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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

There Is A Buckwheat Flour Shortage

     Buckwheat is not closely related to wheat as it is not a grass. Instead, buckwheat is related to sorrel, knotweed and rhubarb. Buckwheat is referred to as a pseudo-cereal because its seeds' culinary use is the same as cereals'. Also, buckwheat contains no gluten so it may be eaten by people with gluten-related disorders. However, cases of severe allergic reactions to buckwheat and buckwheat-containing products have been reported. 
     My father had Aunt Jemima buckwheat pancakes as part of his breakfast almost every day and when I fixed pancakes I always used Aunt Jemima buckwheat mix. Then all of a sudden the brand disappeared and other brands of buckwheat flour soon followed. 
     As the Coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe, many Americans turned bread-baking into a hobby due to the social isolation. As a result there was a rush on flour! Needless to say this rush took flour millers and grocery retailers by surprise. The result was that at the height of the pandemic store shelves throughout the country saw a severe shortage of flour. This shortage was not due to a physical lack of flour, but the food system was not equipped to handle the surge in at-home baking as most flours are sent to commercial bakers or restaurants. 
     Ever since the United States had entered the First World War the nation’s wheat supply has been high on the federal government’s priority list. Declaring that “food will win the war,” in August of 1917, Congress passed the Lever Act, known more commonly as the Food and Fuel Control act, which granted the government unprecedented control over the US food supply and established the US Food Administration. Headed by future President Herbert Hoover, the new agency was charged with organizing food supplies at home while ensuring there would be enough to feed both American troops and the Allies abroad. 
     A staple of working-class diets in much of the world was bread which meant it was a real problem that there was no longer enough wheat bread to go around. Although the United States was a long way from the fighting, American grain producers were reeling from an incredibly low production year in 1917 and demand both at home and abroad caused wheat prices to skyrocket and a domestic shortage to ensue. 
     President Woodrow Wilson’s Administration quickly undertook stabilizing wheat prices and encouraging Americans to eat less wheat. Americans were encouraged to limit their consumption to just one and one-half pounds of wheat products each week which was about half of the average American’s normal consumption. As a result a significant proportion of white-flour alternatives such as oatmeal, cornmeal, rice flour, potatoes, barley flour and buckwheat flour became popular. 
     Home cooks could no longer bake bread using all white flour. Obviously such regulations could not be strictly enforced for at-home cooks, but President Hoover believed that the spirit of self-denial and self-sacrifice would compel Americans to follow these regulations and many did. On the other hand, like today's Me Generation who would consider such regulations to be a government conspiracy and a violation of their rights, not everyone was happy with this rationing. 
     Even though Facebook and other social media platforms didn't exist in those days there were still the fear mongers peddling the idea that there would be an epidemic of gastronomical distress caused by wheat substitutes. Such rumors were widespread enough to prompt official responses from local and national conservation commissions that there was no reason why people could not use the wheat substitutes to make wholesome, easily digested foodstuffs. 
     Although the supply issues behind the COVID flour shortage are slowly going away there are signs of an actual global grain shortage with US wheat plantings at historic lows and international markets are seeing increased hoarding and rising prices. 
     The outbreak of Coronavirus acted as a restraint on flour, rice and malt manufacturing as supply chains were disrupted due to trade restrictions. When governments restricted the movement of goods across countries manufacturers had to halt production due to lack of raw materials. Also, restrictions on trade of non-essential goods and fear of contamination through manufacturing facilities contributed to the decline. In the meantime all we can do is hope that buckwheat pancake flour will soon reappear on grocery store shelves.
All about buckwheat HERE

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Prosopagnosia and Super Regognizers

     Prosopagnosia is otherwise known as face blindness. It's a disorder in which the ability to recognize familiar faces, including one's own face is impaired, while other aspects of visual processing and intellectual functioning remain intact. It is NOT a memory problem of failing to remember a person. 
     Prosopagnosia is thought to be caused by abnormalities, impairment or damage of a fold in the brain called the right fusiform gyrus. This area in the brain plays an important role in coordinating the neural systems that affect facial memory and perception. 
     Prosopagnosia can be caused by stroke, injury to the brain, or some neurodegenerative diseases. In some cases people are born with face blindness. It seems to be a genetic link, as it runs in families. 
     People with face blindness may struggle to notice differences in faces of strangers while others may even have a hard time recognizing familiar faces. It’s estimated to affect about 2 percent of the population. 
     The most common symptom is an inability to recognize or discriminate between faces. This may make forming relationships more difficult and it may be extremely difficult for people with face blindness to identify a person who shows up in a different setting than the one they’re used to. 
     People with a mild case may just have difficulty differentiating or identifying faces of strangers or people they don’t know well. Those with moderate to severe cases may struggle to recognize faces of people they see regularly, including family members and close friends. In very severe faces, people with face blindness may not recognize their own faces. This may cause social anxiety or depression. 
     In the case of children with face blindness, they may wait for their parent to wave before they come over to the car when being picked up from school. Or, they approach strangers thinking the stranger is their parent or someone they know. They may also fail to recognize people like neighbors, close relatives or family friends. 
     Additionally, such children may become withdrawn in public places and they may have difficulty following plots of characters in movies or TV shows. They will also have have difficulty making friends and can seem withdrawn at school, but confident at home. 
     Acquired prosopagnosia results from damage to the area of the brain associated with facial recognition. There is no cure for face blindness. Treatment focuses on helping people mechanisms to better identify individuals such as hair type/style, height, body shape, voice, mannerisms and such. 
     The opposite of prosopagnosia is the skill of superior face recognition ability. People with this ability are called Super Recognizers. 
     Super Recognizers never forget a face. They can spot the same nameless extras that appear on different TV programs and advertising. Research shows that Super Recognizers outperform most people at learning new faces and then recognizing them from head shots, they are better at deciding whether two photos of unfamiliar people are the same person or two different people and the ability appears to be inherited and is limited to faces. 
     While research has shown that in most circumstances training and experience don’t make people better at recognizing faces, certain government agencies have learned that recruiting Super Recognizers can be beneficial in, for example, situations where a person's face doesn’t seem to match their passport photo or it can decrease false conviction rates from evidence based on a suspect’s face being incorrectly matched to CCTV footage. 
     At present though it's not clear if Super Recognizers can use their ability to recognize faces outside their own ethnic group. It is well established that recognizing faces from another ethnic group is significantly harder than recognizing faces from your own ethnic group. 

FBI Facial Recognition Technology 
This is a government site so don't believe everything they say! This technology was used to track down some of the insurrectionists that stormed the capitol during the inauguration of President (yes, he IS the President!) Biden. READ 
Washington state's largest county bans government use of facial recognition software...the county is home to facial recognition software makers Amazon and Microsoft. READ

Monday, June 21, 2021

Human Body Speeds

     Electricity travels through a copper wire at 96 percent of the speed of light, but what about nerve impulses and other stuff in our body? 
     Let's say you're camping and step out of your tent barefoot at night and step on something that feels like a snake. How fast do the nerve impulses travel that cause you to yank up your leg? When you swallow food how fast does it travel on the way to your stomach? How many ounces per second do you pee? 
     You know you're dying to know the answers to these questions and more. Find out at Our Bodies' Velocities, By the Numbers HERE.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Apple iPad Woes

     My wife recently purchased an older Apple iPad (a 2018 model) from the Apple store. It wasn't in stock and had to be ordered and it arrived 5 days later. We picked it up at the store two days ago. 
     When we got it home it would not connect to our Wi-Fi and we kept getting a "weak security" message. It was telling us that the Wi-Fi network we’re using wasn't secure and that our connection is not as robust as the latest up to date standard. It has something to do with enhanced security on Apple devices. 
     Youtube offered a couple of fixes that didn't work so the next morning I called our ISP (the phone company) and the service rep told me our router was fine and it did not need to be updated or, as some of the fixes suggested, reconfigured (which is not for the faint of heart). 
     The next call was to Apple to talk to a service tech who walked me through a gamut of tests, but nothing worked. He suggested the problem was with the iPad and take it back to the store. 
     At the store the tech tested it and it immediately found the store's Wi-Fi, so obviously there was nothing wrong with the iPad. He suggested downloading iTunes on my laptop and doing an update from version 14.4 to 14.6 through the laptop since the iPad would not connect to the Wi-Fi. He added that the update might help. If that failed then he suggested resetting the router, not by shutting it off and turning it back on, but by poking a paperclip in the little hole on the back. He advised that would mean our phones, wireless printers and laptops would be disconnected. 
     After arrival back home, not being real tech savvy and not wanting to go through all that rigmarole, I called the phone company again and asked a tech rep about the possibility of replacing the router with a newer model. 
     The difference this time is that I got a tech rep who immediately understood the problem and the lady knew exactly what she was doing! It took about 10-15 minutes for her to set me up with second wireless network connection to which I could connect the iPad and the problem was solved. 
     Plaudits to one very sharp service technician working at CenturyLink, the third largest landline telephone company in the United States, who had this very simple (and painless) solution!

Friday, June 18, 2021

For Christians

     Connect Us is a Christian site offering uplifting prayers for a wide variety of situations, inspiring bible verses on subjects ranging from A to Z, 3-minute commentaries, coloring pages for kids, great sermons by great preachers and much more.


     On My Future Radar you can see the future, or at least what the weather forecast models think the future will be. Data is displayed using Rapid Refresh and NAM forecast models to provide simulated future radar imagery. 
     Rapid Refresh is the continental-scale National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hourly-updated assimilation/modeling system. The Rapid Refresh model is run hourly and is useful for short term forecasting. 
     The North American Mesoscale forecast system (NAM) models provide simulated future radar imagery and is one of the major weather models run by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) for producing weather forecasts. NAM uses dozens of weather parameters from temperature and precipitation to lightning and turbulent kinetic energy to generate multiple grids of weather forecasts over the North American continent and forecasts are generated using additional numerical weather models. NAM is run 4 times a day and typically has data from the present to 2.5 days in the future.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Time and Date

  timeanddate.com is an interesting site that is the world's number one site on, well...time and date. World clocks, time zone information, calendars, weather, the sun and moon, timers, calculators and more are available. They also have a section On This Date In History. For example, where I live it's 6:30am, foggy and 63 degrees. In Riyadh it's 1:30pm, hazy and 102 degrees. VISIT SITE

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

High Fructose Corn Syrup Consumption and Pedestrians Killed

     High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener which is processed from corn. Similar to regular table sugar (sucrose), it’s composed of both fructose and glucose. It became a popular sweetener in the late 1970s when the price of regular sugar was high, while corn prices were low due to government subsidies It’s used to sweeten processed foods and soft drinks — primarily in the United States. Naturally, there are those who hate the stuff because: 
1. It adds an unnatural amount of fructose to your diet which can cause health issues if eaten in excessive amounts. 
2. It increases your risk of fatty liver disease. One study in men and women with excess weight showed that drinking sucrose-sweetened soda for 6 months significantly increased liver fat, compared to drinking milk, diet soda, or water. 
3. It increases your risk of obesity and weight gain. One study had healthy adults drink beverages containing either glucose or fructose. When comparing the two groups, the fructose drink did not stimulate regions of the brain that control appetite to the same extent as the glucose drink. 
4. Excessive intake is linked to diabetes. In healthy people, insulin increases in response to the consumption of carbs, transporting them out of the bloodstream and into cells. However, regularly consuming excess fructose can make your body resistant to insulin’s effects. This decreases your body’s ability to control blood sugar levels. 
5. It can increase the risk of other serious diseases. Many serious diseases have been linked to the over consumption of fructose: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, gout and cancer. 
6. It contains no essential nutrients. High fructose corn syrup is “empty” calories. Avoiding high-fructose corn syrup and added sugar in general may be one of the most effective ways to improve your health and lower your risk of disease. 
     Now there is another reason to avoid the consumption of high fructose corn syrup...there is a correlation between its consumption and pedestrians killed by getting hit by a car, pickup or van! 

     As can be seen from this chart based on data between 2000 and 2009, the correlation coefficient is 0.98. Correlation can be described as a mutual relationship or connection between two or more things. Note that the number of pedestrians killed per capita closely follows the consumption of corn syrup per capita.
    The correlation coefficient has no rule for determining what size of correlation is considered strong, moderate or weak and its interpretation depends, in part, on the topic of study. When we are studying things that are difficult to measure, such as the contents of someone's mental life. When we are studying things that are more easily countable, we expect higher correlations. For example, it's generally considered that correlations above 0.75 are relatively strong; correlations between 0.45 and 0.75 are moderate and those below 0.45 are considered weak. 
     As is very clear from the chart, the correlation coefficient of 0.98 means that there is a direct connection between the consumption of high fructose corn syrup and the number of pedestrians killed by getting run over by a vehicle. 
     Here's a little secret...this statistical information is phony because it's a spurious correlation! In statistics a spurious correlation is a relationship in which two or more events or variables are not causally related to each other, yet it may be wrongly inferred that they are, due to either coincidence or the presence of an unseen factor. Biases and conditions alone may create statistical errors, errors from interpretation, false reporting, wrong assumptions, improper samples, false relationships and even bad math. Bottom line: you can prove or disprove just about anything.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum, a Lady With Insight

     Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum (1905 – March 6, 1982) was a writer and philosopher. Born and educated in Russia, she moved to the United States in 1926 where she became known for her fiction and for developing a philosophical system she named Objectivism. She is better known by her pen name Ayn Rand. 
     She had a play that opened on Broadway in 1935. After two early novels that were initially unsuccessful, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel, The Fountainhead. In 1957, Rand published her best-known work, the novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward, she turned to non-fiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own periodicals and releasing several collections of essays until her death in 1982. 
     Atlas Shrugged has been decribed as "an apocalyptic vision of the last stages of conflict between two classes of humanity—the looters and the non-looters. The looters are proponents of high taxation, big labor, government ownership, government spending, government planning, regulation, and redistribution."
     This quote from Atlas Shrugged is even more true today than it was when she wrote it in 1957:


Friday, June 4, 2021

Lake Erie Shipwrecks

     The Great Lakes have about 8,000 shipwrecks and about 2,000 are in Lake Erie placing it among the highest concentration of wrecks in the world. Only about 375 of Lake Erie’s wrecks (schooners, freighters, steamships, tugs and fishing boats) have been found and because of the cold, fresh water, many of them are perfectly preserved. 
     Lake Erie used to be a boat super highway for passengers and goods alike and there are about 12 wrecks within 2 miles of Cleveland. One of the oddest wrecks is an intact schooner off the shore of Euclid, Ohio which carried gravestones. 
     In the eastern section of Lake Erie you can sometimes see 100 feet down without a light. In the central and western basin you can see only 10 to 15 feet. Regardless, the water is cold, down to 40 degrees in the deepest waters, even in August. 
     Ships in shallow water generally were blown apart by dynamite, so they didn’t harm other ships. Some of these wrecks are now just a pile of boards while others are undisturbed. It’s illegal to remove anything from the wrecks. 

Underwater Archaeologists May Have Discovered the Oldest Shipwreck in Lake Erie...read more 
Lake Erie Shipwrecks Home

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Mark Twain On Congress

     King Solomon said it in Ecclesiastes 1:9 which reads, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Some things never change...speaking of Congress in his day, Mark Twain wrote the following gems. 
* Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can. 
* (Congressmen are) the smallest minds and the selfishest souls and the cowardliest hearts that God makes. 
* Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. 
* Congressman is the trivialist distinction for a full grown man. 
* All Congresses and Parliaments have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal experience and heredity. 
* It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress. 
* It is the foreign element that commits our crimes. There is no native criminal class except Congress. 
*...I never can think of Judas Iscariot without losing my temper. To my mind Judas Iscariot was nothing but a low, mean, premature, Congressman.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Pandemics and Setting Precedents

     In 1957 it appears that political correctness was not a "thing" because in February that year the world was hit with a new influenza that emerged in East Asia and triggered a pandemic called Asian Flu. 
     The estimated number of worldwide deaths was one to two million and it is generally considered to have been the least severe of the three influenza pandemics of the 20th century. 
     By mid-summer it had reached the United States where it initially infected relatively few people, but several months later numerous cases were reported, especially in young children, the elderly and pregnant women. This upsurge was the result of a second pandemic wave that struck the Northern Hemisphere in November 1957. This second wave was particularly devastating, but the rapid development of a vaccine and the availability of antibiotics to treat secondary infections limited the spread and mortality. 
    In the U.S. Dr. Maurice Hilleman, an American microbiologist then running influenza monitoring efforts at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, saw the problem coming and prepared the country ahead of time. “This is the pandemic,” he said, adding “It’s here.” 
     He arranged for the U.S. military to ship samples of the virus from Hong Kong to his lab in Washington, D.C. where for five days and nights his team tested it against blood from thousands of Americans. They found that this strain was unlike any flu that humans were known to have encountered, so when it reached the United States no one would be immune. 
     The estimated one to two million worldwide deaths in 1957-58 pale in comparison to estimated 171 million worldwide Covid-19 cases that resulted in an estimated 3.55 million deaths, but it's interesting to note that there was also a rapid development of a vaccine in 1957. Hilleman quickly alerted the government and sent samples of the virus to the six biggest pharmaceutical companies, directing them to produce a vaccine for this new flu...and they did. 
     Some 20 million Americans were infected and 116,000 died, but researchers estimated that a million more Americans would have died if not for the pharmaceutical companies that distributed Hilleman’s vaccine and inoculated about 30 million people. 
     Hilleman went on to join Merck where he developed vaccines for more than 40 diseases, including measles, mumps and meningitis. As these illnesses faded from public memory, so did Hilleman, who died in 2005 at age 85. 
     In spite of the evidence many are still claiming Covid-19 is a hoax and now some are claiming the vaccine is a sinister government plot and it's the vaccine that is the real threat. But, as just noted there is a precedent for the rapid development of flu vaccines! 
     Psychologists and experts on misinformation are trying to figure out why the pandemic spawned so many conspiracy theories which have led people to eschew masks, social distancing and the vaccine. 
     What they’re seeing is a link between beliefs in the falsehoods surrounding Covid-19 and those who rely on social media and alternative news sources to get their information.
     These conspiracy theories give some people a sense of empowerment and the belief that they possess secret information that others don't have. This gives them a feeling of control in a situation that seems random or frightening.
     According to a Pew Research Center survey about 1 in 4 Americans believe the pandemic was “definitely” or “probably” intentionally created. In Europe, dozens of cell towers were destroyed because of bizarre claims that 5G wireless signals were triggering Covid-19. There were also reports of many who died after consuming poisons like fish tank cleaners, that were touted as a cure. Read more