....

All good.

Friday, June 1, 2012


Roger believes “the whole point of having a bit of money was not to have to fly scum class.” School for their son: £20,000. Nanny for the other son: £35,000. Weekend nanny: £9,000. Cars. Clothes. Taxes and pensions. And above it all

the general hard-to-believe expensiveness of everything in London, restaurants and shoes and parking fines and cinema tickets and gardeners and the feeling that every time you went anywhere or did anything money just started melting off you. Roger didn’t mind that, he was completely up for it, but it did mean that if he didn’t get his million-pound bonus this year he was at genuine risk of going broke.

It’s not the last time that a character in Capital will tally what he has and what he needs; the characters in Lanchester’s London have complicated financial, strategic, and emotional ledger sheets, and the book is studded with discussions of worth, value, and want.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Easy Button

Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?
Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Big Jumps

Years from now it may be said that the quantum Internet was born today. When the baby system matures, it will be able to process unfathomable amounts of data and never be hacked.

The system only has two nodes, but the Internet's birth started in a similar way back in the late 1960s. The developers -- physicists led by Stephan Ritter and Gerhard Rempe of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Germany -- published their work in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

The quantum network was built using two atoms of rubidium that exchange photons, or particles of light. Each atom is placed inside a cavity with highly reflecting mirrors on each side, and at a very short distance from each other. The two so-called optical cavities are connected by an optical fiber.

Scientists aim a laser at the first atom, causing the atom to emit a single photon. That photon zooms along the optical fiber to other optical cavity containing the other atom. That's where the mirrors come in -- ordinarily it's difficult to get an atom and a photon to interact reliably. But by bouncing the photon off the mirrors in the cavity thousands of times, it's more likley to hit the atom and be absorbed by it. That absorbtion is what transmits the information about the first atom's quantum state to the second atom.

Besides sending information, the two atoms were entangled, meaning that the atoms were linked. If the first node is in quantum state A, for example, the second node will also be in quantum state A. In this experiment, the atoms were entangled for 100 microseconds -- a long time in quantum physics.

This entanglement is what makes hacking into a quantum computer and eavesdropping on impossible. As as soon as a hacker tapped into a quantum network, the states of the atoms wouldn't match up -- a big red flag that something was awary.

It's a long way yet to a truly large-scale quantum network, but this is a first step.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Friday, March 2, 2012

old is new

Beginning in the 1880's up until World War Two, hoboes placed markings on fences, posts, sidewalks, buildings, trestles, bridge abutments, and railroad line side equipment to aid them and others of their kind in finding help or steering them clear of trouble. Usually, these signs would be written in chalk or coal letting others know what they could expect in the area of the symbol...Today hoboes communicate with cellular phones, and e-mail...

The hobo nickel is a sculptural art form... essentially resulting in miniature bas reliefs. The nickel, because of its size, thickness, and relative softness, was a favored coin for this purpose...

Due to its low cost and portability, this medium was particularly popular among hobos, hence the name.

The abundance of nickel in Earth's crust is 90 parts per million...In meteorites, however, its abundance approaches 13,000 ppm. Much of the world's supply of nickel is found in Ontario, Canada, where it is isolated from the ores pentlandite and pyrrhotite. Other large deposits are found in Australia, New Caledonia, Cuba, Indonesia, and Greenland.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

G'day y'all

Who hasn't changed their inflection depending on the social circle? Baaaaaaa...

Humans, elephants and dolphins do it, and apparently goats do, too.

The horned ruminants pick up accents as they get older and join social groups, according to researchers at Queen Mary University, London, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

Experts previously thought only a select group of mammals has the ability to modify vocal sounds according to their surroundings, and that other species' "voices" were determined solely by genetics. Whales and bats pick up accents as well.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Saint Hilda

Blessed Hildegard of Bingen (German: Hildegard von Bingen; Latin: Hildegardis Bingensis) (1098 – 17 September 1179), also known as Saint Hildegard, and Sibyl of the Rhine, was a German writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath. One of her works as a composer, the Ordo Virtutum, is an early example of liturgical drama and arguably the oldest surviving morality play.

She wrote theological, botanical and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs, and poems, while supervising brilliant miniature Illuminations...

..It is possible that Hildegard could have been a chantress and a worker in the herbarium and infirmarium.In any case, Hildegard and Jutta were enclosed at Disibodenberg in the Palatinate Forest in what is now Germany. Jutta was also a visionary and thus attracted many followers who came to visit her at the enclosure...

Upon Jutta's death in 1136, Hildegard was unanimously elected as "magistra" of her sister community by her fellow nuns. Abbot Kuno, the Abbot of Disibodenberg, also asked Hildegard to be Prioress. Hildegard, however, wanted more independence for herself and her nuns and asked Abbot Kuno to allow  them to move to Rupertsberg...When the abbot declined Hildegard's proposition, Hildegard went over his head and received the approval of Archbishop Henry I of Mainz...

...Hildegard and about twenty nuns thus moved to the St. Rupertsberg monastery in 1150, where Volmar served as provost, as well as Hildegard's confessor and scribe. In 1165 Hildegard founded a second convent for her nuns at Eibingen.

Hildegard says that she first saw "The Shade of the Living Light" at the age of three, and by the age of five she began to understand that she was experiencing visions. She used the term 'visio' to this feature of her experience, and recognized that it was a gift that she could not explain to others. Hildegard explained that she saw all things in the light of God through the five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.

...Hildegard was hesitant to share her visions, confiding only to Jutta, who in turn told Volmar, Hildegard's tutor and, later, secretary. Throughout her life, she continued to have many visions, and in 1141, at the age of 42, Hildegard received a vision she believed to be an instruction from God, to "write down that which you see and hear." Still hesitant to record her visions, Hildegard became physically ill.

...Hildegard left behind over 100 letters, 72 songs, 70 poems, and 9 books...

Hildegard communicated with popes such as Eugene III and Anastasius IV, statesmen such as Abbot Suger, German emperors such as Frederick I Barbarossa, and other notable figures such as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who advanced her work, at the behest of her abbot, Kuno, at the Synod of Trier in 1147 and 1148...

...In space, she is commemorated by the asteroid 898 Hildegard.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Strategic Time, or, Can't stop won't stop

The ITU Radiocommunication Assembly has reached an important decision to defer the development of a continuous time standard in order to address the concerns of countries that use the current system of the leap second in Coordinated Universal Time...

Adjustments made in one second steps, known as ‘leap seconds’, have been implemented since 1972 to compensate for variations in the speed of the earth’s rotation...

The suppression of the leap second would make continuous time scale available for all the modern electronic navigation and computerized systems to operate with and eliminate the need for specialized ad hoc time systems. This however may have social and legal consequences when the accumulated difference between UT1 – Earth rotation time – would reach a perceivable level (2 to 3 minutes in 2100 and about 30 minutes in 2700).

Emphasis mine.

The Earth's rotation speed can be measured using different techniques...

The rotation data shows oscillations over several different timescales. The one with the largest variation is seasonal: Earth slows down in January and February.

"It turns out that during the Northern Hemisphere winter, the winds - which are predominantly west to east - are stronger," Salstein said.

The more forceful winds double the angular momentum of the atmosphere...

This means the days get longer - by a few thousandths of a second.