On August 19 this year, three members of the New Zealand Army were killed while serving in Afghanistan. Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, and 21-year-old Private Richard Harris were part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan Province when their vehicle was hit by an IED. After a memorial service for the three fallen soldiers at their home base back in New Zealand, their comrades honored them with something I have never seen before, a funeral haka, before they left the base for the final time.
Haka is used throughout New Zealand by many, not only Māori, to demonstrate their collective thoughts. There is a haka for each of the Services, as well as the Defence Force. Units with the NZ Army have their own haka. This video shows the soldiers of 2/1 RNZIR Battalion performing their Unit haka, powerfully acknowledging the lives and feats of their fallen comrades as they come onto the Unit's parade ground. It is also an emotive farewell for they will leave via the waharoa (the carved entrance way) for the very last time.
Even without understanding what was being said, I was moved to tears by that video. Amazing.
My friend Rob is living the Hurricane Isaac experience from a little ways north of New Orleans and has posted some updates since his power has stayed with him so far. Knock on wood, he and his wife seem to be doing okay so far. Everyone wishes it would just get a move on, but it appears Isaac is moving so slowly that it is practically stalled.
Isaac isn't packing the wind punch that Katrina did, but a wide area of sustained heavy rains brings its own punch too. That whole area isn't out of the woods yet, so we should keep Rob and everybody else down there in our thoughts.
Kind of a crummy cell phone pic, the beans and peas are a brighter and healthier looking green, but so it goes. It's a little hard to tell, but that's a couple of big handfuls each of green beans and sugar snow peas. I gave about another half of that amount of each, plus more cukes, to Mom and have one or two more rounds of picking to go, at least. Some of the bean and pea plants are still blooming and may get at least some more small veggies before the first frost. The two cucumber plants look like they will keep going until Mother Nature shuts them down.
The bell peppers have been oh so slow to come around this year, but I'm finally seeing some close to being pickable. the rest will be a race against the frost.
Not one bit of insecticide on the garden this year and yet there was almost no insect damage. I credit the birds that have been hanging out this year because of the bird feeder. That feeder definitely stays from here on out.
There's an old saying that I believe goes something like "Funerals are not for the dead, but the living." They give those of us left behind the chance to grieve, to remember, to together celebrate a life lived, to move on. In that sense, it seems so terribly wrong to me that Neil Armstrong, the first man to ever set foot on the Moon, will be laid to rest in a private ceremony on Friday.
I understand that the family would want to continue Armstrong's lifelong penchant for modesty, but in this, his final respects, I humbly disagree. I think Armstrong should receive a state funeral befitting his, and the many thousands of others, indeed the whole nation's, historic achievement.
In life it was right to leave him to the modesty and lack of limelight that he chose. In death though, it is time to honor his, and our achievement with honors that befit a great man and a great nation.
I think it doesn't speak well for us as a society, now or in the future, if we let this moment pass without a state funeral.
I think wanting to go on this ride might now be a sign of serious depression and/or suicidal tendencies:
A high-swinging ride at the Minnesota State Fair that has had numerous issues causing it to shut down is running again. And in a show of confidence in the ride, State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer was one of the first to ride, according to a fair spokeswoman. Hammer's ride happened around 8pm on Saturday night.
Four times in two days. That's how often Minnesota State Fair officials now say the Stratosphere ride had been broken down.
At least two of those occasions stranded riders high in the air until workers could climb up and manually get them back on the ground. I'm not sure if or when I'll get to the State Fair this year, but if I do make it, I'm absolutely sure this ride will not be on my agenda. That's not exactly a big loss, of course, since twirling and high altitude meet my "two strikes, you're out" rule for fair rides.
That story reminds me of a high school band trip I took as a sophomore circa 1977. We went down to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City to compete in some contest. I don't remember how we did and even back then really didn't care all that much as long as we got to check out the amusement park.
While there, some of my friends and I, and a bunch of other people, got stuck on the big roller coaster called the Screamroller. The train we were on ground to a halt on the high curve just before the big drop you can see in the pics at the link. We were all pretty much just bewildered until the police cars and fire trucks began to roll in a few minutes later. As far as I remember everyone stayed calm, but there was a definite collective "uh-oh" when that happened.
There was enough fear that I got an adrenaline rush, but I wasn't really scared. It was more like an awesome adventure. Yeah, even reasonably intelligent 15-year-old boys are generally kind of retarded at that age. It's the hormones.
In the end, just like the State Fair ride problems noted above, the resolution was rather anti-climactic. Two guys climbed up and got the train to slowly descend to ground level where we could safely exit. All's well that ends well.
It was my first trip to New York City, 1987 I think, and the scene was the kitchen of the little garden level apartment my sister and her husband were renting in Park Slope. Brother-in-law was going to scramble some eggs for us that morning, which sounded great to me until I watched in horror as he plopped three of the six egg yolks into the garbage disposal. "What fresh Hell is this?" I wondered as he proceeded to beat the remains of the eggs, completely indifferent to, no, actually satisfied with the terrible waste of golden goodness he had just committed. My new brother-in-law had apparently turned out to be some kind of culinary monster.
What prompted that memory was an article I read today about yet another in the unending stream of studies telling us to do this, don't do that, when it comes to eating. As I'm sure you guessed, this one is about egg yolks:
Just as you were ready to tuck into a nice three-egg omelet again, comforted by the reassuring news that eggs are not so bad for you, here comes a study warning that for those over 40, the number of egg yolks consumed per week accelerates the thickening of arteries almost as severely as does cigarette smoking.
Server, can you make that an egg-white omelet instead, please?
Egg-white omelet. Just kill me now.
I've developed a small number of rules over the years for food related studies such as this one:
The utility of any food study is inversely proportional to the amount of hyperbole used in promoting it. When they resort to scary comparisons to things like smoking it's time to put on the skeptic cap and read very carefully. Or heck, just chuck the thing and wolf down a Hostess Twinkie or two simply out of sheer spite.
Beware the study that purports to find an association yet cannot explain the science behind it. We humans are varied and complicated beings living mostly in varied and complicated societies. Controlling for all possible factors in any study is very difficult, which is one reason why some foods are good for you according to one study and then bad for you according to the next. Associative studies can point to areas that should be studied further, but until there is a scientific explanation for the how and the why of that association they should be taken with a grain of salt(Eek! Don't tell Nanny Bloomberg I wrote "salt").
Beware the study that hides all but the summary behind an academic firewall/paywall. Far too often it is difficult to impossible for the general public to examine the methodology and data that underlies these studies. Any researcher who doesn't have the guts or integrity to make his data and methods broadly available for review deserves nothing more than two words: "Piss off." And doubly be wary of studies that not only hide their raw data, but use statistically insignificant results like 10% or 20% "higher rates." I'll have to find a good link again on that subject, or ricki or anyone else feel free to chime in.
And that, my friends, leads me to my completely unprovable but true assertion that 90% of these types of food studies can be blissfully ignored by you and I. By the way, for one actual criticism of the egg yolk study you can go here.
The temptation is strong to try to find some sort of political or financial motive behind some of these studies, but that just becomes a distraction. The science is either good or not. And more times than not it will be bad, simply because our understanding of the variations in the human body, its genetics, metabolism, each of us as individual microbial ecosystems, is at such a primitive level, even though we have obviously learned so much. Take all of those enormous complications and multiply them by the equally huge number of variables in food at the molecular level and we can see how we are just beginning to understand how much we don't know what we don't know when it comes to food and individual health.
All of that is not to say that we can't learn and act on very general truths. Most people who eat greasy eggs, bacon, and fried potatoes for breakfast every day and then sit on their ass all day are not going to end up in the longevity Hall of Fame. But that doesn't mean we should jump every time some study purports to tell us that more than four eggs in any form per week is the fast track to stroke or cardiac arrest and an early death.
They don't know, and until they do I'll tell them what they can do with their freakin' egg-white omelets.
Oh, and that brother-in-law? I guess it was a phase that he grew out of, so he's not really a culinary monster. That doesn't mean I've come to totally trust him in the kitchen though. You see something like egg yolks deliberately going down the drain, well that sort of thing just sticks with you.
A boyhood hero of mine, and many millions of others, has died:
CINCINNATI (AP) — Neil Armstrong was a quiet self-described nerdy engineer who became a global hero when as a steely-nerved pilot he made "one giant leap for mankind" with a small step on to the moon. The modest man who had people on Earth entranced and awed from almost a quarter million miles away has died. He was 82.
Armstrong died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures, a statement Saturday from his family said. It didn't say where he died.
I had read that he recently had heart surgery and that he was doing well. I'm very saddened that it turns out that things took a terrible turn for the worse. My condolences to his family and friends.
Armstrong's accomplishments are obviously widely known and appreciated, and there's no need for me to recap them here. I will say though, there was a time in my youth when he was second only to my father in my respect and admiration. Time naturally adds more to that place over the years, but there's no doubt he remains there in my esteem.
He was a fellow Buckeye, a brave astronaut, and later, a man who set the standard for public figures by showing humility and grace in accepting how his own hard work and flat-out luck put him in one of the greatest roles in human history. I love how after soaring all the way to the moon, he chose to spend part of his years working the earth and raising cattle on his farm outside of Cincinnati.
There were many thrilling moments to that most wondrous Apollo 11 mission to the moon, but the one I hold most dear is the successful descent and landing instead of that first step, because of all of the opportunities for disaster that never came to pass as they set the Eagle down. Neil Armstrong would be the first to credit the whole team, but his skill and courage had much, if not everything, to do with that too.
So few words will ever compete with "...the Eagle has landed."
Here's an interesting theory about why humans moved from promiscuity to pairing/monogamy, but I can't help but think that it leaves out one large and glaringly obvious factor:
A new study from Sergey Gavrilets, professor of ecology, biology, and mathematics at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, reviews the current evidence and offers an intriguing hypothesis. The transition from “promiscuity to pair-bonding,” Gavrilets writes in the journal PNAS, occurred only when lesser male hominids, realizing their physical inferiority, adopted a “provider” role in partnerships, and female hominids, in turn, began to show fidelity to these partners. (Others have postulated that the rise of agriculture helped smooth the way for the transition.) The role of female choice is not often considered in evolutionary biology, but if Gavrilets’ models are correct, it may be integral to explaining our past.
The factor I'm thinking of is not mentioned in the article or in the linked to abstract. It could be discussed in the paper itself, but that's behind a paywall and I'm not that interested. The factor I'm talking about is probably as obvious to you as it is to me and that is venereal disease, or STIs as the preferred acronym now. How can you theorize about the origin of promiscuity vs. pairing/monogamy in human history and not take incurable sexually transmitted disease into account?
I don't know exactly how far back the documentation of human STIs goes, certainly as far as the Old Testament and ancient Greek and Roman writings. I'm sure they were around much further back in history than that. And though ignorance and superstition would confuse things quite a bit, even primitive societies would eventually recognize the main method of transmission through repeated examples of cause and effect.
Keep in mind also that up until a very short time ago in the timeline of human history, STIs were often the gift that kept on giving, sometimes right up to a painful and nasty death. Some scholars believe that what was commonly called leprosy in ancient writings also included some cases of syphilis and perhaps other diseases. Given their potentially devastating effects and the lack of real treatment for such diseases, it is no surprise that virginity before marriage and monogamy after would become societal and religious standards. I think that many religious rules against certain foods also arose because of a similar recognition of cause and effect combined with a poor understanding of what was really taking place and an inability to treat the resulting illness.
I can't say that professor Gavrilets is wrong in his study, but I would like to see how even a primitive understanding of STIs would affect his computer models.