Monthly Archives: January 2008

All you blue-eyes people are MUTANTS!

Mutants, I tell you!! Hah hah hah!!!

Blue-eyed humans have a single, common ancestor

New research shows that people with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor. A team at the University of Copenhagen have tracked down a genetic mutation which took place 6-10,000 years ago and is the cause of the eye colour of all blue-eyed humans alive on the planet today.

What is the genetic mutation

“Originally, we all had brown eyes”, said Professor Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology. “But a genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a “switch”, which literally “turned off” the ability to produce brown eyes”. The OCA2 gene codes for the so-called P protein, which is involved in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives colour to our hair, eyes and skin. The “switch”, which is located in the gene adjacent to OCA2 does not, however, turn off the gene entirely, but rather limits its action to reducing the production of melanin in the iris – effectively “diluting” brown eyes to blue. The switch’s effect on OCA2 is very specific. If the OCA2 gene had been completely destroyed or turned off, human beings would be without melanin in their hair, eyes or skin colour – a condition known as albinism.

Limited genetic variation

Variation in the colour of the eyes from brown to green can all be explained by the amount of melanin in the iris, but blue-eyed individuals only have a small degree of variation in the amount of melanin in their eyes. “From this we can conclude that all blue-eyed individuals are linked to the same ancestor,” says Professor Eiberg. “They have all inherited the same switch at exactly the same spot in their DNA.” Brown-eyed individuals, by contrast, have considerable individual variation in the area of their DNA that controls melanin production.

Professor Eiberg and his team examined mitochondrial DNA and compared the eye colour of blue-eyed individuals in countries as diverse as Jordan, Denmark and Turkey. His findings are the latest in a decade of genetic research, which began in 1996, when Professor Eiberg first implicated the OCA2 gene as being responsible for eye colour.

Nature shuffles our genes

The mutation of brown eyes to blue represents neither a positive nor a negative mutation. It is one of several mutations such as hair colour, baldness, freckles and beauty spots, which neither increases nor reduces a human’s chance of survival. As Professor Eiberg says, “it simply shows that nature is constantly shuffling the human genome, creating a genetic cocktail of human chromosomes and trying out different changes as it does so.”

Weighing in

Normally I don’t post much about the personal stuff (any more than that everything is actually personal, of course) but, since I’m depressed about the loss of Edwards from the political discussion today (which makes the rest of this campaign and everything until 2012 pretty much meaningless, really, since nothing will actually change) I’m focusing on what I’m pleased with today.

Which is my weight.

Normally, my weight matters very little to me in truth – if I am comfortable and able to do the things I want to do, then weight is mostly irrelevant. But today, I weighed in at 152.5. Which may not excite you, but it does me, since it’s the lowest I’ve weighed in at since last March. It means the weight loss from when I really started paying attention last January has stayed off, and I’m in a good place to lose the rest of the weight I want to lose this year. I bounced around in weight a bit last year, but never really got back down to that low weight of March, and now I have. This pleases me greatly.

I’m no longer fighting with myself over this. It’s like every part of me right now just wants to be healthy, to be more aware of what I’m actually doing and eating and is just paying attention. I don’t feel the need, beyond minor cravings at times, to just eat to be eating or because I’m stressed out. I’m eating my protein first, to feel fuller faster, and dropping so many of the empty calories. I’m eating lots of nuts, berries, even things I don’t particularly like at times because I know they are “good” for me. And this is all so different from how I used to eat, how I used to live. I check ingredients, I don’t buy anything with high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils or too many processed chemicals.

And I feel better. Way better. Healthier, stronger, more able to deal with life and all it entails.

Coming into my 50th year on this planet, that’s a pretty good way to feel, really.

Gee, what a surprise

Not.

Your Keirsey Temperament Sorter Results indicate that your personality type is that of The IdealistTM.

All Idealists share the following core characteristics:

* Idealists are enthusiastic, they trust their intuition, yearn for romance, seek their true self, prize meaningful relationships, and dream of attaining wisdom.
* Idealists pride themselves on being loving, kindhearted, and authentic.
* Idealists tend to be giving, trusting, spiritual, and they are focused on personal journeys and human potentials.
* Idealists make intense mates, nurturing parents, and inspirational leaders.

Idealists as a temperament, are passionately concerned with personal growth and development. Idealists strive to discover who they are and how they can become their best possible self–always this quest for self-knowledge and self-improvement drives their imagination. And they want to help others make the journey. Idealists are naturally drawn to working with people, and whether in education or counseling, in social services or personnel work, in journalism or the ministry, they are gifted at helping others find their way in life, often inspiring them to grow as individuals and to fulfill their potentials.

Idealists are sure that friendly cooperation is the best way for people to achieve their goals. Conflict and confrontation upset them because they seem to put up angry barriers between people. Idealists dream of creating harmonious, even caring personal relations, and they have a unique talent for helping people get along with each other and work together for the good of all. Such interpersonal harmony might be a romantic ideal, but then Idealists are incurable romantics who prefer to focus on what might be, rather than what is. The real, practical world is only a starting place for Idealists; they believe that life is filled with possibilities waiting to be realized, rich with meanings calling out to be understood. This idea of a mystical or spiritual dimension to life, the “not visible” or the “not yet” that can only be known through intuition or by a leap of faith, is far more important to Idealists than the world of material things.

Highly ethical in their actions, Idealists hold themselves to a strict standard of personal integrity. They must be true to themselves and to others, and they can be quite hard on themselves when they are dishonest, or when they are false or insincere. More often, however, Idealists are the very soul of kindness. Particularly in their personal relationships, Idealists are without question filled with love and good will. They believe in giving of themselves to help others; they cherish a few warm, sensitive friendships; they strive for a special rapport with their children; and in marriage they wish to find a “soulmate,” someone with whom they can bond emotionally and spiritually, sharing their deepest feelings and their complex inner worlds.

Idealists are relatively rare, making up no more than 15 to 20 percent of the population. But their ability to inspire people with their enthusiasm and their idealism has given them influence far beyond their numbers.

Get in Touch with you Inner Lizard

When you need to focus on a task….

Working Memory: They Found Your Brain’s Spam Filter Blogs Scientific American Community

This new work ties together several converging lines of evidence indicating that your working memory capacity is closely related to how well you can keep irrelevant information out of your mental inbox. In particular, it suggests that this filtering mechanism is determined by coordinated activity in the basal ganglia and prefrontal cortex — with the prefrontal cortex providing details about the current task goals and the basal ganglia providing the muscle to block out information that doesn’t match these goals.

This role for the basal ganglia in helping to control the flow of information into working memory is quite similar to one of the basal ganglia’s other major functions, which is selecting which motor movements to use in a given context and suppressing the movements that we don’t want. Particularly intriguing is that the basal ganglia is an evolutionarily ancient brain structure that has been highly conserved across species; even lizards have them. Consequently, what is thought to be our uniquely human ability to engage in abstract reasoning and problem solving appears to be dependent upon brain structures that have been around for far longer than humans have. The ability to filter out irrelevant spam, it appears, is critical for lizards as well as humans.

They did do nothing to deserve the name, "Americans"

Stirling’s SOTU is much better than Bush’s. Go read.

They did do nothing to deserve the name, “Americans”. | The Agonist

Showing that he is untouched by self-reflection, intellectual honesty, or self-doubt, George W. Bush has delivered a hard partisan, nasty and crassly self-promoting state of the union to a Congress. He demanded total acquiescence to his economic, foreign policy and domestic agenda, and high handedly threatened that Congress repeatedly if they did not yield to his every demand. Piling on dog whistle after dog whistle to anti-government and anti-tax zealots, in direct contradiction to being the most free spending executive in post-war history, he threw in the face of that same Congress his own duplicity on the matter. Trillions for corruption, but a few spare pennies for everyone else.

Bush was never a uniter, he was never interested in bi-partisanship, and he was always interested only in imposing his will and vision on America. A series of Congresses, filled with the corrupt and the craven, not merely bent it’s knee to the monarchial impulse, but eagerly participated in outrages against the Constitution that Bush now so gaily flaunts only the first three words of.

Because the faith of the founders was in the Union, that web of people, states, government, law and history which was bound together by wars and conflicts, and given a living presence in a document which is fouled by the expectorant of signing statements, secret courts, and overturned elections.

It is a mark of shame on this time, and on every American, that we have tolerated such continuous stream of lawless outrages by an executive that knows no honor, and a string of Congresses that have chosen to slop at the trough of pork and personal privilege, before even beginning to move a finger.

The results show. This President has been mired below 50% approval for his entire second term, and below 40% for most of it. He is viewed highly negatively as a person by more people who like him even a little. And Congress? This Congress has an approval of 18%, a level which means that were the public given the option of abolishing Congress, they might well pass it by a constitutional super-majority.

A foolish Speaker of the House has refused to prosecute high crimes and misdemeanors in the executive, and has cut deals on stimulus that shaft the poor, the children and the unfortunate in order to pile gifts to the extremely wealthy. A conservative Senate Majority Leader combined with her to pass more and more blank checks to the biggest squanderer in history. And two members of this inaugust Congress now vie for the nomination, topping each other in how little of the last eight years they want to undo. In poll after poll, both of them run double digits behind a generic Democrat running for the Presidency. Perhaps because the public understands how little they deserve that name.

Someone must say these things, and those that curry for favor or jobs in the government or with a party cannot do so, and will not do so. Those who clamor for attention will find the road blocked by a media which rallied behind a unity towards an illegal war, and now are eager to smirk at the failures of policies that they failed to oppose. This was not an unfortunate outcome, but a clear and obvious result and culmination of exactly what was obvious on a chill night in Florida, when word came down from the Supreme Court that once an election was stolen, it could never be returned to its owners, and Americans had no right to vote for who would occupy the executive office.

This is not a period of certainty, but of absolute certainty. America’s position in the world is diminished, our share of global GDP is down, our dollar is at its weakest in memory, our credibility destroyed by outrageous lies to the world, our military ground up by the grit of the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time, while the more important wars remain unfought, and more dangerous prey remains unfettered. The clock of an aging baby boom has gone from the ticking of a watch, to the tolling of a bell. It will be midnight chiming soon.

Forclosure mess emptying Oceanside neighborhoods

From one of our local papers:

Forclosure mess emptying Oceanside neighborhoods, hurting those who’ve stayed North County Times – North San Diego and Southwest Riverside County News

Last year, one out of every 17 homes in Oceanside’s 92057 ZIP code entered foreclosure in this northeast corner of the city, according to data from RealtyTrac, a foreclosure tracking service, and the San Diego Association of Governments. Those numbers do not include December foreclosures.

The resulting effects, shown in a North County Times analysis of foreclosure and sale listing data, in that ZIP code illustrate the pandemic nature of the county’s, and the nation’s, housing crisis:

— For every nonforeclosed home for sale, there are about four to five homes in, or in serious danger of, foreclosure.

— Half of the area’s 36 December home sales were foreclosures.

— Just less than half of the month’s sales, 44 percent, sold for more than 10 percent below the original listing price. One home sold for 37 percent lower than the original listing, a $142,400 freefall.

— Of homes for sale in the beginning of January, 65 percent of 362 listings are either in some stage of foreclosure or on sale for less than the previous sale price or total loan amount.

“I think there’s more people that have lost their homes than actually still live here,” said Courtney Jones.

Many of the foreclosed families here said they were sent into foreclosure when their subprime loans graduated from the initial “teaser” rate — a low interest rate generally offered for only the first two or three years of a 30-year mortgage — to a higher adjustable interest rate.

But 30 miles northeast and across the Riverside County line, it is clear the spike in regional foreclosures knows no credit score. There, the city of Murrieta saw one of every nine homes enter foreclosure last year.

I’ve been following the housing mess pretty closely, mostly on Calculated Risk. I really feel for the people that are suffering from this bubble bursting, especially the families getting hurt.

I hope all those who profited from creating this mess are happy. I often wonder how some of them can sleep at night. It must be a lot easier to live without a conscience.

I'm sure we're all looking forward to the explanation


Which I’m sure will somehow not be his fault, of course… or will we get the usual “state of the union is strong” garbage? Most likely.

“Listen. I just wanted to say, y’know.
Whatever presidents say y’know.
Things like, er… the name of people and er, freedom
And I dunno. Democracy, stuff like that. Woo! Come on!”

Via Hoffmania…

UPDATE:

Hah hah hah!! He said “Charge to Keep”!!!! Hah hah hah!!!!!

Must be trying to keep us amused….

Ending the Addiction to Stuff

Daily Kos: Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff

While the problems of consumer culture have spread worldwide, America holds a unique place in the scheme that Annie dates back to decisions that we made at the outset of the Industrial Revolution. In some countries, people chose to take advantage of increasing productivity to reduce the work week, to take more vacations, and enjoy more time with family and friends. But in America, every gain was turned into a material gain, into more stuff. Rather than gathering in more happiness and freedom from advancing technology, we buried ourselves in an ever accelerating quest for the latest goodies. Generation by generation, year by year, we’ve accumulated more goods and consumed more of the world’s resources (and made ourselves more miserable).

It’s a problem that’s perpetuated today by everything from the way we’re entertained to the way we’re educated. Where once we practiced “keeping up with the Joneses” by comparing ourselves to our neighbors, television has provided a window on consumer paradise where part-time baristas own huge Manhattan apartments and office workers dress in the latest designer duds. We’re no longer happy to compare our possessions with the couple down the street, we have to compete with Brad and Angelina. We don’t want what our friends have, or what our parents had, we want what Oprah has. This “vertical expansion of the reference group” means we can never reach our goals and are always left feeling as if we’ve failed. The only solution to our inadequacy? Go shopping for more stuff!

Shopping has become the key to how we view ourselves to such an extent that not only did George W. Bush urge us to shop ourselves out of the peril of 9/11, even environmental activists often turn to the mall. What’s the most frequent advice dispensed to people trying to behave more responsibly? Buy green. It’s advice that not only encourages still more consumption as means to address the problem of over-consumption, but it all too often ignores the market forces that have delivered “green” products to the local mall — forces that rarely have any concern for the resources or people damaged along the way.

As we worry about the current economic downturn, even the way we attempt to measure our problems reflects this distorted shopaholic culture. Take a primal forest, kick out the people who have lived there for generations, cut down the trees, slice them into pieces, soak them in toxic chemicals, turn them into disposable products, and ship the discarded remains off to a landfill. On the business page of your local paper or the glitzy stock channel on your television, each of those steps has the same name: growth. What’s a recession? Lack of growth. How do we end a recession? Stimulate spending on more disposable items, so we can buy more disposable goods, so we can cut down more forests, so we can have more… growth.

But if the first part of Annie’s film is devoted to describing the problems of our current unsustainable culture of disposable goods, it’s the final part that deserves special attention. Rather than stopping with the bad news, Annie shoots straight on into the good — we can change. The most engaging part of her description of our society is that everyone can find their place in the flow, and the same dynamic means that everyone is positioned to help change how things work. Environmental issues, social justice, and economics all play into making the change toward a fair, sustainable society. There are as many ways to insert yourself into the process as there are products on the shelves of the local big box store.

Go see the Story of Stuff here.

My favorite tip from the site:

Buy Green, Buy Fair, Buy Local, Buy Used, and most importantly, Buy Less. Shopping is not the solution to the environmental problems we currently face because the real changes we need just aren’t for sale in even the greenest shop. But, when we do shop, we should ensure our dollars support businesses that protect the environment and worker rights. Look beyond vague claims on packages like “all natural” to find hard facts. Is it organic? Is it free of super-toxic PVC plastic? When you can, buy local products from local stores, which keeps more of our hard earned money in the community. Buying used items keeps them out of the trash and avoids the upstream waste created during extraction and production. But, buying less may be the best option of all. Less pollution. Less Waste. Less time working to pay for the stuff. Sometimes, less really is more.