frustration and despair, summer field wallpaper, cloning neanderthals

“It was the best of nationally advertised and quantitatively produced alarm-clocks, with all modern attachments, including cathedral chime, intermittent alarm, and a phosphorescent dial. Babbitt was proud of being awakened by such a rich device. Socially it was almost as creditable as buying expensive cord tires.

He sulkily admitted now that there was no more escape, but he lay and detested the grind of the real-estate business, and disliked his family, and disliked himself for disliking them. The evening before, he had played poker at Vergil Gunch’s till midnight, and after such holidays he was irritable before breakfast. It may have been the tremendous home-brewed beer of the prohibition-era and the cigars to which that beer enticed him; it may have been resentment of return from this fine, bold man-world to a restricted region of wives and stenographers, and of suggestions not to smoke so much.” Before there was Mad Men there was Sinclair Lewis and “Babbit”.

Frustration and Despair as Job Search Drags On

Ms. Sadler, who lost her job at an automotive parts plant in October 2008, learned last month that her unemployment insurance had been cut off. She is one of an estimated 2.1 million Americans whose benefits have expired and who are waiting for an end to an impasse that has lasted months in the Senate over extending the payments once more to the long-term unemployed.

So the party that run up record deficits, lied us into a trillion-dollar quagmire in Iraq and drove the economy into a wall are holding up unemployment benefits as they once again fight for Wall Street lobbyists and hedge-fund millionaires. Perversity does not always appear naked except for a tattered rain coat. Sometimes it wears a $2000 dollar suit and belongs to the Republican partay.

the plastics collection

The art of slow reading

Has endlessly skimming short texts on the internet made us stupider? An increasing number of experts think so – and say it’s time to slow down . . .

[   ]…So are we getting stupider? Is that what this is about? Sort of. According to The Shallows, a new book by technology sage Nicholas Carr, our hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information. Round-the-clock news feeds leave us hyperlinking from one article to the next – without necessarily engaging fully with any of the content; our reading is frequently interrupted by the ping of the latest email; and we are now absorbing short bursts of words on Twitter and Facebook more regularly than longer texts.

Which all means that although, because of the internet, we have become very good at collecting a wide range of factual titbits, we are also gradually forgetting how to sit back, contemplate, and relate all these facts to each other. And so, as Carr writes, “we’re losing our ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we’re in perpetual locomotion”.

I could say you should be reading a book or at least a thorough and thoughtful long article on the net, but that would be pretentious since you may have just done that and are taking a net surf break. Other than gently nudging people, this net is making us dumber issue is unsolvable, or it is like many of our other problems. People will decide to do something about it or they won’t.

summer field wallpaper

Should We Clone Neanderthals? – The scientific, legal, and ethical obstacles

If Neanderthals ever walk the earth again, the primordial ooze from which they will rise is an emulsion of oil, water, and DNA capture beads engineered in the laboratory of 454 Life Sciences in Branford, Connecticut. Over the past 4 years those beads have been gathering tiny fragments of DNA from samples of dissolved organic materials, including pieces of Neanderthal bone. Genetic sequences have given paleoanthropologists a new line of evidence for testing ideas about the biology of our closest extinct relative.

The first studies of Neanderthal DNA focused on the genetic sequences of mitochondria, the microscopic organelles that convert food to energy within cells. In 2005, however, 454 began a collaborative project with the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, to sequence the full genetic code of a Neanderthal woman who died in Croatia’s Vindija cave 30,000 years ago. As the Neanderthal genome is painstakingly sequenced, the archaeologists and biologists who study it will be faced with an opportunity that seemed like science fiction just 10 years ago. They will be able to look at the genetic blueprint of humankind’s nearest relative and understand its biology as intimately as our own.

The author must live a secluded life in an academic ivory tower. Look around there are plenty of Neanderthals. The only thing that keeps us from cloning a prehistorical Neanderthal is some technical issues which will inevitably be overcome. That just leaves the ethical issues. It’s genome will be extraordinarily close to modern Homo sapiens, thus in most of the world would be entitled to human rights. Organ harvesting from such clones would be out of the question – at least for most people. The actual cloning would be an amazing scientific achievement and has the potential to reveal a lot about human development and history, but will we be able to handle the ethical implications of dealing with the physical presence  and providing for an extinct close human relative brought back to life.

The librul Washington Post at work, Krauthammer Revives Reagan Small Government Myth

Sadly, Charles Krauthammer must be confusing Ronald Reagan with someone else. Not only did the size of the federal government continue to grow under the Gipper, but the national debt tripled during the fiscal nightmare that was the Reagan presidency. Reagan was, as Timothy Noah wrote in Slate in 2004, “the man who taught Republicans to be irresponsible.”