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Stepping in

March 1, 2011

It’s been so long since I’ve written here that I had to go get a new password  and spend some time figuring out the new WordPress dashboard.  Now that blogging is completely out and Facebook and Twittering are all the rage, it seemed to make the most sense to come back here.

I use Facebook a lot, and when Twitter arrived on the scene — just about when this blog experienced a death — I was there.  But there’s something missing that longer entries fulfill.  And so here I am.  Lately I am writing in my head or in my journal, and I need an in between space that may help get me from there to someplace a little more significant.  More on that later.

I’m likely to write a lot more about cycling, cooking, public health, politics, and books.  All of my favorite things.  I might also whinge about job hunting.  Since my last post I received my Master of Public Health from Oregon State, and even though it’s less than 10 weeks since I passed my oral exams and received my diploma I am anxious to get a full time job.

Meanwhile, if you’ve read this far you might as well click a link or two.  I am on a graphic novel kick lately, and Allison Bechdel came to mind since she is one of my all time favorite comic strip and graphic novel writers.  So go check out her archive.


China expects Tibet to celebrate Losar…or else

February 23, 2009

Taking tyranny to new levels.

From the L.A. Times:

“Celebrating is Compulsory”

The Chinese government has a New Year’s greeting for Tibetans: Celebrate, or else.

The Tibetan New Year, or Losar, is normally the most festive holiday of the year, when Tibetans burn incense, make special dumplings and set off fireworks. But this year, Tibetans have declared a moratorium on celebrating their own holiday, saying they will instead observe a mourning period for people killed last year during protests against Chinese rule.

The 15-day holiday begins Wednesday, and as it approaches, tensions are rising. In the last few weeks, the Chinese government has closed large swaths of western China to foreign visitors — not just Tibet itself, but parts of provinces with large Tibetan populations.

Nearly a year after the violent demonstrations reportedly left more than 120 dead, Tibetans are trying a novel technique for nonviolent protest. “Say No to Losar,” as the campaign is called, was launched by Tibetan groups in Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama’s home in exile.

“Instead of the usual celebrations marked by singing, dancing and other festivities, silence will be observed and butter lamps will be lit in the temples and homes to pray for the deceased,” they announced in a statement last month.

The tactic appears to be driving Chinese authorities crazy. They’re countering with their own campaign of forced merriment, organizing concerts, pageants, fireworks, horse races, archery competitions. They’ve declared a one-week public holiday beginning today in Tibet and are offering free admission to museums and parks.

No-LosarThe Communist Party in Tibet also gave vouchers worth $120 each to 37,000 low-income families to shop for the holidays.

To further tempt the 2.8 million Tibetans, state television will broadcast a four-hour gala with 800 performers Tuesday night.

“They want to show that the Tibetan people are happy, that they have returned to normal life. But by intervening, they’re making them unhappy,” said Tsering Shayka, a Tibetan historian now living in Canada. “They are trying to come up with gimmicks instead of solving the problem.”

Robert Barnett, a Tibet expert at Columbia University in New York, says that Chinese efforts to push New Year’s celebrations are likely to backfire.

“I think people will ask, ‘Why is the Communist Party telling me what to do in my own home?’ ” Barnett said.

At Beijing’s Central University for Nationalities, Tibetan students who had applied last year for permission to hold a Losar celebration informed the university recently that they wished to cancel. But the university told them that the party must go on, said a university source who asked not to be quoted by name.

“Celebrating is compulsory,” he said.

The rest is here.

Cooking food: Humanity’s “killer app”

February 21, 2009
Field kitchen

Field kitchen

I’m going to a potluck dinner tonight and was thinking about what I should bring.  Creamed spinach?  Roasted brussels sprouts?  Can’t decide.  Cooking is fun.  Turns out we’ve been doing it a long time, and Richard Wrangham over at Harvard University has gone so far as to say that cooking food is humanity’s “killer app,” and has been for over 200,000 years:

YOU are what you eat, or so the saying goes…It is not just you who are what you eat, but the entire human species. And with Homo sapiens, what makes the species unique in Dr Wrangham’s opinion is that its food is so often cooked.

Cooking is a human universal. No society is without it. No one other than a few faddists tries to survive on raw food alone. And the consumption of a cooked meal in the evening, usually in the company of family and friends, is normal in every known society. Moreover, without cooking, the human brain (which consumes 20-25% of the body’s energy) could not keep running. Dr Wrangham thus believes that cooking and humanity are coeval.

In fact, as he outlined to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in Chicago, he thinks that cooking and other forms of preparing food are humanity’s “killer app”: the evolutionary change that underpins all of the other—and subsequent—changes that have made people such unusual animals.

Humans became human, as it were, with the emergence 1.8m years ago of a species called Homo erectus. This had a skeleton much like modern man’s—a big, brain-filled skull and a narrow pelvis and rib cage, which imply a small abdomen and thus a small gut. Hitherto, the explanation for this shift from the smaller skulls and wider pelvises of man’s apelike ancestors has been a shift from a vegetable-based diet to a meat-based one. Meat has more calories than plant matter, the theory went. A smaller gut could therefore support a larger brain.

Dr Wrangham disagrees. When you do the sums, he argues, raw meat is still insufficient to bridge the gap. He points out that even modern “raw foodists”, members of a town-dwelling, back-to-nature social movement, struggle to maintain their weight—and they have access to animals and plants that have been bred for the table. Pre-agricultural man confined to raw food would have starved.

Head over to the Economist for the rest of the story.

Image thanks to the Midieval/Renaissance Food Clip-Art Collection.

Portland’s 2008 Snopocalypse

December 23, 2008

It’s been several days of snow, snow snow. Living near Mt. Tabor means that I’m pretty snowed in and haven’t been to work all week.

So lovely.

Snow on Mt. Tabor

Bounce and joy!

October 14, 2008

It’s good to have some perspective when things are tough.  When I was a kid, I used to revel in the sheer beauty of nature, of mere existence, and tried to always fall back on that when the details of being human became too daunting or dark.  This sweet clip tells you all about it.  Enjoy:

A possible tie in the elections?

October 5, 2008

Our antiquated electoral system could yield a tie, of sorts, in this year’s presidential election.

So, what happens in a tie?  Get this:

A handful of battleground states are likely to determine the Nov. 4 U.S. presidential election and it’s possible that Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama could split them in a manner that leaves each just short of victory.

If that happens, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives would pick the president but it’s unclear whether Democrats would have enough votes to send Obama to the White House.

The House last decided an election in 1824. But the legal skirmishing and partisan rancor would probably resemble a more recent election — the 2000 vote in which Republican George W. Bush narrowly defeated Democrat Al Gore after a disputed Florida vote count and legal battle.

“This would be the seamy side of democracy, the lobbying and the money would be so intense,” said American University history professor Allan Lichtman.

Another extremely compelling reason to abolish the electoral college – you think?

What do monkeys and the stock market have in common?

October 1, 2008

A friend forwarded me this story:

Once upon a time in a village, a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each. The villagers seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them. The man bought thousands at $10 and, as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He further announced that he would now buy monkeys at $20 each. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.

Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so scarce it was an effort to even find a monkey, let alone catch it! The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50 each! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now buy on behalf of him.

In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers. “Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has already collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each.” The villagers rounded up with all their savings and bought all the monkeys.

Then they never saw the man nor his assistant again, only lots and lots of monkeys! Now you have a better understanding of how the stock market works.

Sometimes we all need a good allegory.  Thanks Matt!