Sunday, December 4, 2016

Missing Maps

Oddly enough, I got another cool email about crowdsourcing you can do, this time from Doctors Without Borders. Although I'm sure they'd also be thrilled if you simply wanted to donate money to their worthy organization, they sent out an email a couple of days ago asking people to volunteer some time to a project called Missing Maps. I'm pasting it in here (when they mention MSF, they're referring to their French name, Médecins Sans Frontières) :

Help
Help Put Aweil, South Sudan on the Map!

Aweil, the capital of South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, is home to tens of thousands of people, many of whom live on the city’s largely unmapped outskirts. Putting these settlements on the map is the first step to collecting crucial health and demographic data that will help MSF provide essential medical care to this underserved population. That’s where you come in!

  

When MSF responds to disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and other health crises, hundreds of teams have to cover enormous areas (as happened when MSF responded to a measles outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year). Now, with MapSwipe, you can help give MSF coordinators a super-fast snapshot of where the population clusters are, helping them to send their teams to the locations where they are most needed to achieve maximum vaccination coverage.

 

MapSwipe, available free from the App Store and Google Play, enables users to view and swipe through satellite images of remote areas to identify features such as settlements, roads, and rivers. The information gathered helps to build maps for aid workers to use in largely unmapped but crisis-prone regions like Aweil.

Here's how you can help:
  1. Download the free MapSwipe smartphone app from the App Store or Google Play.
  2. Create an account.
  3. Start mapping! You’ll find the “Map South Sudan for MSF” mapping project in the app’s “Missions” section.

Click here for a tutorial on how to use MapSwipe—helping us map is easy and fun!
 
MapSwipe is part of the “Missing Maps" project, an open collaboration that aims to map vulnerable places in the developing world.
 
Unfortunately, I don't have a smartphone so that I can be the guinea pig on this. However, I think you can use a computer if you go to this Missing Maps page. Not sure if it will take you to this particular Sudan project, though.
 
Although this is endorsed by organizations like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, I do wonder a little if there could be misuse of such maps. In fact, a quick Google search brought just such questions on a website called  raised just such questions at a website called SciDev.net, though the article did not question Missing Maps or any of these groups ethics. Something to ponder a bit before jumping in. Meanwhile, back to looking for blood vessel stalls.
 
 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Stall Catchers--the game

It's Giving Tuesday, and perhaps you're feeling a little tapped out. So here's something you can do that costs no money at all. At the website EyesOnALZ, they've rolled out a new game you can play that will actually help with Alzheimer's research. Unlike some fundraising campaigns where you can play different regular games which slowly amass monies for worth organizations, this is a little more direct. It's called Stall Catchers, and what you do in the game is look at an actual brain to help identify where the blood flow gets stalled in specific places. Here's the video.

 


And here's a word from  the BrightFocus Foundation Program President and CEO Stacy Pagos Haller  about what they're trying to accomplish over at the website Dementia Today:

Stall Catchers helps scientists who are researching blood vessels in the brain identify where there can be clogged capillaries or “stalls” that stop blood flow. Researchers hope they can reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms like memory loss by reducing the number of stalls.

The more people of all ages we can recruit to spot stalls, the faster the project will go, and the closer we’ll get to unlocking a cure for Alzheimer’s. With your help, this part of the research project can compress into months and years what could normally take decades, so that’s where all of us are needed. In the first 30 days alone, nearly 1000 citizen scientists did the equivalent of 14 weeks of analysis in a lab!

As Stacy says, all you need is a computer, a tablet or a smartphone to get started. So whatcha waiting for? Go HERE to get started. (I edited this to change the link to a better starting point for the game.)

 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone--Yes, Everyone.

We are living in divisive times and that's not going to end soon. And I suspect Thanksgiving is going to be hell for a lot of people this year, whatever side of that divide you find yourself on. Perhaps for that one day we can try to find something transcending our particular historical moment. To that end, I present you with the SNL skit about Thanksgiving dinner from last year. Perhaps even more apt now.

 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

dum spiro, spero



Occasionally the alignment of random events makes me wonder how random things really are. Over the years, Santa Cruz has had more than one large truck patrolling the downtown streets, covered with words, sometimes figures like dolls or stuffed animals. Sometimes there is a loudspeaker blaring music or rhetoric. Usually these vehicles leave me more baffled than intrigued. They often seem to be advertising some fringe ideology of the driver, which you might agree with if you figure out the coherent message but then again, you might not.


Don't know this truck personally, but it's a benign example.


Last week, though, I saw a large truck with only one message on it. Along it's long black side, the white letters proclaimed "Dum Spiro Spero". As my only association to "spiro" was the not beloved vice-president Spiro Agnew, and I was pretty sure we weren't still talking about him, I thought, well, I'll look that up when I get home. And then forgot about it.

The next day, my friend came to town, and wanted to go back to a clothing store where she'd found a dress she'd decided to buy. While I was waiting with her at the counter, I passed the time by looking down into a glass case full of pendants on necklaces and things like that. A lot of them had little tags attached which explained their meanings. The first one that caught my eye said "Dum Spiro Spero" and explained that it means "While I breathe, I hope."



I'm not really sure what the driver of the black truck is hoping for, but it's a lot better motto than some are toting around these days. A lot of people may know this phrase already, as not only is it the state motto of South Carolina, but also there seem to be many people who have had themselves tattooed with it.

                                                                                      Sanpani

It is attributed to Cicero, though unlike some of his other sayings, I don't see a particular work cited. Maybe he just went around saying it all the time.

It was  also part of the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Sarawak, now one of the states of Malaysia. That creature on the top is a badger, or in the parlance of heraldry, a brock.




In any case, it seems to be a good time to tattoo it on your body or wear it as a necklace, or put it on your big, black truck. Let's be hopeful. While we can.
 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I Love You, California

I guess I won't be moving to Canada just yet...



Joint Statement from California Legislative Leaders on Result of Presidential Election


Wednesday, November 09, 2016
SACRAMENTO – California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) released the following statement on the results of the President election:
Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land, because yesterday Americans expressed their views on a pluralistic and democratic society that are clearly inconsistent with the values of the people of California.
We have never been more proud to be Californians.
By a margin in the millions, Californians overwhelmingly rejected politics fueled by resentment, bigotry, and misogyny.
The largest state of the union and the strongest driver of our nation’s economy has shown it has its surest conscience as well.
California is – and must always be – a refuge of justice and opportunity for people of all walks, talks, ages and aspirations – regardless of how you look, where you live, what language you speak, or who you love.
California has long set an example for other states to follow. And California will defend its people and our progress. We are not going to allow one election to reverse generations of progress at the height of our historic diversity, scientific advancement, economic output, and sense of global responsibility.
We will be reaching out to federal, state and local officials to evaluate how a Trump Presidency will potentially impact federal funding of ongoing state programs, job-creating investments reliant on foreign trade, and federal enforcement of laws affecting the rights of people living in our state. We will maximize the time during the presidential transition to defend our accomplishments using every tool at our disposal.
While Donald Trump may have won the presidency, he hasn’t changed our values. America is greater than any one man or party. We will not be dragged back into the past. We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.
California was not a part of this nation when its history began, but we are clearly now the keeper of its future.
###
Hoy despertamos sintiéndonos extranjeros en tierra extraña, porque ayer los estadounidenses expresaron sus opiniones sobre una sociedad pluralista y democrática que es claramente inconsistente con los valores de la gente de California.

Nunca nos hemos sentido más orgullosos de ser californianos.

Por un margen de millones de votos, los californianos rechazaron abrumadoramente la política alimentada por el resentimiento, la intolerancia y la misoginia.

El estado más grande de la unión y la locomotora de la economía de nuestra nación ha demostrado que también tiene su conciencia más tranquila.

California es - y debe ser siempre - un refugio de justicia y oportunidades para las personas de todos los orígenes, lenguas, edades, y aspiraciones - independientemente de su apariencia, dónde vivan, qué idioma hablen, o a quiénes amen.

California, por mucho tiempo, ha sido un ejemplo a seguir  para otros estados. Y California defenderá a su gente y nuestro progreso. No vamos a permitir que una elección sea un revés para el progreso de generaciones en la cima de nuestra histórica diversidad, el avance científico, la generación económica y un sentido de responsabilidad global.

Estaremos comunicándonos con los funcionarios federales, estatales y locales para evaluar cómo una Presidencia Trump podría afectar potencialmente los fondos de programas estatales en curso, las inversiones creadoras de empleos que dependen del comercio exterior y la aplicación de las leyes federales que afectan los derechos de las personas que viven en nuestro estado.

Estaremos utilizando al máximo el tiempo durante la transición presidencial para defender nuestros logros, usando cada herramienta a nuestra disposición.

Aunque Donald Trump haya ganado la presidencia, no ha cambiado nuestros valores. Estados Unidos es más grande que cualquier hombre o partido. No seremos arrastrados de vuelta al pasado. Lideraremos la resistencia a cualquier esfuerzo que destruya nuestro tejido social o nuestra Constitución.

California no era una parte de esta nación cuando comenzó su historia, pero ahora somos claramente los encargados de mantener su futuro.


 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Poem for Thursday

For some reason, bits of this poem were going through my mind yesterday, and I decided to revisit it. It is in the public domain, but this specific version comes from Poem of the Week, where you will find some additional notes on it. I offer no interpretation of  it. I read it a long time ago, when it gave the title to a collection of essays by Joan Didion. It is a famous poem, perhaps prophetic, though prophetic of what, I couldn't say. Poem of the Week says that Yeats wrote it in the aftermath of WWI.


    THE SECOND COMING

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.   

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.    

    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

                                              William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Way We Live Now--post election day

By a rather random series of events, I've had a lot of chance to ponder Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now over the last few years. I read it for a small book group I'm in, and reviewed it at Escape Into Life. Then I happened to catch the Masterpiece Theatre series done on it, starring the superb and very transformed David Suchet. Wrote another little piece on that. In March of this year, I
started to see a certain resemblance between Trump and the novel's center stage monster, Melmotte. I thought I'd reprint this short reflection in its entirety, with an important postscript. Spoiler alert: the postscript gives some of the novel's plot away.

The Way We Live Now, again
Far be it from me to turn this book review blog into a political commentary, but after just watching a segment on Lawrence O'Donnell on a shady Trump deal in Mexico, I just have to say that a Donald Trump was foreseen by Anthony Trollope in The Way We Live Now when he created the character Melmotte, who enters the political realm in England from a vague but somehow glamorous business past. Everyone is enamored with his wealth, but  he eventually learns that politics may be a step too far. He even has a shady railroad deal out in the American West, which proves to be more than questionable.
 
Postscript: What I didn't tell readers then was that Melmotte, despite or because of all his chicanery, actually attains a place in parliament. But as I hinted, it is a bridge too far. He is ill-equipped for that august body and is soon laughed off the stage, to his ruin. Ridicule is a powerful weapon and normally I am not in favor of it. But I think it's very fair play for someone who has used it mercilessly against others to his own advantage.

 Read your classics, people. It could serve you in good stead in areas you least expect it...