Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday Summary #10

First a quote from Winston Churchill: "dogs look up to man, cats look down to man, pigs look us straight in the eye and see an equal." For the most part, pigs get a bad rap. They are as smarter than chimps in experiments using computers {and they don't even have hands for using a keyboard} they have a homing sense of direction that rivals that of dogs, they've been known to make good "watch dogs". And the little pot-bellied pigs are said to be excellent pets.

But on to our species: we tend to think our genetic evolution all took places millions of years ago Not so. Chinese geneticists have found that only about 10,000 years ago the people inhabiting the Tibetan plateau developed genes that allow them to use available oxygen more efficiently than other people so that they can thrive at altitudes of 10,000 to 15,000 feet or more.

Medical science keeps advancing. Former VP Dick Cheney has a hear implant about the size of a D battery that takes over the job of keeping the blood flowing. It flows steadily as water flows through a tap, it does not pulse as hearts normally do. So, in fact, he, like the few others with the device, does not have a pulse. If he should be found unconscious, a medic would think he was dead.

Are hardcover books dying? has been selling hardcover books for 15 years; they have been selling Kindles for 35 months. In the last three months sales of downloads of hardcover books have surpassed sales of the real thing. There were no statistics about sales of paperbacks. I saw a man reading a Kindle at the beach yesterday; he looked more intellectual than people reading paperback murder mysteries, although he might have been reading something equally inane. One can't tell. If you're concerned about making a certain kind of impression, I guess the Kindle is helpful.

Speaking of negative impressions. There are companies (two in the US and one in India, one in the Philippines were mentioned) that hire people to look at downloaded videos for social networking sites on the internet to find seriously offensive material, like child pornography, sadistic animal abuse, and such, and make sure it is no posted. I don't know how they do this technically, nor how the individuals watching it manage to eat and sleep like normal people.

More technology: Chinese-American pianist, Lang Lang, at recent NY Philharmonic concert asked the audience to vote on their choice of encore piece by texting on their cell phones, choosing between a Chopin etude and a traditional Chinese melody. They chose the Chinese piece. I suspect they were not surprised the next day when they received an offer from Lang Lang's record company to purchase his latest CD set at a discount and inviting them to follow him on Facebook.

Finally a bit of geography -- I always like learning new things about places: Venice is not an island as many people think, but an archipelago of 180 island tied together by approximately 400 bridges. The Grand Canal, the widest flowing more or less through the middle of the city, is lined with some 100 grand Renaissance and Baroque style palaces built by the wealthy merchants who flourished during the 500 years or so that Venice ruled the Adriatic Sea and eventually the Mediterranean which they did until land transport of goods became more efficient than sea transport in the 1700s.
As most of us know, the whole city is in serious danger of sinking into the sea and has already had several crises with flooding. Most of us who have been there feel profoundly sad to imagine the loss of such a charming and historic place.


Kass said...

People hired to view offensive material - that one gets me.


I'll agree that pigs are as smart as people. Maybe even smarter than some? -- barbara

standing on my head said...

at the risk of starting a political conflagration, i'm not surprised that dick cheney has no pulse.