Wow, fascinating article about the health of pre-Columbus Americans

Researchers analyzed thousands of skeletons to get a general idea of the health of pre-Columbus Americans.  They learned that in general they were fairly healthy 1,000 years before Columbus, but health was on a slow decline since then (interesting that EUrope was going through plagues and such in the Medevial ages while the American’s health was declining).  Societies that relied on farming were generally less healthy, and the navites along the Brazilian coast most healthy (plains INdisans were also healthy). Urban envinronments appeared in America 2000 years ago, and agriculture 7000 years ago.  And like with the Middle East, the appearance of these things match a decline in health.  Also, in the Mayan culture, which had more urban and agriculture, people were less healthy.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/29/science/don-t-blame-columbus-for-all-the-indians-ills.html

Wow, fascinating article about the health of pre-Columbus Americans

I feel for that poor 1,000 year old tree

Trees are living things, and how amazing that sequoias can live to be 3,000 years old. So I feel some pity for the 1,000 year old tree that fell in California this week. The tree was perhaps a centry old when William the Conquerer crossed the English Channel to conquer England and build The Tower of London in the 11th century (the battle was in 1066). It was 500 years old when the Europeans stumbled upon — and exterminated — the Americas.  How crazy, how awesome and how sad that the tree has lived through all that and suddenly is gone.  With all they now know about trees and their ability to communicate with each other, I wonder if trees have a soul that is undetectable by humans.  Gosh, the world is a strange place. RIP tree…

I feel for that poor 1,000 year old tree

Reading “Hershey” by D’Antonio and liking it

Reading Hershey, by D’Antonio, which is ultimately about the Hershey school but with substantial amounts dedicated to the Hershey History.  Hershey was born to a dreamer, charistmatic and a bit of a snake-oil salesman father and a menninite mother (an odd combination).  As a young boy, he went to work at a confectioner (candy shoppe) which were popular at the time, and with his mom’s intervention learned to be a candy maker.  After four unsuccessful tries financed by his mom’s successful farmer family, he found success with a caramel formula he found in Denver then produced locally in Lancaster (PA).  His mom and aunt’s presence were instrumental in his early successees, and he became quite weatlhy when a London importer stumbled upon his caramel and made bulk orders shortly before Hershey’s business went under.  In other words, he was lucky although a hard worker.  Eventually, he sold his caramel business for 1M to a competitor, and bought land in Derry’s Creek to construct a huge factory and town for his chocolates, which were still experimental, dominated by the Swiss (and Cadbury) but new to Americans.  As his huge investment (1M) neared completion, his loyal worker perfected the recipe for milk choclate (earning a 100 USD bonus), and the factory (and town) became a monstrous success.  He used some of this money to build a school for boys at a time when many orphanages were being built to serve the high numbers of poor orphans.

Hershey was lucky and had the support of his family, but also was a hard worker who was dedicated to his craft of making candy, and took a substantial risk in building the what would be the town of Hershey (200K of his 1M windfall was spent in acquiring the land alone, and several of his supports more or less called him crazy for taking on the risk).

This is a fascinating, well-researched, well-written/told story.

Reading “Hershey” by D’Antonio and liking it

Breaking Bad observations and symbolism notes

Watching Break Bad again – love that show!!!  Observations:

  • He is a zombie.
  • Shows us early on that he was a Noble prize winning scientist 20 years earlier.
  • His wife seems content, despite the poverty.  They will eventually reverse roles (she is dispirited and dead, he is alive).
  • He desmontrates the bonson burner in glass, which is a flame.  As he says it is change, he is spritzing colors into the flame, he is alive.  Then he turns the bonson burner off, sighs, and he is dead again.
  • After his diagnosis, he is tossing lit matches (the flame going out) into a nearly and dead-leaf strewn pool.  As he becomes Heizenberg, the pool will be clean, then lit.  The pool is the blue meth, which is his light/life/power, and which a depressed wife will immerse herself in when she realizes she can’t control Walt’s meth making.  Later, when they are staying in the hotel while he is making millions, he will sit next to the massive and glowing blue hotel pool.  He does not throw matches into it, he stares at it.
  • His DEA agent bursts into the lower floor pursuing the drug dealers, leaving Walt unattended in the car. They are clueless that Capn Cook (Jesse) is in the upper floor, and that he and Walt have seen each other, like later they are clueless that Walt and Jesse are working together.
  • Jesse is in red: red sweatshirt, red car, red motorcycle, even red/chili pepper in his meth. But as Walt approaches him that first night, he is covering his red car with a blue tarp, just like the blue pool and the blue meth. I am assuming this is Walt’s blue covering up his old red life.  Later, as Walt pulls into Jesse’s house with the meth equipment, Jesse is wearing a big blue jacket over a red shirt, and a touch of red shows from under his blue hat.  When he sits in his red car, it has blue seats.  I love this!!
  • Jesse comes up with the idea for RV, since he doesn’t “sh** where (he) eat(s).”
  • Jesse asks, not with kindness, “Why are you doing this?” Walt, standing against a mountain backdrop, replies, “I am awake.”
  • The next scene, Walt is helping his son try on blue jeans in a blue dressing room.  His wife is dressed in blue.  He then physically confronts the larger-than-he bullies in the store – and wins.
  • There is a lot of yellow and green.  Green in the house yellow shirts, green clothes, green brush, green car – symbolic?  For example, blue and yellow make green?  Might be a reach but there is enough of it that it can’t be coincidence.
Breaking Bad observations and symbolism notes

Proclamation of 1763

Read about the Proclamation of 1763, which I never heard before…

After the British defeated the French in The French and Indian War (aka The Seven Years War), the British began harsh treatment of the Indians. The Indians, largely led by Pontiac, began rebelling and a number of battles erupted, some which the Indians slaughtered British and some where the British slaughtered the Indians.  In 1763, partially influenced by this (and partially to keep the colonists close to the shores where the “motherland” would have more control over them), Britain enacted The Proclamation of 1763, which banned colonists from settling on Indian lands East of the Appalachians.  For the Americans, who had helped defeat the Indians in part for access to these lands, this would be the first of several acts (such as The Stamp Act) that would drive a wedge between they and the British, and were the first seeds of the American Revolution.

Proclamation of 1763

The Battle of Saratoga

During the American War of Independence:

In 1777, the British devised a new strategy: they would divide-and-conquer the colonies by splitting them in half and breaking their resolve.

Three British armies were to meet in Albany (New York) as part of this plan, but only one of the armies made it and was quickly surrounded by superior American forces at Saratoga.  Over the next two weeks, the British tried two attempts to break free in the Battle(s) of Saratoga, but were repelled (in large part because of Benedict Arnold’s heroics while fighting for the American army) and forced to surrender.

This was a pivotal victory for the Americans and perhaps the most pivotal moment of the entire war.  It was a sign that the Americans might win the war, in turn encouraging the Europeans to support the Americans and the French in particular to join forces with the Americans.

Following the victory, the Americans built a monument in Benedict Arnold’s honor, a monument that is still at Saratoga today.

The Battle of Saratoga

In 1630s, New England saw incredible growth.

Shortly after Jamestown was founded, Plymouth was settled.  For a couple of decades, the population grew relatively slowly, with the Dutch and the English being the two primary countries colonizing the area, primarily for the fur trade.  But in 5 years in the 1630s, New England’s population expanded from 300 to 5000 in a great migration.  Soon, people were moving inland, particularly to the Connecticut River valley.  Source: Empires, Furs and Fortune.  

In 1630s, New England saw incredible growth.

Read interesting things about Plymouth settlers

Am reading “Fur, Fortune and Empire” and am finding it to be an interesting book.  For exampple, the settlers on Plymouth were more or less coerced at the final momnent to sign a new and less favorable agreement with their employer, and although they sought religious freedom their journey was paid for by investors who had them focus first and foremost on trading for valuable Beaver pelts with the Native Americans.  The company that paid for their voyage was led by a sociopath, who didn’t give enough goods and supplies to the pilgrims, and made unreasonable demands of them.  Also, they were supposed to settle farther south than Plymouth (and those lands had better fur trapping locations) but settled in Plymouth for safety reasons, then virtually hunted the Beaver to extinction in that area.  Finally, they expected to find a thriving Native settlement in Plymouth, but found it nearly abandoned – most of the Natives had been wiped out by the diseases  that Europeans brought with them (and wiped out much of all the native populations in the Americas).

Read interesting things about Plymouth settlers

Watched and Loved The Conversation again last night

I was a bachelor last night (kids out or with friends, wife M out with friends) and I stumbled upon Gene Hackman and The Conversation by FF Coppola from 1974.  I’ve watched that movie twice before and love it, and loved it for a third time.   Here we have a lonely expert in survelliance (spying on people) who is obsessive about his own privacy to the point of neurosis; he is very human, and as the movie continues we see the foreshadowing that he is going to make mistakes and isn’t quite as “safe” as he thinks he is (e.g. the listening pen, later he receives a call on his unlisted phone number).  His insecurity creates a lonely wall for him, and then when he finally (literally) unlocks the cage and opens up, he is first teased then has something stolen from him.  And this is all before the plot twist at the end (which I didn’t make it to last night before falling asleep).  What I love about this film in addition to Hackman’s performance  is that it is a subtle, thoughtful and human film that doesn’t rely on drama to be interesting and compelling.  It reminds  me a lot in this way of the junior Coppola’s Lost In Translation, which I can’t watch since it makes me feel depressed (at times, especially since battling lung disease, I have to battle the detached feeling that Bill Murray’s character has in that movie).  

By the way, the telescope in the Director’s office made me wonder how many hidden symbols there are in The Conversation relating to spying on other people (like a telescope).  Sort of like all the criss-crossing things in the background of Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train.  Makes me want to watch again and see 🙂

I wish more movies were subtle and patient, like The Conversation.

Watched and Loved The Conversation again last night

Learned two interesting things: Luddites and fake laughter

Stephen King mentioned Luddites in The Shining, and I had missed or forgotten about that term.  Simply put, the Luddites were 19th century workers in England who rose dup as their jobs were replaced by machines during the Industrial Revolution. In the age of offshoring and automation (IT), the term could have meaning again…

Second, I read a New York Times article about fake laughter.  There have been numerous studies and scientists studying laughter, and about 90% of laughter is fake, and people mistake fake laughter for real laughter about 30% of the time.  We get better with age until our 30s at discerning real laughter (it flattens in our 30s) from fake laughter, and fake laughter comes from a different part of our throat since it is more speech based.  Interesting, and not surprising.  The article mentions the hazards of fake laughter, that is if someone perceives fake laughter for real laughter they may continue to do something unacceptable (e.g. fake laughing at someone’s inappropriate joke).  This last part made me think of Feinstein’s quoting a basketball coach who said Bobby Knight lives his life surrounded by uncomfortable laughter.

Learned two interesting things: Luddites and fake laughter