Thursday, March 15, 2018

Half Empty - What are your personal beliefs?

"This page is not a forum for general discussion about one's personal beliefs about the glass".

I wanted to know about the science experiments that explain the glass half full and half empty.  I remember a television science show that covered young children's cognitive abilities.  They looked at glasses that were tall and narrow versus short and wide, and had to say which glass had more liquid in it.  But alas, the "glass half empty" phrase has been hijacked by all manner of philosophical and religious websites and groups.  Hence the page on Wikiforum starts with the warning.  

So while the age old question of half full or half empty is not being explored today, we can ask whether March is emptying out or filling up.  Let me know.

We're at the Ides of March - that fulcrum day that the Romans marked as a deadline for settling debts.  That gave way to the 'beware' event that made Julius Caesar forever famous, but with us no more.

Next is the Glorious Green of St. Patrick's Day.  What better progression could there be than to a celebration with plants that are intensely green.

Shamrock derives from Irish for young clover.  It is referred to as "a young sprig."  A sprig is defined as a small stem bearing leaves or flowers, taken from a plant or tree. It can also refer to someone who is young and immature.

And which plant is a shamrock?  This is a much debated question over the centuries. Today two clovers are considered the true shamrock: Trifolium dubium  (lesser clover) or Trifolium repens (white clover).  Then there are a few more three-leaved plants that are sometimes called shamrocks.  We tend towards wood sorrel (Oxalis) as the commemorative plant.  It is widely available in our garden centres and grocery stores - a marker that spring is upon us. 

Another March milestone for us is the Canada Blooms garden festival.  Here are two pictures from our visit this week.  I saw a review from 2016 that called the show "Canada Glooms not Canada Blooms".  This tradition of low lighting continued this year, so there aren't many pictures to share anymore.  The floral displays remain the highlight - they are beautiful works of art from artists around the world.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Wolf Boy and Monkey Girl

What do we know about feral children?  As long ago as Romulus and Remus suckled by a she-wolf, the long list of feral children is well documented.  Our fascination with this circumstance has always been with us.

Mary-Ann Ochoa made a TV documentary series for Discovery on this topic and her article is in the Guardian here.  She summarizes:

"We’re fascinated by creatures that crawl the line somewhere between human and animal, between natural/unnatural, between civilised/wild. By defining the feral, we define the normal. That’s why these stories capture our imaginations." 

 The Wikipedia story outlines legends, popular culture and documented cases.  Here are three:

Marina Chapman - She lived with weeper capuchin monkeys in the Colombian jungle from the age of four to about nine, following a botched kidnapping in about 1954. Unusually for feral children, she went on to marry, have children and live a largely normal life with no persisting problems.

Robert (1982) – The child lost his parents in the Ugandan Civil War at the age of three, when Milton Obote's looting and murdering soldiers raided their village, around 50 miles (80 km) from Kampala. Robert then survived in the wild, presumably with vervet monkeys, for three years until he was found by soldiers.

The "ostrich boy" – A boy named Hadara was lost by his parents in the Sahara desert at the age of two, and was adopted by ostriches. At the age of 12, he was rescued and taken back to society and his parents. He later married and had children. The story of Hadara is often told in west Sahara. In 2000, Hadara's son Ahmedu told his father's story to the Swedish author Monica Zak, who compiled it to a book. The book is a mixture of the stories told by Ahmedu and Zak's own fantasy.

The sad stories are those of children raised in isolated confinement by parents and relatives.  The most famous and documented is Genie, discovered in 1970 in Los Angeles. She became the subject of scientific investigation.  However, her life continued to have terrible circumstances continued by institutions, and her whereabouts now is unknown.

Our desire to know what is human is at the root of this fascination.  Our pictures today show our question visually - the human forest with its symmetry and synchronization, and then the feral - the alignment warped and transformed.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Spring Ahead

Daylight Saving Time will begin tomorrow Sunday March 11 at 3:00am.  The question is regularly asked why don't we just stay with one timezone? The Washington Posts tells us that we like having later sunsets in the summer, and wouldn't be happy if the sun went down at 7:00pm.

Who first conceived of DST?  It was Benjamin Franklin in the 1770s.  Many countries went onto DST during World War I, following Germany's lead. Then in 1918, time zones and daylight saving were established.  It got repealed in 1919, but continued to be recognized.

In Canada, DST was first observed in 1908, and has been observed for 106 years. Saskatchewan, some locations in Quebec, and some areas of British Columbia don't use DST.   
It is up to the legislation of each municipality in Canada to decide the use of DST.  Can you imagine how complicated this is?  So there are towns/cities such as Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson that do not follow the provincial norm.  
Swedish researchers say there may be some health benefits to turning your clock back. They studied 20 years of records and found that the number of heart attacks dipped on the Monday after clocks moved back an hour.
Moving clocks ahead in the spring had the opposite effect. There were more heart attacks in the week after springing forward — especially during the first three days of the week.
Another milestone towards Spring will be achieved.  We moved into Spring on March 1st according to the meteorological clock.  

The Miltonia orchid I bought at the RBG orchid Show is almost ready to bloom.  I can see it will be red, like this one.   It is known as the Pansy Orchid, and is beautifully fragrant.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Moonshot Thinking towards the Eternal

How old would you have to get to to feel like you are experiencing eternal life?  The oldest-lived human was Jeanne Calmest who passed away in 1997 at age 122.
"Classical mythology brings us the tale of the Sibyl of Cumae, a prophetess who bargains with Apollo for endless life, and centuries later comes to yearn for death. She failed to negotiate for eternal youth, you see, and with the years she grows shrunken and decrepit and miserable. The story echoes a sentiment that endures in contemporary life: However much time that kale, yoga, spa weekends and wonder drugs may buy us, we accept at some point we’ll become so enfeebled that we’ll be ready to pack it in, once and for all." 

That humorous summary comes from a review of the novel titled "Eternal" by Dara Horn.  

We are experiencing a scientific debate on the length and nature of the human life span.  It was set at 115 years last year by researchers in a Nature article.  There has been a flurry of rebuttals since then. 

Companies such as Google are pursuing projects in this area.  It announced it would make a significant investment in Calico, the California Life Company, to advance research into new approaches for extending life. "With some longer term, moonshot thinking around health care and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives," CEO Larry Page said when the announcement was made. (I am enamoured of the expression "moonshot thinking")

I think about the everyday impact of someone who is really old for decades.  I estimate it would be from 90 to 110.  The advice on what things not to say to your aging parents would go on for decades.  Moreover, we would also be the subject of such advice.  Isn't this already familiar?
  • You've already told me that
  • I showed you how to use the DVR yesterday
  • What does that have to do with what we're talking about?
  • You could do that if you really tried
Our pictures today are digital painting abstracts - we transition from winter to spring with "Elizabeth's Winter Colours" to "Love Birds in Spring, to "Spring Equinox" and conclude with "Birthday Cake". 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Lucky 7 - Tie the Knot!

It is March 7th - and seven is generally considered a lucky number. Lucky Seven goes back to ancient Greece and the mathematician Pythagoras, who decreed the number seven lucky, which would cement in Western culture a belief that also reigns in Asian and the Middle East. Pythagoreans called the number 7 "the Septad".

Seven is all around us:  there are Seven Seas, Seven Heavens, Seven Continents, Seven Colours in a Rainbow, Seven Notes on a musical scale, Seven Days in a week, Seven Wonders of the World and so on. 

Are you old enough to remember celebrating 07/07/77? And more recently there's 07/07/07.  The website had 38,000 couples register 07/07/07 as their wedding date.  

A seminal paper was published in 1956 by the psychologist George A Miller called The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two. Miller claims that it is more than just coincidence that the number 7 seems to be all around us.
Our immediate memory has been shown to perform well when remembering up to, and no more than, seven things. We can distinguish and make a judgement about seven different categories, and remember around seven objects at a glance.

Looking up Lucky in Wikipedia, I found a reference to Ronald Regan's dog, Lucky.  Clicking the link, I came to the listing of pets of the presidents.  

I was impressed with the range of Calvin Coolidge's pets.  The list is about 30 pets long.  Here are a few: 
Goldy - a "yellow bird"
Enoch - Goose
Smoky - Bobcat
Billy - Pygmy hippopotamus
A wallaby
Bruno - a black bear

And here's his lucky pet: 
Rebecca - Raccoon, intended for a Thanksgiving feast;  First Lady Grace had a tree-house built for her instead.

I don't see any presidents with butterflies as pets.  Here's more from the Butterfly Conservatory.