Saturday, June 13, 2009

Another Glass of Red, Please

It's the Resveratrol, not the alcohol. Red wine contains a complex mixture of bioactive compounds, including flavonols, monomeric and polymeric flavan-3-ols, highly colored anthocyanins, as well as phenolic acids and the stilbene polyphenol, resveratrol. It is reported in a new study that some of these compounds, particularly resveratrol, appear to have health benefits.

ScienceDaily has the article, Red Wine Compound Resveratrol Demonstrates Significant Health Benefits

The article points out the specific known benefits of Resveratrol:

• Resveratrol exhibits therapeutic potential for cancer chemoprevention as well as cardioprotection.

• Resveratrol may aid in the prevention of age-related disorders, such as neurodegenerative diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

• Low doses of resveratrol improve cell survival as a mechanism of cardio- and neuro-protection, while high doses increase cell death.

In summary, current scientific research is starting to explain reports from the last 200 years that drinking red wine improves health. "It is a cliché that 'nature is a treasure trove of compounds,' but studies with resveratrol show that this is correct! We need to understand better the vast array of compounds that exist in nature, and determine their potential benefits to health."


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Everlasting Life: Humanoid Droids

A frequesnt commenter to this blog, Steve, posted this comment, "I just read today on a science blog...LINK...that scientists working in A.I. expect to have an 80 percent chance of achieving human level intelligence and sentience within the next 10 years!"

The link takes the reader to an interview with Dr. Ben Goertzel. Dr. Goertzel has a PhD in mathematics and is currently one of the world's top Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) researchers. In this interview, Dr. Goertzel makes some noteworthy points:

- There is an 80% chance of creating a sentient AI within 10 years with proper funding. Adequate funding would only be $3 million per year. Even without this modest funding Goertzel is still confident (80% probabilitiy) that AGI will arrive within 20 years.

-The pace of AI research is clearly accelerating - forums and conferences are occuring at an increasing pace, and corporations are increasingly interested in AI

- Several industries, including robotics and search engines, could become major drivers of AI research in the next few years.

-Goertzel is working with J Storrs Hall and others to create an artificial intelligence roadmap similar to the Foresight/Batelle roadmap unveiled last year. The creation of this roadmap will be challenging but should further spur AI development.


Steve remarks that in Spielberg's AI, 'In the end, mankind has gone extinct, but taking mans place is a human like altruistic machine race, the product of mans creation.' He then says, 'I've been thinking about the bible a lot lately, mostly from a science fiction perspective. I've thought that it would be interesting to rewrite the bible as a science fiction prophesy of mankinds future and as an evolutionary narrative of how mankind achieved immortality and conquered the universe.' Then he says, 'The bible talks about "glorified bodies" ...

Glorified bodies. Eternal life. Biblical prophesy. The right brain unlocks, the imagination hums, the creative juices begin to flow...

What if this AGI of which Dr. Goertzel speaks can be installed in human-looking droids not unlike R2D2 and his buddies. This AGI will be programmed to continually 'learn' as it is exposed to more and more reality, ever-increasing data? It will 'update' itself on a regular basis, just as one's PC and anti-virus programs. It will acquire an ever-greater AI as it 'ages' [so to speak].

But wait! as the infomercial suggests, there's more. What if the 'learning' that the droid-AI receives is about you. Yes, you! What if its program is to learn all that there is to know about one person? It will learn your history up to X point in time. It will learn your likes and dislikes, your speech pattern, your movement style, your favorites, your essence. It will update itself as you change or modify yourself.

Finally, when it has learned all that there is to know about you, its exterior can be artificially enhanced to resemble you, at whatever stage of life you deem it to represent. The biblical, "Glorified body."

Not only that but, hold onto your hats, it can reproduce itself, yourself! It will program a generic warehouse droid with all of its [your] information and exterior changes will be made to resemble the original droid. Just in case the original droid [you] should fall off a cliff, there would be another model in the storage facility which could Resurrect itself [you.] Then, as Steve suggests, humans will have attained immortality as also suggested in the Bible.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Enneagram Number One Marries Two

The Enneagram, as you may already know, suggests that we humans generally 'fit' into one of 9 personality types. A description of each type is given at the Enneagram Institute plus a free test to see which is your type. The website has this information:

The Enneagram Institute is dedicated to the Work of human liberation and transformation. For thousands of years, spiritual teachers from many different traditions have reminded us of the richness of the human soul and its spiritual gifts. But without real self-knowledge, it is not possible to awaken to the deeper truths of the soul or to sustain whatever degree of realization we have attained.

One of the most powerful tools for understanding ourselves is the Enneagram, an ancient symbol of unity and diversity, change and transformation.

It is a helpful study that can give you insight into your 'being' as well as some of the strengths and weaknesses which are associated with your type. Knowledge of the weaknesses is especially helpful in moving ones self to a more fully-functioning adult. Each type has a 'wing' located in the number before it and after it, meaning that you also have characteristics associated with those numbers.

Not surprisingly to those who know me, I am a 'One' while my wife is a 'Two.' It's enriching to know thatmy wife and I dip our 'wings' into each other's personality type. The title of a One is 'Reformer' and the Two is a 'Helper.' My wife fits that perfectly as she dedicates countless hours in the work of helping people move their lives forward. I dabble in that too but not to the extent as she. My other wing is in the Nine, 'Peacemaker,' and have done that most of my life.

Characteristics of the One are: The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic. Surely, these are many of my characteristics and associated faults.

Some 'famous' people who also share the One category are: Mahatma Gandhi, Hilary Clinton, Al Gore, John Paul II, Elliot Spitzer , Sandra Day O'Connor, John Bradshaw, Bill Moyers, Martha Stewart, Ralph Nader, Katherine Hepburn, Harrison Ford, Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, George Harrison, Celene Dion, Joan Baez, George Bernard Shaw, Noam Chomsky, Michael Dukakis, Margaret Thatcher, Rudolph Guliani, Jerry Brown, Jane Curtin, Gene Siskel, William F. Buckley, Kenneth Starr, The "Church Lady" (Saturday Night Live), and "Mr. Spock" (Star Trek).

Interesting clutch of people who span the political spectrum from far right to far left, William F. Buckley to Jane Fonda. A pope, a devout Hindu, a Supreme Court Justice, actors, playwrights, lawyers, singers, governors, correspondents, heads of state, senators...

Type One in Brief

Ones are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their Best: wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. Can be morally heroic.

I especially like that 'morally heroic!' characteristic. In fact, at my retirement, I received a note from a fellow employee who told me that I was the one who championed the causes for which she was too timid to engage and called me 'hero.' I never knew that in the 20 years we worked together.

'Afraid of making a mistake.' Now there's something that haunted me for years and years. Lately, I've been able to kick that down, often with the phrase, 'Who the hell cares!'

There is a section of the website wherein couples can 'match' their spouse's number with theirs. Here is how a One and Two match up:

What Each Type Brings to the Relationship

Enneagram Ones and Twos are a complementary couple since both offer the other the example of their own qualities. Both types are highly dutiful and are attracted to service roles and occupations: both may be teachers, ministers, or health care workers who have long hours and many responsibilities. One and Two couples are often professionals whose work takes them out of the house and requires the focus of their attention to be on the needs of others, not on the relationship itself or even on themselves personally. People in this kind of relationship are often unusually mature and independent and able to obtain their emotional needs from a variety of people and connections, including their professional ones. They bring high ideals, strong ethical standards, and the desire to serve others to the relationship itself, keeping the relationship strong and in touch with solid values and practical perspectives.

The relationship is built around shared values: both are on a path of some kind together. Twos bring the nurturing and feelings that Ones do not easily allow themselves: they help Ones soften and relax. On the other hand, Ones bring integrity, conscientiousness, responsibility, and consistency. They are steady, reliable, and truthful. Ones commit strongly which makes the Two feel secure and that they won't be abandoned. Further, Twos bring warmth, a concern with people and a willingness to make exceptions to the rule for individuals in need. They are aware of suffering and work hard and generously to alleviate it wherever they can. Twos are more convivial and welcoming than Ones and can warm up the One's more typically reserved exterior—which most Ones are glad to have happen.

Exactly! This is amazing- as if the authors has lived with my wife and me for the last 42 years. I suppose that's what brought us together in the first place lo those 42 years ago. And our mutuality has kept us together.

Happy 42nd Anniversary to my wife!
6/10/67 - 6/10/09

Monday, June 8, 2009

People Choose News That Fits Their Views

LiveScience reports:

News readers gorge on media messages that fit their pre-existing views, rather than graze on a wider range of perspectives. In other words, they consume what they agree with, researchers say.

The finding comes out of a recent study which tracked how college students spent their time reading media articles on hot-button issues such as abortion or gun ownership.


Only 5 percent of online news readers go to political blogs on a daily basis, according to a new book by a different researcher, yet many represent the most politically active consumers of the news.

Such readers may prefer blogs over mainstream media sources because they suspect bias in the latter, said Richard Davis, a political scientist at Brigham Young University in Utah.

"They're clearly disenchanted with traditional media," Davis said. "That's why they read blogs in the first place — in their view, they see blogs as more accurate."

Davis worked with several independent firms to conduct nationally representative public opinion surveys of both political blog readers and journalists for his book, "Typing Politics" (Oxford University Press, 2009). He also focused on seven of the top political blogs, which at the time included Daily Kos on the left and Michelle Malkin on the right.

Such political blogs are up front with their political views, and typically "echo" the news reported by traditional journalists while adding their own spin or analysis.

But among the hardcore political junkies, 30 percent told the survey that blogs are more accurate, whereas only 8 percent said traditional media was more accurate. About 40 percent gave equal marks to both.

This trust in blogs over traditional media does not carry over to general readers, Davis cautioned. Less frequent blog readers usually give equal weight to blogs and traditional media. And overall, general readers still put more faith in traditional media.


The section on blogs interested me the most and the line about 'adding their own spin or analysis' seemed obvious to me as the reason for 'blogging' on a particular topic in the first place. After all, that is what blogging is all about on a political blog.

Yet I must point out that the source of the original topic must be both accurate and unbiased. For example, I seldom quote The Daily Kos or Buzzflash as a 'reference,' yet it may point me to the original news story on a mainstream site like CNN or BBC.

What is particularly annoying and clearly specious is the tendency of a blogger to search for 'news' from an obviously biased 'news' source. Our blogging friends in the fundamentalist christian camp often display 'facts' that are at best questionable and often lies.

In fact, I ran into that just the other day. Toledo's oh-so righteous, fundamentalist christian blogger put up a posting with the title,'NO GAY GENE!' This blogger is obsessed with homosexuality, abomination, and her version of sin and thus 'found' a 'scientific' article that 'proves' that God did not create homosexuals. [if God DID create homosexuals, then the Old Testament would be a worthless dossier of scribblings by an ancient nomadic tribe.]

The 'source' for this 'news' is 'OneNewsNow.'

Ever heard of it? Probably not. The about us link identifies the goal of OneNewsNow:

Your Latest News from a Christian perspective

Whether it's a story about prayer in public schools, workplace restrictions on Christians, or battles for biblical truth within our denominations, the American Family News Network (AFN) is here to tell you what the newsmakers are saying.

The latest 'news' from a Christian perspective. Well, imagine that.

Back to the NO GAY GENE! post. The blog mistress begins with this line from OneNewsNow:

The attempt to prove that homosexuality is determined biologically has been dealt a knockout punch. An American Psychological Association publication includes an admission that there's no homosexual "gene" -- meaning it's not likely that homosexuals are born that way.

The bold print is important, especially the last part, 'meaning it's not likely that homosexuals are born that way.'

This is very important to fundamentalist christians. Very important. Their entire belief system rests on that sandy foundation- the belief that homosexuality is a choice that a person makes. They already have lost 'evolution' to science and have spun 'intelligent design' to plug the hole in the ever rising dam. Yet, if they lose the homosexuality argument, their sand castle washes away in the deluge.

'Meaning it's not likely...'

News? Spin? Ruby slippers? Great spin disguised as a bit of science news.

Yet it must be comforting to that blogger to find a 'source' of news which bolsters her own imagination, her beliefs. Sadly for her, mainstream media doesn't and science news sources reveal damaging new discoveries on a daily basis. Avoidance is bliss.

I often remark that blogs like the one referenced above are a real hoot. Well, they are!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Unraveling Thread

On pins and needles. A house built on sand. One unraveling thread. All old phrases meant to imply uncertainty with pending disastrous consequences. What if one's entire future were dependent on maintaining one secret- a secret so portentous that, if revealed, a person's psychological stability would be shattered?

A spy, a murderer, an escapee from prison surely lives on pins and needles each day, not knowing if today is the day that the thread unravels. How miserable. Such insecurity must have deep psychological consequences.

I'm thinking of that queer knot of people who call themselves fundamentalist christians. Their house is built on sand- sand that has been shifting rather quickly of late. Sadly, however,they're stuck. Their entire identity sits precariously upon a shifting, eroding sand dune at water's edge. The wind and the waves will eventually wear away all that does not conform to their natural ebb and flow.

The fundamentalist christian is stuck there on that sand dune with wind and waves marching ever onward like nature's soldiers. Their entire existence rests on a most ancient collection, a dossier of tales, myths and legends written down some 4000 years ago by scribes who themselves lived in a magical world of spirits, danger, bigotry and wrath. Tales of a wandering tribe of nomads-little more than a band of pillaging marauders, who, like so many people before then, claimed that the Great Spirit of the Sky guided and protected them. They killed, plundered, raped and smote their enemy in the name of their god. They committed wholesale genocide and claimed that the Sky Spirit told them to do so.

That book.

The odd clutch of people who believe that that collection is 'of God' justify their own modern-day smiting, vengeance and bigotry by claiming that the ancient dossier, the one linked to genocide, requires such actions, such attitudes of them.


The scientist is Satan himself. The scientist has been unlocking long-hidden secrets. The scientist is dangerous. The scientist is tugging at the thread; some has already unraveled. Science must be demonized lest the ruse, the sham be revealed.

It is difficult for me to imagine a 21st century American lifestyle based on the thoughts, actions and beliefs of a small, ignorant, punitive and marauding band of nomads who lived in a world of magic, mystery and spirits.

No doubt the psychology associated with all of this must be complex and convoluted. Daily life so enmeshed must be turbulent. 'Turbulent' is the only word I can find that might simulate daily existence for these people. It clearly must be extraordinarily uncomfortable to live in this democracy, this bastion of freedom, this political system- specifically formed to shield its citizens from the ravages of the intolerance chronicled by centuries of religious wars, religious hatred, religious tests and religious inquisition.

Yet, it may be comforting to continually both parochialize and incant. Not only that, but to become self-righteous to the point of delusion. How else could they survive when the winds and waters edge ever-more close to their lair, threatening their very being?

Righteousness, parochialism and incantation- just as the nomads of that desert many thousands of years ago.

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