Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Julius Axelrod

Let's talk about a genius instead of the gentleman from Mansfield Ohio.

Julius Axelrod (May 30, 1912 – December 29 2004) was an influential American biochemist.

He won a share of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1970 along with Bernard Katz and Ulf von Euler.

The Nobel Committee honored him for his work on the release and reuptake of catecholamine neurotransmitters, a class of chemicals in the brain that include epinephrine, norepinephrine, and, as was later discovered, dopamine.

Axelrod also made major contributions to the understanding of the pineal gland and how it regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Early life and educationAxelrod was born in New York City, the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland. He received his bachelor's degree in biology from the College of the City of New York in 1933. Axelrod wanted to become a physician, but was rejected from every medical school to which he applied. He worked briefly as a laboratory technician at New York University, then in 1935 he got a job with the New York City Department of Health testing vitamin supplements added to food.

He injured his left eye when an ammonia bottle in the lab exploded; he would wear an eyepatch for the rest of his life. While working at the Department of Health, he attended night school and received his master's in sciences degree from New York University in 1941. ResearchAnalgesic research.

In 1946, Axelrod took a position working under Bernard Brodie at Goldwater Memorial Hospital. The research experience and mentorship Axelrod received from Brodie would launch him on his research career. Brodie and Axelrod's research focused on how analgesics (pain-killers) work. During the 1940s, users of non-aspirin analgesics were developing a blood condition known as methemoglobinemia. Axelrod and Brodie discovered that acetanilide, the main ingredient of these pain-killers, was to blame, and recommended replacement with acetaminophen (paracetamol), better known as Tylenol.
Catecholamine research

Julius Axelrod working at the blackboard on the structure of catecholaminesIn 1949, Axelrod began work at the National Heart Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). At the National Heart Institute, he worked on the mechanisms and effects of caffeine, which led him to an interest in the sympathetic nervous system and its main neurotransmitters, epinephrine and norepinephrine. During this time, Axelrod also conducted research on codeine, morphine, methamphetamine, and ephedrine and performed some of the first experiments on LSD.

Realizing that he could not advance his career without a Ph.D., he took a leave of absence from the NIH in 1954 to attend George Washington University. Allowed to submit some of his previous research toward his degree, he graduated one year later, in 1955. Axelrod then returned to the NIH and began some of the key research of his career.

Axelrod received his Nobel Prize for his work on the release, reuptake and storage of the neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine, also known as adreniline and noradreniline. Working on monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors in 1957, Axelrod showed that catecholamine neurotransmitters do not merely stop working after they are released into the synapse. Instead, neurotransmitters are recaptured (reuptaken) by the pre-synaptic nerve ending, and recycled for later transmissions. He theorized that epinephrine is held in tissues in an inactive form and is liberated by the nervous system when needed. This research laid the groundwork for later selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac, which block the reuptake of another neurotransmitter, seretonin.

In 1958, Axelrod also discovered and characterized the enzyme catechol-O-methyl transferase, which is involved in the breakdown of catecholamines.

Axelrod's later research focused on the pineal gland. He and his colleagues showed that melatonin has profound effects on the central nervous system, allowing the pineal gland to act as a biological clock. He proved that melatonin is a converted form of the neurotransmitter serotonin and that the pineal gland regulates the release of serotonin to drive the body's circadian rhythm. He continued to work at the NIH until his retirement in 1984.

This gentleman provided us with a couple of medical breakthroughs that possibly affect us all. Tylenol has proved to be an effective pain reliever for children, infants and people with allergies to asprin. Virtually all depression medications are seratonin reuptake inhibitors.

The Cordless Jump Rope - A Sign of the Apocolypse

If you think keeping fit is merely mind over matter, Lester Clancy has an invention for you _ a cordless jump-rope. That's right, a jump-rope minus the rope. All that's left is two handles, so you jump over the pretend rope. Or if you are truly lazy, you can pretend to jump over the pretend rope.

And for that idea kicking around Clancy's head since 1988, the U.S. Patent Office this month awarded the 52-year-old Mansfield, Ohio, man a patent. Its number: 7037243.

What makes this invention work is the moving weights inside the handles. They simulate the feel of a rope moving, Clancy said. Well, it's only one handle so far because Clancy is waiting for financial backers before building its partner.

But why jump rope without a rope?

It's perfect for the clumsy, Clancy said. "If you are still jumping, you're still using your legs as well as your arms, and getting the cardiovascular workout. You just don't have to worry about tripping on the rope."

It is also good for mental institutions and prisons where rope is a suicide risk, said Clancy, who works as a laundry coordinator in a state prison. And low ceiling fans aren't a hazard any more, he said.

Daniel Wright, who features the cordless jump-rope on his Web site http://www.patentlysilly.com , can barely talk about Clancy's invention without laughing.

"What really grabbed me," Wright said, was the name the item has in its patent, Wright said.

The idea isn't all that crazy, said Mike Ernst, a professor of kinesiology at California State University in Dominguez Hills.

"I think it's silly but at the same time if somehow, some way it promotes physical activity, gets kids active, then I'm all for it," Ernst said.

The more he thought about it, the more Ernst said he could see the benefit, adding that the act of jumping, not the rope itself, is what provides exercise.

"Do you need to jump with a rope? You don't," Ernst said. "But I wouldn't buy the product, I can tell you that. I'm not an idiot."

High-tech handles aren't needed. You could even use toilet paper holders, Ernst said. On second thought, he wondered if he could patent that idea.

In the words of Bugs Bunny - "What a moroony!"

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Weapon Grade Nose Hair Trimmers

Nasal hair consists of the usually small hairs that are in the nose, especially those near the nostrils. Biologically, the hairs act as a filter and keep dust and dirt out of the nasal passages, and strongly stimulate pain nerves if pulled out. They also help to maintain humidity in the air passages by trapping humidity as one exhales, while evaporation of trapped moisture on the hairs humidifies inhaled air.

Fellows of my age are prone to spurts of nasal folliage that can rival kudzu. Some of us are good about pruning the crops that spring up in the nose and ears. 

Then there are some of us must be begged or coerced by wives and children to trim the garden growing from our nostrils and ear canals. I never thought nasal trimmers as a weapon, but thanks be to those damnable Arab religious zealots that have forever turned civilization upside down we have learned that your Norelco Electric Nasal Pruner could possibly be considered an instrument of deadly force if it falls into the wrong hands. Read on:

A reporter and photographer from the Atlanta Journal/Constitution are traveling with the 48th Brigade Combat Team, and posting daily impressions. This is from 5/19/05:

Airline flight attendants wouldn’t be ignored during their pre-flight safety briefings if they could perform like Lt. Col. John King—or at least use his stage props.

Speaking to 280 fellow soldiers before they boarded a chartered DC-10 at the start of their marathon flight from Savannah to Kuwait City earlier this week, King was thunderous, blunt and well armed with an M-16 rifle slung over his shoulder.

“Interfering with a flight crew is a serious crime,” he told them. “Don’t be stupid. Don’t be a moron. Don’t even joke about going to Havana. That’s not where we’re headed today.”

King, who in civilian life is the Doraville police chief, rolled his eyes at the FAA regulation that requires soldiers — all of whom were armed with an arsenal of assault rifles, shotguns and pistols — to surrender pocket knives, nose hair scissors and cigarette lighters.

“If you have any of those things,” he said, almost apologetically, “put them in this box now.”

Saturday, May 27, 2006

New Element Discovered

Oh the times we live in! Science has discovered a new element.

The recent hurricanes and gasoline issues are proof of the existence of a new chemical element. A major research institution has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science.

The new element has been named "Governmentium." Governmentium (Gv) has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second to take over four days to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 4 years; It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's Mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass. When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium - an element which radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons, but twice as many morons.

The Penny

When the Lincoln one-cent coin made its initial appearance in 1909, it marked a radical departure from the accepted styling of United States coins, introducing as it did for the first time a portrait coin in the regular series. A strong feeling had prevailed against using portraits on our coins, but public sentiment stemming from the 100th anniversary celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birth proved stronger than the long-standing prejudice.

The only person invited to participate in the formulation of the new design was Victor David Brenner. President Theodore Roosevelt was so impressed with the talents of this outstanding sculptor that Brenner was singled out by the President for the commission. The likeness of President Lincoln on the obverse of the coin is an adaptation of a plaque Brenner executed several years earlier which had come to the attention of President Roosevelt.

In addition to the prescribed elements on our coins -- LIBERTY and the date -- the motto In God We Trust appeared for the first time on a coin of this denomination. Of interest also is the fact that the United States Congress passed the Act of March 3, 1865, authorizing the use of this motto on our coins during Lincoln's tenure in office.

A study of three models for the coin's reverse resulted in the approval of a very simple design bearing two wheatheads in memorial style. Between these, in the center of the coin, are the denomination and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, while curving around the upper border is the national motto, E Pluribus Unum, which means "One out of Many."

Even though no legislation was required for the new design, approval of the Secretary of the Treasury was necessary to make the change. Franklin MacVeagh gave his approval on July 14, 1909, and not quite three weeks later, on August 2, 1909, the new coin was released to the public.

The original model bore Brenner's name. Before the coins were issued, however, the initials "VDB" were substituted because officials at the United States Mint felt the name was too prominent. After the coin was released, many protested that even the initials were conspicuous and detracted from the design. Because the coin was in great demand, and due to the fact that to make a change would have required halting production, the decision was made to eliminate the initials entirely. They were restored in 1918, and are to be found in minute form on the rim, just under the shoulder of Lincoln.

 There are more one-cent coins produced than any other denomination, which makes the Lincoln cent a familiar item. In its life span, this coin has weathered two world conflicts, one of which changed it materially, because metals play a vital part in any war effort.

At the time of World War II, the one-cent coin was composed of 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc. These metals were denied to the Mint for the duration of the war, making it necessary for the Mint to seek a substitute material. After much deliberation, even including consideration of plastics, zinc-coated steel was chosen as the best in a limited range of suitable materials.

Production of the war-time cent was provided for in an Act of Congress approved on December 18, 1942, which also set as the expiration date of the authority December 31, 1946. Low-grade carbon steel formed the base of these coins, to which a zinc coating .005 inch thick was deposited on each side electrolytically as a rust preventative. The same size was maintained, but the weight was reduced from the standard 48 grains to 42 grains, due to the use of a lighter alloy. Production commenced on February 27, 1943, and by December 31, 1943, the three Mint facilities had produced 1,093,838,670 of the one-cent coins. The copper released for the war effort was enough to meet the combined needs of 2 cruisers, 2 destroyers, 1,243 flying fortresses, 120 field guns and 120 howitzers, or enough for 1.25 million shells for large field guns.

On January 1, 1944, the Mint was able to adopt a modified alloy, the supply being derived from expended shell casing which, when melted, furnished a composition similar to the original, but with a faint trace of tin. The original weight of 48 grains was also restored.

On February 12, 1959, a revised reverse design was introduced as part of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth. No formal competition was held. Frank Gasparro, then Assistant Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint, prepared the winning entry, selected from a group of 23 models that the engraving staff at the Mint had been asked to present for consideration. Again, only the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury was necessary to make the change because the design had been in use for more than the required 25 years.

The imposing marble Lincoln Memorial provides the central motif, with the legends E Pluribus Unum and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA completing the design, together with the denomination. The initials "FG" appear on the right, near the shrubbery.

The composition of the coin was changed again in 1962. Mint officials felt that deletion of the tin content would have no adverse effect on the wearing qualities of the coin, whereas, the manufacturing advantages to be gained with the alloy stabilized at 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc would be of much benefit. Congressional authority for this modification is contained in an Act of Congress approved on September 5, 1962.

During the early 1970s, the price of copper rose to a point where the penny almost contained one cent's worth of copper. This led the Mint to test alternate metals, including aluminum and bronze-clad steel. Aluminum was chosen, and over 1.5 million of these were struck and ready for public release before ultimately being rejected. About a dozen aluminum cents are believed to still be in the hands of collectors, although they are now considered illegal, and are subject to seizure by the Secret Service. One aluminum cent was donated to the Smithsonian Institution.

In 1982, the coin's composition changed again to copper-plated zinc. These coins, which are still being produced today, contain 97.6 percent zinc and 2.4 percent copper. This coin is identical in size and appearance to the predominantly copper cent issued before 1982, but this modification saves the Government an estimated $25 million in metal costs every year

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Smartest Person In The Room

This is the title of a documentary about the Enron Corporation. It comes from a meeting of Enron executives. During a question and answer segment a question card was given to Kenneth Lay. It said, "Mr. Lay are you on crack? My follow up is, if you are not on crack would you consider taking it." Months before the company stock was announced as worthless, the employees saw the writing on the wall. They knew that the men at the top were blowing smoke up the shareholder's collective asses.

The news yesterday states that Ken Lay Is Shocked At Verdict.

Can you believe that this pleasant looking, smiling middle aged gentleman ruined the lives and savings of tens of thousands of good folks.

Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were known as visionaries, hands-on executives, corporate titans directing the high-flying ship at Wall Street darling Enron Corp. Add another title: convicted felons.

"Certainly we're surprised," a shaken Lay said Thursday after a jury capped a four-month-long fraud and conspiracy trial and in its sixth day of deliberations returned guilty verdicts against him and Skilling. "I think it's more appropriate to say we're shocked. This is not the outcome we expected."

Besides all six counts in the main trial, Lay, Enron's founder, also was convicted of four charges of bank fraud and making false statements to banks in a separate non-jury trial before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake related to his personal finances.

Skilling was convicted of 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy and insider trading at a trial spawned by one of the biggest business scandals in U.S. history, the toppling of a high-profile energy trader that once was the nation's seventh-largest company.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed," the former Enron chief executive said. "But that's the way the system works."

Lake set Sept. 11 as sentencing date for Skilling and Lay. Legal experts, while not questioning the pair eventually would be spending time behind bars, predicted another fierce courtroom battle over the duration of their likely prison time.

Skilling faces a maximum of 185 years in prison. For Lay, the fraud and conspiracy convictions carry a combined maximum punishment of 45 years. The bank fraud case adds 120 years, 30 years on each of the four counts.

While the reality is the sentences will be considerably less under federal sentencing guidelines, for Lay, 64, a likely double-digit term could be the equivalent of a life sentence, said Kirby Behre, a former federal prosecutor in Washington who wrote the government's white- collar sentencing guide.

"They're both facing 20-plus years," he said. "You do 20 years, and that's entirely conceivable, you're looking at life. And people don't age well in prison.

"Lay may catch a break, but Skilling doesn't have that. He's looking well north of 20 years."

It sounds like these guys believe their own lies.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


If anyone thought they could put their retirement plans on automatic pilot, a recent flurry of articles in the mainstream press should serve as a wake up call. First came the cover story in the October 31 issue of Time magazine, entitled "The Great Retirement Ripoff," authored by Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele. The second appeared as the cover story of the October 31 New York Times Sunday Magazine, and is titled "The End of Pensions," by Robert Lowenstein. Both articles highlight the decline of traditional defined-benefit pension plans, the potential negative impact on future retirees and make clear that going forward, individuals will be increasingly responsible for funding their own retirement.

In the Time article, the authors highlight individuals who thought they would be living a comfortable retirement only to discover their pension benefits had vanished, usually because the company where they had worked for so many years went bankrupt and simply, and legally, walked away from their pension promises. In one particular vignette, the authors portray an extreme example of a widow who lost her husband's $1,200 a month death benefit and is reduced to collecting cans to make ends meet. There is now, the authors contend, "the dawning perception among Americans that when it comes to retirement, you're on your own , baby."

In his article, Lowesntein says bluntly American's long simmering financial debacle is not hedge funds or the real estate bubble—"it is the pension system, both public and private. And it is broken."

A few years ago, defined benefit pension plans began to feel the strain under the pressure of what financial experts call the perfect storm of lagging economic performance, poor stock market returns, and record low interest rates, according to the October 2003 issue of Kiplinger's magazine.

Today, more and more companies are falling behind in their contributions to their pension plans, leaving many of them underfunded. Watson Wyatt, an employee benefits consulting firm, reported in CFO.com in 2003 that the percentage of employers with fully funded pension plans plummeted from 84 percent in 1998 to 37 percent in 2002. A fully funded plan means there is enough money in the plan for the company to pay benefits to all retirees and workers. A pension plan is considered underfunded when it is less than 80 percent funded for a period of less than two years, according to the Sept. 8, 2003 issue of Kiplinger.com. Today, according to the Time article private-sector companies have underfunded their pensions to the tune of $450 billion.

Moreover the number of defined benefit plans offered by companies has plunged from 112, 200 in 1985 to 29,700 today. The number of active workers covered by a plan has decreased from 22 to 17 million. From 2001-2004 nearly 200 corporations in the Fortune 1000 killed or froze their defined benefit plans, according to Time.

Now comes word out of Washington that the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), the government agency that guarantees the benefits of millions of workers and retirees in more than 30,000 traditional defined-benefit pension plans, has a record $23 billion deficit, the result of taking over the pension plans for companies such as Bethlehem Steel, Polaroid, US Airways and United Airlines that have fallen on hard times. In 2000, the agency operated with a $10 billion surplus. That deficit may top $30 billion by year end and according to the New York Times article, if nothing is done, the deficit will mushroom to more than $100 billion within two decades.” While affected retirees will probably receive some relief from PBGC, it will not be a dollar for dollar match with their original pension benefit. If companies continue to shed themselves of their pension liabilities, it is only a matter of time according to Time that "individuals will assume all the risks for their retirement, just as they did 100 years ago."

The news isn't much better in the public sector. According to the Times, public pensions which are paid for by the taxpayers and thus enjoy an implicit form of insurance, are "underfunded by a total of at least $300 billion and arguably much more." The article goes on to say these will soon become intolerable burdens to taxpayers, who will eventually foot the bill. According to a 2002 report in CNNMoney, Wilshire Associates, a Santa Monica California consulting firm, a study of 93 pension plans for teachers, firefighters and other state and municipal employees indicates the percentage of underfunded plans will rise to 75 percent. The last time the figure was that high was in the midst of the 1993 recession.

Many public entities, including federal, state and local governments and some private sector companies are not covered by the PBGC, according to the Sept 8, 2003 issue of Kiplinger.com. To determine if your pension is covered by PBGC check your plan's Summary Description which is available from your plan administrator.

System Failure Unlikely
While pension experts believe a full scale system failure is highly unlikely, and that the majority of employees will probably receive their full pensions, there are some trends worth noting. Perhaps foremost, according to the Times, traditional private sector pensions will "mostly die off in a generation." The article points out that although 44 million people are currently covered by private sector plans, half of these people have already retired and are collecting benefits or their plans have been frozen or terminated. Currently only 22 million people are accruing benefits to an active pension plan, with relatively few people being added to the rolls.

Indeed, a growing number of companies are beginning to freeze their pension plans rather than make the necessary contributions to bring them up to fully funded status. One company, for example, according to the October 2003 issue of Kiplinger's, decided to freeze their plans when it realized their contribution would have to increase from $3 million to $9 million. This means employees' retirement benefits would freeze at their current levels, perhaps far short of the expectations of long-time employees who have five or more years until retirement. New employees would not be eligible for the pension plan. Hewlett-Packard, long considered one of the most employee-oriented places to work, is the latest in a long line of companies to recently freeze its pension plan. Other companies are continuing the trend of moving to 401(k) plans which places the responsibility for retirement plan squarely on the shoulders of the employees.

The message to employees is clear: when it comes to your retirement plan, keep your eyes wide open at all times, take nothing for granted; your retirement is your responsibility. You need to make prudent choices and avail yourselves of all the tools and potential safety nets at your disposal to keep your retirement plans on track.

Currently there is a great deal of talk in Congress as well as various government departments to devise solutions to the PBGC problem. The Bush Administration has proposed that PBGC member companies pay higher premiums into the fund to help reduce the deficit and enforce stricter rules for those companies whose balance sheets are less than favorable.

In the October 18 issue of Forbes, Douglas Elliott, president of the Center on Federal Financial Institutions, says, "Nobody wants the taxpayer to have to bail out the PBGC." Elliott estimates such a bailout would cost $92 billion today to prevent the fund from running out of cash in 2021. "But the worry is, if you do the things that would rescue the PBGC--raise premiums and toughen funding rules--you drive companies out of the system."

Things to know
If a company's pension plan becomes underfunded, employees must be notified in writing. Notification is triggered when the plan falls below the 80% threshold. Employees have also had the right to request information about their plan's status at any time from their plan administrator.

If you are not sure about your employer or the way your plan is being handled, get a copy of the free handbook, "Protect Your Pension: A Quick Reference Guide" which is available from the Labor Department's Employee Benefits Security Administration. You can view it online or call 866-444-3272 for a copy.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us!

"The publishers of this book, phrenologists of note, have laid hands upon the author’s head and report the following vibrations:

Herein can be found that rare native tree, the Presidential Timber, struck down in mid-sprout by the jawbone of a politician. Pogo returns to the swamp from a couple of political conventions to find his unfinished business being rapidly finished, once and for all, by rough and ready hands.

With that much information you are about as well equipped as anybody to plunge into the still waters of the Okefenokee Swamp, home of the Pogo people. The activities in this present book were spread shamelessly over the past drought-ridden year. Looking back across the fertilizer, small shafts of green can be seen here and there, while off in the distance wisps of smoke denote the harvesters at work.

Some nature lovers may inquire as to the identity of a few creatures here portrayed. On this point field workers are in some dispute.

Specializations and markings of individuals everywhere abound in such profusion that major idiosyncracies can be properly ascribed to the mass*. Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly. It is just unfortunate that in the clumsy hands of a cartoonist all traits become ridiculous, leading to a certain amount of self-conscious expostulation and the desire to join battle.

There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.


*Quimby’s Law. (Passed by the Town of Quimby after the Trouble with Harold Porch in 1897)"

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Happy Birthday Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman 24 May, 1941) for the one or two of you that are not aware is an American singer-songwriter, musician and poet. He is one of America's most highly regarded popular songwriters, and his enduring contributions to the American Ĺ“uvre are comparable to those of Stephen Foster, Irving Berlin, Woody Guthrie, and Hank Williams.

Much of Dylan's best known work is from the 1960s, when he became a documentarian and reluctant figurehead of American unrest. Many involved in the civil rights movement found an anthem in his song "Blowin' In The Wind". Millions of young people embraced "The Times They Are A-Changin'" as a rallying cry of the decade.

Dylan expanded the vocabulary of popular music by incorporating politics, social commentary, philosophy and literature. In doing so he created a style which combines lyrical stream of consciousness with often absurdist social and political moralizing, defying folk music convention and appealing widely to the counterculture of the time. While expanding and personalizing musical styles, Dylan has nonetheless shown devotion to traditions of American song, from folk and country/blues to rock 'n' roll and rockabilly, to Gaelic balladry, even jazz, swing and Broadway.

When I was a young'un, my cousin Eddie turned me on to Dylan. I went out and bought Bringing It All Back Home and played it until the grooves in the record were worn out.

I hadn't listened to Dylan for many years. Heck I hadn't listened to most everyone. I'm a player not a spectator. However last year Martin Scorcese produced a documentary about Dylan's life. I was stunned at how many Dylan songs had made an impression on my youth. All these songs that I had learned to play the chords to on the guitar came back. I really appreciate the guy.

Happy Birthday Bob!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Two Cents Worth On The DaVinci Code

First cent:

The name of a great artist, inventory, thinker and renaissance man and image of one of his most famous work is used by a 21st century fiction writer as a title to his book. Mr. Brown puts allusions in the readers mind as to Leonardo DaVinci's intent of the painting and show us that Leo was a scion of the Family Divine.

Second cent:

Most historical figures in the Bible are given a title to show who they are. For example John the Baptist, Mary the mother of Jesus, James the brother of Jesus, James and Andrew, sons of Zebbedee and so on. If Jesus was married certainly the writers of the Gospels would have mentioned this fact.

For those of us that would do a little study we can glean that the Pharisees were the ruling religious class of their day in Hebrew society. They considered themselves the ultimate followers of The Law to the point that they felt obliged to see themselves almost as a higher caste. Those below them, as they felt everyone was, were considered not learned enough to follow the law of God properly, hence looked down upon. Or in this case actually not even looked at at all. They did not make eye contact.

So the fact that this Nazarene Rabbi, Jesus, was bringing the Good News of God's Love to the ha'eretz, the average man and woman was astounding in 30 A.D. And this theme runs deep through all of the Gospels. Because of this Jesus was considered a heretic to the Pharisees. Over and over again the Gospels speak of the questions they pose Jesus and the answers that he gives to them. The Pharisees hated Jesus. He was a pariah that violated their interpretation of the Law and they surmized that he must be stopped.

To site some examples: Jesus touched a dead man to bring him back to life and let a woman with a vaginal discharge touch his garment, yet did not ritually purify himself to their satisfaction. Jesus cast out a demonic spirit from a crazy man that was living with a herd of pigs which were unclean animals as was the man. Jesus healed a man that was blind from birth on the Sabbath. The Pharisees wanted this revolutionary to be made an example of. He was handed over to the Romans and you well know the story tells of his trial, beating, execution and resurrection. Would it not stand to reason that the writers of the Gospels would have included information on Mrs. Jesus to help us understand her feelings and her plight during the crucial final hours of her husbands life?

Rabbis were expected to be married and have children. If you are not of the oppinion that Jesus is the Son of God, perhaps you would at least agree that Jesus was a radical. Jesus consecrated his life to "do God's Work." Those are his own words.

Some say he was a Nazarite, some believe he belonged to the Qumran order. I don't think those facts are important. Jesus was all about God's Business. He made no bones about that. "I came to do My Father's business." In my oppinion Jesus was the ultimate revolutionary. Forget all the so-called revolutionaries. Che Guevara, Castro, Bonaparte, Ghingus Khan, Augustus Caesar, Tiberius, Nero. They were all revolutionaries and their deeds are recalled in books. Their life's work and conquests have been altered over and over many times. We trot them out occasionally when we have a class project or a three part mini-series. In our everyday lives, we pay them no thought.

However, Jesus was THE REVOLUTIONARY. What Jesus has changed has remained changed. His name is talked about continually whether or not someone has written a popular book about him or not. His name is always on someone's lips, be it in prayer or in a profanity. He was right you know? If you silence everyone than even the rocks would cry out for him. I will repeat this. What Jesus has changed has remained changed, because he did the Will of his Father from Heaven.

There are four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles that give an accounting of the life of Jesus and his followers. Although many conspiracy theorists doubt the authenticity of these five books, I'll pit them up against The DaVinci Code any day.

If Jesus was married, the Bible would have offered information on his wife along with her title. Instead it openly states nothing. This leaves openings for those quick with their words to play loose with the facts.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Fussy Fish Mothers Do Not Prefer Sunny D

I always thought that this soft drink tasted odd and never much cared for it.

It seems that Sunny D, formerly known as Sunny Delight, is not half as bad for children as it is for fish.

Around 8,000 litres of concentrate used to make the drink leaked into a watercourse on Wednesday morning, turning the river bright yellow. Dozens of fish were found floating on the surface, poisoned by the lurid mixture.

The spill of 'sub-standard' juice was a category one pollution incident, the most serious kind, according to the Environment Agency.

It was caused by a split in an underground fibreglass tank at the Gerber Foods Soft Drink factory in Bridgwater, Somerset. Approximately six tons of juice and concentrate, due for disposal, seeped into a tributary of the River Parrett.

Gerber employees began a major mopping-up operation to stop the juice reaching the river and causing more environmental havoc. Workers created a sandbag wall and dug trenches to stop it seeping any further. As they toiled, three tankers were called in to pump as much of the spillage out of the watercourse as possible.

The damaged tank was emptied and pits around it were excavated to prevent juice that had already spilled travelling further. The emergency action successfully stopped the concentrate reaching the river, according to Gerber personnel director Paul Hurst.

"!We took swift action in preventing further seepage," he said.

"As far as I am aware, this is the first such incident."

More than 10million litres of juice and soft drinks are produced every week at the plant.

Mr Hurst explained: "We take extreme care with the quality of our juice and if the concentrate or the finished product is not to our required quality standard, it is contained until being removed by tanker for sustainable disposal.

"Although orange juice is a natural substance, we obviously needed to deal quickly with its concentration in the watercourse.

"Gerber personnel were deployed and we worked closely with the Environment and Drainage Board to successfully bring the situation under control within a very short timescale."

Catherine Lockwood of the Environment Agency said: "The visual impact of this incident was immediately apparent.

"We will be carrying out a detailed investigation to assess the impact it has had on the surrounding waterways."

As for the poor fish I offer this epithet:

They started out as bluegills, and ended their short, tragic lives as Orange Roughy