Archive for January, 2010

WoD – The Avg. Life Expectancy of a Neanderthal

What was the average life expectancy of a Neanderthal?  Ok I checked – it was about 30 years, and they lived until as recently as ~40,000 years ago.  What about people like 4,000 years ago?

So here’s what I am thinking about today — from an evolutionary perspective, we were never meant to live nearly as long as we do these days.  I mean, it’s only been in the past few thousands of years that our life has lengthened so dramatically, right?  And remember, from an evolutionary perspective, these past 4,000 years is a tiny sliver of time.  (Just saw in Wikipedia that life expectancy in ancient Egypt ~4,000 years ago was ~35 for men, and even less for women.  This is skewed by the heavy losses at birth, but still… )

So in only ~4,000 years, the life expectancy of our entire species has gone from something like 35 to now something like 82 (and this is even heavily skewed towards the last few hundred), whereas in the preceding 40,000 years it only changed by maybe 5 years in length.  Amazing!  And I think this current pace we are on will continue indefinitely (i.e. we will increase our average life expectancy by one year, every four years.)

A related thought (it’s sort of like two for the price of one today) – what about diseases the come on much later in life, like let’s say Alzheimer’s.  What role do they play in evolution decisions?  Our ancestors may never have even encountered this type of illness, since no one lived long enough to experience it.  So, what about evolution again – will we evolve away Alzheimer’s, like many other genetic weaknesses that get weeded out over generations?  But how, since it onsets way late in life and therefore basically has zero bearing on the procreation decision?

Tuesday:

MIDES (MEEdehs)

Morals

He shouldn’t be in that profession.  He has no mides.

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WoD – The Future of the Public Library

Do you remember your local library?  Let’s travel back in time to when you were a child.  Remember the lobby – as you walked in, you’d see the 4th graders’ science project about the Solar System on display.  Then the librarians behind a low counter, who were supposed to be there to help you but more often than not scared you (“Shhhh!”  They’d be ready to say at any moment…)  Of course, the smell of old books — almost musty, but also comforting in their own way.  The Dewey Decimal System, typed out on the little cards in the card holders near the center aisle.  A few not-very-comfortable plastic chairs and some desks interspersed around the outside walls.  And maybe a 1960’s (or if you were lucky a 1970’s) blue-ish carpet across the entire floor, to help muffle the sounds of kids’ giggles…

Fast forward to today.  I have this old adage about technology.  I used to call it the 2/10 Rule.  Which loosely goes something like this:  in 2 years, new technologies or models don’t get adopted nearly as fast as we might initially think; but in 10 years, they can be adopted in ways we never even thought possible.  Examples of this are things like: the cell phone (now it is old news, but think when you first got one — feels like forever ago, but it probably wasn’t even ten years.  Back then there were zero Blackberries ANYWHERE, no iPhones, no apps, no grandparents had cellphones, etc. etc.); the Internet (or maybe to be more clear we should say Netscape’s IPO in 1996); RFID is likely following this rule; Google; Social Networking (anyone remember Friendster?)…

So I was thinking about our public libraries.  They truly are a great societal construct and our nation is very surely better off for having them in place all these years.  And we all have fond memories of going to our local public libraries as children – we can probably still smell the smells of the old books.

But with the very recent onset (onslaught?) of digital media and digitized content, what is the role of the public library in the not-too-distant future?  Even today, how many of you as adults go regularly to the public library and take out books?  How many of you still think you will go often, ten years from now?

Allow me to introduce into this discussion one relatively new notion:  The Kindle.  (2/10 Rule applies very nicely to this technology, by the way.)  Let’s extend this to all e-readers, since this category is literally exploding around us right now — including the rumored, very cool Apple Tablet to be released in just a few months, which will surely evolve this whole category quite a bit more.  And while we’re at it, let’s add a new, tailored children’s e-book reader into the technological mix, since in truth most of our trips to the library are for children’s books, right?  Who knows, we may all be going to iTunes to “check out and return” books in a lot less than ten years’ time.

So, in this digitized world with e-readers for everyone (certainly for every high school and college students, and maybe even for our young children), what is the role of the old, public library?  And what should be done about this?  Truth is, I don’t know.  But I am pretty sure they will be greatly reduced.  Many may even be gone.  And, sadly, missed…

Monday:

IN MITN DRINEN (ihn MIHTn DRIHNehn)

Suddenly, out of the blue

He’s been away for weeks with his WoD, then, in mitn drinen, he shows up in my RSS…

WoD – The Navel Gnome

Happy new year!

So today I am wondering about lint.  More specifically, the little lint that somehow gathers in people’s belly button.  (Perhaps this is my little version of “navel gazing…”)  How does it do that?  I mean, where does it come from?  Obviously our shirts, right?  I did a highly unscientific poll the other day and discovered that women (ok ok, this one woman) doesn’t get a little lint ball in her navel.  So it is men only, I guess.

But how does it gather together in a neat, almost woven-like way, and form a soft little ball all curled up in there?  And then it hit me.  Elves.  Or even better, a gnome!  There must be little belly button gnomes, who live in the navel and gather little pieces of cotton from our shirts, and then stitch them together like a little bird making a comfy nest out of twigs.  Maybe it’s like his bedding.  Besides, it’s cozy, warm, and sheltered in there, right?  It just has to be gnomes.

So there you have it – navel lint balls come from little gnomes that live in our belly button.  This is the only logical explanation, right?  Ok, now back to work everyone…

Tuesday:

PLYOTKE-MAKHER  (PLYOHTkeh MAHkhehr)

A malicious gossiper

Word got around town in one day, thanks to that plyotke-makher.



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