October Update

Bought a standard poodle puppy.  Bringing him home October 5, so October will be full of housebreaking, and FUN.




Who Shall Inherit the Earth?

Years ago, we used to predict that if a disaster wiped out humans and lots of other animals, rats and cockroaches would survive.  Supposedly, those two types were indestructible.

I think we were mistaken.  I think we were wrong.  I think bacteria not only will inherit the earth, they already have.  It is an illusion that we are the masters of this planet.

We are in the process of "discovering" that we cannot live without the many species of bacteria that inhabit our bodies.  This burgeoning discovery is on a par with the discovery of DNA.  The sub-discoveries promise to be in the bazillions.  Even The New Yorker (Oct. 22) is interested, with an article called "Germs Are Us."

Now NewScientist has an article, "Electrical Bacteria," about bacteria that transfer electrons from one individual to another.  That is, they establish electrical currents.  These bacteria line up to form a continuous filament, and pass electrons over distances that are enormous relative to the size of the actual individual cells.  This may be a method of communication, much like the purposes of neurons in animals.

This is just one more wonder to stack up with all the other wonders.  More on this later; please stay tuned!


Evolution Is Amazing

Amazing that only half a century ago we were just discovering the structure of DNA and its method of duplication.  Then came myriad questions about how DNA produces characteristics. 

Before we answered even a fraction of those questions, we discovered epigenetics, the system of molecules that mark and control DNA.  Here came another multitude of questions and discoveries.  Some of those epigenetic markers are methyl groups (a carbon and three hydrogens).

Now John R Bracht has reported on a ciliated protozoan, Oxytricha trifallax, which uses the same methyl groups to mark junk DNA for the trash

According to an article in TheScientist, this organism  reproduces asexually when food is plentiful. 

However, it has an astonishingly complex reproductive cycle for times when food is scarce.  During this cycle, the cell has up to 8 nuclei.  Some of these are used exclusively for preserving the entire genome for reproduction, while others shed over 90% of the genome by getting rid of methylated "junk" sections and keeping only what is currently useful.

And this is all happening in a single-celled creature!  What an awe-inspiring result of evolution. 



Spreading Health the Avon Way

Last week the NY Times carried a fantastic story about a recent, burgeoning microfinance idea in Africa.  Several groups s are franchising African women to go "house-to-house" to sell goods that improve lives. 

The franchise business model is one that has been successful for over a hundred years.  So why shouldn't it work as well in Africa as anywhere else in the world?

The latest one covered in the Times is "Living Goods," which provides low-cost health items, such as sanitary pads, soap, de-worming pills, iodized salt, condoms, nutritionally fortified foods, kits for clean delivery of babies, malaria treatments, bed nets, high-efficiency cookstoves, solar lamps and cellphone chargers.

The delivery model works just as well for Living Goods franchisees and customers in Uganda as Avon does in the US and all over the world.  Everyone benefits.  Living Goods trains the women it franchises to educate customers and sell the health goods, thus providing them with good incomes. Customers gain access to low-priced health supplies that improve the lives of their families.

This is spirituality at its best: spreading a better life from person-to-person.


Speaking of "Reality"

Recently (Sept. 25, Sept. 28) I've been posting about our not being able to know "true" reality.  Our brains interpret sensory data and present environmental pictures or ideas in ways that were useful when our species evolved.  So there may be no way to be certain about our surroundings or about other people's perceptions of our surroundings.

     This seems to be true no matter whether we are interested in concrete, exterior facts, or interior facts, such as school or social skills.

     According to an article by Anne Murphy Paul in the October 6 New York Times "Sunday Review," how we perform on tests or how people see us, depends on the circumstances.

     Gender differences appear on an academic test, if test-takers are first told that they are being tested to check on such gender differences.  And not, if there is no such introduction.

     Racial differences appear on academic tests, if test-takers first hear about such differences, whether they exist or not.  And not, if there is no such introduction.

     The same person strikes different social audiences as clever and entertaining or dull and uninteresting, depending on how that person is feeling about himself or herself on a particular occasion.

     Antidote to such mental poisons might be to research the facts about false stereotypes or to spend time in situations that leave us feeling self-confident right before an important interview.


Change the Things You Can

I came upon some astonishing photographs in the "Sunday Review" section of the Sunday New York Times.  These photos show Catholic Womenpriests, a group of women I had no knowedge of before last Sunday.

Apparently seven women were ordained as priests by some adventurous Roman Catholic Bishops in Germany in 2002.  Then these seven went on to ordain more women as priests.

I couldn't get over was how priestly the women in the Times photo display look.  I am not a Catholic, but if I were, I'd have no trouble at all accepting the women in the photos as priests.

What I love about this new movement is that it adheres completely to the Serenity Prayer:  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, (the Catholic, male hierarchy up to and including the Pope), courage to change the things I can (find like-minded bishops and go ahead and produce a body of women priests anyway, and the wisdom to know the difference (these women priests look plenty wise and at peace with God.