Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has spent a total of six months in space. In his new book, he writes that getting to space took only "8 minutes and 42 seconds. Give or take a few thousand days of training."

ASTRONAUT OPENS A CAN OF PEANUTS IN SPACE                                                                                                                      I heard Chris Hadfield tell about this on the radio.  Said it looked “like a can of bees.”        Hadfield told other interesting things that are in his new book, An Astronaut’s Guide to        Life on Earth.

OSTRICH CHICKS DANCING (thanks, Susan)                 

Miss Israel (surprise!)


Hollywood Jew

Posted by Danielle Berrin     October 2, 2013 | 12:44 pm

Miss Israel — aka ‘Titi’ — takes a Los Angeles tour

PhotoConsul General of Israel to Los Angeles David Siegel and Miss Israel, Yityish Aynaw

“Don’t think I am just a beauty queen,” Yityish Aynaw, the 22-year-old Ethiopian-born beauty, declared from the bimah at Ohr HaTorah last Shabbat. With sass and a smile, she crowed, “I was a commander in the Israeli army.”

It comes as no surprise that the woman now known as “Miss Israel” is more than just a docile dish. “People who know me, they don’t see me only as a beauty queen, because they know who I am,” she said during an interview at her hotel on Sept. 29.

Aynaw (pronounced ay-NOW) was in Los Angeles as part of a four-city tour with the Rev. Ronald V. Myers, a doctor/preacher/jazz musician who created the National Juneteenth Observance movement, whose aim is to inaugurate an official legal holiday honoring the end of slavery. Myers told me he sees Juneteenth as a day of reconciliation and healing, “the African-American Yom Kippur.”

So imagine how agog he was when he discovered that Miss Israel is black. He invited her to the United States, he said, so he and fellow black Christians could “connect with their Hebrew roots.”

“She’s bringing us all together,” Myers said at the Little Ethiopia Cultural and Resource Center on Fairfax Avenue, one of the Sabbath day tour stops, this one honoring “Titi” — as Aynaw is known in Israel — with a traditional Ethiopian dance performance. “Many African-Americans do not know that there are black Jews, that we have a common history,” he added. When Myers first learned about Aynaw’s story, he was bothered that her plight was so private.

“Why doesn’t anybody know what Israel did to rescue Ethiopian Jews?” he wondered. “It’s like a secret.”

Even after Israel rescued thousands of Ethiopians in the 1980s and ’90s through Operations Moses and Solomon. Those who remained Jews still felt compelled to hide their Jewishness, Aynaw said. Born in Gondar, Ethiopia, to a single mother who died of cancer when Aynaw was 10, she never met her father but said didn’t miss him: “My mom was a strong woman,” she said. “She was like a mom, a dad — everything.” After her mother’s death, Aynaw and her older brother made aliyah to Netanya, where her maternal grandparents were living.

“As a child, I never felt Ethiopia was my home,” she admitted. “People would always call us ‘falasha’ ” — a derogatory term for Jews that means foreigner or exile — “and my mother all the time [would] tell us about Israel. We dreamed about Israel. We always wanted to make aliyah.”

She was 11 when she finally arrived in Israel, but there she discovered a very different country than the one she had imagined. The move from her tiny Ethiopian village to the thoroughly modern land-of-her-dreams was drastic and unsettling. “In my fantasy,” she said, struggling to communicate with her basic English, “I [would] go to Israel and everything — gold! Jerusalem of gold … everything gold. And we [would] have honey in every place. … And [then] I come to Israel, and I see elevators, lights, cars. … No gold.”

But she was still smitten. Aynaw quickly learned Hebrew and overcame her sense of otherness to become a well-integrated member of Israeli society. So much so, in fact, that she also joined the ranks of Israel’s privileged elite as a military commander, and, later, a lieutenant. Speaking in Hebrew, she told Ohr HaTorah — through the fluid translation of Meirav Finley — that the most valuable lesson of her service was one of paradox: As the presiding commander at an Israeli checkpoint, where she oversaw 90 or so officers, she insisted that passing Palestinians be treated with both decency and dignity, but also with a fair amount of suspicion, as serving higher ideals can demand holding opposite views with the same hands.

Now, the bold beauty queen is out to prove that she can morph from orphaned child to leading lady. “To represent Israel, it changes everything,” she said. “You want to do the right thing; you don’t want to disappoint. So I can’t act like I want to every time — I have to be perfect. I have responsibilities.”

One of those is developing her passion project, a community arts education center in Netanya for at-risk children, many of whom she has seen go from playing ball in the street to smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. “A lot of children in my neighborhood, after school, they have nothing to do,” she lamented.

Last March, during Barack Obama’s first visit to Israel as president, Titi was among the Knesset members and army generals trotted out to meet him. 

“I knew everything about him,” she said, explaining that she had done a school project on the first black U.S. president. “I liked that all the time he dreamed.”

When Israeli President Shimon Peres introduced Aynaw to Obama, Peres presented her as “Israel’s queen,” referring to her biblical tie to King Solomon’s consort, the Queen of Sheba. “She is the modern Queen of Sheba,” Peres said.

“My heart leapt from my chest,” Aynaw admitted of meeting her idol. Standing in a room with so many luminaries gave her an idea of where to go with her studies in government at Herzliya’s Interdisciplinary Center.

“Right now I need to model so I can make money for a campaign,” she said, laughing. “Because if you have a good campaign, it means you’ll be prime minister.”

Collecting Yellow Jackets

An Autumn Harvest…For Yellow Jackets

National Public  Radio    HERE AND NOW                 10.29.13                                  By  TUCKER IVES

For most of us, yellow jackets are a nuisance and for some people, they’re fatal. But for Norman Patterson, they’re more of an obsession.

“As a child, I remember finding a wild honey bee hive in the woods and I was fascinated by it,” said Patterson. “That’s really what got me into honey bees, which eventually got me into collecting hornets and yellow jackets for medical labs.”

By Patterson’s estimate, he is one of about 25 people in the country who collects stinging insects for medical purposes. The venom is delicate though so in order to safely capture the insects, collectors need the right tools.

“Every collector has his own traps. It’s like a Jedi. You make your own lightsaber, so we all have our own traps and we all believe our traps are the best,” said a grinning Patterson. “Mine of course, are the best. I’m sure of that.”

From far, far away it just looks like a standard shop-vacuum. The genius part is in the middle of the hose where there’s a clear plastic jug with some PVC piping running into it. “It’s an inline trap,” explained Patterson. “The yellow jacket gets sucked through vacuum power into the chamber and because there’s screen over it, it does not get sucked into the vacuum. They get caught in this chamber here.”

Patterson lives in Litchfield County but travels around Connecticut. During a house call in Wethersfield, the yellow jackets were flying in and out of several holes right above the doorway. Before calling Patterson, the homeowner tried to take care of the problem himself. He used caulk in hopes of trapping the yellow jackets in the nest. “People try to solve problems and they just make them worse,” said Patterson.

His van is filled with various vacuums, ladders and tools because he never knows what to expect. On this trip, he used a crowbar to pry open what he thinks is the yellow jackets’ main exit.

“When they’re coming and going from a bunch of different spots I’ll block it up and try to collect as much as I can,” said Patterson. He’ll return to a nest over the course of a few weeks. Instead of killing off a nest, he “milks” them to increase his yield. His hope is to train the yellow jackets to use one hole. “Yellow jackets can be trained,” he said with a smirk.

Patterson propped up the vacuum hose against the hole, and powered it up. After a few minutes, he added a second trap on the other side of the doorway. Nearly 15 minutes go by and he’s satisfied with the collection.

Then came the fun part. Patterson removed the plastic jug and pumped it with carbon dioxide. A few dozen frenzied yellow jackets instantly drop. They’ve been put to sleep for a few minutes so Patterson can transfer them to a cooler of dry ice.

This will eventually kill the insects, but it preserves the venom. “The first thing that seems to go bad on a yellow jacket is the venom and the lab would be able to tell because when they pull the venom out it’ll be cloudy, rather than nice and crystal clear,” he explained.

Patterson has freezers back home filled with more than 40 pounds of different species of wasps and hornets. He then ships them to labs in the U.S. and U.K. The labs pull the stingers off, extract the venom, and use it in immunotherapy treatments for people with sting allergies, which is roughly 5 percent of the population.

The labs pay for stinging insects by the pound. How much? Patterson didn’t give an exact number, but it’s at least $500. That’s why his customers receive these services for free.


Flying Food for POW’s


 I met Byron Kinney last night and I’m glad.  He’s a chubby, amiable old guy who was one of two 20-year-old pilots of  a big B-24 bomber on an 800-mile mission to Japan to drop food on a prisoner-of-war camp where Americans were starving in 1945.

Byron’s crew had trouble finding the camp, circled ten times, and, were abut to give up and return to base, when the tail-gunner spotted it.   Then there was the problem of how to drop the food containers.

Wars are fought by kids, you know.  They do amazing things.  Byron likes to talk about his experience.


 His exploit is recounted in a book that Alice has just finished—“Fascinating” she saidUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand.

Revieiw in Publishers Weekly

From the 1936 Olympics to WWII Japan’s most brutal POW camps, Hillenbrand’s heart-wrenching new book is thousands of miles and a world away from the racing circuit of her bestselling Seabiscuit. But it’s just as much a page-turner, and its hero, Louie Zamperini, is just as loveable: a disciplined champion racer who ran in the Berlin Olympics, he’s a wit, a prankster, and a reformed juvenile delinquent who put his thieving skills to good use in the POW camps, In other words, Louie is a total charmer, a lover of life–whose will to live is cruelly tested when he becomes an Army Air Corps bombardier in 1941. The young Italian-American from Torrance, Calif., was expected to be the first to run a four-minute mile. After an astonishing but losing race at the 1936 Olympics, Louie was hoping for gold in the 1940 games. But war ended those dreams forever. In May 1943 his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. After a record-breaking 47 days adrift on a shark-encircled life raft with his pal and pilot, Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips, they were captured by the Japanese. In the “theater of cruelty” that was the Japanese POW camp network, Louie landed in the cruelest theaters of all: Omori and Naoetsu, under the control of Corp. Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a pathologically brutal sadist (called the Bird by camp inmates) who never killed his victims outright–his pleasure came from their slow, unending torment. After one beating, as Watanabe left Louie’s cell, Louie saw on his face a “soft languor…. It was an expression of sexual rapture.” And Louie, with his defiant and unbreakable spirit, was Watanabe’s victim of choice. By war’s end, Louie was near death. When Naoetsu was liberated in mid-August 1945, a depleted Louie’s only thought was “I’m free! I’m free! I’m free!” But as Hillenbrand shows, Louie was not yet free. Even as, returning stateside, he impulsively married the beautiful Cynthia Applewhite and tried to build a life, Louie remained in the Bird’s clutches, haunted in his dreams, drinking to forget, and obsessed with vengeance. In one of several sections where Hillenbrand steps back for a larger view, she writes movingly of the thousands of postwar Pacific PTSD sufferers. With no help for their as yet unrecognized illness, Hillenbrand says, “there was no one right way to peace; each man had to find his own path….” The book’s final section is the story of how, with Cynthia’s help, Louie found his path. It is impossible to condense the rich, granular detail of Hillenbrand’s narrative of the atrocities committed (one man was exhibited naked in a Tokyo zoo for the Japanese to “gawk at his filthy, sore-encrusted body”) against American POWs in Japan, and the courage of Louie and his fellow POWs, who made attempts on Watanabe’s life, committed sabotage, and risked their own lives to save others. Hillenbrand’s triumph is that in telling Louie’s story (he’s now in his 90s), she tells the stories of thousands whose suffering has been mostly forgotten. She restores to our collective memory this tale of heroism, cruelty, life, death, joy, suffering, remorselessness, and redemption. Reviewed by Sarah F. Gold







Doesn’t everyone love meerkats?

Vocalization     Meerkat calls may carry specific meanings, with particular calls indicating the type of predator and the urgency of the situation. In addition to alarm calls, meerkats also make panic calls, recruitment calls, and moving calls. They chirrup, trill, growl, or bark, depending on the circumstances.  Meerkats make different alarm calls depending upon whether they see an aerial or a terrestrial predator. Moreover, acoustic characteristics of the call will change with the urgency of the potential predatory episode. Therefore six different predatory alarm calls with six different meanings have been identified: aerial predator with low, medium, and high urgency; and terrestrial predator with low, medium, and high urgency. Meerkats respond differently after hearing a terrestrial predator alarm call than after hearing an aerial predator alarm call. For example, upon hearing a high-urgency terrestrial predator alarm call, meerkats are most likely to seek shelter and scan the area. On the other hand, upon hearing a high-urgency aerial predator alarm call, meerkats are most likely to crouch down. On many occasions under these circumstances, they also look towards the sky.  Wikipedia


File:Meerkat feb 09.jpg







File:Zolli Ethosha House.jpg

















Doesn’t everyone love meerkats?











Meerkat calls may carry specific meanings, with particular calls indicating the type of predator and the urgency of the situation. In addition to alarm calls, meerkats also make panic calls, recruitment calls, and moving calls. They chirrup, trill, growl, or bark, depending on the circumstances.  Meerkats make different alarm calls depending upon whether they see an aerial or a terrestrial predator. Moreover, acoustic characteristics of the call will change with the urgency of the potential predatory episode. Therefore six different predatory alarm calls with six different meanings have been identified: aerial predator with low, medium, and high urgency; and terrestrial predator with low, medium, and high urgency. Meerkats respond differently after hearing a terrestrial predator alarm call than after hearing an aerial predator alarm call. For example, upon hearing a high-urgency terrestrial predator alarm call, meerkats are most likely to seek shelter and scan the area. On the other hand, upon hearing a high-urgency aerial predator alarm call, meerkats are most likely to crouch down. On many occasions under these circumstances, they also look towards the sky.  Wikipedia










































Dementia and Blood Sugar


Aging Well: Keeping Blood Sugar Low May Protect Memory  October 25, 2013

by Allison Aubrey, NPR


There’s a growing body of evidence linking elevated blood sugar to memory problems.

For instance, earlier this year, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that higher glucose may be a risk factor for dementia, even among people without type 2 diabetes.

So the question is, at what point does the risk of cognitive decline set in?

Or in other words, should we be aware of creeping blood sugar, even before it gets to levels that doctors call pre-diabetes?

Well, researchers, writing this week in the journal Neurology, have some new data that suggest that even modest increases in blood sugar among people in their 50s, 60s and 70s can have a negative influence on memory.

The study included 141 healthy older people, all of whom had blood sugar in the normal range. All of the participants were given recall tests where they were read a list of 15 words and then asked to repeat back as many as they could remember.

The researchers found that if a person’s hemoglobin A1C (the AIC test is a common blood test that reflects a person’s average blood sugar level over a two-to-three month period) went from 5 percent, which is in the normal range, up to 5.6 percent, which is edging closer to what doctors classify as pre-diabetes, this was associated with recalling fewer words.

This association suggests the effect isn’t huge. But researchers says it’s significant.

So, what’s actually happening in the brain when blood sugar levels are chronically elevated?

Study author Agnes Floel of Charite University Medicine in Berlin says there may be a couple of things at play. It’s possible that blood vessel effects can damage memory. “Elevated blood sugar levels damage small and large vessels in the brain, leading to decreased blood and nutrient flow to brain cells,” explains Floel.

Another explanation: Elevated blood sugar “may impair the functioning of brain areas like the hippocampus, a structure particularly relevant for memory,” Floel says.

“When you’re making a decision or trying to retrieve [information from your memory], the hippocampus requires a lot of glucose,” explains Gail Musen of the Joslin Diabetes Center.

But when glucose levels rise in the body, it may lead to a disruption in the transport of glucose through the blood-brain barrier to the hippocampus. And this may impact the integrity of the hippocampus, according to the findings of the new study.

So it seems that when blood sugar in the body rises, it may be “more difficult to get that glucose to the hippocampus,” Musen explains.

We should point out that it’s possible for blood sugar to go dangerously low, a condition known ashypoglycemia. This is most commonly an issue for people being treated for diabetes with insulin.

So, what can we do to help control blood sugar and keep it in the healthy range?

What we eat is important. “Consuming a diet rich in fiber, vegetables, fruit, fish, and whole-grain products” is recommended, Floel wrote to us in an email.

And there’s exercise too: “Exercising regularly is absolutely associated with lower blood sugars, on average, and it’s also associated with brain health,” says Paul Crane of the University of Washington.

Copyright 2013 NPR.


Halloween Notes


I was about 7 years old the Halloween my older sister Carol dressed me as a gypsy girl and made up my face.  I loved it!  Maybe that same year, Carol had a Halloween party. Entering guests were asked to sit in a chair designed to collapse under them.  It was funny until a girl arrived wearing a beaded dress.  When she hit the floor on the collapsing chair her beads broke away and rolled all over the basement.  Snooty child said,  Oh, you naughty children!”

In our first year in our first home, a third-floor apartment in a court building, Joanne got very excited about Halloween, about having lots of kids come to the door.  She bought a lot of candy, put up some decorations, and I think she even figured out a costume for herself.  Imagine how she felt when nobody rang our bell!

Alice loves Halloween, always enjoys seeing the kids and talking with them, gives them little stuffed toys she has won at arcade games in Las Vegas, but last year she was on a ship in the South Pacific at this time.  For her sake I bought candy,*  put an orange bulb in the porch light, put on my big gray hooded robe with a mask and my red down booties,  and enjoyed the trick-or-treaters, trying to be just a little threatening to the older ones. When one boy, about 11 or 12, showed up in a headless costume, I pointed at him and said very sternly, “You don’t have a head!  You can’t eat candy!”  The poor guy started to take the top of his costume apart to prove he had a mouth. rjn

* Alice doesn’t usually give candy.  Instead she lets the kids choose from a display of little soft toys she has won at arcade games in the Circus Circus hotel/casino in Las Vegas. That place puts on real circus acts–trapeze artists swinging out over the casino floor, for example.                                                                                                             rjn


Follow the Cold Sores


Herpes virus genome traces the ancient path of human migration

Alan Boyle, Science EditorNBC News
Image: World map

Kolb et al. / PLOS ONE
A world map charts the classification of herpes simplex virus type-1 genomes into different genetic groups, or clades. Patterns of land migration are shown by yellow lines, and potential air/sea migration by a pink line.

To confirm the theory that humans spread out from Africa tens of thousands of years ago, all you have to do is follow the cold sores. Or, to be more precise, follow the mutation patterns encoded in the genome of the virus that causes those cold sores.

That’s what researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison did: In the journal PLOS ONE, they describe how they sequenced the genomes of 31 samples of herpes simplex virus type-1 to reconstruct how it hitchhiked on humans as they dispersed around the world.

The results match the pattern proposed by the “Out of Africa” theory, which has become the most widely accepted scenario for ancient human migration. The analysis showed that African strains of the virus contained the most genetic diversity — suggesting that they had the oldest roots.

“The viral strains sort exactly as you would predict based on sequencing of human genomes. We found that all of the African isolates cluster together, all the virus from the Far East, Korea, Japan, China clustered together, all the viruses in Europe and America, with one exception, clustered together,” senior author Curtis Brandt, a professor of medical microbiology and opthalmology, said in a UW-Madison news release.

“What we found follows exactly what the anthropologists have told us, and the molecular geneticists who have analyzed the human genome have told us, about where humans originated and how they spread across the planet,” he said.

The findings reflect the view that a small human population passed through a “bottleneck” to get from Africa to the Middle East, then went their separate ways to Europe and Asia, and eventually to the Americas.

Almost all of the samples from the United States were linked to European strains, but one sample from Texas was more closely linked to Asia. Brandt and his colleagues said that particular sample may have come from someone who picked up the virus during a trip to the Far East, or perhaps from someone with Native American heritage whose ancestors passed over a “land bridge” between Asia and North America.

“We found support for the land bridge hypothesis, because the date of divergence from its most recent Asian ancestor was about 15,000 years ago,” Brandt said. “The dates match, so we postulate that this was an Amerindian virus.”

The researchers said HSV-1 strains are ideal for tracking long-term migration patterns because they’re easy to collect, usually not lethal, and capable of forming lifelong latent infections. Because the virus is spread by close contact, through kissing or exposure to saliva, it tends to run in families. And because the viral genome is so much simpler than the human genome, it’s cheaper to sequence.

“While preliminary, our data raise the possibility that HSV-1 sequences could serve as a surrogate marker to analyze human migration and population structures,” the researchers say.



Gummy Guy



As the CEO of Haribo, Hans Riegel built a candy empire on the gummy bear, which was invented by his father. Riegel died last week at the age of 90.


EDITORIALS  Chicagp Tribune  10.21.13

A farewell to the gummy baron

   Today we pay tribute to Hans Riegel, who died recently at 90. You probably never heard his name. His obituary didn’t appear on the front page. But make no mistake, Riegel profoundly altered the world for millions of children and, OK, we admit it, legions of adults.  Riegel popularized the gummy bear. As head of the German candy company Haribo, he built a candy empire on a simple gelatinous bear invented by Riegel’s father. The gummy bear spawned the gummy worm, the gummy frog, the gummy fish, the gummy rabbit … an entire ecstatic cosmos of gumminess. (Not to mention its tasty cousins in the sour gummy family.)

In our opinion, none was as perfect as the gummy bear, a color-drenched, fruit-flavored chewy moment of joy. In the pantheon of candy immortals like M&M’s and Snickers, Tootsie Roll Pops and Milky Ways, gummies reign.

Riegel’s father created the first gummies in 1922. Why bears? Riegel was inspired by the performing brown bears that once appeared in circuses. A 2007 makeover replaced the bears’ fierce expression with a smile, Reuters reported, not that we ever stopped to notice the bears’ facial features in the flash from hand to mouth.

The gummy has wriggled deep into the culture: Gummies starred in their own 1980s Disney television show, “Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears,” which spawned a line of books and, we’re told, action figures. We are not making this up.

  Several years ago, Los Angeles artist YaYa Chou spent two months stringing gummy bears onto monofilament lines to create a 45-pound gummy bear chandelier. We are not making that up, either.

Other great moments in gummy history:

• In 2003, Canadian painter Nicole Vogelzang drew critical kudos for gummy still-lifes displayed at Toronto’s Pari Nadimi Gallery.

• In a 2006 Portland, Ore., museum exhibit, artist Chandra Bocci displayed “Gummy Big Bang II,” a 120-square-foot primordial eruption of gummy bears, worms, sharks and spiders. A museum curator told a reporter that the artwork was “a comment on the ludicrous nature of commercialism and capitalism today. The gummy industry has gone completely wild with the types of gummy they’re creating.”

On that point, we’d have to agree. We’re gummy purists. Bears, first, last, always. (And stick to the traditional flavors — orange, lemon, strawberry; forget those insolent pineapple-flavored ones.)

The candy business, as we all know, is a cutthroat market.

Tastes change. Flavors and combinations of flavors — blue raspberry, cranapple, butter rum, root beer — come into favor and then fizzle. Few candies endure through generations, and even fewer can claim fans just as ardent at 8 as at 78.

Can’t get enough gum-mies? The website   offers a 26-pound — yes, 26-pound — gummy bear in four different flavors. In case you’re wondering, these delightful bears pack 32,000 calories. The company says the $149.99 bear has a one-year shelf life. If it lasts that long.