24 October 2008

Men in white erase mouse memories

Scientists target mouse memories to erase

October 24, 2008 at 9:44 AM EDT

WASHINGTON — It seems like a movie plot, but scientists have developed a way to erase specific memories in mice while leaving others intact and not damaging the brain.

By manipulating levels of an important protein in the brain, certain memories can be selectively deleted, researchers led by neurobiologist Joe Tsien of the Medical College of Georgia reported in the journal Neuron.

While some experts have suggested there could be value in erasing certain memories in people such as wartime traumas, Dr. Tsien doubted that this could be done as it was in mice. He also questioned the wisdom of wiping out a person's memories.

"All memories, including the painful emotional memories, have their purposes. We learn great lessons from those memories or experiences so we can avoid making the same kinds of mistakes again, and help us to adapt down the road," Dr. Tsien said Thursday in a telephone interview.

The study focused on a protein called alpha-CaMKII involved in learning and memory. The scientists manipulated alpha-CaMKII activity in the brains of genetically modified mice to influence the retrieval of short-term and long-term memories.

Mice that were made to recall things such a mild electric shock at the same time that the protein was turned up in their brain seemed to lose the memory of the shock while not forgetting anything else, the researchers said.

"The human brain is so complex and dramatically different from the mouse brain. That's why I say I don't think it's possible you can do the same thing in humans," Dr. Tsien said.

"However, if that happens in my lifetime, I wouldn't be surprised either."

22 October 2008

Valuing nature

Snipped from Crunch may spur rethink of nature as 'free'

Reuters, 21 October 2008 - The worst financial crisis since the 1930s may be a chance to put price tags on nature in a radical economic rethink to protect everything from coral reefs to rainforests, environmental experts say.

Farmers know the value of land from the amount of crops they can produce but large parts of the natural world -- such as wetlands that purify water, oceans that produce fish or trees that soak up greenhouse gases -- are usually viewed as "free".

... And there are ever more attempts to mix prices and nature.

The European Union set up a carbon trading market in 2005 to get industries such as steel makers or oil refineries to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, blamed for global warming.

Ecuador has asked rich countries to pay it $350 million a year in exchange for not extracting 1 billion barrels of oil in the Amazon rainforest.


The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has shifted from traditional gross national product to a goal of "gross national happiness", which includes respect for nature.

And in U.N. talks on a new climate treaty, more than 190 nations are considering a plan to pay tropical nations billions of dollars a year to leave forests alone to slow deforestation and combat global warming.

"We want to see a shift to valuing ecosystems," Norwegian Environment Minister Erik Solheim said. Oslo has led donor efforts by pledging $500 million a year to tropical nations for abandoning the chainsaw and letting trees stand.

Deforestation accounts for about a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions by mankind. Trees soak up carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, as they grow, and release it when they rot or are burnt, usually to clear land for farming.

UNEP's Steiner said long-standing objections that it is too hard to value ecosystems were dwindling as economists' ability to assess risks improved.

A report sponsored by the European Commission and Germany in May estimated that humanity was causing 50 billion euros ($67.35 billion) in damage to the planet's land areas every year.

And a 2006 report by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern said that unchecked global warming could cost 5 to 20 percent of world GDP, damaging the economy on the scale of the world wars or the Great Depression.

Read the entire article

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Cassoulet

From: Allrecipes.com

Vegetarian Cassoulet

"This is a vegetarian version of the traditional French dish. If you are home while this is cooking, give the beans a stir every couple of hours." I've got some great 'Tuscan' herbs I want to try out with this recipe.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 pound dry navy beans, soaked overnight
  • 4 cups mushroom broth
  • 1 cube vegetable bouillon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh lemon thyme, chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh savory
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
  1. Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir onion and carrots in oil until tender.
  2. In a slow cooker, combine beans, carrots and onion, mushroom broth, bouillon, and bay leaf. Pour in water if necessary to cover ingredients with water. Tie together parsley, rosemary, thyme, and savory, and add to the pot. Cook on Low for 8 hours.
  3. Stir in potato, and continue cooking for 1 hour. Remove herbs before serving.

19 October 2008

15 October 2008

Blog Action Day 2008

Today is Blog Action Day 2008, an international call to action for bloggers to raise awareness on issues of poverty:
"Poverty is not only a pressing issue, it is a complex one. It's easy to think that there isn’t much an individual can do. Fortunately this isn’t the case at all. With activities ranging from advocacy and professional contribution to charity and financing, there is in fact many ways that we can act."
The idea is that bloggers sign up to blog about poverty reduction today.

This year's Blog Action Day has dozens of organizational sponsors and supporters, including the United Nations Millenium Campaign.

For more information:

Wikipedia article on Poverty in Canada

Canadian Council on Social Development's Urban Poverty Project

National Anti-Poverty Organization

Child poverty in Canada at same level as 1989: Oct 9 2008 - CTV report

13 October 2008

"Vision is not enough, it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs." ~Vaclav Havel

9 October 2008

Natural Air Freshening Strategies from 7th Gen

Indoor Air Clean-Up

Via: Seventh Generation

Open WindowThere's perhaps no month as filled with ritual as October. As we make our annual journey across the weeks between summer and winter, there are gardens to put to bed, leaves to leap in, pumpkins to carve, and homes to ready for the coming cold.

For many of us that means sealing windows, adding weatherstripping to doors, and adopting other strategies that tighten our dwellings to better hold their precious warmth. That's a good thing where energy conservation is concerned, but a well-sealed home traps more than heat ― it can trap odors, stale air, and other olfactory nuisances, too.

To mask the smelliness, we often turn to air fresheners. From aerosols and plug-in units to potpourris and scented candles, fragrance products are a $9 billion a year industry. Yet researchers sniffing out the truth about them have found that such products frequently contain more than a pleasant scent.

According to the Children's Health Environmental Coalition, the fragrance products industry relies on over 3,000 different chemical compounds to create its olfactory wonders. These include flammable propellants like butane and propane; terpenes, xylene, benzene, and other volatile organic compounds; petroleum distillates like naphthalene; and chemicals like phenol, cresol, and paradichlorobenzene. Recently, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation investigation of air fresheners found that nearly a third of the samples tested contained phthalates.

These and other ingredients are combined in air freshener formulas to create products intentionally designed to fill our homes with invisible airborne fumes that linger in the air where they can be repeatedly inhaled. And manufacturers aren't required to tell us exactly what's in the air fresheners we buy. Instead, most hide their ingredients behind generic label terms like "fragrance" and "scent agent." When we use these products, we have no way of knowing what we're really breathing, and in winter's sealed-up homes, our exposure to them can be nearly constant.

For a safer choice, stick to natural air freshening strategies. Here's a list of our favorite ways to deodorize your domicile:

  • First, track down and eliminate the sources of any persistent bad odors in your home. Since many foul smells are the result of molds or microbial action, spraying or scrubbing trouble spots like trash cans and compost collectors with undiluted 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide will often remove the foul smells. Vinegar is another useful natural antifungal and antibacterial agent.
  • Use natural mineral borax and/or baking soda to deodorize surfaces and other places in your home. Because baking soda removes acid odors and vinegar takes care of alkaline smells, a combination of the two is often all you'll need to deodorize as you clean. Lemon juice is another great deodorizer.
  • Open windows and doors for a few moments now and then during winter to replace stale indoor air with a fresh supply from outside.
  • If odors persist, make your own air freshening spray by combining 5-10 drops of an essential oil like lavender, lemon, peppermint, bergamot, balsam, eucalyptus, tea tree, or sweet orange in a spray bottle with two cups of water.
  • To scent indoor air, place a drop of your favorite essential oil on a light bulb prior to turning it on or add a dozen drops to a bowl of water placed on a radiator. Fragrant dried herbs, cinnamon sticks, or cloves boiled in a pot of water will also release a fresh smell.
  • Place a couple of drops of essential oil on your vacuum cleaner's exhaust filter to freshen exiting air. A few drops of lemon juice on your vacuum cleaner bag will do the same trick.
  • If you burn candles to scent air make sure yours are made from beeswax or other natural waxes like soy rather than petroleum-based paraffin wax. Choose candles with lead-free wicks and naturally-derived scents. And use them sparingly ― natural candles may be safer but they're still filling your air with small amounts of combustion byproducts.
  • Problem situations can sometimes be helped by an air purifier that contains an activated charcoal filter. Don't use devices that generate ozone, which is a hazardous pollutant.

2 October 2008

The Sound of - Jann Arden

No I will not lay down
I will not live my life like a ghost in this town
I am not lonely swear to God Im just alone
Im back on my feet
I can just close my eyes and forget everything
My house is empty every memory blown away

Oh the sound of the wind throught my bones makes me laugh
At all the bodies I kissed and never knew
Oh the soung of a lovers sympathy falling down to the floor
Just barely out of reach from me

No I will not go back
Every word thats been hiding inside of my head is running blindly
Look behind me nothings left
I can sit in a room
I can hear myself breathing and be quite amused
Life is simple like the wrinkles on my skin

Oh the sound of the wind through my heart makes me glad
For all the ones that never knew my name
Oh the sound of a lovers sympathy
I had to go could not stay here
They were always out of reach from me

1 October 2008

Last Saturday morning as I drove up to Wakefield I heard a CBC program about Google and how the innocuous sounding company is looking to control everything digital : identities, music, books ... everything and everywhere. A library of life on earth as it can be recorded.

My reaction ? Cool ! That would make me part of a place in time, part of history of mankind possibly at its greatest in a long time. I use mail, documents, spreadsheets, this blog, iGoogle, and of course, search. If I hadn't given up on Google reader I probably would have been using that too.

Security issues ? Yeah, but Meh, I'm a speck in the white space and a really small speck at that. Besides, I know people. ;) I just think it would be nice to imagine, 200 years from now, someone 'discovering' me or this time and place through my eyes. And hopefully looks back on a time that was troubled but passed.

I was just using Picasa, yet another Google product - Wow I really am 'Google-fied' LOL
Hiding my Heart - Brandi Carlile

So this is how the story went
I met someone by accident
That blew me away
That blew me away

It was in the darkest of my days
When you took my sorrow and you took my pain
And buried them away, you buried them away

And I wish I could lay down beside you
When the day is done
And wake up to your face under the morning sun
But like everything I've ever known
I'm sure you'll go one day
So I'll spend my whole life hiding my heart away
And I can't spend my whole life hiding my heart away

I dropped you off at the train station
And put a kiss on top of your head
I watched you wave
I watched you wave
Then I went on home to my skyscrapers
Neon lights and waiting papers
That I call home
I call it home

And I wish I could lay down beside you
When the day is done
And wake up to your face against the morning sun
But like everything I've ever known
I'm sure you'll go one day
So I'll spend my whole life hiding my heart away
And I can't spend my whole life hiding my heart away

I woke up feeling heavy hearted
I'm going back to where I started
The morning rain
The morning rain
And you know I wish that you were here
But that same old road that brought me here
Is calling me home
Is calling me home

And I wish I could lay down beside you
When the day is done
And wake up to your face against the morning sun
But like everything I've ever known
You'll disappear someday
So I'll spend my whole life hiding my heart away
And I can't spend my whole life hiding my heart away