MonthDecember 2007

From Pagan Deity to Modern Sex Symbol – Snegurochka Revealed

“The Snow Maiden, or Snegurochka, is a core part of winter celebrations in Russia. She partners Russia’s Santa – Father Frost – helping him with his New Year duties. Her image is familiar to everyone across the country. But her origins remain shrouded in mystery, even to Russians. The character of Snegurochka actually dates back to pagan Slavic religion. She symbolised the change of seasons, the transition from winter to spring.”

(via Russia Today)

(More links about The Snow Maiden here, here and here)

50 Top 10 Lists of 2007

I was going to put together a top 10 list of the top lists for 2007, but Time beat me to it. So I thought I’d just post a link to theirs. Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2008!

(via Time)

links for 2007-12-30

Era of the hunter-gatherer not a social or environmental Eden

Not so many women as men die in warfare, it is true. But that is because they are often the object of the fighting. To be abducted as a sexual prize was almost certainly a common female fate in hunter-gatherer society. Forget the Garden of Eden; think Mad Max.

Constant warfare was necessary to keep population density down to one person per square mile. Farmers can live at 100 times that density. Hunter-gatherers may have been so lithe and healthy because the weak were dead. The invention of agriculture and the advent of settled society merely swapped high mortality for high morbidity, allowing people some relief from chronic warfare so they could at least grind out an existence, rather than being ground out of existence altogether.

Notice a close parallel with the industrial revolution. When rural peasants swapped their hovels for the textile mills of Lancashire, did it feel like an improvement? The Dickensian view is that factories replaced a rural idyll with urban misery, poverty, pollution and illness. Factories were indeed miserable and the urban poor were overworked and underfed. But they had flocked to take the jobs in factories often to get away from the cold, muddy, starving rural hell of their birth.

Full Story: The Economist.

Microsoft Seeks Patent On Monitoring Employees’ Brains

This is downright creepy:

“A just-published Microsoft patent application for Monitoring Group Activities describes how a company or the government can determine if employees are not meeting their project deadlines through the use of detection components comprised of ‘one or more physiological or environmental sensors to detect at least one of heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement, facial movements, facial expressions, and blood pressure.’ Yikes.”

(via Techdirt)

(patent application for Monitoring Group Activities)

You’re not sorry? That’s OK

I admit it. I’ve always had a problem with this. I “forgive and let go” eventually but only after much time has passed, and after a lot of venting. I do it mainly as a “gift” to myself for health reasons. And not always for the person who wronged me. So, can this be called forgiveness? Along with my fascination with the problem of evil, I found it necessary to study the other side of coin. What exactly is forgiveness and is it something we can learn? I ordered some periodicals from the International Instutite of Forgiveness, when it was first established in the early 90’s. The publication is no longer being published, but I’ve provided a link to their site in case anyone wants to order back copies that are still available. There are also a lot of great books out there on it as well.

“CLOSE your eyes and think of someone who has hurt you. The offense may be profound or small but deeply painful, a single arrow to your heart or a thousand wounding slights. The perpetrator may be a stranger — the guy who caused your accident, the gang-banger who took your child. More likely, it will be someone close and trusted. The sister who killed herself. The parent who lashed out, the spouse mired in addiction, an unfaithful lover. Maybe it’s the boss who’s a tyrant, the business partner who’s an idiot, the trickster who seduced you. It might even be yourself. Let all the anger, hurt and resentment you feel for that wrongdoer bubble to the surface. Seethe, shout, savor it. Feel your heart pounding, your blood boiling, your stomach churning and your thoughts racing in dark directions.

OK, stop. Now, forgive your offender. Don’t just shed the bitterness and drop the recrimination, but empathize with his plight, wish him well and move on — whether he’s sorry or not.”

(via The LA Times)

(International Forgiveness Institute)

Also an excellent site that deals with conflict resolution: Beyond Intractability.

links for 2007-12-29

Justice at Sea: Can Dolphins & Whales Sue?

“Can dolphins sue a Japanese Firm? A legal debate is brewing in the Philippines where two lawyers are acting in behalf of resident sea mammals. The ‘petitioners’ include ‘toothed whales, dolphins, porpoises and other cetacean species’ whose habitat has been disturbed by underwater blasting and drilling from a Japanese oil exploration firm.

The question is whether or not cetaceans have rights under the Filipino Constitution. Raising many legal and environmental questions, the novel case was filed this week at the Filipino Supreme Court. The petition for certiorari with mandamus and injunction seeks to stop further offshore explorations by the Japan Petroleum Exploration Company Ltd., (Japex) which started tests recently off the western side of the Philippine province of Cebu, which is flanked on both sides by the bio-diverse straits of Bohol and Ta?on.”

(via The Daily Galaxy)

Ron Paul: Quackery enabler

OK I swear I’m going to lay off RP after this one last post:

Yes, Ron Paul is very popular among the quack-friendly set, particularly those tending to see a conspiracy between the FDA, FTC, and big pharma to keep them from selling their favorite nostrums. There’s good reason for that, given how staunch a supporter of “health freedom” he’s been over the years. What a wonderfully Orwellian term! After all, who could be against “health freedom”? If you are, you’re against freedom! It’s like being against free speech, mom, the flag, and apple pie. In actuality, “health freedom” is nothing more than a clever catch phrase that in effect describes measures that allow quacks the freedom to hawk their wares unfettered by pesky interference from the FDA or FTC.


The distribution of scientific articles is not prohibited. What is prohibited is cherry picking the literature for articles to use in advertisements to support unfounded claims that supplements can cure or prevent disease. But, his apparently dull facade notwithstanding, Dr. Paul is a master of spin, if nothing else. He’s quick to wrap his support for quackery in the mantle of the First Amendmen.


Right. Because the FTC and FDA are so effective in prosecuting manufacturers and supplement sellers for making exaggerated claims. That must be why Kevin Trudeau, after having been convicted of just such behavior, is now out there, happy as a pig in mud, hauling in money hand over fist selling books that make all sorts of exaggerated or false claims for dietary supplements and various “alternative” therapies. It’s probably why woo-meisters like Dr. Mercola and Mike Adams run popular and profitable websites hawking supplements and various other unscientific remedies with apparently no interference from the FDA.

Now, I support any adults freedom to eat whatever herbs, chemicals, or whatever they choose. And I support their right to sell whatever supplements, drugs, etc. they want. But I don’t think they should be able to make untrue claims – this isn’t “free speech” issue any more than telling someone you’ll sell them a working car and then selling them a car that won’t start is a “free speech” issue. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a fine print “gotcha” (“these claims not supported by the FDA”), which is the status quo.

Full Story: Respectful Insolence.

Snorting a Brain Chemical Could Replace Sleep

A nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests. The discovery’s first application will probably be in treatment of the severe sleep disorder narcolepsy.

Full Story: Wired News.

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