Notes


Stamp out starving writers, buy their books!


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Coffee Reduces Your Risk of Stroke

We drink a lot of coffee at Critical Pages. We admit it. We even glory in it. And today we learned from Dr. Yoshihiro Kokubo, MD, that a cup of coffee each day reduces the risk of stroke. Way to go, Kokubo!

The assiduous Dr. Kokubo and his team studied studied 82, 369 Japanese between ages forty-five and seventy-four. These were people who didn’t have any cardiovascular disease or cancer when the study began. They filled out questionnaires about their food frequency habits, most importantly about coffee and green tea, and they were followed for an average of thirteen years. In other words, it was a very large, long-term study.

The results were dramatic. People who drank at least one cup of coffee a day reduced their risk of stroke by 20 percent compared to people who rarely drank coffee. People who drank two to three cups of green tea every day reduced their risk of stroke 14 percent, and those who had at least four cups reduced their risk 20 percent, compared to those who rarely drank green tea.

So enjoy that cup of coffee. In fact, in these gray economic times, it’s good to recall that back in the Great Depression, when Herbert Hoover was President and things were going badly, Irving Berlin put it this way —

Just around the corner
There’s a rainbow in the sky
So let’s have another cup o’ coffee
And let’s have another piece o’ pie!

The video at the top of this post let’s you listen to the way it sounded back in the 1930s. The lyrics begin after the musical introduction and we think you’ll be amused, especially by the reference to President Hoover saying that now’s the time to buy — so let’s have another cup of coffee and let’s have another piece of pie!

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Stamp Out Starving Writers!

Buy their books! As a Public Service, we at Critical Pages urge you to visit your local independently owned bookstore and buy a book. Now is a good time to prepare for spring and warm rains by  sitting in a tub of warm water with a good book. Bring a friend to the bookstore, too. Then you can sit together in that tub of warm water and read out loud to each other. You don’t think so? Have you ever tried it? We thought not. Yet it’s amazing what can be accomplished this way. Try it. You’ll be amazed. And you’ll make the bookstore, the publisher, and the starving writer happy, too.

Corporate Takeover of New Internet Names

Internet map

Map of the Internet - Global Nerve System

Now somebody wants to privatize internet addresses. We think that’s a lousy idea.

The internet is getting to be a crowded place and we need new top-level domain names. Frankly, it’s getting harder and harder for businesses and individuals to invent .com names that haven’t alrady been thought of and taken. So the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has come up with over a thousand new top-level domains – tags such as such as .book or .news or .art or .bank or .university or .beer so forth.

Unfortunately, there’s a movement afoot to allow the new domains to be managed by private, for profit corporations.

Change.org has a petition to stop the private take over.  As they say – “If companies like Amazon and others have their way, there will be no .MUSIC website names available for musicians and bands, No .SALON domain names for real salon owners, no .APP web addresses for app developers.” We at CriticalPages agree.  As we said, we think that’s a bad idea, a lousy idea, a really, really terrible idea.

Tapping The Sugar Maple

Maple tree bark and sap bucketBy now you’re plenty tired of winter and politics and economics, but it’s too early to go out to the garden to annihilate all that’s made, to a green thought in a green shade. But it is the right time to tap a sugar maple tree. Tapping a sugar maple, collecting the sap and simmering it down to rich, amber colored maple syrup — that’s just right for now. It means that winter is going, spring is coming.

First, find a sugar maple. Not just any old maple, but a maple with bark such as in the image we have here. That’s how you know it’s a sugar maple. Now, for equipment you you’ll need a 7/16” drill or auger to drill into the tree . Drill in about 2” or 3”. You need a 7/16” hole because of what comes next. Next comes a spile – a small tube or pipe-like object that fits nicely into the 7/16” hole.  And 7/16” has been the standard since before anyone around her can recall. Next take a hammer and tap — gently! —the spile into the hole. And, of course, you’ll need a bucket to catch the maple sap dripping from the spile. We use buckets with little removable roofs over them to keep out rain or snow, but you could use old plastic gallon jug, so long as you can hang it from the hook under the spile.

Nature does the rest. Tapping the sugar maple doesn’t do it any harm. You shouldn’t tap a tree that’s less than 10 inches in diameter (31.4159 inches in circumference.) If the tree is, say, 18 inches in diameter (56.5 inches in circumference) you can put another tap on the other side of the tree.

Here’s the shocker. The ratio of sap to syrup is 40 to 1. That is to say, you Maple sap boiling down to syrupneed to collect 40 quarts of sap to boil down to 1 quart of syrup. We didn’t want to tell you any earlier for fear it would dishearten you. The photo on the right shows  sap being boiled down to  syrup. It’s a process that requires attention. When it begins, it’s as clear as water, but as you boil it down it  slowly takes on a darker color. Then you pour in more sap, which lightens it a bit, then boil it down and so on. As you repeat that process it reduces to syrup. You’ve got to be careful toward the end. The syrup will be produced when you allow the temperature to rise about 7 degrees above the boiling point of water at your location. If you scorch it, there’s really no way to rescue it from the burnt taste it acquires. (more…)

Death And Other Possible Side Effects

Medieval cure for head cold

Medieval Cure For A Head Cold

The people who sponsor network TV programs do so because they know who is watching those programs. And they figure they have the products that those people want to buy. People from all walks of life might watch the Super Bowl or a weekly comedy show. But only a certain kind of person is going to be a steady viewer of the evening news broadcast on network TV.

Who looks at network TV news? Who wants to be informed about US politics, foreign affairs, advances in science, terrible social situations here and abroad, wars or floods, important legal cases and, occasionally, at the end of the show, some minor,  whimsical event? Who are those people watching the evening news?

They’re people who suffer from head colds, allergies, dry eyes, badly fitting false teeth, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (they call it COPD for short), asthma, gas and bloating, heartburn, acid reflux, constipation, hard stool, arthritis, osteoporosis, erectile dysfunction (they call it ED, for short) low testosterone (low T, for short) and insomnia. And they’re really desperate. The cures advertised for those ailments have scary side effects, such as life-threatening allergic reactions, or cancer, or death due to the collapse of one or more body organs. At least one has suicide as a nasty side effect.

Yes, watching the news is hard. Watching the advertisements is harder.

Philosopher’s Dilema

Mind And Cosmost book cover imageThe philosopher Thomas Nagel has come out with an admirably  short and engaging book, Mind And Cosmos, with the subtitle Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. Readers unfamiliar with Nagel might assume that his book is an attack on contemporary Darwinism by a person of faith arguing that biological evolution reveals the work of an intelligent designer — God himself. But the author, University Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Law at New York University, removes any such misunderstanding at the start by declaring himself an atheist.

In Nagel’s view, Neo-Darwinism — biological evolution as we understand it today – is fundamentally incomplete, because it doesn’t explain how life originated and, says Nagel, it  won’t ever have the ability to explain the emergence of human consciousness. Nagel believes that a better way of thinking about nature, and specifically about biological evolution, would be to search out nature’s purpose and goal. For while insisting that he is not theistic – quite the contrary – he nonetheless believes that evolution is teleological. That is to say, it has a purpose and it intends to reach a specific goal.

Nagel’s book was recently reviewed — rebutted may be the better word — across three of those very large pages that make up the New York Review of Books. The reviewer, H. Allen Orr, is University Professor and Shirley Cox Kearns Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester, an evolutionary geneticist. These two, the biologist and the philosopher, are well matched in intelligence, prizes and distinguished positions in the republic of the intellect. But you needn’t be either a biologist or a philosopher to read Mind And Cosmos. Although Nagel writes at the highest level of abstraction and rarely yields to the concrete example, he write with pristine clarity and is quite understandable. (more…)

What Would Chaos Drive?

Beware chaos. Humankind has devised prayers to keep chaos from erupting in our lives,  and we have rituals — some public,  some privateand personal — that might help.  But what do we know about chaos that we hope it won’t arrive at our door?  And if it did, what kind of car would it arrive in? Marilyn Robertson has wondered about these things in “What Would Chaos Drive?”

Sometimes I think neatness is the charm
to keep bad news away.

A pile of    books aligned: no accidents.
Socks folded in a drawer: safe journey.

Afghan laid precisely on the couch:
no one I know will die.

Every straightened picture frame
could signal one less sorrow.

So the chaos I refuse appears in dreams.

“Hey!” it calls, piling its drunken friends

into an old Studebaker.
“There’s room in the back seat.”

Angora dice hang from the rearview mirror.
Comic books and Cheetos line the floor.

None of the windows close.

Documentary Movies

The Adademy of Motion Pictue Arts and Sciences will soon be giving a gold-plated Oscar for the best for the Best Documentary film. Documentaries have come a long, long way since Robert Flaherty’s silente Nanook of the North back in 1922. Here are the nominated films. 5 Broken Cameras is a first-hand account of a Palestinian village’s non-violent resistance to the encroaching Israeli settlements that threatens it. The Gatekeepers is about the Shin Bet from people on the inside, namely six former heads of Israel’s secret security service. How to Survive a Plague is about the early years of AIDS. The Invisible War is about sexual assult in the United States military. That’s only four of the five nominated. They are informative and engaging and certainly worth seeing. And, of course, that’s why you watch a documentary, to be engaged while being informed, usually about something important. But you probably won’t come away feeling exhilerated, filled with a sense of quirky triumph, delighted that you’ve witnessed a happy ending, real-world fairy tale. But you might if you watch the fifth movie, Searching for Sugarman. The movie is about two Cape Town men who decide to find out whatever happened to the American singer/songwriter Rodriguez who was wildly popular in South Africa, especially among the rebellious young during the opressive apartheid years. When the search begins there are differeing rumors about Rodriguez’s death, but nothing is certain, except that he was virtually unknown in the United States. How it ends is almost miraculous. (OK, there are some inaccuracies in the film, but see it anyway. You’ll feel better.)The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will soon be giving a gold-plated Oscar for the Best Documentary film. Documentaries have come a long, long way since Robert Flaherty’s  silent Nanook of the North back in 1922.   Here are this year’s nominated films:

5 Broken Cameras is a first-hand account of some Palestinians’ non-violent resistance to the encroaching Israeli settlements that threatens their village. The Gatekeepers is about the Shin Bet from people on the inside, namely six former heads of Israel’s secret security service. How to Survive a Plague is about the early years of AIDS. The Invisible War is about sexual assault in the United States military. The first two are especially recommended.

That’s only four of the five nominated. They are informative and engaging and certainly worth seeing. And, of course, that’s why you watch a documentary, to be engaged while being informed, usually about something depressingly important. But you probably won’t come away feeling exhilarated, filled with a sense of lucky triumph, delighted that you’ve witnessed a real-world happy ending fairy tale.

Yet you might if you watch the fifth movie, Searching for Sugar Man. The movie is about the search by two Cape Town men who decide to find out whatever happened to the American singer/songwriter Rodriguez who was wildly popular in South Africa, especially among the rebellious young during the oppressive apartheid years. In fact, he was bigger than Elvis. When the search begins there are  a couple of rumors about Rodriguez’s death, but nothing is certain. The first thing they learn is that the man known to everyone in South Africa is virtually unknown in the United States where, as one man in the music business says, Rodriguez sold maybe six records.  How it ends is almost miraculous.

OK — if you must be fussy fussy and picky picky — there are some inaccuracies in the film, but see it anyway. We think you’ll feel better.

February 14th is Valentine’s Day

Today, being the 14th of February, is secular Valentine’s Day, which is a wholly different matter from St. Valentine’s Day in the liturgical calendar. We had a nice post about both secular and liturgical Valentines last year, and it’s still in our archive for the curious or the bored and lonely. (We hope you’re not lonely today, but there’s nothing we can do about that. We’re sorry.) In any case, unless you’ve stumbled onto this site by accident you’re probably fond of books and reading, and as we’ve come across a couple of photographs of books, reading and Valentine romance we’ve posted them for you. Kiss in the library stacks

You never know what you might find when you venture deep into the stacks at Harvard’s Widener Library. Of course, not just anyone can get into that particular collection of books. But you might have luck at your local library. The lighting isn’t too bright in the narrow aisles between bookcases, so make sure you have the right book and be very sure you have the right person.Kiss reading in bed Here’s another pair of intellectuals reading in bed. He’s the kind of intellectual who gets tattooed, and she’s the kind who smokes in bed. The like to live dangerously. Or carelessly. Anyway, it’s a good bet he’s not going to finish reading that paperback of Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms. But we don’t care if they don’t care. And we’re pretty sure they don’t care.A couple of lovers in a snowstormWe can’t help it. We know we posted this same image exactly a year ago, but we like it. We admire the young gentleman helping the young lady across the street in a snowstorm, and we admire the young lady who wears a short dress and those high-heel shoes in a blizzard.

Dress Goes Transparent If You’re Aroused

Intimacy 2.0

Intimacy 2.0

It’s here — a dress that becomes transparent when you’re in the mood.  (And you thought only Steve Jobs had cool ideas.)  Advanced tech artist Daan Roosegaarde and fashion designer Anouk Wipprecht produced the dress. It’s called Intimacy 2.0 — the name doesn’t sound like haute couture, but it does suggest the high degree of science and technology that went into the garment.

The dress is made of leather and — here’s the good part — conductive e-foils that become transparent when exposed to electricity. It’s possible to design a circuit that is activated by an accelerated heart beat or an increase in body heat. And the subsequent flow of electricity will cause the e-foils to become transparent.

According to Studio Roosegaarde’s web site, “Studio Roosegaarde creates interactive designs that explore the dynamic relation between space, people, and technology.” And “By creating interactive designs that instinctively respond to sound and movement, Roosegaarde explores the dawn of a new nature that is evolving from technological innovations.” (more…)

More Notes


Plenty of opinions here on Critical Pages, plus a lot of facts, but no alternative facts. Please don't misunderstand, we do like alternative facts -- after all, we're all writers here -- but we prefer the word fiction. It's shorter and everyone understands what we mean when say we're writing fiction.