Remembering Kirk Douglas


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1950. “Actor Kirk Douglas, half-length portrait, seated in chair, on set during the filming of “Ace in the Hole”, New Mexico.” 35mm color transparency by Charles and Ray Eames.

He was Spartacus, of course. But the great thing about Kirk Douglas living for more than a century – with most of those years spent as a Hollywood icon and cinematic family patriarch – is we got to see him do so much more than just wield sharp weaponry in an epic adventure. (And, man, he had that down.)

Douglas, who died Wednesday at 103, was a tried-and true icon who began his epic run in the mid-1940s with films including “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” and “Mourning Becomes Electra” and who owned the ’50s and ’60s, formed a great partnership with Burt Lancaster and earning three best-actor Oscar nominations (but never won). Douglas worked well into his twilight years, including a starring role opposite son Michael, ex-wife Diana and grandson Cameron in “It Runs in the Family” in 2003.

RTFA. It lists Brian Truitt’s idea of the five essential Kirk Douglas movies. There will more of the same, of course. My own late favorite is “Lonely are the brave”. One of the first hikes I sought out after moving to New Mexico was the Movie Trail in the Sandias. Scene of one of the most critical passages in this quiet, immensely important, film.

Kick the Republican Klownshow to the kerb, it’s time to start over for an Equal Rights Amendment

Next week, the House of Representatives may consider House Joint Resolution 79, which appears to amend the resolution proposing the Equal Rights Amendment to remove its ratification deadline. The problem is that the previous measure, House Joint Resolution 208, no longer exists. It was adopted on March 22, 1972, and included a seven-year deadline for state ratification. When the deadline passed with fewer than the 38 ratifying states the Constitution requires, the resolution expired.

The House knows it. The website of the House Clerk has a tab for frequently asked questions. Number 11 is this: “When does a bill become ‘dead’ or no longer open to consideration?”…

There are 3 answers. 2 don’t apply. The 3rd says the bill is dead.

Which means – you guessed it – we have to rally the troops to cajole, threaten, persuade sufficient members of Congress to restart the whole process – one more time. C’mon, folks, I’m trying to live long enough to see this victory. I’d rather I needn’t be counting my age in triple digits when it happens.

Today is 02/02/2020 — the first global palindrome day

It is February 2, 2020, or 02/02/2020, in both the MM/DD/YYYY format and the DD/MM/YYYY format. At just after 2 a.m., it was 02:02:20 on 02/02/2020.

This is the only time such a date will occur this century.

The previous palindrome date in all formats came 909 years ago on 11/11/1111. The next will come in 101 years on 12/12/2121 and after that there will not be another until 03/03/3030.

Solihull School Maths Department wrote on Twitter: “Today is a Palindrome Day in all date formats (UK, USA, ISO). It’s also a palindrome day of the year (33) and there are a palindrome number of days left in the year (333). Quite a unique day!

Lots more uninteresting things going on in our lives. Not only this date; but, the days behind and ahead. That’s politics. This is a chronological record untouched by social thuggery – either traditional or All-American.

Antarctica discovered 200 years ago…More marine conservation overdue!


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Looking back, it seems only fitting that a Russian, Adm. Fabian von Bellingshausen, was the first person to sight Antarctica…200 years ago. In fact, on Jan. 27, 1820.

Now, the 25 member governments of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources [CCAMLR], which governs human activity in the Southern Ocean, should honor the anniversary of von Bellingshausen’s discovery and the spirit of the treaty with a renewed push to protect the Southern Ocean.

This marine environment and the species that live there face unprecedented threats, led by climate change…Fortunately, CCAMLR already has proposals on the table for the creation of three MPAs—in East Antarctica…the Weddell Sea, and the Antarctic Peninsula. Each would safeguard critical foraging and nursery grounds for Southern Ocean species, including seals, whales, and penguins, and preserve the region’s essential function as a carbon sink.

The great Antarctic explorers and the signatories of the 1959 treaty have their names etched in history, and by doing the right thing this year, CCAMLR members could join them.

I’ll second that emotion.

Scientists Find the Oldest Material on Earth — it ain’t from here!


Click to enlargeMurchison Meteorite

Earth formed alongside the rest of the solar system roughly 4.6 billion years ago. The oldest rocks we’ve found to date are about 4.03 billion years old, but the oldest earth minerals ever discovered were actually found in lunar samples and date to about 4.1 billion years.

Now, scientists believe they’ve discovered the oldest material ever found on Earth: microscopic specs of dust pulled from meteorite dated at 7.5 billion years old, according to research published January 13 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…

The meteorite in which the grains were found is one of the most well-studied meteorites on Earth. The 220-pound Murchison meteorite plummeted to Victoria, Australia on September 28, 1969. (There were witnesses, too—a rare treat for studied meteorites.) It’s a type of meteorite called a carbonaceous chondrite…

The scientists took a small sample of the extraterrestrial rock and crushed it into a fine powder for analysis. They then turned it into a paste, which, according to the BBC, smells like rotten peanut butter. The grains were then dissolved out and dated using an isotope of the element neon, Ne-21.

RTFA. A milestone.

Confirming my wife’s theory there are 5 – not 4 – basic elements to the universe. Air, earth, fire, water…and peanut butter.

Pentagon says they’re worried about consumer DNA testing


Lisa Ferdinando/DOD

The Pentagon is advising troops that there are security risks, to include mass surveillance and potential tracking, associated with using consumer DNA kits. The products have become popular in recent years with people looking to discover potential medical issues or uncover information about ancestry and even find unknown relatives…

“These DTC [direct-to-consumer] genetic tests are largely unregulated and could expose personal and genetic information, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission,” the memo reads.

“Moreover, there is increased concern in the scientific community that outside parties are exploiting the use of genetic data for questionable purposes, including mass surveillance and the ability to track individuals without their authorization or awareness,” the memo states.

Humbug! Yes, we all should be concerned about privacy and access to personal information. Automatic call for anyone spending any time on the Web. Anyone applaud the Pentagon for worrying about citizens becoming security risks from DNA testing? Drivel!

As much as geeks drive concern over privacy and corporate use of that info – it should take a century or two for non-government snoops to catch up to the files in possession of the FBI, NSA and the rest of the vegetable soup tracking ordinary citizens under the umbrella of security. Cripes, last time I was involved with challenges to federal snoops, the active file went back to my first sit-in over sixty years ago.

Irish folk medicine stops an antibiotic-resistant bacteria

” In hospitals, in our food, and even in the ocean, antibiotic resistance is a problem scientists are hurrying to address.

Researchers discovered one potential solution to the crisis — and it’s more old-school than you might think. Alkaline soil from the Boho Highlands of Northern Ireland contains a new strain of bacteria — Streptomyches sp. myrophorea — which inhibits the growth of four of the six multi-resistant pathogens that the WHO calls “high-priority pathogens.”

” The soil came from a specific and historically significant site: Sacred Heart Church, located in the town of Toneel North. The The Boho Highlands region was significant to Neolithic people, Druids, and early Christian missionaries, as Inverse reported when the study was first published.

There, dirt has been sourced for Irish folk medicine for hundreds — possibly thousands — of years. It’s been used to heal toothaches and infections, for example, by placing a small handful of cloth-wrapped soil next to the ailment.

Using the same soil today for science presents a marriage of past and present, showing how traditional beliefs can inform today’s advances.

Fascinating stuff. This article was originally published almost exactly a year ago. INVERSE republished it as part of a year-end review of their top 20 stories in 2019.

I haven’t taken the time to check current stats on percentages of traditional beliefs that turn out to be harmful vs productive; but, that isn’t the point of the article. My feeling is that it reflects the portion of a scientific mind that comes down on the side of inclusive research.