The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Still doesn't make sense to me

Can anyone figure out the Best Picture voting, and why they changed it? One economist tried:

To dig deeper into the radical change made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists we turned to Justin Wolfers, associate professor of economics in the Business and Public Policy Department at the Wharton School.

This year's Oscar voting is, Wolfers says, "a fairly common election system. We call it the 'exhaustive preferential' system, or 'instant runoff system,' and it’s the way we elect our parliament in Australia."

Backing up, Wolfers gives me a quick lesson in the relation between elections and voting systems. "Political scientists and mathematicians have forever been engaged in the search for a perfect voting system," he says. "[Economist] Kenneth Arrow won the Nobel Prize for his 'Arrow Impossibility Theorem,' in which he wrote down all the things that a good electoral system would do and then proved that there is no system that meets all of those criteria. So we are always choosing the least worst system."

But 10 nominees? My god, the show's going to take days...

Don't even think about it

Columnist Jonah Lehrer thinks about insomnia:

[W]henever we try not to think about something that something gets trapped in the mind, stuck in the recursive loop of self-consciousness. Our attempt at repression turns into an odd fixation.

This human frailty has profound consequences. Dan Wegner, a psychologist at Harvard, refers to the failure as an "ironic" mental process. Whenever we establish a mental goal — such as trying not to think about white bears, or sex, or a stressful event — the goal is accompanied by an inevitable follow-up thought, as the brain checks to see if we're making progress. The end result, of course, is that we obsess over the one thing we're trying to avoid.

I will be thinking about that tonight, I'm sure.


Diane and I completely unplugged this weekend so I'm spending the evening catching up. I'll have photos probably Tuesday, depending how crazy tomorrow goes for me. Meanwhile, a joke from one of my clients:

A noob used the following password: "MickeyMinniePlutoHueyLouieDeweyDonaldGoofySacramento" When asked why he had such a long password, he said he was told that it had to be at least 8 characters long and include at least one capital.

Where can I get some?

Chicago Public Radio's David Hammond investigated raw-milk cheese, which is illegal to sell in Illinois:

HAMMOND: ...[W]e got together with a group of chefs and other food enthusiasts in Itasca at a wine bar called Wine with Me to sample both raw and pasteurized milk versions of camembert. No money changes hands, and we’re all consenting adults, so technically there’s no illegal activity taking place. Sitting around a big wooden table, we’re confronted by two very different looking cheeses. As part of this taste test, neither cheese was labeled, but the differences were very apparent. One cheese was rigid and uniform; the other was collapsing in on itself. We started by putting our noses into the stuff. Gary Wiviott is a Chicago food writer and author.

WIVIOTT: Of the two cheeses, one has a distinct ammonia smell and the other smells funky, earthy, almost a little mushroom-y, like a damp forest on a fall day, when the leaves are just starting to break down, very appealing, a very appealing aroma. And the other has a less appealing aroma…I just want to dive into the softer, slightly gooey looking one. I just want to take a big bite out of the darn thing.

Is there a black market for raw-milk cheese in Illinois? Or do I have to go to France to get some?

Gut feelings

You really have them:

Technically known as the enteric nervous system, the second brain consists of sheaths of neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our gut, or alimentary canal, which measures about nine meters end to end from the esophagus to the anus. The second brain contains some 100 million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system, [says Michael Gershon, chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center].

... "The system is way too complicated to have evolved only to make sure things move out of your colon," says Emeran Mayer, professor of physiology, psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (U.C.L.A.). For example, scientists were shocked to learn that about 90 percent of the fibers in the primary visceral nerve, the vagus, carry information from the gut to the brain and not the other way around. "Some of that info is decidedly unpleasant," Gershon says.

There are some intriguing corollaries to this:

Scientists are learning that the serotonin made by the enteric nervous system might also play a role in more surprising diseases: In a new Nature Medicine study published online February 7, a drug that inhibited the release of serotonin from the gut counteracted the bone-deteriorating disease osteoporosis in postmenopausal rodents. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) "It was totally unexpected that the gut would regulate bone mass to the extent that one could use this regulation to cure—at least in rodents—osteoporosis," says Gerard Karsenty, lead author of the study and chair of the Department of Genetics and Development at Columbia University Medical Center.

... Serotonin seeping from the second brain might even play some part in autism, the developmental disorder often first noticed in early childhood. Gershon has discovered that the same genes involved in synapse formation between neurons in the brain are involved in the alimentary synapse formation. "If these genes are affected in autism," he says, "it could explain why so many kids with autism have GI motor abnormalities" in addition to elevated levels of gut-produced serotonin in their blood.

Scientific American also investigates whether untreated vision problems lead to age-related dementia. Very interesting.

Corporate news

My corporation, whose name appears on contracts as "Punzun Ltd., an Illinois corporation doing business as Inner Drive Technology," turns 10 today.

No, really.

The name Punzun Ltd. (a trademark, by the way) dates back to 21 March 1985, when I dreamed it up while drifting off in Mr. Collins' Algebra class. It is, in fact, the only thing I remember from that class, for which I apologize to Mr. Collins.

Quiet week?

Not so much:

Delhi residency, day 4

A group of us went on a tour of Indira Gandhi International Airport today, including the unfinished Terminal 3 building. Sadly, the art and description will have to wait for a bit. My work has piled up (as happens mid-residency) and I have two items due tonight.

One thought, though: if the sun hasn't peeked through the clouds all day in Punxsutawney, how is it possible Phil saw his shadow? I think they're putting words in the groundhog's mouth over there.