Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Plain English from the UK

clipped from www.theage.com.au

Join Winnie's war and mind your language

  • Andrew Pegler
  • March 30, 2009

Sometimes words are not enough, especially the wrong words.

WINSTON Churchill might be well known for the battles he waged in the name of the Allied forces, but it is the lesser-known war he declared on the desecration of the English language that still rages.

At the height of the Battle of Britain, with war all around him, Churchill barked out an edict banning bureaucratese, legalese, officialese, jargon and other gobbledegook in favour of plain English. To him it was the fastest method of conveying concise, unambiguous messages to command.

As a practising plain English editor and writer, I can assure you this battle is coming at us on many fronts, from the supermarket shelves to our national capital. It is fed by intellectual vanity, fear of looking dumb, pesky lawyers (of course) and a public that has been bludgeoned into submission by its heavy, dull, self-important pedantry. This enemy of clarity and friend of the obscurantist feeds off our numb acceptance of it in our everyday lives.

Speaking of pesky lawyers, here's a sample of something I recently had to turn into plain English for a reluctant law firm: "The conditions of chapters 13 and 14 shall with modifications deemed as necessary extend and apply to and in relation to this Section and others, without affect to the aforementioned in the sense of its generality, in particular with the modification that any reference to plastic or plastic products shall be construed as a reference to rubber products also in full." That's 58 words. My solution was: "What chapters 13 and 14 say about plastic and plastic products also applies to rubber." That's 15 words — say no more!

Just as you can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, neither should you be turning nouns into verbs. For those out there who practise these verbal gymnastics, I have "benchmarked" your attainment and have decided not to "calendar" you a meeting so "access" your information on your way out my door before I "task" you a spanking. Mind you, it can sometimes work. For example, US visionary Buckminster Fuller once described God "as a verb not a noun, proper or improper". He saw God as not a thing but a doing word. He was a genius and they are allowed to do say that sort of thing. Mind you, he didn't go on to say "I God you", but you get the drift.

Then there's the buzzword salads that slink across my desk and curl up in the corner, staring their evil stare. Buzzword users like to hide in the vagaries of big words. They use "realise" rather than "do", "facilitate" rather than "make easier", or — my pet hate — "utilise" rather than "use". These jumbled assaults on my beloved English seem designed to intimidate, depersonalise and, I suspect, divert the reader from the fact that the writer does not really have an answer. Scratch the surface and you are in free fall, for these battalions of nothingness often carry no precise meaning. A case in point is the following blast of corporate waffle I was recently asked to edit for plain English as part of an annual report for a finance client: "By analysing and validating strategies moving forward we can better ascertain our total customer satisfaction base and thus better empower our interactive competency team process." In other words: "Closely monitoring strategies teaches us more about customer satisfaction and improves our teamwork."

Not surprisingly, however, it is the bottom-line imperative that will probably drive companies and governments to take up plain English. Recent US research demonstrates that Australian business may be losing as much as $2 billion a year through unclear communication, which equates to about 35,000 jobs. This is based on a US survey of 3000 customers about the promotional material they are emailed and mailed. It was found that up to a third were simply boycotting products that came with bad writing, costing the US economy about $10 billion a year.

However, it's not all bad news as the recent stoush in the US over Facebook's user agreement demonstrates. The company took a public relations belting after the blogosphere raged at it for making changes to its user agreement without notice and without it really being clear what the changes were. The main problem was changes to two sentences that gave Facebook a licence over any content posted on its site even after a user has deleted their profile. In an amazing turn of events for a modern business, Facebook is taking bold steps to recraft its "terms of services" agreement into plain English. If this goes ahead, and if Facebook users start to demand the same plain English language of the other companies, it might set an important precedent for all consumers. After all, real consumer choice doesn't exist unless we can read, understand and then act on information we are presented with. In the words of Albert Einstein, "everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler".

Andrew Pegler is a plain English editor and copywriter.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Suicide Aside

Suicide Aside

by Bruce Dethlefsen

Suicide Aside

suicide aside
try watching birds
regard them as they fly like salt to bread
spice up this crusty world

a giant spider web
their lines of flight
tie up and bind the world

they fly
birds jump up in the air and stay
you try it
flap your arms for all you're worth
no way you're stuck
they're free to leave the world

the colors
lemon zest and lime and berry
sugar coffee cream
and all the rest
sublime delicious flavors how
our eyes drink in the world

and listen to them sing
the wind becomes a thing alive
with music whistles squawks and chirps
a melody of world

so tell me why you thought you'd rather die
check out pluck all the feathers
close the lights

alright don't tell me
but please me
stick around a while
with me to watch the birds
see how they swirl and turn the world

"Suicide Aside" by Bruce Dethlefsen, from Breather. © Fireweed Press, 2009.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


clipped from www.snopes.com

Origins: Conficker.C (also known as Kido or Downadup) is the third iteration of a worm which first began slithering its way onto Windows-based PCs in November 2008, with each version growing more sophisticated than the last. Like many other forms of malware, after it has infected a target computer (by downloading a Trojan), it tries to prevent its removal by disabling anti-virus software and blocking access to security-related web sites.

The Conficker worm's purpose is to create a "botnet" of infected computers that can be controlled by Conficker's creators, allowing them to engage in such activities as stealing stored information from those computers, launching attacks against particular web sites, or directing infected machines to send out spam e-mails. Although no one is quite sure how many computers have already been infected by Conficker, estimates place the number upwards of a couple of million.

Beginning on 1 April 2009, infected computers will start attempting to "call home" (i.e., contact control servers in the botnet) in order to receive Conficker updates, which has led to claims that some apocalyptic cyber-event will occur on that date and result in millions of computers being wiped out or large portions of the Internet being disabled. Although no one really knows what's going to happen with Conficker on (or after) that date, security experts have opined that it likely won't be nearly as substantial as some of the wilder speculation would have it:

Security researchers say the reality is probably going to be more like what happened when the clocks on the world's computers turned to
January 1, 2000, after lots of dire predictions about the so-called millennium bug. That is, not much at all.

"It doesn't mean we're going to see some large cyber event on April 1," Dean Turner, director of the global intelligence network at Symantec Security Response, said.

It's likely that the people behind Conficker are interested in using the botnet, which is comprised of all the infected computers, to make money by distributing spam or other malware, experts speculate. To do so, they would need the computers and networks to stay in operation.

"Most of these criminals, even though they haven't done something with this botnet yet, are profit-driven," said Paul Ferguson, an advanced-threats researcher for Trend Micro. "They don't want to bring down the infrastructure. That would not allow them to continue carrying out their scams."

In February 2009, Microsoft announced it had formed a partnership with other technology agencies to coordinate a response to Conficker and was offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for launching the Conficker code on the Internet. In October 2008, Microsoft issued a patch to close a vulnerability in Windows-based systems that could be used for a wormable exploit, and in March 2009 it published an alert with instructions and tools for stopping the spread of Conficker and removing it from infected systems.

Additional information:

Protect yourself from the Conficker computer worm Protect Yourself from the Conficker Computer Worm

Last updated: 27 March 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Let Clean Waters Flow

clipped from citiwire.net

Let Clean Waters Flow

Neal Peirce / Mar 26 2009

For Release Sunday, March 29, 2009
© 2009 Washington Post Writers Group

Neal Peirce

For Release Sunday, March 29, 2009
© 2009 Washington Post Writers Group

In a first-ever pledge for American presidents, Barack Obama in his inaugural address included a promise to the world's poor nations– "to work alongside you to … let clean waters flow."

The moment is an acute one as the world faces "water bankruptcy" as threatening as today's financial meltdown. The World Economic Forum, known for its annual meeting of business elites in Davos, Switzerland, is reporting that 2.8 billion people already live in areas of high water stress, a figure that could rise to 3.9 billion–over half the globe's population–by 2030.

"We are living in a water 'bubble' as unsustainable and fragile as that which precipitated the collapse in world financial markets," reports the Forum. It sees the world on the "verge of bankruptcy" in water supply.

Already, some 3 to 6 million people–the vast majority of them children, especially in Africa and the Asian subcontinent–are losing their lives to diarrheal and other waterborne diseases each year. A child succumbs to such diseases every 15 seconds. Overall water-related diseases (including dysentery, trachoma, guinea worm and malaria) kill more people every month than did the South Asian tsunami of 2004. Unsafe drinking water, reports the leading advocacy group, Water Advocates, also causes 4 billion debilitating bouts of illness worldwide annually.

The scourge falls heaviest on women; in developing countries they can spend up to 60 percent of their day on treacherous paths to find water–and even then often see their children fall ill. The burden of finding water leaves them no time to find work or gain an education. That, in turns, raises a major population control issue: "Mothers who fear death of their children bear more children in a desperate race against the odds," notes Sen. Richard Durbin (Ill.).

But water scarcity poses huge added threats, Durbin asserts: undermining the world economy and threatening global security as nations or ethnic groups clash over dwindling supplies of fresh water and food.

The chief problem: countries across the continents waste vast amounts of water through inefficient practices. They dump–daily–about 2 million tons of human and industrial wastes and chemicals, along with agricultural discharges (animal waste, fertilizer and pesticides) into water supplies. And they're allowing aquifers to be depleted and polluted, and the water levels of giant lakes to sink alarmingly.

In the meantime, growing threats from accelerating floods and droughts triggered by climate change, as well as rapid urbanization–especially the rise of megacities–darken the outlook still more. Sixty percent of China's 669 cities, for example, are already short of water.

From Georgia to California, American regions are also having to face grim water futures. By some projections, water scarcity could cut world harvests 30 percent by 2030–even as human numbers and appetites increase.

We're learning, as British journalist Geoffrey Lean notes, that this earth–this "blue-green oasis in the limitless black desert of space" –has a finite stock of water, and little time to correct its profligate ways.

Now a chorus of advocates is urging Obama to make good on his inaugural commitment.

In Congress, the "Paul Simon Water for the World Act" has just been introduced by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Sens. Durbin, Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.). It's a follow-up to similar 2005 legislation, sponsored by Blumenauer and Durbin, honoring the late Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois, a pioneer in declaring adequate supplies of water a critical issue for mankind's future.

The Bush administration, while committed to fighting HIV/AIDS, barely moved on the water issue. The Obama administration has yet to focus clearly on a program. The omnibus budget act Congress recently passed included $300 million for world water issues–as Blumenauer puts it, "not huge in terms of need, but a quantum increase, setting the stage for more." The new Simon Act aims to reach 100 million more of the world's poorest people with sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

In an attempt to focus the federal effort, previously scattered across 15 uncoordinated agencies, the new bill also designates a high-level State Department official to help make water a priority foreign policy issue, and sets up a special water office in the U.S. Agency for International Development.

What American officialdom hasn't noted, says Blumenauer, is the immense opportunity a strong U.S. global water policy can be: a nonideological way to benefit needy world citizens, bolster economies and sustainability, regardless of peoples' gender, nationalities or faiths.

Indeed, it's not just a nice idea but imperative the United States take a global leadership position on water, underscored the influential, Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies in a major declaration announced March 18. Former Senate Majority Leader William Frist (R-Tenn.) and Coca Cola Chairman E. Nevelle Isdell spoke championing the cause.

Washington's been looking for a unifying bipartisan issue. Maybe this is it.

Neal Peirce's e-mail is npeirce@citistates.com.

For reprints of Neal Peirce's column, please contact Washington Post Permissions, c/o PARS International Corp., WPPermissions@parsintl.com, fax 212-221-9195. For newspaper syndication sales, Washington Post Writers Group, 202-334-5375, wpwgsales@washpost.com.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Trans Fat: When Zero Isn't Really Zero

clipped from www.npr.org

Trans Fat: When Zero Isn't Really Zero

Morning Edition, March 26, 2009 · Here's a question to challenge your nutrition literacy: How much trans fat is likely in a package of cookies that are labeled as having zero grams per serving?

"I would say zero!" said Joanna Robinson, of Washington, D.C., who was grocery shopping this week during her lunch break. "I'd trust the label."

But other shoppers were more skeptical. "More than zero," said Guy Powell.

The nutrition label of a high fat food.

Labels are allowed to claim zero grams of trans fat if they have fewer than 0.49 grams, according to the FDA. To avoid even trace amounts of these harmful fats, don't eat foods with partially hydrogenated oils. iStockphoto.com

Get The Skinny On Trans Fats

Why is trans fat so bad for you? Which foods are common culprits? Click to learn more about this persistent fat.

How To Spot Trans Fat

The way to know if a packaged food contains trans fat is to scan the ingredient label for oils labeled as "partially hydrogenated."

Food manufacturers have relied on hydrogenated oils to add shelf life to products and also to make ingredients stick together better. The process of adding hydrogen molecules to vegetable oils makes them thicker.


Yet when Guy Powell checked the packaging of a box of chocolate chip cookies, he noted that the ingredient label listed a partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil.

There's a simple explanation as to why the cookies are labeled as having zero grams of trans fat per serving.

The Food and Drug Administration allows foods to contain up to 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving and still be labeled as having zero grams of trans fat.

Many food companies have reformulated their foods to significantly reduce trans fats following the FDA's labeling requirement.

Kraft Foods, for example, reformulated many of its snack foods leading up to the 2006 regulations.

"A serving size of your classic, iconic Oreo cookies is three cookies," says Laurie Guzzinati, Kraft spokesperson. So if you're eating three cookies, you know you're not exceeding a half gram of trans fat.

Why It Matters

Trans fats consumed at high enough levels have the triple whammy effect of increasing bad cholesterol, lowering good cholesterol and raising triglycerides — all of which contribute to the risk of heart disease.

Lots of consumers don't have any reason to worry about small amounts of trans fats left in processed foods. Especially people like Robinson, who doesn't eat many processed or fried foods.

"I prefer fresh vegetables and unprocessed foods" says Robinson. "So that's another reason I'm generally not concerned about this."

But for people who munch on a few snack foods a day, trans fats can add up incrementally.

Researchers have tested just how little trans fat it takes as a percentage of your overall calorie intake to do damage.

"They found that 3.8 percent of the calorie intake was sufficient to raise LDL," says Lynn Browne, professor of food science at Penn State University. LDL stands for low-density lipoproteins, a type of cholesterol considered bad for health.

In a 2,000-calorie diet, that 3.8 percent translates to about 8 grams of trans fat.

So what's the chance a person would actually eat that much in a day? Well, it would take a serious cookie binge, like wolfing down a whole package of cookies.

But it's also the equivalent of an adult who has coffee cake in the morning, cookies with lunch and then some fries at dinner.

The good news is that across the board — from fast food chains to processed snack foods, trans fats have been reduced in the American food supply by more the 50 percent in the past several years.

"I think it's fair to give the whole food production system a pat on the back," says Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "There's been a remarkable change."

But experts say people should keep reading labels, with an eye toward limiting partially hydrogenated oils.

Your Vacation Planner for 2009

A friend sent me a link to a Powerpoint Slideshow of this Vacation Planner 2009. Click on the photo to get to the slide show. You will need a Powerpoint Viewer to see the show.

Tennis in Dubai

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


"I have bought this wonderful machine — a computer ... it seems to me to be an Old Testament god, with a lot of rules and no mercy."

Computer Software in Plain English

Monday, March 23, 2009


clipped from www.wsu.edu




It might seem as if a person who writes plays should be called a "playwrite" but in fact a playwright is a person who has wrought words into a dramatic form, just as a wheelwright has wrought wheels out of wood and iron. All the other words ending in "-wright" are archaic, or we'd be constantly reminded of the correct pattern.

The Hummingbird Lady

clipped from www.abigailsings.com
Abigail Alfano
The Hummingbird Lady

Hand Feeding Hummingbirds

hand feeding hummingbirds

On September 14, 2006 my wife Abigail decided she'd like to 'touch' one of the 20 or 30 hummingbirds that were swarming around our feeder at the peak of their migration. With patience and determination she accomplished her goal. I am her husband Sam, and I shot the photos of her hand-feeding hummingbirds in our yard here in near Franklinton, Louisiana.

On September 20thThe Era Leader newspaper published the photos on the front page. We then emailed them to a few of our friends and had no idea they would quickly be forwarded around the world. Many of our friends have called or emailed us saying they were forwarded photos of a lady feeding hummingbirds, and it was Abigail! Had I known the photos would spread like wildfire, I would have put our names on them.

From Abigail

"I am Abigail Alfano, the woman in the photos. My husband, Sam is the photographer. We live in Pine, Louisiana which is approximately 1 1/2 hours north of New Orleans.This year we had more hummingbirds in our yard than I ever recall. The feeder sits right outside of my window where I drink my morning coffee. I remember watching the birds one morning and telling my husband that I wish I could just hold one! We decided to give it a shot."

"Over the course of several days, I would simply stand beside the feeder so that they would get used to my presence. Then, I began putting my hands around the feeder so that in order to drink they had to land on my fingers. I was amazed at how quickly they were willing to do this.

The next step was to remove the feeder and place a small red cap on an old milk can in the same area. They eventually found the small replacement and began feeding. The morning the photos were taken, I simply went outside and filled the cap with the sugar water, placed it in the palm of my hand, and sat very very still. Within ten minutes, they were resting in my hands, drinking. It was sheer delight for me! I was even able to move my hands around a bit with the birds on my fingers. They are light as a feather...and simply beautiful. I can't wait until next year."

hand feeding hummingbirds

A small plastic cap serves as a feeder.

hand feeding hummingbirds

The hummers were more concerned about arguing over the feeder
than perching on Abigail's fingers.

hand feeding hummingbirds

Two females argue as male approaches from the right.

Anna's Hummingbird

clipped from www.webshots.com

Click on Image to enlarge

Anna's Hummingbird

Street Fountain

clipped from pruned.blogspot.com
Helmut Smits

Here's a lovely piece of intervention by the Dutch artist Helmut Smits. A minor act but profoundly marvelous.

Smits briefly notes that his street fountain spurts via a small water pump. But how small is it, we wondered. How complex are its wirings and how great is its energy requirement? One certainly wishes that it could be mass produced, bought by the dozens, or at least hackable from easily procured cheap parts, a craft project whose step-by-step instructions can be downloaded from Instructables, like LED Throwies. When the rains do come and fill up pot holes or shallow pedestrian depressions, you can sow little fountains everywhere, adding a bit of playfulness to the concrete playgrounds of weary city-dwellers. It's Banksy meets Salomon de Caus hydro-graffiti.

Should you want to add a subversive underlayer, you could say that at the same time it highlights the deplorable condition of urban infrastructure, that pouring in billions of dollars into these pot holes isn't going to solve the problem. The collapse is perpetual. Best thing to do is to apply some imaginative urban tactics.


clipped from bldgblog.blogspot.com
Circle and District

[Image: Napoleon in Egypt].

I started reading Nina Burleigh's recent book Mirage on the flight over to New York this afternoon. Burleigh's book is a review of Napoleon's 1798 invasion of Egypt, during which "more than 150 French engineers, artists, doctors, and scientists – even a poet and a musicologist – traveled to the Nile Valley under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte and his invading army."

Burleigh's descriptions of 18th century Cairo stand out. She writes that the city was "a labyrinthine metropolis that frustrated and confused the invaders." It was "a city of doors, mostly closed."

    Massive gates opened into the city, and the winding streets themselves often ended abruptly at smaller doors that defined neighborhood and community boundaries... Whole neighborhoods might be walled off, accessible only by a single door in a narrow street.

She writes that "The city frustrated Europeans. To their eyes, there was no logic to its street plan, and less order. Claustrophobic alleys ended at walls, or dwindled into walkways and disappeared."
When an imperial cartographic project is kicked off a few months into the occupation, it "was deemed so daunting that at first the engineers hoped the order [to map Cairo] would be rescinded" – but, of course, "it was not."

Edme-François Jomard, the cartographer in charge of the project, wrote: "The city is almost entirely composed of very short streets and twisting alleys, with innumerable dead-ends. Each of these sections is closed by a gate, which the inhabitants open when they wish; as a result the interior of Cairo is very difficult to know." Jomard, Burleigh writes, would spend his time "knocking on gates that hid whole neighborhoods."

How interesting to think of the Manhattanized equivalent of this – where, for instance, a small door at 1st and 13th Street might seal off an entire subdistrict of the island, a kind of undiscovered private archipelago of walled neighborhoods that maze outward in small streets barely wide enough to walk through.

You knock two or three times – and then crawl through a small circular door in the middle of a brick wall that could just as easily have been the entrance to a building. And then you're gone, hiking through a part of the city you'd never even heard of before.

Of course, the Napoleonic approach to Cairo was, in the end, a military one; Burleigh adds that "These doors inconvenienced the French, and eventually Napoleon committed one of his most offensive acts – in the eyes of the Arabs – when he ordered them removed." And so those old neighborhoods, previously sealed apart as if by airlocks, were made open for soldiers to pass through, the city remade for its military occupiers.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Billy Collins Birthday

[March 22] is the birthday of the best-selling poet Billy Collins, (books by this author) born in Queens, New York (1941). He thinks that too much modern poetry lacks humor. He said: "It's the fault of the Romantics, who eliminated humor from poetry. Shakespeare's hilarious, Chaucer's hilarious. The Romantics killed off humor, and they also eliminated sex, things which were replaced by landscape. I thought that was a pretty bad trade-off, so I'm trying to write about humor and landscape, and occasionally sex."

He was in his 40s when he published his first book, The Apple That Astonished Paris (1988), and he has become one of the country's most popular poets. His book Sailing Alone Around the Room (2000) has sold almost 200,000 copies, more than any other book of poetry in this century. His collection Ballistics came out in 2008.

Introduction to Poetry

by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

"Introduction to Poetry" by Billy Collins, from The Apple That Astonished Paris. © University of Arkansas Press, 1996

From The Writer's Almanac

Saturday, March 21, 2009

QQQ and the Hardanger Fiddle

clipped from www.npr.org
Unorthodox Americana, Via Traditional Norway

To listen to the story Click Here.

Weekend Edition Saturday, March 21, 2009 - With the sounds of a traditional Norwegian fiddle, a viola, a classical guitar and a drum set, the music of QQQ suggests an odd kind of Americana. Geographically, it would probably live somewhere between Oslo, Brooklyn and the hills of Appalachia.

The band is made up of two married couples. Percussionist Jason Treuting and violist Beth Meyers and are husband and wife, as are fiddler Dan Trueman and classical guitarist Monica Mugan.

"[There are] definitely 'wife' moments, where we sort of go off into separate ends of the room, and the guys over there, and the girls go over here," Meyers says. "And then it's like, 'All right guys, let's get back together — rehearsal time again.'"

The band has a new album called Unpacking the Trailer. In between questions from host Liane Hansen, QQQ performed some of their new tunes in NPR's Studio 4A.


The Hardanger Fiddle

Trueman plays the "elaborately decorated" Hardanger fiddle (hardingfele), a traditional Norwegian folk instrument.

"It looks at first like a violin that some child has gotten loose with, with some kind of marker," he says. "But if you look more closely, it actually is very carefully decorated with lots of florid curves and flowers and so on. And also on the center part of it, the fingerboard, there's all this ivory inlay."

A dragon is carved into the head of the fiddle, atop the tuning pegs. "Sometimes they have women at the top, but I think that was the Viking thing — to either have dragons or women at the front of their boats," Trueman says. "And same thing with their fiddles."

Trueman's Hardanger has five "sympathetic" strings — some models have four — which are woven under the four main strings found on a standard violin. The additional strings are not actually bowed, but do resonate along with the main strings.

"It gives the instrument this very warm, ringing quality to it," Trueman says. "Kind of an ethereal quality to it."

Though he didn't start playing the Hardanger fiddle until he was an adult, it's actually a tradition in Trueman's family. His great uncle, though not a player, was a big fan of the instrument. "Uncle Ort" is memorialized in "Orton's Ode," on the album.

"When he found out that I was getting into it he was very excited," Trueman says. "He was one of these guys who was very into the family tree, and really kept a record going all the way back to his relatives in Norway. So he was very excited to see it going on to the next generation."

What's In A (Few) Name(s)?

For the spring solstice, QQQ performed its tune "Spring" — which, according to drummer Treuting, has a few different aliases.

"It is timely to be able to play it now, and for it actually to be able to be called 'Spring,'" Trueting says. "We usually kind of change the title; you know, it's been known as 'Valentine's Day,' it's been known as 'Turkey Day,' it's been known as 'The Dark of Winter' ... We're kind of chameleons, you know? We like to fit in with what's around us."

It turns out that the acronym behind QQQ has gone through a few revisions, too. But Meyers deferred when asked. "I'm not allowed to answer this question," she says. "Dan?"

Trueman offered a few different possibilities.

Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton

Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, 'We are All Writing God's Poem'

by Barbara Crooker

Today, the sky's the soft blue of a work shirt washed
a thousand times. The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step. On the interstate listening
to NPR, I heard a Hubble scientist
say, "The universe is not only stranger than we
think, it's stranger than we can think." I think
I've driven into spring, as the woods revive
with a loud shout, redbud trees, their gaudy

scarves flung over bark's bare limbs. Barely doing
sixty, I pass a tractor trailer called Glory Bound,
and aren't we just? Just yesterday,
I read Li Po: "There is no end of things
in the heart," but it seems like things
are always ending—vacation or childhood,
relationships, stores going out of business,
like the one that sold jeans that really fit—
And where do we fit in? How can we get up
in the morning, knowing what we do? But we do,
put one foot after the other, open the window,
make coffee, watch the steam curl up
and disappear. At night, the scent of phlox curls
in the open window, while the sky turns red violet,
lavender, thistle, a box of spilled crayons.
The moon spills its milk on the black tabletop
for the thousandth time.

"Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, 'We are All Writing God's Poem'" by Barbara Crooker, from Line Dance. © Word Press, 2008.

From The Writer's Almanac

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Free cash for Oregonians -- maybe you

clipped from news.opb.org

State Has $300 Million In Unclaimed Cash


To Listen to Story Click Here.

As Oregonians wrestle with the economic downturn, the state says it has about $300 million of unclaimed cash to hand out. Kristian Foden-Vencil reports.

The money comes from inactive bank accounts, unclaimed payroll checks, and stocks that grandma collected but never passed on.

Banks and other organizations are required by law to send any unclaimed assets to the Department of State Lands.

The agency then lists the missing money on its webpage - www.oregonstatelands.us.

Agency spokesman, Patrick Tate says to make a claim, you plug in your name and you have a 25 percent chance of a hit.

Patrick Tate: "We kind of figured it out on how many names we have in the system and how many Oregonians we have in the state and generally it's a one in four chance that you're going to find yourself or a close relative."

Now and then large amounts are claimed, but generally the sums range between $50 and $500.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ode to the Potato

Ode to the Potato

by Barbara Hamby

"They eat a lot of French fries here," my mother
announces after a week in Paris, and she's right,
not only about les pommes frites but the celestial tuber
in all its forms: rotie, purée, not to mention
au gratin or boiled and oiled in la salade niçoise.
Batata edulis discovered by gold-mad conquistadors
in the West Indies, and only a 100 years later
in The Merry Wives of Windsor Falstaff cries,
"Let the skie raine Potatoes," for what would we be
without you—lost in a sea of fried turnips,
mashed beets, roasted parsnips? Mi corazón, mon coeur,
my core is not the heart but the stomach, tuber
of the body, its hollow stem the throat and esophagus,
leafing out to the nose and eyes and mouth. Hail
the conquering spud, all its names marvelous: Solanum
tuberosum, Igname, Caribe, Russian Banana, Yukon Gold.

When you turned black, Ireland mourned. O Mr. Potato Head,
how many deals can a man make before he stops being
small potatoes? How many men can a woman drop
like a hot potato? Eat it cooked or raw like an apple
with salt of the earth, apple of the earth, pomme de terre.
Tuber, tuber burning bright in a kingdom without light,
deep within the earth where the Incan potato gods rule,
forging their golden orbs for the world's ravening gorge.

"Ode to the Potato" by Barbara Hamby, from Babel. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004.


"No matter how bad things get, you got to go on living, even if it kills you."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Folic acid supplements linked to prostate cancer risk

Folic acid supplements linked to prostate cancer risk

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

New research suggests that men who take folic acid supplements may be putting themselves at significantly greater risk for developing prostate cancer, which raises fresh questions about the safety and efficacy of taking vitamins for disease prevention.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence that too much folic acid may not protect against certain types of cancer.

The study involved nearly 650 men who either took daily folic acid supplements of one milligram or a placebo. Researchers, who followed the men for about 10 years, found those who took folic acid supplements had a risk of developing prostate cancer double that of those who took placebos.

More than 1,200 runners participated in the annual Harry's Spring Run-Off to fight prostate cancer last weekend in Vancouver's Stanley Park.

More than 1,200 runners participated in the annual Harry's Spring Run-Off to fight prostate cancer last weekend in Vancouver's Stanley Park.

"We didn't expect it to be harmful," said Jane Figueiredo, assistant professor of preventative medicine at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles.

"But it's sort of like a threshold effect. If you get too much, we now know the safety of chronic high exposure to folate might not be as good as what we hoped for."

The study, published online yesterday at the Journal of the National Cancer Institute website, was conducted using research collected for an earlier study examining the links between folic acid, aspirin and colorectal cancer.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, which is a B vitamin that occurs naturally in leafy greens and other fruits and vegetables. It helps produce and maintain healthy cells and is involved in numerous biological functions.

In recent years, public health officials have urged women of child-bearing age to take folic acid supplements because the nutrient reduces the chances of have a baby with a birth defect such as spina bifida. Folic acid is also added to grain products sold in Canada, such as white flour and enriched pasta, to help ensure that pregnant women have adequate levels.

But a growing amount of evidence indicates too much folic acid - particularly more than one milligram a day - may do more harm than good.

A man would have to take about 2.5 multivitamins a day to ingest one milligram of folic acid, the amount linked to possible prostate cancer risks. But considering folic acid is added to many food products, and that folate occurs naturally in many foods, men who take supplements could easily exceed one milligram a day, according to the study's lead author.

"There's been a large body of evidence again just suggesting too much folate is probably not a good thing," Prof. Figueiredo said.

But that doesn't mean folate is bad. On the contrary, researchers found those men who didn't take folic acid supplements, but had small amounts of naturally occurring folate present in their blood, seemed to have a decreased incidence of prostate cancer.

"What we're seeing is many of them [supplements] are not appearing to be beneficial in the way that we had anticipated and could be harmful," Prof. Figueiredo said.

An editorial published with the study questions the use of multivitamins and supplements to prevent cancer and other diseases.

"The prospects for cancer prevention through micronutrient supplementation have never looked worse," Alan Kristal of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and Scott Lippman of the department of thoracic/head and neck medical oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The authors noted that several large credible studies, including research into the effects of vitamins C and E and beta carotene, found the supplements did not seem to help prevent cancer.

Prof. Figueiredo said the findings are too preliminary to warrant a recommendation against taking folic acid supplements. She said more research must be conducted to determine the level of risk too much folate could have, but that it's also important to remember a healthy diet is, in many ways, a good defence against disease.