Riding the Daily Wing (my buddy Bryan’s new bird blog)

I’ve been following a new birding blog lately, “The Daily Wing,” kept by Vermont bird guide, dragonfly follower, and writer Bryan Pfeiffer. It’s a nice mix of
• birding how-to, with guidance both basic and intricate, such as his lovely entry on a bird-attraction technique he calls spishing (especially effective in winter):

The woods were otherwise silent. Vacant. But I suspected otherwise. So I stopped and spished.
“Spshsh-spshsh-spshsh-spshsh. Psssp-psssp-psssp-psssp-psssp. Spshsh-spshsh-spshsh-spshsh.”
Two white-throated sparrows jumped into view from a tangle of catbrier. Then several more. An eastern towhee belted out a plucky reeEEP! I kept spishing. A northern cardinal emerged and uttered its short, bright peek note. Two hermit thrushes popped onto a white oak branch, flicked their wings and repeated a couple of soft chuck calls.
But the concert was only beginning.

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Vaccinating kids for flu protects almost everyone

Helen Branswell, ace flu reporter, delivers the goodsl:

TORONTO A landmark study looking at how to limit the spread of influenza has shown what experts have long believed but hadn’t until now proved: Giving flu shots to kids helps protect everyone in a community from the virus.

The study, led by Dr. Mark Loeb of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., showed the risk of catching the flu was lowered by nearly 60 per cent in communities where a substantial portion of kids aged three to 15 got flu shots.

That level of indirect protection is nearly as good as what healthy adults might expect from getting a flu shot themselves and is perhaps better than what a senior with a waning immune system might expect from a flu vaccination.

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Does depression have an upside? It’s complicated.


Jonah Lehrer’s story on “Depression’s Upside” has created quite a kerfuffle. The idea he explores — that depression creates an analytic, ruminative focus that generates useful insight — sits badly with quite a few people. It’s not a brand-new idea, by any means; as Jonah notes, it goes back at least to Aristotle. But Jonah (who — disclosure department — is a friend; plus I write for the Times Magazine, where the piece was published) has stirred the pot with an update drawing from (among other things) a very long review paper published last year by psychiatric researchers Paul Andrews and J. Anderson Thomson.
The story and the flap it raised has made me examine my own thinking about this notion.
I’ve now read the piece and much of the reaction several times and have, ah… ruminated on it quite a bit. The subject hits close in several ways. I’ve written quite a bit about depression and have suffered its teeth a few times.And this analytic-ruminative theory — which I’m going to call ART here, for the sake of efficiency and fun — relates strongly to many of the issues I explored in my Atlantic article, “The Orchid Child,” and will explore further in The Orchid and the Dandelion.
The article struck many commenters and readers as on-target. Evolutionary types seemed to like it. People who had experienced depression seemed roughly split, some agreeing that it generates light and others saying it just throws you down a black hole. Some commenters raised sharp objections . The most thoughtful critiques came from Neurocritic (another favorite of mine, though I don’t know him) and Tufts University psychiatrist Ronald Pies. Lehrer responded with grace, poise, and intelligence, both at other people’s blogs and in multiple posts at his own.
Yet that hardly resolved the tension, much less the question.I’ve always viewed the ART model skeptically myself, at least as wielded broadly. It doesn’t fully jibe with my own experience, with the experience of some depressed people I know well, or with what I’ve seen in depression studies. Yet I think it has some merit and legitimate insight. Examining it can shed light on what depression really is (and isn’t).
It’s complexicated. I’ll take it in sections.

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Meta-error watch

I can’t find an error in the Fishbowl post, which they rightly point out would constitute an error within an error within an error, but as that would also constitute even less of a story than the current one, its probably for the best.

via blogs.journalism.co.uk

The Fishbowl post is at http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlDC/sort_of_serious_stuff/wolf_blitzer_beco…

Posted via web from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker

Lightning Hopkins sings the poison blues

Tox Tunes #7 – Gin Bottle Blues

February 15, 2010, 8:43 am

The music of Sam “Lightnin” Hopkins influenced many later artists, including Jimi Hendrix, Townes Van Zandt, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. He recorded prolifically — Amazon lists 191 Hopkins albums. Perhaps his most unusual disc is Freeform Patterns, on which Hopkins is backed by the rhythm section of the psychedelic rock band 13th Floor Elevators.

via thepoisonreview.com

Another nice find from my Research Blogging judge’s chair. Poison and blues. Cannot go wrong.

Posted via web from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker

Darwin on marriage

No one has ever accused Darwin about making a rush to judgement about any topic. Just as he spent years poring over the minutest detail of barnacle anatomy before he published The Origin he gave the topic of marriage careful consideration before singing on. In fact, preserved in his notebooks we have a record of the deliberations he undertook. Sometime in 1838 Darwin turned to a new page in his notes and drew a line down the middle, he added the headings “Marry” and “Not Marry” to either side of the line an proceeded to list the pros and cons of either decision. You can see the notebook here but below (presented without comment) is a transcript :


  • Children — (if it Please God)
  • Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one
  • Object to be beloved & played with —better than a dog anyhow.
  • Home, & someone to take care of house
  • Charms of music & female chit-chat.
  • These things good for one’s health.
  • Forced to visit & receive relations but terrible loss of time.

Not Marry

  • No children, (no second life), no one to care for one in old age.
  • What is the use of working ‘in’ without sympathy from near & dear friends—who are near & dear friends to the old, except relatives
  • Freedom to go where one liked — choice of Society & little of it.
  • Conversation of clever men at clubs
  • Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle.
  • To have the expense & anxiety of children
  • Perhaps quarelling
  • Loss of time.
  • Cannot read in the Evenings
  • Fatness & idleness
  • Anxiety & responsibility
  • Less money for books &c
  • If many children forced to gain one’s bread. (But then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)
  • Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool
via theatavism.blogspot.com

It’s hard to make this add up with his decision.

Posted via web from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker