Saturday, December 23, 2006

Nuttin' for Christmas

-- And enjoying it! As a Christmas gift, I gave myself the gift of downsizing so I could relocate up north.

Well, I was worried about having to get rid of some items that weren't so top-quality, but the Salvation Army happily took everything I offered them, even though they did oddly forget a dining table leg and some plastic wrap. I'm phoning them tomorrow to let them know they forgot that.

I'm wondering if my table is going to be in the Salvation army store, standing on three legs if I don't call. That would be an ignoble end to one of the first pieces of furniture I ever purchased completely new-- and kept like new, too.

Now to dump-- uh, bestow various items on grateful family and friends. After all, nothing says deep care and thought like a half-used carton of toilet paper. You can always deck the halls or trees with it, you know.

Hmm, I know somebody who could use some decking.... nah. Forget that. Not worth the hassle and hiring of stepladders.

-- Wilbrod the Gnome.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

White whitetails on the Internet!

By now I am a jaded internet hand-- I take all photos with a grain of skepticism, even pictures of what seemed to be a perfectly normal and cute albino whitetail fawn-- especially since it came with a story attached. I checked out Snopes, which catches hoaxesand Snope wasn't sure where the picture came from. You can see the pictures there of a decidedly white fawn with red eyes and a pink nose. Another source casts doubt on the story, specifically.

It seems nobody is saying those pictures are doctored. Albino deer do exist, along with piebald and melanistic (black) whitetail deer. However, the chances of finding a fawn by accident is low, especially when you consider that there are whitetail farms in Minnesota and elsewhere in the North where capitivity can lead to inbreeding and easy discovery (and photographing) of albino fawns.

Of course, white deer do exist, but not albinos. Those deer seem like they may be genetically a very pale shade of cremello, similar to horses.

The Ghost bear aka "Spirit Bear"identified on Princess Royal Island in British Columbia, Canada was established by DNA tests and study to be actually a very pale brown-- the fur darkened slightly in summer and whitened in winter, as this cool photography shows, they're really a very pale "cinnamon" phase of black bear. During summer, some of those bears' backs can turn bright orange in response to the sun! More yellow, reddish, gray or orange bears also occur on the island along with those white and black bears.
Since we're on a roll, let's not forget white buffalo which are supposed to herald peace. The first Miracle was born in 1994 and died 2004. This present Miracle was born in 2006, on the same farm.
This link connects you to various First Nations (American Indian) legends of the White Buffalo.

It is ironic to hear this optimistic contrast to the daily war headlines. I was just reading The Sandbox this morning-- direct reporting from the soliders actually fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Maybe part of the key to peace is to get people to believe it is possible.

--Wilbrod

Friday, December 15, 2006

Great Google Moogle, where did the time go?

Time to feed the blog.

When I started this humble shack of a blog, I pondered my options and chose to seek work in this area. I have now decided to quit while I'm still somewhat ahead, and move up North to save money while I apply to graduate school. If all goes well, in a few years I'll have a Ph.D., a disproportionately large head, and an actual career.

That's the nice thing about biology-- many physicists and mathematicans go supernova in sheer career brillance by age 30, but if gathering actual data counts, biologists (and chemists) have very long careers, and they get better with age, kind of like cheese or wine. Or... Hmm.

WHIIIRRRR...Brilliant cognitive leap occurs as 100,000 facts spontaneously coalesce into a network, skipping a few logical steps between A and C.

Hey, maybe our body bacteria are actually doing our thinking for us, just like Lewis Thomas proposed that our mitochondria are actually "taking us for a walk." Next time somebody complains I could use a bean-o prescription, I'll just say Shhh... my gut bacteria are thinking. I certainly know a couple of columnists who does a lot of thinking on their gut bacteria, or at least the results of all that thought.

I would like to make this longer and more profound, but I have to continue expanding my brain by some healthy sleep. Most of this news is not surprising; I've always banked on a good night's sleep rather than an all-night cram for an exam. Of course, it helps I have a good memory for facts and other information-- at the expense of being able to remember where I put my keys last.

Never clutter up your brain with unnecessary, impermanent information, is my motto. Which is why I avoid reading about the sordid doings of celebrities, the Top 10 song lists, sports, etc. Heck, some days I avoid knowing what day it is.
As Alexander pope wrote in his poem "Eloise to Abelard"--
"The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!"

Forgetting is good. Make sure you forget the right things and you'll never have problems remembering the right things. The only problem is that I sometimes forget things before I'm supposed to, and that blows.
By the way, Wilbrodog has updated his blog a lot more often lately; go romp there.

-Wilbrod-

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Strapping on Seven-League Boots

Today I and Wilbrodog hiked over 7 miles this morning. This is a personal record for me, and I'm a little surprised to see my legs haven't fallen to smithereens. Maybe the next time I sneeze, they will. They're already worn to nubs as it is.

But as I nurse my lone blister (good boots!) and muse on the unhealthy heat brewing in my shins, I wanted to share with you the fact that walking can make women stay smart, can slow down peripheral artery disease, lower your blood pressure (likeTai Chi does), especially if you walk on cobblestones, and of course, make your dog insanely happy.

Walking ain't enough to make you buff, ripped, and trim and keep your bones firm. As I too well know. You gotta pick it up and huff and puff a little. So in all, if you want to maximize your time and fitness, hit a gym, hire a personal trainer, take up dancing and other exercise classes. But if you have time, go slow.

It never hurts to make your feet more than just expensive parts of your body to clothe-- use them in daily life! A good hike is an experience that beats a treadmill anyday, and it's often odd what chance experiences may come your way even in a brief walk, and how moods tend to even out with the miles.

Cherry tree with pink-white blossom and yellow leaves on same branch

Look at this very odd cherry tree which is a short walk from my home. As the leaves drop, its cherry blossoms are blooming. Miracle? Yes, the miracle of mutation. I have had an opportunity to study this tree for the last few years. It will bloom in the fall, in the dead of the winter, and in the spring, even in the summer. This tree does know about the shortening of the days and will turn its leaves and shed them. This is not the problem. The problem is this tree in effect can't count the days of winter. It only takes a few days of cold and then a sudden warming spell for it to start flowering-- this is called a vernalization cue, meaning it is a normal signal that plants use to know spring is coming. For this tree, winter happens in mere days and then spring comes all over again! There is a new discipline studying the "neurobiology" of plants-- many substances used by plants also mimic substances used in animals' nervous systems. For example, plants use aspirin (Salicyclic acid) for their illnesses and pest attacks, too.

One would wonder, to extend the metaphor, if this tree would qualify as "brain damaged" in the world of plants. I suspect so. But it is a very cheery cherry nonetheless.


When you journey a bit further on, you may come across footprints in the beach and wonder why the dog has slid out of your sight, abandoning you, only to realize that two dogs are now with you, carrying sticks and all.Wilbrodog on right, and his friend a large golden retriever to the center; both dogs are running on a sandy bar of a creek, toward the camera

And that the extra dog carries a whole beachful of sand and mud in her fur, apparently. Yet another happy metaphor for life, I guess, but one that leaves too many muddy pawprints on my pants and too much sand on the leash.

I took 3 pictures of a tunnel from the inside, but the thing about the light at the end of the tunnel, it means your camera doesn't use the flash and thus all you see is BLACK and a smudge of murky off-white. I was not very excited to see that light, I must say.

It is far, far better to be outside the tunnel, despite all you may have heard. Behold!

Lovely stone tunnel framed by bamboo and red-pink japanese scarlet maple on leafy hills dipping towards an asaphalt path, leading past the viewer. a man is visible at the far end of tunnel, very tiny.

Now, I won't bore you with any more hoary bromides about the blindingly obvious facts of life, but what do you think is around the bend of the trail in this picture?

A grey asphalt path curves out of sight, flanked by yellow-green grass and plants, and tall slender trees, some birch, with autumn leaves colored dark rust and bright and dark gold, blocking the view at the end with a fence of grey trunks

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Understanding Mr. Nosey

As I pondered the eternal mystery of why dogs roll in disgusting gunk, I read Lyall Watson's "Jacobson's Organ and the Remarkable Nature of Smell", written in 2001, which is rather a good and lively read, if rather lacking in pictures or scratch 'n sniff bits.

Here's a sketch of a human embyro from Gray's anatomy showing the vomernonasal organ (aka Jacobson's organ) as the two openings in the developing nose (the blue is the nasal septum that will divide the nostrils and create the nose bridge.)
A diagram from Gray's anatomy of the vomeronasal organ in an embryo. The vomeronasal organ is located at the floor of the nose, a bit back from the nostrils, as two small pits just over the hard palate separating the nose from the mouth inside the depths of the skull.

This is best for picking up the slow, thick molecules that don't hit your nose first off nor diffuse rapidly in air, such as musk, pheromones, and the immune system of your partner. Bloodhounds may have their extreme stamina due to equal development of the olfactory bulbs and of the vomeronasal organ, allowing the dog to switch back and forth to avoid nasal fatigue while on a trail.

I learned that you can throw a pebble into a river, have a dog go in and fetch the right one with your scent back to you. This is the foundation of "find it!" command for scent discrimination in utility dog trials, as well as obedience. Teaching a dog to pick things that have your scent on them can also make for cute magic tricks in which the dog picks the right card. Of course, you can skip the training and just daub peanut butter or bacon grease on the cards.

I cannot discuss this book in too much detail, because I think "sex" was used more often than "smell" in this book, and I'm not in the racy blog biz. He also hammers home his opinion about how smelly and stinky humans are to humans themselves and how distasteful human smell is. Well, Wilbrodog begs to disagree.

"Humans smell better when they don't bathe. Palms, face, and other areas that are extremely stinky are good to smell. MMM. People smell like food, sorta... but not in THAT way. Now when are you giving me that walk?"

The book takes time out from endless pheromone discussions to mention that the inhabitants of Madagascar, in a few thousand years of deciphering a land full of flora and fauna that are found nowhere else have managed to compile an impressive herbal lore. The author thinks that our noses guide us to what may be useful. Picture of unidentified branch with tan, paired oval leaves extending singly on leaf stems from the single branch, with a terminal leaf at the tip of the branch.

Ironically, when I was out on a walk with Wilbrodog, he started digging in a pile of leaves trying to eat something. It turned out to the leaves themselves. I checked, and the leaves actually have a mild, pleasant odor that reminds me slightly of peanuts or tea. For all I know, though, I am not smelling something else that is highly unpleasant to others. I confirmed that this was his target by picking up a branch and watching Wilbrodog try and eat as much of it as he could. Here's a photograph of it coated with dog drool. Since my nose said it also has leaf mold on it, I threw it out.

Native herbalists all over the world also depend on observing animal behavior for a clue to plants' properties, not just direct sampling and praying to survive. After all, if you see a cat going crazy after eating catnip, you know there's a reason for it. And in fact, catnip tea has been used as a remedy for centuries. Madagascar medicine seems less mysterious when you remember that they could observe wild animals and also feed the stuff to dogs, too. Woof!

Unusual animal called a Crested Rat (Lophiomys imhausi), that looks vaguely like a cross between a fuzzy porcupine and a skunk. It appears roughly the size and shape of a guiena pig, with an overall grey-color, with white v markings on the forehead, then a mohawked crest extending down its spine, grey on the top, black at the roots of the crest. The tail is furred and fat, like an otter or a labrador. The limbs and paws are very small. Under the mohawk is another white stripe arching to follow its spine, and another stripe near its belly join at the front and end to make a football shape, with the center being tan instead of grey. One critter I particularly wanted to know more about is the Crested Rat (Lophiomys imhausi). Other sources describe it as being skunk-like in smell; however, according to Lyall Watson, the physiological effect is different from skunk spray. Instead of wanting to gag and vomit, you feel dry-mouthed, uneasy, and repulsed without noticing any overt smell-- suggesting it releases pheromones that act as a stimulant of some kind, activating the fear response. Dogs supposedly have died from eating Lophiomys. It is not eaten by people, period.

Back to Mr. Nosey. Why does he roll in icky leaf-laden mud that smells like the most nauseating, rotten gutter leavings in the world? Could it be for hunting down deer while disguised as dung, like wolves do? Or because it smells like perfume? Because it's a handy mudpack and anti-itch lotion? One thing is for sure, Mr. Nosey isn't rolling in it because it smells edible, or he'd be eating it, too.
Many animals roll in mud to repel insects or throw dirt on themselves, such as elephant, horses, cows, etc. After all, if you're ever looking to lay low and hide out from mosquitoes, mud and charcoal is good olfactory camoflague. Even birds will engage in dust baths and anting, which serve definite grooming purposes. Also, some animals will urinate or otherwise mark other animals as being part of their harem or troops. Dogs and other carnivores also like to roll in smelly things as well-- including skunks, live or dead.
Some dogs learn after their first skunk encounter, while others never learn. Hmm. Maybe some dogs also suffer from selective anosmia, and can only smell the great part of skunk smell.
Speaking of which, a neurobiologist wishes to disagree with the idea that humans have a poor sense of smell. We have a goodly number of olfactory genes; over 900. However, dogs have 30% more olfactory genes, and rats have 66% more. And while our nose is bigger than the great apes', allowing more surface area for olfactory uptake, it cannot begin to compare to most snout sizes of four-legged animals. So while we can certainly sniff how good or bad dinner is, we still can't track it down from a mile away.  
But we can practice Kodo.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

An Engine that Runs Cool Lasts Longer?

It's a truism among mechanics that an engine that overheats is gonna break sooner. All engines (and computers) are made with a fan to help vent the heat.

Now, Conti et al. in Science Magazine has discovered the same may hold true Picture of cartoon grey mouse with sunglasses playing a yellow sax with purple background, with pink words saying live cool 4-everfor animals. The mice in this study had body temperatures 0.3 to 0.5 degree C lower than normal, due to a mutation that caused "overheating" of the hypothalmus, the body's thermostat located in the brain, hence making it misread the body temperature slightly and work harder to keep the body cool.

This recent discovery of long-lived sangfroid mice will add fuel to the continuing debate over what exactly determines aging. One debate centers on energy expenditure rate vs body size vs lifespan for a while-- an idea called"rate of living", which has been disproved by analyzing metabolic rate and lifespan in various animals. Warmblooded mammals have much higher metabolism than reptiles and fish to maintain a constant body temperature, and they also live much shorter lives. Yet, birds have higher metabolism AND live longer than mammals. Very confusing.

The mice's body temperature decrease is mild enough that in humans, it would not cause hypothermia . Indeed, humans only start shivering after their body temperature drops by around 1 degree C.

As Northerners would say, "Hoff Da! Of course we live longer because we're too frozen to wrinkle!" Not quite. the longevity effect observed in the "longevity belt" only holds true for people who grew up there, not those who move there as adults, indicating the influence may be congenital or start in childhood, long before wrinkles ever form.

Also, they're not the only ones that get cold. We all have our body temperature drop when we sleep. During a phase of sleep, we are in effect cold-blooded again as our metabolism drops. Circadian rhythm studies how this most commonly occurs around 3 AM in the morning, shortly before when our lungs are least effective. 3 AM is the cold hour when people will most commonly have their worst nightmares.

Whenever I wake up from a nightmare, it will be 3 AM and my spine will be so COLD it takes some warming up, or my heart will be pounding away. Other people may vary in their nightmare patterns, though.

This brings us back to food. If you have read the longevity belt link, you'll have noticed that Sardinia and Okinawa are both considered to be long-lived due to lower caloric intake. Caloric restriction diets in worms, mice and men seem to prolong life slightly. Now, obviously carrying around lots of lard isn't good, but why would eating very little, being hungry all the time, and being as skinny as a scarecrow make you live longer?

Researcher wondered if a changed metabolic rate, one of the effects of the caloric restriction diet, might be the key. This idea is supported by Yoda the Snell dwarf mouse, who needed a regular companion mouse to keep him warm at nights. Like all of his tribe, he had a mutation that disrupted the Pit-1 gene which is key to proper pituitary development. The pituitary controls growth and metabolism, hence Yoda's small size. A simple deficiency in growth hormone in the little mouse increases life expectancy by 25%.

Researchers already compared the gene expression of Snell dwarf mice and caloric-restricted mice, and they found 29 genes that are expressed similarly in both groups. Snell dwarf mice on a caloric restricted diet will live longer than normal mice on a caloric-restricted diet, so diet alone doesn't work. It looks like dwarves live longer in all conditions so far. Good news for gnomes!

I gotta hold my horses. Snell dwarf mice used to live really short lives. It does bring to mind the chinese saying "One disease, long life. No disease, short life." Sometimes being built to last isn't the same as being built tough. And that's where the luck of life comes in. We have tamed many diseases, nearly eradicated smallpox from the world, removed rubella from the United States thanks to the MMR vaccine, and so on. But there remains hundred of thousands of potential pathogens in the environment, and we have added thousands of new, unknown compounds to the environment since 1950.

It might be that if we all found the magic formula and germ-free rooms and hygenic chow, we would live much longer than we do right now. But, really, who wants to live in a bubble for over 100 years, even if that little wheel sure is good exercise? I'll take the cupboard any day.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Do you drink vine in foggy veather as the vaves come in?

Great Jumping Jalapeno peppers! I've missed a couple days on this blog. Reality intruded. The short story is, the long fuse on my future is shortening day by day and I anticipate some fireworks to start after Halloween.

Tonight, I visited the house of a rather pale beauty with long black hair. She asked me if I liked wine, but due to her accent and a few missing fingers, I thought she asked me if I liked vegetables, which, yeah I do. So somehow I wound up with Vampire Merlot from Transylvania.
Vampire merlot is the perennial favorite among the nocturnal elite. It features an intense dark plum bouquet, distinctive lively, dark purple color, with soft fruit flavor that intergrate well within the powerful structure of this wine... Sip the blood of the Vine and enjoy!  Contains sulfites.  Government warning
Large black bottle of wine with a grey label saying Vampire, with a drop of blood dripping from the V, and a red trident symbol of some sort lower down
Alas, I do not drink... wine. Even this. Especially this. I may offer it as a prize for something, such as the first one to volunteer to help me move. This can be used for Halloween or just a game of spin the bottle, goth-style.

Joking aside, the juxtaposition of sulfites and the dark, foggy mists of vampire movies reminds me of something that's rarely talked about: why ocean waves smell so strong and tangy and where clouds and fog come from.

The answer is dimethylsulfide, a compound created by algae,the one-celled plants of the ocean and the mainstay of the marine food web. Dimethylsulfide is then released from the ocean into the air and then reacts with oxygen and sunlight to form sulfur aerosol compounds.

Water vapor in the air condenses around those sulfur aerosol compounds to form clouds.

Sunset photograph copyright 2006 by Charmaine Lydon; shows a panoramic cloudy sunset over the ocean.

(Sunset photograph copyright 2006 by Charmaine Lydon)

As clouds form and spread, sunlight levels decrease, cooling the earth. The lower sunlight levels reduces plants' ability to photosynthesize and remove carbon dioxide from the air. This causes carbon dioxide levels to rise, thus triggering further warming, if not necessarily clearer skies.

So to model global warming and climate change, we need to understand exactly how dimethylsulfide levels depend on marine life.

Until this week in Science magazine, scientists were not sure if dimethylsulfide was digested along with the algae or not. It turns out that well over 1/3 of the marine bacteria species may digest dimethylsulfide just fine, keeping the sulfur inside the food web of the oceans, rather than vaporizing into air. This partial mop-up of dimethylsulfide allows the algae to munch on sunlight without releasing too much dimethylsulfide and blocking their sun sources. This keeps tropical oceans nice and blue-green.

This is big news. Bacteria in the ocean can curb the formation of clouds? Those busy tiny one-celled bugs could potentially influence the formation of hurricanes?

Now that's fodder for a horror movie.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Is Texan Chili truly Texan?

Anybody who has ever eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant will find a chili-type recipe served over pasta.


In other news: Vegetables keep your brain young.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061023/ap_on_he_me/diet_vegetables_aging

Monday, October 23, 2006

Staying in the Zone

A solitary figure stalks a herd of grazing Thompson's gazelles. The wary animals suddenly wheel and gallop faster than quarter horses. Most predators would give up on seeing their prey turn into a billowing cloud of dust. Not this one. He becomes a spotted streak and overtakes one of the herd and brings it down within a few seconds.
In a few seconds, the cheetah has not only accelerated beyond the capacities of other mammals, it also took its metabolism and body temperature to the outermost limits of what it can survive-- 105 degrees Farenheit. This cheetah will remain very still for a while, recovering. Its kill is now easily stolen by other predators. In fact, kings once captured many cheetahs from the wild and used them to hunt, knowing that they could seize the prey from the normally savage and untameable cheetah while immobile.

Yet, 105 degrees farenheit is not the hottest that life can get.


Many organisms thrive at near-boiling temperatures at underseas vents, at geysers at Yellowstone, and in other places. What makes the difference? Why does the cheetah sizzle, while the archeobacteria or tubeworm does not?

In short, biochemistry. Proteins not only serve as structure, but also catalyst chemical reactions key for life. The hotter it gets, the less stable the protein is. Proteins can be destroyed by excess heat, as anybody who's ever cooked a steak knows. The protein structure is warped, the protein broken apart, and the amino acids reacted with other substances. The cheetah can take his metabolism to the maximum due to heat shock proteins, which are produced when temperatures shoot up, allowing the cell to help manage and repair itself and offset the impact of overheating.

Protein damage also can be achieved with acid or bases, of course, since proteins tend to rely on weak ionic attractions between their parts to hold their shape, and they work best in a very narrow pH zone.

Heat-loving archea have proteins very similar to ours, but reinforced with extra sulfur-bearing amino acids that bind to each other, lacing up the protein stiffly with disulfide bridges. Such straitlaced proteins are so stable they can withstand the energy of hotter fluids, but at "our" temperature zone, they might as well as be frozen for all the unbending they can perform to catalyze reactions.

However, these proteins are not necessarily damaged by cold. Neither are ours, unless we get down to freezing point, since ice expands in relation to water and can burst cells and rupture cell structure. However, life can be disrupted by cold since different proteins have different suspectibilities to cold, and it's possible for a cell to fall out of sync.

Most organisms, from plants to animals also have what are called cold-shock proteins (akin to heat shock proteins) that are released in response to temperature changes to help stablize the cell in response to cold, so the metabolism doesn't trip over suddenly inert enzymes.

This kind of explains why cells cannot be revived once dead. All cells have been descended from quadrillions of cell divisions since the first proto-cell managed to divide itself. The cells have changed, swapped substances, replaced their parts, but never once stopped and restarted again.
There is no "off switch" that does not lead to death, and there's also no "reboot button" to get things moving once again in the perfect synchrony of life.

Once you fall out of the zone of life, don't expect to get back in again.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

MSN Messenger/ Hotmail Emoticons

I no longer use MSN messenger anymore, but I developed some emoticons since MSN permits the user to import their own emoticon files. I found them challenging due to the very small file size allowed. If it was up to me, I'd make them bigger, more AIM emoticon-size, but ah well.

They are also usable directly in MSN and Hotmail e-mails last time I checked.

Those emoticons are exempt from the usual copyright because I decided so. Feel free to use them if you like them.

When you're feeling blue, use this bear face
Whether from cold, like this polar bear
Or because somebody's an angel in heaven
Or merely shocked into tears
Don't be green with jealousy
It never hurts to hand out a message of love
Or stick out a bearish tongue of humor
Or blush pink with pleasure
Or stick your tongue right out again to wash yourself
As you tell others to "go get them tiger!"

--Wilbrod the Gnome.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"Gnomics of Fairy Tales With Wilbrod"

WILBROD the gnome sits crosslegged on a floating carpet, behind a heavy oak table in news-announcer fashion, backed by a wall showing a large talking MIRROR, various paintings of the Big Bad Wolf, The Wicked Queen, and Tom Thumb. On the table are various wands, crystal balls, garish jewelry, and seven-league boots.
The MIRROR forms the words "Gnomics of Fairy Tales" out of smoke and then goes blank.

WILBROD:
"Once upon a time there was a story called Silverhair, about a nasty, withered old crone that broke into a bears' home, vandalized it, stealing food and making herself at home. The story ends with the bears eating her up in revenge. Over time, the story changed. Silver turned into gold, age into youth, malice into charm, and the villainess into a heroine. The story is now called Goldilocks, and Goldilocks, unlike Silverhair, triumphs.

Such a transmutation has always been a mystery to the gnomic reader. This week, a forensic fable team has been dispatched to the scene to puzzle the true story out. Cindy, our ace reporter and seamstress, is there right now.

(The magic MIRROR expands and doubles as a large TV screen as zoom-in music plays. Dissolve to Cindy standing in front of the bears' cottage).

CINDY:
The forensic team is busy at work now that the bears have been tranked and taken to a local zoo. As you can see, this cottage is not a house where bears share freely. Look at those gouges tracing out the personal spaces on the floor around the table, on the table itself, and the paths to each bear's own doorway. You can see this three-bedroom cottage was a thoroughly divided house.

The bears were brusque but never savage until they saw their home invaded, not by WOMEN of any age, but a FOX, a skulking mass murderer of chickens who had put their clean cottage into chaos with porridge all over the house. The bears united to attack the fox.

The poulets down the road are even now petitioning the courts for their neighbors' release out of gratitude for their slaying the vulpine victimizer. Here comes the head of the fairy tale forensic and salvage team."

(Large, disembodied HEAD floats up)

FORENSIC HEAD:
"We completed the porridge analysis. It appears the fox had gorged on three different porridges flavored by three different sedatives never meant to be mixed together. We are satisfied by the bears' vet that there was no foul play concerning the porridges, and that in fact, they routinely cooked and ate their porridge separately to prevent drug interactions. As a result, the fox staggered and fell asleep in the baby bear's bed, never to wake up again, even when attacked by the bears."

CINDY:
"Is there any speculation as to the allegory behind this tale as of yet?"


FORENSIC HEAD:
'We have not yet identified all the allegories. "Don't cross a bear" as well as "A house divided against itself will unify against others", are two possibles.
We DO know now this story should be called The Fox and the Three Bears instead of Silverhair or Goldilocks, and that "Taste not what is not yours" is a always a good moral to remember."

CINDY:
"That is a lot of allegories to track down! What about the goat incidents at the Trolls' bridge? Will that be also investigated for further meaning?"

FORENSIC HEAD (groaning):
"I don't do goats, too gruff."

(Fade back to WILBROD)

WILBROD:
"Before we say good night, stop and think before you relate the tale of Goldilocks. Why is Goldilocks spun as a hero and allowed to escape punishment? We will discuss spin doctors and the moral erosion of storytelling next week on the newest Gnomics of Fairy Tales. Thank you for watching."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Taoist look at Nonviolence

I was just reading an article on nonviolence. Dr. Jane Hurst made me dig out my old Gandhi reading and think a bit more about this subject and the principle of nonviolent resistance in general, and from a Taoist perspective.

Jewish martyrs were recorded in 1 Maccabees. Jews died rather than worship pagan gods as required by Roman law, but not always peacefully. They rebelled quite often and it was an armed revolt against the Romans after Jesus' death, that finally led to the Jewish Diaspora from Israel and the renaming as Palestine. 
I once studied the history of Sikhism.
Who could not like a monotheistic religion that says that "Women are the conscience of men?"

Guru Nanak, who started Sikhism, was able to sing of the wonders of God and love while living under the brutal rule of Moghul emperors in the 1400's, a grossly unequal world with routine brutality. Human life was valueless. People died young in war or childbirth. Rich people bought whatever or whomever they wanted. And here Guru Nanak was talking about equality. It made me understand the world of Jesus better.
Large picture of white lilies with pink centers, the symbol of peace
Taoism holds that an excess of one thing always leads to an excess of its opposite. As Shakespeare wrote in King Henry the Fourth, Part I; "Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety." You can as easily change the words for "violence" and "love" and describe the teachings of Guru Nanak and Jesus.
Jesus preached peace, turning the other cheek and seeking out the kingdom of heaven, when Jews wanted badly to overthrow Roman rule. Yet, Christianity became the national religion of the Roman Empire in 313 AD!

Historians would call this irony. Taoists would call it the Way. Take the story of Gandhi and the Indians struggling against their British overlords.This is how the British came to rule India in the first place.
Indian society itself had many problems-- feudalism, casteism, poverty. Mohandas Gandhi came to India, was hailed as the leader of the independence movement, and he said no, I need to learn Indian problems first. He worked on those, and preached nonviolent disobedience called satyagraha (truth power), urging people to ignore certain laws and die for it if need be. Satyagraha could not be undertaken with doubts. He led by persuasion and many chose to follow his example. Not all.
The infamous Salt March was the incident that shook the British Empire. Many civil rights battles since have followed this example of targeting a specific unjust law designed to oppress: Rosa Parks refusing to give up seats at buses, de-segregating lunch counters.
Violence continued. Indians rioted after massacres, and tens of thousands of Indians died in the struggles which took over 20 years. Gandhi himself halted his campaign of civil disobedience at least twice.
By WWII, Gandhi had started his final disobedience campaign-- "Quit India."

This time, Gandhi said, individual acts of violence would not stop the civil disobedience movement. Hmm. He also said himself that if there was a choice between violence and cowardice, he might recommend violence. India became independent after WWII, without any organized battle, unlike the American War of Independence, which had 6 years and caused less than 8,000 deaths in battle and perhaps 20,000-25,000 deaths overall.
Yet by the time the British ceded, there were over 100,000 political prisoners to be freed, and ten of thousands dead. Nearly 1 million would die during the partition of India and Pakistian.

Nothing is as simple as it looks on the surface. Extremes will chaotically oscillate to various extremes until a new balance is found. I end with a quote from the Tao Te Chung:


9. WITHOUT EXTREMES

"The cup is easier to hold
when not filled to overflowing.

The blade is more effective
if not tempered beyond its mettle. Picture of a chaotic equation as two interlinked golden filigreed figures on red, purple and blue background.

Gold and jade are easier to protect
if possessed in moderation.
He who seeks titles,
invites his own downfall.

The sage works quietly,
seeking neither praise nor fame;
completing what he does with natural ease,
and then retiring.
This is the way and nature of Tao."

-- Wilbrod, in the lotus position ;).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gibbon Island, no Gibbons

Gibbon island at the zoo--a large tower made of stone, with a waterfall, surrounded by green trees beginning to change into fall colors at the edges.
Gibbon island-- for some reason I don't see any gibbons here, but I sure do see a pretty waterfall. For those not in the know, this is at the National Zoo. Their Asia Trail offically opened yesterday, but it was raining all day and, I didn't really want to slog out and take pictures in sog and slush.

Picture of large asphalt walkway showing a vast space, with large scarlet maple turning into fiery red orange colors, surrounded by green trees. Two women can be seen walking down, and a jogger in a white shirt exits the picture on right Thankfully today was a beautiful day, with clear, nearly cloudless blue skies by late afternoon. As you can see, some trees are starting to turn mostly fall colors by now, like this red torch of a maple near Gibbon Island. We covered gobs of zoo today. As for Wilbrodog, he got spooked by a gorilla thumping her chest and banging the glass to get him away from the glass. He decided to bluster a bit-- a woof and a growl, and I took him right out to cool his jets and tell him it is NOT his house and to be quiet and stay away.

I was a bit disappointed that the clouded leopard was difficult to photograph with the netted enclosure. I also realized most of the birds in the birdhouse were difficult to photograph with the striped glass, as well.

I'm going to refer you to Wilbrodog's blog for the low-down. I just know he's not going to mention the gorillas today, though.

Clouded leopard sits with his back to the cage, looking over his shoulder. The spots on the leopard are actually large black-ringed blotches. The head looks rather like a large housecat rather than a lion A toucan extends his beak out from the body so the bird is nearly horizontal in its cradling branch. The beak is tipped with red, streaking back to orange, with blue on the lower bill, and green on the top bill. The feathered head and belly is yellow, with black crest and mantle. The underside of the black tail looks to be red

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Stellar Birthdays and Supernovae

Today is a birthday that I didn't mail certain stuff in time for, so here is a blog devoted to October 17 instead.

In the history of American Independence October 17 was particulary important, and many other things of importance to human civilization occured, but I'm most interested in a certain year, 1604, when Johannes Kepler, trying to figure out the music of celestial spheres saw a sudden star in a constellation named Ophiuchus, the Serpent Holder, unknown to most people. Ophiuchus could be either of two guys who crossed Ceres and got divine and serpentine retribution in exchange. Or Hercules, who whacked snakes from infancy onwards. Another theory is it's Aeskulapius (Aesculapius) healing Glaucus, son of Minos after a snake bite. This confusion over the symbolism may be why this constellation is the "thirteenth" and forgotten astrological sign.
Kepler's drawing of the constellation Ophiucus shows a bearded greek man looking up to the right at an arm with a sword hacking behind his back at the serpent entwined around his torso. The man has his hands down at his sides, gripping at the serpent. His left foot seems to be stepping on a rather large bug which represents another constellation-- maybe Scorpio? His right ankle, to the picture's left, has a N on it which represents Kepler's supernova

This is Kepler's original drawing, with N at the ankle indicating the location of the supernova. Its remmant, thanks to the artistry of NASA combining photographs from 3 different telescopes, remains quite a firework spectacle.

Six part picture showing different telesocope images. the top 3 pictures show the full images, the botton 3 show blow-up portions of the same images.  Captions are X ray, Chandra X ray observatory for the lefthand images, which are in blue and whitish grey.  The center images are captioned as visible images from the Hubble Telescope, much less visible and mostly reddish.  The righthand images are infrared images from the Spitzer Space telescope, colored in red-orange with brilliant blue-white spots

The resulting image (Note the tongue action):

The combined image of Kepler's supernova is mostly blue-green with a red-purple glow on the upper and side edges, with a large protusion of red with green and yellow splotches. This looks rather like a large green-blue ball sticking its tongue out at us

Speak of a stellar illustration for The Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy.

We should also all already know that we are stardust. Many of the heavier elements are only made in supernovas.

The physics of supernova collapse is still being studied.

Kepler's supernova remmant will continue accelerating for millenia, expanding to a radius of dozens or hundred light-years wide, and helping to seed the neighborhood with heavy elements. Our earth would not exist if it was not for a similar supernova, and in fact the Stardust mission hoped to find atoms older than our sun, from bygone supernovae.

When you consider the universe is roughly 13.7 billion years old, years, let alone birthdays, are more evanescent than the blink of an eye. Yes, I know I'm still in trouble for forgetting to send a birthday card on time.

--Wilbrod

Monday, October 16, 2006

The heavier you get, the longer you may live-- if you're a superheavy element, that is.

Good ol' number 118 was synthesized and scientists hope they're close to getting a superheavy element that won't instantly fall apart into radioactive decay. The reasons for manufacturing and studying Number 118 are obscure and difficult to explain.

Fortunately, I have undertaken the herculean task of boiling down the complexities of scientific thought and motive into a single technical drawing. Please contact me if you have any questions after this, or your brain has simply fried from the information overload.

Wilbrod's drawing of element 118 as a large, green Incredible hulk, asking how long he must stay the Incredible Hulk. The scientists ringing him in the background say Until we get a full look! Yes, science requires careful study! Another face says Holey Moley! Some of the faces seem to be drooling. A dog wags its tail at a cat across the table Element 118 is standing on. The table is cracking badly under the weight of Element 118

Number 118, as it's code-named in the international world of chemical intrigue, is profiled to be a noble gas, being able to remain aloof from other atoms.
However, like a juggler with too many balls, heavier noble gases such as radon tend to drop a few scruples along with their electrons. In fact, you don't even want to know the names that radon gets called by the other elements. Houseowners who find radon in their house come close in general timbre, though.

So, Number 118, if it remains stable, may well find itself in compromising bonds with other elements, and thus get information extracted before he decays again. 007, we may have a job for you.

In other chemical news, soon periodic table-turners will be busy discussing the differences between bohrium and barium.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sleep deprivation & ADHD

The Gallaudet saga has put me in mind of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which I must re-read. Meanwhile, beating the pavement once again tomorrow.

Everybody knows certain people with ADHD and more energy than should be allowed by law without a nuclear facility license and government regulation. If you've ever felt the urge to strap them to something, you might be on the right track.

Apparently, deep pressure, popularized for use in autistic therapy by Temple Grandin who found it helped soothe herself, does have its benefits for some kids with ADHD.

And of course, if you want to save money, kill two birds with a stone, and set up a treadmill connected to a generator for them so they can exercise fully and also help power the electricity in your house. Give them a video game to play while they run, and they'll burn off a few hours without noticing.

That said, if you want them to pay attention a bit more the next day, ensuring a good night's sleep without snoring may be the key.

Cute picture of large teddy bear being hugged by a male sleeper. The teddy bear is framed by a pillow with a floral pattern on white, and tucked into a jade-colored comforter

One way to resolve this could be to play didgeridoo. The question of course, is WHAT is didgeridoo?

Ah. Instead of getting your kids hooked on phonics, get them hooked on saxophones. Or tubas. Tubas are good. Just buy earplugs for the whole neighborhood.

And speaking of the blindlingly obvious-- people who can't keep their legs still are more likely to have ADHD. The origin of restless legs is unknown, but in many cases, iron supplemention helps.

Although I doubt that kids have those following adult risk factors for restless legs syndrome other than unemployment, one hopes. Please keep your kid thin, non-smoking and unexposed to second-hand smoke, at least.

Well, tubaplaying to prevent ADHD? Hey, you only have your hearing to lose.

Next: Why the old man played knick-knack on his thumb...

--Wilbrod
Tim Rarus, dressed in jeans and a suede jacket stands, listening, in Gallaudet University's College Hall
I talked to some of the people involved in the Gallaudet University protest yesterday while Wilbrodog enjoyed the campus visit. They seem well-organized, ready to brainstorm new ideas and stay in it for the long haul if need be. Apparently most of them got out of Sing Sing rather quickly. Here's a picture of Tim Rarus after the arrest.


If you scroll down and read the letter by the Clerc center staff, you have a rather good idea of why many people literally believe that to let Fernandes lead Gallaudet would be to destroy it. Meanwhile, Joel Achenbach has a nice rough draft on strong women.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

What an unforgettable image!

Tim Rarus, the DPN student leader from 1988, hangs limply, dressed for the office, not jail, as three security officers carry him away
(Image of Tim Rarus being arrested borrowed from xanga.com)


This has been the strangest Friday the 13th so far, and one for the deaf history books.

135 people voluntarily got arrested for protesting Jane K. Fernandes (JKF)'s nomination before the student leaders called an end at 2 AM. The announcement of the arrests started 7 PM and arrests started at 9 PM. That is 5 hours of arrests, in the biting dry fall cold last night.

My fist kept going up and pumping itself in a cheer while reading the reports last night. Such courage. I have had to take a crash course in Gallaudet politics since this started, and I'm still hunting for my cliff notes. Ah, here they are.

Most of the arrested were students. Gallaudet has an enrollment of 1,100 students this year (significantly down from my era). That's over 10% of the student body at a rough guess.

Last May, soon after Fernandes was named, the faculty passed a no-confidence vote with a 70% majority. Current estimates indicate that half or more of the student body are actively in favor of or supporting the protest directly. Alumni are also a strong force. Even the National Association of the Deaf has expressed grave concern over the situation at Gallaudet.

Common sense says that no person can strongarm herself into a leadership role like this without seriously injuring the institution she is meant to lead-- LEAD, not rule.

Each action she (JKF) in fact has taken since May has actually added fuel to the protest, except for two: She resigned as provost, and Michael Moore talked to the students as the interim provost. However, that grand gesture from the administration to lend somebody to talk to the students came too late, after the pepper-spraying of students by campus security.

What are we, a plague of pestilient grasshoppers to be sprayed with Raid?

I wish she would consider this: what is she going to do at her inauguration? Be sworn in at an undisclosed location? Pepper-spray the whole university? Arrest all the students as often as possible? Have them attend classes from jail?

We will never quit.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Achenblog is all agog about the new species of mouse with large heads found on Cyprus. Other than its ability to be invisible to scientists up to now, just how did this species persist even with all the invasions of house mice and rats that kept coming ashore from ships?

Adaption. Cyprus may have specialized flora with large nuts that the foreign mice couldn't deal with, but the bighead mice could... large nuts like, maybe, coconuts? Rats might outcompete them for the nuts, but come a famine year and the mice may well do better than the rats because of their smaller size.

I'm tempted to propose the theory that these mice got so big-headed because they had to be brainy to avoid well-fed commando kitties.

Except that theory wouldn't explain the earlier discovery of another island mouse with a large head. This following is a photo of a Luzon island mouse.

Luzon island mouse photo. The mouse has light yellow-orange fur over dark grey skin, and is quite small.. its hindfoot is perched on the small finger, and its forefoot is resting on the index finger as it clings to the hand holding it in the picture. Its head appears to be a third of the body, and seems comparable to a hamster in proportion, but what do I know about rodents? The tail seems much longer than the mouse itself, and the tail goes down under the hand and peeks back between the second and third fingers


Okay, we've spoken of mice today. Next post: MEN.

-- Wilbrod the Gnome.
SCIENCE FRIDAY I

I was dickering with some teachers recently about the No Child Left Behind Act. You might not know this but by its standards deaf children would have to begin reading by age 3. Ridiculous! I started reading at age 4 and it never hurt me any.

Language delay is inevitable early on with blind or deaf infants, but they can catch up as time goes by with intensive and efficient teaching. Besides, think about it. Who is teaching the kids at age 3? Certainly not the school systems. What's next, taking kids away from parents unqualified to teach 3-year olds to read?

Now I just read another outrage. The No Carrot Left Behind Act.

Photograph of carrots arranged in a circle by color. The carrots range from nearly black-purple, white, orange, yellow, red-orange, and eggplant purple in color. The Photograph is by Stephen Ausmus, on the web courtesy of USDA / Agricultural Research Service

Before you get all excited about anthocyanins, you can get red carrots in India, as well as white and purple carrots. It's not hard to BREED better carrots. You don't have to torture carrots with knives and forced UV light to make them cyan.

-- Wilbrod the Gnome
(Incidentally, the carrot photo is by Stephen Ausmus, on the web courtesy of USDA / Agricultural Research Service.)
A large, shadowy and very black animal is perched on a windowsill, with the sunrise and a tree behind him in the window. The head details cannot be seen against the dark curtains, but the sunlight shows off very chiseled leg and chest msucles. This mystery animal appears to be a large lab-sized dog with the agility of a cat. Who might this be? we wonder

It's Friday the 13th, and I don't have normal bad luck even today. Instead of hordes of black cats streaking across my path to trip me up, I had a jumbo black one come through my window this morning. At first I thought it was a dog, but I'm not sure a NORMAL dog can stand on windowsills.

At least I'm not big kitty kibble this morning-- namely because I simply read to it from the headlines this morning and it fled in horror.

Wilbrodog took a few lessons from how I taught a blind man sign by touching and moving his hands to where they should go. Today Wilbrodog then decided to target my hands with his nose and then touch where he wanted them to go. Touch hand, touch hand, both hands to touch belly. Score! Then he went right to pointing to my mouth. "Hungry... eat/food." Sure enough, his kibble bowl was empty.

You gotta love it when an animal decides to turn the tables on the trainer, but this isn't unusual when you use clicker-based techniques.

It's decidedly a surreal morning so far. Black dogs suffer greatly from superstition, and they take longer to adopt from shelters, since people prefer "blonde fluffy." I get really annoyed with the local news stations because everytime an animal bite is reported on TV, they always use a stock still of a snarling rottweiler, even if the dog who bit was a golden retriever, for heaven's sake. Yes, most guard dog breeds are black with tan markings. So? Not all of them are trained people-masticators.

Ironically, in 2005 black dogs were considered extra-lucky in India because they help ward off Saturn. People have paid extravagnant prices in India just to get a black doggy.

In parting, I leave you with this tune cootie:

"How much is that doggy in the window?"

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I'm a little disappointed that that excellent article on deaf poetry didn't have enough examples of deaf poems.

Since Joel A. also suggested that I recycle my old writing, here's a poem that's been unfinished for over a decade back when I was a disillusioned collegiate smart-aleck.

What the heck, it's good enough for the internet.

Schroendinger’s cat

Began the Big Bad Wolf:
“If there's free will (bwa ha ha ha)
If Schrödinger’s cat can decide whether it’s alive or dead
Why do we all do the same thing
Get born toilet train eat sleep wake follow crowd worry die
Pack instinct, they call it
but it’s the rack instinct, every last billiard ball.

Bang, and you’re it
Can’t stop, gotta go with the break
Gotta get somewhere
Off the table ain’t in the game
Gotta go with the green
Change opinions, beliefs, identity
That ain’t free will, that’s friction”

“What of my mind? Surely you can’t deny that, I think of what I will do”

“You got big thoughts?” jeered the Big Bad Wolf
“All the better to see the inevitable hole coming up
Which by the way happens to be my handsome maw
That kitty doesn’t have a clue what dead or alive is
Even if it had the choice
But you do, you do, and so what, you’ll go and die

Oh, maybe you’ll find yourself shouting in the hole
‘Somebody open the box and see if I’m alive or dead.’
But you gotta have the free will and where’s that

Yesterday’s truth is today’s lies and forgotten tomorrow
Heroes of today are the demons of tomorrow
Ever noticed that? It’s all Brownian motion, baby
People march with the crowd or against the crowd,
Always to the same tune of the times
Like I said, it’s not pack instinct, but rack instinct

What you gonna do, you gonna do, gonna do, what you gonna do?”

(c)-Wilbrod the Gnome


By the by, does anybody have any answers to the Bad Wolf's final question?
Deaf Artist Linkage.

Kb recently commented she didn't know that George Catlin, the artist of Indians, was deaf. Yes, he spent a bit more than 1/3 of his life deaf.

John Carlin is another artist who was born deaf, and he was also a poet.

Here is some artwork by Chuck Baird. I have never seen a photograph of the Technicolor Anatomy painting, but maybe somebody will find an image of it somewhere and let me know.

Enjoy!

- Wilbrod the Gnome
PRISM-ER of FENG SHUI COLLEGE

I don't really want to think about what is going on right now at my alma mater, Gallaudet. My walk on memory lane goes instead to the Gallaudet Cafeteria, of all places, back when I was a freshman. There I look at a painting that Chuck Baird (I believe) painted to symbolize deaf culture, hanging up high so it is best viewed from the second floor of the cafeteria; looking at it from the first floor creates a danger of neck strain or being run-over by somebody with a tray.

The etch-a-sketch in my head tells me it had roughly 8 humans without skins whatsoever. No clothes, hair, no ears, no skins. This is the new level of nude painting.

Those humans were visible from the waist up with amazingly anatomically correct and well-drawn muscle striations. One feels that a med student could easily study over dinner just looking at the painting.

Every human was painted a different bold color straight from a child's paintbox--- purple, green, brown, blue, orange, with eyes in similar artifical and clashing colors. Hapless freshmen when they first saw this painting over a meal would visibly shudder, gag, and then turn their back on it. 
But for those who had the intestinal discipline to study the painting, their paradigms would shift; for every single one of those skinless humans in the painting had something to sign to the viewer.
One major movement of the painting was the line formed by the arms of a human tapping a person bent over in prayer with his outstretched left hand while signing "Look" with his right to a glow surrounding a pair of disembodied hands in the upper left corner.
The hands could be saying "book", "open", "close", "here", or "ask". To figure this out would require scholarship above and beyond what is in the Da Vinci Code. 
The mere mortals are much more easily readable, exhibiting various emotions of ectasy, startlement, anguish, and so on, with accompanying signs.
The second major message of the painting is how the painting left a gap in the middle for a conversation between an smiling adult signing "Me too" to a yellow child's open-eyed and open-mouthed question-- "Deaf you?" The expressions were perfect, and adorable. You almost forget they are skinless escapees from anatomy texts.
Over time, many freshmen started getting used to the garish colors and often would spend some time reading the painting. Many openly compared their gradual attitude change to the painting to the process of becoming comfortable with their own deafness and deaf culture.

Was that painting was placed out of sight in the cafeteria on purpose because it was so disgusting and disturbing that it could not be shown elsewhere? Because it was the only open, empty wall big enough for the painting? Because it could not be so visible to the student body elsewhere? The answer may long have been lost.

As far as I know, that painting is still hanging in the cafeteria to kill students' appetites.
Now, another art memory I have from my freshman year is of the christmas cookie party at the president's house on campus. I did not know what to expect, but the first floor, which was obviously used for receptions, with the living quarters upstairs being cordoned off, wasn't it.

The walls were coated with a medley of artworks, mostly small frames no more than 10-14 inches square, studding the walls so there was more surface covered by art than was empty.

In a small side hall, there were lots of Lincolnia, very apt since Lincoln signed the charter for Gallaudet University. Nice breath of history what with the photographs, papers, and paintings, but with irrelevant paintings enroaching somewhat. American Indian sketches and Lincoln? Looking carefully, I recognized the signature of George Catlin, a 19th century deaf artist who had travelled and sketched Indians out west. I suspected those were not his best work. I kept looking and more and more artworks seemed to be unpleasant neighbors to each other, marring the walls. Many of them were by deaf artists, but not particularly about deaf culture, merely portraits and musty relics from the 19th century.

It looked like a museum's backroom of "rejected paintings", except they were not discreetly draped.
The piece de resistence that revolted me was an exceptionally large painting of "Drowned Ophelia", as I call it--of a moaning woman in shimmery blue-green. I disliked it because of poor anatomy with extreme distortion of the limbs, arms, and head. Not to mention the plain fact that hair is not neat or straight underwater, and that the "white dress" didn't hang right either.
I automatically analyzed it as a fault of not using models rather than prurient imagination for such a large painting, then trying to cover up the mistakes by painting blue all around to make it look elegant. It failed. Amateur art gives me worse chills than the skinned humans ever did.

I wondered at that moment, exactly how it would feel to walk past that painting of Drowned Ophelia everyday on the way out of the house? Or to have so many tiny portraits coating the walls staring out at oneself. Surely a college president with a Ph.D. in psychology would be more sensitive to the effects of his environment?

My eyes found blissed relief from the horrors of heritage art in two tiny watercolors of pretty pink flowers in the asian style. I asked President Jordan about them. It turned out to be the only 2 paintings they themselves had bought-- in Hawaii, incidentally.



--Wilbrod the Gnome
By the way, I should also link to some other blogs, so these bloggers will not flog me before the fo'sc'le.

ACHENBLOG It calls itself a humor blog.

An explanatory guide to this can be found at Mo's website

Rabid fanhood of the Achenblog can be found at TBG's site.

And for a Yuropean perspective, check out the bigot-fighting Superfrenchie.

For "Amazing Race" fans, sweat your hearts out or finds Fomas with Yellojkt (Don't ask ME.)

Good pointy-sciency blogging here at Bc's playhouse.

Wilbrodog is getting the leash for a flogging, so I think maybe he is indicating he wants his own blog. Only when he learns not to drool on the keyboard.
Humble introductions all around. I and my talking dog routinely inhabit the Achenblog. However, after a few but quite persistent hints from other Achenbloggers that I should take my sparkle and wit somewhere else... Here I am, nailing up some content and trying to straighten out the template to my liking. Pardon the dust and cobwebs in this shabby shack of a weblog.
We do have great dreams for our blog, but dreams are all we can afford right now. I'm unfortunately an unemployed gnome at the moment, having been laid off in one of those pragmatic business decisions where the company is taking a new direction, whereas I'm apparently too short-legged to keep up. Whatever.
Time to network and shop my talents around the area and move out of my cupboard sometime soon, hopefully to a Brave New World where gnomes don't get the raspberry from prospective employers who find that I come short of their expectations in spite of my impressive resume and amazing talent.

BTW, you're welcome to snoop around while we're out, but don't steal the silver or paw the china. And hands off the Cupboard!

--Wilbrod the Gnome