These guineafowl have tiny brains and elaborate social networks — Sound familiar?


James Klarevas

❝ A new study published this week in the journal Current Biology about an East African bird species with a pretty small brain reveals that animals may not necessarily necessarily need to be smart to be social…

❝ Farine and his colleagues decided to study the gorgeous blue-feathered, turkey-like species in depth…They found that the local population was divided into 18 distinct social groups numbering between 18 and 65 birds each…

The groups were remarkably stable, anchored by several breeding pairs. They also found that certain groups liked hanging out with one another, meeting up at certain times of the day and around certain features in the landscape. Some groups would also spend most of the day off on their own, then meet up with another pack of bird friends to roost at night. In other words, they exhibit the same type of multilevel society as big-brained mammals…

❝ Farine (says)…these particular birds aren’t particularly intelligent.

“They don’t only have small brains relative to mammals,” he says. “They also have quite small brains relative to other birds.”

Social networking may be more of an elemental survival skill than something requiring smarts. RTFA. Reflect on critters who dash around trying to be recognized as members of the “correct” group.

Waste not, want not – in Oakland

❝ The red plum’s presence confounds the third grader. She didn’t want the fruit in the first place, yet there it is. She doesn’t want to eat it, but she knows that tossing it into the garbage at Oakland’s Hoover Elementary School is wrong. Standing before containers for trash, recyclables, compostables, and unopened entrees, milk cartons, and whole fruit, the girl’s decision-making matches her Disney-movie hijab — Frozen.

Fortunately, Nancy Deming, the school district’s sustainability manager for custodial and nutritional services, is supervising the sorting line today. “If you’ve started eating your fruit, it goes in the compost,” she reminds the girl with a smile. “If you haven’t taken a bite, it goes to Food Share.” The girl glances at the plum, then carefully places it in the clear bin, from which students can take whatever unopened or unbitten foods they please. Anything left will either be offered the next day or donated to a local hunger-relief organization.

❝ For decades, students here and there have made use of designated tables in school lunch rooms to leave or pick up unwanted whole fruit, packaged foods, or other meal items. Although rare in most school districts, Deming has standardized the practice and made it mandatory for schools serving some 37,000 students in Oakland. As the only school employee in the country whose sole responsibility is fighting food waste, Deming has transformed the Oakland Unified School District — and somewhat reluctantly herself — into a national leader. With her help, the district has arguably done more than any other in the country to minimize excess food, redistribute edible leftovers to people in need, and compost the inevitable inedibles.

Always nice to see someone in a craft often practiced casually – managed by cheapass bureaucrats – build sensible frugality into successful management.

Taking a knee — Republican Style

Pretty much everyone in the family of my father’s generation worked in some part or other of the gun industry for a spell. Part of growing up in the Arsenal of America. We worked every category from machinist to prototype gunsmith, secretary to plant manager. The industry didn’t rely then on the death and destruction of American citizens. The NRA existed to provide safe hunting, safe shooting. Not like today — as a lobbyist for paranoid households and individuals armed to the teeth to “protect” themselves against damned near every other kind of American out there in the dark.

Launch officers sign letter: “Trump should not have his finger on the button”

❝ Ten former nuclear launch control officers who once held the keys needed to fire on the president’s order have signed an open letter saying they think Donald Trump should not be entrusted with the nation’s nuclear codes.

The letter, issued Thursday, says the decision to use nuclear weapons requires “composure, judgment, restraint and diplomatic skill” — all qualities that the former Air Force officers who signed it said Trump lacks.

“On the contrary, he has shown himself time and again to be easily baited and quick to lash out, dismissive of expert consultation and ill-informed of even basic military and international affairs — including, most especially, nuclear weapons,” the letter says. “Donald Trump should not be the nation’s commander-in-chief. He should not be entrusted with the nuclear launch codes. He should not have his finger on the button.”

You can read the full letter here.

❝ The former missileers who signed Thursday’s letter served at the nation’s four underground launch centers in the Great Plains from as long ago as the 1960s to, most recently, 2013. They do not endorse Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, or even mention her name, in the letter.

“No one who signed the letter wanted to disclose a position who they would vote for,” said Bruce Blair, who organized the letter and said he is a Democrat who will vote for Clinton but has no idea which candidate the others support. “The letter is focused entirely on Trump.”

The most positive aspect of letters like this one is — I’m pleased to see military officers with a background in mission critical understanding demonstrate a great deal more common sense than I fear American voters may have.

Teen pregnancy rates declined in every one of the United States

Since 1986 to 1991, when U.S. pregnancy, abortion and birth rates peaked; teen pregnancy rates dropped 51 percent by 2010 and the teen abortion rate declined 66 percent and the teen birthrate declined 44 decreased.

Kathryn Kost and Stanley Henshaw of the Guttmacher Institute in New York found in 2010, about 625,000 U.S. women younger than age 20 became pregnant — 614,000 pregnancies were among teens ages 15 to 19, and another 11,000 among those age 14 and younger. Most pregnancies were among women ages 18 to 19 — this age group constituted 69 percent of teen pregnancies…

The decline in the teen pregnancy rate is great news,” lead author Kathryn Kost said in a statement.

Teen pregnancy rates declined in all 50 states from 2008 to 2010, but in 2010, New Mexico had the highest teen pregnancy rate of 80 per 1,000 women, followed by Mississippi at 76 per 1,000 women and Texas at 73 per 1,000 women; while the lowest rate was in New Hampshire with 28 per 1,000 women, Vermont at 32 per 1,000 women and Minnesota at 36 per 1,000 women.

And the answer to this question has two parts: yes, ignorance is number one for those who get pregnant young enough to have little or no idea of how to build a family much less raise a child. Number two is the clownshow that promotes this kind of ignorance.

Whether it’s the pope or Rick Perry it surely would help if they’d try functioning like sensible educated men – instead of plastic ideologues. Fortunately, the fact that people retain information that actually works – continues to take precedence over sillyspeak.

Egg allergies, fear of needles not legit excuses to avoid flu shot

Egg allergies and fear of needles are no longer arguments to avoid getting the flu vaccine, thanks to improvements available this year, a U.S. expert says.

Dr. Jorge Parada, the medical director of the Infection Prevention and Control Program at Loyola University Health System near Chicago, said new this year, those who have egg allergies have access to a completely egg-free vaccine…

In addition, those who have a fear of needles can now benefit from the intradermal flu vaccine which uses a very fine needle that is 90 percent smaller than the needles used for regular flu shots, Parada said.

“The intradermal flu vaccine is injected into the superficial skin instead of the deeper muscle and is preferred by some patients,” Parada said.

A needle-less vaccine administered via a nasal flu mist is also available on a limited basis to those ages 2 through 49 who are healthy, Parada added.

All you have left for an excuse is religion or an irrational belief in some superstition. Oh.

“…Of course, everyone should get a flu vaccine — early in the season is preferred — to protect themselves, their family and friends, and to prevent the spread of the flu virus overall,” said Parada…

Herd immunity is a medical term that refers to the prevention of infectious disease due to mass public vaccination and herd immunity has helped to eradicate smallpox and control measles, whooping cough, polio and many other deadly illnesses, including the flu.”

Yup. Got my flu shot 6 or 8 weeks ago. Freebie under Medicare Advantage.

Well, freebie means no copay in Medicare-speak.

Inside the box: Shipping containers in architecture


Starbucks drive-through store in Tukwila, Washington

Gizmag picks ten of our favorite shipping container-based structures

The widespread use of the modern metal shipping container can be traced back to the mid-1950’s. According to Marc Levinson, in April 1956 an oil tanker traveled between Newark and Houston with 58 rudimentary “shipping containers,” (actually refitted aluminum truck bodies) sparking a modern revolution in moving goods around the world. However, an unexpected result also eventually transpired: shipping containers became recognized as an attractive building material by many architects. Gizmag gives a nod to ten of our favorite uses of shipping containers in architecture.

I’ve covered some of these in previous postings. Wander through the article and enjoy your favorites.

Before retiring, I was lucky enough to work with a few of our talented local architects here in Santa Fe. A couple did some amazing work with shipping containers – one, in fact, building his own million-dollar home from these, his favorite structural module.

Japan approves landmark stem cell trials

Japan’s government has given its approval to the world’s first clinical trials using stem cells harvested from a patient’s own body.

Health Minister Norihisa Tamura signed off on Friday on a proposal by two research institutes that will allow them to begin tests aimed at treating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common medical condition that causes blindness in older people, using “induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells”…

The tests will be jointly conducted by the Riken Center for Developmental Biology and the Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation (IBRI) Hospital in Japan.

Riken will harvest stem cells, using skin cells taken from patients, a spokesman said…The trial treatment will attempt to create retinal cells that can be transplanted into the eyes of six patients suffering from AMD, replacing the damaged part of the eye…

Groundbreaking work done in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University, a Nobel Laureate in medicine last year, succeeded in generating stem cells from adult skin tissue.

Like embryonic stem cells, iPS cells are also capable of developing into any cell in the body, but crucially their source material is readily available.

The question of how much freedom scientists should be allowed to carry out research on embryonic stem cells is considered one of the great ethical issues of our time.

The research is controversial because it requires the destruction of the embryo, a process that religious conservatives, among others, oppose.

This is not a difficult or controversial question among scientists or most medical professionals. Focusing on efforts to provide the greatest good for the greatest number is sufficient. The rest of the crap arguments follow their own convoluted path through the byways of brains accustomed to considering the number of angels that fit on a pinhead roughly equivalent to or greater than, say, aiding starving children or preventing the spread of dangerous disease.