Archive for November, 2013

Got Viking?

Posted on November 14, 2013. Filed under: History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Dawn Raid

Dawn Raid

Maybe the culture and life-style have changed…   a little…   but, the DNA of the Norse raiders persists to this day.  Yes, they walk among us, and some — my, oh my — walk so much better than others.*

Their group name has changed also.  Instead of the terror-inducing “Viking,” they are now called Scandinavian.  Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland are today’s caretakers of that once-feared genetic pool.

As their culture morphed, so did their method of captivating the world.  Instead of heading out in those wondrous, fabled long ships to terrorize the world into giving up its wealth, the new Vikings have softened that approach — now, they invite the world to stuff its wealth into its wallets, board those modern, sumptuous cruise ships and head for Scandinavia where they can be delighted with the quaint, the modern, and some wonderfully dreamy scenery amid the haunting echoes of history.  (Those in a hurry to hand over the goods can fly via Viking Air…   well…   maybe that’s Scandinavian Airlines).

The Viking heirs still get the world’s money, but, now, in total reversal of methodology, the world hand-delivers it willingly to the Viking homeland without fear of losing a hand…   or any associated body parts.

Responding to this kinder, gentler approach, the world welcomes Viking travelers.  In times past, coastal cities being visited and not pillaged insisted that those ruffians come ashore only in small groups while the rest waited off-shore in their ships.  A small group’s rowdiness could be easily contained, but, there was the fear that a large group might try to paint the town red (a la Freddie…   Jason…   Lizzie Borden.**)  Today, they simply blend in with everyone else on the travel conveyance and are permitted to off load without fanfare…   unless they are celebrity, of course…   or brandishing an Ulfberht. 

I, personally, have much enthusiasm for the blue-eyed, gentler Vikings…   those not named Olaf, Dolph, Karl, Hans or other such.  I favor name types such as Brita, Anne, Annelie, Katarina, et al, complete with appropriate attributes.*  True, in my adolescence, I romanticized those Viking warriors, but, at some point I woke up and appreciated the fact that warrior glory came at a horrific price for those falling to that ethic.  Besides, I was too short to effectively wield a long sword…   hmm!  I had the same problem with golf clubs…   spent a lot more time replacing divots than swinging at the ball.

Through 300 years or more, these seafarers explored, pillaged, and colonized; the New World and the Old have benefitted from their legacy.  Yet, in my little world, the fingers on one hand are far more than needed to tally personal encounters with it…   although…   I did spend about five months with one Dagmar from Denmark.  The most memorable thing about that relationship was, if you failed a test, you kept taking it until you got at least a “D” on it.  She practiced the slogan “No Child Left Behind” long before it became politically chic…   I got out of Latin I with a long string of D’s and a fuzzy recollection of the ablative case.

Ironically, given my adolescent crush on all things Viking, I had no clue she was a DANE possessing the very genetic heritage I then romanticized.  Mrs. Dagmar Root (Latin teacher, Sam Houston Senior High, Houston, Texas a very long time ago), belatedly, I thank you for that close encounter with living history.

Rare and to be treasured are these Norse encounters.  I could use another one.  This is an open invitation to a tall(er) blue-eyed Dane (not named Olaf or such) to share lunch over Viking fare (with emphasis on sea food***) sometime in the near future (a few days…   weeks…   a month?  I’m very patient.)  Since I surmise that the rewards for such an encounter would be heavily weighted in my favor, I will throw in the long ship pictured above to help balance the scales.

Honest!   …the whole ship.

According to the ancient Nordic time wheel (which I just now invented), it is my turn to buy.

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*I’m a guy and still breathing; would you expect less?

**Freddie and Jason are fictional; Lizzie and the Vikings of old were the real deal.

***I am open to other preferences expressed by the lucky lunchee.

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In apology to all things Viking, I include the following unsolicited commercial plugs to help funnel money into Scandinavian banks:

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Death Cup 2: The Snow Job

Posted on November 4, 2013. Filed under: Health Studies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

If you are a coffee drinker, you were taken aback by the recent “4 cup a day early death syndrome” (4CAD/EDS) press release. It is not truly a scientific study; it has all the earmarks of a publicity stunt to enhance a researcher’s status or give the research group some credibility. Basically, it is just another attempt to manipulate public perception. IT IS A SNOW JOB.

True confession: I am NOT omniscient.  In fact, ignorance is that warm security blanket shielding me from untold amounts of information that serve no purpose other than to scare the pants off me. For instance, I love nature shows and finding out all sorts of things about the structure in which I exist. What do the science channels insist on telling me? This stuff:

  • Yellowstone Park, USA, is the site of a gigantic volcano caldera that could blow anytime (it is a thousand years or so overdue), destroying most of the United States and crippling civilization all around the globe…   or was that Krakatoa or Iceland… 
  • A rock or something icy flying about the solar system could slam into the Earth at any time, Ditto the results… 
  • A star going super-nova out there in the galaxy somewhere could send a tsunami-like wave of particles across our solar orbit and strip the atmosphere from Earth…

I can’t do anything about any of that.  WHY DO I NEED TO KNOW IT?  And then there was that Cote de Pablo thing with NCIS…

On the other hand, Dr. Snow-Job* apparently wants people to think he is omniscient.  His comments for the press release acknowledged that many other studies run counter to his heart-stopping announcement.  His justification for the counter conclusions — AND I PARAPHRASE WHAT I HEARD as Lavie crowded the microphone and said…

  •   “I…   CONCLUDED!  Therefore…   IT IS.  So, don’t bother me with your silly requests for corroborating data.” 

I don’t want to sound like that, so, let me tell you straight up where I stand on this matter of coffee consumption:

  • COFFEE.  BLACK coffee.  HOT black coffee.  In a ceramic cup, foam cup, metal cup, plastic cup, mug, open top or sip through lid.  More than 4 cups a day, every day, every week.  For more than a couple of decades, Outdoors in cold rainy weather loading/unloading trucks, and, while bored outta my gourd on the long, 7a-5p office tours.  COFFEE.  Black COFFEE.  Hot black COFFEE.  That’s my bias, and, I’m sticking to it.

Let me share with you the essence of the recent scary headline, designed by others to alter your perceptions, but, mostly, to get you to notice all those pop-up ads on the Yahoo, Google, et al home pages and the blog website.  The scary, please-notice-my-popups headline is first:

  • More than four cups of coffee a day puts you at risk of early death, claim experts (this was the big headline)
  • High consumption raises premature death chance in younger people (this was the little headline)
  • The findings come from a U.S. study of 43,727 individuals aged 20 to 87
  • It is suspected that excessive consumption may adversely affect metabolism
  • By Jenny Hope, Published:  12:16 EST, 15 August 2013, Updated 19:27 EST, 15 August 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health **

Those are all the facts you can expect to find in this article.  The rest of this stuff is the product of my disturbed cynicism.

My initial reaction to the calculated gloomy announcement:

  • “…claim experts.”  — Only ONE alleged expert was cited.
  • “…premature death chance in younger people.”  — Clarified later as under age 55.  Are you kidding me?  What over-the-hill 30-year-old considers 55 as young?
  • A (16-year) US Study of 43,727 people aged 20 to 87.  —  A lot of years, a large number of subjects, and a wide age range to give the feel of thorough procedural veracity.  (O-kay…   so the 20 year olds are now 36, and the 87 year olds who started the study are 103 years old today…   right?)
  • “It is suspected that…” — Wasn’t the point of the announcement to PROVE THE CLAIM rather than CLAIM THE PROOF?

Are you Homo sapiens sapiens, or simply H. sap…   a deep thinker, or your run-of-the-mill gullible rube?

  • Taxonomically, Homo sapiens sapiens is the upgraded version of Homo sapiens neanderthalis (or some cousin thereof).  H. sap. is often — and sometimes aptly — used to abbreviate that classification.

If you are Homo sapiens sapiens (the one who thinks for himself) , there are certain Things You Should Know (TYSK) about this and all publicized so-called studies.  (This is your chance to show you are smarter than a cave man.)  I will list them here, and, in the next segment, elaborate on each of them.

  • TYSK 1.  What are the stakes for the publicizing researcher?
  • TYSK 2.  What were the original parameters of the exercise…   study…   parameters of the study?
  • TYSK 3.  It is the negative, unsubstantiated claims that hit the BIG headline.
  • TYSK 4.  They are intermittent and follow a predictable cycle:  good, bad, good, bad, good…   you get the drift.
  • TYSK 5.  The timing of the releases and why they are almost always COUNTER to current public thinking.

Okay.  You have enough time to grab another cup or two of coffee before the next installment, Death Cup 3.

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*Dr. Carl Lavie, a co-author of the alleged study results.  Sorry, Doc, but all authoritarians-for-a-buck get a moniker in this blog.

**In the wake of Dr. Snow-Job’s announcement, there were many articles posted on-line about “early coffee death” making it look like a landslide of evidence damning coffee drinking.  THERE WAS ONLY ONE STUDY commented on by dozens of bloggers and journalists.  Just about the only difference in all those stories was the name of the blog posting its version  —  and the pop-ups the various oportunistic blogs waived in front of you.   

Series references:  premature death, excessive coffee consumption, Dr. Carl Lavie, Dr. Euan Paul

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