Fish whopper: 646 pounds a freshwater record

Caught in Thailand…. Now I know why Siamese cats avoid swimming.

Source: Fish whopper: 646 pounds a freshwater record – Environment – MSNBC.com.

Thai fishermen netted a catfish as big as a grizzly bear, setting a world record for the largest freshwater fish ever found, according to researchers who studied the 646-pound Mekong giant catfish as part of a project to protect large freshwater fish.

via Kristen

Grace Slick – Outspoken and Controversial at 65

If you don’t know the name, Grace Slick was a lead singer for the band Jefferson Airplane in the late 1960s. FYI: White Rabbit was a song about doing drugs. If you want to hear her at her best, find the song Somebody to Love and give it a listen. She really rocked in her prime.

Below are excerpts from an interview in DailyBreeze.com.

Psychedelic ’60s rock icon Grace Slick will tell you herself: She’s a "fat, white-haired woman" who’s too old to make music. "To watch people flap their wrinkles around with rock ‘n’ roll songs really gags me," she says. "I stopped when I was 50, and that’s too late."

Q: What is the significance of "White Rabbit," 40 years ago and today?

A: Well, it’s actually not well done in the sense that what I had in mind is not obvious in the song. Our parents would sit there, and they’d have a glass of Scotch or whatever in their hand, and they’d ask us, "Why do you take all these drugs?" What I was trying to say in the song was to remind the parents of the books they read to us when we were very young.

Before I was 5, they read me Alice in Wonderland, who takes at least three or four different drugs during that book. It’s not even an illusion, she just flat out takes drugs and flat out gets high. She gets so high she can’t get out of the building. She has to take another drug to come down, literally, so she can get out the door. It’s just filled with drug references.

Another book is Peter Pan. You sprinkle a little white dust on your head and suddenly you can fly. Or Wizard of Oz — all of them fall down in a field of opium poppies and when they wake up, they suddenly see this beautiful emerald city.

So what I got in my head was that chemicals of one sort or the other are going to lead you to interesting adventures. That’s what I was trying to say. You can’t sit there with a glass of alcohol having read me three different drug books and say why are you using those drugs? I thought I’d have a good adventure, and it’s true, I did.

Q: When did you make the transition to painting?

A: It was about 1994. I had just asked the guy I was living with to go home. So I was sad. Animals make me happy, I love animals. So I started drawing animals and plastering them up all over my walls in my house because it made me feel better to look at bears and dogs and raccoons and what have you. My friends would come over and say, "Wow, you ought to really to do that professionally." And I said no, because I didn’t want to get into any business again.

But then I wrote a book a couple of years later (Somebody to Love? A Rock-and-Roll Memoir) and the book agent said, "I want you to draw two rock ‘n’ roll people for the book." And I said, "Oh how corny — rock ‘n’ roll draws rock ‘n’ roll." (She fakes a loud snore.)

But she said just two, so I said OK. So I drew Garcia and Hendrix or something. And I found that I actually liked it because these people have such powerful and diverse and interesting personalities and I could try to plow that through the bone structure.

Q: Are there any similarities between painting and making music?

A: It’s all coming out of the same bag of meat, meaning me. The information is more or less the same in that how I draw is simple and blunt, which is like rock and roll. So apparently that’s what I do. My mother used to say, "Grace, you’re so curt with people. Don’t be so short with people. Don’t be so terse." She used those words to describe what I ought to modify. But that approach has supported me for 40 years so I’m not changing it.

Q: Does the work appeal to the same audience or are you finding new fans with your artwork?

A: I think some people are new because of some of the artwork. Some of the nudes are sumi-ish, a form of [Japanese] drawing where you use very few strokes. Some people like those. Some people like the rock ‘n’ roll icons. Some people like the references to Alice in Wonderland. Some people like the bunny itself. Bunnies go like mad and I don’t think it’s just "White Rabbit." I think, because our world now is so angry and [expletive] up that there’s something relaxing and peaceful about a bunny. Some of it is "White Rabbit" and the relation to that song and era and everything. But so many bunnies sell that I think it has something to do with the gentleness and the attraction to that particular animal.

Q: Were you surprised by the reception to your work?

A: I’m always surprised when anybody likes anything. And they pay me to do it! All my life I’ve been paid to do what I wanted to do anyway. It’s just awesome. I’ve had this fantastic life. I must have done something good in another life because I haven’t done much good this time. I mean good in the sense of being of service and all that spiritual-type stuff. It feels like some kind of reward for something. I’ve really enjoyed my life. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was hangovers.

Q: What kind of schedule do you keep?

A: I paint all the time unless I’m doing a gallery show or something. Apart from that I just paint all the time, around the clock. Because I’m kind of obsessive about stuff.

If I like something, I’m all over it like flies on [expletive]. Unfortunately, that also means drugs and sex — not now though because I’m too old. I can’t stand the idea of old people screwing. I’m the complete addict.

Q: So it was lucky the book agent said, "Do me some drawings."

A: Yeah. Addicts, alcoholics, whatever you want to call them, if they can aim that obsession in the right direction, they’re very effective. I’m sure Hemingway was obsessed with writing as much as he was with drinking himself into a snit. If you aim your addictions in the right territory, you can really crank out some interesting stuff. You get a lot of practice, because that obsession means you do it all the time.

Q: You’ve said painting appeals to you because it has nothing to do with your appearance. What do you mean?

A: Well the thing is, when you get old, you get real ugly. When you’re young, you’re pretty but you’re not as bright. When you’re old, you have a lot of wisdom but you’re ugly.

Everybody says, "No, it’s beautiful. You’re lovely when you’re old. Wrinkles just show I’ve lived." No. I’m sorry, you’re ugly. So I appreciate something I have to do for a living where my appearance is not part of it.

Q: Is it harder to gain respect in one area of the arts when you’re already established in another?

A: I understand the problem in the process so I don’t care. People want the sameness. If you are a ballet dancer, they’re going to balk at you wanting to be a folk singer. That’s just the way human nature is. But you just do it anyway. People write to me and say they wish I’d sing because that’s what they’re comfortable with. I understand that. But I’m not going to change anything.

Honey as Medicine

Source: Interesting Thing of the Day: Honey as Medicine.

Historically, honey has been used as a folk remedy in cultures around the world for millennia. It has been prescribed informally as a cure for smallpox, baldness, eye diseases, and indigestion. It’s even been used as a contraceptive. As with most natural “cures” unsupported by scientific studies, I sort of chuckle and sigh when I read about things like this—honey may be a silly substitute for real medicine, but at least it’s not bloodletting. However, in this case, the bees may have the last laugh. It turns out that honey’s properties make it a surprisingly effective cure-all. Or, let’s say, cure-much.

Bee Fruitful and Multiply
Honey’s salutary effects stem primarily from its antimicrobial properties. Most bacteria and other microorganisms cannot grow or reproduce in honey. I found this quite surprising, because all things being equal, bacteria love sugar. Honey contains around 40% fructose and 30% glucose—among other sugars—making it seemingly a great treat for microbes. However, honey is also somewhat acidic, and acids prevent the growth of some bacteria. More importantly, honey does not provide the water and oxygen needed to support bacterial growth. Although honey contains a fair amount of water, it’s supersaturated with sugar—meaning the water is not available to the microorganisms.

So what happens when you dilute honey with water—the bacteria just multiply like crazy, right? Well…yes and no. Amazingly enough, diluted honey supports the growth of bacteria that are helpful to humans while killing off dangerous strains. Some microorganisms do indeed flourish in a dilute solution of honey—such as the yeast used to ferment it into mead. Also, certain types of beneficial bacteria that live in the human intestines and aid digestion do well in a mixture of honey and water. But honey also contains a substance called glucose oxidase. When combined with water and oxygen, glucose oxidase forms gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide—the very same stuff you probably have in your medicine cabinet right now. This means that diluted honey can serve as an excellent antiseptic, while being far less likely than ordinary hydrogen peroxide to harm already-damaged tissue.

Show Me the Honey
What does all this mean in practical terms? For one thing, it means that honey applied topically to a wound can promote healing just as well as, or in many cases better than, conventional ointments and dressings. Its antibacterial properties prevent infection. It also functions as an anti-inflammatory agent, reducing both swelling and pain. As if that weren’t enough, it even reduces scarring. In studies around the world, honey has been shown to be extraordinarily effective in the treatment of wounds, burns, and surgical incisions. Honey also functions as a moisturizer, making it a useful treatment for sunburn as well as a general-purpose skin softener.

But wait, there’s more! Honey is truly a head-to-toe cure. Honey has been shown to be effective in treating inflammation of the eyelid, some types of conjunctivitis, and keratitis (along with other forms of corneal damage). It can also, believe it or not, be used to treat athlete’s foot and other fungal infections.

A Spoonful of Sugar Is the Medicine
Lest you think that honey is only healthy if used on the outside of the body, it can help with a great many internal problems too. Thanks to its antimicrobial action, it not only soothes sore throats but can also kill the bacteria that sometimes cause them. Although research is inconclusive so far, there’s also the suggestion it could actually reduce tooth decay—all that sticky sugar notwithstanding. Moving down the esophagus and through the digestive tract, honey can help to heal ulcers and upset stomachs. It has also been proven to regulate intestinal function, alleviating both constipation and diarrhea. (In a similarly syzygial way, honey can be used both as a sleep aid and to increase alertness.) Honey also contains a variety of antioxidants, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Manuka honey, made from the flowers of the Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium), comes from New Zealand. Some varieties of Manuka honey contain an antibacterial component called UMF (Unique Manuka Factor), which has been found to be even more useful than ordinary honey in combatting infections. Intriguingly, honey with UMF is even effective against many so-called “superbugs”—strains of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus that are resistant to multiple types of antibiotics. An Australian company called Medihoney has obtained the blessing of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (comparable to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) to sell this type of honey packaged as a dressing for wounds. The company also sells honey and honey-based products designed to treat digestive problems, oral irritations and sore throats, and even skin conditions such as psoriasis.

The Color of Honey
Now that you’ve worked yourself into a gleeful frenzy over the miraculous properties of honey, I want to temper your enthusiasm a bit. The bad news, if you can call it that, is that not all honey is created equal. The chemical composition of honey depends on a huge number of variables, the most important of which is the type or types of plant that provided the source nectar. Honeys vary not only in color and flavor, but in their medicinal properties, with some varieties being much more potent than others. Because it’s impossible to regulate the comings and goings of millions of bees, there’s also no way to guarantee that honey from any location will be chemically the same from year to year or free of contamination from pollutants the bees may have found their way into. Honey supplies must be tested thoroughly and regularly.

I should mention one other caveat: never feed honey to a child under one year of age. Honey sometimes contains Clostridium botulinum spores. Although they’re inactive in the honey itself, once inside a digestive tract they can multiply and cause a potentially fatal disease of the nervous system called infant botulism. By the time of a child’s first birthday, there are usually enough beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract to make it an inhospitable environment for Clostridium botulinum, meaning that honey can be eaten safely.

Denial of Global Warming

I’m old enough to remember the tobacco industry campaigning that smoking does not cause cancer. And, sadly enough, they found plenty of scientists who would support that position.

Later a group of heavy industries disavowed any connection between air pollution and acid rain. Now we know that air pollution in the Midwest changed the chemistry of many pristine mountain lakes in the East, so that no fish could live in them.

Does the debate on global warming seem familar?

The great lie in the climate debate is that there is still a debate worth having. Opponents of change insist that the human factors in global warming are not proven and that we must wait until we have hard evidence before taking drastic action, which is as about as silly as saying there are two equally valid views on the issue of whether pedophilia damages children.

What is so destructive about this stance is that it claims equal weight and equal airtime. The ‘balance’ in newspaper reports, especially in the United States, is, in fact, a bias against the truth and weakens the case for immediate action against emissions of C02. And while we hum and haw, trying to persuade reluctant skeptics, the permafrost of the Arctic melts, sea levels inch up and the pH levels of oceans gradually drop because of the carbon that is absorbed from the atmosphere.

The following quote comes from an article in the Daily Telegraph editorial pages last month. It captures perfectly the knuckle-headed entrenchment of the last century: ‘Climate change is an important, perhaps vital, debate, but it remains just that. Warning of disaster has become a global industry, and the livelihoods of thousands of scientists depend on our being sufficiently spooked to keep funding their research. The worry is that many of these researchers have stopped being scientists and become campaigners instead.’

The author pretends to even-handedness, but his real message is that climate change is a scam to keep scientists in work. Yet it is not scientists who are distorting the evidence, but the US oil lobby and a co-operative White House. Last week, Philip Cooney, a White House staffer, was exposed by the New York Times for revising reports on global warming so that they cast doubt on the link between greenhouse gases and rising temperatures. Mr Cooney, who has no scientific training whatsoever, resigned and took a job with Exxon Mobil, which is, incidentally, the company that produces twice the CO<->2 emissions of Norway and is currently facing a consumer boycott in Europe.

Cooney no doubt contributed to the White House’s successful efforts to sandbag Tony Blair’s plan of action to tackle climate change at the G8 summit next month. You have to hand it to the Prime Minister that he accepts the advice of his scientific advisers and has done all he can in Britain’s presidency of the G8 to focus world leaders’ attention on the problem.

Link: Fiddling as the Planet Burns

Listen to the Birds

I have learned to listen to the birds to tell what is going on in nature.

In 1981 Roy Stone and I were walking on a trail while backpacking in Glacier National Park when the birds went silent. The silence was very eerie. A moment later we met a two people who said that they had just seen a grizzly on the trail ahead of us. My weariness evaporated immediately and I experienced a surge of alertness – we didn’t see the grizzly but I could feel a powerful presence.

Around our home, we find that blue jays are very effective at communicating the presence of predators. (They probably listen to the chickadees.)

Source: Bird’s alarm carries info on size, threat of predator | Science Blog.

Chickadees use one of the most sophisticated signaling systems discovered among animals. The calls warn other chickadees not only if a predator is moving rapidly, but also transmit information on the degree of threat posed by stationary predators of different sizes.

Robert Cray’s Heroes

Link: Soul Shine Magazine : Robert Cray : Take Twenty.

Howlin’ Wolf or Jimi Hendrix? Ask Robert Cray who he’d choose to see of any band or artist, living or dead, and he has a hard time deciding. “I’d like to see Jimi Hendrix again,” Cray says, chatting on the phone in exactly the soft, soulful speaking voice you’d expect having heard his work. He did see Hendrix twice, the first time in a small crowd in Dacoma, Washington, and then later in Sicks’ Stadium in Seattle on July 26, 1967 [1970], just a few months before Hendrix’s death. Like Hendrix, Cray did some growing up in Seattle and took up guitar at age twelve. Cray started with a Harmony acoustic and shortly thereafter, inspired by the Beatles’ arrival in Washington State, he switched to an electric guitar of the same make.

Going forward, this 5x Grammy winner thinks his biggest challenge will be finding food. I mean, an old time musician today can’t live on the royalties from music sharing. They have to keep the band name out there, and keep traveling for the live shows. “It’s not really that hard. It’s just that your whole day becomes about foraging,” he says of finding healthy food to eat during the travel time. After more than a thousand performances as a unit, Cray says the shows that really stand out are the ones where you get to meet your heroes.

Speaking of heroes, Cray emphatically regrets how he missed the chance to see the Howling Wolf in November 1975 at the Chicago Amphitheatre, on a bill with BB King, OV Wright and many other great blues men. At the time, Cray and a few buddies who were trying to get a band started were shacked up with the harmonica player’s girlfriend in Eugene, Oregon. Cray had a commitment elsewhere and declined when the bunch of them hopped in car and took off to take in the ailing Wolf’s heroic performance, recreating old songs and performing his old antics like crawling across the stage during the song “Crawling King Snake.” The crowd went wild and gave him a five-minute standing ovation. When he got offstage a team of paramedics were able to revive [Wolf], but this concert was the last from such a legendary performer.

Is Organic Food Sustainable?

Suzanne DeJohn offers her opinion on large grocery chains now offering organic produce.

…There’s also a downside to the mainstreaming of organics. Before this "corporatization," most organic produce was grown on small, family-owned farms and distributed to consumers via farmer’s markets and local natural food stores. Now, the organic produce you see is likely grown in far off places.

Is Organic the Same as Sustainable?
Advocates for organic farming and sustainable agriculture used to be essentially one and the same. By its nature, organic farming was sustainable, in that most organic farms were relatively small; they were required to use techniques that nurtured the land; and, notably, the produce was grown near where it was consumed — economies of scale did not encourage long-distance shipping.

Now that agribusinesses have realized that consumers are willing to pay more for organic produce, market forces are prevailing. Large farms are converting to organic methods to take advantage of this trend and fill the demand. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, because that means huge farms are converting to organic methods. But something is being lost, too. Organic agriculture on this scale is not sustainable when it requires that food be trucked thousands of miles from farm to consumer.The fuel required is not renewable, and the process not sustainable over the long term.

The Importance of Local
1. It is risky to concentrate our food supply into fewer and fewer hands. Not even taking into consideration things like bioterrorism and the like, depending on farmers thousands of miles away to feed us doesn’t make sense. Food trucked that far can’t be at its freshest. Food is too essential to our well-being and our survival for us to be so far removed from its source. Local farms provide some measure of food security and guarantee the freshest possible products.

2. Recent rises in fuel costs should remind us that when food is grown far away, food prices will rise when fuel prices rise. Imagine what food will cost if fuel costs rise to what Europeans pay at the pump — more than $4 per gallon right now. However, if we wait to support local farms until this happens, then it will be too late and those local farms will likely be gone.

3. Supporting local farms supports your local economy. Buy from your local farmer, and that farmer will, in turn, buy from the local feed store, who then might sponsor your childrens’ baseball team, and so on. Strong local economies build strong communities.

4. When food production takes place far away, diversity is lost. At one time you could travel the country and enjoy regional favorites. More and more, we’re seeing the homogenization of foods and the resulting loss of local specialties. Tomato varieties, for example, are grown as much for their suitability for shipment as for their taste. Apples are grown for their uniformity. When was the last time you saw a display of ‘Mortgage Lifter’ tomatoes or ‘Sheepnose’ apples at your local supermarket?

5. Farmland is attractive, and farms provide a means for people to make their living off the land. As more and more arable land is scooped up for development, it is imperative that we keep some of the remaining land in farms. Once it is developed, it is lost forever for the production of food.

6. Finally, by supporting local farms we return, at least in part, to "eating in season." Now that you can buy strawberries from South America at grocery stores in January, a little of the thrill of that first ripe May strawberry is lost. (Although some would argue that the mealy, tasteless January strawberries aren’t deserving of their name.) Sadly, many people have never tasted a fresh-picked, sun-warmed, juicy, red strawberry. The same with other seasonal favorites — asparagus, tomatoes, peaches, and sweet corn come to mind. Off-season, often insipid-tasting, plastic-boxed imposters are available year-round, but it’s too bad that so many people think that’s as good as it gets.

Source: National Gardening Association

How Scots gave golf to America

Source: Scotsman.com Sport – Golf – How Scots gave golf to America.

It was the morning of February 22, 1888, and though all of America was celebrating George Washington’s birthday, Reid had other plans. He told his friends to meet him on the old cow pasture across from where he lived. On that historic day, three golf holes, about 100 yards long, were laid out over the bumpy terrain and cups were dug up from the ground with the head of a cleek. Golf had finally come to America.

Later in the year, at a dinner in Yonkers, the first permanent golf club in the United States was formed, with Reid at the helm. They called themselves the St Andrew’s club, but with an apostrophe inserted to avoid confusion with the place back home, not that there was ever likely to be any. Reid’s crew led a nomadic existence, moving from the cow pasture to the north east corner of Broadway, to an orchard on the Weston estate about a quarter of a mile from their old course. They pitched a tent under the shade of an apple tree and called it a clubhouse. Forever more, these men would be known as the Apple Tree Gang, with Reid, of humble Fife stock, to this day being remembered as the father of American golf.

via GolfBlogger