The Watering Hole, Monday, April 25th, 2016: Take a Deep Breath

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Old orchard in spring

Old orchard in spring

I know that I’ve trotted out this photo a few times over the years, at least in springtime. But it is one of my favorite pictures, and, well, it’s Spring. Although the apple blossoms are barely budding yet, lots of other flowering trees are blooming and the air is fragrant in the warming sunshine. The first of newly-mown lawns add their evocative scent. Bees are humming and I saw my first butterfly of the spring on Thursday. Of course, this also means that there’s a pollen alert every day, and this spring for the first time my allergies have escalated to the “burning eyes” level. But as long as I can breathe through my nose, even a little, I still want to stick my head out the car window like a dog and drink it all in.

Breathe in the springtime – it’ll do you good.

This is our daily Open Thread–what’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole, Tuesday, April 19, 2016:

Political Genetics

gene

[jēn]

 

NOUN

  1. (in informal use) a unit of heredity that is transferred from a parent to offspring and is held to determine some characteristic of the offspring:

    “proteins coded directly by genes”

    • (in technical use) a distinct sequence of nucleotides forming part of a chromosome, the order of which determines the order of monomers in a polypeptide or nucleic acid molecule which a cell (or virus) may synthesize.
Powered by Oxford Dictionaries · © Oxford University Press ·

 

I never knew this until recently, but a grain of rice has more genes (50,000) than humans (about 25,000). You would think a more advanced creature like us would have more, but scientists theorize that rice has been around longer, and had had to make more adaptations, thus creating more genes. An organism can never reduce its number of genes, but they can be added over time but the influence of environmental factors. Genetically the two fish below are brown trout. The first one has evolved in the environment of northern Europe.

The second has evolved in Italy.

There are many more isolated populations with color morphs more drastic, but they are all salmo trutta. The color morphs reflect the effect local environments have on the species. When they reproduce in the isolated rivers where the morphs are distinctly different, the offspring resemble the immediate parentage, that is to say they are evolving in to a very different sub-species.

Can the same be said to be true for humans political evolution? Has our species had enough time in the environment of democracy to take on unique characteristics? The politics of Iceland, or Sweden seem so very different from Italy or the US. In politics, as in the animal world, do superior traits win out? Or asked this way, will the US ever get to the point of being close to the Nordic countries? Are they on a different evolutionary path?

Open thread.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 16th, 2016: This Day in History

History.com lists various events that occurred on April 16th in history, some of which have continued relevance these days. For instance:

– In 1943, Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist, “accidentally consumes LSD-25, a synthetic drug he had created in 1938 as part of his research into the medicinal value of lysergic acid compounds.” Hoffman’s notes on the experience state:

“Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant, intoxicated-like condition characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”

Since that discovery, efforts by (most famously) Dr. Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey to promote LSD as a recreational drug eventually led to the drug being banned even for medicinal use in the U.S., and later by the United Nations. Research on the drug became nearly impossible, but a recent study explains a bit more about how LSD affects/stimulates parts of the brain:

“A team at Imperial College London says they found it broke down barriers between areas that control functions like vision, hearing and movement. The study was with a small group – 20 subjects – but the researchers say it could lead to a revolution in the way addiction, anxiety and depression are treated.”

– In 1947, Bernard Baruch coined the term “Cold War.” In a speech he gave at the unveiling of his portrait in the South Carolina House of Representatives (in which he also discussed industrial labor problems, in part calling “for longer workweeks, no-strike pledges from unions, and no-layoff pledges from management”), Baruch stated:

“Let us not be deceived-we are today in the midst of a cold war. Our enemies are to be found abroad and at home. Let us never forget this: Our unrest is the heart of their success. The peace of the world is the hope and the goal of our political system; it is the despair and defeat of those who stand against us. We can depend only on ourselves.”

– Also in 1947: while loading ammonium nitrate fertilizer, along with tobacco and “government-owned ammunition” onto a freighter in Texas City, Texas, a massive ammonium nitrate explosion killed 581 people as it blew the freighter to smithereens.

Coincidentally, on April 17th, 2013, the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas, exploded, killing 15 people and injuring scores more, and caused massive damage and destruction of nearby property. Apparently in 66 years, Texans hadn’t learned that ammonium nitrate is dangerous.

– In 2007, a disturbed student who should never have been able to own a gun killed 32 fellow students and faculty at Virginia Tech. According to History.com:

“Two days later, on April 18, NBC News received a package of materials from Cho with a time stamp indicating he had mailed it from a Virginia post office between the first and second shooting attacks. Contained in the package were photos of a gun-wielding Cho, along with a rambling video diatribe in which he ranted about wealthy “brats,” among other topics…
The public soon learned that Cho, described by ex-classmates as a loner who rarely spoke to anyone, had a history of mental-health problems. It was also revealed that angry, violent writings Cho made for certain class assignments had raised concern among some of his former professors and fellow students well before the events of April 16.”

Uh, yeah, so what have we learned from that, what has changed to prevent a similar disaster? ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOTHING.

– And on this day in history in 1956 – 60 years ago – my oldest friend, Laurie Miles, was born. We’ve been friends since we were about 4 years old, beginning soon after our families moved to North Road in Brewster Heights, a brand-new development (aka subdivision) set on top of a hill overlooking the Middle Branch Reservoir.

Top Photo: the Sechny 'homestead' ; Bottom: Laurie's dog Winnie

Top Photo: the Sechny ‘homestead’ ; Bottom: Laurie’s dog Winnie

Everyone should have a friend with whom, even through time and distance, one can just pick up and continue that friendship, wherever/whenever. Laurie and I enjoy that kind of friendship, wherein we’ve been connected for so long that it’s wired into our DNA.

So Happy Birthday to my oldest and dearest friend, Laurie.

This is our daily Open Thread–better late than never!

The Watering Hole,Tuesday April 12, 2016 – Environmental News and Food Politics

Six to 10 million years ago: Ice-free summers at the North Pole

Finally, Republicans can tout real science that global warming is not a man-made event. It happened before millions of years ago.

See, it happened before, when man was not around in sufficient numbers to eff things up.

Open thread.

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 11, 2016: I’d Vote For This One

This ad has no demonizing, no demon sheep, no end-of-days predictions if the other candidate wins, and it’s not set to “Il Fortuna.” What’s not to like? One thing’s for sure, I’d vote for the “Generic” candidate over Trump or Cruz any day!

 

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This is our daily Open Thread–go ahead, open up a discussion.

The Watering Hole, Tuesday March 29, 2016 – Environmental News and Food Politics

THE BIG U.S.OIL BUST

“Back in 2010, the price of a barrel of Brent crude (the international oil price benchmark) topped $80. That made it profitable to extract oil from tight shale formations, which is especially costly. A drilling frenzy ensued, domestic oil production skyrocketed, oil companies raked in profits and oil patch communities prospered.

But all that new oil on the market, plus China’s slowing economic growth, began to dampen oil prices in the summer of 2014. Instead of curtailing production to keep prices afloat, OPEC’s leaders launched a thinly veiled price war, clearly aimed at putting U.S. producers out of business. Here are some indicators that OPEC won the war.”

Oil bust – A red state phenomenon. Will this affect 2016 elections?