Sunday 29 June 2014

null-set or zero, my hero

Brain Pickings, using a speculative survey of the nature of nothing and how chaos, harnessed for opportunity can come of that void as a provocative point-of-departure for talking about mindfulness, aggrandizement and general overall well-being and resiliency.
Research shows that the placebo-effect (from the Latin, I will please) is not negated after all when subjects know that they are part of an experiment and are taking an inert little helper, and the essay goes on to address those obvious but escaping maxims of circumspection, curiosity, hope and a sense-of-purpose that are so fundamental and basic to the good life. I know, easy to say and it's the most difficult thing in the world not to be an existential brat and hold everything in perspective—despite numerous studies showing that these clinical zeroes, just thoughts, calm and collecting, and the real negating notion that a disclosed sugar-pill is still not too much of a let-down, it is the concept of zero (from the Arabic, it is empty) that is really novel and interesting when applied philosophically. Maybe all other achievements, progress is really not due to complicity, cooperation or incorporation but the ability to dismiss that direct chemical intervention as a placebo.  Though we can relate to nothing left or even indebtedness, nothing and nothing as a place-holder is a pretty abstract idea to grasp. It has developed significantly over the generations but I think a really concrete understanding of a void eludes us. What do you think? Can fulfillment or genuine needs be answered by a series of nothings?

Sunday 24 February 2013

shoo fly

Experimentation is possibly demonstrating the waning efficacy of pesticides, namely in tests involving the pervasive chemical DEET. Mosquitoes that are spreading the scourges of mankind that defy overcoming on first exposure avoid the active ingredient, developed by the US military to make jungle warfare more tolerable, but upon their second encounter, seem inured to the taste and don’t seem to mind it so much, like acquiring a taste for coffee or beer and maybe even a liking for it.

Seeing mosquitoes ignore the intended effects after just the next exposure is interesting enough and I’m no advocate of dousing oneself or one’s surroundings with concoctions of dubious value (or making it a pedigree of one’s fruits and vegetables), but it gets really interesting when one raises the question whether such circumstances exist in the field, do mosquitoes get the opportunity to return to the same watering-hole a second time, would be a fair question—or are the laboratory stocks of mosquitoes and their forebears too acclimated to such synthetic experiments, like little trained fleas whose talents run in the family. Departure—prematurely, from the scientific method builds up undeserved confidence and we would do right to wonder about what’s not dispensed with moderation

Saturday 15 December 2012

arco de movimento or see, i can sit 'n stand by myself

A few days ago, the Daily Mail reported on a Brazilian study that seemed fairly comprehensive and scientifically balanced that supported a strong correlation between the ability to rise from a seated position on the floor without the aid of one’s hands or other supports and longevity. Conversely, the inability to raise oneself was indicative, apparently, of impending mortality—or at least atrophy in terms of muscle and skeletal integrity. I slipped and fell on my hinder just prior to reading that article (I blame the snow and ice but it was more likely some ice that had hitchhiked on the grooves on my boots rather than poor housekeeping) and have not quite regained full range of motion in my hips so I have not yet been able to reconfirm that I can indeed extract myself from a seated position on the ground (although I did jump right back up when I fell).
I am keen to put it to the test—like the nervous jitters that one gets from seeing those ubiquitous headlines that being sedentary for hours on end is a real killer, and maybe without hyperbole, which one invariable reads while seated at work and inspires one to jump to attention. I am sure that the corollary is true too—that training oneself to get up, stand up could stave off ill-effects, just as consigning someone with already limited mobility to a wheel-chair or outfitting them with raising beds and easy-chairs or stair-lifts seems like an unhelpful sentence in some cases. The science-desk at Boing Boing also recently expanded on an article from Slate Magazine that addressed this topic through the lens of cultural attitudes and characterization of maladies, which can colour a condition (or limn one into existence in many cases) and its interpretations as much as diagnosis and prescribed treatments.

Thursday 4 October 2012

twenty mule team borax

Speaking of stained teeth, no where do I feel more self-conscious of my smile than when I see the contrast between something control-white, like when shaving or I suppose wearing a Santa Claus beard. All things considered, I like to think that my smile is fairly decent, and I don’t think teeth are meant to be gleaming whiter-than-white billboards, given modern and Western habits—but maybe that’s just sour-grapes.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

johnny appleseed or be you and I behind an arras then

It’s painful to contemplate—and is by no means exclusive or necessarily defining but as far as trends go, so goes America, so goes the world—how American influence and leadership is being hijacked and replaced by the pretenders of corporate hegemony.
Industry lobbyists have courted (bullied) the government to such an extent, that legislators and officials have little choice when it comes to drafting rules and regulations in support of business of gaffers and the artisans that produce all the props of security theatre and the clawing theatrics greed. In blocking most any scene, the portrayal of need is unconvincing and rather an unashamed taut for the wardrobe or lighting-and-sound department. How many new uniforms, calliopes, magic lanterns, gels and flats do we need, in the name of safety, security, integrity or unmotivated invention?
The framework that’s been crafted is not just to the benefit to the darlings of contracting world, but a legislative landscape has been staged that’s overly favourable to the establishment, both in government and in business, and is very much against competition and growth and has sanctions in store for anyone not willing to play by the rules. This type of performance has a lot of different venues and circuits but is probably most stellar in the politicking of ways basic and unalienable—food and footprints. So many stage-hands are helping to ensure that no one or nothing is ever forgot, exposed and articulated except when the truths are embarrassing or uncomfortable for the directors and producers, and nothing’s committed with an ounce of anonymity. As for food, it is acquiring similar markers but to a different end—invasive and not readily refused.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

nickled and dimed or be gone dull care

Summer recesses and vacation opportunities, depending on the culture of course, I think have always muted financial developments. It is, however, rather eerily quiet right now, and not maybe the driving forces, rather than those that have to deal with the consequences, are on holiday. Still, underlying conditions have not improved or set in the right direction and plans are going unattended without even follow-on debate or discussion. Perhaps less meddling is called for in order to separate the real from the virtual market, but still America is without a budget with an economy buoyed momentarily by turbulence and expecting yet another round of so called quantitative easing and the bargaining and coping of an election that may see drastic cuts to the social safety net, and Greece is primed to renegotiate its financial aide and stake its membership in the eurozone on the good graces of its neighbours.
Toil and trouble never take a holiday and I wonder if the hiatus from the attention and worry from the usual hyperbolic and gloomy headlines and analysis is to purpose: the prophecies of doom are inuring, lulling and desensitizing and can be by such cycles suspended or overcome before they cry Wolf. The driving forces probably need the support of a labour and spending pool prone to anticipate such drama, because I suspect that a dramatic crisis is not deferred otherwise, creeping and leisurely at a vacationer's pace and not with the expected and wanted clarity of disaster.

Thursday 21 June 2012

high-fidelity or bring me a pineapple that doesn’t sting, a bird that swims, a fish that sings

I have contributed a nominal amount to my private pension fund, an opportunist surely that blurs the limits between brooding a nest-egg and retirement supplement and high-stakes ventures that happens to management the pensions for a good portion of the American federal workforce, and so as not to encourage more reckless behaviour, I’ve kept it at the absolute minimum: one cannot contribute less than one percent and I’ve justified that much since the government matches it. Still, over the years it has amounted to a not insignificant sum that’s not readily reclaimable.
I suspected and it’s been confirmed several times over that this money-manager is gambling with people’s life-savings and that they benefited from their quasi-public status—however I didn’t suspect that they were actively hatching evil schemes for one’s money, apart from the expected trading in legitimized weapons companies, polluters and assassins. Their latest pursuit, I discovered through their advertisements (though little reporting and fact-finding is to be found supporting or otherwise questioning this image and vision) is something called synthetic biology, which is only a re-branding of terms that are waxing scary like cloning, genetic engineering and genetically modified organisms. Their promotion and prospectus implies that such research and development, which will one day triumph over Nature’s numbers and diversity, can produce bacteria to clean up industrial spills and halt disease by disabling its agents. This is a Brave New World with many goodly creatures but I can also easily imagine a genetic dystopia that failed to respect the dependencies and relations of ecology. Business has already been over-eager with introducing new crops that are untested and unsuited and have been less than forthcoming (with mounting resistance) and spent more resources on protecting patents and discrediting critics than on actual scientific research. It is one thing to make mosquitoes that don’t bite or self-cleaning beaches, but I would imagine that Nature would rebel and be less than compliant, mirroring the phenomena of drug-resistant germs created by keeping too clean. I don’t think it’s a good idea to mortgage one’s pension on such a future.

Thursday 14 June 2012

as seen on tv

From the creative franchise that offers the daily web comics Toothpaste for Dinner, Married to the Sea, and Natalie Dee, there is a new Sharing Machine blog, The Worst Things for Sale, that is an intelligent and funny commentary on culture through reviews of the craptabulous and derivative ways to part people from the money and good senses.  You should check out them all. 

Wednesday 30 May 2012

halcyon or build your vocabulary

I suppose proper, soothing words for the most part cannot be easily copy-written, which has lead to an overflowing of creativity and confusing ingenuity with naming commercial pharmaceuticals. The talented and entertaining Whovian and blogger Bob Canada has an amusing list of drug names that could pass as SAT-grade vocabulary words. My favourite is:
Something the early Jerry Lewis used to bleat out in his movies. "Oy, Mr. Lady, please stop with the hitting and the hurting and the cataflam!"
 It's funny because I don't know what any of these medicines are. What alternative definitions would you come up with for the products in your life?

Tuesday 15 May 2012

farmageddon, pharmageddon

Just because there is the gloomy, heavy drapery of bankers’ crises and the pummeling occasion of planters’ style democracy obscuring the next assault that’s waiting in the wings, we would be faithfully remiss to lose sight of what could come. Bread—or cake—is of course the honey-pot, the next investment opportunity aggressively peddled, of bread and circuses, and I believe it is not so kooky or implausible to imagine that the present chaos is apt disguise for a handful of companies that are merging farms and pharmaceuticals to make local governments fold and adopt measures that have become prevalent elsewhere.

Despite some damage done to the repute of the environmental movement, many places have not faltered on agricultural and ecological policies, opposing genetically modified crops, most immature subsidies and expedient practices, like turning wholly to raising corn for ethanol or abandoning time-tested methods like crop-rotation. An unnatural experimental harvest could certainly (with the promise of money) supplant native legacy. I fear, with decreasing chances to profit on human gullibility, the focus could turn more to human suffering (hunger-management, erosion, deforestation), edging out local and sustainable operations that have knitted together the countryside with demands not easily refused or maintained, fields infiltrated with habit-forming, patented yields. Such invasive creations come from the same laboratories that have made certain invented disorders a cause-celeb and conveniently manufacture the medicines to treat such ailments, creating dependency with an army of co-conspirators.

Monday 2 April 2012


Over the weekend, I took a long walk, seeking out a so-called Fossil Trail that I had seen posted beforehand in the area. The local foothill are built up of layer after layer of diatomaceous earth left by the denizens of the shallow sea that spread out from the Baltic millions of years ago. I followed the path for a little bit, but upon not finding a giant trilobite frozen in carbonite lurching from the cliff side, I got distracted. The trail, post-dating the signs which were somewhat lacking and aimless but maybe also removed for this healthy cachet, was modernized into a Nordic hiking path, which was quite nice too but kind of took away from the fossil hunting aspect. I did, however, come across an interesting installation early on: a reflexology (Reflexologie) experience with a little wading pool to refresh one’s tired feet.

The information board discussed the therapeutic obstacle course, illustrated by the principle of corres-pondence between bodily organs and specific pressure-points on the feet and the legendary Skiapod (EN/DE), one of the lost tribes of men that stamped around on a single giant foot, and a strange, unexplained standing-stone that was just as good as some old trace of fossil. I had seen a similar track along a jogging path before but as I was wearing my Handschuh-Schuhe then I don’t think I got the full experience. I trounced through it, over bits of broken glass, polished and not jagged but I thought that was funny like celebrities daring to walk over hot coals in Circus of the Stars, wine corks, sand, bridges and platforms. It was invigourating and certainly an interesting and mindful way to start or finish one’s hike.

Thursday 29 March 2012

toxicity or mabel, black-label

Unless and until I am proven (or convinced) otherwise, I tend to regard all exports and the odd re-import from the United States with quite a bit of skepticism and distrust. It was probably always there, a latent suspicious of institutionalizing industry and a gradual realization that there were independent and impenetrable markets elsewhere that did not need or want American products and that businesses were skimming, eking out nominal profits on a fair trade, but lately it seems to me that packaging, product placement and horizontal cartels have gotten much, much worse. It feels like everything that's peddled and touted is either poisoned by the chemical, pharmacological and cropping guilds with dyes, preservatives, unnatural agribusiness or old-fashioned guilt or is designed to make one dependent and indentured to a certain label.
 The intangibles from the States are acquiring that flavour as well, including best-practices that have seen that same conduct go international. Elections too have become more a vote on personalities rather than platforms and the unseating process has become likewise prying, and fillers—tricks, short-cuts, hacks—have started to infiltrate German consumption as well. None here would tolerate anything toxic or questionable in their food yet, but the alimentary-hack of Aroma, essence and Ersatz is taking on. It's all very unpalatable and I worry for those under the tyranny of apparent and abundant choice.

Monday 5 March 2012

blue laws

Generally, I am only keenly aware of the restrictions against smoking when corralled through security after a trans-Atlantic flight. The labyrinthine shepherding through the airport, hermetically sealed and no chance of escape is maddening. Already the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants is over four years old, and though it is no hardship and actually more pleasant all around—although I have not really just gone out for a drink or stayed for more than one, since the rules went into effect, it does strike me as strange that the whole of Europe could screw its collective nerve and resolve to a comprehensive ban that was not universally favoured. One still sees a lot of smoking in thresholds and out-of-doors during nice weather, but it is hard to dispel images of soupy smoke in cafes and pubs, and even as some businesses contemplate the unthinkable, relaxing the ban, there is a certain stale smell of revision—not that some establishments might be allowed to go back to the way things were before, but rather that smoking indoors was never permitted, except in the movies. Bavaria instituted some of the most stringent restrictions, to later back away from a few that were over-reaching, and there’s yet this funny legal steering to get around the letter of the law, with smoking “clubs” that are not open to the general public and only to dues-paying members, or the elaborate (and rather kosher-sounding) work-around of having a tent erected inside a community centre, since one could smoke in a tent. The powerful tobacco lobby in the Netherlands is making it possible for bars that are tended and staffed only by one person who owns the establishment to permit smoking. This sort of conditional dispensation is even more strange.

Sunday 26 February 2012

long winter’s nap

BBC's news magazine is drawing on a body of evidence, anecdotal, historic and scientific, which strongly suggests that convention wisdom regarding sleep may be a very modern contrivance and something unnatural and possibly something that we are not ideally suited for. Rather than sequestering oneself for a solid, uninterrupted and sacrosanct period of eight hours, which does seem like an awfully lofty and impractical demand, mankind through most of its history had distinct periods of sleeping and waking during the night, a segmented sleep.

It, I imagine, is difficult to research what was considered standard practice and common-knowledge, but sociologists have found all sorts of references in literature, liturgy and medical guides that before the inversions of the industrial revolution, which ironically gave people more to do nocturnally but also put a premium on peoples' time. Personally, I usually make do with less than this attested eight hours of sleep, and as a rule, I would find myself waking at two or three o’clock. Generally, I was frozen in place, just longing to go back to sleep. Surely this nighttime brush with panic was not a healthy impression and would probably carry over into the daytime with more serious repercussions than being simply tired. I figured it did not matter much if I had had a restless sleep, since I was surely not alone with this touch of insomnia, and it seems more of a disservice to one’s well-being to worry over sleeplessness. I am not sure what agents of the Sandman made segmented sleep unfashionable and even feared, but I should not, I guess, be content with staring in the darkness, stock-still, if I wake in the night. After all, that second sleep is always more refreshing and rewarding than the first.

Thursday 12 January 2012

sustenance or food goes viral

From the science desk at Boing Boing, initial experiments conducted at the University of Nanking seem to indicate that eating, and the choices that go with it, not only are we consuming energy, nutrients, industrial dander or just empty calories but also bits of instruction, code with every bite. Small pieces of ribonucleic acid (RNA) survive digestion, splintered but essentially intact and identifiable--rice was the subject of the Chinese experiment, and can go on to interact with the consumer on a cellular level, influencing the way proteins are expressed.
I would guess the mainstay of eating throughout the animal kingdom is primarily derived from food’s fuel and nourishment, and is not in this residual coding but I don't know. The thrust of the research seems to present a strong warning against the introduction of genetically-modified or engineered crops into the food-chain, since digestion and nutrition and the mechanics of DNA and saying grace just got a lot more subtle and a lot more complex, but the accompanying write-up also raises other implications, like the relationship between predator and prey and how attuned, shocked or inured can we be in terms of diet choices. Do carnivores or herbivores seek out their specific quarry because their stomach have evolved to digest their meals wholly or imperfectly, by design, and benefit (or suffer) from symbiosis that goes deeper than our basic understanding of the hunt? Should such claims does prove true, it also makes me wonder about what it means to eat processed and artificial foods, whose information (as well as nutrition) is stripped away, and what truths and sense are in the latest fads like the Caveman Diet or the advice to cook and eat like what one's grandparents (or great-grandparents) ate. People cannot be forced to avoid junk and convenience foods and eat healthy, but learning about other ways that diet determines well-being can make the arguments for taking care of oneself more compelling and forces politics and the naรฏvetรฉ of greed (both on the parts of the fast-food industry and GMO agribusiness) out of the kitchen.

Thursday 5 January 2012

honeycomb hideout or zombee

A professor in the American state of North Carolina may have accidentally discovered the pathogen behind the mysterious and wide-spread die off of bee colonies.

Though all sorts of plausible theories have been put forward, ranging from genetically-modified crops to pesticides to global warming and electromagnetic smog from cellular telephone masts and it is probably a combination of these environmental factors, the chance observation of a bee playing host to an insidious parasitic phorid fly could explain the honey bees' erratic and zombified (like ignoring the brood, sitting out the bee-dance that communicates the whereabouts of flowers and foraging at night) behaviour that results in them neglecting their hives. Such a parasite could also account for the pattern of the occurrence and contagion, which is not helped by the practice in some areas of renting hives and trucking bees to fields in bloom. The health and well-being of bees is vitally important for the food-supply, since there would be no new crops, despite the smugness of G-M plants adapted to harsh conditions and tweaked to produce their own pesticides and even as pharmaceutical factories for human medicines--all these plant-hacks to a degree, of course, have been happening without geneticists since the beginning of agriculture and selective-breeding. Trees, grasses and plants that only bloom once in a blue moon would also be gravely affected. It is good that researchers have perhaps isolated one cause and can move forward, but I suspect that human intervention was behind this latest plague too: a related species of phorid fly was used in Texas and Alabama to quell the invasion of fire-ants, with similar ghoulish results for the ants and their colonies. Maybe the same thing was tried in the early 1990s to stop the killer bees, Africanized and aggressive honey bee hybrids, and slowly control over this infectious agent was lost. I hope the bees can be saved, and without creating even bigger problems and imbalance. Maybe the cautionary message of all those zombie movies has stuck.

Thursday 15 December 2011

the holly and the ivy or plant hacks

The poinsettia (Weihnachts-stern) will only naturally produce these brilliant, festive red leaves under very narrow conditions, when exposed to equal periods of light and darkness over successive days, which only occurs in the tropics at wintertime. Of course florists and growers know these sorts of floral hacks to achieve the same result—as do brewers and bakers and apothecaries, but I do not know if there are any other strictly decorative and devotional tricks for the plant kingdom. Wreaths of holly, Christmas trees and garlands are certainly transformations but not at their own accord, but perhaps the myth and magnetism of mistletoe is something in the same category.

Sunday 13 November 2011


Though I am not one to easily repair to medication or the doctor's office when sick, especially wary of highly synthesized and prepared potions that claim to have a surgical aim but whose chemistry in reality is not so precise and whose rolling shock-and-awe goes after the body's responsiveness rather than the cause, masking the pain.  Sometimes, however, recovery needs some help and haste, and the German attitude towards sickness, rather than my general aversion to drugs, does default to home-remedies and conventional wisdom as a first and usually effective result.  The last thing I want to do when sick is stew in a hot bath or drink some sippy tea or a steamy hot beer, though like one forgets pain and sometimes expects to feel even better than before one can proclaim oneself better or cured, I tend to be doubtful and do not remember how effective simple steps were before.  Though I do not know the governing guidelines behind this practice, if doctors and apothecaries alike are schooled in detecting hypochrondria or Mรผnchausen syndrome and discerning it from the real thing, I understand that when one does need to seek out store-bought medication (and all things, even as innocuous as asprin and antacid are distributed not in filling stations and supermarkets but rather through one's friendly neighbourhood pharmacy, and dispensed with a dose of expert advice) a significant amount of medication given out (with and without a prescription) are placebos.  There was an additional bit of psychology with my last visit to the apothecary when I got my generic yet potent medication: the woman behind the counter agreed with my assessment that the drugs should help and said I ought to take three pills a day but also warned it was potentially serious and if I was not better after the weekend, I should see a doctor.  I am sure that astute bluff scared me into remission.

Thursday 29 September 2011

negative reinforcement or forever blowing bubbles

The reigning coalition in Germany has been compelled to make some difficult decisions and try to apply some sophistical cheer to an approach to the debt crisis that's been shown to be a costly failure. The public needs convincing that their tax monies are not being squandered and that this rescue package is not just a furtherance (kicking the can) of the same game, same irresponsibility and same greed that's bigger than the public's interests or hopes or aspirations. Such dishonesty and futility is being broached, I'd venture, mostly because of the berating and scolding that the European Union as a whole received from a very paternal and ironic United States: blamed for the global financial crisis and blamed for perpetuating fear and manufacturing and hiring timidity through its inaction. A lot of unsolicited advice has been traded since the public became aware of this Great Game but never in the form of an official rebuke and lecture. I hope the EU does not fold to this sort of pressure, since its only in the interest of the States and the Elite Them to stoke a virtual euro bubble. It's all hearsay.
Speaking of economic bubbles, Magic Eight Ball is indicating that the next boom and bust cycle may lie in the agricultural business--in food and drink. Cows and cars are already competing over fodder, leading to shortages and price inflation all around. I'm afraid that there will be a land-grab of the limited suitable fields and pastures, just like the exuberance that accelerated property prices during the Housing Crisis only to fall and to dash greed as well as livelihoods. There will probably also be action to turn more small farms into franchisees of agribusiness conglomerates, like the unstinting corporations that have put genetically modified crops, biofuels and corn-syrup into the food-chain. There are more of us to feed and only so much space left to grow what we need, without further decimating the environment. Hitching up home prices to a dangerous and unsustainable height was bad enough--it's scary to try to imagine how the situation might look with more immediate and needful provisions.

Monday 30 May 2011

eschatology or a peck of pickled peppers

Being somewhat inured to out breaks of food poisoning, being much more common occurrences in the States, the wrath and general indignation to this episode that’s apparently originated with a harvest of Spanish cucumbers is laudable. Such risk coming from the normally innocuous is rightly intolerable. I have a lot of sympathy for the people that have gotten sick, as well as for the farmers and truck-farming industry that has garnered a bad reputation. It is difficult to attribute this out break to simply a quality control issue—although the draconian austerity measures being imposed on the Spanish people may lead to more cutting corners in the future and possibly more farmers entering the marketplace without proper training and experience with organic agriculture, the preferred cultivation method for German consumers—there is moreover the dangers of a monoculture emerging here, I believe. Culling one uniform type of cucumber, instead of a variety, makes the whole crop more susceptible to pests of opportunity—maybe this one robust strain of E. coli (DE) too. Monocultures, uniformity, in the form of designer seeds, I think, has also fuelled the frequency of out breaks in the US, but such cultivars arise even without genetic meddling.  Tastes adapt and call for this standard, and it doesn’t stay a Spanish problem. The flora and fauna in human digestive systems make up a delicate and complicated ecology too, and the bacteria attacks this wildlife preserve rather than going after the host, the game warden, directly. Variety allows for immunity and the strength to overcome the daily onslaught and poaching of our bodies.