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  Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Hail Mary

Full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of death.
Amen


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  Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Water Chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis)

The Chinese water chestnut or water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) is a grass-like sedge native to Asia (China, Japan, India, Philippines, etc.), Australia, tropical Africa, and various islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It is grown in many countries for its edible corms.

The water chestnut is not a nut at all, but an aquatic vegetable that grows in marshes, under water, in the mud. It has stem-like, tubular green leaves that grow to about 1.5 m. The water caltrop, which also is referred to by the same name, is unrelated and often confused with the water chestnut.

The small, rounded corms have a crisp, white flesh and may be eaten raw, slightly boiled, or grilled, and often are pickled or tinned. They are a popular ingredient in Chinese dishes. In China, they are most often eaten raw, sometimes sweetened. They also may be ground into a flour form used for making water chestnut cake, which is common as part of dim sum cuisine. They are unusual among vegetables for remaining crisp even after being cooked or canned, because their cell walls are cross-linked and strengthened by certain phenolic compounds, such as oligomers of ferulic acid. This property is shared by other vegetables that remain crisp in this manner, including the tiger nut and lotus root. The corms contain the antibiotic agent puchiin, which is stable to high temperature. Apart from the edible corms, the leaves can be used for cattlefeed, mulch or compost.

The corms are rich in carbohydrates (about 90% by dry weight), especially starch (about 60% by dry weight), and are also a good source of dietary fiber, riboflavin, vitamin B6, potassium, copper, and manganese.


  Monday, December 5th, 2016

Nocebo

The nocebo effect is when a negative expectation of a phenomenon causes it to have a more negative effect than it otherwise would.


  Monday, December 5th, 2016

What is the Hum?

The Hum is a low, faint rumble or murmur that is in some places barely perceptible and in other places easily noticed. I noticed the Hum many years ago, and have long pondered its sources. I do not have a PhD in acoustics, but I’m a mechanical engineer and studied graduate level acoustics in college, and I have conducted sound tests of hydraulic pumps in acoustic chambers with sensitive measuring equipment. This is an important part of engineering; the study and reduction of noise. Pumps, gears, engines, fans, saws…engineers can make them quieter, but there is a limit.

In short, the Hum is the sum of all acoustic energy within earshot, and within earshot can be a surprisingly long distance and include thousands of sources! Each source contributes very little, but all taken together is sufficient to produce a ubiquitous sound without a discernable source direction. It is noise pollution similar to light pollution. A single street light does not cause an orange glow on the clouds, but many thousands together do. To hear the Hum best, lie in bed late at night (or go to the basement) with all windows and doors shut, and all noise sources in the house turned off, wait until the refrigerator/furnace/AC cycles off. Search your hearing at its faintest, way down. You might think, “That’s just the faint din of traffic.” That’s the Hum! The same can be heard way out in the country, seemingly far out enough to escape it. There is something about that frequency range that travels well.

The main contributor is motor traffic, but includes trains, planes, ships, motorcycles, roof fans, thunder, humming electrical wires, wind, crashing waves, helicopters, mowers, blowers, etc. All this noise together is what’s called pink noise; it spans a broad range of frequencies. Inside a building the walls filter out loud masking noises and higher frequencies, but lower frequencies penetrate. When outside the Hum is still in the ears but because of other sounds the Hum is masked, much like odor masking. The stronger sounds mask the weaker. We’ve all had the experience of waiting on a red light and another car pulls up with powerful stereo thumping rap music. The car traps the high notes but radiates the bass notes in a way that you can’t recognize the song but you can hear the noise.

Another example of such a thing: when I camp in a quiet woods thick with mosquitoes, I notice that I can not identify the sound of any particular mosquito; indeed I can not perceive a mosquito a few feet away. But because there are so many of them all around me they I hear a noticeable wing buzz from no particular direction, similar to the cosmic background radiation.

The Hum is often described as the sound of a diesel engine, which I believe is indeed the major contributor. Heavy trucks at freeway speed are sources for more than just engine noise. Consider a large semi pulling a typical 53-foot trailer whose sides and top are made of a thin, stiff board material. These panels are essentially big drum heads, and are excited by the engine vibes, the turbulent air and roadway irregularities. Stand in view of a freeway with an expansion gap in the pavement. Note that when a big rig passes over the gap, the panels sound off like mega woofers. Boom-boom! That is a lot of acoustic energy, and it travels for miles. At any freeway rest stop take note of the noise coming from passing vehicles, it is incredible. While you are standing there, flip through a road atlas of the USA and try to imagine how many thousands of miles of roads we have in this country alone and how many vehicles are on the move at any time. Bridges are rumble sources too, just stand on a bridge during traffic and you can feel it vibrate underfoot.

Have you noticed how loud light piston-powered propeller aircraft are? The noise is mainly from the prop tips, they are moving so fast. A business jet climbing out after take off is as loud as thunder. At any moment there are hundreds of planes in the sky ferrying people around the globe. They plow through the air over 500 mph with their big engines roaring. That they are so high lets their sound carry quite far.

I love the distant rumble of thunder. At any time there are hundreds of thunder storms on earth; the sound of thunder can travel for many miles and especially well across water, which covers ¾ of the earth. Globally there are about 50 lightning strikes per second, which is a lot of acoustic energy. I suspect that distant thunder might be the main source of the Hum in locations far enough from traffic.

The Hum is near the threshold of hearing, and is easily masked. In some places it is so low that a person’s own heart beat will make it seem to throb. That is one element that makes it so mysterious; the Hum is so difficult to examine scientifically and that puts it on the level of subjective perception. We can not do experiments on the Hum, such as eliminating certain sources of noise and then remeasuring.

Having the Hum is the price we pay for living in a mobile, motorized world.

—John Boles

  Monday, December 5th, 2016

Incomprehensibility persists as the character of art, and it alone protects the philosophy of art from doing violence to art.

—Theodor Adorno

  Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Electrosmog

“For the first time in our evolutionary history, we have generated an entire secondary, virtual, densely complex environment—an electromagnetic soup—that essentially overlaps the human nervous system,” says Michael Persinger, PhD, a neuroscientist at Laurentian University who has studied the effects of EMFs on cancer cells. And it appears that, more than a century after Thomas Edison switched on his first lightbulb, the health consequences of that continual overlap are just now beginning to be documented.


  Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Riding the Breath

Heart rate variability (HRV) measures the relative balance between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems. When we inhale, we stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which results in an increase in heart rate. Exhalations stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases how fast the heart beats. In healthy individuals inhalations and exhalations produce steady, rhythmical fluctuations in heart rate: Good heart rate variability is a measure of basic well-being.

—Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score

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  Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Opal (apple)

Opal® is the brand name for a cultivar of apple also known as UEB32642, produced by crossing Golden Delicious with Topaz. Developed by the Institute of Experimental Botany in Prague and FruitSelect in 1999, it is grown by Broetje Orchards in Washington and marketed by the First Fruits company. It is also cultivated in Austria, the Netherlands and France.

Aside from the natural russeting around the stem and some tiny brown flecks, the skin is smooth, thick, and bright yellow, like a lemon. The white flesh underneath is crisp and juicy, with a resounding crunch, similar to a Honeycrisp. Flavor-wise, it’s quite sweet and slightly floral. I picked up notes of pear, coconut, and banana candy (Runts, in particular).


  Saturday, November 12th, 2016

Heat Lightning

A flash or flashes of light seen near the horizon, especially on warm evenings, believed to be the reflection of distant lightning on high clouds.


  Friday, November 11th, 2016

Sacred Economics

Within every institution of our civilization, no matter how ugly or corrupt, there is the germ of something beautiful: the same note at a higher octave. Money is no exception. Its original purpose is simply to connect human gifts with human needs, so that we might all live in greater abundance. How instead money has come to generate scarcity rather than abundance, separation rather than connection, is one of the threads of this book. Yet despite what it has become, in that original ideal of money as an agent of the gift we can catch a glimpse of what will one day make it sacred again.

—Charles Eisenstein


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  Thursday, November 10th, 2016

Sauna, 1913

Zinaida Serebriakova


  Monday, November 7th, 2016

How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us

Eventually, I was able to eliminate meat once and for all. Except for fish, because, well, I still felt like I needed some animal protein. (It’s amazing how many contradictory beliefs one human being can hold!) That went well for a while, but my reading kept pulling me more and more in the direction of my values. Fish were also living creatures, large-scale fishing was an environmental disaster perhaps even worse than livestock farming, and farmed fish meat was just about as harmful to my health as any other kind. There’s nothing good in fish that we can’t get from plants, minus the sky-high mercury levels that appeared on my blood tests during my pescetarian phase.

I finally understood the great Czech-German writer Franz Kafka’s decision to become a vegan. Looking through the glass at an aquarium, he is reported to have told the fish, “Now I can at last look at you in peace. I don’t eat you anymore.”

—Garth Davis

  Monday, November 7th, 2016

Health is the soul that animates all the enjoyments of life.

—William Temple

  Saturday, November 5th, 2016

We do not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

—C.G. Jung

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  Monday, October 31st, 2016

A&P

The presence of the past.