When he was a kid, my father was famous in our family for his contempt for onions. In fact, my grandmother went to extraordinary lengths to attempt to hide onions in her cooking, because she knew if he saw even the smallest sliver of the offending white bulb, that would be the end of the meal.
But she couldn’t possibly have cooked most traditional foods without the onion. It is nearly ubiquitous in the food world: mirepoix, sofrito, the holy trinity, suppengrün, w?oszczyzna, refogado. These are all names of traditional cooking bases and all contain the pungent sweetness of the onion along with a few other ingredients like peppers, celery or carrots.
But did you know that the onion is actually a cousin of the lilies we grow in our gardens? And not onions alone, but onions, garlic, scallions and shallots all descend from the same plant family. In fact, edible flowers enjoyed a certain popularity recently and included some types of straight, garden-variety lilies.
Don’t think you should go out and start munching on the lilies at Wegmans, however: many of the varieties we enjoy as garden flowers are actually slightly poisonous. They won’t kill you, but they’ll ruin your evening.
Lilies like most flowers originate in China and their use in cooking has ancient roots across Eurasia. They are even featured on some Egyptian monuments.
And your Thanksgiving meal will not be complete without these tasty bulbs, either. A cursory Google search reveals dozens of preparations, including cassaroles, caramelized and (yuck) creamed onions for your delectation. Personally, I’ll be happy with a few in the stuffing, but I guess that’s Thanksgiving for you: everybody’s got their own traditions.
When you think about it, five senses are actually quite a lot.
Your eyes never turn off, nor your ears. Your sense of touch? Constant. These are not instruments which we turn on and off at will, they are constantly-running diagnostics and windows into the outside world that are always on and always sending signals.
But you don’t feel the glasses on your face; you don’t notice every time your shirt rubs against your arm, even though every time you move, it does. And what about conflicting messages? Like when you know you’re sitting in your parked car, but the guy pulling out next to you makes you spontaneously jam your foot on the brake pedal? What causes your brain to make the decision whether to pay attention to one signal over another?
Researchers at the U of R are peeling back the mystery of that process. To do so, they asked subjects to sit in a virtual reality environment where dots on a screen indicated movement in one direction while the chair they sat in moved in another. These two stimuli – physical and visual – were altered to see which stimulus was trusted. The dots’ direction was also changed to make it more and less reliable than the feeling of movement. The subjects were asked to identify which direction they were moving in.
It turns out that, rather than a single decision made by the brain as a whole, individual neurons acting on their own performed some basic math to determine what the most reliable stimulus was. This calculation is performed by millions of neurons and the average response is what the brain ends up going with.
This sort of helps explain why no amount of understanding stops you from grabbing hold of your seat in an IMAX movie when the camera rolls and banks like a plane. Its not about intellect, its about some pretty basic computation done by individual neurons.
With that in mind, here’s a quick video from a great television show, Brain Games, on National Geographic. Watch how quickly even one sense can be fooled because your brain has to make these decisions about what to pay attention to:
You’re hungry. We get that. We’ve all been there before.
But if you’re hungry for human flesh, well, that presents a problem. It could be that you are a zombie, as is fashionable in our modern times. It could also be that you simply suffer from a condition known as Wendigo Psychosis. While the Donner Party and the Uruguay plane crash that inspired the movie Alive are some of the best-known cases of forced cannibalism (here’s list of ten more, bring your appetite.), life isn’t all about “have to.”
Wendigo Syndrome refers to a social disorder wherein the “victim” (also sometimes referred to as a “Hoomie” on popular cooking channels) feels a compulsion to eat human flesh, even when other sources of food are readily available. Sufferers have even gone as far as to request execution so they do not harm others in their community, after traditional medicine and Western remedies have been exhausted.
The term Wendigo refers to an Algonquin myth of a terrible creature that ate human flesh. That creature began life as a human and in fact, made the choice somewhere along the line to start eating human flesh. That’s when the slide into the dark side began, the victim transforming from sick human to horrible night creature. Cultural psychologists posit that this myth expresses the taboo humans everywhere have for cannibalism, a condition most psychologist refer to as “fucking gross.”
The most recognized case of Wendigo Psychosis is the case of an Plains Cree fur trapper called Swift Runner who killed and ate his entire family, including his wife and five out of six children. The sixth died first, and as we all know, human flesh is just not good once its had time to get “gamey.”
But of course, the question remains what the difference is between a Wendigo and a zombie? If only the body lives but the soul has died, is that any different? This isn’t just a philosophical question, as issues such as Social Security and taxation very much depend on the definition of “living.”
The surest solution to test your level of death – whether indeed you have been partially eaten by an undead ghoul and made into a zombie, or if you just got the mad munchies – would be to have a friend or loved one shoot you in the face. Best to do this outside, as the results – positive or negative – will probably ruin that nice furniture your mom just bought.
Its a dangerous world out there. Not least because, according to the FBI, there is a grave and growing threat out there in the world of gang violence. Bloods? Crips? Hardly. We’re talking about the scarriest thing to come out of the ‘burbs since soccer moms. I’m talking, of course, about Juggalos.
Yes, in this violent world of Wahabi extremists threatening to take over the world, it is comforting to know that the tighter-than-a-frog’s-ass FBI maintains its composure and keeps its eye on the things that really matter. Not so much threats to your bodily presence as simply the moral wrongs of an unjust and wicked world. Or something like that.
Anyway, its as though Agent van Alden lives with us to this day:
Not to be outdone in policing shit that doesn’t need policing, the TSA also has its finger on the.. well, let’s just call it the “pulse”.. of wickedness in the hearts of our nation’s fairer sex. But since they cannot arrest every wicked woman, they leave notes mocking those they cannot arrest.
Yes, one unlucky slut journalist had the audacity to bring her vibrator with her on a business trip (because hey: those goodie bags at the hotel aren’t free!) and those cunning bloodhounds at the TSA caught on to her. No, they may not be able to detect every loaded gun; they may be getting paid to chat with strangers; but by god, you leave a personal massager in your bag, you can bet the TSA will be there to sniff it out.
The thing is: its not as though she brought the Big Jim along with her. According to her own account, the vibrator in question was just a little Magic Bullet, which is as positively adorable as it is damning to her soul. This thing couldn’t have been easy to spot, in fact, I’m pretty sure they put a cord on it so its not easy to lose.
Its heart-stopping to think that, had she kept her rumble fish in her carry-on, we might never have known. Lucky for us, it must not have been a very long flight. Her immorality might have gone on unabated, and then where would we be?
Let this be a lesson to the nay-sayers. If you thought that they weren’t doing their due dilligence at the airport and profiling travelers, this is proof positive that they’re certainly paying extra-careful attention to the pretty ones.
Scientists at Chapel Hill University studied the effects of UV radiation on mice when the mice were exposed at regular intervals: one group at 4am the other at 4pm. They found that the evening-dose mice were able to repair broken DNA strands, thus lowering their susceptibility to cancer. The theory goes that, since mice are nocturnal and their circadian rhythm is opposite ours, going to Guido’s House of Chicken Nugget Skin in the morning would have a comparably less-damaging effect on human bodies.
Of course, “less-harmful” is not quite the same thing as “not harmful,” but I suppose safety is a state of mind…
That being the case, I thought I would write a quick post giving you some reasons that you want to buy a cat. So, that’s what I’m doing.
Cats make your kid smarter
Sociologist Robert Poresky discovered that having a cat in a stable household seems to correspond to elevated IQ scores and social adjustment. Part of this is the responsibility kids get from being the caretaker, but just having a cat around to interact with seems to help kids develop empathy. Maybe that’s because cats can’t tell you what’s wrong and you’ve gotta figure it out yourself?
Cats reduce stress
Well, maybe not so much when they cough up a hairball just as you’ve settled down for a nice dinner, but stick with me. Petting a cat is such a scientifically-proven stress reliever that, in frenetic Tokyo where having the space to own a cat is a luxury few can afford, some people have been known to visit “animal therapy” centers just to get a little purr time.
Cats help your immune system
Allergies suck. But people who were raised with pets rarely have pet allergies because their immune systems have been built to recognize pet dander. But its not just allergies, its also asthma and potentially others. Studies show kids with pets are 13-18% less likely to miss school.
Not only is cat scratch fever rare and mild, it can actually be kind of awesome
Cat scratch disease – sometimes called cat scratch fever – is an infection that happens as a result of getting scratched by a cat. Counterintuitive, no?
But here’s the thing: if you wash your hands regularly, keep the baby from swinging the cat by its tail and be sure to treat any scratches when they happen, you’re almost completely unlikely to contract the fever. How rare is it? One study shows that about 9.3 people out of 100,000 are treated for the disease in the hospital.
It was 24 million years ago. The Arabian shelf had only just begun to touch the Asian mainland and swamps the world over were drying up into grasslands. Grasslands were giving way to forests. Temperatures globally were starting to rise and in a scant 18 million more years, the first bipedial hominids would start trundling around the place. Breaking stuff, no doubt.
Meanwhile, somewhere far away – 24 million light years away, more or less – something entirely ordinary was happening: a white dwarf, at the end of its life, suddenly burst forth into a brilliant explosion of carbon and oxygen traveling at 6% of the speed of light. The blast, 5 billion times as bright as our own sun, is known as an A1 supernova.
24 million years later, the light from that event is about to shine down on the Earth, albeit very faintly. Its like peering 24 million years into the past to watch one single event that only lasts for a blink of an eye in interstellar time. And it is played out right there in our night skies on Earth.
So if you’re in Rochester, where should you be looking to spy this event? I spoke with Steve Frentes, Director at the Strasenburgh Planetarium, about just this. The bottom line? Be sure you know where the Big Dipper is, bring a good telescope and get out of the city entirely. Even then, its going to be difficult to identify the new kid on the block.
Why this supernova is such a big deal
Supernovas such as the one that will soon be visible are not only not uncommon, they’re actually common enough to be classified. This supernova is part of a category of supernova called A1 supernovas. They’re special because they decay at such a consistent rate that they’re used to gauge distances between galaxies.
But it isn’t often that we get to watch a supernova from its very first stages. That we’re able to observe this one is a tribute to the robotic observations of places like the Mount Palomar Observatory’s Palomar Transient Factory that discovered this one. Transient Factory observatories scan the sky and map the locations of objects night after night, making note of deviations. Most variations are regular and conform to what we expect objects in space to do. When something anomalous is identified, it is reported and checked by a human operator. Thus our ability to detect such minor changes in our sky as a dim supernova at the very first stages of ignition is significantly enhanced.
And distant though this event is, the Pinwheel Galaxy is actually one of our very closest neighbors. This means that researchers can watch this supernova decay perhaps for over a month and in any event, much longer than would normally be the case for any other A1 supernova. Scientists will be able to watch nearly a complete cycle of a supernova. What new data and insight into the nature of supernovas might be gleaned from this one is what has the scientific and amateur astronomy communities buzzing with excitement.
So now that we know what the big deal is, how do we find it?
Sam the Supernova
Finding this supernova is not going to be easy for amateurs. There are a few strikes against us.
First of all, the location. The supernova called SN PTF11kly (not a very snappy name, lets call it “Sam”) is located in the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) which despite being one of our closest neighbors is very hard to see. The galaxy is inside the Big Dipper constellation, between the last and second to last stars in the Dipper’s handle, forming a triangle. That means its in the company of some very bright stars, adding to the difficulty of spotting it. However, this website shows that you can sort of hop from Mizar, that second-to-last Dipper star, up to the Pinwheel.
The Dipper itself will be very close to the horizon when it becomes visible, so if you’re planning on checking out the supernova, you’ll want to get away from any ambient light that will obscure the view. Think Adirondacks, which are just lovely this time of year.
Our buddy Sam the Supernova is part of this very faint galaxy. Merely another dot contained within the very bright Big Dipper, and Sam himself will be quite dim as well. At its peak luminosity (brightness), it will be around magnitude 11, which being 100 times fainter than the eye can detect on its own, means you’re going to need a nice telescope.
I asked Steve Frentes what kind of magnification he would recommend and he pointed out, rather obviously it seemed later, that magnification while important is less important than the amount of light you can get into the shot. So, what matters is a big, big lens. The bigger the better. A really high-quality set of binoculars will certainly get you closer, but a larger reflecting or catadioptric telescope would be better.
So this supernova is definitely for the intrepid star gazer. But seeing this amazing show is not impossible for your amateur astronomer at all and for the rest of us, simply knowing its there is pretty awesome.
And if you can’t see Sam, check out the ISS
But you don’t have to wait for another amazing galactic smash-up to see cool stuff right there above you. Steve also told me about a great website for finding man-made satellites in the night sky, heavens-above.com. You can use this site to find out when satellites will be visible, the direction they can be seen at and the peak brightness of the satellite. You can even use it to spy the International Space Station. Which is handy since it now appears that the ISS will be unmanned for an unspecified amount of time. So, with everybody gone, this is your way of checking up on the Space Station and making sure that nobody’s wrecking the place. Make sure the garbage gets taken out, stuff like that.
Ok, shitty joke, but I gotta be me. This week has been all about natural disasters, with the earthquake on Tuesday and now with Hurricane #Irene bearing down on the Northeast. Fortunately, not everything this week on the feed has been quite so glum. Katie Couric’s lame new talk show, the Pilfering Newlyweds, and Jedi Kitties all served to make life just a little bit sillier. Plus the big, huge, gargantuan news of the week: The City Newspaper Best of Rochester Ballot is open, and they’re looking for you to help nominate some great local Rochester culture icons. Now, I’d hate to appear desperate (actually, I’m ok with that. And crying if necessary), but I think you should know that there is a Best Blog category and that this here blog would be a nice addition to the choices. Ahem.
See ya next week, enjoy the week that was!
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Color me disappointed. Katie Couric gets herself a brand new ABC talk show and between the name and the soft-filter promo photo, this looks like just another daytime talk show for the ladies. Katie is and has always been better than preformulated shows, which frankly is why she didn’t do well on the anchor desk. This is not a win for good journalism.
It was the biggest event, it was the smallest event on Twitter on Tuesday. The significant but still not as horrifyingly destructive earthquake as many people seemed to be hoping for. After all the hyperbole, I have to say that Twitter performed exactly the correct function during the quake: providing news, personal accounts, check-ins, comfort and humor to an event which, nay-sayers notwithstanding, was very rare and entirely newsworthy.
Its that time of year again! City Newspaper’s Best of Rochester competition is currently soliciting nominations. And of course, DFE is currently begging you on hands and knees to please nominate me for Best Blog! After that, I hope to transition to groveling at your mercy for your vote in the full ballot.
Just one of those wacky stories you find when searching the Internet for other stuff. A couple decided it would be a good idea to augment their supplies for the wedding reception happening in a few hours time by pilfering necessities from Wegmans. I presume these were not honors students, who could surely have known that the multitude of video cameras in Wegs could easily spot them stealing $1,049 worth of stuff.
Overall, kind of a crappy week. But fortunately, there is always something silly in the way of kitties to brighten your day. Or irritate you, if you’re not into it. Which I totally get. But anyway: kitties with light sabers. Enjoy.
Take the basic concept of Logan’s Run and add in a bit of modern debit card style fascism and a dollop of post-meltdown bank paranoia and you’ve got the makings for what could be a really awesome movie. Justin Timberlake as action star? Well, maybe. But who is the girl in the lead role? She’s gorgeous and personally, she reminds me of Leelo from The Fifth Element. This should be the model for all sci-fi chicks, everywhere.
Hollywood take note: this is the girl that will get me in the theater.
Its rare that Paul Krugman ever makes it to the top of the click-through list for this blog. In fact, its damned-near a myth. But this week was no ordinary week, people. We have Krugman and his hypothetical alien invasion economic stimulus package, TSA scanners, terrible blogs (ahem), the death of webOS and a diverse peer group causing absolutely no disturbance in The Force whatsoever.
But no! That’s not all! Bachmann goes deep, Christine O’Donnall just plain goes, celebrity poop jokes, the superiority of Scrabble players, oodles of marijuana, sex surveys, pool toys, and of course: Kansas. Carry on, people. See you next week!
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Every so often – well, actually rather often – I am surprised by what populates the top-most clicked lists for the day, and this is certainly one of those. Paul Krugman said on This Week that, short of an alien invasion, there was little in our political life to support the kind of effort it would take to get us out of the Great Recession any time soon. This somehow got translated into the media as Krugman advocating a faked alien invasion. Better headline, I guess. I posted it…
The uproar over body scan technology in airports has caused the TSA to (finally) rethink its system. The new units will provide the scanning necessary to spot metal or plastic objects, but only provides a vague “gingerbread man” outline of the subject’s body, thus providing a modicum of privacy.
I’m just going to start right up-front and say I’m a little unnerved by the fact that this particular article took the top slot for Wednesday. Especially since I exhibit some if not all of these qualities in my work…
The Bucholtz Discharge delves into the darker side of blogging: blogs started and quickly abandoned, link bloggers who provide no content of their own and the dreaded spam blog (splog) and corporate blogs. Crazy blogs? I like to think that’s an apt description for my shit..
After more than a decade of trying with the ill-fated OS, HP has decided to ace the entire project, along with selling off its desktop hardware systems. In its place, a purchase of a company called Autonomy appears in the works. All this comes as a shock and disappointment to the three guys still using webOS.
I have literally no idea why this article would be so popular. I mean, like none. There may be journalists in town who are more familiar with this theme, so perhaps I aught to ask @rachbarnhart or @ToddJClausen when I get a chance. Unless one of you can fill me in? #unsolicitedfruitbasket
Briton riots for seemingly no reason at all, Irondequoit gets a new development project, Futurity explains the Boner Killer’s primary weapon and hot chicks dress up as nerds. Quite a week we had!
The London riots captured the imaginations of Americans and certainly brought out the photojournalists, but precious little light was brought to bear on the heat. At least in America. And in the meanwhile, journalists who opted to cover the violence on the streets found themselves targets of mob rules. Meanwhile back in Rochester, I excerpted a passage from a book I’m reading about the history of journalism in Rochester. You gotta find this book!
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New plans this week for a renovated Titus Ave and Hudson corner, named Irondequoit Square. Developer is a local resident who is a machinist by trade and the project looks largely self-run. He’s currently seeking funding.
Nothing says “boner killer” quite like a woman who insists on insinuating herself into every Guys Night activity you have. Or so I’m told. Scientists from Cornell and the University of Chicago studied the affects of what they call “betweeness,” which despite sounding like a Dr. Phil thing is actually real. Bottom line: you want your wiener in working order, keep your friends and your wife separate.
As the riots in London and elsewhere in the UK raged on, journalists were often targeted, probably because news video has been used by law enforcement in the past to identify and arrest looters after the fact. Still very little reporting in the US about *why* the riots are really happening.
I’m currently reading a book about the history of journalism in Rochester called Main Street Beat and it includes some spot-on hilarious anecdotes about the Rochester that was and continues to be. I decided I had to excerpt at least one of these stories for my audience.
Girls in Star Wars costume! Well-formed, XHTML-compliant tits! Tina Fey!…. Tina Fey! Yes, this is an excellent round-up of sexy girls, in nerdly costume or else professing their love for the Nerdfolk. I noticed towards the end of the day that my usual quotient of boobs had not yet been fulfilled. In the twenty minutes it took me to drive home, this link had moved to the absolute top of the clicks for the day. You guys are awesome!
The news of this week – and the attention of most everybody in Rochester – has been dominated largely by the announcement that PAETEC is getting sold to a company out of Arkansas called Windstream. This announcement puts Rochester in a bind because of course a big part of the City’s planning of Downtown revolved around getting a major business like PAETEC to bring its employees there to work. The city has put a lot of money into demolishing much of the old Midtown Plaza and is now left without the major contributor to to the rebuild.
Elsewhere in the news, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stands up for his appointment to the SCONJ and does politics in general a service; the largest Internet security breach in the history of the Internet was discovered and largely blamed on China; a dude gets arrested for filming women in tanning beds. Diabetic security vulns, dresses made out of FaceBook screencaps, drunken mayors, climate change and the latest innovation in the world of pr0n. Everything you expect out of the DFE news feed. See you next week!
The big news hit on Monday morning. Suddenly, all eyes were on PAETEC and the questions started: would Windstream take over where PAETEC left off? What happens to Midtown if that doesn’t happen? The answers, as they rolled out through the day, were far from comforting.
As much as it pains all of us to see that the plans Rochester made with PAETEC may not get followed-through on, there is a limit to how much shouting into the void we can do before we just have to get on with business. A Democrat and Chronicle op-ed on Tuesday highlighted the inefficacy of whining by becoming Exhibit A.
Yes, this is shameless self-promotion. The Twitter Rochester community had a little fun on Wednesday with the fact that the PAF is now sponsored by Chrysler. Speculating what whacky sponsors might have stepped in if it was not for Chrysler, the #ParkAveFestSponsors hashtag took off. Next thing you know, there’s a scavenger hunt in the works. At the time of writing, I still don’t know how it will all turn out!
New Jersey governor Chris Christie addresses concerns over his choice of State Supreme Court justice appointments. That appointment? Sohail Mohammed, a Muslim man. Criticisms of the appointee have been largely to question his loyalty to the United States because of his religion and heritage, including the tiresome “spectre” of Sharia Law. The governor puts those criticisms into the proper context and makes it better for everybody.
Love is hard. Surveillance equipment is affordable. So, this is sort of like entrapment, when you really think about it. Like, really really think about it for a long time. With a hard-on.
A particularly-on-the-nose looking man from Louisiana was busted for putting cameras in the tanning booths at a local tanning salon and filming naked women tanning. Hard to imagine how anything past the first five seconds is interesting to watch, but then I guess that’s why he’s been arrested for voyeurism and I haven’t. Also contributing to his arrest: the fact that he left the cameras running while he adjusted the angle.. and also that he took his pr0n-stuffed laptop to the local computer shop to be repaired. Whoops!
Pro tip: look for some great deals on surveillance equipment on eBay, right after they release Mr. Willink.