Nicely Said

When I come across something I think is particularly well written or well said, or admire for the writer’s creative choice of words and clarity of thought, I like to share it with you.

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

There is another which states that this has already happened.


Douglas Adams
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
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We come from nothing, we are going back to nothing  — In the end what have we lost? Nothing!
Monty Python’s Graham Chapman

This is my new philosophy of life. I think it also explains the backend of the Big Bang theory.
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Magnetism is one of the six fundamental forces in nature, the other five being gravity, duct tape, whining, remote control, and the force that pulls dogs towards the groins of strangers.
Humorist Dave Barry

Dave Barry has been making me laugh for years. He’s my favorite Boomer, proud to have him in my generation.

Here, Barry pokes fun at the crap you read on the Internet.

God knows how many people read Barry’s comment on the Net and take it as gospel. How many high school and college papers have Barry’s Six Fundamental Forces already appeared in?

I came across something that reinforces Barry’s point: “The trouble with quotes on the Internet is it’s hard to know if they’re real.” Abraham Lincoln

So true, Mr President. I’ve printed your quote on a bookmark that I keep in my Bible, the one I bought on e-Bay for a pretty penny, autographed by Jesus Christ.
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Ninety percent of everything is crap.

This adage is commonly known as Sturgeon’s Law.

In 1951, science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon defended the Sci-Fi genre by stating, “Ninety percent of [science fiction] is crud, but then, ninety percent of everything is crud.”

This was at a time, the 1950s – squaresville to the tenth power — when it was uncool to be a nerd. Now, more than a 100,000 people show up for Comic-Con in San Diego, a celebration of science fiction and fantasy literature.

Sturgeon’s statement has morphed into the all-encompassing ninety percent of everything is crap.

A truism for teenagers but a belief most of us grow out of. Unless you look at social media, blogs (like this one),  and just about anything you see on the Internet (see Dave Barry and Abe Lincoln above).

Maybe Sturgeon’s Law should be amended to read: Ninety percent of everything on the Internet is crap.

I myself go by the 80/20 rule (the Pareto principle).

In any organization, twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the work. Twenty percent of customers account for eighty percent of revenue. Staying in shape is eighty percent watching what you eat and twenty percent exercise. Eighty percent of traffic accidents are caused by twenty percent of drivers. And on and on. See for yourself how true the 80/20 rule is.


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Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher & theologian (1813-1855)

Life’s big dilemma: We make decisions based on what we’ve learned from the past. But we can’t live in the past, we must move forward, to new experiences. It’s a bitch.

Kierkegaard’s observation is especially true of history. We don’t know where we are in the story. Oh, sure: we understand history after the fact — hindsight is 20/20. But what’s happening now is a puzzle piece we don’t know where will fit in.
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Okay, this is just a cheap attempt to bump up visitors to Steve of Upland. Here’s the most popular Nicely Said post that ever appeared on my blog:

Copyright © The National Human Genome Research Institute

Something we learned from the Human Genome Project is that the entire 6 billion-member human species goes back 7,000 generations to an original population of about 60,000 people. Our species has only a modest amount of genetic variation — the DNA of any two humans is 99.9 percent identical.
Garrison Keillor, The Writer’s Almanac for June 26, 2010
“It was on this date that rival scientific teams completed the first rough map of the human genome. ”

What profound information is packed into those two sentences! Only one-tenth of one percent of my DNA makes me a distinct individual; in every other way, down to the smallest detail, I am identical (or at least my DNA is) to any other human being. When I read that, I’m reminded of Matthew Arnold’s “The same heart beats in every human breast.”

And 7,000 generations! Think of all the life stories that have happened as generation after generation unfolds, “struts and frets its hour upon the stage,” and then makes way for a new generation and new stories.

And who were these 60,000 original people?

And, most important, what’s the point? Are we just vehicles for our genes?

Just found this:

“Researchers at London’s Kew Gardens said Thursday they’d discovered that the Paris japonica has a genetic code 50 times longer than that of a human being. The length of that code easily beats its nearest competitor, a long-bodied muck dweller known as the marbled lungfish.”
Claim: White flower has world’s longest genome

This speaks to the marvelous efficiency of the human genome. Think of the early computers that would fill a room and weigh several tons, while today you can hold a computer in the palm of your hand that is thousands of times more powerful.

I’m reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. That illustration of a cell with its DNA pulled out? It could represent a normal cell in your body, or one that spells your doom:

“A cancer cell is an astonishing perversion of the normal cell. Cancer is a phenomenally successful invader and colonizer in part because it exploits the very features that make us successful as a species or as an organism.

“Like the normal cell, the cancer cell relies on growth in the most basic elemental sense: the division of one cell to form two. In normal tissues, this process is exquisitely regulated, such that growth is stimulated by specific signals and arrested by other signals.

“In cancer, unbridled growth gives rise to generation upon generation of cells.

“Biologists use the term clone to describe cells that share a common genetic ancestor. Cancer, we now know, is a clonal disease. Nearly every known cancer originates from one ancestral cell that, having acquired the capacity of limitless cell division and survival, gives rise to limitless numbers of descendants…

“But cancer is not simply a clonal disease; it’s a clonally evolving disease.  If growth occurred without evolution, cancer cells would not be imbued with their potent capacity to invade, survive, and metastasize. Every generation of cancer cells creates a small number of cells that is genetically different from its parents.”

The cure to cancer, the secret of immortality, may result from unlocking the human genome.

“And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.'”
Genesis 3:22
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Nicely Said

When I come across something I think is particularly well written or well said, or that I admire for the writer’s creative choice of words, effective syntax, and clarity of thought, I like to share them with you.

 

 

I still take home delivery of my local paper. I prefer the print edition to visiting my local paper’s website.

Call me old fashion and hopelessly twentieth century, but relaxing with the paper is what I call a nice, quiet, peaceful read, best enjoyed in my “library.”

On the printed page my eye finds few distractions. I’m not tempted to google this or click that and go off on some long odyssey, wasting an hour or two in some feverish, serendipitous quest of little value, ultimately forgettable.

Most web content I encounter on these pointless digressions passes right through me like prune juice (sorry, the reference to my “library” still lingers with me).

Unplugged, offline, and with print edition in hand, I can focus and concentrate on one thing at a time. I can chew and properly digest the news (pause while I purge my mind of all gastro-intestinal analogies. Wait! What happens if I google “gastro-intestinal analogies”? Looking up “bathroom humor” might be fun. I wonder why prune juice has that effect on me? Maybe I should google that too…   Stop, Steve, STOP!).

Anyway, one section of my local paper I always read is the letters to the editor, where readers are allowed to have their say on issues of concern, from a school crossing guard publicly pleading with drivers to slow down and watch for kids to someone’s take on President Obama’s job-creation plan.

For more than 200 years, LTE was one of the few opportunities the vast majority of people had to reach a mass audience with their individual thoughts and viewpoints.

And it’s been a very narrow opportunity. Editors are the gatekeepers: they decide which letters to publish, who will be heard.

Today the tables are turned on newspaper editors. Not only do you get to read their product online for free, you can post comments to news stories as soon as they appear, you can bypass the editors to get your two cents in.

And two cents is more than a big majority of postings are worth.

With few restrictions, posters are free to rant and rave, libel and lie. Show they’re a racist, a moron, a boor, an immature jerk. That they’ve never had an original thought.

Too many posters pathetically demonstrate their limited vocabulary, can’t spell and have no clue about syntax and grammar.

And they can do it all anonymously, so no consequences. No price to pay for sharing those ugly thoughts

Some sick poster’s true identity is not associated with that cruel, racist comment to the news item I saw about a Latina grandmother who jumped off a freeway overpass, a comment I pray her grieving family never reads. Unfortunately, if they ever google that news item, they’ll see it–a stinking digital stain on the poor woman’s memory that can’t be erased.

Sitting in my library reading the print edition, I’m mercifully unaware of those anonymous posters who tag online news articles with their asinine comments.

I prefer to have my paper’s editors pick the reader comments. Their rules: no personal attacks, no obscenities, no libel, and no hiding behind anonymity.

Published letters are cleaned up, neatly typeset and appear without typos (or seldom any—editors are human, too).

I expect editors to publish letters where the author has a legitimate gripe, makes a good point, presents a sound argument, brings a fresh perspective I hadn’t considered, adds new information, or exposes an issue the newspaper hasn’t covered.

I love it when a politician is skewered by a reader–one of his or her constituents, or a good Samaritan is publicly thanked, or when charity organizers announce a successful event and express appreciation to the community. Makes me think more highly of the people where I live, forgetting for a moment the jerks I encounter daily driving around town or in the stores.

While letters to the editor in my local paper are often awkwardly written, I appreciate that someone took time to compose their thoughts as best they could. Most posters hurriedly dash off their drivel, not pausing a second to check their spelling. Writing for publication is hard work. You have to earn that space on the LTE page.

The published letter writers are just as passionate as posters, but they stand by their position by signing their name. Before publication, a responsible editor will contact the person named in the signature to see if they are really the author of the letter. (Always include your contact information when submitting a letter, or any news release, to the media).

Occasionally I find a letter to the editor that’s particularly enlightening, thought provoking, well worth my time to read.

In other words, it’s Nicely Said.

Which is why I’m leaving my library, having finished my morning read and other business, to share with you this letter to the editor that appeared in my local paper, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

Tip of the iceberg
The article about Guillermo Reyes (“Neighborhood fixture dies home­­less,” Jan. 23) was very appropriate and very well written. I hope readers will understand that the situation written about is only the “tip of the iceberg.”

Advances in medical science have extended the life span, the results of which has been an increase in the population of older adults with prob­lems similar to those of Mr. Reyes. In the U.S., as in other countries, the baby boom generation is reaching retirement age. The number of people over the age of 65 continues to climb and along with it the number of peo­ple (like Mr. Reyes) affected by demen­tia.

Currently about 5.3 million Ameri­cans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, with several million more diagnosed with vascular dementia, frontotempo­ral dementia, or delirium due to multi­ple etiologies. These numbers are expected to double or triple in the next 40 years (Alzheimer’s Associa­tion, 2009).

Approximately 47 percent of the population between the ages of 60 and 75 can be expected to suffer some form of geriatric cognitive disorder.

To understand the nature of the geri­atric dysfunction that can occur, we can look at the role of dementia in these cognitive disorders and should investigate the ease with which advan­tage can be taken of people with these disorders, as in Mr. Reyes’ case.

The social, personal and economic impact of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias on society is pro­found and growing. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and carries with it an annual price tag of $148 billion (Alzheimer’s Associ­ation, 2009). The burden that demen­tia imposes on caregivers reverberates through every community, leaving no neighborhood untouched.

I am a retired psychologist who volunteers at the senior center in Rancho Cucamonga. The needs of the seniors are very obvious to me as I talk to them (and learn from them) in the programs that I (with many oth­ers) volunteer for such as the dining room program, bread program and commodities program. I only wish I could do more.

JACK LIEBERMAN

Here’s the first part of the front-page story Mr. Lieberman refers to in his letter:

Neighborhood fixture dies homeless

By Wendy Leung Staff Writer

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A longtime homeowner who became homeless last year when his mental illness took its toll has died.

Guillermo Reyes         Daily Bulletin staff photo

Guillermo Reyes, recognized by many in the Hyssop Drive neighborhood as the kind and talkative man behind a shop­ping cart full of aluminum cans, died in a hospital on Jan. 11 from lung cancer, friends said. He was 79.

“There were a lot of people who knew him, just meeting him on the streets,” said Steve Wasden, a former neighbor of Reyes. “There’s a lot of people who cared about him. He loved to talk and he just drew me in. There was something special about him.”

A thin, fragile-looking man, Reyes exhibited a smile that belied his troubles. He was a compulsive hoarder who slipped through cracks and ended up living on the streets despite having purchased his home with cash in 1976.

His neighbors and friends say society failed him.

“I definitely feel like he’s bet­ter off now,” Wasden said.

Read full article

Mr. Lieberman’s letter has key elements that appeal to editors and make for a great LTE. He sticks to one subject, brings a unique perspective, and he uses verifiable facts, figures and statistics to make his case.

He starts by identifying the story to which he’s responding, one that got a lot of attention.  The tragic story of Guillermo Reyes ran on the front page, had strong human interest and included a compelling photo.

It didn’t hurt Lieberman’s chances of being published that he praises how “very well written” and “appropriate” the Daily Bulletin’s article is.

Lieberman quickly launches into his purpose in writing: to alert us to a growing and profound problem where Guillermo Reyes is just the “tip of the iceberg.” Longer life spans and aging baby boomers mean more and more people suffering from dementia.

Lieberman defines the problem with sobering statistics from the Alzheimer’s Associa­tion: 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease, millions more with some other form of dementia, and  “These numbers are expected to double or triple in the next 40 years.” The annual price tag of Alzheimer’s is $148 billion.

One statistic especially grabbed me: “Approximately 47 percent of the population between the ages of 60 and 75 can be expected to suffer some form of geriatric cognitive disorder.” That should give many readers pause. It hits close to home for me. I think of myself, my mother, my neighbors who are seniors. Keep this in mind if ever you write an LTE: Editors like it when you can tie your issue to as many as readers as possible.

Lieberman ends on a personal note, his volunteer work at the RC senior center, where he sees first hand the need many seniors have for assistance.

I know the RC senior center, it’s in a big, new beautiful building, always has plenty of activities going on, and has wonderful, caring staff and volunteers (such as Jack, whom unfortunately I’ve never met).

If only Mr. Reyes had one day gone through the doors of the RC senior center, perhaps met Jack Lieberman, maybe he could have been saved from such a sad end. I know the center has been a lifesaver for many seniors in Rancho (an example that government, at least local government, can do some things right!).

Jack reveals that he’s a retired psychologist, which qualifies him as an expert on this subject. I kind of guessed he knew what he was talking about when he referred to “vascular dementia, frontotempo­ral dementia, or delirium due to multi­ple etiologies.” In general, I would stay away from using too many technical terms in your LTE–your readers will quickly disconnect and jump to an easier read.

The closing is memorable: “I only wish I could do more.” Jack’s empathy, humility and desire to help left me with a better appreciation of the human drama behind the statistics and the pressing need to address dementia and mental illness in a growing segment of our population.

Exactly what I think Jack Lieberman hoped to accomplish in writing his letter to the Daily Bulletin.

Read the best of recent letters published in the LA Times


Please encourage me to get off the pot and post at least once a week

Nicely Said

When I come across something I think is particularly well written or well said, or that I admire for the writer’s creative choice of words, effective syntax, and clarity of thought, I like to share them with you.

“To those who judged him by his quirky manner and his ill-fitting, wrinkled, off-the-rack uniform, the cuffs of his trousers always two or three inches above his boots, the badge sometimes missing from the peaked cap, Lawrence did not cut a soldierly figure, so most of them failed to notice the intense, ice-blue eyes and the unusually long, firm determined jaw, a facial structure more Celtic than English. It was the face of a nonreligious ascetic, capable of enduring hardship and pain beyond what most men would even want to contemplate, a true believer in other people’s causes, a curious combination of scholar and man of action, and most important of all, a dreamer.”
HERO The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia by Michael Korda, page 6.

I love the rhythm of these two sentences as they accumulate essential information–concrete details and abstract words–about one of the most extraordinary, enigmatic, brilliant men who ever lived, T.E. Lawrence.

I’m reading Korda’s book, Hero, a gripping, detailed examination of Lawrence’s most remarkable life. Hero is an apt title; Lawrence is no mere mortal but a hero on a grand scale. David Lean’s majestic 1962 film starring Peter O’Toole only scratches the surface of the man famous throughout the world as Lawrence of Arabia.

If I were to list all T.E. Lawrence’s accomplishments (and his quirks), this post would go on far too long. Just a sampling (and I’m only half way through the book!): Lawrence was a brilliant scholar and an acclaimed writer, author of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, rated  “a masterpiece of British literature” (the movie is based on this autobiographical book); he was an utterly fearless warrior and one of history’s greatest military strategist, inventor of modern guerilla warfare as still practiced by today’s insurgents, such as the Taliban; an expert archaeologist as well as a daring adventurer (Indiana Jones could be based on Lawrence’s exploits in the Arabian desert); though low ranking, he was Britain’s most influential intelligence officer of World War I and helped shape the modern Middle East (and we live with the consequences); a man of amazing  physical strength and endurance (though he was so short of stature that one British officer referred to him as a “pipsqueak”); charismatic and handsome, Lawrence repressed all sexual feelings and hated to be touched.

How do you introduce your readers to an individual of so many superlatives, someone so complex, contradictory and unconventional? Korda does a splendid job in this paragraph early on in Hero.
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“For 25 years, I tried to kill my mother-in-law with kindness, but eventually realized she was never going to change.”

So starts a letter appearing in an advice column, Annie’s Mailbox, I saw in my local newspaper.  The writer, Gotta Do What You Gotta Do, then goes on to tell how she and her husband are now “living in peace and happiness together” and their quality of life has “improved 200 percent” because they put 3 thousand miles between them and her mother-in-law, with whom, she states emphatically, they no longer have any contact, and the old lady can just stew in her own miserable juices.

The opening sentence grabbed me. I was compelled to read on, though as I did I was a little disappointed that GDWYGD didn’t provide any examples of mother-in-law’s emotional atrocities during those 25 long years. We’re only getting the story from the wife’s point-of-view.

Wife also says, “My husband still strives for her love and will never get it.”  I can see her curling her lip as she says this, eying her husband with a fierce look that dares him to contradict her.

Perhaps the most tragic figure in this story is the husband, caught between two strong, flinty women.

Another letter starts, “My husband and I have been together for 20 years, and the spark has left our relationship.”

This is depressing, prosaic stuff, far removed from the grand, heroic, fascinating life of T.E. Lawrence.

Wasted years in relationships that end badly. Years of precious existence thrown away, imprisoned with some toxic, joyless person.

Lives spent in “quiet desperation,” as Thoreau says, curling his lip and glancing over at me.

Hey, we can’t all be Lawrence of Arabia.

Besides, I just read the part where Lawrence is buggered by Turkish soldiers. Maybe he should write Annie’s Mailbag about how to deal with that, especially as he admits in his autobiography that the beating, whipping, humiliation and anal rape he received in his brief captivity aroused some of his repressed sexual feelings.
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Emerson

Speaking of Thoreau, today I came across a quote from his good friend and neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which has been shown!”

It reminds me of a Navajo creation story quoted at the start of another book I just started reading: Fire in the Mind: Science, Faith and the Search for Order by George Johnson.

When all the stars were ready to be placed in the sky First Woman said, “I will use these to write the laws that are to govern mankind for all time. These laws cannot be written on the water as that is always changing its form, nor can they be written in the sand as the wind would soon erase them, but if they are written in the stars they can be read and remembered forever.”

Fire in the Mind is about the human need to see patterns in randomness, to bring order into chaos, and to make something meaningful that would otherwise be arbitrary, like the constellations we map in the night sky.

We are pattern-seekers—it’s wired into the human brain.

The constellations we see in the night sky, the patterns we imagine in random stars, only exist in the human mind

The Navajo see in the stars First Man and First Woman, a creation myth that gives their lives meaning: to keep the universe running through rituals that balance opposing spirits and maintain order. Emerson looked up at the awe inspiring heavens and saw the spiritual loss, the shrinking of the human soul,  in a society becoming more industrialized and materialistic.

And in the stars which we now study in detail, scientists see “mass-energy interacting in an arena of space and time” and theorize about dark matter  and dark energy taking up 95% of the universe.

Which means the norm in the universe ain’t us. It’s the mysterious dark matter and dark energy that maintains the order of the universe. We are just superfluous.

As humans, we have this basic drive to explain why things are as they are, the underlying truth to our existence.

The human brain can not only contemplate the universe, it can contemplate itself contemplating the universe. How did this happen? Why can we do this?

As Johnson asks, “How does life arise from the random jostling of dead molecules? How does the mind arise from the brain?”

It’s said that the scientist seeks truth, while the religious man already knows The Truth. But is the  truth in the external world the same as the truth inside our heads,  the “fire in the mind”?

Scientists are often arrogant, close-minded, and dismissive about anything smacking of the spiritual, magical or religious–of any “knowledge” acquired outside of empirical evidence [that’s my opinion, not Johnson’s].

But I think Johnson is going to show me that this arrogance and closed-mindedness  is a roadblock to exciting and profound scientific breakthroughs.

“Are there really laws governing the universe? Or is the order we see imposed by the prisms of our nervous systems, a mere artifact of the way evolution wired the brain? Do the patterns found by science hold some claim to universal truth, or would a visitor from another galaxy find them as quaint and culturally determined, as built on faith, as the world’s religions?”

“Transported to a different part of the galaxy,” Johnson writes, “we would be startled to see our constellations stretched and squeezed, distorted by a new vantage point. But how hard it is to appreciate that one person’s distortion can be another person’s reality, that we look at the world through different eyeglasses, that there are different ways of carving up the sky.”

Sometimes scientists follow along a historical path of discovery, going so far down one particular, even accidental, path that they no longer can back up and see that there are other, alternative explanations, other paths.

“… there are different ways of carving up the sky.”  Yeah, I’m having fun reading this. I read a couple of pages and then have to stop and spend two or three days thinking about it.

This may all be too complex for the human brain, that 3 pounds of jelly in our skulls, to ever comprehend. Or, there may be no explanation, no Grand Scheme of Things to find.

“I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.”
Umberto Eco

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another which states that this has already happened.”
Richard Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Nicely Said

When I come across something I think is particularly well written or well said, or that I admire for the writer’s creative choice of words, effective syntax, and clarity of thought, I like to share it with you.

“With reform measures, support is often a mile wide and an inch deep,” Kousser said.
Field Poll: More California voters prefer spending cuts, not taxes, to close deficit
Sacramento Bee editorial, March 5, 2010

Thad Kousser is a University of California, San Diego, political science professor who worked on the Field Poll.

I like that “mile wide, inch deep” description of voter support for reform measures. Reform is good, in general, until you discover it will affect you as well.
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“The old joke is that General Motors is just a health insurance company that makes cars on the side,”San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill said during a pension presentation at a recent board meeting. “My concern is that the county government is becoming a pension provider that provides government services on the side.”
The Public Eye: Pension promises threaten California cities, counties
Sacramento Bee blog
April 11, 2010

This concisely sums up the level to which California’s state and local governments have descended, thanks to the pure greed of government employee unions and the equally culpable politicians who signed off on labor contracts with extravagant pensions and benefits.

More and more of our tax dollars flow to comfortable pensions for public employees while less and less trickles to the government services we all rely on, including education, law enforcement, and repairing our streets and highways.

Our state’s unfunded public pension liability may be as high as half-a-trillion dollars, according to a report done by Stanford University graduate students.
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And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour, we rot and rot:
And thereby hangs a tale.
From Shakespeare’s As You Like It

Ask any aging baby-boomer about this. It’s not how we like it.
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“The law is an ass”
In Ch
arles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, when the character Mr. Bumble is informed that “the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction,” Mr. Bumble replies, “If the law supposes that … the law is a [sic] ass—a [sic] idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience.”

Amen to that, Mr. Bumble! I often think of your perceptive remark whenever I come across a ridiculous law completely divorced from reality, that solves nothing and may actually make matters worse.

Bumble is right! Proof the law can be an ass:

  • In Virginia, tickling a woman is unlawful
  • A North Dakota law says it’s illegal to lie down and fall asleep with your shoes on
  • Oklahoma law forbids taking a bite out of another person’s hamburger
  • An Oregon law requires dishes to be drip-dried
  • You may not bite off another person’s leg, so says a law in Rhode Island
  • It is illegal not to drink milk in Utah
  • In Nebraska, bar owners may not sell beer unless they brew a kettle of soup simultaneously
  • Mispronounce “Arkansas” and you break a law in that state
  • And in my state, California, a law forbids eating an orange in your bathtub

See asinine laws for all 50 states in a wonderful article by Annie Tucker Morgan, I’m Under Arrest for What? Fifty Bizarre US Laws, at www.divinecaroline.com
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“I think Apple knows how to teach people about things they don’t yet know they want”
Michael Gartenberg, Altimeter Group (a strategy consulting firm focused on emerging technologies), commenting on  iPhone upgrade.

This just about sums up Apple’s marketing brilliance.
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Copyright © The National Human Genome Research Institute

Something we learned from the Human Genome Project is that the entire 6 billion-member human species goes back 7,000 generations to an original population of about 60,000 people. Our species has only a modest amount of genetic variation — the DNA of any two humans is 99.9 percent identical.
Garrison Keillor, The Writer’s Almanac for June 26, 2010

“It was on this date that rival scientific teams completed the first rough map of the human genome. “

What profound information is packed into those two sentences! Only one-tenth of one percent of my DNA makes me a distinct individual; in every other way, down to the smallest detail, I am identical (or at least my DNA is) to any other human being. When I read that, I’m reminded of Matthew Arnold’s “The same heart beats in every human breast.”

And 7,000 generations! Think of all the life stories that have happened as generation after generation unfolds, “struts and frets its hour upon the stage,” and then makes way for a new generation and new stories.

And who were these 60,000 original people?

And, most important, what’s the point? Are we just vehicles for our genes?

Just found this:

“Researchers at London’s Kew Gardens said Thursday they’d discovered that the Paris japonica has a genetic code 50 times longer than that of a human being. The length of that code easily beats its nearest competitor, a long-bodied muck dweller known as the marbled lungfish.”
Claim: White flower has world’s longest genome

This speaks to the marvelous efficiency of the
human genome. Think of the early computers that would fill a room and weigh several tons, while today you can hold a computer in the palm of your hand that is thousands of times more powerful.

I’m reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. That illustration of a cell with its DNA spilled pulled out? It could represent a normal cell in your body, or one that spells your doom:

“A cancer cell is an astonishing perversion of the normal cell. Cancer is a phenomenally successful invader and colonizer in part because it exploits the very features that make us successful as a species or as an organism.

“Like the normal cell, the cancer cell relies on growth in the most basic elemental sense: the division of one cell to form two. In normal tissues, this process is exquisitely regulated, such that growth is stimulated by specific signals and arrested by other signals. In cancer, unbridled growth gives rise to generation upon generation of cells.

“Biologists use the term clone to describe cells that share a common genetic ancestor. Cancer, we now know, is a clonal disease. Nearly every known cancer originates from one ancestral cell that, having acquired the capacity of limitless cell division and survival, gives rise to limitless numbers of descendants… 

“But cancer is not simply a clonal disease; it is a clonally evolving disease. If growth occurred without evolution, cancer cells would not be imbued with their potent capacity to invade, survive, and metastasize. Every generation of cancer cells creates a small number of cells that is genetically different from its parents.”

Cartoon from an article “What makes you you? Ask your genome”

The cure to cancer, the secret of immortality, may result from unlocking the human genome.

“And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.'”
Genesis 3:22

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“There is a wonderful reason that explains why human beings have developed two different minds. it is because in the whole world there are really only two problems. I’ve always found that to be a comforting thought, only two problems in the whole world. One problem is, “you know what you want but you don’t know how to get it”, and the only other problem is, “you don’t know what you want.”

Steven Snyder, quoted in a recent Productive Living email from David Allen, author of Getting Things Done.

I thought what Snyder says here is interesting, so I did a little research on him, see what other pearls of wisdom he has. Oh, boy. Lots of hype, “one of world’s foremost experts on Accelerated Learning.” Claims to have read a book a day when he was only three years old.

My interest in what Snyder has to say evaporated with his “Dialogue of Two Minds“, where BrainMind and HeartMind have a little tête-à-tête and decide to collaborate to achieve “success, love, health, and happiness.” BrainMind will FOCUS, be the steering wheel, and HeartMind will contribute PASSION & DRIVE, be the gas pedal.

Have you noticed that the Brits never produce boorishly written claptrap like this? Only in America do you have this how-to-succeed-in-business psycho-babel.

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