American Elephants


It’s all Falling Apart, Or Is It Just Us? by The Elephant's Child

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Everybody’s angry, we are told. The comments on most websites that discuss the news or politics have turned dark and mean and accusative.  It is a strange political year. Very accomplished Republican governors have dropped out, the people with real qualifications have given up, apparently because the public wants an ‘outsider’, because they no longer trust the ‘insiders’. So we are in the process of choosing a new president. The Democrats’ bench is thin. There are no particularly successful governors, and Democrat run states are basket cases. They have turned to an elderly socialist and an elderly former first lady with many titles and few accomplishments.

I think we misunderstand the “anger” and misplace the blame. We have entered a new age of instant, incomplete, biased, false and true information that we don’t know how to sort or how to manage. Our schools claim to be teaching “critical thinking” but mostly teach “social justice” instead —unfortunately there is no such thing.

Newspapers are dying, but proliferating online. Added to the formal gleanings from the journalism profession, ordinary people are adding their thoughts and opinions on blogs. But who can you trust, and how do you find real information?

Fact-checking websites like Politifact and Snopes have multiplied, but they don’t always get their facts right. Photographs have always been able to deceive, which is why you hate some photographs of yourself, but with Photoshop to alter them, a photograph no longer represents reliable truth. And now there is Twitter for instant connection to the latest in — what? Smart remarks or the latest in real insight? And there’s Facebook for selfies and what you had for dinner last night. And many, many more social media websites, and of course, the Kardashians.

The general impression is that everything is falling apart. America is in retreat internationally as the threats grow. We recognize the threats, but they cannot be called by name. As the terror and attacks increase, we reduce the size and capability of the world’s finest military to its state before World War II. The administration lies. The Media lies. The Constitution is deliberately ignored.

Police are attacked as they attempt to protect the people, cities declare themselves “sanctuary cities” and refuse to obey federal law.  The president releases convicted criminals because convicting people for selling dangerous addictive drugs that ruin lives is racist. Landlords cannot refuse to rent to convicted criminals.

The feminist drive to eliminate gender proceeds and there is no longer sanctuary even in the bathroom. Political correctness is judged more important than accuracy and government is more the problem than any solution. The administration expects to fix human nature by more closely regulating the people, and giving themselves more power.  We know that’s not going to work, but what will?



Deep Thoughts About the Low Flow of Words by The Elephant's Child
April 7, 2016, 6:14 am
Filed under: Blogging, Crime, Domestic Policy | Tags: , ,

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As they say, it never rains but it pours. Plumbing problems. Think “pouring.” Yelp is all well and good, but the ones with good reviews are making appointments for next week or the week after. Went with the large company with multiple trucks out cruising around. Expensive. The words I might have written would not be calm and measured. I’ll think about it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.



Only a Tube of Toothpaste… by The Elephant's Child
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The Wall Street Journal offers this in their “Notable & Quotable ” column. From author César Hidalgo’s “Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economics: (Basic Books, 2015)

In my talks I often ask the attendees to raise their hands if they have used toothpaste that morning. [Then] I ask audience members to keep their hands up only if they know how to synthesize sodium fluoride. As you can imagine, all hands go down. . . .

When we are buying toothpaste we are not simply buying paste in a tube. Instead we are buying access to the practical uses of the creativity of the person who invented toothpaste, the scientific knowledge informing the chemical synthesis that is required to make toothpaste, the knowhow required to synthesize sodium fluoride, put it inside a tube, and make it available across the planet, and the knowledge that fluoride makes our teeth stronger and has beneficial effects on our health. Something as simple as toothpaste gives us indirect access to the practical uses of the imagination, knowledge, and knowhow that exist, or existed, in the nervous systems of people we have probably never met.

Very nice.

 



How About Some Really Good News That Is NOT Political? by The Elephant's Child

A California robotics company called suitX has presented it’s Phoenix exoskeleton to the public. It makes it possible for paraplegics and those with mobility disorders to regain their ability to walk, which is a priceless blessing. It is not the first exoskeleton, which was developed in Israel, but it is the most affordable so far, at about the price of a new Cadillac.

SuitX is led by Dr. Homayoon Kazerooni, who is director of the Berkley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory and co-founder and chief scientist of Ekso Bionics. Dr. Kazerooni and his team are driven by a dream of developing low-cost consumer bionic products to improve the quality of life for the disabled. To achieve their goal of keeping the robotics as affordable as possible the team worked with biomechanics instead of the bulky robotics used in the other exoskeletons available so far. One of their prime goals is to help children affected by neurological conditions like cerebral palsy and spina bifida, during the brief time in development when they perfect their walking skills.

The current Phoenix totals around 28 pounds. It consists of modules made for a person’s hips, knees and feet — each can be independently removed and adjusted to the individual’s exact size. A back-mounted battery pack provides power for eight hours of intermittent use or  four hours of continuous use.The Phoenix can move a paralyzed person at a speed of 1.1 miles an hour, the company said.

Steven Sanchez was a former BMX dirt bike rider who became mostly paralyzed by a sports injury. He’s now one of the biggest proponents of the Phoenix. “It feels like you’re actually walking,”

The exoskeleton has silent carbon-fiber orthotics capable of being customized to its wearer. Attached to the orthotics are small motors that provide mobility to the hips and legs. Crutches provide upper body support and are integrated into the orthotics, allowing the wearer to control the movement of each leg with the touch of a button. A built-in back-mounted battery pack provides the wearer with 8 hours of intermittent or 4 hours of continual use.

Weighing around 27 pounds, the Phoenix is not the lightest exoskeleton on the market, but it is comparatively lighter than competing suits such as the more cumbersome 50 pound ReWalk.

While still costlier than a motorized wheelchair, the minimal design translates into a lower-cost exoskeleton; the Phoenix costs just $40,000 in a market where prices range from $70,000 to $100,000.

Dr. Kazerooni is more interested in cleverness. He says you can buy a motorcycle with all sorts of technology for $10,000, so he’s hoping to reduce the cost even more within two or three years— something robust and simple that walks, stops. sits and stands — hugely enabling.

Steven Sanchez tests the product monthly and demonstrates the product all over the world. He wore the Phoenix on a trip to the Vatican, and stood in line like anyone else — “wearing an “awesome robotic suit” and “no one cared.” For those who can only dream of walking, that is a very big deal indeed.



I Apologize! Isn’t That an Old Song? by The Elephant's Child

I’m sorry for the erratic blogging over the last week or so. Complications of life that you would not enjoy hearing about — boring, annoying, but not even mildly interesting. Here’s a little humor to brighten a Sunday morning:

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An Appropriate Cartoon by the Talented Michael Ramirez by The Elephant's Child

TOON12115FINAL.gif.cmsTo see more of Michael Ramirez’s caustic (but funny) work, go to Investors Business Daily every weekday.



This is ‘Wisdom’ Returned to Midway at Age 64, to Lay Another Egg. by The Elephant's Child

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This is a Laysan albatross who has returned once again to Midway Atoll, where she is expected to lay another egg.  What is notable about her is that she was first tagged in 1956 and has raised at least 36 chicks since then. Her name is Wisdom, and she is 64 years old. The oldest known tracked bird. More pictures at the link.

The nesting ground for the albatrosses is protected habitat. The birds typically lay an egg a year, spending six months rearing and feeding their young. They are giants in the air, with a seven-foot wingspan, that helps them forage far out to sea.

Kind of a neat story for a Monday morning.




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