Announcing tea time


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The gong is used five times – to start class, to end class and to signal the three breaks.


This is a 12″ Zildjian gong. The nice folks at The Gong Shop in San Francisco suggest that a larger gong, probably 22-24 inches, may be best in terms of being very clear that something is about to happen. Some field experiments are called for.

Here’s another photo with the background edited out to show the the frame from which the gong is suspended.





Teasing teas – continued



We favor serving teas (or water, if requested) in the Moroccan style – the teapot is held several feet above the glasses while tea is poured.

Visually acute readers will note the multiple (inverted) reflections of the photographer (me) on the smooth rounded surfaces of the teapot. Real professionals would carefully stage the photo with diffusers and reflectors, but we expect to be shooting short movies in unstructured settings so a slightly different approach is needed.


The teapot photographed behind a screen with the background removed. We will likely try a handheld background when taking movies. Whether we bother with interposing a screen of sorts between the camera and the pitcher remains to be seen, so as to speak.



Diabetes blues – continued


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Things could have started better for Claude Bernard: his father died and little money was left. Claude himself was shy and awkward. He was not regarded as especially intelligent. He was, however, very talented at dissection. During the late 1830s he advanced slowly from externe to interne to preparer for Professor Magendie at the Collège de France.  Bernard’s torrent of publications began in 1843. His thesis on gastric juices led to the discovery of glycogen and the glycogenic functions of the liver. In 1848 he started carefully explaining the functions of the pancreas. By 1855 he had succeeded Magendie and was a chaired professor at the University of Paris at the Sorbonne. His published lecture notes filled 17 volumes.

Then disaster struck. He was afflicted with abdominal pains – some conjecture appendicitis during the winter of 1862. He died of a kidney infection in 1878 and was accorded the honor of a state funeral.

Building on his work Oscar Minkowski (13 January 1858 – 18 July 1931 and Josef, Baron von Mering (28 February 1849 – 5 January 1908) removed the pancreas of a dog and observed sugar in the urine. Several researchers (George Ludwig Zuelzer, E. L. Scott and Israel Kleiner, among others) came close to discovering what came to be known as insulin but were thwarted by WWI or dim-witted directors. In October of 1920 Canadian surgeon Frederick Banting (November 14, 1891 – February 21, 1941) convinced J.J.R. Macleod, Professor of Physiology at the University of Toronto, to let Banting perform special surgery on the pancreas of a dog. Two undergraduate students tossed a coin – Charles Best (February 27, 1899 – March 31, 1978) won the toss and took the first shift.

SPOILER ALERT: This worked out well for him.

Diabetes blues – continued


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And then there was Claude Bernard (12 July 1813 – 10 February 1878).  He was born in the village of Saint Julien west of the least easterly French border with Switzerland. His father was a small landowner harvesting vineyards and orchards. There is no mention of Claude’s mother, but he had one sibling, a sister. After being taught Latin by the local cure’ Claude began his collegiate career at the university at Lyon nearby. This did not last long, and Claude worked at a pharmacy for two years. He wrote La Rose du Rhône, which was a well-received comedy that was performed locally at the Thèâtre des Cèlestines. This encouraged him to write a full five-act historical drama titled Arthur de Bretagne (= Arthur of Brittany).  I have to confess I have not determined if Bernard meant

/1/ Arthur I (29 March 1187 – probably killed in 1203 by or on the orders of King John). Fans of Randall Garrett’s alternative-history fantasy stories, the Lord Darcy series, will recall that there Richard the Lionhearted does not die untimely, but survives. John Lackland never becomes king, and the Plantagenet line, descending from Arthur, continues.

/2/ Arthur II (1262 – 1312; duke of Brittany from 1305 until his death)

/3/ Arthur III (1393 to 1458; Duke of Brittany from 1457 until his death)

Bernard went to Paris in 1834 (age 21!) with his manuscript and a letter of introduction to the literary critic Saint-Marc Girardin (February 12, 1801 – April 11, 1873), then Professor of French Poetry at the Sorbonne. How much of Girardin’s reaction was based on Bernard’s literary output is hard to say, but he advised the young man to seek steady employment. Girardin recommended that Bernard study medicine. The amount of  world-class drama that was lost is difficult to guess, but Bernard’s scientific contributions were more than adequate as an offset.



Diabetes blues (continued)


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Descriptions of diabetes have been found in the ancient Egyptian, Indian and Chinese medical literature:

  1. There is considerable controversy about whether in the Ebers papyrus (~ 1500 BC) the descriptions of patients with excessive thirst and copious urination are actually diabetes. Paul Ghalioungui (1908-1987), for example, thinks not. In the Kahun papyrus (~2000 BC) there is a tantalizing title “Treatment of a thirsty woman”, but the text is missing.
  2. It is not clear exactly who wrote the Sushruta Samhita, or when he (or she) wrote it, but diabetes was identified by the term madhumeha (honey-like urine). It was noted that the condition primarily impacted the rich, and was blamed on excessive consumption of rice, cereals and sweets.
  3. Chang Chung-Ching (~160-~219) described polyuria, polydipsia and loss of weight as symptoms, and some four centuries later Chen Chuan recorded the sweet urine and named the disease Hsiao kho ping. His colleague Li Hsuan suggested abstaining from wine, salt and sex.

In the 2nd century AD Aretaeus of Cappadocia provided the first accurate description of diabetes, coining the term diabetes from the Greek verb διαβαινω (diabaino) = ‘I pass through’. In the 17th century English physician Thomas Willis (1621-1675) added the term mellitus but was unable to determine why the urine was sweet. That was left to Matthew Dobson (1732-1784) of Liverpool, who boiled urine to dryness and noticed that the residue resembled brown sugar. That more or less gets us to the work of the 19thcentury French physiologist Claude Bernard (1813-1878). His contributions merit their own post.

Diabetes blues


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One of the many unfortunate dividends from autism spectrum disabilities, Down Syndrome and Rett syndrome, among others, is a tendency to become diabetic far earlier than much of the rest of the population. A vastly over-simplified summary of diabetes might be that the beta cells in islets of Langerhans in the pancreas fail to produce insulin. Without insulin sugar in the form of glucose cannot readily exit the bloodstream and enter most cells to be used as a fuel. All sorts of metabolic and vascular problems follow.

The islets were discovered by Paul Langerhans (25 July 1847 – 20 July 1888), a German anatomist and physician, when he was still a a student in Berlin in 1869. In his thesis he conjectured that the cells might be lymph nodes. Langerhans also discovered what turned out to be dendritic cells in the skin. He served as an ambulance driver in the Franco-Prussian war and became a full professor at the University of Freiberg in 1873. That would be an extraordinary accomplishment in German academia at that time (or in any other time). Fate turned against him – he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1874. He  sought cures in vain in Italy and Switzerland and eventually settled in Funchal on the island of Madeira in 1875. For reasons unclear, he made a reasonable recovery and began working as a physician. He also intensely studied marine invertebrates in the form of worms gleaned from the fishermen’s nets. He married Margarethe Ebart, the widow of one of his patients(!), in 1885. His happiness was not to last: by summer 1887 he was suffering from progressive kidney failure. It was a century or so too early for dialysis. He was afflicted with edema in his legs, painful headaches and memory problems. He died five days short of his 41st birthday.



Internet of Things World – Santa Clara California



IoT_ExpoLooking for

  1. good weather (forecast makes this seem unlikely)
  2. routine rides on BART and VTA (as opposed to every ride an adventure)
  3. blood glucose sensors
  4. pressure sensors for mouthguards, seats and floor mats
  5. oximeters with Bluetooth or even USB for classroom use
  6. location sensors for clothing and weapons maybeeven hats (for head sway movement)
  7. temperature sensors for clothing – and to discuss if four or more sensors on hands and feet are best or if one will suffice
  8. wrist-mounted biosensors with a cloth strap
  9. location (x y z) sensors

Mother’s Day


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The human Y chromosome has about 58 million base pairs and about 200 genes, 72 of which currently are known to code for proteins. There is considerable disagreement about the human X chromosome. Most articles suggest an overall length of about 153 million base pairs with between 800 and 900 protein coding genes and between 800 and 1400 other genes (RNA genes, pseudogenes and so on). Since Y chromosomes in humans are significantly shorter than X chromosomes it has been brought to my attention that ALL male martial artists got most of their DNA from their mothers.