Archive for February, 2008

080228 – Our personal business in the news

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

– We make our living owning and operating a wholesale/retail nursery business here in the Pacific Northwest corner of the U.S. Recently, we rescued a large Japanese Maple from the chain saws and transported it back here to our nursery. A local paper came out that day and did a story on what it takes to rescue big trees and the story came out in today’s Everett’s Herald Newspaper.

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Transplanting big trees is a labor of love for Monroe nursery owner

The thieves were smart enough to recognize that the old Japanese maple in a Mercer Island yard was worth thousands.

That’s where the smarts ended.

The tree probably looked like an easy haul. It had been dug up, its roots neatly packaged into a burlap ball for a move the next day. But the Japanese maple was a lot heavier than its graceful bare limbs suggested, weighing in about 2,000 pounds.

“They were stupid,” said Sharon Ronsse, the nursery owner coordinating the move. “They tried to move it, broke the root ball. It took five years of babying to recover it.”

Transplanting big old trees involves more than shovels and a big truck. It requires skill, patience, the right conditions and often thousands of dollars. It’s risky — for the tree and the mover. Only a handful of businesses in Snohomish County do it.

Ronsse’s company, Woods Creek Wholesale Nursery in Monroe, is one of them. The nursery, which she co-owns with husband Dennis Gallagher, sells 500 kinds of plants and trees. But it’s the old Japanese maples and other special specimens the business salvages, often from yards where homeowners don’t like the trees or they have become too big.

Ronsse considers what she does a rescue operation, since the alternative is usually cutting down the tree. She does it, she said, more for altruistic reasons than the cash. Japanese maples are a passion: She loves the layering, the coloring and the textures. They’re living beings that should be treated accordingly, she said.



This Is Your Brain On Jazz: Researchers Use MRI To Study Spontaneity, Creativity

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

– Several of my friends are Jazz Aficionados.   Some jazz I enjoy but much of it is a mystery to me.   But, I see from this article that they are probably onto something.

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A pair of Johns Hopkins and government scientists have discovered that when jazz musicians improvise, their brains turn off areas linked to self-censoring and inhibition, and turn on those that let self-expression flow.

The joint research, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, and musician volunteers from the Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute, sheds light on the creative improvisation that artists and non-artists use in everyday life, the investigators say.

It appears, they conclude, that jazz musicians create their unique improvised riffs by turning off inhibition and turning up creativity.

The scientists from the University’s School of Medicine and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders describe their curiosity about the possible neurological underpinnings of  the almost trance-like state jazz artists enter during spontaneous improvisation.


Scientists blame ocean dead zones on climate change

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Peering into the murky depths, Jane Lubchenco searched for sea life, but all she saw were signs of death.

Video images scanned from the seafloor revealed a boneyard of crab skeletons, dead fish and other marine life smothered under a white mat of bacteria. At times, the camera’s unblinking eye revealed nothing – a barren undersea desert in waters renowned for their bounty of Dungeness crabs and fat rockfish.

“We couldn’t believe our eyes,” Lubchenco said, recalling her initial impression of the carnage brought about by oxygen-starved waters. “It was so overwhelming and depressing. It appeared that everything that couldn’t swim or scuttle away had died.”

Upon further study, Lubchenco and other marine ecologists at Oregon State University concluded that that the undersea plague appears to be a symptom of global warming. In a study published in the journal Science, the researchers note how these low-oxygen waters have expanded north into Washington and crept south as far as the California state line. And, they appear to be as regular as the tides, a cycle that has repeated itself every summer and fall since 2002.


Antarctic glaciers surge to ocean

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

By Martin Redfern
Rothera Research Station, Antarctica

UK scientists working in Antarctica have found some of the clearest evidence yet of instabilities in the ice of part of West Antarctica.

If the trend continues, they say, it could lead to a significant rise in global sea level.

The new evidence comes from a group of glaciers covering an area the size of Texas, in a remote and seldom visited part of West Antarctica.

The “rivers of ice” have surged sharply in speed towards the ocean.

David Vaughan, of the British Antarctic Survey, explained: “It has been called the weak underbelly of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and the reason for that is that this is the area where the bed beneath the ice sheet dips down steepest towards the interior.

“If there is a feedback mechanism to make the ice sheet unstable, it will be most unstable in this region.”

There is good reason to be concerned.

Satellite measurements have shown that three huge glaciers here have been speeding up for more than a decade.

The biggest of the glaciers, the Pine Island Glacier, is causing the most concern.


Greenland’s Rising Air Temperatures Drive Ice Loss At Surface And Beyond

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

A new NASA study confirms that the surface temperature of Greenland’s massive ice sheet has been rising, stoked by warming air temperatures, and fueling loss of the island’s ice at the surface and throughout the mass beneath.

Greenland’s enormous ice sheet is home to enough ice to raise sea level by about 23 feet if the entire ice sheet were to melt into surrounding waters. Though the loss of the whole ice sheet is unlikely, loss from Greenland’s ice mass has already contributed in part to 20th century sea level rise of about two millimeters per year, and future melt has the potential to impact people and economies across the globe. So NASA scientists used state-of-the-art NASA satellite technologies to explore the behavior of the ice sheet, revealing a relationship between changes at the surface and below.

“The relationship between surface temperature and mass loss lends further credence to earlier work showing rapid response of the ice sheet to surface meltwater,” said Dorothy Hall, a senior researcher in Cryospheric Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md., and lead author of the study.

A team led by Hall used temperature data captured each day from 2000 through 2006 from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite. They measured changes in the surface temperature to within about one degree of accuracy from about 440 miles away in space. They also measured melt area within each of the six major drainage basins of the ice sheet to see whether melt has become more extensive and longer lasting, and to see how the various parts of the ice sheet are reacting to increasing air temperatures.

The team took their research at the ice sheet’s surface a step further, becoming the first to pair the surface temperature data with satellite gravity data to investigate what internal ice changes occur as the surface melts. Geophysicist and co-author, Scott Luthcke, also of NASA Goddard, developed a mathematical solution, using gravity data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) twin satellite system. “This solution has permitted greatly-improved detail in both time and space, allowing measurement of mass change at the low-elevation coastal regions of the ice sheet where most of the melting is occurring,” said Luthcke.

The paired surface temperature and gravity data confirm a strong connection between melting on ice sheet surfaces in areas below 6,500 feet in elevation, and ice loss throughout the ice sheet’s giant mass. The result led Hall’s team to conclude that the start of surface melting triggers mass loss of ice over large areas of the ice sheet.


Rat Invasions Causing Seabird Decline Worldwide

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

– I wrote about this recently with regard to new Zealand’s natural history but the problems associated with rats being distributed world-wide into new environments is a major global ecological disaster.

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Invasive rats on ocean islands are threatening the survival of many of the world’s seabirds, according to a new report.

The global analysis found that non-native rats have been observed preying on roughly a quarter of all seabird species, often with disastrous consequences. (See photos of rat-seabird conflict.)

The voracious rodents attack bird nesting colonies, eating eggs, chicks, and sometimes even adult birds.

Now 102 of 328 recognized seabird species are considered threatened or endangered by the World Conservation Union, with predation by invasive species ranking among the top dangers.

“Seabirds are important ecological actors in the oceans and on islands, but 30 percent of all seabirds are at risk of extinction,” said study co-author Bernie Tershy of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“Invasive rats are likely the single largest threat to seabirds,” said Tershy, also a former grantee of the National Geographic Conservation Trust. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

Smaller seabird species and those that nest in burrows or rock crevices are particularly at risk, the study said.

That group includes storm-petrels, auklets, murrelets, and shearwaters, according to lead author Holly Jones of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

“Rats can have a larger impact on entire seabird populations in species with adults that are small enough to prey on,” Jones said.

“Burrow- and crevice-nesting seabirds share the same underground habitat [as rats], which makes a predation encounter more likely.”


Intelligence … IQ > EQ > SQ?

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

– A friend of mine sent me this. It’s from Life Positive – Your complete Guide to Holistic Living.

– I think theories of what intelligence is have been badly flawed thus far and I wouldn’t claim that this article sorts the business out by any means because it is just more conjecture.  (Indeed, these folks seem a bit confused when they mention someone as having an IQ of 210.  I was under the impression that the IQ scale maxed out at 200?)

– I think we are still miles and miles from really having a scientifically derived grip on what intelligence actually is.

-But the article does make for interesting and thoughtful reading.

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IQ and EQ give way to spiritual intelligence, the ultimate intelligence that can add value and meaning to your life

For long, the world gave much importance to Intelligence Quotient. “My son has an IQ of 210!” the proud mother would gush. “He’s going to be a scientist.” This attitude is a legacy of the early 20th century when psychologists devised tests to measure intelligence. These tests primarily measured intellectual or rational intelligence (used to solve logical problems). The higher the figure, the belief went, the greater the intelligence. In mid-1990s, Daniel Goleman revealed findings in neuroscience and psychology that stressed the importance of Emotional Quotient (EQ). This makes us aware of our feelings and that of others. It gives empathy, motivation, compassion and an ability to respond skillfully to pleasure and pain. Goleman argued that EQ was a basic requirement for the use of IQ. If the areas of our brain that feel are damaged, our ability to think effectively is diminished.

Last year, however, authors Dana Zohar and Ian Marshall introduced a new dimension to human intelligence. Spiritual Quotient (or SQ) is the ultimate intelligence, they claim. This is the intelligence used to solve problems of meaning and value. “Is my job giving me the fulfillment I seek?” “Am I relating to the people in my life in a way that contributes to their happiness and mine?” Answers to these questions determine whether we will find happiness or not. IQ and EQ are inadequate in such issues.

Spiritual intelligence,” explains Ram Mohan, a Vedanta teacher, “is about the growth of a human being. It is about moving on in life. About having a direction in life and being able to heal ourselves of all the resentment we carry. It is thinking of ourselves as an expression of a higher reality. It is also about how we look at the resources available to us. We realize that nature is not meant to be exploited. Ultimately, we discover freedom from our sense of limitation as human beings and attain moksha.”


– research thx to Mike D.

Financial instability

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

– One of the ‘legs’ of the Perfect Storm Hypothesis asserts that our first-world hi-tech societies are like houses of cards; being built higher and high each year and growing more unstable as we go.

nasdaq-stock-market.jpg– The increasing snarl of inter linkages and interdependencies are making the entire system more unstable. Many folks feel, however, that the additional redundancies should make it more robust but that is an irrelevancy because the deepest truth is that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

– The following two stories are both from the financial world and they both illustrate how something (insurance) that one would assume would make a system more robust against failure has, in these cases, actually made it more fragile.

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story #1:

Bonds Unbound by James Surowiecki on the Financial Page of The New Yorker Magazine, Feb 11, 2008

story # 2:

Arcane Market Is Next to Face Big Credit Test by Gretchen Morgenson, New Yorks Times, Feb 17, 2008

– research thanks to L.A.

– The second article is from the NY Times and they insist that folks have an ID and a PW in order to read their stuff. You can get these for free just by signing up. However, a friend of mine suggests the website :arrow: as an alternative to having to do these annoying sign ups. Check it out. Thx Bruce S. for the tip.

Pleas for condemned Saudi ‘witch’

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

Human Rights Watch has appealed to Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a woman convicted of witchcraft.

In a letter to King Abdullah, the rights group described the trial and conviction of Fawza Falih as a miscarriage of justice.

The illiterate woman was detained by religious police in 2005 and allegedly beaten and forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read.

Among her accusers was a man who alleged she made him impotent.

Human Rights Watch said that Ms Falih had exhausted all her chances of appealing against her death sentence and she could only now be saved if King Abdullah intervened.

‘Undefined’ crime

The US-based group is asking the Saudi ruler to void Ms Falih’s conviction and to bring charges against the religious police who detained her and are alleged to have mistreated her.

Its letter to King Abdullah says the woman was tried for the undefined crime of witchcraft and that her conviction was on the basis of the written statements of witnesses who said that she had bewitched them.

Human Rights Watch says the trial failed to meet the safeguards in the Saudi justice system.

The confession which the defendant was forced to fingerprint was not even read out to her, the group says.

Also Ms Falih and her representatives were not allowed to attend most of the hearings.

When an appeal court decided she should not be executed, the law courts imposed the death sentence again, arguing that it would be in the public interest.

To the original:

080214 – Moving a big Japanese Maple

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

My wife and I make our living running a wholesale/retail nursery ( Yes, I know selling plants and trees sounds miles off from most of what I Blog about here on Samadhisoft but it’s true – it is what we do to make our money.

Digging it out.One of the specialty things we do is to occasionally rescue Japanese Maples. Today and yesterday, we rescued a large one from a yard in Lake Stevens about 10 miles away and brought it here to our nursery. Lifting it up.I say, ‘we’ did it but in truth my wife and I just supervised and all of the hard and skilled work was done our friend and business associate Manuel Rodriguez along with the very able assistance of two workers from our nursery; Jesus and Dino.

Transporting it.Along the way, we met a photographer and a reporter from the Herald in Everett, Washington. These two folks came out to do a story for the paper on rescuing Japanese Maples. So, that was a lot of fun for us and great advertising as well.Taking it off at the nursery.   My, that is HEAVY!

Everything went well, thanks to the skill of the people involved, and the tree is here now in our nursery safe and sound. Now, I can get back to all that pesky accounting that piled up while I was off in new Zealand.
In it’s new home and ready for spring sales.Cheers!