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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Fun With Maps

     While we were shopping for some home decor stuff the other day I chanced to look at a globe and was surprised to find that if you flew straight south from where I live you would exit the US at Cape Haze on the west coast of Florida. After that the next land would be the tip of the Florida Keys and then Havana, Cuba. The next land would be the western end of Panama. After that you wouldn't hit land until you reached Antarctica! 
    Other odd map facts: In Maine there is a peninsula called Quoddy Head which is 3,154 miles away from El Beddouza, Morocco, making Maine the closest state to Africa. 
     When you think of a warm places to be in the winter time Rome sounds nice, but it's actually further north than New York City. Rome's average low in January is 35.8F, for New York City it's 32.6F.  Not much difference, but it snows a lot more in New York City. The average winter weather in Rome is rainy and chilly, but it's rare to see snow in the winter. Last year New York got almost 41 inches of snow. 
     In fact, Rome is on the same latitude as Chicago which, as I can attest, is not a nice place to be in the winter. They average 36 inches of snow a year. In 1978 Chicago had almost 90 inches. Barcelona and Istanbul are also on the same latitude as Chicago, but both cities very rarely see snow. 
     Minneapolis, Minnesota is on the same latitude as Paris, but the temperature in Minneapolis can dip 60 degrees below zero and accumulate 3 feet of snow in less than 24 hours while Paris averages 15 snow days a year, but it rarely gets more than a dusting. 
     Which state is the northernmost, westernmost and easternmost state in the US? The correct answer is Alaska. Alaska's uninhabited Semisopochnoi Island lies just west of the International Dateline, technically making it the easternmost point of the United States. 
     How big is Africa? Africa could comfortably fit most of the US, India and China within the continent. If you are in certain parts of Detroit and drive south you'll end up in Canada. Seriously! Check a map. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Enjoy Edith Piaf


      Edith Piaf dedicated her recording of this song to the French Foreign Legion. At the time of the recording France was engaged in the Algerian War (1954-1962) and the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment which, backed a temporary putsch of 1961 by the French military against the civilian leadership of Algeria, adopted the song when their resistance was broken. The leadership of the Regiment was arrested and tried. The non-commissioned officers, corporals and Legionnaires were assigned to other Foreign Legion formations. The song became part of the French Foreign Legion heritage. 
     Edith Piaf (born Edith Giovanna Gassion, December 19, 1915 - October 10, 1963) was a French singer-songwriter, cabaret performer and film actress. Piaf's music was often autobiographical and she specialized in chanson and torch ballads about love, loss and sorrow.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020


     Trepanning, also known as trepanation, trephination, trephining or making a burr hole is a surgical intervention in which a hole is drilled or scraped into a person's skull to expose the dura mater to treat health problems such as intracranial diseases or to release pressured blood buildup from an injury. In ancient times, holes were drilled into a person who was behaving in what was considered an abnormal way to let out evil spirits. 
     Evidence of trepanation has been found in prehistoric human remains. The bone that was trepanned was kept by the prehistoric people and may have been worn as a charm to keep evil spirits away. 
     Evidence also suggests that trepanation was primitive emergency surgery after head wounds to remove shattered bits of bone from a fractured skull and clean out the blood that often pools under the skull after a blow to the head.
     Trepanations appear to have been most common in areas where weapons that could produce skull fractures were used. Theories for the practice of trepanation in ancient times include spiritual purposes and treatment for epilepsy, headache and mental disorders. 
     Trepanation is perhaps the oldest surgical procedure for which there is archaeological evidence and in some areas may have been quite widespread. At one burial site in France dated to 6500 BC, 40 out of 120 skulls had trepanation holes. Evidence suggests that many of those subjected to the surgery survived.
     Hippocrates gave detailed instructions on the procedure and during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, trepanation was practiced as a cure for various ailments, including seizures and skull fractures. Surprisingly, evidence suggests that the survival rate was high and the infection rate was low. 
     In ancient times, trepanation instruments were were commonly made out of flint or harder material such as stone knives and later with metal such as bronze and copper. The procedure was done by shamans or witch doctors.The Greeks and Romans designed medical instruments that included the terebra serrata made to perforate the cranium by manually rolling the instrument between the surgeon's hand. By the Renaissance period, when trepanation was routinely performed, a range of instruments was developed to accommodate the demand. 
     The procedure includes exposure of the dura mater without damaging the underlying blood vessels, meninges, and brain. Over time, the skin will reform over the puncture site, but the hole in the skull will remain. The location of the trepanation on the skull varies by geographical region and period, common locations are the frontal and the occipital bones. 
     The procedure could result in severe complications which include increased damage to the brain, infection, blood loss, hemorrhage, and potentially death due to the trauma as the skull's protective covering is compromised The operation had very minimal space for error and a high incidence of mortality, if the dura matter was penetrated. Additionally, there was a high risk of infection and possibly significant and permanent brain damage. Even so, some individuals survived multiple skull surgeries. 
     The practice of trepanning continues today due to belief in various pseudoscientific medical benefits. Some proponents claim the procedure results in increased blood flow. In 1965, Dutch librarian Bart Huges drilled a hole in his own head with a dentist drill as a publicity stunt. Huges claimed it increased brain blood volume and enhanced cerebral metabolism in a manner similar to taking ginkgo biloba. Huges and his girlfriend also made several comic books in the 1970s, which promoted trepanation. 
     Among other arguments, Huges contends that children have a higher state of consciousness and since children's skulls are not fully closed, one can return to an earlier, childlike state of consciousness by self-trepanation. Further, by allowing the brain to freely pulsate Huges argues that a number of benefits will accrue. There is a British group that advocates self-trepanation to allow the brain access to more space and oxygen. In 2000, two men from Cedar City, Utah, were prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license after they performed a trepanation on an English woman to treat her chronic fatigue syndrome and depression. 
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Thursday, October 8, 2020

A Fly's Two Minutes and 3 Seconds of Fame

     The Vice Presidential Debate was a joke. Neither side actually answered a question; they either avoided answering entirely or resorted to mud slinging, calling each other liars or shouting the praises of their running mate. 
     Vice President Pence was especially annoying with his bullying tactics, interruptions of his opponent while she was speaking and his refusal to heed the moderator's request to shut up because his allotted time was up. 
     The winner it turns out was a fly which spent 2 minutes and three seconds on Mr. Pence's perfectly coiffed and beautiful white hair. Needless to say the incident brought tons of media comments, some quite funny, both during and after the debate. 
     It's a shame that an event of such importance was, if not the fiasco of the Presidential debate, highlighted by a fly on the head of one of the candidates and not where they (the candidates, not the flies) actually stand on important issues.

Chimpanzees...Biters and Throwers

     Once upon a time I worked with a fellow whose hobby was raising sea horses. The pet store where he bought his supplies had a chimpanzee that ran loose in the store and when you went into the store there was a sign warning customers to watch the critter because it was known to sneak up on people and spit at them. In fact, my fellow employee told of the night he was in the store and took a big hawker on the back of the neck. 
     Chimps also attack, bite and throw feces. Why anyone would want to own a 200-pound pet that would spit, throw feces and try to bite your face off is beyond me, but people do. These chimps are often friendly fixtures, but they can be dangerous. 
     Chimpanzees have a genetic profile that's very close to that of humans and they can appear to be cute, hairy people-like creatures, but these animals have something humans don't have...brute strength.
     Most of the time they attack through cage bars and they like to bite off fingers. The attacks generally happen with people the animals don't know, but sometimes they attack owners and other handlers like scientists and researchers.
     Chimps in the wild are not used to people and they're afraid of them. That's why wild chimp attacks are extremely rare. A chimp has strength that for a human would be incomprehensible. Chimpanzee males have been measured as having five times the arm strength as a human male. They also have big canine teeth that can take your face off, no problem. 
     Chimps in the wild are pretty aggressive with other chimps. They have warfare among social groups and males kill each other and they have been known to kill baby chimps. 
     Talk about aggression! In a fight they go for the face, the hands and feet and... the testicles. To outsiders, they have very nasty behaviors. Males are more aggressive than females, but when it comes to people the chimp is familiar with there may be some underlying tension that is often impossible to figure out. These animals are like a like a time bomb waiting to go off. 
     It happens that visitors at a zoo have become the targets of feces thrown by apes or monkeys. Why do they do it? Researchers studying such behavior have come to the conclusion that throwing feces, or any object, is actually a sign of high ordered behavior. 
     The research focused on chimpanzees mainly because they are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Interestingly, they are the only other species besides humans that throw things with a clear target in mind. 
     Brain scans of chimps throwing things found that chimps that both threw more and were more likely to hit their targets showed heightened development in the motor cortex and more connections between it and an area of the brain which is an important part of speech in humans. 
     Like human baseball pitchers, some chimps throw better than others. The better chimp throwers had more highly developed left brain hemispheres which is where speech processing occurs in people. Researchers found that the best throwers also appeared to be better communicators within their group. 
     They also found that throwing stuff at someone else became a form of self expression. When they throw a handful of crap at someone does it mean they don't like them for some reason? Or, do they feel threatened or angry? Or, are they just bored and throwing crap is a crap load of fun? Who knows?

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Just An Opinion

     By now everybody in the world knows President Trump has been reported to have COVID-19. 
     According to Dr. Uché Blackstock, a Yahoo News medical contributor and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, when speaking of possible treatments for the president, stated, “Given his stature as president, he would have access to those therapeutics while the average American would not.” 
     So, the president's health is more important than that of other citizens. In fact, it is not. 
     William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy all died in office and guess what? The Vice President took office and the government kept on functioning.
     If there are treatments available to the president then there are treatments available for everybody. Remember back in 1991 when basketball star Magic Johnson announced that he had AIDS? It was believed that he had pronounced his own death sentence, but he hadn't. Why? Because he had access to drugs that were unavailable to others at that time. Position and money gets you privileges not available to others and that's the way it is.