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JM Berger swiftly doubletweets Seamus Hughes

Friday, March 4th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — coffee on the rocks with blarney ]

Seamus Hughes tweets:

to which JM responds, rapidfire:


For the record, that’s not just idle Twitter, that’s actionable intelligence:

Encryption, the mind and voice

Monday, February 29th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — paging birds and fishes, Chuang Tzu and Wm Blake ]

Dwight Furrow, Wine Tasting and Objectivity:

The question is whether flavors are “in the wine” or “in the mind”. On the one hand, there are objectively measurable chemical compounds in wine that reliably affect our taste and olfactory mechanisms—pyrazines cause bell pepper aromas in Cabernet Sauvignon, malic acid explains apple aromas in Chardonnay, tannins cause a puckering response, etc. But we know that human beings differ quite substantially in how they perceive wine flavors. Even trained and experienced wine critics disagree about what they are tasting and how to evaluate wine. This disagreement among experts leads many to claim that wine tasting is therefore purely subjective, just a matter of individual opinion. According to subjectivism, each person’s response is utterly unique and there is no reason to think that when I taste something, someone else ought to taste the same thing. Statements about wine flavor are statements about one’s subjective states, not about the wine. Thus, there are no standards for evaluating wine quality.


Is each mind inherently closed to every other, much as the bird’s mind is closed to ours in Blake‘s aphorism —

How do you know but every bird that cuts the airy way, is an immense world of delight, closed by your senses five?

— albeit not always so joyful?

In more contemporary terms — Is there encryption of the mind?


I ask this in light of the DoubleQuote I posted a few days ago comparing Hesse and Hitchcock in terms of their metaphoric uses of “organ” — in, I hasten to add, the Bach sense of the word:

SPEC-Hesse-Hitchcock-organs sm

Here’s what I’m thinking. Hesse’s game influences the mind, as does art, but it is non-invasive; Hitchcock applauds the potential for art to move in a more invasive direction, as if by force rather than by enticement.


Humans — or at least the philosophers and philosopher tagalongs among them — can’t even tell if what one human sees as “red” is what another sees as “red” — let alone what a given Burgundy tastes like on another’s palate.

If this means, more generally, that minds are effectively encrypted by virtue of their differences in wiring acquired with parentage, age and experience, then our communications media -– language, the arts, literature, number — would appear to be the available decryption keys, selectively available to the minds in question.


Chuang-Tsu has this tale to tell:

Men claim that Mao-ch’iang and Lady Li were beautiful, but if fish saw them they would dive to the bottom of the stream, if birds saw them they would fly away, and if deer saw them they would break into a run. Of these four, which knows how to fix the standard of beauty for the world?

And this..

Chuang Tzu and Hui Tzu were strolling along the dam of the Hao River when Chuang Tzu said, “See how the minnows come out and dart around where they please! That’s what fish really enjoy!”

Hui Tzu said, “You’re not a fish – how do you know what fish enjoy?”

Chuang Tzu said, “You’re not I, so how do you know I don’t know what fish enjoy?”

Hui Tzu said, “I’m not you, so I certainly don’t know what you know. On the other hand, you’re certainly not a fish – so that still proves you don’t know what fish enjoy!”

Chuang Tzu said, “Let’s go back to your original question, please. You asked me how I know what fish enjoy – so you already knew I knew it when you asked the question. I know it by standing here beside the Hao.”


Chuang Tzu said, “You’re not I, so how do you know I don’t know what fish enjoy?”

Blake said, “How do you know but every bird that cuts the airy way, is an immense world of delight, closed by your senses five?”

Sunday surprise: what’s your health tipple?

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — cheers! ]

Here’s our topic statement:

beer wine


Okay. I thought you might like to know:

Exercise training (ET) improves endurance capacity by increasing both skeletal muscle mitochondrial number and function, as well as contributing to favourable cardiac remodelling. Interestingly, some of the benefits of regular exercise can also be mimicked by the naturally occurring polyphenol, resveratrol (RESV). However, it is not known whether RESV enhances physiological adaptations to ET. To investigate this, male Wistar rats were randomly assigned to a control chow diet or a chow diet that contained RESV (4 g kg-1 of diet) and subsequently subjected to a programme of progressive treadmill running for 12 weeks. ET-induced improvements in exercise performance were enhanced by 21% (P < 0.001) by the addition of RESV to the diet. In soleus muscle, ET + RESV increased both the twitch (1.8-fold; P < 0.05) and tetanic (1.2-fold; P < 0.05) forces generated during isometric contraction, compared to ET alone. In vivo echocardiography demonstrated that ET + RESV also increased the resting left ventricular ejection fraction by 10% (P < 0.05), and reduced left ventricular wall stress compared to ET alone. These functional changes were accompanied by increased cardiac fatty acid oxidation (1.2-fold; P < 0.05) and favourable changes in cardiac gene expression and signal transduction pathways that optimized the utilization of fatty acids in ET + RESV compared to ET alone. Overall, our findings provide evidence that the capacity for fatty acid oxidation is augmented by the addition of RESV to the diet during ET, and that this may contribute to the improved physical performance of rats following ET.

  • Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Xanthohumol, a Polyphenol Chalcone Present in Hops, Activating Nrf2 Enzymes To Confer Protection against Oxidative Damage in PC12 Cells
  • and:

    Xanthohumol (2?,4?,4-trihydroxy-6?-methoxy-3?-prenylchalcone, Xn), a polyphenol chalcone from hops (Humulus lupulus), has received increasing attention due to its multiple pharmacological activities. As an active component in beers, its presence has been suggested to be linked to the epidemiological observation of the beneficial effect of regular beer drinking. In this work, we synthesized Xn with a total yield of 5.0% in seven steps and studied its neuroprotective function against oxidative-stress-induced neuronal cell damage in the neuronlike rat pheochromocytoma cell line PC12. Xn displays moderate free-radical-scavenging capacity in vitro. More importantly, pretreatment of PC12 cells with Xn at submicromolar concentrations significantly upregulates a panel of phase II cytoprotective genes as well as the corresponding gene products, such as glutathione, heme oxygenase, NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase, thioredoxin, and thioredoxin reductase. A mechanistic study indicates that the ?,?-unsaturated ketone structure in Xn and activation of the transcription factor Nrf2 are key determinants for the cytoprotection of Xn. Targeting the Nrf2 by Xn discloses a previously unrecognized mechanism underlying the biological action of Xn. Our results demonstrate that Xn is a novel small-molecule activator of Nrf2 in neuronal cells and suggest that Xn might be a potential candidate for the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders.

  • The Journal of Physiology, Improvements in skeletal muscle strength and cardiac function induced by resveratrol during exercise training contribute to enhanced exercise performance in rats
  • I know, I know, I should credit authors and give DOI numbers — but so many Style Manuals, so little patience.


    Or to put the point less demandingly:

    SPEC tipple

    So — how much got lost in translation?


  • HuffPo, A Glass Of Red Wine Is The Equivalent To An Hour At The Gym, Says New Study
  • IBT, Drinking Beer Slows Down Alzheimer’s And Parkinson’s Disease
  • Of related interest:

  • HuffPo, Drinking Red Wine May Help Regulate Blood Sugar
  • **

    Or is it blonde vs brunette?

    SPEC DQ blonde brunette

    extrovert vs introvert?

    or just another skirmish in the class wars, perhaps?

    Human beings a whole lot more interesting than expected

    Thursday, June 6th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — human beings are a whole lot more interesting than was previously thought, evidence suggests ]
    First, you should know that the English Defence League is, by its own account, “an inclusive movement dedicated to peacefully protesting against Islamic extremism.”

    Now read on..

    Or as Qur’an 49.13 puts it:

    O mankind, We have created you male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another.


    The Gospel suggests, Matthew 5.44:

    Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…

    and I am put in mind of this pair of images, both of which feature people I learned about for the first time in just the last couple of days:


    Rev. Will D Campbell is the one shaking hands with Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy after the MLK assassination, in the top panel of the DoubleQuote above. He was a rare man — as the NYT puts is, “one of the few white clerics with an extensive field record as a civil rights activist” — which naturally reminds me, too, of my own mentor, Fr. Trevor Huddleston.

    C.P. Ellis was a Ku Klux Klan leader until he met civil rights worker Ann Atwater, with whom he is pictured immediately below Abernathy and Campbell.


    Wait, there’s more —

    The first pair of images, above, comes from the UK, and the second pair from the US. So what’s the difference?

    Apparently, the Brits serve tea while the Americans sip whiskey

    Abernathy’s reverend friend is the gentleman described in the lower panel here, the one who drinks whiskey with Klansmen. Go figure: love trumps hate.


    To get the full charge of these various stories, you might want to read:

  • Woolwich Attacks: Muslim Leaders At York Mosque Invite EDL In For Tea
  • EDL March With Muslims In Ipswich In Memory Of Lee Rigby
  • Rev. Will D. Campbell, Maverick Minister in Civil Rights Era, Dies at 88
  • The Ann Atwater approach
  • **

    Of course, the type of beverage you offer on these occasions must depend to some extent on the dietary habits and restrictions of both parties…

    Don’t ask me — I’m a Qualit!

    Friday, February 8th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — Christmas pudding UK circa 1950, math, banks, and moral authority ]


    As I recall, the plum pudding served in our family on Christmas day was not only rich in raisins, sultanas, currants and candied peel, it not only had brandy poured over it and a flame swiftly set to it, it was not only served with brandy butter…

    It also had, somewhere within it, a silver coin — I understand these were originally related to coins of healing and the Royal Touch — and one of us, my sister and I, would be the one to find it in our slice. So equality of opportunity was important, both of us wanted to have an equal chance at winning the coveted prize.

    Or perhaps I should say, equantity? Because believe me, the quality in each and every slice was just fine.

    All this by way of saying that yes, I understand that quantity has its uses.


    In Recipe for Disaster: The Formula That Killed Wall Street a while back, Felix Salmon proposed the upper (and more colorful) of the two equations below, suggesting that it was the root cause of the financial failure of 2008:

    Comes now Chris Arnade blogging on Scientific American for the defense, claiming that The Real—and Simple—Equation That Killed Wall Street was the lower of the two equations (the one in black on white).


    Arnade writes of Salmon’s Wired article:

    It was not the first piece that made this type of argument, but it was the most aggressive. Since then it has been a common theme in the media that mathematics, especially obscure advanced mathematics, is largely responsible for the catastrophe that doomed the world to the last five years of recession and slow growth.

    This theme plays on the fallacy that danger always comes from complexity. It’s a fabrication that obscures the real causes, that makes it easier to say, “Hey, it wasn’t my fault, I was blinded by science.”

    The reality is much simpler and less sexy. Wall Street killed itself in a time-honored fashion: Cheap money, excessive borrowing, and greed. And yes, there is an equation one can point to and blame. This equation, however, requires nothing more than middle school algebra to understand and is taught to every new Wall Street employee. It is leveraged return.

    What is leveraged return? It’s the return on assets using borrowed money.

    I am depicted as the fellow with glasses and a squint, squeezed in between the two equations. When I recover from my discombobulation, I will push my glasses up high on my brow and say, Don’t ask me — I’m a Qualit!


    And now we Anglicans have a new Archbishop who, well, as the Guardian puts it, Archbishop of Canterbury accuses banks of hypocrisy over bonuses:

    Two months ago HSBC was also fined a record £1.2bn over allegations of money laundering for Mexican drug barons. Regulators said HSBC had allowed at least $881m of drugs money through its accounts.

    Taking evidence from HSBC’s two top bosses – its chief executive, Stuart Gulliver, and chairman, Douglas Flint – the archbishop said: “I’m increasingly baffled at the discussion we are having. What is it essentially about bankers that means they need skin in the game [bonuses]? We don’t give skin in the game to civil servants, to surgeons, to teachers.

    “There’s a whole range of people who don’t have that. It seems to me that you are putting huge effort into a values-based organisation and yet at the end of the day, particularly for your most senior staff who are most important as regards setting values and culture, you seem to be saying the only way you can motivate them to any significant extent is with cash.”

    The bankers, who said they wanted to turn HSBC into a bank of “courageous integrity”, insisted it was necessary to pay bonuses because they provided incentives that could be clawed back if mistakes were later uncovered.

    Don’t you love it? Courageous integrity!


    As Rochefoucauld said:

    Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.

    It seems it is a small price to pay, quantitatively speaking — a rounding error. From a qualitative perspective however, it is a Faustian price — as Wikipedia (following Britannica) has it, it is:

    a situation in which an ambitious person surrenders moral integrity in order to achieve power and success

    Ooh — it’s a question of having or surrendering moral integrity about one’s own claim to integrity! A self-referential paradox if ever I saw one…

    Christianity (since we’ve just been quoting an Archbishop) sets the matter sub specie aeternitatis in Mark 7.6:

    He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

    A small price, or the ultimate? Quant? or Qualit? The choice is always ours.


    So you see why I’d rather be a Qualit than a Quant.

    But even so, finding that silver coin in my Christmas pudding was pretty special, from a quantish point of view. The brandy butter, more qualitish IMO, was even better.

    ** ** **

    Sources for header:

    Qualit logo
    Quant logo

    Sources for SPECS:

    Wired‘s equation
    SciAm‘s equation

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