22 Awesome and Inspiring Bill Murray Quotes | Mental Floss
Glen Magnuson, Jr.
- A good day begins with the NYTimes, NPR, Arts & Letters Daily, Sacred Space & good coffee; it ends with a Grand Marnier. A brilliant day would be spent in London, New York or San Francisco -- although Sydney would be right up there. Unwinding in Carmel or Antibbes. Daytime spent in library (the Morgan, LOC or Widener) or museum (the Frick, the Louvre, British) with a healthy walk (around Lake Annecey); evening -- theatre (West End), or music (Carnegie Hall). A nice last meal: Perhaps the French Laundry or Fredy Giardet or Quennelles de Brochet from Taillevent, Cassoulet from Cafe des Artistes, Peking Duck from le Tsé-Fung, Lobster Savannah from Locke-Ober, Sacher Torte from Demel and Café Brulot from Antoine. Sazerac as an apéritif, Le Môntrachet in the beginning, Stag's Leap Cabernet in the middle, Veuve Cliqûot to conclude. Desert Island: Imac, Ipod, (I know, generator and dish necessary) Johnnie Walker Blue Label, wife & Adler's Great Books.
"[When] the Mongols ... defeated the Tatars [in the thirteenth century], they had ... captured almost the entire army and all the civilians.
"In traditional steppe systems of thought, everyone outside the kinship network was an enemy and would always be an enemy unless somehow brought into the family through ties of adoption or marriage. Temujin sought an end to the constant fighting between such groups, and he wanted to deal with the Tatars the same way that he had dealt with the Jurkin and the Tayichiud clans -- kill the leaders and absorb the survivors and all their goods and animals into his tribe. Although this policy had worked with clans of hundreds, however, the Tatars were a tribe of thousands, For such a massive social transformation, he needed the full support of his followers, and to achieve that support he summoned a khuriltai [council] of his victorious warriors.
"Intermarriage and adoption would not suffice, however, to achieve Temujin's goal of merging the two large groups into one people. If kin groups were allowed to remain essentially intact, the larger group would eventually fragment. In 1203, therefore, the year after the Tatar conquest, Temujin ordered yet another, and even more radical, reformation of the Mongol army and tribe.
"He organized his warriors into squads, or arban, of ten who were to be brothers to one another. No matter what their kin group or tribal origin, they were ordered to live and fight together as loyally as brothers; in the ultimate affirmation of kinship, no one of them could ever leave the other behind in battle as a captive. Like any family of brothers in which the eldest had total control, the eldest man took the leadership position in the Mongol arban, but the men could also decide to choose another to hold this position.
"Ten of the squads formed a company, or zagun, of one hundred men, one of whom they selected as their leader. And just as extended families united to form lineages, ten Mongol companies formed a battalion, or mingan, of one thousand men. Ten mingan were then organized into a tumen, an army of ten thousand; the leader of each tumen was chosen by Temujin, who knew the qualities needed in such a leadership position. He allowed fathers and sons and brothers and cousins to stay together when practical, but by forcing them into new units that no man could desert or change, under penalty of death, he broke the power of the old-system lineages, clans, tribes, and ethnic identities. At the time of his reorganization, he reportedly had ninety-five mingan, units of a thousand, but since some of the units were not staffed to capacity, the total number of troops may have been as low as eighty thousand.
"The entire Mongol tribe became integrated by means of the army. Under this new system, all members of the tribe -- regardless of age or gender -- had to perform a certain amount of public service. If they could not serve in the military, they were obliged to give the equivalent of one day of work per week for public projects and service to the khan. This included caring for the warriors' herds, gathering dung for fuel, cooking, making felt, repairing weapons, or even singing and entertaining the troops. In the new organization, all people belonged to the same bone. Temujin the boy, who had faced repeated rejections ascribed to his lower-status birth, had now abolished the distinction between [people of different ethnic status]. All of his followers were now one united people."
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Author: Jack Weatherford
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
| Evolving Ourselves by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans. Inserting human glial stem cells into the brains of newborn mice enables them to learn faster. Electromagnets placed on the skulls of monkeys enhances their cognitive performance. We may soon be entering a new age in which human brains can be radically enhanced:|
"One of the many horrific consequences of a severed spinal cord is loss of bladder control. In 2013, a Cleveland team reattached severed mouse spinal cords through nerve micrografts. The procedure was so successful that not only did the animals recover some respiratory functions but even the ability to control areas much farther down their bodies, including their bladders. Such an operation makes it conceivable that a full mouse-head transplant might someday be successful. And if it was successful, we might begin to be able to test various hypotheses: If a mouse had learned in detail how to ask for food or navigate a maze, would the mouse's head take that knowledge to a new body?
"No one has attempted a whole human brain transplant, nor should they. Nascent technologies and knowledge make the procedure far too risky and speculative, and the chances of success are minute, not to mention the ethical challenges of identifying and qualifying a donor. But as science progresses, if one became able to transplant a human brain or portions of a brain, then one could begin to answer some fundamental questions about the nature of consciousness, memory, and personality. ...
"While we wait for full-brain transplants, there is still a lot of data flow; even mini transplants can make a huge difference. Because ethical constraints limit the kinds of experiments we can perform on humans, scientists get ever more creative at blurring the lines and distinctions between animals and humans. The most basic of human cells, stem cells, which program all functions in our bodies, are being inserted into species far and wide. As we blur species lines, as we 'humanize' parts of animals, we begin to see blind mice that grow human corneas. And because some of the organs and biological structures in pigs are so close to those of humans, there are more and more efforts to modify these animals' immune systems, humanize some of their organs, and transplant them directly into humans.
"In an attempt to find cures for various neurological diseases, more and more human brain cells are entering animal bodies, which often results in significant and noticeable upgrades. Alzheimer's researchers found that transplanted human stem cells led to mice with improved spatial learning and memory. When one inserts human glial stem cells into the brains of newborn mice, the new cells grow and eventually overwhelm many of the original mouse brain cells. Soon you get mice that can learn much faster, retain memories longer, and whose brains transfer certain information three times as fast as normal mice. (Of note is that this latter procedure is transplant of glial cells, the cells that preserve, feed, and protect neurons. It is not yet a neuronal transplant, so while it is unlikely this kind of transplant would transfer memories, it does seem to significantly enhance cognition.)
"If we can transplant human cells into animals' brains and significantly improve their cognition, it is also reasonable to think that one could transplant and develop enhancements to the average human brain; recent stem-cell transplants into Parkinson's patients' brains show some promise, albeit inconsistently. Whose brain cells we get, at what stage, through what procedures, may end up making quite a difference. (They may also give rise to a slew of ethical and access issues; would you want a transplant from an average brain or a genius brain?) As we continue to seek cures for various neurological diseases, we are likely to find more and more examples of interventions that significantly alter and enhance various brain functions. And this will give us more choices in how to enhance, evolve, and build up the most human of our organs.
"Meanwhile, we are continually attempting to 'upgrade' our brains through electronic inputs, both internal and external. Sophisticated electromagnets placed on the skulls of monkeys can direct them to pick out any one of 5,000 random objects 10 to 20 percent more accurately than nonenhanced monkeys. Early tests on seven human epilepsy patients, through already-implanted electrodes, showed improved navigation through virtual mazes. Soon the 'handicapped' became better at this task than 'neurotypicals,' Human deep-brain stimulation will likely enter early clinical trials in 2015, to try to boost memory in Alzheimer's sufferers. But if techniques like this really work -- a big 'if' -- then they could be broadly deployed to enhance the memory of the species. ...
"Drugs provide yet another path to enhance/modify human cognition. While we regularly approach a Starbucks vaguely hoping a triple shot of caffeine will upgrade our mental capacity, the effects of tea, energy drinks, and other caffeinated boosts are temporary. Modafinil may be different. A pill originally designed to help you sleep better, this drug may have the side effect of memory upgrades that last for significant periods. As we understand the biochemistry of the brain better, we will likely find more and more ways to boost, refine, and improve cognition, once again unnaturally altering the species.
And then there is the external cognition option. Back at the MIT Boyden lab, they are busily building tiny computer chips, embedded with thousands of needles 1/1000th of an inch wide, which allow measuring, and perhaps altering, activity inside individual neurons."
Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are Changing Life on Earth
Authors: Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans
Publisher: Penguin Group
Copyright 2015 by Juan Enriquez and Steven Gullans
| Rome by Robert Hughes. In the founding myth of the city of Rome, the twins Romulus and Remus established the city on the banks of the Tiber River in roughly 750 BCE and invited the outcasts of society to be its first citizens:|
"[The site for Rome on the banks of the River Tiber that was established in myth by Romulus and Remus at first had] no inhabitants. Romulus supposedly solved this problem by creating an asylum or a place of refuge on what became the Capitol, and inviting in the trash of primitive Latium: runaway slaves, exiles, murderers, criminals of all sorts. Legend makes it out to have been (to employ a more recent simile) a kind of Dodge City.
"This can hardly be gospel-true, but it does contain a kernel of symbolic truth. Rome and its culture were not 'pure.' They were never produced by a single ethnically homogeneous people. Over the years and then the centuries, much of Rome's population came from outside Italy -- this even included some of the later emperors, such as Hadrian, who was Spanish, and writers like Columella, Seneca, and Martial, also Spanish-born. Celts, Arabs, Jews, and Greeks, among others, were included under the wide umbrella of Romanitas. This was the inevitable result of an imperial system that constantly expanded and frequently accepted the peoples of conquered countries as Roman citizens. Not until the end of the first century B.C.E., with the reign of Augustus, do we begin to see signs of a distinctively 'Roman' art, an identifiably 'Roman' cultural ideal.
"But how Roman is Roman? Is a statue dug up not far from the Capitol, carved by a Greek artist who was a prisoner-of-war in Rome, depicting Hercules in the style of Phidias and done for a wealthy Roman patron who thought Greek art the ultimate in chic, a 'Roman' sculpture? Or is it Greek art in exile? Or what? Mestizaje es grandeza, 'mixture is greatness,' is a Spanish saying, but it could well have been Roman. It was never possible for the Romans, who expanded to exercise their sway over all Italy, to pretend to the lunacies of racial purity that came to infect the way Germans thought about themselves.
Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History
Author: Robert Hughes
Publisher: Vintage Books a division of Random House, Inc
Officespeak: The Win-Win Guide to Touching Base, Getting the Ball Rolling, and Thinking Inside the Box by David Martin. If you happen to work for a large company or other bureaucracy you'll need to know the subtleties of 'officespeak':
"[We now want to address] the technical aspects of officespeak, such as passive voice, circular reasoning, and rhetorical questions. These are the nuts and bolts of the Rube Goldberg contraption that is the language of the office. Obscurity, vagueness, and a noncommittal stance on everything define the essence of officespeak. No one wants to come out and say what they really think. It is much safer for the company and those up top to constantly cloak their language in order to hide how much they do know or, just as often, how much they don't know. ...
"Passive voice: The bread and butter of press releases and official statements. For those who have forgotten their basic grammar, a sentence in the passive voice does not have an active verb. Thus, no one can take the blame for 'doing' something, since nothing, grammatically speaking has been done by anybody. Using the passive voice takes the emphasis off yourself (or the company). Here [is an] example of how the passive voice can render any situation guiltless:
'Five hundred employees were laid off.' (Not 'The company laid off five hundred employees,' or even worse, 'I laid off five hundred employees.' These layoffs occurred in a netherworld of displaced blame, in which the company and the individual are miraculously absent from the picture.) ...
"Circular reasoning: Another favorite when it comes time to deliver bad news. In circular reasoning, a problem is posited and a reason is given. Except that, the reason is basically just a rewording of the problem. Pretty nifty. Here [is an] examples to better explain:
'Our profits are down because of [a decrease in revenues].'
'People were laid off because there was a surplus of workers.' ...
"Rhetorical questions: The questions that ask for no answers. So why even ask the question? Because it makes it seem as though the listener is participating in a true dialogue. When your boss asks 'Who's staying late tonight?' you know he really means 'Anyone who wants to keep their job will work late.' Still there's that split second when you think you have a say in the matter when you believe your opinion counts. Only to be reminded yet again that no one cares what you think. ...
"Hollow statements: The second cousin of circular reasoning. Hollow statements make it seem as though something positive is happening (such as better profits or increased market share), but they lack any proof to support the claim.
'Our company is performing better than it looks.'
'Once productivity increases so will profits.' ...
"They and them: Pronouns used to refer to the high-level management that no one has ever met, only heard whispers about. 'They' are faceless and often nameless. And their decisions render those beneath them impotent to change anything. 'They' fire people, 'they' freeze wages, 'they' make your life a living hell. It's not your boss who is responsible -- he would love to reverse all these directives if he could. But you see his hands are tied.
'I'd love to give you that raise, you know I would. But they're the ones in charge.'
'Okay, gang, bad news, no more cargo shorts allowed. Hey, I love the casual look, but they hate it.' ...
"Obfuscation: A tendency to obscure, darken, or stupefy. The primary goal of the above techniques is, in the end, obfuscation. Whether it's by means of the methods outlined above or by injecting jargon-heavy phrases into sentences, corporations want to make their motives and actions as difficult to comprehend as possible."