WHO is considering dropping acceptable added sugar consumption (this includes honey, maple syrup, etc.) to 5 teaspoons per day as the safe limit (see http://www.salon.com/2014/02/25/sugar_is_killing_us_and_it_doesnt_take_much_to_destroy_your_body_partner/). This means I have more work to do on my diet as I switch more and more to the Mediterranean diet, the one that is gaining more and more solid scientific evidence that it works the best. This is one of the best intros I’ve seen: http://oldwayspt.org/resources/heritage-pyramids/mediterranean-diet-pyramid.

Station Wagon Envy

Steve Jacobi is my first friend, the geography of friendship dictated this. Because he was my first, the memory of our first meeting stands out as brightly as my first kiss, or Kennedy’s assassination. It was a bright summer day; Aunt Clara and I were out in our front yard and Steve was in his; Steve and I were about four. Separating us was the always dangerous (to little boys) street.

Tim, Steve, and Ron Jacobi with Mike Deal Standing (I think), Nov 1963

Boyhood Gang: Tim, Steve, and Ron Jacobi (left to right) and Mike Deal (Tim Deal’s Brother) standing.

On my side there was some water running down the curb to play with. Clara was exhorting me to see if Steve could come over and play, or asking if I wanted to go over there. “Just be careful and look both ways before crossing Bobby,” she said. And so in an instant, in my memory, we were together trying to block the water’s flow with stick dams, or make sticks float down the mighty trickle.

The water in the curb must have been a source of pride and youthful ownership or at least entitlement. It came mysteriously from a concrete box several blocks north. Its source was Jack and Jill Hillcrest grocery store where it was used to air condition the store. Hastings sits on the Ogallala aquifer. It’s pure cool water was a source of pride to the city, and the source of the only issue I ever perceived between my parents. My mother wanted it untainted, and my father decided the best public health policy would be to fluoridate it. Every election with fluoridation on the ballot resulted in them canceling each others votes out. Continue reading

The Evening I Didn’t Kill Aunt Clara With Light-ling

I was 12 when I found out what it was like to kill a person you love, and my  best friend Doug can’t help but laugh till he cries whenever he hears the story. So here’s the confession of how I got into this mess: I loved to scare my mother.

In fact scaring my mom was on my agenda, like going to a movie, for a good time. Dad? Nahhhh, there was never a time I could do it. I’d jump out and yell “BOO!” and he’d look calmly up at the expectant me, looking like he’d heard an interesting bird call, and say something like, “There you are Bobby.” I’d feel unaccomplished, perhaps a bit embarrassed. Ahhhhh, but mom! She was so easy to get a scream out of. By her own admission, she could know I was laying in wait, and I’d still get the desired reaction. Life was good.

A few days after Independence day the sunlight was turning golden after super. The windows were open so the slight breeze could cool and freshen the house. And my new plan was to step up my scare game with technology. I had some Booby Traps left from the 4th. These were some of my favorite fireworks: unique, versatile, and not very expensive. They were small firecrackers with a string out each end. You’d tie the strings to two things that when pulled apart would cause the fire cracker to explode. It occurred to me how fun it would be to scare mom by cleverly tying one to the door knob and strike plate of her bedroom so when she walked in it’d pop and she’d do her usual scream. What fun!

One night a month during the lawn mowing season dad stayed in the trailer house we had at Harlan County Reservoir, an hour and a half drive away. One of the income streams for his auto shop was being a small engines parts supplier to shops in towns and villages in the area. This was the night he was away, so after supper it was just my aunt Clara, mom, and I in the living room. The light breeze was just enough to cause the door to click a couple times a minute against the latch. It wasn’t enough to latch it, or enough to cause the booby trap to explode but it was noticeable. If the breeze was just a tiny bit more forceful the whole plan would be ruined, so I was tense with excitement. Suddenly Clara stood up, “Oh for pity sake! What is wrong with that door!” and she walked quickly off to the bedroom, turning right at the end of the hallway and disappeared from my view in the living room chair. I thought, “This could be good!”, barely able to keep my excitement hidden, and smirk off my face, waiting for the exciting next moment! Suddenly the expected pop. Then everything started to unravel to disaster. I can still see it like it’s happening now.

Clara suddenly in view, staggering backyards.

Her back now against the corner slipping down the wall and slumping into a heap on the floor.

Mom rising up out of her chair and rushing down the hallway. She kneels next to her older sister, then her voice, imploring, “Clara!? Please don’t go! Don’t go!”

“OH NO!,”, I thought, “I’ve killed aunt Clara!” Continue reading

Setting Our Women’s Standards

Such an interesting video on how we conform the image we want of women to our needs:

The video reminded me of a recent article on “Normal Barbie” where a visual artist Nickolay Lamm, using 3D printing and actual statistics of average 19-year-old women, printed out a “Real” or normal Barbie. She looks very different than the store-bought model.

Lamm followed this up with the average American male. Check out the nbcnews.com article  The ‘real’ shape of the American man: Dudes, you’re porky!. It’s not a pretty picture for the American male.

Every 5th Star


Artist conception of the Milky Way as viewed from some distance away.

New research, based on the recently defunct Kepler Telescope, estimates there are 40 billion planets in our Milky Way galaxy that are habitable. Habitable is defined as about earth sized and in the habitable zone, where water can be a liquid.

The New York Time’s has one of the better articles on this. Check it out here: Planet Search Suggests Many Are Earth-like.

If you ask me where I feel closest to God, it’s looking at the night sky. Awe and Amazement. The two emotions I think are most appropriate when thinking about the infinite. Now there is something to add to this feeling. These numbers suggest that on average, every fifth star I see has a planet that can support life processes. That is it’s warm enough for liquid water, and the right size to hold an atmosphere but not be crushingly big.

Don’t let your imagination run too fast just yet. That could easily mean nothing more than single cell organizes. After all there is the Fermi Paradox that should caution anyway from leaping too far ahead.

Men Slow Down For Sex

An LA Times article entitled Walk this way: Men slow down when sex is at stake is interesting science but slowing down for sex isn’t the surprise. It’s that men speed up with other men!

Thinking About Presidential Democracies

It’s one of the most important things in my mental life to challenge what I believe, to double check, test, and try new things and ways in my life. So the second big USA government shutdown in my lifetime had me reading the following Washington Post articles:

The Shutdown Is The Constitution’s Fault
Thirteen Reasons Washington Is Failing
Is America A Bubble

The gist of these suggest presidential democracies, such as the USA has, do not have high survival rates. It’s claimed the US and Chile were the only long term survivors and Chile gave up on it a couple decades ago. The final article is about how US bonds, and the country in general may be in a bubble. Given my experience of 2008, I’m feeling even less comfortable the way our government is going.

The Most Amazing Sun Video I’ve Ever Seen

Check it out. This is the most amazing video I’ve ever seen of the sun. Be sure to check the size of the Earth compared to the size of the flare at 1:20.

Turbulent Ambiguity Essay #1: Color My World

I was walking about Portland, Oregon several years ago when I realized I’d had a familiar feeling in an unfamiliar place. The familiar feeling was a let down, but in the most positive way to take that expression. It was like the moment when I open the car door, having arrived at my favorite spot in the world, a place of pine trees, mountain air, no electricity, and quiet. When the pine scented air in drawn in with my first breath my whole body seems to relax, I feel like I’m at home.

So here was a bit of that feeling in a major west coast city and the cause was seeing so many races and types of humans. That’s when I realized that my desire for variety, for newness and change included the human realm. Coming from the very white and mid-western cities of Nebraska, I was relieved to find something else.

My first big encounter with the vagaries of race was at an international fair with the university I was attending. There was an attractive coed there from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). We struck up a conversation about how she was friends with a foreign exchange student who had attended my high school, and Arthur C Clark who had taken up permanent residence in Ceylon. The conversation ended though as I mentioned something about her being black in America at the time. Her skin color was as dark as fresh ground coffee and yet she let me know in no uncertain terms that she was as Caucasian as I was. Clearly I had hit a nerve and I was embarrassed about it. I thought about her comments and, as is my way, checked into them. Of course she was right. Her lips were thin, the hair not kinky but long and straight, and we shared the Indo-European language group. We were close cousins in the scheme of things. Clearly I needed to think bigger and look for the nuances and ambiguities.

A few years later I was touring the Smithsonian museums. A few things I remember: Peruvian tar pots (how could one ignore them?), a stump of a large tree shot clean through by the metal flying through a Civil War battlefield, Washington’s campaign tent, and a wall that had a world map and faces of people from the different regions. So many variations of race were represented on that wall one merging into another. It was clear that so many characteristics  are just a spectrum of probabilities across the map. I stared at it a good long while to try to understand it’s patterns.

Science tells us that this is due to balancing vitamin D with skin cancers and other diseases. Getting the balance right is a strong evolutionary driver for selecting skin color. And it can happen quickly, in terms of evolution and may relate to the switch to farming and increased grains in the diet. (See the Wikipedia summary on Human Skin Color.)

Firefly, a science fiction TV/show offers a glimpse of a world where transportation and living on many planets has mixed this all up. Besides the horses, six shooters, cannibalistic spacefarers, and spaceships, the colors and cultures are so interesting. It includes swearing in Mandarin, I think it’s mandarin anyway. I don’t live in one of the frontier towns they visit, but diversity of Kansas City is a relief. We have a grocery store near our home which caters to the Hispanic part of our community, sort of what I imagine a Safeway in Mexico to be like. Their just made flour and corn tortillas come out of the machines there ready to be pickup up, and cactus and mangoes are standard in the produce aisles. There’s always a smile there and people are happy to tell me what to do with the new culinary treats.

I like the place and the feelings of possibility in KC.

Nuke the Thanksgiving Turkey, Really

Thunderbolt Siren

Thunderbolt Siren

October 22nd, 1962. Two memories are bonded together on this day. The first is sitting around a table in the basement of our church, First St. Paul’s Lutheran. I’m with my fellow Cub Scouts looking at knots on a big plywood board and struggling to do the intricate patterns with the help of Mr. Goldenstein. It was sort of a leader and the twelve little apostles moment.

The other memory is coming home from the meeting for supper. It is after dark since daylight savings time wouldn’t be used for another four years. Opening the door to our dimly lit living room I find aunt Verna and mom are watching the president talking in shades of fuzzy greys and whites about Cuba and missiles. They hardly seemed to notice me.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“We may be going to war with Russia.” they say with a mix of anger, disgust, and worry. I was almost ten years old hearing something I only vaguely understood. Continue reading