Sunday, August 31, 2008

Flies Outwit Fly Swatters--and Us

How often have you chased a fly around your house with a fly swatter or folded newspaper? There it is, I’ll get it! You swat at it and it is long gone. You are determined to get the fly so you hunt down again...and again...and again. You hear it buzzing in the kitchen window so you plan your approach and your attack. But your attack fails again–and again. About the time you decide to give up for awhile and flop into a soft chair, swatter or newspaper still in hand, here it comes, buzzing around your head–BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ–like an Air Force jet doing dive bombings and maneuvers around a target, or assaulting a UFO. I think flies do that on purpose to show they can outsmart us. How can some little fly have such smarts, we wonder? Well, we don’t have to wonder anymore. Scientists have the answer.

According to new research by scientists at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) published in the journal Current Biology, they have concluded flies have a quick-fire intelligence and are good at planning ahead. The scientists filmed experiments with fruit flies and a fly swatter. They discovered that flies quickly calculated the location of the threat and apparently had an escape plan. Incredible, within 100 milliseconds of spotting the swatter they could move their bodies into a position that allowed an extension of the legs to save them.

Caltech Professor Michael Dickinson, who lead the study said their experiments showed how rapidly a fly's brain processed sensory information. "They're actually jumping away from our swatter because they take the time to plan their escape," Dickinson said. "This illustrates how rapidly the fly's brain can process sensory information into an appropriate motor response."

Dickinson stated, "We also found that when the fly makes planning movements prior to take-off, it takes into account its body position at the time it first sees the threat. When it first notices an approaching threat, a fly's body might be in any sort of posture depending on what it was doing at the time, like grooming, feeding, walking, or courting. Our experiments showed that the fly somehow 'knows' whether it needs to make large or small postural changes to reach the correct preflight posture."

"This is a rather sophisticated sensory-to-motor transformation and the search is on to find the place in the brain where this happens," Dickinson said. "There's actually many labs around the world trying to figure out how their little brains work so we can use that knowledge to figure out how our own brains work."

Dickinson told KNBC TV that he's been in science almost 20 years and he's never published anything that has received so much public attention. The Research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. The paper, "Visually Mediated Motor Planning in the Escape Response of Drosophila," was published Aug. 28 in the journal Current Biology.

Dickinson’s advice on how to successfully swat the illusive insect: "It is best not to swat at the fly's starting position, but rather to aim a bit forward of that to anticipate where the fly is going to jump when it first sees your swatter."

I’ve already been trying that with little luck. How about you? I believe the best fly catcher and swatter is my cat, Snickers. He’s pretty good at outwitting a fly. And beside, Snickers sometimes has more patience than I do.

~ Linda

"Where'd that dang fly go?"

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Bridge to Nowhere, McCain, Palin

I’ve been saying for some time now that John McCain was losing it and getting senile or something similar with his blunders and misjudgements. Now, I am convinced of that with this pick of a woman with little experience. Two years of leading a state like Alaska with a mere population of not even 700,000, and former mayor of a small town! Think about it, Los Angeles has a population of 3.8 million! Many cities have that much population or more, cities such as Austin, Boston, Milwaukee, Memphis. So how does a short term governor or mayor of a town of 6,000 or so, give her qualifications to head our national government, and international standing in the world? But oh, according to Russ Limbaugh (who had just come on my radio before my snooze alarm went off) he thinks the pick of her is fantastic because she "hunts moose." OH come on. But also her son is going to Iraq, and she has a Downs baby–mother of five. Russ, come on, your comments were as bad as what I then heard on the cable channels this morning–"This is very interesting;" "This race is getting interesting." They didn’t know what to say, either....she hunts, she belongs to the NRA. And she fished. So?

Although I am no longer a Republican, (thank goodness) I just don’t get it. Why did McCain pick her while having some good qualified people to pick from? This is so transparent, and so political–or crazy. If this was done to humiliate Hillary, or pick up Hillary votes, I don’t think it will do much. Most Hillary backers were for Hillary for other reasons than her sexual identity although her being a woman was frosting on the cake.

McCain was once my Senator and I liked him. But in these recent years that has changed when he made his move to kiss Bush’s butt and hang on his coattails. McCain just does not get it. He is so far away, so removed, from what this country needs to turn it around. I see an old man when I look at him, and a man that appears to be not in very good physical condition, and a man stuck in a military mindset. And he may be losing his mind, losing good judgement. We had a President not too many years ago who was having mental problems, do we now want to take a chance on that happening again? He’s 72 today. I do not believe he is clear headed as he once was. And that is scary.

And now, a heart-beat away from the Presidency stands a woman who we know little about, with little experience, and not at all qualified to become Vice President, let alone President. And this woman is under investigation over an incident involving her sister’s child custody. If this woman satisfies the Religious Right’s needs and desires to keep their "issues" protected, than they belong to the "stupid Bush mentality." People need to keep the religious attitudes (and racial bias) out of our pick for the best people to head our country at a time when leadership is of vital importance after our country and world standing has been seriously eroded in the last eight (almost eight) years. Do we want more of that downfall? If so, what will we have left of what our country used to be and what it should be again? Will it be able to come back?

This McCain ticket seems to be the "bridge to nowhere." Of course that is fine with me, as I want Obama to be our president and Biden to be our Vice President. And I can only hope that the majority of this country will agree. It would be a shame to have this McCain/Palin taking us further backward into deeper conflict and chaos.

No, as Obama said last night, "We cannot turn back." And I sure as hell don’t want to. And I hope enough others don’t.

~ Linda

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bill Clinton Speech to Convention

Here is an excerpt of the speech given Wednesday evening by my favorite President, Bill Clinton, to the Democratic Convention.

"Our nation is in trouble on two fronts: The American Dream is under siege at home, and America's leadership in the world has been weakened.

Middle class and low-income Americans are hurting, with incomes declining; job losses, poverty and inequality rising; mortgage foreclosures and credit card debt increasing; health care coverage disappearing; and a big spike in the cost of food, utilities, and gasoline.

Our position in the world has been weakened by too much unilateralism and too little cooperation; a perilous dependence on imported oil; a refusal to lead on global warming; a growing indebtedness and a dependence on foreign lenders; a severely burdened military; a backsliding on global nonproliferation and arms control agreements; and a failure to consistently use the power of diplomacy, from the Middle East to Africa to Latin America to Central and Eastern Europe.

Clearly, the job of the next president is to rebuild the American dream and restore America's standing in the world.

Everything I learned in my eight years as president and in the work I've done since, in America
and across the globe, has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job."

~ Linda

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hillary at Democratic Convention Was Great

Hillary Clinton's speech tonight at the Democratic Convention was excellent. It was also a reminder of how close she may have come to leading this country. Her speech brought up some of the issues I have with what could happen with the outcome of this important election. And some of that has to do with women's rights and how there is a possibility if McCain was to be elected that we would continue to have the Religious Right with their noses right in the middle of our politics and decisions in areas such as the abortion issues and gay rights issues. I do not want to see this country take a giant step backward regarding those issues. When I hear women, maybe younger than myself, not wanting to vote for a Democrat I shudder and wonder what they are thinking with the huge possibility of losing their right to make decisions for themselves in regards to their bodies, or to allow the government to rule over sexuality and choice of marriage partner. Blacks got the right to vote long before women did. Divorce, which is common today, was very difficult to obtain just a very few years ago. Women have been discriminated against since the beginning of time on this planet--culturally, religiously, socially and economically. Our grandmothers and great grandmothers had no rights to even own property. If their husband's died they had to auction everything and buy back their own cows. (Do some genealogy and see how common that was). I clearly recall the alleyway abortions, the trips to Mexico, the clothes hanger abortions, that women in my generation were undergoing at risk of life. And many died from hemorrhage or infections. Whether a woman chooses to have an abortion is between her and her God and not to be judged and interfered with by government, or somebody pounding a pulpit. In those days there were a bunch of men, some very old, that held in their hands legislations controlling those issues, and some of those 'good old boys' wanted the women "barefoot and pregnant." I sometimes wonder if we've gotten very far beyond that attitude.

And then there is the war. Women....come on, how can you stand still while young men and women are giving up their lives for OIL and POWER and GREED, at the whim of our present administration....and strategies and military "strength" that McCain apparently wants to continue with his "heroic" military thinking. Many of us are asking what will happen if we need military here on our own soil? ....we are stretched too thin....bring them home.

And corruption....there has been so much corruption and often it is swept under the carpet--and Congress is to blame for that also.

What does it matter that our gay neighbors decide to marry? I believe the Republicans RR use this issue often as nothing more than diversion from important issues facing this country.

This week is also the anniversary of Katrina. Has that been fixed? No. If it wasn't for CNN and someone reporting like Anderson Cooper (who was there in the middle of it), we'd probably not hear anything about the problems that still exist there in New Orleans and elsewhere.

Our rights have been eroded, and at times almost behind our backs. Those executive orders, the Patriot Act. Why have we put up with it? And our standing in the world. We're hated, and our administration is laughed at. How many years will it take to regain our world position?

Can Obama and Biden change that? All of it? I hope so. At least it can be a start. The pendulum needs to swing and the only way it will swing is a vote for Obama and Biden. McCain, not the man he used to be, especially when he was my Senator a few years back, will keep the pendulum stuck and not moving, or it will continue to be swinging BACKWORD. We can't have that for this great country. We have to get our country back and make things good again. And we have to do it NOW before it is too late.

~ Linda

Excerpt from Hillary Clinton’s Democratic Convention Speech, August 26, 2008.

You know, America is still around after 232 years because we have risen to every challenge in every new time, changing to be faithful to our values of equal opportunity for all and the common good.

And I know what that can mean for every man, woman and child in America. I'm a United States senator because in 1848 a group of courageous women and a few brave men gathered in Seneca Falls, New York, many traveling for days and nights -- (Cheers, applause) -- to participate in the first convention on women's rights in our history.

And so dawned a struggle for the right to vote that would last 72 years, handed down by mother to daughter to granddaughter -- and a few sons and grandsons along the way.

These women and men looked into their daughters' eyes and imagined a fairer and freer world, and found the strength to fight. To rally. To picket. To endure ridicule and harassment, and brave violence and jail.

And after so many decades, 88 years ago on this very day, the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote became enshrined in our Constitution. (Cheers, applause.)

My mother was born before women could vote. My daughter got to vote for her mother for president. This is the story of America, of women and men who defy the odds and never give up.

So how do we give this country back to them? By following the example of a brave New Yorker, a woman who risked her lives to bring slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad.

On that path to freedom, Harriet Tubman had one piece of advice. If you hear the dogs, keep going; if you see the torches in the woods, keep going; if they're shouting after you, keep going. Don't ever stop; keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going. (Cheers, applause.)

And even in the darkest moments, that is what Americans have done. We have found the faith to keep going. (Cheers, applause.) I have seen it. I have seen it in our teachers and our firefighters, our police officers, our nurses, our small-business owners and our union workers. I've seen it in the men and women of our military.

In America, you always keep going. We're Americans. We're not big on quitting. (Laughter.) And remember, before we can keep going, we've got to get going by electing Barack Obama the next president of the United States. (Cheers, applause.) We don't have a moment to lose or a vote to spare. Nothing less than the fate of our nation and the future of our children hangs in the balance.

I want you to think about your children and grandchildren come Election Day. Think about the choices your parents and grandparents made that had such a big impact on your lives and on the life of our nation. We've got to ensure that the choice we make in this election honors the sacrifices of all who came before us and will fill the lives of our children with possibility and hope. That is our duty: to build that bright future, to teach our children that in America there is no chasm too deep, no barrier too great, no ceiling too high for all who work hard, who keep going, have faith in God and our country and each other. That is our mission, Democrats.

Let's elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden for that future worthy of our great country. (Cheers, applause.)
Instead of "That is our mission, Democrats" she should have said, "That is our mission, Americans.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Joe Biden, great choice for VP


I am very happy, excited, (and relieved) Obama chose Joe Biden as his running mate. It was the best choice and I feel a winning choice. Joe Biden has been an excellent Senator, and always one I have liked. I believe this is the team that can get this country back on track after what GW Bush and company have done to our country. I know it will take time to right the wrongs, to dig us out of debt, to regain world respect, and to fix the ills of America, but I now feel we are on an exciting track to make things happen in a positive way. Even though I was interested in Hillary for president, these guys now have my vote....and I hope many, especially women, who were for Hillary will now turn their support to Obama and Biden.

Joe Biden is full of vitality and passion, something that is so lacking in McCain....and isn’t it amazing that there is only about six years in age between Biden and McCain? McCain appears to be an old man, too old to run our country, and who wants a repeat of the last eight years. And I sure don’t want anyone in office with a military attitude. I hope the rest of America is wise enough this time to change directions before it is too late.

I like Biden's wife's looks, too. Beautiful couple.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Story Of A Sign, Short Film

Do Angels walk among us, in disguise?


With a stroke of the pen, a stranger transforms the afternoon for another man in this emotionally stirring short film by Alonso Alvarez.

This beautiful short film, Historia de un Letrero (the Story of a Sign) won the Fourth Annual Cannes 2008 Online Competition, in addition to winning other awards.

Alonso Alvarez Barreda's inspirational short film conveys how compassion and love and simple acts of kindness from a stranger can be life-changing.

I am also reminded of one of my favorite quotes, "Wherever there is a human being there is an opportunity for a kindness." ~ Seneca (4 B.C. - 65 A.D.) Alonso has presented a well-crafted and emotionally stirring story that reminds us we never know what stranger we encounter may actually be an angel in disguise. I hope you enjoy this movie as much as I did.
~ Linda Pendleton

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Don Pendleton's Executioner Series Book Cover Photoshoot

This is from the Blog - Gold Eagle Books - regarding Don Pendleton’s Executioner and Mack Bolan book covers for the series. Some interesting photography...

"Recently Gold Eagle organized a Mack Bolan mega photoshoot to create new imagery for the Bolan and Executioner book covers.

Model Phil McCauley (who has been associated with the character for several years now,) reprised his role as the Executioner."


Monday, August 18, 2008

Knowledge-Our Precious Birthright

Prolific American author, Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) had an interest in the paranormal and spiritualism. He wrote about his views in his 1921, The Book of the Mind.

I like Sinclair’s 1921 comments regarding having an open mind and doing research. His comments are just as valuable today, about many things in our world, such as the closed mind of some scientists, government cover-ups and deceptions in various areas, and narrow thinking that does not allow for expansion nor welcomes new knowledge. I personally go along with Sinclair’s ideas that it is our priceless birthright to seek answers. Nearly ninety years later, his words are still precious as they were when he wrote them.

He wrote: “Once upon a time knowledge was the prerogative of kings and priests and ruling castes; but this supreme power has been wrested from them, and this is the greatest step in human progress so far taken. ‘Seek and ye shall find,’ is the law concerning knowledge today, ‘Knock, and it shall be opened to you.’

"In this, my Book of the Mind, I say to you that knowledge is your priceless birthright, and that you should repudiate all men and all institutions and all creeds and all formulas which seek to keep this heritage from you.”

~ Linda

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Search for Extraterrestrials

This past week I attended a lecture given to an Astronomy Club by Dr. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute at Mountain View, California. SETI, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence was founded by astronomer, astrophysicist, Frank Drake.

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, funded the SETI Allen Telescope Array in Hat Creek, Northern California near Lassen National Park, and 290 miles north of San Francisco. Construction began in 2005 and in 2007 had completed phase one and installed forty-two working antennas. At completion of the third phase there will be three hundred fifty antennas. ATA is a joint effort of the SETI Institute and the University of California, Berkeley, Radio Astronomy Laboratory. ATA is dedicated to cutting-edge astronomical research and a simultaneous search for signals of intelligent, extraterrestrial origins.

Dr. Shostak gave an interesting and informative talk laced with humor. He had made the statement that eighty percent of Americans believe we are being visited by extraterrestrials. And it was about that percentage of the attendees of the lecture that fell into that number. But...near the end of his talk, Dr. Shostak told the audience he was not among the eighty percent, and was very skeptical that we have ever been visited and even that we might be. Nor does he believe there is any government cover-up. He does believe there could be radio contact within the next twenty years. HUH? With who?

It was so interesting that his comments changed the body language of many in the room, myself, included, and even though I had won the door prize—a DVD of the movie Contact. Any of us who have had UFO credible sightings know we are not alone and are being visited, and also may believe that earth has been visited by extraterrestrials for centuries. And for most, it is very apparent that our government has and does cover-up. Shostak added there is no evidence of extraterrestrial visits. Well, obviously as a scientist with an apparent case of denial one wonders why he sits watching a computer monitor, with radio signals moving up and down and across. Maybe one of these days when he is driving between Mountain View and Mount Lassen, he will discover extraterrestrial intelligence beyond his wildest dreams...or denials...right there in front of him. That can make a believer, even out of a scientist.

A recent appearance and skeptical comments made on a Larry King Show by Dr. Shostak apparently irritated a lot of viewers of the show and he mentioned he received a lot of feedback, calling it hate mail. I’m not surprised as he really did put down UFO witnesses, denied any cover-up by the government, and really attacked the intelligence of people on the show and even at his lecture by making the sort of comments he makes. His humor seems to lose value when his skepticism comes into play, and what I found, was that his skepticism didn’t seem sincere.

“This isn't a person-to-person call. You can't possibly think that a civilization sending this kind of message would intend it just for Americans.” -Jodie Foster as Dr. Ellie Arroway, Contact

~ Linda