mm386: Your Boomer brain: older just might be better

May 20, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

It’s definitely a trend: as we Boomers age, we find our contemporaries in publishing responding by exposing us to more and more research conducted by our contemporaries in medicine and science regarding the Boomers’ new topic A: Aging.

The oldest of us in the first cohort of that giant bulge in the demographic boa constrictor is 62 years of age in 2008, and for the first time eligible for reduced social security retirement benefits. Suddenly, that far off distant time, old age, is approaching with uncomfortable alacrity, and self-absorbed as we’ve always been, stories on elder health have become more frequent as they’ve become more germane.

Without hardly searching, we found three such stories regarding aging brains and how they work this month alone.

Brain story no. 1. Exercise!

nytimes

Exercise Your Brain, or Else You’ll … Uh …

Technology | By KATIE HAFNER | Published: May 3, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO — When David Bunnell, a magazine publisher who lives in Berkeley, Calif., went to a FedEx store to send a package a few years ago, he suddenly drew a blank as he was filling out the forms.

“I couldn’t remember my address,” said Mr. Bunnell, 60, with a measure of horror in his voice. “I knew where I lived, and I knew how to get there, but I didn’t know what the address was.”

Read the rest of this entry »


mm385: Scientific victories are often ephemeral

May 19, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Here in the replete West, such as at the home of yr (justifiably) humble svt, rice is an occasional side dish, a refreshing change from a potato, or pasta, usually accompanying a steaming chunk of animal protein.

In the hungry not-West, rice is entirely it.

Rice has been distressingly newsworthy lately, as prices have been climbing.

Even before this month’s very bad news (the story below, as well as the Burma cyclone of a couple of weeks ago that hit Southeast Asia’s rice bowl (Burma’s Irrawaddy delta) the hardest), there were shortages and unrest, sometimes violent, due to skyrocketing rice prices.

But the NYTimes makes clear, the latest threat to rice, and thus to the staple food of billions, is the lack of momentum in agricultural research.

Today’s villain is called the brown plant hopper. And it could have been stopped in its tracks, had the research establishment kept its eye on the ball.

nytimes

The Food Chain

World’s Poor Pay Price as Crop Research Is Cut

By KEITH BRADSHER and ANDREW MARTIN | Published: May 18, 2008

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines — The brown plant hopper, an insect no bigger than a gnat, is multiplying by the billions and chewing through rice paddies in East Asia, threatening the diets of many poor people.

Researchers at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, the world’s main repository of information about rice, are trying to deal with problems like the rice hopper, which destroys plants, by developing stronger varieties of rice.

The damage to rice crops, occurring at a time of scarcity and high prices, could have been prevented. Researchers at the International Rice Research Institute here say that they know how to create rice varieties resistant to the insects but that budget cuts have prevented them from doing so.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm369: Help! Rescue that droning man!

May 4, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

lockheedvulture

The changing face of military aviation

tenth in an occasional series

The series so far…

No

Title

Link

1

U.S. pilot helped clear the fog of war

mm142

2

Go to war — Play videogames

mm155

3

Osprey: A Flying Shame

mm163

4

Abolish the Air Force

mm183

5

Proxy killers — Can you live with that?

mm211

6

A Maginot Line for the 21st Century

mm215

7

A shared obsession is a satisfying thing

mm225

8

Videogames. Real warfare. An unsettling

mm288

9

Go figure! Even our robot forces… mm326

Two of our most useful military news links in our blogroll are Danger Room and Early Warning. After all, we’re at war.

Faithful reader of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© will recall that the subject of UAVs, Unmanned Air Vehicles or drones, is one of those topics that has consistently intrigued us. Look no further than the linklist above.

Robot aircraft of all sizes and scales hit the military commentariat several times on April 30, and reminded us of a related story (see no. 1a below) we had been waiting for the right opportunity to surface.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm367: It’s not just a bad idea, it’s a crime

May 2, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

The more you know about ethanol as a petroleum substitute, the more there is to dislike. This has been a continuing story in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©, as you can see:

Fuel from Food: Just a bad idea all around

mm367: It’s not just a bad idea, it’s a crime
mm298: Nutty Richard Branson flies to Holland on biofuel
mm282: If it sounds too good to be true…
mm260: The other oil shock
mm233: Corn in the news – and not just in Iowa!
mm194: Friedman: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn
mm084: Food versus fools – Salon.com
mm053: The case for turning crops into fuel – Saletan

We have spent some time in this space on the subject of water, and its scarcity.

Water, water, anywhere?

mm317: Water, the theme — part two
mm269: Water: Accept no substitutes!
mm253: Water: casus belli for a new civil war
mm206: It’s 10:30pm — Where’s your water been?
mm101: Technology / Water — It’s a theme!

Now, the two concepts: the wrong-headed use for fuel of a key foodstuff; and the menace of the growing shortage of water in the U.S; come together courtesy of a new member of Left-Handed Complement‘s blogroll, fellow WordPress.com blog Optimal Functioning.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm364: Blast from the Past! No. 16

April 30, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

lhc250x46_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From our early days, originally posted August 10, 2007.

mm098: Remembering Robert Heinlein

MUDGE’S Musings (begun on the road)

So, here I am back in the sultry Midwest, returned at about midnight the night before last from the sultry east coast and a professional conference.

As frequent reader can tell, the change of routine played havoc with my blogging habits, which, with few exceptions (my son’s marriage in early July, for a happy example) have been fairly regular for the past three months since we began in earnest.

So, let’s pick up where I left off, attempting to piece together an interesting series of articles linked together for me by Arts and Letters Daily blogroll2_thumb , a wonderful site that I am guilty of visiting insufficiently regularly.

__________________________________

BOSTON — Third morning, and last one, here at a conference sponsored by one of our enterprise’s primary IT vendors, IBM Lotus.

Doubt we’ll finish this post until after we’re safely back on our home turf, but we’ll take a stab at getting some of this done before we pack up for the last few sessions.

Boston is a great town for tourists, although in a business conference there is precious little time for tourism, but it’s been fun to walk around, at least a bit, and enjoy life at street level.

This morning, of course, it’s pouring rain, so we’ll confine our observations from the 35th floor hotel room we’re about to vacate. Nice town. Great view.

And for this Midwestern unfortunate, absolutely wonderful seafood. Don’t have a picture of the cioppino I enjoyed at Legal Sea Food Monday night, but I can share the view…

boston01

Read the rest of this entry »


mm362: Written, as usual, on a Sony PCV-RS620G desktop PC

April 28, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

I consider myself technologically sophisticated. Made my living by writing really sophisticated code for; creating applications for; using; and lately teaching the advanced use of; electronic computational devices for nearly 40 years.

Started when the average of such computational devices filled large, refrigerated, raised-floor (to clear the boa constrictor cabling) floor to ceiling windowed but locked chambers.

Large box (think refrigerator sized) with colorful lighting containing the computer itself with its proud array of 64,000 bytes of hand-assembled magnetic core memory. Folks, that was 64KB.

Today’s home PCs are stunted if they have less than 512MB. I recently upgraded the memory in my own PC: bought 2GB (about 31,000 times larger than that 64KB magnetic core processor for which we wrote so cleverly, and compactly!) for about $100.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm336: 10 minutes that might change our lives

April 2, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

They don’t call me a curmudgeon for nothing.

The earnest entreaties of persons of the green persuasion (and no, I don’t mean Martians) leave me cold.

Nevertheless.

This video has been out for several months; as vast as the Internet is, it had evaded me until I happened on it the other day.

Spend 10 minutes. It’s an earnest entreaty.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm325: I’m an Internet informed parent! I know better than my (and everyone’s) doctor!

March 22, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Pseudo-knowledge.

Often, it’s planted when one’s education consists of 13 years of test preparation rather than preparation for life. Not to speak of four additional years of outrageously costly, grade-inflated, higher (mainly in the beer and sex bingeing definition) education.

Pseudo-knowledge.

It’s cultivated by news and information delivered in 20-second sound bites (and their print and Internet equivalents) by “if it bleeds, it leads” 24-hour “news” outlets.

Pseudo-knowledge.

It’s manifestations are all around us. State school boards cheerfully replacing the teaching of evolution with a concoction spun by religious fanatics shined up and named “creation science.” The federal government gleefully banning stem-cell research on totally non-scientific grounds.

Pseudo-knowledge.

And it’s harvested when what you think you understand can hurt you, or worse, can kill your children, while most effectively endangering everyone else’s.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm293: Star Wars, finally ready for prime time

February 22, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Shooting a missile at a satellite is rocket science. And, apparently, a year late, we’ve figured it out.

washingtonpost

Spy Satellite’s Downing Shows a New U.S. Weapon Capability

By Marc Kaufman and Josh White | Washington Post Staff Writers | Friday, February 22, 2008; Page A03

The unprecedented downing of an errant spy satellite by a Navy missile makes it clear that the Pentagon has a new weapon in its arsenal — an anti-satellite missile adapted from the nation’s missile defense program.

While the dramatic intercept took place well below the altitude where most satellites orbit, defense and space experts said Wednesday night’s first-shot success strongly suggests that the military has the technology and know-how to knock out satellites at much higher orbits.

When the plans were announced a week or so ago, we were bemused.

The physics required have got to be astounding. See, the satellite is in a deteriorating orbit, so it might not be acting totally predictably.

The missile was built, of course, by the lowest bidder.

And they launched it from a missile cruiser sailing in the Pacific, which any mariner will tell you is totally falsely named.

I’m thinking the challenge was tantamount to shooting an arrow at a duck in flight several miles away, from the back of a rodeo bull.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm290: Gassing ’bout birds and supermen

February 19, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Quirky things going on out there, folks. None seem expansive enough to go all expansive on you, so we’re going to have another episode of SASB:

shortattention_thumb2 ©

Gassing…

A couple of scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have, they claim, found a way to turn airborne carbon dioxide back into gasoline.

nytimes

Scientists Would Turn Greenhouse Gas Into Gasoline

By KENNETH CHANG | Published: February 19, 2008

The scientists, F. Jeffrey Martin and William L. Kubic Jr., are proposing a concept, which they have patriotically named Green Freedom, for removing carbon dioxide from the air and turning it back into gasoline.

The idea is simple. Air would be blown over a liquid solution of potassium carbonate, which would absorb the carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide would then be extracted and subjected to chemical reactions that would turn it into fuel: methanol, gasoline or jet fuel.

This process could transform carbon dioxide from an unwanted, climate-changing pollutant into a vast resource for renewable fuels. The closed cycle — equal amounts of carbon dioxide emitted and removed — would mean that cars, trucks and airplanes using the synthetic fuels would no longer be contributing to global warming.

Of course, there’s a hitch, there’s always a hitch.

Read the rest of this entry »