Thursday, January 10, 2008

Louis J Sheehan Esquire 30091

A fast-food quarter-pounder costs $3, and 1,300 gallons of water. That's how much it takes, per burger, to hydrate the cow, grow its food and process its carcass, according to the Web sites of the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and a bottled-water trade group. By contrast, a loaf of bread uses up 150 gallons, and milk requires just 65.

The message dovetails with the goals of environmental meal-managing: Eat meat, and you're using up a precious natural resource.

That message is broadly correct, but the number itself is disputed. It stems from decades-old research conducted by California scientists for a presentation to a local high school's future farmers class. One of the scientists now says the number is too high. A more thorough investigation by an independent group halved the figure. And a researcher funded by the cattle industry reduced it still further.

Asked to speak at Colusa High School in the 1970s, Thomas M. Aldrich, a Colusa-based scientist with the University of California Cooperative Extension, decided the budding agriculturalists would enjoy a presentation on the water usage of various foods. To help him, he tapped his colleague, Herbert Schulbach. The two compiled data from California studies and farmers' reports on how much water was needed for various agricultural products and for animal feed.

The result, Mr. Aldrich recalls, was that a burger and fries "took almost a swimming pool to produce. It was kind of awesome that you need that much water for that much food."

The cattle industry didn't find the result so awesome. "We came out, made our presentation, and all hell broke lose," Mr. Aldrich says. Nonetheless, it wasn't until 1993 that the industry-funded study appeared. Mr. Aldrich now says that his study was in the "95th percentile" for accuracy in its time but shouldn't be cited now. "I would say that that figure would not be right," he says. "I think it would be too high."

The Sacramento-based Water Education Foundation had been using the Colusa scientists' numbers on a slide rule it distributed to educate students about water consumption. "It had been produced on the back of an envelope," says Marcia Kreith, now a program analyst at the Agricultural Issues Center at the University of California, Davis. "It was a good, reasonable estimate, but they couldn't document how they got their numbers." The Colusa scientists published their results in a newsletter and didn't explain all of their assumptions. (Three decades later, both are retired and don't recall some details.)

The foundation hired Ms. Kreith to look into the issue. The resulting study, in 1991, tried to systematize the water-consumption problem. She laid out 20 assumptions common to all the dozens of foods studied, looked at local data from throughout the state on water usage and crops, and consulted with agricultural experts to arrive at estimates for such things as the amount of water pregnant cows drink daily (8.7 gallons, when not lactating; 16.9 gallons when they are). Her estimate for a burger's total water use: 616 gallons.

"To all those who so eloquently tried to make the case that the use of numbers can be a mystical process leading to nowhere," Ms. Kreith wrote, "the author responds that the methodology used in this study is as objective as she is able to make it."

One of Ms. Kreith's assumptions was that rainwater counts. The thinking, she says, is that with any fresh water, there's an opportunity cost -- the range land could have been used by other animals. But critics say range land is inappropriate for raising other crops, and the California Beef Council helped to fund a peer-reviewed study that excluded rainwater. That study found that a quarter pound of beef takes just over 100 gallons of water.

Howard Perlman, the hydrologist who set up the Geological Survey's Web page on foods' water use, says that now that he knows there's a range of estimates he will update the page.

None of these numbers, though, includes the water it takes to get the burger from meat-processing plant to plate. "There's canning, freezing, and you have to cook it and wash the pots," Mr. Schulbach says. "An awful lot of water is used in between the field and your mouth."

Former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Loeper, a suburban Philadelphia Republican, pleaded guilty in federal court in 2000 of falsifying tax-related documents to conceal more than $330,000 in income he received from a private consulting firm while serving in the Senate.

Loeper, who could not be reached for comment, spent six months in federal prison. Today, he is a lobbyist with 23 clients -- from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers to Drexel University.

When I flew down to Atlanta to interview Carol Worthman, the director of the Laboratory for Comparative Human Biology at Emory University, she greeted me in her office, among the stacks of research monographs and the photos of her with beaming tribal groups from several continents. I asked why she had first thought to study sleep, and she smiled. “It was a true ‘aha’ experience. I was sitting in my office when a friend of mine who was studying mood disorders called me up and asked me what anthropologists knew about sleep.”

She laughed and paused for a moment of dramatic emphasis. “Nothing!” She widened her eyes behind the thick lenses. “We know nothing about sleep! I think of all the places I’ve slept around the world, all the groups I’ve studied. . . . I mean, here I was, part of this discipline dedicated to the study of human behavior and human diversity, and yet we knew next to nothing about a behavior that claimed one-third of our lives. I was stunned.”
So Worthman began to comb the literature, interviewing ethnographers, sifting through fifty-odd years of published work. What she found, she said, shouldn’t have surprised her: “The ecology of sleep is like the ecology of everyday life.” Sleep, it seems, comes in many cultural flavors.

Worthman flipped open a book and showed me photographs of big families piled into large, sprawling huts, little kids peeking up from the arms of Mom, older generations wrapped leisurely around the fireplace. “Forager groups are a good place to start, because for much of human history we’ve been occupied with their mode of existence,” she said. “There are the !Kung of –Botswana and the Efe of Zaire. For both of these groups, sleep is a very fluid state. They sleep when they feel like it—during the day, in the evening, in the dead of night.”

This, said Worthman, is true of other groups too—the Aché of Paraguay, for example. Late-night sleep, when it happens, is practically a social activity. In addition to procreation, the night is a time of “ritual, sociality, and information exchange.” People crash together in big multigenerational heaps—women with infants, wheezing seniors, domestic animals, chatting hunter buddies stoking the fire—everyone embedded in one big, dynamic, “sensorily rich environment.” This kind of environment is important, said Worthman, because “it provides you with subliminal cues about what is going on, that you are not alone, that you are safe in the social world.”

The more Worthman learned about the communal and interactive nature of non-Western sleep, the more she came to see Western sleep as the strange exception. She laughed again. “It’s funny, because as an anthropologist I’m used to getting weirded out a bit—I mean, you wouldn’t believe the things people do. So after collecting all this material I look at my own bed and go, ‘This is really weird.’”

Western sleep, said Worthman, is arid and controlled, with a heavy emphasis on individualism and the “decontextualized person.” Contact is kept to a minimum. The apparent conflict with marriage co-sleeping norms, she notes elsewhere, “has been partially mitigated for Americans by the evolution of bed size from twin, to double, to queen, to king.” She lifted her thin arms and drew a big box in the air. “I mean, think about it—this thing, this bed, is really a gigantic sleep machine. You’ve got a steel frame that comes up from the floor, a bottom mattress that looks totally machinelike, then all these heavily padded surfaces—blankets and pillows and sheets.”

It’s true. Most of us sleep alone in the dark, floating three feet off the ground but also buried under five layers of bedding. I had the sudden image of an armada of solitary humanoids in their big puffy spaceships drifting slowly through the silent and airless immensity of space. “Whoa,” I said.

Worthman nodded. “I know, I know, so weird.”

By contrast, village life is one big, messy block party, crackling with sex, intrigue, and poultry. In these cultures, interrupted or polyphasic sleep is the norm, which jibes with findings about still other cultures, like the Temiars of Indonesia and the Ibans of Sarawak, 25 percent of whom are apparently active at any one point in the night.

Even more intriguing are some of the culturally specific practices around sleep. Worthman flipped to a sequence of photos showing a tribe of bare-chested Indonesians gathered in a big circle. “These are the Balinese, and this is an example of something called ‘fear sleep’ or ‘todoet poeles.’ See these two guys?” She pointed to the first picture, where two men cowered on the sand in the center of the group. “They just got caught stealing from the village kitty, and they’ve been hauled out for trial.” The villagers all had angry faces and open mouths. The two men looked terrified.

“You can see the progression. He’s starting to sag”—in the next photo one of the thieves had his eyes closed and had begun to lean over—“and here in the last photo you can see he’s totally asleep.” The same thief was now slumped and insentient, snoozing happily amid the furious village thrum. “Isn’t that amazing?” Worthman shook her head. “In stressful situations they can fall instantly into a deep sleep. It’s a cultural acquisition.”

We moved out of her office and made our way down to the laboratory, where Worthman pulled out a big cardboard box. “We wanted to look at sleep in non-Western cultures firsthand, so we decided to initiate a study.” She opened the box. “We went to Egypt, because, well, hunter-gatherer types are interesting, but they’re not really relevant now. Cairo is an old civilization in a modern urban environment. We wanted to look at a pattern that everyone knows is historic in the Mediterranean area. They sleep more than once a day—at night and the midafternoon.”

I nodded. Of course, the siesta—or Ta’assila, as it’s known colloquially in Egypt. Worthman reached into the box and lifted out a set of black paisley headbands, all of them threaded with thin wires and dangling sensors. “So we studied six households in Cairo, and we made everyone wear one of these headbands at all times. One of these little sensors is a motion detector, the other is a diode that glues onto the upper eyelid in order to detect whether or not you’re in REM sleep.”

Thus outfitted, the families went about their daily business, supplying a steady stream of information for the visiting anthropologists. What they found was that Egyptians on average get the same eight hours that we do, they just get it by different means: about six hours at night and two in the afternoon. They also sleep in radically different sleep environments—rarely alone, almost always with one or more family members, in rooms with windows open to the roar of outside street traffic.

“Listen to this.” She pressed play on a tape recorder and the sound of traffic blared out of the little speakers. She raised her voice to yell: “I mean, I’m a pretty sound sleeper, but I couldn’t sleep in Cairo. It was too noisy!” I yelled back, “I see what you mean!” It sounded like 200 years of industrial noise pollution pressed into a single recording. She slid me a photo of a Cairo street, a narrow alley crisscrossed with laundry and jam-packed with donkey carts, trucks, cars, camels, and buses. “Every imaginable form of human transport, right below your window!” She hit stop and the room went quiet. “Despite all this ambient noise, Cairoans don’t seem to have any trouble falling asleep.”

For Worthman, the conclusion was obvious. All these different sleep patterns suggested that the regulatory processes governing “sleep-wake transitions” could be shaped by cultural conditions. Sleep, it seemed, was putty—some cultures stretched it out, some chopped it up, and others, like our own, squeezed it into one big lump.

In 1863, the Cape Malay people of South Africa were so taken with the CSS Alabama that they composed a folk song to the Confederate raider and her brilliant captain, Raphael Semmes. In 2007, Stephen Fox has written another tribute, a history of Semmes and the ship he used to cause so much trouble for Union shipping.
The Alabama was a British-made raider that was long and sleek, very fast whether under sail or coal power. She was well armed for a ship of her size and more than a match for many of the commercial ships she pursued.
The Alabama rarely had to use her guns, and she only twice came into contact with the Union Navy. She preyed primarily on civil! ian shipping and whalers, capturing and burning 52 ships, sinking one, bonding nine and disposing of three others in various fashion. She did this all within 22 months at sea on a single voyage that covered 75,000 miles. In all, she cost the Northern economy $5 million directly and much more indirectly.
To a Confederacy that was suffering immensely under Union blockade, the exploits of the Alabama on the world’s oceans was a matter of immense satisfaction. She was one of only a few Confederate fighting ships, and yet the much larger Union Navy could not suppress her.
Of course the Union Navy, much like the Union Army, was run by idiots. Semmes had devised a brilliant strategy for wreaking havoc on Union shipping, but neither Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles nor any of his top commanders could figure it out. Semmes had discovered that the best place to prey on Union shipping was in the major shipping lanes, and that’s where he hunted. But the Union Navy did not notice this pattern and so took nearly two years to find him.
Semmes was a mediocre naval officer in the days before the war. He had had a few commands and at least one ship shot out from underneath him. He was a lawyer and intellectual, too, but not much of a success at anything. A native Marylander, he had lived in Mobile for a number of years, married to an Ohio woman, when the war started. He resigned his Union commission and immediately went to work for the Confederacy.
In all of the war, the Alabama fought only two battles with Union ships. It sank the USS Hatteras in the Gulf of Mexico, and, in turn, was sunk off the coast of France by the USS Kearsarge.
Because of his tactics, Semmes was a controversial captain in his day and remains so today. He avoided fights with the U.S. Navy, preferring to prey on unarmed merchant ships and whalers. He would approach these ships under either a Union or British flag, to deceive them into thinking he was friendly, and then hoist the Stars and Bars and bring them to surrender. Once they did so, he would take whatever he needed from their stores and then burn his prize. The idea was to do as much harm to the Northern economy as possible. And he did a lot. In addition to what he captured and burned, his escapades kept many Union ships in harbor. Furthermore, many a Northern ship owner sold to the British, taking a low price over what appeared to be an almost inevitable total loss if the ship ran into the Alabama.

His ties to the British created a great deal of animosity between London and Washington, exactly as Semmes hoped. He had a mostly British crew, in a ship built in Liverpool and serviced at many British ports. Years later, the British government paid the United States a $15.5 million settlement for its complicity with Semmes and other Confederate raiders.
Fox presents this story well. While he obviously salutes the Confederate captain, he does not overlook the man’s flaws, either.
For the Civil War history buff who likes to read about Southern victories, this is probably a fun story. For a Yankee like this reviewer, it was an agonizing tale.

Bingo players in need of advice have several options.

They can ask Aunt Bingo, who moderates disputes over saving seats and reassures luckless newcomers. Bob on Bingo offers tips for people who call out the numbers: Slow down, enunciate and use good grammar.

Those two, and a few others including the Bingo Sisters, write for the Bingo Bugle, a 720,000-circulation monthly distributed free of charge at bingo halls and casinos around the country. Depending on the venue, fans play to win cash while supporting schools and the local Moose lodge, or just to socialize -- or even to gamble for big money at casinos.

The publishing chain, which now has 55 franchised editions, was founded 28 years ago in Vashon, Wash., by the late Roger Snowden as a way for churches and firehouses to advertise their games. He assembled a number of bingo columnists to fill space around ads and entertain players during breaks.

Alessandra, the pen name of a writer who wishes to remain anonymous, had little bingo experience but had studied the planets. As Dear Astrology Lady, she suggests lucky days for playing bingo. Others, like Beverly Garges, are seasoned players with a penchant for writing. Ms. Garges wrote a book about homelessness before launching the Bingo by Bev column. Her bingo columns are compiled in two books, "Memoirs of a Bingo Addict" and "Get Your Own Damn Supper: I'm Going to Bingo." The latter sold 10,000 copies.

Tara Snowden, Roger's daughter and the president of the privately held Frontier Publications Inc., which publishes the Bingo Bugle, sends editorial content to franchise owners, who pick and choose what they want to run depending on local taste, interest and space. A few publishers solicit local contributions, too. Arick Martin, publisher of the Pittsburgh area Bingo Bugle edition, invited poetry submissions. Violet Uram responded with "Bingo Night in Pittsburgh," which begins: "Sit in my chair and you'll get hurt. Don't give me that smile -- I'm not a flirt!"

In recent years, Ms. Snowden has added a Bingo Bugle Web site featuring news updates about, for instance, a Florida drag-queen bingo controversy. For the newspaper chain, she hired columnists who write about blackjack and video poker and began offering syndicated recipes. Advertisers include Bingo Novelty World based in Las Vegas which sells padded seats and bingo tote bags.

But the most popular features are the original columns, like Aunt Bingo. The columnist is actually the paper's third Aunt Bingo, or fourth if you include Ms. Snowden, who served as an interim aunt. During her stint, Ms. Snowden recalls, she got a flurry of letters about dirty bingo balls. Conventional wisdom among bingo players who aren't winning is that balls laden with dirt from prolonged handling rarely percolate to the top of the air-blown chute to be plucked by the number caller. She suggested regular cleaning.

Aunt Bingo remains the game's chief arbiter on issues of tipping, cheating, noise, saving lucky seats, and etiquette. Questions vary from how to split the pot when there are multiple winners to what to do about the manager who wouldn't let diabetic players bring in food. A frequent winner complained of being bullied in the restroom by a frequent loser.

Tuneless, in Palm Bay, Fla., wrote in about her friend humming throughout the game and ruining her concentration. "After numerous weeks of asking her to stop, I am at a quandary as to what to do. It is driving me up the wall," Tuneless wrote.

Aunt Bingo, whose true identity is a secret, suggested finding another Bingo buddy. "To be honest, humming doesn't seem to be that big of a deal," Aunt Bingo wrote. "But if you are to the point of climbing the walls and pulling out your hair, the two of you need to part company -- at least in the Bingo hall."

Occasionally, readers pass on their own advice. Lady Legs in Massachusetts suggested brisk walking during bingo breaks. She lost 14 pounds doing that, she said. Once, Aunt Bingo received a photo from a man taken at his wife's funeral showing a floral arrangement in the shape of a bingo card. "I never figured out what he wanted me to do with it," Aunt Bingo says.

Some of the longtime columnists have altered their format. Alessandra ended up ditching the Dear Astrologer Lady approach because readers were asking advice about love, money, spouses, children and careers. Instead, she studies the planets and offers collective advice to groups, according to their birth sign. This month, she says Aries should wear red clothing and jewelry to win on the 23rd and 24th.

"These columns take me hours every month to put together," says Alessandra. "I'm not pulling these out of the air."

Other columnists do just make things up. The Bingo Sisters didn't really go to a Feng Shui bingo hall where people were seated in certain sections to create harmony, or to a deaf school where bingo was played.

Reva Sparks started the Bingo Sisters column with a friend in 1988 to chronicle their visits to bingo games. She says they stuck to facts at the beginning, but gave up. "Not enough interesting things happen," she says. Besides, the last bingo hall in her town on Puget Sound in Washington closed a few years ago.

Ms. Garges, author of Bingo by Bev, exhausted her bingo material a few years ago but made a pact, she says, with the late Mr. Snowden, who told her she could write about anything at all, so long as the word "Bingo" came up at least once. In a recent column about schools instructing teachers not to hug children, she says she enjoys getting hugs from children, grandkids and "the women I pick up for Bingo."

Ms. Snowden acknowledges that some columnists have strayed from their original purpose but adds that they have a following. "They've been with us forever," she says.

M81 and M82 are bright nearby galaxies; you can spot them with binoculars easily in the northern sky, and they are a mere 12 million light years from us (for comparison, the Milky Way Galaxy is 100,000 light years across, so if you think of the Milky Way as a DVD, M81 and M82 would be about 14 meters away). These two galaxies interacted a couple of hundred million years ago, and the gravitational interaction drew out long tendrils of gas (which is very common in colliding galaxies).

Astronomers examined this bridge of material using Hubble, and found clusters of stars in it. That was totally unexpected; the gas was thought to be too thin to form stars! Amazingly, many of the stars are blue, indicating they are young. (Blue stars burn through their fuel much more quickly than redder stars. This means that the gas is still forming stars, even 200 million years after the collision!)

Most likely, the stars formed when turbulence in the tendril caused local regions of denser gas, which could collapse to form stars. Before these observations, it wasn’t really thought it was possible to form stars in the regions between galaxies, so this is an interesting new find.

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