Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February 22 - What is cancer?

You may be wondering why I'm asking a question that seems to have an obvious answer but, in fact, the medical researchers looking at cancer don't actually know what cancer is. They know how it behaves but, without knowing what it actually is, they don't know why it behaves as it does.

Dr Tullio Simoncini, an Italian doctor, decided to look at cancer and see if he could work out what it is and the conclusion he came to is that it's a fungus. He believes that it starts from candida albicans and produces fungal growths in optimal growing conditions in the body. The body then launches a counter-attack whereby the fungal growth is enclosed and confined so that it can't spread. This is what a tumour is about.

The worst thing to do at this stage is to cut the tumour because, by doing so, the spores of the fungus can escape into the bloodstream and take root elsewhere, which is exactly what happens.

Dr Simoncini, by understanding what cancer is, has come up with a cure. Sodium carbonate. He floods the region of the tumour with a solution of Sodium Carbonate and the tumour recedes because the fungus doesn't like it. You can see a video of the paper this doctor gave at a convention in 2008 here http://www.curenaturalicancro.com/video-drsimoncini-cancer-convention-2008.html

The reason he believes that no one has come up with a cure to date is because the pharmaceutical industry has such a HUGE investment in the maintenance of the chemical response to the problem that all of the research money goes into the production of medication, rather than finding out what the problem is.

I believe this also applies to the Multiple Sclerosis Industry. I refer to it that way because all of the money that's raised for research into MS goes into the production of drugs, rather than looking at the problem itself. I say this because I have MS and I think I've got a bit of an idea about what goes on. I've had it since 1981 and have managed to "get over it" by reprogramming my neural networks, possible because of neuroplasticity. I feel disappointed that none of the money raised goes into investigating possible recovery options, just into drugs. The pharmaceutical industry has a lot to answer for.

So I'm hoping that this latest news about Dr Simoncini's work is going to take off and shake the foundations of medical research and the pharmaceutical industry as we know it. Here's hoping.

When I do the page in my book I'll post it here. I seems to be lagging behind on this part of the exercise.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

February 21 - Learn from mistakes?

The bushfires in Victoria are a tragedy that will take many, many years to recover from. I would like to think that this recovery will also involve a certain amount of learning from the mistakes made and setting in place some new processes that might prevent a similar situation in future.

I mean, that's what's supposed to happen when things go wrong, isn't it?

Sadly, this isn't always the case.

History tells us that "The bushfires of January 13 1939, known as the ‘Black Friday’ fires, were the result of a long drought and a severe, hot, dry summer. Fanned by extremely strong winds, these fires swept rapidly across large areas of Victoria, causing widespread destruction. " Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

There was a Royal Commission to look into the fires and it was deemed that they were deliberately lit and a number of recommendations came out of the report. A lot of those recommendations resulted in changes that brought reform into the management of forests and fires, and determined, to some extent, how things are today.

However, one of the findings of the report was that many lives were saved at the sawmills because of dugouts and a recommendation of the report was that these should be used more extensively.

Phillip Adams spoke with a couple of guests about dugouts on Late Night Live . One was a woman who had survived the Black Friday fires. She had one brother who died in one dugout and another who didn't survive in another dugout. The difference between the two was that one was constructed properly and the other wasn't.

Phillip's other guest was Andrew Sullivan, a Senior Research Scientist with the CSIRO's Bushfire Research Group. He commented that dugouts, as a viable option during bushfires, went out of favour when the demographics of the community changed. In 1939 people were forced to stay in place as there weren't cars to drive away in.

Studies into the practicalities of dugouts deemed them inadvisable, although Andrew mentioned that some of the research was faulty and could therefore had resulted in a false recommendation.

One family survived in a dugout during these current fires so perhaps this idea needs to be looked at again. With modern technologies in terms of materials it seems to be a good time to reconsider them as a viable option.

The whole debate about this issue prompted me to ask the question "Why don't we learn from our mistakes?"

There are a number of layers to this issue, I decided. The first is that through our education system we are encouraged to get things right and that mistakes are a bad thing. Risk-taking is discouraged and yet taking risks, and sometimes making mistakes, are an essential part of learning. By making mistakes, analysing what went wrong, and choosing a better alternative we're able to learn from them.

Another layer is government. The way the system works is that decisions are made to last only as long as the current term of office. There seems to be little, or no, long-term planning going on at any level. Why would they? Any government knows that if they take risks in terms of policy they may well lose the next election if things don't go to plan, so they don't risk it.

The third layer is the media. Their present strategy seems to be to tell us what went wrong and who's to blame. This generally bad-news-minded bunch of ambulance chasers can't seem to see beyond the latest 5-second-grab of "hot news", in my opinion. Sure, there must be a few decent people among them but they seem to be few and far between.

But how about this for an idea? Why couldn't some media hounds set up a group to follow up some of the ideas, recommendations, suggestions and comments made during crises or events and make sure that there's some sort of continuity from one government to the next or one policy decision to the next. To make sure that things happen as they should and that other things don't fall by the wayside. Surely if someone is around asking questions then the important things might stay on the agenda long enough to be addressed? Or am I being entirely idealistic and unrealistic?

Is anyone listening in or am I merely speculating alone. What do you think about a system that is open to learning from mistakes and growing in maturity as a result?

I'm not sure how to interpret this topic as a page in my book but I guess I'll do it somehow and post a pic when it's done.

Friday, February 20, 2009

February 20 - wordle

Today I went to an Avid Divas get-together. We are a group of artists who share our work with each other. Sometimes we just do a show-and-tell thing and at other times we share skills and techniques. It's always a great opportunity to learn new stuff, and this one was no exception.

One new thing I learned today was about Wordle.

At the website - http://www.wordle.net.au/ - you will see that "Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends."

Wordle is a terrific way to create images using words that you can then use in many, many applications, including cards, stationery, scrapbooking, embroidery, painting, etc etc

Here are some examples -
When I do my book entry for this topic I'm certainly going to have some fun with words.

February 19 - uq antiquities museum

Today I visited the R D Milns Antiquities Museum at the University of Queensland. I didn't know that it existed nor that it's open to the public as well as the students.

The mission of the Antiquities Museum is "to play a major role in Classics and Ancient History as a teaching and research tool for staff and students and in the promotion of the program to the community. "

"The collection provides the only comprehensive survey of ancient Mediterranean antiquities on public view in Queensland. The objects span almost 3500 years of history, and are in a variety of materials - stone, pottery, terracotta, metalware and glass. Together they give a picture of the technological and artistic advances made over that time by the forerunners of Western civilisation. "

You can do a virtual tour of the museum online at http://www.uq.edu.au/antiquities/

Book page to follow when I've done it.

February 18 - carbon farming

It seems that sometimes when I find a particular area of interest for this blog, the theme seems to repeat for a few days. Having covered vertical gardens 2 days ago, then vertical farming yesterday, today is also following a farming theme.

Today's "Future Tense" radio program by Antony Funnell included a discussion about a new type of farming methodology that works towards storing carbon in the soil and going some way to solving the CO2 problem generated by current farming practices. I dowloaded the transcript of the interview and summarised it below.

Traditional farming practises, which involve clearing land and ploughing it, then sowing seeds, harvesting and clearing the leftovers prior to re-sowing have the effect of speeding up the release of CO2 from the soil. But what if we could change our farming habits to use techniques that not only help us build more productive farms, but also capture and store more carbon?

For the last two years, retired soil scientist Dr Christine Jones has been travelling the country, talking to farmers and politicians, speaking at forums and field days and running farm trials. She believes that rebuilding carbon-rich agricultural soils is the only real productive, permanent solution to taking excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Christine Jones: “This year Australia will emit just over 600 million tonnes of carbon. We can sequester 685 million tonnes of carbon by increasing soil carbon by half a per cent on only 2% of the farms. If we increased it on all of the farms, we could sequester the whole world's emissions of carbon.”

Her approach involves getting farmers to keep their ground covered with plants all year round. She says plants are the key to removing excess carbon dioxide from the air, so the more ground cover there is, the more carbon will be stored in the soil, because bare earth gives its carbon up to the atmosphere. Dr Jones knew that if her ideas were to carry any weight, she'd have to show that farmers could profitably graze and crop their land, and maintain permanent ground cover. Two years ago, 18 farmers in three states agreed to trial her ideas. In return, she'd pay them $25 a tonne for the carbon they built.

Christine Jones: “We will be getting the first data in Australia from landholders that are doing something different and building carbon in their soil and that'll be the basis of a whole new set of models and a whole new data set that can be taken to their Ministers, and they can then say, 'Well we have some new advice, Minister; the old advice, I'm sorry, wasn't right.'”

Central Queensland cattle farmer Noel Moretti was one of those who signed on for Dr Jones' trial. He was attracted, not just by the cash, but because he knew by adding carbon he'd increase the fertility and water-holding capacity of his soil. By being carbon-smart, Mr Moretti aims to lift farm income by 10%, and he's not the slightest bit bothered by Christine Jones' skeptics.

Noel Moretti: “We've been very precise on our ground cover, making sure we don't chew our grass down too far, and we've reaped the benefits, we've made a lot of money out of the extra growth.”

He also tried pasture cropping. It's a pretty unconventional practice, as the crop is actually sown into a pasture. In 2007 he and his son Michael, grew an oat crop; it was a success. The conventional wisdom is that there shouldn't be enough soil moisture to sustain both pasture and a grain crop. But Dr Jones claims farmers can have both, because soil high in organic carbon has better structure, is more fertile, and holds more water.

Christine Jones: “So what we're going to do is plant a crop into this bare area, and into the buckle-grass area, and we're going to measure everything that happens. We'll measure the carbon under it, the water under it, and we'll measure the yield of the crop.”

She says when she started her work there were many soil carbon sceptics. Now she says more people are at least prepared to listen. Politicians from all sides have visited her trial sites, and she says it won't be long before the results vindicate her.

Christine Jones: “I think once people realise how important it is, and once we've proved that you can build the carbon and you can measure it, and that landholders can be rewarded for it, I think it'll open the floodgates, and I think we'll see enormous amounts of research, hopefully by the state agencies, so that I don't have to do it, but all over Australia and in other countries on soils, I think research into soil carbon will be huge.”

I find it very encouraging when I hear about people who have the tenacity and courage of their convictions to follow them to a logical conclusion. Too frequently new ideas are dismissed by the skeptics and fall by the wayside. Good on Christine for being brave and proving her theories!

Book page to follow when it's done.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

February 17 - useful enzymes

We all know that carbon dioxide is the major player in the greenhouse debate. Scientists have been proposing ways to capture it and prevent it from adding to the load of gases causing problems for our ozone layer. No cost-effective systems have been found to date.

Today it was announced that a team of scientists from four universities in India say they have discovered a low-cost method of converting carbon dioxide emissions into a useful building material.

What they've managed to do is to use 7 enzymes that convert carbon dioxide into calcium carbonate, which is the mineral found in limestone, shells and chalk, etc. The calcium carbonate can then be used in many different ways. Currently, it's used for the following -

The main use of calcium carbonate is in the construction industry, either as a building material in its own right (e.g. marble) or limestone aggregate for roadbuilding or as an ingredient of cement or as the starting material for the preparation of builder's lime by burning in a kiln.

It is also used in the purification of iron from iron ore in a blast furnace.

Precipitated Calcium carbonate, pre-dispersed in slurry form, is also now widely used as filler material for latex gloves.

Calcium carbonate is widely used as an extender in paints and as a filler in plastics.

It is also used in a wide range of trade and DIY adhesives, sealants, and decorating fillers. Ceramic tile adhesives typically contain 70 to 80% limestone. Decorating crack fillers contain similar levels of marble or dolomite. It is also mixed with putty in setting stained glass windows, and as a resist to prevent glass from sticking to kiln shelves when firing glazes and paints at high temperature.

Calcium carbonate is known as whiting in ceramics/glazing applications, where it is used as a common ingredient for many glazes in its white powdered form.

In North America, calcium carbonate has begun to replace kaolin in the production of glossy paper. Europe has been practicing this as alkaline papermaking or acid-free papermaking for some decades.

It is used in swimming pools as a pH corrector for maintaining alkalinity "buffer" to offset the acidic properties of the disinfectant agent.

It is commonly called chalk as it has been a major component of blackboard chalk.

Ground calcium carbonate is further used as an abrasive (both as scouring powder and as an ingredient of household scouring creams).

So you can see that if it's possible to convert Carbon Dioxide, which we have too much of, into Calcium Carbonate, which we have many uses for, and do it economically, then it's an all-round win-win situation.

A few hours after I heard this news I excitedly told a scientist friend of mine about it and he was not surprised because the knowledge that it's possible to convert CO2 into CaCO3 is old news. He said that it hasn't been done because it was an expensive process. I guess the reason why this is such good news now is because the Indian scientists have worked out a cost-effective way to do it. I'm very happy that there are people around who pursue lines of enquiry persistently until they find solutions.

Page to follow.

February 16 - vertical farm

There's a new show on ABC radio national called "Future Tense" with Antony Funnell. He features subjects that address where we are going in the global response to environmental and sustainability issues. It's interesting that yesterday's blog was about vertical gardening and today's is the same idea on a much bigger scale.

Antony's guest, Oliver Foster, has designed a 12-story vertical farm for Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast. You can read more about it on the website at http://www.verticalfarm.com/Default.aspx

Here is an extract from the web, explaining the reason behind the project -

"By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth's population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. An estimated 109 hectares of new land (about 20% more land than is represented by the country of Brazil) will be needed to grow enough food to feed them, if traditional farming practices continue as they are practiced today. At present, throughout the world, over 80% of the land that is suitable for raising crops is in use (sources: FAO and NASA). Historically, some 15% of that has been laid waste by poor management practices. What can be done to avoid this impending disaster?

A Potential Solution: Farm Vertically

The concept of indoor farming is not new, since hothouse production of tomatoes, a wide variety of herbs, and other produce has been in vogue for some time. What is new is the urgent need to scale up this technology to accommodate another 3 billion people. An entirely new approach to indoor farming must be invented, employing cutting edge technologies. The Vertical Farm must be efficient (cheap to construct and safe to operate). Vertical farms, many stories high, will be situated in the heart of the world's urban centers. If successfully implemented, they offer the promise of urban renewal, sustainable production of a safe and varied food supply (year-round crop production), and the eventual repair of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal farming."

Whenever I hear about projects like this one I feel encouraged to think that maybe, with a bit of lateral thinking, we can find creative solutions to the problems that the planet faces today.

Page to follow.

February 15 - vertical gardening

I've only just become aware of the idea that vegetable gardens can be planted vertically as well as horizontally. I did know about trellises for plants like beans but somehow it hadn't sunk in that you can plant a variety of vegetables and herbs in a vertical structure that can be on a balcony or even in the house.

I remember recently seeing a vertical garden that was designed and built for a shopping centre. The huge wall of greenery was stunning and did well because of the glass roof above it. The designer explained that he chose plants that, in their natural environments, were used to clinging to the sides of cliff faces, or on tree trunks.

On gardening Australia last week one of the stories was about an italian immigrant who'd created a market garden in his small suburban yard. It was a series of trellises with narrow walkways between them. I wondered whether he had a problem with some of the trellises shading others and then realised that all you have to do is build them with an east-west orientation and you wouldn't get shading from one to the other.

A couple of years ago I had a vegetable garden put in at home. It worked well, to a point, and I had a bumper crop of tomatoes (which ripened when we were away on holiday). It's been lying fallow for some time because I hadn't worked out how to do it properly. I now understand that I just need to do it vertically as well as horizontally (for the potatoes).

It would be good to do something about the garden over winter this year. Let's see if I have the time, or can make the time, to do it.

Page to follow

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February 14 - fragile fleece

I visited a friend at Maleny and learned something new about wool. Marylou has a number of sheep on her property and she uses their fleece for spinning, knitting and felting. She told me that if a sheep experiences stress for a time then the fibres of the wool it is growing become thinner than normal.

This means that when the sheep is shorn then the wool fibres may actually break at the thinner part. The way to check for this potential problem is to pull on the fibres to check their strength.

Page to follow

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February 13 - black friday

It's Friday 13th today so I had to find out something about the superstition associated with Black Friday. There's even a word to describe the reaction to it - Paraskevidekatriaphobics — people afflicted with a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13th.

There's loads of stuff on the net about superstitions, including -

The Egyptians at the time of the pharoahs considered 13 lucky, because they believed life unfolded in 12 stages, and that there was a 13th stage-the afterlife-beyond. That meant the number 13 symbolized death-as a happy transformation. Egyptian civilization perished, but the symbolism of the number 13 lived on as fear of death. (In Tarot decks the "Death" card bears the number 13 but retains its original, positive meaning: transformation.)

I like the stuff I read on beliefnet.com. Extract follows -

"Many people consider Friday unlucky because that's the day of Jesus' Crucifixion, but historians believe the superstition goes much farther back and has something to do with the sacrifices offered to the goddess Frigg (goddess of marriage and fertility) or Freya (goddess of sex and fertility) or both, in Norse mythology.

Frigg/Freya's emblem was the fish, which was associated with the worship of love and was offered by the Scandinavians to their goddess on the sixth day of the week, Friday. But the worship of love on Fridays, according to Popular Superstitions, developed into "a series of filthy and indecent rites and practices."

According to Emery, Friday was considered lucky, especially as a day to get married, because of its associations with love. In other pagan cultures, Friday was the sabbath, a day of worship. Once Christianity entered the scene, Freya-whose sacred animal was a cat--was recast in folklore as a witch. In the Middle Ages, Friday was known as the "Witches' Sabbath."

Later, early Christians began attributing just about everything terrible to Friday: Eve offering Adam the apple in the Garden of Eden; Abel's murder by his brother, Cain; St. Stephen's stoning; the Massacre of the Innocents by Herod; the flight of the children of Israel through the Red Sea; the Great Flood; the destruction of the Temple of Solomon; and the Confusion of Tongues at the Tower of Babel.

Which brings us to.

Superstitions about Friday the 13th
Add it up, and Friday the 13th is clearly doomed as a bad luck kinda day.
Most historians believe the main reason--in addition to all the gloom and doom you just read above--stems from the Last Supper. Jesus and his 12 disciples gathered in the Upper Room, where Jesus predicted that one of them would betray him. Here is how Jesus' words are portrayed in the Gospel: "Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot . . for he it was that should betray him." (John 6: 70-71)
And that scene, of course, set the stage for the Crucifixion, on Good Friday.

Some sources add an additional wrinkle, however. They pinpoint the origin of Friday the 13th-phobia to a specific historical event: the rounding up of the Knights Templar for torture and execution by King Philip IV of France on Friday, October 13, 1307.

Read and weep. Shiver with fear. Dive for cover."

Page to follow (complete with black cat)

February 12 - vata who?

I was in a doctor's surgery this morning, flicking through health magazines, and I saw lots of stuff about body type according to Ayurvedic principles.

I went home and found this info on the indiaoz website.

"According to Ayurveda, the first requirement for healing oneself and others is a clear understanding of the three doshas. The concept of Vata-Pitta-Kapha is unique to Ayurveda and it holds the potential for revolutionizing th healing systems of the West. However, the concept of the three principles and the Sanskrit words, Vata-Pitta-Kapha, are very difficult to translate into Western terms.

Tridosha Concept: Inside the body, there are three doshas which govern the phyico-chemical and physiological activities. These three doshas are Vata (from ether and air), Pitta (from fire and an aspect of water), and Kapha (from water and earth).Individual constitution is acquired at birth and remains constant through life. Through Ayurdic books, teachers, and courses, one is able to determine one's individual constitution and thereby knowing which direction to take for self-diagnosis purposes.

A balance among the tridosha is necessary for health. For example, the air principle kindles the bodily fire, but water is necessary to control fire, otherwise the bodily fire would burn the tissues. Vata moves Kapha and Pitta, since Kapha and Pitta are immobile. Together, the tridosha governs all metabolic activities; anabolism (Kapha), catabolism (Vata), and metabolism (Pitta). When Vata is out of balance, the metabolism will be disturbed, resulting in excess catabolism, which is the breakdown or deterioration process in the body. When anabolism is greater than catabolism, there is an increased rate of growth and repair of the organs and tissues. Excess Pitta disturbs metabolism, excess Kapha increases the rate of anabolism and excess Vata creates emaciation (catabolism).

In childhood, anabolism and the Kapha elements are predominant, since this is the time of greatest physical growth. In adulthood, metabolism and the element of Pitta are most apparent, because at this stage the body is matured and stable. In old age, catabolism and Vata are most evident, as the body begins to deteriorate. "

So now I know what it's about.

page to follow

February 11 - about mosquitoes

Margaret Trosby had a guest on the ABC Classic FM morning interview, Dr. Cameron Webb, whose specialty is mosquitoes.

Whilst I'm very familiar with these pesky insects, I learned some new things about them.

Not all mosquitoes get their sustenance from people's blood. Some of them prefer frogs and snakes and others only drink fluids from plants. Some even prefer to drink their blood from crocodiles.

If there's a wrinkly granddad sitting next to a baby in a pram, the mosquito will go for the old guy anytime. This is because the insect is attracted to the hormones and vapours coming from the guy, while they reject the relatively scent-free baby.

Page to follow.

February 10 - What have you read?

On Late Night Live today Phillip Adams had, as one of his guests, Robert Crawford, Poet and Professor of Modern Scottish Literature at St Andrews University.

It was a very interesting interview and you can download and listen to it from the ABC website. The part of the interview that caught my attention was when Robert asked the question "What have you read that was published in the year you were born?"

Hmmm! I don't know, I thought, so I went to Google and enquired.

One of the results caught my eye - "Teach Yourself the Sliderule", written by the Managing Director of "Unique" company and published by Burns Snodgrass in 1955. Haven't read it.

Books on questions of the peaceful application of atomic energy (published 1955–1956)
Journal of Atomic Energy. Published by Springer New York. Nope, none of those either.

"Tunnel in the Sky" is a science fiction book written by Robert Heinlein and published in 1955. I've read lots of Heinlein Sci FI, but not that one.

THE BOY'S COUNTRY BOOK - published 1955 - 1st edition. Not this one either.

SINGER SEWING SKILLS REFERENCE BOOK 1955. Didn't need it. I have a Husqvarna sewing machine.

Schumacher’s Taliesin Line of Decorative Fabrics and Wallpaper (Published by E.W. & Co. - Sample Books, Chicago) in 1955. I'd love to see a copy of this one!

Graham Greene published "The Quiet American" in 1955. I haven't read the book but I've seen the movie.

Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" books came out at this time. The first two were published in 1954 and the Return of the King was on the 20th October 1955. I've read them all many, many times and will no doubt read them again sometime. I have the Collectors Edition of the three movies and have watched them many times also. So this is my answer to Robert Crawford's question.

I was wondering what to put on my page for this topic but it's going to be easy. I'll post it when I'm done.

February 9 - bookbinding

Today was the monthly meeting of the Book group at Queensland Spinners, Weavers and Fibre Artists. A creative time was had by all, as usual. Karin showed us how to make Slot and Tab books.

As I have worked on S&T books before I decided to spend the time working out a way to bind individual pages into a book so that the whole of the page is visible. Last year we had a project in the group to make altered pages. The idea was that those of us who participated in the project would each make a number of pages (equal to the number of participants) that we would swap when we finished. The idea was for everyone to end up with a full set of pages that we could then bind into a book using our own choice of method.

The specification for the page was that it should be double-sided and have something (like a photo) to represent ourself on the page somewhere. The idea was to start with a page that already had printing or images on it and alter it using any method we liked. At the end of last year we swapped the finished pages with each other and I now have a folder of pages to bind into a book.

I decided that it would be good to work out a way of binding the pages into a book so that no part of the page is lost, so that's what I did on the book group day.

I started with a strip of thin card and folded it into a small concertina, then I stitched pieces of card onto the "mountains" of it. Given that pictures make things a lot easier to understand, I'm not going to try and use words to explain the method I ended up with, I'll post the pics of the process as soon as I can.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

February 8 - The Story of One

Terry Jones made a very amusing documentary film about the origins of our current numbering system, and specifically the number 1. Some of the points he makes in the film include the following -

Numbers and counting things were the world's first example of writing.
Australian aborigines have no number system in their language. They don't count things, they name them.
The need for counting seemed to be associated with the building of cities, where the numbers of people and things are important.
Archimedes developed formulas to describe theoretical mathematics.
The Romans liked to count things, especially the number of men in their armies, and so they developed the numerals system to record large numbers. This system was spread across Europe by the expansion of the Roman Empire.
The arabic system of numbers that we use today was created in India in 500BC. It was picked up by Fibonacci and introduced to Europe, and it travelled to the Middle East from there.
A system for taking human error out of calculations was proposed as early as the 1600s but not built then. The theory was implemented in the development of the code-breaking machine, the Colossus, at Bletchley Park during WWII.
The binary number system, whereby calculations can brought back to patterns of ones and zeros, forms the basis of our computers today.

It is a very well made film that provides a simple and amusing explanation of the history of our number system. If you're interested you can watch the film at


Page to follow

February 7 - feeling grumpy

I was unwell today and it made me feel very grumpy. Consequently I was short tempered with a few people around me. I then considered the possibility that when other people have been grumpy with me it might have been because they were not feeling well at the time. This led to the idea that if someone is being grumpy with me it might be nothing to do with me at all and I shouldn't take it personally. I decided to see other people's behaviour in a new light in future.

I wondered why it's taken me so long to work this one out.

I have no idea what to do in my book for this one, but I guess I'll think of something.

February 6 - Dad's war service

It's my Dad's 90th birthday this July and my sister and I have decided to make him a scrapbook of his life, as we did for our mother when she was 80. We've each chosen the aspects of his life to make pages for and one of the things I'm doing is his war service.

We originally came to Australia from Finland, where military service is compulsory, so Dad was drafted into the army when he was just 20 years old. He was trained as a gunnery sergent and sent to the Russian front for three long years.

When I was growing up Dad never talked about his experience in the war. He just said that he'd rather not have to remember that time. I knew nothing about what he did or where he went. It was only fairly recently that he was able to start talking about it and now he's given me a full explanation, in the form of 12 handwritten pages, about what happened to him all those years ago. He also has a number of photographs that I've been able to copy and enlarge for the scrapbook. This is the first time I've seen them and it's touching just how young he was. I guess this is true for all of the young men sent to war for their country. So sad and pointless.

The exercise of making this scrapbook for Dad has sent me on a trail of research about Finlnd's history. From extracts from Virtual Finland by Dr. Seppo Zetterberg, professor of history, University of Jyväskylä, I've learned the following -

"Until the middle of the 12th century the country was a political vacuum with both Sweden (and the Catholic church) and Russia (and the Greek Orthodox church) interested in taking control. Sweden won and took over most of the country in 1323, with the eastern edge being under Russian rule.

Under Swedish rule the Finns retained their personal freedom. The Reformation started by Luther in the early 16th century also reached Sweden and Finland, and the Catholic Church consequently lost out to the Lutheran faith.

The Reformation set in motion a great rise in Finnish-language culture. The New Testament was translated into Finnish in 1548 by the Bishop of Turku, Mikael Agricola (1510-1557), who brought the Reformation to Finland and created written Finnish. The entire Bible appeared in Finnish in 1642.

During its period as a great power (1617-1721), Sweden extended its realm around the Baltic and managed, due to the weakness of Russia, to push the Finnish border further east. With consolidation of the administration in Stockholm, uniform Swedish rule was extended to Finland in the 17th century. Swedes were often appointed to high offices in Finland, which strengthened the position of the Swedish language in Finland.

When Sweden lost its position as a great power in the early 18th century, Russian pressure on Finland increased, and Russia conquered Finland in the 1808-1809 war with Sweden. The country became The Grand Duchy of Finland. The enlightened Russian Emperor Alexander I, who was Grand Duke of Finland in 1809-1825, gave Finland extensive autonomy thereby creating the Finnish state. The Lutheran Church retained its position in Finland, and so did Swedish as the official language of the country.

The Finnish national movement gained momentum during the Russian period. The Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, created by Elias Lönnrot, was published in 1835. J.V. Snellman (1806-1881), who was a senator and professor at the University of Helsinki during the reign of Alexander II in 1855-1881, worked to promote the Finnish language and to make it an official language alongside Swedish."

Years of to-ing and fro-ing and struggles for control ensued and it's interesting to note that part of the restructuring of government and legislture meant that Finnish women were the first in Europe to gain the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

"On December 6, 1917, Parliament approved the declaration of independence drawn up by the Senate under the leadership of P.E Svinhufvud (1861-1944).

At the same time, the breach between the parties of the left and the right had become irreconcilable. At the end of January 1918, the leftwing parties staged a coup, and the government was forced to flee Helsinki. The ensuing Civil War ended in May with victory for the government troops, led by General Gustaf Mannerheim (1867-1951). Finland became a republic in the summer of 1919, and K.J. Ståhlberg (1865-1952) was elected the first president."

My Dad was born in 1919, the year that Finland became a Republic. The years of his childhood were a time of much change and growth for the country. When he was just 20 Russia hit back.

"In August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non aggression pact, which included a secret protocol relegating Finland to the Soviet sphere of interest. When Finland refused to allow the Soviet Union to build military bases on its territory, the latter revoked the nonaggression pact of 1932 and attacked Finland on November 30, 1939. The "Winter War" ended in a peace treaty drawn up in Moscow on March 13, 1940, giving southeastern Finland to the Soviet Union.

In the Winter War Finland stood alone; only sympathy and modest assistance was offered by other countries. During the War Finnish ski troops, their white uniforms blending ghostlike in the snow, inflicted heavy casualties on the Russian army. Finland's survival against overwhelming Russian forces became legendary all over the world. Unlike all other states on the European continent that were involved in the Second World War, Finland was never occupied by foreign forces."

When Dad was still at the training camp, preparing to join the troops fighting the Russians, the Winter War ended (13/3/1940) and he was not involved in that conflict. When his artillery section was mobilised on 21.6.41 they were ordered to march to the Russian front and reclaim the lands taken in the Winter War. They had to bunker down at the front and hold position there. They did this for three years.

It's interesting for me to read the account of his time at the front. And sad too. At the end of their time they were forced to retreat under massive bombardment from the Russians. There were 110 men in Dad's section and during their time at the front 10 were killed and 21 wounded. When I read the account I'm surprised that anyone survived. I guess war is like that. Sometimes the soldiers make it home.

Dad's closest call happened exactly a year after he was drafted into the army. On the morning of that day the Russians decided to obliterate them by heavy bombardment with 150mm shells. The bombing was so heavy that all they could do was retreat into the bunker and wait it out. A 40kg shell came through the window of their bunker, missed all of the 8 men hiding there and exploded in the sand on the other side. Dad caught some wood splinters in the back of his legs and couldn't stand for several minutes but that was the extent of injuries sustained. When they excavated the shell the next day they found the cone and discovered that it had been set to 0.4secs. This meant that it was set to explode 0.4 seconds after impact, rather than on impact. This meant that they had survived the shelling by a mere 0.4 seconds. I guess Dad and his team were not meant to die on that day.

After the war the Russians claimed reparations for their losses and annexed Karelia as payment. The residents from that part of Finland had to leave their country and homes and it has been a sore point ever since.

Dad's motivation for fighting in this particular war was to keep the Russians out of the country that had fought so hard and so long for its independence. He gets angry whenever anyone speaks of Finland as "that part of Russia". I can understand and I feel the same myself, even though I've only gained this feeling by osmosis.

Page to follow

February 5 - Post it notes

In 1968 Dr Spencer Silver, a scientist at 3M, developed a "low-tack" reuseable, pressure-sensitive adhesive. For five years, Silver promoted his invention within 3M, both informally and through seminars, but without much success. In 1974, a colleague of his, Art Fry, who had attended one of Silver's seminars, came up with the idea of using the adhesive to anchor his bookmark in his hymbook. The idea was now mature and 3M launched the product in 1977, but it failed as consumers had not tried it so a year later they issued free samples and 90% of people who tried them said that they would buy the product. By 1980 the product was being sold nationwide in the US and now they're everywhere.
I've chosen to use post it notes on the page of my book, and made it look like they've been pinned to a corkboard. The story abot Harvey Milk is on the top part of the page and the notes overlap so you can't read the story from this pic.

February 4 - Milk and twinkies

I saw the movie "Milk" with Sean Penn. It was very thought-provoking and superbly acted by all the cast members.

I extracted the following information about Milk from Wikipedia -
Harvey Bernard Milk (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978) was an American politician and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Politics and gay activism were not Milk's early interests; he did not feel the need to be open about his homosexuality or participate in civic matters until around age 40, after his experiences in the counterculture of the 1960s.

Milk moved from New York City to settle in San Francisco in 1972 amid a migration of gay men moving to the Castro District in the 1970s. He took advantage of the growing political and economic power of the neighborhood to promote his interests, and ran unsuccessfully for political office three times. His theatrical campaigns earned him increasing popularity and Milk won a seat as a city supervisor in 1977 a result of the broader social changes the city was experiencing.

Milk served 11 months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor who had recently resigned and wanted his job back.

Despite his short career in politics, Milk has become an icon in San Francisco and "a martyr for gay rights", according to University of San Francisco professor Peter Novak. In 2002, Milk was called "the most famous and most significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States". John Cloud remarked on his influence, "[After Milk] many people—straight and gay—had to adjust to a new reality he embodied: that a gay person could live an honest life and succeed."

When Dan White was convicted and went to trial for the murders there was no question that he was guilty, but in his defence it was claimed that there were several factors influencing his mental state.

"At the trial, noted psychiatrist Martin Blinder testified that White had been depressed at the time of the crime, and pointed to several factors indicating White's depression: he had quit his job; he shunned his wife; and although normally clean-cut, he had become slovenly in appearance. Furthermore, White had previously been a fitness fanatic and health food advocate, but had begun consuming junk food and sugar-laden soft drinks like Coca-Cola. As an incidental note, Blinder mentioned theories that elements of diet could worsen existing mood swings. Another psychiatrist, George Solomon, testified that White had "exploded" and was "sort of on automatic pilot" at the time of the killings.

Because of the testimony from Blinder and other psychiatrists the defense "successfully persuaded the jury that White's capacity for rational thought had been diminished; the jurors found White incapable of the premeditation required for a murder conviction, and instead convicted him of voluntary manslaughter. Public protests over the verdict led to the White Night Riots."

After the successful use of this argument in the defence of this case, it became known as "The Twinkie Defense", even though Twinkies weren't mentioned at the time. In other words "But, your Honour, the chocolate made me do it". It adds a new perspective to the expression "I'd kill for a piece of chocolate". Just kidding.

My own opinion of this is rather more black and white. He chose to become slovenly and eat junk food. He chose to take a gun to the office and kill two innocent people. He should also have had the guts to choose to take full responsibilty for his actions, rather than hiding behind so-called expert opinions about his state of mind. After all, it was (supposedly) HIS mind.

After spending just a few years in prison White was released and subsequently committed suicide.

In terms of the movie "Milk" Sean Penn was superb in the role and I hope he gets an Oscar for it.

The page is set up to look like notes pinned to a corkboard.. The notes are written on post it notes and overlap so you can't read them from this pic. I like the effect of using paper with a cork print on it.

February 3 - Nuts and washers

I picked up a book at the Lifeline Bookfest that I thought would interest my husband, but then found that it's useful for me too. It's called "Tools and their uses" and it was originally prepared by the Bureau of Naval Personnel as a handbook for US navy. The manual is so useful that it was subsequently printed for use by anyone interested in "learning the basics of choosing tools and using them as they were meant to be used".

The first paragraph of the back cover says "Do you have trouble with tools - find they wear out too quickly, find that you can't decide which tools to buy or which tools to use for a specific job, find that things continually go wrong? The only way to learn to use tools, of course, is by using them, but first you have to know which tools to use and why."

The manual is full of a wealth of diagrams and simple explanations and I finally found out about how to use washers properly. Flat washers are used with nuts to provide a larger connecting area to prevent the nut head from damaging the work surface. Split lock washers are used under nuts to prevent loosening by vibration. The ends of these spring-hardened washers dig into both the nut and the work to prevent slippage. Shakeproof lock washers have teeth or lugs that grip both the work and the nut.

So now you know.

This is the lower half of a page that's made to look like it's notes pinned to a corkboard. The upper part is the pic in the "About Fat" entry. I like the effect.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

February 2 - good news about fat

I have the opposite problem to most people when it comes to fat. I'm underweight and I struggle to put it on. I was doing a Google search for ideas to put on weight and was overwhelmed with the volume of bad news about fat and how to avoid it. I thought there had to be some good things about it so I typed in "10 good things about fat" and this is what came back -

"Fat has had a lot of bad press over the years and for many people, just a mention of the word can evoke misery or complaints about ones weight. You can try to lose it, try to hide it, try to avoid it, but your body still needs it! Did you know that fat helps to insulate our nerve cells, keeps us warm, balances our hormones, keeps skin and arteries supple, lubricates joints and is a component in every cell? The key issue here is recognizing which type of fat your body needs, how much your body requires and which type is your enemy. Armed with the right information, you can focus on getting more of the good fats and less of the bad fats into your daily diet.
There are two types of fat to be aware of. Saturated fats - let’s call them “the enemy” and unsaturated fats - “the good guys”! It is easy to tell the difference because saturated fats are hard at room temperature. Saturated fats are not essential to your health. They come from animals and are found in meat, eggs and cheese. They are harder to digest and full of cholesterol.
Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and have been divided into two groups. Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, and polyunsaturated fats such as sunflower oil.
Here are some important facts about fat in our diet.
1. Fat is the ‘energy reserve’ of animals, plants and humans.
2. The ideal body-fat ratio should be approximately 19-26% of a woman’s body weight, and 12-18% of a man’s body weight.
3. There are two different types of body fat - brown and yellow. Brown fat is situated inside the body and is ‘active’, containing mitochondria that produce heat (thermogenesis) and as a result burn energy. Yellow fat is found nearer the surface, is less active and more likely to accumulate. Women tend to have a higher ratio of yellow fat than men.
4. Women need higher levels of fat because it is essential for reproduction and so the body stores it ‘just in case’.
5. An average healthy intake of good fats in the diet should be approximately 30-40 grams a day. The fat content of diets in affluent populations can be nearly four times this amount!
6. Most foods containing fat combine saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat in varying quantities. For instance, butter’s fat content is almost 100%, of which 60% is saturated, 30% monounsaturated and 10% polyunsaturated, compared with sunflower seeds’ fat content of 73%, of which just 12% is saturated and 21% monounsaturated and 67% is polyunsaturated.
7. Heat, light and oxygen destroy essential fatty acids, which is why it is best to keep oils in dark containers.
8. Essential fats must come from the diet because your body cannot produce them. The essential healthy fats are Omega 3 and Omega 6 (known as essential fatty acids).
9. Weight for weight, fat provides more than twice the amount of usable energy than carbohydrates or protein (you’ll find 9 calories in every gram of fat).
10. Fat contributes to the palatability, texture and the smell of many foods, it also slows down the process of digestion providing an extended period of satiation after a meal.
When you know the good from the bad, fat is fabulous!"
(This came from a blog at http://www.badpills.us/)
So now I don't have to feel bad about wanting to eat good fat to, maybe, put on some much needed weight.
I based this page on the look of notes pinned on a corkboard. The notes about fat are written on two separate post it notes and overlapped so from this photo you can't read the full story. I like the effect of using a page printed as a cork board for the base. There's more on the lower half of the corkboard as the whole page covers 2 days. if you look at the next entry on nuts and washers you'll see the bottom of this page.

February 1 - Cherub of the mist

The red panda is a rare animal that lives in a region from Nepal, north-eastern India, Bhutan and into China. Their population is believed to be about 2500.

Cherub of the Mist is a documentary about two red female pandas, Mini and Sweety, who were bred in a zoo, released into the wild and followed up for a period of 14 months. The documentary was filmed by Naresh Bedi and Rajesh Bedi.

The objective of the project was to see if it's feasible to breed pandas in captivity to replenish wild populations. It proved that this option is certainly possible.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

January 31 - Zero

I didn't know that a lot of thought went into the invention of zero as a mathematical concept. It was actually the subject of much philosophical debate before it popped onto the scene.

Robert Kaplan has written a book about it called "The Nothing that is". It traces the history of zero "back to its origins as two wedges pressed into a wet lump of Sumerian clay" and explains how "it now forms part of the binary code which powers our computers".

January 30 - buttons

Have you ever wondered why the buttons on men's clothes are done up on the opposite side to ladies clothes? It's because they were invented at the time when men carried swords and had duels with each other. In a rush to defend himself the guy could undo his jacket with the left hand and unsheath his sword with the right.

So now we know. I wonder how that worked for anyone who was left handed?

January 29 - Canada's forests

I was watching David Attenborough's Planet Earth episode about the world's deciduous forests. The forests of Canada are so extensive in area that when their colours change in Autumn the blush can be seen from space. If you get a chance to see the program then do because the images produced by the time-lapse photography they used to demonstrate this are truly amazing!