Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!


If human beings had genuine courage, they'd wear their costumes every day of the year, not just on Halloween. Wouldn't life be more interesting that way? - Doug Coupland in "The Gum Thief"

Image source here

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Spicy Pumpkin Soup Recipe

Pumpkin in season! Time to try something new. A warming soup always seems like a good idea.

  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 6 cups of chopped pumpkin
  • 6 vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish
  • organic sea salt to taste

1. Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add spices and stir for a minute more.

2. Add pumpkin and vegetable broth; blend well. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. 

3. Transfer soup, in batches, to a blender or a food processor. Cover tightly and blend until smooth. Return soup to saucepan.

4. With the soup on low heat, slowly add coconut milk while stirring to incorporate. Adjust seasonings to taste. If a little too spicy, add more coconut milk to cool it down. You might want to add a teaspoon of salt.

Serve in individual bowls. Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds. Enjoy in good company!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Autumn Glory

I am rich today with autumn's gold,
All that my covetous hands can hold;
Frost-painted leaves and goldenrod,
A goldfinch on a milkweed pod,
Huge golden pumpkins in the field
With heaps of corn from a bounteous yield,
Golden apples heavy on the trees
Rivaling those of Hesperides,
Golden rays of balmy sunshine spread
Over all like butter on warm bread;
And the harvest moon will this night unfold
The streams running full of molten gold.
Oh, who could find a dearth of bliss
With autumn glory such as this!

By Gladys Harp

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Natural Beauty

A young monk was in charge of the garden within a famous Zen temple. He had been given the job because he loved the flowers, shrubs, and trees. Next to his temple there was another, a much smaller temple where a very old Zen master lived. 

One day, when the temple was expecting some special guests, the young monk took extra care in tending to the garden. He pulled the weeds, trimmed the shrubs, combed the moss, and spent a long time meticulously raking up and carefully arranging all the dry autumn leaves. As he worked, the old master watched him with interest from across the wall that separated the two temples.

When the young man had finished his work in the garden, he stood back to admire his work. "Isn't it beautiful," he called out to the old master. "Yes," replied the old man, "but there is something missing. Help me over this wall and I'll put it right for you."

After hesitating, the young monk lifted the old master over and set him down. Slowly, the master walked to the tree near the center of the garden, grabbed it by the trunk, and shook it. Leaves showered down all over the garden. "There," said the old man, "you can put me back now."

Image source unknown but greatly appreciated

Sunday, October 14, 2012

128,000 ft Jump!

Everyone has limits. Not every one accepts them. - Felix Baumgartner

Everyone has limits. Not every one accepts them. - Felix Baumgartner

Austrian extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner, aka Fearless Felix, jumped from the altitude of 128,097 feet around noon this Sunday, October 14, just outside of Roswell, NM, breaking several world records: highest free-fall, fastest free-fall, and highest manned balloon flight.

The free-fall lasted 4 minutes 22 seconds.

Although Baumgartner broke several world records today, he was unable to break Kittinger's free-fall record.

The Red Bull Stratos mission to the Edge of Space attempted to transcend human limits that had been set by Joseph W. Kittinger some 50 years ago. 

The Red Bull Stratos team brought together the world's leading minds in aerospace medicine, engineering, pressure suit development, capsule creation and balloon fabrication. It included retired United States Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger, who holds three of the records Felix wanted to break.

Joe's record jump from 102,800 ft in 1960 was during a time when no one knew if a human could survive a jump from the edge of space. Joe was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and had already taken a balloon to 97,000 feet in Project ManHigh and survived a drogue mishap during a jump from 76,400 feet in Excelsior I. The Excelsior III mission was his 33rd parachute jump. This was the time he established a world record that remains unbroken to this day. Kittinger's free-fall lasted 4 minutes 36 seconds - 14 seconds longer than Baumgartner's. 

 Felix Baumgartner in free-fall

Although researching extremes was part of the program's goals, setting records wasn't the mission's purpose. Joe ascended in helium balloon launched from the back of a truck. He wore a pressurized suit on the way up in an open, unpressurized gondola. Scientific data captured from Joe's jump was shared with U.S. research personnel for development of the space program. Today Felix and his specialized team hoped to take what was learned from Joe's jumps more than 50 years ago and press forward to test the limits of the human capacity.
Landed safely east of Roswell
Baumgartenr ascended to the low stratosphere in a capsule that was carried by a balloon which itself was a technological marvel.

The balloon was constructed of strips of high-performance polyethylene (plastic) film that was only 0.0008 inches thick or 10 times thinner than a lunch bag. In total, these strips would cover 40 acres if they were laid flat. Polyester-fibre reinforced load tapes were incorporated to do the weight bearing.

The Stratos balloon was filled with 30 million cubic feet of helium which10 times larger than Joe Kittinger's balloon in 1960.

The Roswell-jump not only terminated Baumgartner's skydiving career, but it also marked the 65th anniversary of US test pilot Chuck Yeager successful attempt to become the first man ever to officially break the sound barrier aboard an airplane.

To learn more please click here

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Nobel Peace Prize 2012

The Atomium - Brussels, Belgium
The Atomium - Brussels, Belgium
None of the abstract concepts comes closer to fulfilled utopia than that of eternal peace. - Theodor Adorno, German Philosopher and a prominent member of the Frankfurt School of philosophy know for its critical theory of society

By Ian Trynor

Wracked by its worst ever crisis of confidence in almost 60 years, the European Union received a surprise boost to its self-esteem when it won the Nobel peace prize. 

In a decision that many saw as paradoxical given the multiple frictions and disputes afflicting the union as it struggles to save its single currency, the Nobel committee in Oslo took the bigger and longer view, citing the EU's long record of generating reconciliation between historical foes and helping to restore democracy and peace to the erstwhile dictatorships of southern Europe and the former communist regimes of the old Soviet bloc.

The award brought a rapturous reaction at EU headquarters in Brussels, as well as sour and embittered criticism from europhobes and Eurosceptics, principally the British. (...)

José Manuel Barroso, head of the European commission, said the prize had been awarded to all 500 million EU citizens. (...)

Rather than dwelling on the crisis of the past three years, the Nobel committee looked back two generations to the founding of what was to become the modern EU as a political and economic instrument above all aimed at halting the historical rivalries and enmities between Germany and France that saw the two countries fight three wars in the century before the EU was established.

The committee said the EU's powers of healing were being brought to bear on the Balkans, the scene of bloodbaths only 20 years ago, through a policy of integration towards former Yugoslavia. Slovenia is already a member and Croatia is slated to become the EU's 28th member next year.

The praise for the Balkan policy came despite the EU's failures to stop the bloodshed in Bosnia in 1992-95.

In a further paradox given the emphasis on the EU's prowess at reconciliation, the current six-month presidency is held by Cyprus, a country whose intractable conflict and partition has defied decades of mediation and has contributed hugely to the freeze in Turkey's negotiations to join the EU.

To read this article in its entirety please click here 
Image source here

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Moral Origins

How Human Beings Became Moral

By Megan Gambino

Why do people show kindness to others, even those outside their families, when they do not stand to benefit from it? Being generous without that generosity being reciprocated does not advance the basic evolutionary drive to survive and reproduce.

Christopher Boehm, an evolutionary anthropologist, is the director of the Jane Goodall Research Center at the University of Southern California. For forty years, he has observed primates and studied different human cultures to understand social and moral behavior. In his new book, Moral Origins, Boehm speculates that human morality emerged along with big game hunting. When hunter-gatherers formed groups, he explains, survival essentially boiled down to one key tenet - cooperate, or die.

First of all, how do you define altruism?

Basically, altruism involves generosity outside of the family, meaning generosity toward non-kinsmen.

Why is altruism so difficult to explain in evolutionary terms?

A typical hunter-gatherer band of the type that was universal in the world 15,000 years ago has a few brothers or sisters, but almost everyone else is unrelated. The fact that they do so much sharing is a paradox genetically. Here are all these unrelated people who are sharing without being bean counters. You would expect those who are best at cheating, and taking but not giving, to be coming out ahead. Their genes should be on the rise while altruistic genes would be going away. But, in fact, we are evolved to share quite widely in bands.

What did Charles Darwin say about this “altruism paradox?”

Charles Darwin was profoundly perplexed by the fact that young men voluntarily go off to war and die for their groups. This obviously didn’t fit with his general idea of natural selection as being individuals pursuing their self-interests.

He came up with group selection as an answer to this paradox. The way it worked, if one group has more altruists than another, it is going to out-compete the other group and outreproduce it. The groups with fewer altruists would have fewer survivors. Therefore, altruism would spread at the expense of selfishness.

The problem with group selection has been that it is very hard to see how it could become strong enough to trump selection between individuals. You need an awful lot of warfare and genocide to really make group selection work.

And what did Darwin have to say about the origins of the human conscience?

What he did really was to take the conscience, set it aside as something very special and then basically say, “I throw up my hands. I can’t tell you how this could have evolved. What I can tell you is that any creature that became as intelligent and as sympathetic as humans would naturally have a conscience.”

Fast-forward a century and half - where are we now in understanding the origins of human morality and conscience?

Well, there are quite a few books on the subject. But they are almost all arguments out of evolutionary design; that is, they simply look at morality and see how it functions and how it could have been genetically useful to individuals. My book is the first to actually try to look at the natural history of moral evolution. At what time and how did developments take place which led us to become moral? In a way, this is a new field of study.

Can you tell us about the database you have created to help you draw your conclusions?

It has been argued that all of the human hunter-gatherers that live today have been so politically marginalized that they really can’t be compared with prehistoric human beings who were hunting and gathering. I think that is flat-out wrong.

Since the 1970s, we have learned that the rate of climate change was just incredible in the late Pleistocene. Therefore, there was plenty of marginalization taking place 50,000 years ago, just as there has been today. Like today, some of it surely was political, in the sense that when there would be a climate downswing, everything would be scarce and hunting bands would be fighting with each other over resources.

What I have done is to look at all of the possible hunter-gatherer societies that have been studied. I simply got rid of all of those that could have never existed in the Pleistocene - mounted hunters who have domesticated horses that they got from the Spaniards, fur trade Indians who started buying rifles and killing fur-bearing animals and some very hierarchical people who developed along the northwest coast of North America. So far, I’ve very carefully gone through about 50 of the remaining societies, looking for things that they mostly share. Then, I project the patterns of shared behavior back into the period when humans were culturally modern. Now, that only gets us back to 45,000, maybe 100,000 years ago. If you go back beyond that, then there are problems, because you are not dealing with the same brains and the same cultural capacity.

About when did humans acquire a conscience?

Getting pinned down on a date is very dangerous because every scholar is going to have something to say about that. But let me just give you some probabilities. First of all, there could be little doubt that humans had a conscience 45,000 years ago, which is the conservative date that all archaeologists agree on for our having become culturally modern. Having a conscience and morality go with being culturally modern. Now, if you want to guess at how much before that, the landmark that I see as being the most persuasive is the advent of large game hunting, which came about a quarter of a million years ago.

According to your theory, how did the human conscience evolve?

People started hunting large ungulates, or hoofed mammals. They were very dedicated to hunting, and it was an important part of their subsistence. But my theory is that you cannot have alpha males if you are going to have a hunting team that shares the meat fairly evenhandedly, so that the entire team stays nourished. In order to get meat divided within a band of people who are by nature pretty hierarchical, you have to basically stomp on hierarchy and get it out of the way. I think that is the process.

My hypothesis is that when they started large game hunting, they had to start really punishing alpha males and holding them down. That set up a selection pressure in the sense that, if you couldn’t control your alpha tendencies, you were going to get killed or run out of the group, which was about the same as getting killed. Therefore, self-control became an important feature for individuals who were reproductively successful. And self-control translates into conscience.

Over how long of a period did it take to evolve?

Well, Edward O. Wilson says that it takes a thousand generations for a new evolutionary feature to evolve. In humans, that would come to 25,000 years. Something as complicated as a conscience probably took longer than that. It has some bells and whistles that are total mysteries, such as blushing with shame. No one has the slightest idea how that evolved. But I would say a few thousand generations, and perhaps between 25,000 and 75,000 years.

In what ways is morality continuing to evolve?

It is very hard to make a statement about that. I’ll make a few guesses. Prehistorically, psychopaths were probably easy to identify and were dealt with, as they had to be dealt with, by killing them. And, today, it would appear that in a large anonymous society many psychopaths really have free rein and are free to reproduce. We may need to take further moral steps at the level of culture to deal with an increase of psychopathy in our populations. But this would be over thousands of years.

Morality certainly evolves at the cultural level. For example, the American media in the last year have suddenly become very, very interested in bullies - so have school officials. Our social control is now focused much more than it ever was on bullying. It has been a major topic with hunter-gatherers. So, in a sense, you could say our moral evolution at the cultural level has rather suddenly moved back to an ancient topic.

Article source: The Smithsonian
Image source here

Monday, October 8, 2012

Quote of the Day

In myriad forms there is a single body revealed. - Dogen-Zenji (1200-53)

Image source here

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Most Powerful Hallucinogen

The most powerful hallucinogen on this planet is called love.
Highly addictive! You will see and hear things that don’t exist.

Paulo Coehlo

Monday, October 1, 2012

October - Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Like every year women around the world become aware of this deadly disease when October comes. The statistics are terrifying despite the growing awareness and health information available to us:
  • About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
  • In 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 57,650 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
  • About 2,140 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in men in 2011. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.
  • From 1999 to 2005, breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. decreased by about 2% per year. The decrease was seen only in women aged 50 and older. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk.
  • About 39,520 women in the U.S. were expected to die in 2011 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1990 - especially in women under 50. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.
  • For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
  • Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. Just under 30% of cancers in women are breast cancers.
  • White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women. However, in women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African-American women than white women. Overall, African-American women are more llkely to die of breast cancer. Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer.
  • In 2011, there were more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the US.
  • A woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. About 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
  • In men, about 1 in 10 breast cancers are believed to be due to BRCA2 mutations, and even fewer cases to BRCA1 mutations.
  • About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.  
For most people the diagnosis comes as a shock. To many it is a death sentence. And yet, breast cancer, like many other cancers, is a symptom of a life strategies gone wrong. It can be prevented! Prevention means a drastic change of lifestyle - a step that relatively few people want to take. At least not before they are diagnosed with a deadly disease. 

The importance of early detection of breast cancer cannot be stressed enough. It takes only a few minutes a day to perform self-examination. 

Healthy nutrition is vital in prevention of any disease. Just consider that a better health is only a meal away. It really is this simple!

Wishing everyone a magnificent time in October, in radiant health - Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon©2012

Also of interest: 

How to Prevent Breast Cancer

Breast cancer statistics source here

For more information visit Breast Cancer Prevention website