Friday, July 31, 2009

Lady Lindy

Surprisingly enough, I've never really been much into the Amelia Earhart "mystery," mostly because I think it's clear what happened to her. Earhart's plane ran out of fuel, crashed into the vast Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937, and was lost. Given the expanse of the Pacific Ocean, and the lack of land in the area where Earhart was flying, it is entirely possible that no debris from her crash would ever be found.

Nevertheless, theories have abounded over the many decades about her disappearance, from Japanese capture and torture to assuming another identity and living in Asia. Since her body was never found, there's always the possibility she survived the initial crash. Also, there's always the question of what happened for sure.

While most stories can be dismissed as mere fiction, there are a couple of realistic possibilities of what may have happened to Earhart. Assuming that she could have landed the plane in water or on land safely (or survived the impact) there is an island called Nikumaroro in the area where Earhart was last known to be. Supposedly, in the early 1940's British surveyors found skeletal remains on this island, though these tantalizing remains have been since lost to obscurity.

Lately, a research group called International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has been re-examining the Amelia Earhart mystery, and Nikumaroro Island. Its executive director Ric Gillespie postulates that Earhart was a castaway on Nikumaroro Island and even sent radio distress calls days after her disappearance.

In 2007 TIGHAR found artifacts which do raise interesting questions. The items, a mirror compact and a zipper, have been authenticated to be American-made objects circa 1930's.
TIGHAR's plan is to return to Nikumaroro and hopefully excavate more artifacts. If successful, researchers hope to extract DNA from the items, and compare them to a reference sample of Amelia Earhart's DNA. It's a longshot, but I suppose it's possible.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tattoo You

So, I'm going to get a tattoo, and I'm bandying about different designs. I'd like people's opinions, though of course it's ultimately up to me. What a ya think?
1. Celtic Tree of Life 1------------------------------2.Celtic Tree of Life 2

3. Buddhist Knot 1---------------------------------4.Buddhist Knot 2

5. Buddhist Darma Wheel----------------------------6. Buddha's Eyes

7. Egyptian Eye 1---------------------------------8. Egyptian Eye 2

9. Egyptian Eyes/ Ankh Symbol

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Curious Case of Mr. Phineas P. Gage

Mr. Phineas P. Gage (1823-1860) was a railroad construction foreman in Cavendish, Vt., who, because of a particularly gross injury to the frontal lobes of his brain, contributed vital knowledge to the annuals of neuroscience. Mr.Gage's case was one of the first to reveal the possible functions of the frontal lobes regarding brain and behavior.

In September 1848, the then twenty-five year old Gage was engaged in blasting, in order to remove boulders for the Rutland to Burlington railroad track. This involved drilling holes with 3 1/2 ft. tampering irons.
Inadvertently, a blast projected a tampering iron through Phineas' left cheekbone and left orbital cavity and out of the top of his head. The blast was so violent that the iron landed some 80 ft. away.

Remarkably, Mr. Gage walked away from the scene, engaging in conversation with his fellows and appearing rather calm as they sought to find the nearest doctor. Apparently, the iron missed major blood vessels, and so bleeding was not as profuse as would be expected. Dr. John Harlow, the first physician to attend Gage, was amazed at Phineas'
consciousness and chattiness in light of such extreme injury.

In the coming weeks Mr. Gage did suffer from fungal infection and was comatose and bedridden for a period of time. Dr. Harlow literally had to reposition chunks of Gage's anterior skull. It was expected that Phineas would not live. However, Gage eventually 'recovered,' and by January 1849 was able to resume everyday life. Though Gage did not return to his former position, he did work.

People closest to Phineas, however, noted dramatic personality changes, mostly in the areas of social inhibitions, and forethought and planning. Mr. Gage, in comparison to his former self, was 'fitful, irreverent, and prone to gross profanity.' Also, given that he was formerly a railroad foreman, Gage no longer seemed to possess his previous organizational abilities. To sum up, though language and other neurological functions remained intact, 'Gage was no longer Gage.'

Phineas P. Gage died 12 years later of seizures related to his injury, in San Francisco, under the care of his mother and sister. Eventually, Phineas' skull and tampering iron ended up on display at Harvard Medical School's Warren Anatomical Museum, where it remains today.

Despite Phineas' eventual grim outcome, a recent daguerreotype discovered of him suggests another light. In the photo, Phineas Gage is depicted as a handsome and stalwart man, proudly clutching the tampering iron which some years earlier had projected through his skull.

In fact, folklore has it that Gage even tried to make money selling his incredible story, and was an attraction at the P.T. Barnum's American Museum in New York.
Though these stories are unconfirmed, perhaps the
daguerreotype does tell the story. Mr. Phineas P. Gage, posing with his 'bar,' was a man that had lost all reason.

*for more articles on this amazing case, click here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Everybody Run, The Baron's Got a Gun

Several weeks back I drove up to Freeport, Maine to take a Shotgun Basics class for women. It was a sunny day, and after many days of rain, it was a nice ride. Though I got lost and was a tad late, I got there in time to receive detailed instructions.

The first thing I had to learn was that I was left eye dominant. Hence, I am supposed to cradle the gun on my left shoulder. ( I realize now that I hold my Civil War musket in the wrong arm) I also found out that most women are cross dominant (opposite of their handedness), whereas most men are right hand/right eye dominant. (Evolution-wise, in my opinion it probably has something to do with holding infants)

Also I learned that you lean forward into the shot, & rest your cheek on the gun handle. You are supposed to keep both eyes open! This can be a bit intimidating, & awkward.

Throughout the afternoon, we shot numerous bullets from a 20 gauge shotgun, at clay discs. I'm not really sure what 20 gauge means, but I do know the gun had enough kick for me. The first time I took a shot, I stood back in shock. My hands were quivering, & I felt like my body had sustained an impact. "Wow!" I felt a sense of power, but the shooting also hurt my shoulder. (I was sore for a week)

I turned out to be a pretty good shot. I especially did well when the target came from the right side.

It was an adventure, and something I had never done before. But I don't think I'll take up the hobby seriously, or go hunting anytime soon.. I do want to shoot a pistol, though.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

God Relinquishes Control of Weather

AP Press-- God, citing overwork and disgust with complaining humans, has decided to relinquish control of the weather in varied regions of the globe. Instead, he will randomly put control of the weather squarely on the shoulders of ordinary people.

While at first seeming like a nifty idea, weather experts and world leaders are becoming increasingly concerned over this new development. It seems that ordinary humans are just not cut out to manage heavenly tasks of majestic proportions.

Attempts to negotiate with God have failed. Over and over, God has mentioned being tired of jokes like, "the angels must be bowling in heaven" during thunderstorms.
God lamented: "Humans just do not appreciate the miraculous wonder of an intricately planned thunderstorm."

Miriam at Press time.....
So far several ordinary humans of varied ages and creeds have been chosen to control the weather. Meteorologists have cited mixed results, as some people receive little information on the region they are supposed to control. Miriam Beasley, of Quinlow, Texas, for example, suddenly found herself in control of the weather in Bulgaria. With no special knowledge concerning Bulgaria, she simply made it sunny and 70 degrees day after day. "I thought the Bulgarians might like living like Southern Californians for a change," she chuckled.

Apparently this well-intentioned plan backfired, as the Bulgarian ambassador Petkov Poptodorova quickly informed the U.S. ambassador that several potato crops had failed that season in Bulgaria. In fact Bulgarians everywhere in Bulgaria were ticked off. One farmer snapped, "If I wanted to live in Southern California, I'd move there. Pompous Americans."

Pullrow, an unemployed 33 year old living in Vermont, received a detailed telegram from God, specifying control of Palo Alto, California for 90 days. "That's a no brainer!" he exclaimed. "The weather's pretty much the same everyday!" In fact, Jackson frequently spent time surfing the net, comparing how wonderful weather was in California in comparison to Vermont. Jackson's ex-girlfriend had moved there to be with her new boyfriend two months prior.

Despite detailed instructions from God himself, Mr. Pullrow just couldn't resist seeking sweet
revenge on his ex-girlfriend, by making the weather in Palo Alto, California cold, cloudy, and rainy for days on end. He even threw in some snow and hailstones. This weather condition had not occurred in the Palo Alto region for five decades, and meteorologists and residents were panicking. Meanwhile smiling Vermonters were enjoying an unseasonably warm October.

For a time Jackson's plan worked. The next day his ex-girlfriend wrote on her
Facebook profile, "It totally sucks not going surfing everyday with Chad!" She was clearly deeply distressed. Mr. Pullrow's evil pleasure was short-lived, however, when he saw on the news that winemakers in California were losing millions due to failed crops and lack of tourists. Also, a couple of busloads of children were pitched over the road into the raging Pacific due to wash outs. Suddenly, Mr. Pullrow realized the awesomeness of his responsibility. "I saw that the weather wasn't just all about me. I didn't want any kids to die."

At a global conference last week, world leaders and weather pattern experts began drafting an
apologetic letter to God, citing the numerous, failed, humble attempts of humans to control weather. The letter outlines how humans are too self-absorbed, and lack the knowledge and foresight to control weather like the great man in the sky does. World leaders have also written how human control over weather has spiraled into mayhem. Just last week a six year old from London was in total control of East Africa for ten days. East Africans of all walks of life were acutely distressed by having cotton candy and gum drops fall from the sky, followed by a huge front of licorice jelly beans.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Language Death

Last night in my class, we were discussing language death. Linguists estimate there are about 6,000 languages spoken in the world today, but that within 200 years or so the number of languages will be reduced to 200.

This is a tragic loss for humanity, as we know each language has its unique vocabulary, expressions, and words to convey thoughts. As any speaker of any language knows, there are certain unique phrases that cannot quite be translated into another language. For example, something subtle is lost if Shakespeare is not in English, and Madame Bovary not in French. Call it the voice of that language.

Not that French or English are in any danger of extinction. Endangered languages mostly consist of indigenous languages, spoken by geographically isolated peoples, tribes, or small villages. In a world of vast globalization and urbanization, these languages are being stamped out.

There are four conditions which can cause language death. Language death means that no where in the world does a L1 (first language) speaker of that certain language exist. (Of course written languages are distinguishable, as we have ancient Latin or Sanskrit texts, but no speakers. )

1. Language death due to genocide.

2. Language death due to language shift.

3. Language death without language shift.

4. Nominal language death through language metamorphosis.

The most common conditions of language death are due to language shift, and language death without language shift. An example of language death with language shift (eventual replacement of another language) happens quite a bit in Africa. People of a small tribe move to a large city, and eventually learn the lingua franca of the region. Over time they no longer speak their home language, and the people in their old village die off or move.

An example of language death without language shift is the case of Chief Marie Smith Jones of the Eyak tribe in Alaska. When she passed away in 2008, she was the last L1 speaker of Eyak. Though her children and others may know some words and phrases of the language, Eyak is not their dominant or first language.

Often language death can be traced to a number of factors. Hundreds of American Indian tribal languages have been lost, due to a combination of genocide and language shift. After decimation of their tribe, the few remaining tribal members moved to reservations and eventually learned English. Over time their native languages were lost.

An example of language death due to language metamorphosis is Latin. Though folks say it is a 'dead' language, in fact many spoken words of Spanish, Portuguese, French, & Italian are Latin words. Latin survived in a sense, but morphed into several related Romance languages.

What can linguists do about language death? It is a very difficult problem. Often documentation of the language is the only recourse. However, there is a project underway called
Enduring Voices through National Geographic. Linguists have identified several hot spots in the world.

Occasionally language revitalization is possible. A couple of examples are Yiddish, Hebrew, and Gaelic. Out of the three, Hebrew is considered by linguists to be the only true case of fully successful language revitalization. Some disagree that Yiddish and Gaelic are truly revitalized, and are dying languages. Hopefully not.
"Conaionn tu saor no basaigh"

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mt. Monadnock, NH

Just came back from an adventurous & fun weekend camping out at Mt. Monadnock State Park, in Jaffrey, NH. On Friday night I arrived after getting a bit lost, to find my friends (Kathy & Beth, Chris & Kerri, & Ben) already set up and just coming back from a hike. I joined them at their campsite, after setting up my tent, and ate dinner. I tried my new, one-grill propane stove! It worked like a charm. Following this I was treated to a cherry/chocolate birthday mountain pie! It was delicious!

On Saturday morning we all got up and started up Mt. Monadnock (elevation-3,165 ft). Apparently, this mountain is the most hiked mountain in the world, other than Mt. Fuji. The White Dot trail is the route most folks take, so we decided to go elsewhere to avoid the crowds. We started up the Parker trail, then connected to the Cliff Walk trail. It was a beautiful hike, with lots of varied vegetation and panoramic views. The weather was cloudy at times but mostly sunny with a fair temperature. The trail was not as well marked, however, so we veered off course a few times. ------------------------------------> Kathy, Beth, Kerri, Chris, Ben, Carolyn

The hike turned out to be longer than expected, as is usually the case with mountains. After the Cliff Rock trail we ended up at Bald Rock, a huge open rocky area, which was a great view, but not the summit. Despite injuries and fatigue in our party, we continued on to the top of Mt. Monadnock, since we had gone so far. (Chris & Kerri decided to turn back)

The summit was crowded with people, and very windy. I thought it was interesting to read all the carved initials in the rocks. I found B.M.V., 1816, and W.W., 1901, and R.H. & B.T., July 4, 1975.
The views from Mt. Monadnock apparently span 100 miles in all directions. On a clear day (it was fairly clear) lore has it that you can see all the New England states. Of course it's difficult to know exactly what you're looking at. A G.P.S. system might have been helpful.
After our summit we headed down. We foolishly took the White Cross trail, which turned out to be a nightmarish descent. Kathy's knee was bothering her, and she had to go slow. The White Cross trail is a river of rocks, going down very steeply. It's also a long trail. Finally, we connected with the White Dot trail after about two hours, and quickly made our way back to camp.

We were all tired, but felt like a satisfying adventure was under our belt! Today I feel a little sore but quite refreshed!
Ben conquers the mountain

Beth and I scouting the path ---------------------------->

Photos by K. Sunderland

Friday, July 3, 2009

Count Your Blessings, Baron

Once again, I'm writing as a matter of sanity and survival. I will now count my blessings, which are many. It's good for me to take stock and not focus on the negative.
1. I have an intelligent, healthy nephew named Zack, who's 8.
2. I have an intelligent, healthy niece named Natalie, who's 5.
3. I have an intelligent, healthy, and very funny nephew named Gavin, who's 6.
4. Both of my parents are in their 70's, and are together and healthy.
5. I have two wonderful sisters Janet and Jen.
6. I have two great brother-in-laws, Marty and Dave.
7. I own a condo.
8. I have a stable and satisfying job, where I help others.
9. I've been on the same fantastic softball team for 7 years.
10. I am able bodied.
11. I can read and write.
12. I had two great grandmothers.
13. I have friends that love me, or at least like me alright.
14. I have a very wide-ranging sense of humor.
15. I'm fairly intelligent.
16. I look ten years younger than my age.
17. I have 3 aunts and one uncle.
18. I have two kitties and lots of birdies outside my window.
19. I have a scooter I love to ride.
20. I have had the opportunity to do some traveling.