Random Thoughts From Our Disordered Minds

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Did you know that plants talk to other plants, birds and insects? Well, perhaps “talk” is a bit of a stretch, but they do communicate. Their conversations are chemically-based. Plants under attack by insects release defense chemicals that alert other plants to mount a defense and entice pest-eating predator insects and birds. Of course, the scientists are now applying the typical reductionist strategies to identify each chemical and determine what it means. Since a single emission can include a blend or 200 or more chemicals, they have their work cut out for them. We humans have inbred and hybridized our food crops so much they have lost the ability to communicate. The standard American corn, for example, can’t talk, but heirloom open-pollinated varieties can chatter away. Seems to me that instead of spending zillions of hours and dollars in the lab, it would make a lot more sense to plant heirlooms and let them handle the conversations naturally. – Bee

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I noticed where some organization is/was going to ban the Star Spangled Banner because it was “too violent”.   Apparently then, the concept of “war” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/war) would really be a stunner.  How, exactly, do these people think the world got on for the last few thousand years?  I don’t recall any “peaceful” invasions.  “Bombs bursting in air” could be considered relatively tame if you have any knowledge of history, the horrors of and what war can be.  – Ell

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Seems the brand spanking new Duchess Catherine, Prince William’s bride of less than a month, is taking flack for wearing the same outfit she wore a couple of years ago. Apparently those doing the criticizing are of the opinion that a queen-to-be should wear something new for each public appearance. While I’m sure she could afford to do so, I would call it insensitive at the least in a time when many of the English people are out of work or otherwise suffering because of the economic situation. Conspicuous consumption, whether of fashion or anything else, sends the message that we don’t care about the planet’s resources. I say kudos to Catherine for recycling! — Bee

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I love underdogs, late finishers and come from behind winners. Being a bit of a late bloomer myself, it gives me a thrill to see a 20-1 long shot win the Kentucky Derby, or an unacknowledged employee become a star. Occurrences like these are not only joyful, they’re a reminder to never underestimate the power of guts, try and tenacity. – Bee

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So what’s the real difference between a farm and a ranch? If a farm—according to Wikipedia— is “an area of land, including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food (produce, grains, or livestock)” and a ranch is “an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock”, it seems to me we have considerable overlap here. But in Britain, even if you only raise grazing livestock, it’s still called a farm. Why did we need to come up with a new term for an old occupation (actually, despite claims put forth by the euphemistically named ladies of the night, probably the oldest of the professions)? Ranches have different names depending on the country: In Brazil it is a fadenza, in Argentina an estancia and in Australia a station. But a farm is a farm the world over. – Bee

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Playing checkers with a four-year old is a religious experience—you’ll spend most of the time praying for patience – Bee

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Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko, writing for Forbes.com, The Rationalist: “Genetically engineered crops have proved to be superior to organic in numerous ways that benefit humans and the natural environment. Because yields are higher and they require lower inputs, they conserve water and farmland and are more sustainable. They lessen the need for chemical pesticides and make possible more environment-friendly agronomic practices such as no-till farming, which causes less soil erosion and runoff and releases less CO2 to the atmosphere. And genetically engineered grains are less susceptible to infestation by fungi and have lower levels of dangerous fungal toxins than organic grains. Farmers have found them overall to be reliable and cost-effective.”

What have you boys been smoking? All the research I’ve seen on GE crops says exactly the opposite: more water, more fertilizer, lower yields, higher use of chemicals (Doug Gurian-Sherman; http://www.algaeindustrymagazine.com/algae-101-part-20-indias-hard-lessons-from-ge-crops/)–Bee

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I’m certainly no political expert, but it seems a little odd to me that one of the primary demands made by the protesters in Egypt was the suspension of the Constitution. That means the people of Egypt no longer have:  individual freedom;  equality of all citizens; protection of  the private life of citizens; freedom of belief; freedom of practicing religious rights; freedom of expression;  freedom of press and other publications; freedom of peaceful and unarmed private assembly, without the need for prior notice; universal suffrage. While Mubarak had in effect ignored the Constitution for years under long-running emergency law, how is the complete suspension of the Constitution a better thing? The word “anarchy” keeps coming to mind–Bee 10/11/13 ETA I rest my case.

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Germ phobia causes considerable unnecessary work and stress. The human body is designed with a marvelous system for preventing infections or for handling contamination when it does occur. It is absolutely unnecessary to use germicidal wipes, bacteriostatic soaps or many of the other expensive products which prey on our fears. It is, in fact, counterproductive—what we are doing (besides spending a lot of money and exposing ourselves in many case to chemicals which cause more harm than a few germs would) is selecting for bacteria which are resistant. Good old soap and hot water, fresh air and sunshine are natural disinfectants which cost little or nothing. Sterility matters in the operating room, not the bathroom or kitchen.–Bee

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If what science says conflicts with my experience, I go with experience every time–Bee

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Current research indicates that activities which cause pleasure increase certain chemicals called neurotransmitters; the brain interprets this as a way to feel good and wants to repeat the action as frequently as possible. The human brain is apparently hard-wired to choose immediate gratification over long-term gain. This explains much about many human endeavors—drug abuse, eating chocolate and politics come to mind–Bee

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It’s January 15th and the temperature was in the low twenties last night, but I have violets blooming. And the pussywillows are starting to bud. Just a reminder that while we humans tend to look at the seasons as being tied to dates on a calendar, nature looks at them as a constant slow process, with small changes occurring every day. And maybe that’s the answer to the question of “What can I do?” about things like climate change. Takes a lot of small things—like the pebbles that make a beach or the drops of water that make a lake. One by one, each of us can do some little thing that adds up–Bee

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Sometimes all I can do is shake my head. An applicant for the director position at Iowa State University, Ricardo Salvador, was turned down for the position despite being well qualified in many ways. Indications are that the primary reason he was turned down was his advocacy, in an application interview, for the position that cows had evolved to eat grass. Imagine that—cows eat grass! Now, it’s bad enough that such a statement would potentially disqualify an applicant, but he was applying for the directorship of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. What really makes this such a farce is that the dean of the school of agriculture, Wendy Wintersteen, said she didn’t have an opinion on whether cows were evolved to eat grass because she’s an entomologist—a scientist who studies insects. She added that entomologists couldn’t be expected to know if cows evolved to eat grass. I swear I am not making this up; here’s the full article: http://chronicle.com/article/At-Public-Colleges/66044/. I always understood that the purpose of education was to deliver a student who could think her way out of a paper bag. I’m afraid that the system has failed Ms. Wintersteen and I submit that she in turn, and this so-called school of agriculture, are failing their students. There are some things in this world so basic that even if you lived in a closet for most of your formative years, by the time you became a dean of a school of agriculture, you really should at least have an opinion on whether cows evolved to eat grass–Bee

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5 Responses to Random Thoughts From Our Disordered Minds

  1. Lot of good stuff, but in your comment about Egypt, you appear to spit out the word “anarchy” as if it were a bad thing.

    Anarchy has been tarred recently — mostly by those in power — as synonymous with lawlessness. But anarchy actually means “without rulers;” it doesn’t mean “without rules.” It simply means that those who are impacted by the rules are the same ones who make the rules.

    Wikipedia defines anarchy as “a system of governance… that goes to lengths to avoid the use of coercion, violence, force and authority, while still producing a productive and desirable society,” but also notes that within the US, the use of the word has become corrupted into being synonymous with lawlessness.

    I don’t know how you feel about the recent “occupy” movement, but it appears to be a fine example of “good” anarchy. The Internet itself might be described as the largest, most successful implementation of functional anarchy. And if you don’t buy that, certainly Wikipedia — an encyclopedia written and governed by its users — is a stellar example of functional anarchy.

    I hope you’ll find some time to delve into the history and true meaning of anarchy. From your writings on this site, I suspect you’re a closet anarchist, and just haven’t discovered it yet!

  2. This is my first visit here, but it won’t be the last. Love the independent spirit. A bit of irony about the name: your beloved Jefferson held very traditional ideas on the position of women, and we won’t even go into his relation to slavery.

    • Bee says:

      Hi Ien (hope I spelled that right!). Thanks for reading. Yes, Jefferson was not perfect — a product of his time and a man of many contradictions. Still, he was a great man in many ways and if American had followed some of his basic precepts, like keeping government small and honoring those who till the soil, we think our country would be the better for it.

  3. The moment I found this site was like wow. Thank you for putting your effort in publishing this blog.

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