Craziness Is Next to Oddliness


News and Site Updates Archive 2009/08/31

The world presents enough problems if you believe it to be a world of law and order; do not add to them by believing it to be a world of miracles.

- US Supreme Court Justice Louis D Brandeis

31 Aug '09 -

Rosemary Kennedy (President John Kennedy's younger sister) wasn't brilliant like her older brothers.  (Retarded?  Hardly.  Average, maybe, in a family where average just wasn't good enough.)  She was strikingly attractive and something of a wild child; the family feared she’d get pregnant and embarrass them so she was sent to live in a convent.  However, she just walked out when she wanted to have some fun.  So her father, Joe (family patriarch and US ambassador to Britain), decided when she was 23 (note: HE decided) that she should have a lobotomy - still an experimental procedure then.  Doctors said it should "calm her down" a bit which Joe liked - so they drilled a hole in Rosemary's skull and inserted a sort of spatula into her brain and began digging.  They asked her to sing simple songs and perform basic arithmetic and as long as she could, they kept digging.  Finally, though, she fell silent and the operation was over.  And so, for all practical purposes, was Rosemary Kennedy’s life.  Though she lived in an incapacitated body until the age of 86, mostly she was incontinent and stared at the wall - but at least she was calm.  Dr Bertram S Brown, executive director of the President's Panel on Mental Retardation and former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said that the the suppression of the truth about Rosemary was "the biggest mental health cover-up in history."

Present At Your Lobotomy

I was there when they opened you up
your psychology spilled out
like so many coloured jelly beans
hitting the floor
bouncing in all directions
they were all black

when we first met
you were a rainbow
now I want my rainbow back

the surgeon gathered
your dark candy
into a blue velvet sack
tied closed with gold string
they’re your thoughts of me

he said I must hide them
until science discovers a cure
for the loss of love

- Joe McCarthy

Afghanistan has quietly passed a law permitting Shia men to deny their wives food and sustenance if they refuse to obey their husbands' sexual demands, despite international outrage over an earlier version of the legislation which President Hamid Karzai had promised to review.  The new final draft also grants guardianship of children exclusively to fathers and grandfathers, and requires women to get permission from their husbands to work.  "It also effectively allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying 'blood money' to a girl who was injured when he raped her," the US charity Human Rights Watch has said...  When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the Moon on 20 July 1969, one of the first sights they encountered from space was Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.  As the earth turned, they were captivated by a vast patch of white across the lower South American continent, which they instantly took to be glacial but was in fact a little-known but expansive desert of cactus, rainwater lagoons and ten billion tons of salt covering nearly 5,000 square miles.  Unfortunately, today it is known that vast quantities of diluted lithium (think cellphone batteries) lie beneath the surface.  The dilution means that extensive excavation is required (think strip mining devastation).

Now, chastened, we have all become realists.  Or so we believe.  But realism is about more than merely opposing a war in Iraq that we know from hindsight turned out badly.  Realism means recognising that international relations are ruled by a sadder, more limited reality than the one governing domestic affairs.  It means valuing order above freedom, for the latter becomes important only after the former has been established.  It means focusing on what divides humanity rather than on what unites it, as the high priests of globalisation would have it.  In short, realism is about recognising and embracing those forces beyond our control that constrain human action — culture, tradition, history, the bleaker tides of passion that lie just beneath the veneer of civilisation.  This poses what, for realists, is the central question in foreign affairs: Who can do what to whom?  And of all the unsavoury truths in which realism is rooted, the bluntest, most uncomfortable, and most deterministic of all is - geography.  (This is a longish but very relevant, very worthwhile essay on the importance of a region's geography to the unfolding of its history.)

A building fire may exhibit 4 suddenly deadly tendencies
Most solid materials ignite at a temperature of about 572˚F (300˚C).  At 600˚F (316˚C), pre-stressed concrete spalls and collapses and cast-iron columns collapse if struck with a hose stream.  Steel fails at 1,000-1,100˚F (538 - 593˚C).  Flashover (the transition of a room fire from growth stage to fully developed stage - the most dangerous time) occurs in a room heated to 1,100˚F.  The maximum room temperature of a fire involving ordinary furnishings ranges from 1,400-1,899˚F (760-1,037˚C).  The human body succumbs at a fraction of those temperatures.  Studies show that when skin is exposed to 160˚F (71˚C) for 60 seconds or 180˚F (82˚C) for 30 seconds, or 212˚F (100˚C) for 15 seconds, second-degree burns result.  Maximum survivable breathing temperature is around 300˚F (149˚C).  One or two minutes breathing air this hot burns the respiratory tract and causes death.  On the fireground there are visible chromatic warning signs of superheated air; a red or yellow flame; black or brown smoke near the point of origin; white steam generated when a hose stream extinguishes a fire.  During conversion from water to steam, the volume of water increases 1,700 times.  Firefighters in unventilated rooms can be severely burned since the steam's heat is conducted right through protective clothing.
- Command and Control of Fires and Emergencies by Vincent Dunn (a 4-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department who recently retired as Deputy Chief in charge of division 3), page 252. Photo source: page 242

In an advertisement from the UK Department of Health, actor David McCusker first sneezes the "wrong" way in an elevator, spraying mucus everywhere, then sneezes the "right" way - into a tissue, which he promptly throws away and washes his hands.  The campaign's tagline is "Catch It, Bin It, Kill It."  Except ironically McCusker was recently diagnosed with swine flu.  (The video shows a decently-done ad)...  Samoa's switch from driving on the right side of the road to driving on the left will trigger a rash of dangerous and deadly car accidents, an independent traffic crash expert from New Zealand has predicted.  (So now may not be the best time for tourists to visit, I'm thinking.)  The Samoan prime minister is driving the change in the belief that aligning Samoa with Australian and New Zealand rules will encourage vehicle importation.  Opponents believe the switch is pointless, costly and dangerous.  Samoan roads are narrow, riddled with potholes, and lack safety measures.  The existing vehicles in Samoa are US-style left-hand-drive, so most drivers will sit on the outside of the road after the changeover.  Iceland and Sweden switched sides successfully but it was more than 40 years ago.  Sweden switched from left to right because all their neighbours already drove on the right side.  Small roads without border guards lead into Norway so until the switch, drivers had to remember in which country they were - a not-always-safe situation.

Sweden's switch from driving on the left to the right brings to mind a movie I saw recently that highlighted one of the problems that prompted the change (switching sides was depicted as disorienting).  In this movie, as  a result of a study in the 1950s in which efficiency experts at the Home Research Institute observed the kitchen habits of Swedish housewives to come up with a better workspace design, 18 men are transported in caravans from Sweden to farms in Norway to observe the cooking habits of Norwegian single men.  Kitchen Stories (Salmer fra kjøkkenet) is a quirky comedy depicting the relationship between two elderly single men. The observers must live outside the homes of their subjects in small trailers and are not allowed to talk, drink, or otherwise interact with them.  Some, however, are not willing subjects.  One of the observers, Folke, a Swede, draws Isak, an antisocial Norwegian farmer who is accustomed to living in solitude.  Isak at first refuses to let Folke into his house, resentful that the horse he was promised in return for his participation turns out to be a mere toy.  Folke, however, eventually gains access to the kitchen and sits every day perched in his high observation chair, recording Isak's every movement.  Observing and being observed breaks through the barriers in their lives that have imposed on each man a limiting solitude.  They begin by drinking coffee in the morning, then celebrate Isak's birthday with cake and whiskey.  Their interaction is against the rules of the study, and there are consequences.  Kitchen Stories is a small film but it's about as good as a movie can get.

When mice are kept on a healthy diet with 30% fewer calories than a normal diet, they live 30-40% longer (but they do appear less fertile).  People find it difficult to maintain such a diet, but it should be possible to develop drugs to substitute.  Leading candidates are called sirtuin activators; they seem to mimic caloric restriction.  One, resveratrol, is a minor ingredient of grapes and red wine.  Sirtuins detect energy reserves in cells and activate when reserves are low.  Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration does not approve drugs to delay ageing, because that isn't a disease.  So researchers are trying to find a common disease that sirtuins help cure to get around this restriction.
And why not?  A bristlecone pine can live to be 5,000 years old.
Some coral beds off the coast of Hawaii have been dated to be more than 4,265 years old, the oldest living animals with a skeleton in the seas.  But would you want to be either one of them?
A tree discovered in Sweden (Old Tjikko) is said to be oldest on Earth - a spruce [Picea abies, commonly Norway spruce] on Fulu Mountain in Dalarna province.  Found among a cluster of 20 spruces, each believed more than 8,000 years old, its stem is only 600 years old but crown and roots are 9,550 years old.  Stems only live about 600 years, but when one dies, another grows.  Layering happens (in some conifer species) when a branch contacts soil and new roots emerge at the contact point.  Then, a new stem grows from the new root system.  Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) and western red cedars (Thuja plicata) are known to reproduce by layering.  Cloning in contrast is when the original root system puts out new stems without layering.  (Layering, then, seems to mean that the ancient part of a plant is more than just roots, but includes a base that also survives.  Odd that cloning signifies a different organism yet coral counts as a continuous single one.) 
Cloning is characteristic of tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflora) and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides).  Clonal aspen are even older than the ancient Swedish spruce.  One aspen grove, named Pando near Fish Lake in southern Utah, has been dated to be 80,000 years old.  (After intense fires, its root system just sends up new shoots.)  It covers 43 hectares (over 100 acres) and contains 47,000 stems.  There is speculation that some aspen clone systems could be up to a million years old!

Disturbing news: Volcanic magma can be detected with a technique called magnetotellurics, which builds up a picture of what lies underground by measuring fluctuations in electric and magnetic fields at the surface.  Electric currents induced by lightning and other phenomena travel below the earth's surface.  These currents are stronger when magma is present since magma is a better conductor than solid rock.  Mount St Helens in Washington state (which had a large eruption in 1980) has been set up which magnetotelluric sensors which reveal a column of conductive material extending downward about 15 kilometres.  This column then appears to connect to a much bigger zone of conductive material that extends at least 70 kilometres northeast and 50 kilometres east - thought to be largely molten rock.  If so, this is comparable in size to the biggest magma chambers ever discovered - below Yellowstone National Park - and it may one day erupt as a dreaded supervolcano...  Plastic in the ocean actually decomposes as it is exposed to rain, sun, and other environmental conditions, giving rise to yet another source of global contamination that will continue into the indefinite future.  Decomposing plastics release potentially toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A and PS oligomer, which can disrupt the functioning of hormones in animals.  Thousands of tons of plastic debris wind up in the oceans every year, some washing up on coasts, some being swirled by currents into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between California and Hawaii, said to be larger than the state of Texas.

Little is known about the exact size and scope of this vast debris field discovered some years ago by fishermen and others in the North Pacific.  Large items readily visible from the deck of a boat are few and far between - most debris consists of small plastic particles suspended at or just below the water surface, making it impossible to detect by aircraft or via satellite images.  The debris zone shifts by as much as 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) north and south on a seasonal basis, and drifts even farther south during periods of warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures known as El Niño.  Sea turtles mistake clear plastic bags for jellyfish.  Birds swoop down and swallow indigestible shards of plastic.  Animals die because indigestible plastic eventually fills stomachs.

The black areas in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are ocean "deserts" where tiny amounts of life subsist on a scant trickle of nutrients.  They have become even more barren in recent years.  They cover 20% of the world's oceans, all within subtropical gyres - the huge swirls of water on either side of the equator.  Ocean deserts appear very blue to satellites, usually because ocean currents stagnate, reducing the amount of nitrate (NO3) and phosphate (PO4) available for plankton to feed on.  As on land, the deserts also appear to be hotter than surrounding areas.  However, the overall area of desert hasn't grown appreciably; areas that were already "desert" merely become more lifeless year after year.

The kitten was found on a country road missing his front paws. His injuries, days old, were rotting.  Yet he purred when picked up.  Such optimism deserved a reward - duly supplied by the Michigan State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital.  They have donated two rounds of surgery thus far (though donations are being accepted because more surgery is required).  More...  Gibson, a Great Dane designated tallest in the world by The Guinness Book of World Records, has died of bone cancer at the age of 7.  He measured 7 feet 1 inch (2.16 metres) when standing on his hinds legs.  (Was his early death was related to his size?)...  A bill would give the US president emergency control of Internet.  Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a US Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.  (All of them?  Or US computers only?)  They're not much happier about a revised version that aides to Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors.  It still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.  The new version would allow the president to "declare a cybersecurity emergency" relating to "non-governmental" computer networks and do what's necessary to respond to the threat.  Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for "cybersecurity professionals," and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.  "Translation: If your company is deemed 'critical', a new set of regulations kick in involving who you can hire, what information you must disclose, and when the government would exercise control over your computers or network."  (Really??)

What does a dog do that you can step into?  Pants.

Go on without me!  Save yourselves!

I like earrings, but to me they have two associated problems: most require punching holes in earlobes (an area prone to infection because it isn't well-supplied with blood) and all of them, over time, cause the earlobes to stretch quite unattractively (which they tend to do anyway with age).  Ear cuffs seem to sidestep both problems.  Most have too much of a gothic look for my taste, but one or two aren't half bad.  I've never tried one - they may be uncomfortable to wear for long periods - or perhaps you forget they're even there...  A huge storm cell stretching across a broad area of Central Florida produced a lightning show that at its peak generated roughly 1,000 lightning strikes every 15 minutes, mostly into the Gulf...  Lightning is the discharge of electricity from clouds.  A bolt can travel at speeds of 130,000 miles per hour (210,000 kilometres per hour) and – for a few millionths of a second - produce one million million watts of power.  It can heat up the surrounding air to 55,000˚F  (30,538˚C) – 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun.  It is triggered when electrical charges build up in storm clouds.  Scientists are unsure what causes this but believe it may be movement of ice crystals.  Once the charge is powerful enough, an invisible flow of electrons goes from the cloud to the ground in a zig-zag pattern.  As they approach ground, positively charged particles are attracted upwards.  It is this current, called the return stroke, that appears as a bright flash...  Castaway Geoff Spice marooned himself on an uninhabited Scottish island to give up smoking and became an international celebrity, even appearing on Ukrainian television.  The 57-year-old retired banker started smoking at the age of 13.  Since 3 August he had been on Sgarbhaigh, a 40-acre island, with only sheep for company - it was gruelling, with foul weather forcing him to retreat to his tent for two days, a stomach bug making life even more unpleasant for him as he dealt with his cravings for a cigarette, and bugs of other sorts including midges, earwigs and flying ants being in plentiful supply.  To add to his misery the batteries for his book reader and radio failed - but he still thinks he made it: he left the island a week early, saying he was cured of smoking.  Time will tell.

The obvious physical changes in a pregnant human body (including swelling breasts) occur in response to escalating levels of the hormones prolactin, lactogen, estrogen, progesterone, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and growth hormone.  Placental birth serves as a sort of trigger event signalling to the mother’s body that it’s time to begin releasing milk.  The baby’s physical suckling behaviour stimulates the first ejections, but eventually milk flow can start up by simply thinking about the baby, smelling it, or hearing it cry.  "Involution" is the physiological process by which women’s breasts revert back to dormancy; it coincides with slowly weaning the growing infant away from breast milk and onto regular foods.  Opting not to breastfeed precludes and/or brings all of these processes involved in lactation to a halt.  For most of human evolution the absence or early cessation of breastfeeding would have been occasioned by miscarriage, loss, or death of the child.  Therefore, at the level of her basic biology, a mother’s decision to bottle feed unknowingly simulates the sense of child loss.  And, indeed, these mothers are more depressed...  Before 2003, all maternity care in New Zealand was free but the rules were tightened after revelations that foreign women were cashing in with "childbirth expeditions".  Since then, taxpayer-funded care has been limited to mothers who have New Zealand citizenship or residency, have appropriate working visas or refugee status, fall under the reciprocal agreement with Australia and Britain, or whose partners are eligible.  Even so, the number of babies born to non-resident women rose from 3,248 to 3,866 between 2005/06 and 2006/07.  This amounts to millions per year in outstanding bad debt as fewer than 1 in 5 pay their bills.

These bottlenose dolphins are playing one of their favourite games - blowing vast clouds of bubbles
and then biting into the rings they make, bursting them into smaller bubbles which float to the surface more quickly.
Sometimes they dive through them - just for fun.  They range in age from 4 to 30 years old.


"Whales are extremely intelligent.  Just like humans, they have their own minds and come with strong personalities.  They decide whether I can take pictures of them or not.  They must be in a right mood."  This 50-foot humpback off the coast of Hawaii seems to have been in a pretty good mood...  This is a new concept in wheelchairs - more like a wheelstool.  Users ride astride the four-wheeled vehicle - called Rodem - rather than sitting in it, as for a conventional wheelchair; it is steered by a joystick and has motorbike-style handles.  The rider's knees and chest rest on cushions.  The design makes getting on and off much easier for the disabled, making some people able to manage without needing an assistant's help.  Now, it must meet all government safety standards before marketing can begin...  "Asked whether babies or teenagers were the hardest, a 70-something matriarch replied: 'I found the years between 20 and 25 the worst.'  I can see why.  You're looking at the rest of their lives.  There is everything to play for and you have to manœuvre your children much more subtly as they get older, planting ideas rather than making demands or rules.  My son did not, I believe, have a happy time at university.  He was living away from home for the first time and did not easily overcome the isolation.  You could say (and I did) that there wasn't much I could do about it.  Universities do not suffer mothers ringing up with vague concerns about 'fitting in'.  I would phone him and he would barely respond to my questions.  It worried me greatly, yet after 5 minutes or so I would simply hang up and get back to work.  Given the time again, it would be different.  Never mind the drive, I would visit him.  And visit again." - Kiwi expatriate journalist Louise Chunn...  Americans on average eat 22 teaspoons of sugar each day; for boys aged 14 - 18, that rises to 34 teaspoons of sugar a day...  Criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, friend, acquaintance or stranger...  "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich." – Napoleon

We watch 60-second television commercials that have been sped up to fit into 30-second spots, even as we multitask our way through emails, text messages and tweets.  We assume that these small time compressions are part of the price of modern living.  But it's more profound than that.  Changes that used to take generations — economic cycles, cultural shifts, mass migrations, changes in the structures of families and institutions — now unfurl in a span of years.  Since 2000, we have experienced three economic bubbles (, real estate, and credit), three market crashes, a devastating terrorist attack, two wars and a global influenza pandemic.  Do we need the equivalent of online “surge protectors” to stop run-ups and panics on the Internet, the same way stock markets stop runaway trading?  Without the luxury of time, trust will be the new currency, whether in news sources, economic systems, political figures, or even spiritual leaders.

The Pew Research Science Knowledge Quiz

contains the following questions (among others):

bulletWhat did scientists recently discover on Mars?
bulletDo continents move or are they the only things on Earth which are fixed?
bulletLasers work by focusing what kind of waves?
bulletWhat do antibiotics kill?  Viruses?  Bacteria?  Both?
bulletAre electrons smaller than atoms?  Than neutrons?
bulletIs all radioactivity man-made?  Is any?

My opinion?  These questions border on the silly...

(I re-wrote those I included here, but they still demonstrate only the most basic knowledge).
I'd rather they included these:
bulletDoes the Standard Model of particle physics rest on solid mathematical foundations?
bulletIs morality hardwired into the brain?
bulletHow do organs and whole organisms know when to stop growing?
bulletWhat causes reversals in Earth's magnetic field?
bulletIs ours the only universe?
bulletWhy is time different from other dimensions?

85% of scientists consider the public’s lack of scientific knowledge to be a major problem.  83% characterise tv news coverage of science as “only fair” or “poor”; 63% of scientists give newspaper coverage the same low ratings.  21% identified public communication or education as a significant scientific failure of the past 20 years.  For example, only 32% of the US public say they think humans and other living things evolved over time due to natural processes such as natural selection.

Pictures taken at the right moment - unfortunately many involve actual or imminent pain - so one might well say they instead were taken at the wrong moment...  Alex Habay of Meadville, Pennsylvania was on his way to work; he stopped at a red light and was (as usual) listening to his car radio - when a 1,500-pound (more than 580 kilogram) wrecking ball broke free from a crane, rolled down North Main Street (hitting 9 parked cars along the way), gained momentum, and smashed into the trunk of Alex' car.  A bag of soccer balls in his back seat saved the Allegheny forward from even more severe injuries...  In 2005, a rebellious and sporadically employed Israeli man flew to New York to give up a kidney to save an American businessman.  For that, he says he was paid US$20,000, which appeared in a brown envelope on his hospital bed after the operation.  That payoff would be illegal.  But the kidney donor, 39-year-old Nick Rosen of Tel Aviv, says that doesn't matter.  "I smoke pot.  That's also against the law."  Rosen believes that organ donors like him should be compensated.  For years, kidneys have been available on a thriving international black market, but evidence of organ trafficking in the US is harder to find.  Last year 4,540 Americans died while on transplant lists, waiting for kidneys.  Is it surprising that some try to find one any way they can?

Modern corporations, helped by psychologists, have made a science out of keeping you on the line, using harmonic soporifics in an effort to subdue your rage.  They want you to buy what they're selling when you finally get the chance.  Where did the idea that music could be a tonic to calm angry consumers come from?  What makes us happier: silence, music, or estimated wait times?  And does the practice of interrupting hold music every 30 seconds with a message apologising for, well, keeping us on hold, make the situation any better?  Our brains have a finite bandwidth for taking in and processing information, and clogging that bandwidth with music is sometimes enough to prevent us from making rational purchasing decisions or worrying about time (but bad or overly familiar music makes the wait seem longer).  Decent music, knowing our progress in the waiting queue, and no apologies are best.  (But what if what we're told about our place in the queue turns out to be a lie?)

Top Performing Students by Country
Rankings are primarily based on two tests administered to middle- and high-school students since 1995: the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).  Are test scores based (as two Americans claim) on minute differences not statistically significant?  The US is top ranked in civics — the study of citizenship and government.  (Oh, well then.)  The Americans say (perhaps rightly) that it is inappropriate to consider the US, with a population of more than 300 million, in competition with Singapore, a country of 4.5 million, or even smaller New Zealand.  The economies in these countries range from a gross domestic product (GDP) of $124 billion in NZ to $236 billion in Finland, compared with a $14-trillion GDP in the US.  Perhaps a more apt comparison would be Colorado with 4.8 million residents and a $230-billion state product.  They argue that numbers of high-performing students is most important in the global economy.  (So take that, Singapore and NZ!)  But the US also produces more low-performing maths and science students each year than any other country.  (Maybe because almost half of them believe in creationism?)  The PISA report notes that tests do not evaluate schooling per se, but the "cumulative impact of learning experiences starting in early childhood and up to the age of 15 and embracing experiences both in school and at home."  No wonder NZ has a higher percentage of top-scoring students!  But then the two Americans smugly point out that NZ has a higher suicide rate.  It must be because students are hounded to excel - so, you see, it all evens out.  (Consider that where suicides are socially taboo, many are misreported as accidents.)  Maybe all the clever US students go to law school instead?  (Note that these superior Americans thought a hand-drawn, hard-to-read graph was sufficient to make their point.)  But why no scores from China, india or even Russia? via Pharyngula which has a perspicacious comment #91: "One possibility regarding the NZ results - when I was at high school in the late 80s the sciences were all electives at higher levels, with no compulsory science classes beyond 5th form (year 10).  If this is still the case, the NZ sample could be self-selected for scientific interest and aptitude."  In the US, the rising economic disparity may be partly to blame for declining scientific literacy.

Best.  Zombie.  Shirt.  Ever.  "Everyone has a Darkside on the inside just waiting to come out" - pull the shirt over your head as the zombie face is printed on the inside...  The critic and erstwhile blogger Lee Siegel, in Against the Machine, a polemic against online habits, makes a list of "five open supersecrets" about bloggers:
1. Not everyone has something valuable to say.
2. Few people have anything original to say.
3. Only a handful of people know how to write well.
4. Most people will do almost anything to be liked.
5. "Customers" are always right, but "people" aren't.
Bloggers on the whole write carelessly, their ideas are commonplace, they curry favour with readers and one another, and their popularity is no index of their worthiness - as if TV has anything on porn sites or the comments sections of blogs when it comes to the solicitation of lust or anger.

When a brood of fledglings crows landed on her lawn and uprooted her seedling carrots much like playful Labrador puppies, naturalist Lyanda Lynn Haupt gently spritzed the young crows with a hose, hoping they’d flutter away and spare her crop.  "Instead," she writes, "all four of them gathered under the spray, flapped their wings and opened their bills, in what appeared to be absolute joy."  Crows can recognise human faces; they have "crow funerals" in which a "stillness" settles around a deceased bird as other crows "cluster about the crow in perfect silence."  Crows even use tools to retrieve other tools (called "secondary tool use" and it is a skill rarely found in nature) - considered a hallmark of human intelligence, and which may have been a crucial step in our evolution.

In the hands of the right person, real parts of the human body can be made into masterpieces using a CT scan.
Shown is the back of a human nose viewed through the top of the head.

In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,'
and then they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again.  They really do it.
It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful.  But it happens every day.
I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.

- Carl Sagan

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